For the Love of Sister Dresses

marg and dana sister dresses


This photo hangs in my hallway and I walk past it everyday without really looking at it. Today while I stood at my ironing board I looked up at the picture and thought about how often my sister and I were dressed alike for the big occasions, you know, Easter, Christmas and the Forth of July Picnic.


This photo was taken on my Grandparents front porch at the farm where my Aunt lives in that house and my parents just past her in a new house. I know for sure that is where we were sitting, not because I can remember that day, but because of the painted metal glider in the background where many a Grandmother drank many a bourbon.


The fact that I am wearing a hat, or bonnet to be more precise and Margaret and I were dressed in identical outfits means this was Easter and we had come to visit from Connecticut. I don’t know this for sure, but I can guess that my mother had bought these dresses at the Junior League thrift shop in Norwalk where she volunteered so she could get first crack at the barely worn Florence Eiseman outfits so many of the well-off New Canaan and Darien mothers dropped off at the shop. The Peter Pan collar was pure Florence in the mid-sixties.


It was common practice for WASPS to dress their children in matching outfits, probably to be able to tell them apart from other blond straight haired children when picking them up from the church Sunday school. Proof of this is the fact that my mother was often able to buy us matching clothes even though I am three and a half years older than Margaret. If she were buying new it would have been easy to just buy the same dress in two different sizes, but it takes real skill to find two matching ones at the Junior League Shop that fit both girls at the same time.


Well, they did not always fit so sometimes I had one on that was just too tight and Margaret was swimming in hers. My sister Janet, being five years younger than Margaret never really had to do the sister dress thing, but then again, she barely did the dress thing at all and my Mother had given up volunteering by that time.


I wish I had a picture of the matching bathing suits Marg and I had that had a daffodil made out of some starchy organza material that stuck out 3-D from our tummy’s and had a cut out in the middle of the suit that made the center of the flower. We loved the tan polka dot that cut out made on our stomachs.


I hardly see anyone dressed in sister dresses anymore, except maybe in those TV shows with families with 19 children. I guess their matching outfits are homemade from the same bolt of gingham popular with fundamentalists. Sad that they have gone that way, but maybe it is a sign that parents can differentiate one child from the next.

Healthier Red Beans and Rice



I am in charge of bringing a vegetarian main dish to a church supper for new members tomorrow. I decided to go all out and even make it vegan just in case. I have a giant bag of rice that I can’t eat on my current diet so I wanted to use some of that, and then it hit me, Red Beans and rice, the perfect vegan dish that I can make ahead. Of course I usually would make red beans and rice with a smoked ham hock to add flavor and then fat too, but that was out of the question. The answer was to use smoked Paprika to bring that smoky flavor without the meat. The other oddity is I added light grape juice to bring sweetness and a little bit of, “Hmm, what is that?” So here is my vegan version


Spice Mix


2 T. kosher salt

1 t. garlic powder

2 t. onion powder

1 t. dried oregano

1 t. dried basil

1 t. cayenne pepper – less if you a spicy adverse

1 t. black pepper

2 t. smoked paprika


The rest

2 large sweet onions chopped

3 stalks of celery chopped

1 green bell pepper chopped


4 cans of dark red kidney beans drained and rinsed

32 Oz. of vegetable stock

1 cup of light grape juice

2 T. apple cider vinegar


Big pot of cooked rice- you can figure that out


Mix all the spices in a bowl, you can vary the amounts to make any flavor profile along the heat spectrum you like.


In a large Dutch oven on the stove top on high put the onions, celery and green pepper with half the spice mix and cook, stirring every so often for five minutes. Add a cup of stock and continue cooking for five more minutes.


Add the Beans and the rest of the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat a little and cook for 30 mins at just under a boil and above a simmer. Add the grape juice and cook at least another 45 minutes stirring every five minutes to scrape anything off the bottom of the pot. You want it to reduce to a thick beanie gravy.


Add the vinegar right before serving. Put a scoop the beans in a bowl and top with a scoop of rice. YUM

Nice Pays Off

Today while Carter was taking her first exam I decided I would go to the mall and buy her a quilt and new cooling pillow that she wants for camp. You have no idea what a big sacrifice this is for me. I hate going to the mall. I think the last time I was there was before Christmas.
If there were stores that had different and unusual merchandise I might not mind fighting the groups of slow walkers walking abreast with no idea they are taking up the entire width of the walkway, or the circlers looking for the closest parking spot at 3 miles per hour, or the sales clerks who have their faces deep in their phone with no peripheral vision to see how desperately I need help. No, the regular old stores are just not worth putting up with these people and the many others who have all the time in the world to while away at the mall.  
Carter had pointed out the items she liked in a catalogue I had purchased from before. The shipping and handling charges were like $34 for a small box and the stuff was not cheep to begin with. You know what handling charges are, PROFIT. Since Macy’s had texted me they were having a big sale I decided in the name of cheapness I would go and actually shop. How Macy’s got my cell number I’ll never know, but the marketing worked. At least to get me into the store.
After perusing the quilt offerings at Macy’s I decided to sprint the length of the mall to see what Belk’s had to offer. Usually if Macy’s is having a sale so is Belk’s. After dodging the lotion squirters and massage givers I fast walked my way past the stroller brigades and AARP card holder mall walkers to Belk’s where I found the perfect quilt. It helped that looked so much like the $189 one in the catalogue, before tax, shipping and handling but was on sale for 50% off and when the young man rung it off he added an additional discount and it came in at $25.87 which included tax. Hooray for the mall!
Having been without iced tea for at least the last 45 minutes I decided to stop at Panera Bread on my dash back to the other end of the mall where my car was. Since I am on this crazy strict diet iced tea is the highlight of my day. There were quite a few of the mall walkers waiting in a very long line, but I spotted the hallway window was manned and no one was waiting. As I approached the young girl in the black Panera apron I noticed a very old man in the main line who looked like he could not stand another minute without sustenance. The approved one asked what I wanted, just as I was summoning the old man to come and order in my short line.  
I looked at the Panera girl and said, “I only want and iced tea, but why don’t you take this man’s order first, I think he has been waiting a long time.” He thanked me as I stepped back so he could order. Before he got a word out the young Panera girl handed me a clear plastic tea cup and said, “Tea’s on me since you are so nice!”
What? I am rarely called “Nice.” I stepped into the drink dispensing area and made myself a big cold free tea. It tasted better than any tea I had drunk in a while. I think I am going to have to try this being nice thing more often, but I hope it works at places other than the mall because I still don’t want to go there.


Thanks Carter

Carter is about to finish up her sophomore year. Today was her last day of regular classes before the drudge of exams starts. One of her favorite classes was advance photo and not because she does not have an exam in it. Last year in photo she learned the basics of dark room and Photoshop, but this year she got to delve more deeply into photo topics.


When I got home today her portfolio was sitting on the breakfast room table. One of her assignments was a group of six photos and a write up that was displayed with them in a show. She had shown me the photos, but this was the first time I read her write-up. It made me cry. Her response was, “Now you have your blog today.”

I asked her if her photo essay could be my blog and she agreed, but my phone pictures of her actual photos does not do them justice. Nonetheless, I am a proud mother so please indulge me this one time.



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My Childhood

When I was told that this project was about identity my first idea was to take photos of the places I spent the most time at when I was younger. I decided to take these from a child’s point of view to emphasize the memories of my childhood. All of these photos show the places most important to me when I was younger and still are very important to me.

The first place (photos are left to right, top to bottom) is the Durham Academy Lower School. I have attended DA since Pre-K and I have so many wonderful memories at the lower school. The second place is Rolling Hills Stables in Chapel Hill. I am at my happiest here and I’ve ridden at Rolling Hills Stables since 3rd grade. I learned almost everything about horses and discipline at this place. The next place is Hope Valley Country Club. My mom would always play Mahjong in the Women’s Locker Room and I would sit and watch as a little child curious about how the game worked. Another place is my mom’s Toyota Land Cruiser. I am an only child so I spent a lot of time with my mom and with horses, and always going on adventures. Westminster Church is where my mom and dad attend church. I grew up in the church because my mom was part of almost all the boards there. The final place is the Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina. My mom has been on the board there since before I could remember. She was the President of the board last year. Whenever she would have meetings when I was younger I would always tag along with her. I loved it there.

Every single one of these places taught me a lot about growing up. The horse in the top right photo is named Red. He taught me discipline of controlling a 1500 pound animal as a small seven year old with grace and strength. He was the first horse I rode at Rolling Hills Stables, so it’s fitting that he should be involved in this project. During the half hour drive to the barn, my mom would answer all my questions about anything and everything in her car. Some of these photos feature my mother. She was and still is the biggest influence in my life and formed much of my identity. At the Food Bank I learned how important it is to give up your own time and money for others.

I hope these photos give you an insight to my childhood and what has helped form me into the person I am today.

Thank you.



Not Your Normal Veggie Tray




Just when I think there is nothing left to write about a gift from heaven drops in my lap. Tonight I was invited to my friend Pokey’s house to look at some India Hick’s products. True to form for me at all gatherings I got tired of standing around talking so my friend Lynn volunteered to sit of the sofa with me. My neighbor Beth joined us, moving some books from the ottoman/coffee table so she could sit close enough to talk with us.


I’m not sure how long we were there before Lynn pointed out the vegetable tray right next to Beth. Since I am doing this very strict diet I had basically blocked all party food out of my brain, but I knew this one needed inspection if non-eater Lynn had something to say about it.


From afar it looked like any normal veggie tray, with carrots, peppers cucumbers, broccoli and a bowl of dip, but at closer inspection I saw why Lynn was pointing it out. There in the middle of the tray was a giant bed of iceberg lettuce. Wait. Can that be? None of us had ever seen chopped lettuce as part of a veggie tray.


Pokey, ever the consummate hostess had to have a good explanation about this dish and so I asked, “What’s up with the lettuce?” She howled and in her best laughing voice said, “I ordered a veggie tray from the club and that’s what I got.”


“Did you bring them the tray asking for a big salad?” I asked.


“I brought the tray yesterday and asked if they could make a little hollowed out red cabbage for me to put dip in with the cut veggies. Not exactly what I got.” Michelle, ever the diplomatic one said, “Perhaps they were instructed to put some decorative lettuce on the platter first and then the veggies.”


We all agreed that iceberg, as a dipping item was a risky way to get ranch dressing in your mouth without a fork. Thank goodness Pokey has such a good sense of humor. But what could she do when her husband brought it home; he had no idea that she did not order lettuce.


She could complain, but all the complaints about the food are met with the same response, “Just wait until the new chef comes on June 1.” I think he should start by reading my blog to learn what not to do.


Pokey said her kids were definitely getting that lettuce in their lunches tomorrow. The chef should have to listen to them complain too.

Don’t Ask Me I’m Not A Trustee Anymore



Well before Carter went to Durham Academy as a Pre-K student I got a Land Cruiser. It is a tank of a car, perfect for shuttling kids for field trips to the Life and Science Museum and friends to Mother Daughter Weekend at camp. We drove that car to Upstate New York and then into Canada without a passport for Carter and then were able to sneak her back in the country because she was practically invisible in the third row. When gas was almost five dollars a gallon we drove to Michigan one summer to visit the Hannans and then up to the Ferry at Mackinaw Island and back to Durham all for $700 worth of gas.


As the years went on and there were fewer field trips to drive for I parked the Land Cruiser in favor of the Smart Car that was one sixth it’s size both physically and in gas consumption. Then Russ took the Smart and got me a C-Max because it was big enough for us all to fit in, but got the same mileage as the Smart. We kept the Land Cruiser thinking is was the perfect car for Carter when she got her drivers license. My father changed that plan when he gave her a newer Jetta and the Land Cruiser sat sadly in the driveway waiting for group concert trips and hauls to the Good Will. Against Russ’ better judgment I thought we should keep this old car.


It was only fitting that the car that has made so many trips back and forth to Durham Academy be called off the bench today to take Russ and me to my final Trustee reception. For six years I have served on the board and due to good governance it is time for me to retire.


I have loved being on this board with a large number of really smart people that I would never had gotten to know in the same way if it weren’t for our service. It was not always easy but it was a place that I felt safe to ask hard questions and rarely got slapped for off the cuff remarks.


As a retiring trustee it is normal for another trustee to give a little speech about the retiree, then give them the DA Chair. I remembered that part and that is why we drove the only car we have that could hold the chair. Tonight three of us retired, Shelayne Sutton, who I got to know and love because of being trustees together, Dave Beischer, who has been a trustee for more years than Carter has been alive and is a walking DA encyclopedia and me.


Janis Tillman gave the speech about Shelayne and then Shelayne got up to give her remarks. WAIT! She had prepared remarks on paper. I forgot about this part. She thanked all the important people, especially her husband. I looked around the room. I prayed that Frank Morgan would give the remarks about me since he is probably the kindest human I know and would gloss over the bad things about me as a trustee.


After Shelayne sat down Frank did get up and spoke much too long about me and Less Dana. As I went up to the podium I told the room that they already had gotten more Dana then they needed and I confessed I had no prepared remarks, but certainly that I could talk without them. And I did, but after I sat down next to Russ I realized I had not thanked him for all he did for me that enabled me not to cook dinners on board nights, or stay up late working on committee work. I felt like the academy award winner who forgets to thank their spouse. It was all I could think about.


Then Brendan Moylan spoke about Dave Beischer and compounded my error by talking about what a saint Michelle Beischer was to be married to a twice board chair. Her husband thanked her profusely too.


So as my unthanked husband carried my heavy chair to the Land Cruiser parked at the far side of the parking lot I vowed to make it up to him. How? I don’t think offering for him to have my chair in his office is the right thing, but Russ, I just want to say here you are the best husband who finally came to a trustee reception after all these years. Sorry I did not call you out there, but you know I appreciate you and am thankful that you never made me sell the Land Cruiser because we never would have gotten this chair home without it.

It’s Always a Challenge

Last year about this time I reached my goal weight. I tried to set a new lower goal, but true to my weight loss/gain history had a hard time just maintaining my original goal. I am a strong believer that losing weight is exciting and maintaining weight is the real hard work. Since the weight loss game is a brain issue and not an eating one my brain decided that once I got to the goal I had been trying to reach for two years it could take a break. Now my body kept exercising and my cooking tried to keep me eating the non-white diet that I knew was good for me, but without full brain cooperation things broke down.
About this time one other big thing happened to me, I finally was declared to be in full blown menopause. Not that I could really tell. Years ago I had an operation so the normal signs of growing old were more subtle with me. I have been lucky enough to not suffer hot flashes, or as some of my friends call it, their own personal summer. I was glad that I had gotten my weight down before I passed over into the world of old womanness because true to folklore I found out fairly quickly that losing weight is more difficult at this stage of life.  
Actually what I quickly found out was gaining weight was more easy now too. So between my brain taking a diet break and my body taking a youth break permanently I started gaining back some of the hard fought pounds I had lost. I tried upping my exercise but with that I also ate a little more than I needed. I also enjoyed the eating seasons, starting with Thanksgiving, passing or not passing on the Christmas feasts, rolling right into Spring break in Italy with all things normally forbidden, like pasta, pizza and gelato all around me, followed by May – the month all about me with my birthday, anniversary and Mother’s Day.  
I knew I had do something while I could still wear my smaller underpants. The answer was try a new program to reengage my brain and hold me accountable. I had a bunch of friends who had tried Metabolic Research Center so I am giving it a try. The good news is that I went in when I have just a little to lose so it won’t take me long.  
I can tell you that any diet you do works if you stick to it. For me I like to try something new because it engages my brain and makes me work harder if I am having to learn a new plan. Of course I also really like having to weigh in with someone else. I know most people think that is the worst thing on earth, but once you realize no one cares what your number is on the scale just that it is going down, it becomes a great tool for accountability.
I hope I am getting smarter and not letting my weight yo yo the full string’s worth. A little tiny bit up and it is time to nip this issue in the bud. It helps that the eating season is over and my garden is starting to produce edible results. I’ll report back on my feelings about Metabolic as a good way to loose weight .

No Trips Away



No long weekend away for us since Carter has exams starting Friday. I am looking forward to the day that our life does not revolve around her school, but I am not really ready for her to leave home yet. Instead of a whole weekend we just went up to the farm for the day today so that Shay Shay could have a little freedom to run around and we could visit with my parents. Carter might have gotten more studying done in the car on the way up and back than she might have done if we just stayed home all day.


The weather was perfect for us to sit in the rag tag conglomeration of chairs outside my Dad’s office barn. I’m not sure why we sat there rather than one of the nice porches or by the pool, but perhaps it was to tend the pork butt my father had slow cooking on his office rotisserie for the 12 hours he was going to cook it. Every office needs a rotisserie doesn’t it?


Since the trip was mainly for Shay we took her on a number of adventures, but she is not shy about letting us know when she had had enough. When Russ walked her down to the bottom pond she just sat down at one point and refused to go any deeper into the farm. Once he gave her the signal to turn around and go back to the office barn her energy returned enough for her to sprint up the hill. How does she know she is at the halfway point of her energy?


After lunch Russ and I walked her up to my Aunt Janie’s house. The sun was in full height and Shay brilliantly ran between the shade of the tree shadows and then would wait for us to catch up. As soon as we walked on the road to her parallel she would walk in the shade of the grass and as soon as she stepped out into the sunny part she would sprint to the next tree shadow and wait again. She did this the whole way up and back. Shay does not have the best eyesight so I wonder if she can tell the temperature difference in the grass using her feet?


Even a few hours at the farm are like a vacation away. So we may have to stay home for studying most of the weekend, we got a nice bit of rejuvenation, relaxation and dog play. I hope your Memorial Day Weekend is just as fun, but maybe a little more exciting.

The Jewish Grandmother I Never Had

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My Apple watch arrived this week. After waiting so many weeks it figures it came on my busiest week when Russ was in Portland. Since he is my IT department I was lost and did not have the time to sit down with my computer and watch what feels like hundreds of videos on every aspect of this new machine.


I have two main interests in getting the Apple watch, one as a replacement for my fitbit and two as my new wallet with Apple pay. Out of the box I was able to set up the fitness tracker without the aid of my IEEE husband. For all you non-geeks IEEE stands for Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, don’t ask me was the difference is between an Electrical and Electronic Engineer.


After picking my sex from a list of three, yes other is one of the choices in Apple watch, and telling my truthful weight and real age I was thrilled that my watch did not comment. There are three goals in the activity tracker; move, exercise and stand. I am still a little confused about what the difference is between move and exercise, but I guess more tracking for me is better than less.


I was asked to set my goals for these three activities. The default setting for exercise was 30 minutes a day, since I had no idea what this thing considered exercising I just left it that way. The stand goal was to get up for at least one minute in every hour. Seemed small to me, so I kept it. The move goal was measured in burning more calories than you do just at rest. The goal was 350, that’s like a piece of good smelly cheese so I upped it to 1200.


The activity tracker also counts my steps and since I come from the fitbit world that is the number I am most familiar with. Before I was going to give up my fitbit I wanted to make sure my watch counted in a similar way. Not that I know my fitbit is right, but if one device thinks I am walking 3,000 steps and one thinks 5,000 I know something is wrong.


I am happy to report that my watch and fitbit were fairly similar in my steps counted so I am going to try and just wear the watch for a while. The one thing I find interesting is the stand monitor. I could have been standing up for four hours straight and then go to a meeting where the polite thing to do was to sit and in 55 minutes get a buzz on my wrist with a message telling me it is time to stand up for a minute. The damn thing does not care how long I stood up before, just that I need to stand up for at least one minute every hour for 12 hours a day.


“Oy vey”, my wrist would buzz, “Get your ass out of your chair.” It was like the Jewish Grandmother I never had. “What good is standing for one minute?” I want to whine at it. “Don’t ask, just do it. It’s good for you.” My Jewish Grandmother watch tells me.


For the record I never reached a move goal of 1200 calories. What was I thinking? I lowered it to 750 today and that is a good stretchable goal and also is a good meal’s

worth of calories. If I get anymore whining from my watch I’ll report back, I wonder what it’s going to say when I try and use it to buy something expensive. “Your Uncle Morty could get that for you wholesale.”

The Blog Finally Pays Off



For the last three years I have never taken any ads or sponsorship for my blog. Yes, there may be one ad at the end of each daily blog that is put on by my blog hosting service, but that is the price I pay for a free service. I have had offers to get paid for my blog, but the pay never seemed to be worth my freedom. I like to write about whatever the hell happens to me each day and if I want to complain about the service I get from some establishment I don’t want to worry if they are an advertiser of mine or not. I certainly don’t endorse anyone for money so if you read a good comment about someplace on this blog you can be assured they did not give me anything to write about them.


But this week I actually made some money because of this blog. Last week I wrote, a little tongue in cheek, that I should open my house for a private dinner for a Duke graduate and their rich parents. My friend and neighbor Mary Eileen read this and asked me if I would cook graduation dinner for her daughter Lily’s DA graduation.

I was happy to do this for her, especially since I only had to go across the street to deliver it.


I am not looking to get back in to catering as a rule. Making dinner for Mary Eileen was fun especially since she gave me carte blanche to make whatever I wanted. I hope that her mother liked the DA Green and White soup and could not tell it had asparagus in it. The bonus for Russ was that I made extra for him to have for dinner.


The second pay off came about because I wrote about a contractor using my water and my annoyance with being surrounded by contractors. I went to the mailbox three days after that blog came out and there was a check for $75 from the offending contractor with a note thanking me for using my water. I could have been bowled over with a feather.   I am fairly certain that if I had not complained in my blog I never would have gotten that check. Not that $75 is much money, but it was just the principle.


So now I am going to put it out in the universe that I would like to write about a trip to Europe. I am talking about a luxury trip, not some busman’s holiday. If someone is looking for a competent blogger to do some honest review of them send me a note. Maybe I also need to review a new car, what else can I write about…? Hmm.

Bad Words


For the record, I think that most of the bad words I know I learned from my father. Not that he purposely sat down and taught them to me, just that he used them freely probably around the time I was in fifth or six grade and susceptible to picking up naughty words.   One of my favorite phrases my Dad used to use with us when we were young to describe someone we did not care for was to say, “He is such a shit bird.” Considering all that you can imagine my surprise when my father told me the following story when we were touring his childhood haunts.


As we drove up to the Ardmore School where my father had gone to first through seventh grade he pointed out the window of the principal’s office. He described her as a nice woman, but that she had a rubber hose in her desk drawer that she would use to hit children who needed punishment. We drove around the backside of the school and as we did my Dad said, “This is where I heard my first bad word.”


Hearing a bad word in elementary school did not seem like that unusual a thing. My Dad continued, “Yes, I remember it like it was yesterday. We were sitting in class and then as matter-a-factly as anyone could be Adam Sandler said out loud, ‘somebody farted.’ And all hell broke lose.”


“How old were you?” I asked. That is when my father shocked me. “We were in fourth grade.”


What?!? Fourth grade was the first time my father had ever heard anyone say a bad word, and it was the only barely a bad word, “FART.”


“Adam Sandler was sent to the Principal’s office and we all were shocked. I never forgot it.”


A while later as my father was driving through the neighborhood pointing out where all his friend’s had lived we passed by Adam Sandler’s house. “I wonder what ever happened to him? I bet he ended up in jail.”


It was comical to me that my Dad who taught me every bad word on earth thought that this nine-year old potty mouth ended up in jail. For the record this Adam Sander is not the famous one, but I have no idea if they are related.


In a real juxtaposition when Carter was in third grade she came home and said, “Benjamin told me that the “F” word is the worst word. I told him to tell me what it was so I won’t say it. He said, ‘No way, your Mom would kill me.’” So Carter asked me to tell her what the “F” word was. Not wanting to have to define it for her I quickly told her it was “Fart.”


“Hmmm,” she said. “I did not know that was such a bad word.” Oh how times have changed.

Home Again Visit Continued



There is one thing that is true about my Dad and that is no matter how little money he has he will always be rich and generous. This is not always the case for someone who grew up at the edge of the depression in not the wealthiest of circumstances. On our trip to revisit the places of his childhood I learned a lot more about how my Dad got to be this way.


When I was a child I knew my father’s father as a smart, thrifty man who loved to invest in the stock market and was revered as an upstanding citizen. As my Dad drove me around Winston-Salem yesterday we passed by the beautiful art deco Reynolds building. “There used to be a stock broker’s office in the mezzanine and Grandad would go in and sit and watch the ticker tape,” my Dad explained to me.


I can remember that even when his hearing was going and his eye sight was practically gone my Grandad could somehow miraculously hear Wall Street Week in Review on TV and read the mice type on the stock pages of the news paper. Investing was his passion and something he was good at. As much as that was a strong memory of my Grandad it was juxtaposed with his extreme thriftiness. He kept a log of everything he owned that used a battery and tracked how long he used each battery and what kind of life he got out of them- this included car, tractor, flashlight even hearing aid batteries – everything.


On our tour we went by the first house my Dad lived in where his parent’s rented the upstairs of a nice house in a fine neighborhood. Then we drove out to Lockland Ave. to see the first house my Grand parents bought. I had been there once as a four or five year old, but have not seen it in fifty years. My Dad explained that it had been a one-bedroom house that his father added another one onto before they moved in. My Dad had then dug out the basement to make another room when he was ten.


From what we could see from the street not much had been done to improve it in the last 50 years. The only thing that was possibly better was there was a newer house across the street that replaced the legendary two greyhound busses put together with the middle cut out making in essence the first mobile home.


I would not call the house a dump until my father told me about the street it was on. He said that even though the houses on the street ended just a little ways past his house, the road, which was a two-lane fine cement road continued about another mile along. A cement paved street was very unusual especially when my Dad showed me which streets had been nothing but oiled dirt roads. The reason Lockland Ave was that way is that it was the route that every garbage truck in the city had to take to the incinerator and dump. As if that was not bad enough my Dad said that the sewage treatment plant was also down that way.


My Grandmother had grown up in a fine house in Charlottesville designed by Thomas Jefferson where her father was the President of the Bank of Charlottesville. I am sure her father never came to see this house on Lockland Ave. My Dad said his mother always said that Grandad only got away with living in that house because he had sons and not daughters. The bottom line is that my Grandad was good at turning his stock money into more money and thought a house was not his best investment. I think that growing up in that house really spurred my father on to work hard and be successful and not live like that. I am so glad my Dad had daughters.


We drove around the rest of Winston Salem with my Dad showing me, literally the other side of the tracks and where his fancy friends lived. He said Winston was really a town of the poor and the rich, very little middle class back then. Leaving Winston to be a bigger fish in a bigger pond was what my father was meant to do, but the hard work he did, starting with his morning and afternoon paper routes, working in the RJ Reynolds factory in the summer and Gestner Machinery Company were good foundation to never have to live in a place where every garbage truck in town drives past your house.

Home Again to Winston-Salem with my Dad




Today was the day I took my Dad back to Winston-Salem to visit all the sites of his childhood. Actually he drove me since it is a better gift to him if he gets to drive his own car. So I got up extra early this morning and went up to the farm where I found my father dressed up and ready to go on our big adventure. Meandering our way in the hour that it took us to go to Winston-Salem I was thankful he was driving because I was in unfamiliar territory.


My Dad had thought long and hard about this trip and had the whole route mapped out on what we were going to try and see and the order we would go in. Since I had only lived in Winston-Salem from the ages of zero to six weeks I was up for what ever he wanted to show me.


We got off the interstate at 5th street to see if we could find the hospital where my father had his serious back operation three months before I was born. The building was there, but we think it was now part of a school. It was not my idea of the happiest place to start, but it was important to my Dad. As we entered downtown we went by the warehouse/factory where my father had worked summers at RJ Reynolds when he was in school. The factory where my Grandfather had been the manager was a shell being renovated, but still existed.


My Dad was really interested in finding the first place he worked out of college and amazingly the building was still there, now listed as a historic landmark. He thought that was great since it had just been a supplier to mills and factories back when he worked there.


From there we drove to the Episcopal Church that had been his church for the first 11 years of his life. As a child I heard the stories of the church he had built as a teenager and clearly this fancy building was not it. Dad explained that his parents along with 49 other families had broken away from this church to create a new one because they were the worker bees of the church as opposed to being the check writers/decision makers and they got tired of that.


Along the tour of the day I saw the basement of the furniture store where the new church met for the first two years, the place where the congregational church once stood in their Ardmore neighborhood where they met as a church on off hours for the next three years and finally St. Timothy’s the church my father had help build. He quickly pointed out where the mortar mixing station was that he manned and how he carried all the cement blocks up the scaffolding. See, his father had been the first church treasurer and knew that one way they could afford to build that first church building was to use my strong Dad as labor. My father had experience doing cement block work since he had done it at his own family home as a ten year old.


The highlight of the day for me was the tour of my father’s paper route. Many life lessons we taught to me as a child through my father’s stories of his morning and afternoon paper routes. We started our tour at the place where his 210 papers were dropped off at five each each morning. Amazingly most of the neighborhood looked the same to my Dad. There were a few new houses, but most looked very similar to the way they were in 1948. As we neared the end of his route we came to two houses next to each other with some African Americans sitting on their front porches. My Dad stopped the car and got out to talk to them. Turns out that they were the same family that had lived in those two houses when my Dad had delivered their papers.


We met a nice woman who was a year younger than my Dad who had lived with her grandmother in one of the houses. She and my Dad talked about which schools they both went to. Since the schools were segregated back then she told us how she had to take two different busses to get home from her school in the East part of town. My Dad had an easy walk to the Ardmore school that was just a few blocks away. Turns out this woman had a daughter exactly my age who had been the first African American to enroll in Ardmore school as a first grader when desegregation first happened. It is hard for me to imagine that all this happened in my lifetime.


More about my trip with my Dad back home again in tomorrows blog.

In Praise of NameTags

I had a church committee meeting tonight where one of the items on the agenda was permanent Name Tags. We are a name tag wearing church which as I age I appreciate greatly. No one likes name tags more than my husband. If it were up to him people would have their names tattooed on their forehead since he is so tall that even if they have a name tag on he looks very awkward leaning far enough down to read it.
At my meeting tonight I told a very old story about Russ and his lack of knowing people’s names. After we had lived here for a good number of years we were invited to go to our friend’s Bill Lindsey and Jean Bethea’s lake house. We had a wonderful day with them swimming and eating and telling stories.
A few months later Russ came home from the grocery store and proudly announced to me that he had seen my friend Jean Bethea at the store and called her by name. This was big for him. first he actually noticed a person, and that he knew that person and knew her name– this was a red letter day! I told him I was so proud of him.
Five minutes later the phone rings. It was my friend Carol Shepard. “Russ just called me Jean Bethea at the grocery store.” So much for the celebration of Russ’ facial recognition skills.
If only we all were wearing name tags all the time these terrible mistakes could be avoided. I used to be able to remember everyone I ever met, where I met them, and who introduced us. Not anymore. I never say, “nice to meet you.” In case I have already met a person before and just don’t remember. “Nice to see you,” is the perfect noncommittal greeting. It does not mean I have or have not met you before. It also avoids my having to say someone’s name since I don’t remember that either.
I guess that Russ was just further along developmentally than me, but now that neither of us can remember anyone I don’t know what we are going to do. Maybe we will just have only old friends who are in our long term memory. Unless the whole world starts wearing name tags. Actually the way our eyesight is going perhaps they need to where license plate sized name tags so we can read their name without our glasses on. Or if everybody wore junior high school PE t-shirts that have their name written in sharpie right across the chest, that might work for us.

For the record after living here for over 20 years Russ does know the difference between Carol and Jean, at least this week. 

Wisdom and Fun



My Dad, Ed Carter is seventy-seven today. He does not look it since for as long as I can remember he has looked the same. I think that is a benefit of losing your hair in twenties. I ran across a picture my Uncle Wilson had taken of my Dad talking to my sister and me while we were eating breakfast in our house in Wilton, CT. From the clues in the picture I guess that it was taken in about 1969 or 70, which would make me about nine years old and my Dad about thirty-two.


Here are the things in the picture that have been constants in my life. If we are having a special breakfast, which pancakes certainly were, it was my father who spoiled us by making them. Rather than make some for himself he would rather sit and talk with us while we ate. Probably my mother was allowed to sleep. He was waiting to feed others who would be coming along later and then only eat after he was done working. The one thing that has always been a constant in my life is if my father was not at work he was doing something with his kids.


Now what he was doing with us was not always of our choosing, like cutting the grass or raking leaves, but he rarely did anything that was purely for him. He never played golf or played cards or spent time with only adults, until we were adults. What is typical in this picture is it looks like he is interested in us. He always has been and we knew it.


It does not sound unusual nowadays since parents are so over involved in their children’s lives, but back in the 60’s and 70’s my Dad was different from many other Dads. He constantly was teaching us things that were important for us to know, maybe not that day, but for sometime in the future. So many sentences started with, “I need to tell you this before I die…” and the following might be very important or not so significant, like “check your oil every time you fill up your gas tank because if it gets too low you will burn up your engine,” or “always look people in the eye when you speak to them.”


The car thing felt unimportant to a ten year old. Today our cars give us a warning light if you forget to check your oil, but many people don’t know how to have a face-to-face conversation with an adult. My Dad had no idea how the world would change, but he was going to make sure that he told us all the important stuff before we were grown up.


It was not just him telling us things, but about being genuinely interested in what we thought. Of course as an adolescent it was horrible when you did not really want to tell your Dad what you were thinking about and he hated when you answered his inquiry with an “I don’t know.” The best part about my Dad is that he never gave up being interested in us and eventually when I outgrew the “I don’t know stage” he was still there not holding it against me.


I knew he was a special Dad because all my friends loved him and appreciated the attention he gave them. Fun has always been a big priority to him and making sure that everyone around him was having fun was something he worked at. If you asked him what he wanted to do for fun it was almost always turned around to be something fun for you. That unselfishness is his greatest hallmark and something that is truly rare.


On this birthday I count my lucky stars that he is my Dad and he is still here to tell me the important things, but mostly I love just having fun with him. When Carter says to me in an annoyed voice, “Is this going to turn into a lesson?” I know that I somehow don’t have the same touch my Dad had of imparting wisdom. I hope that she grows up and likes spending time with me as much as I still like spending time with my Dad. It is a really fine line you walk, as a parent to raise great, successful, happy children and still be fun. If there is anything I need to learn from my father before he goes, it’s that.

Fourth Blog Year

i got a congratulations email from my blog host site on completing three years of blogging everyday for the last three years. After over 1,000 posts you would think I would not forget to blog, but here I am thumb typing on my phone. Russ is driving us from Pippen to pick Carter up from a sixteenth birthday party and the day is getting long past me. 

Please forgive this non substantive post on nothing, I took a small celebratory break from less dana to practically no dana today. I look at it as a day when no one pissed me off. Hopefully year four will have me back on track.  

Don’t Rub My Belly




Ok, let’s get it right out at the beginning, there is one similarity I totally have with my girl dog, we are both bitches. There I said it before you did. And that is where our likenesses end.


Tonight I came home from an event downtown and since Russ and I arrived in two cars I got home well before he did since he had to walk back to his office to retrieve his brief case. Carter is in Raleigh at her friend Lily’s play so I was the only human Shay had to greet. Because I was not Russ she had not rushed to the top of the stairs and stood on her hind legs shaking in excitement like she does when he comes home. Instead she waited for me to get all the way to my bedroom where she was laying on my bed before she lifted her head and gave me the “Wha’sup” nod.


Despite the lackluster greeting I sat down on the bed next to her and gave her a snuggle. That’s when she rolled over on her back with her four legs spayed in the air and gave me the “Rub my belly” look. I know that my rubbing her belly is the thing she loves most in the world, besides Russ. Russ’ mere existence is better to Shay than my rubbing her belly, but it is a close second.


I don’t think she is unusual in her love of having her belly rubbed. I stopped by my friend Christy’s house today to bring her some pink sparkle needlepoint thread. Her female King Charles Cavalier Spaniel Lucy jumped up on the sofa next to me and rolled over on her back in the rub-my-belly position just like Shay. Lucy was happy to stay next to me as long as I was rubbing her stomach.


This must be a purely canine gene trait because I can not imagine anything worse than having someone rub my stomach, not just rub it, even touch it. Even if I were young, and had totally flat and fit abs I cannot imagine wanting anyone to touch it, let alone rub it.


Since a female dog’s belly is not rubbed during the creation of puppies I don’t think there is any pleasure of that nature, so what is it? Why do our dogs love to get their belly’s rubbed so much? I am not going to venture further into that question instead just be happy that my happiness is not dependent on getting my belly rubbed. Quite the opposite – thank goodness no one is attempting to touch my belly!

Contractor Hell



A couple of days ago, early in the morning, before I ever expect to see anyone who I don’t already know or love at my door I got a knock. A young man who I did not know sheepishly said hello. I was thankful I had my cell phone in my hand in case I needed to call 911.


“Hi, I’m working at the house next door and we need to use your water?” Said the stranger.


“What are you talking about?” I said.


“I have to cut some holes in the concrete and the water is turned off at that house and I need water to run my saw blade.”


The first thought that went through my head is, this is not my problem.


“How much water are we talking about?”


“I could just run your hose to the house.”


I am a big water conservationist. I have a rain barrel that catches the water from my gutters, I refuse to water my grass figuring it is not a good use of the most precious resource we have. In drought ridden summers I have caught my shower water in buckets and used that to water my vegetable garden. I was not happy about being asked to let some stranger run my hose to the house next door. How in the world would I know he was not just running it constantly?


“You did not answer the question,” I probed. “How much water are we talking about?”


“I only need your hose for an hour. I will get the contractor to reimburse you”


Against my better judgment I agreed he could use it for an hour since I know and like the woman who bought the house.


After an hour and a half I went over and asked if they were done since I needed to go out. Just a little longer they promised. What could I do now?


I left the house and when I returned five hours later the hose was still over at the neighbors. Now I was furious. One hour my #$%^%!


“We are done,” the young man said preemptively when he saw me coming with a look that could kill a bear on my face.


“Please, have the contractor call me.”


No call. So I called the homeowner who was rightfully embarrassed. I asked her to have the contractor call me, knowing it was not her fault. No call.


Now three days later I was out walking my dog when the contractor’s site supervisor pulled up. I introduced myself to him and we had a conversation about the water. He tried to tell me it was a normal way of doing business that they would take water from neighbors. I told him it was not normal around here and quite presumptuous to assume they could show up early in the morning at my house and even ask. He said he had no idea how much water they used since they did not have a meter on it, not that he offered to pay me for it.


In the last five years contractors have surrounded our house since practically every house on my street has been redone. It has been hell to have workers who scream loudly at each other running very noisy equipment at all hours with little concern about the people who live in the neighborhood


The only exception is Robert Hallyburton whose crews were considerate, the rest have been a nightmare. If I were building a house I would throw a party for the neighbors to apologize for the trouble they have to endure from the contractors.


We are all at the mercy of the people we hire to do work for us. If you are looking for a contractor I would be happy to supply the names of the ones who were not considerate of the neighbors. I am looking forward to having my new neighbor move in who will be so much better than her contractor.

How Do We Teach Our Children Not to Be Afraid



Yesterday I got a phone call out of the blue from a man who I had not heard from for at least ten years. He and his then wife used to do some work around my house. They were a young couple from the country who were very honest, hard working, but not always reliable. They had two young boys and I tried to help them as much as I could, but after giving them many breaks I finally had to tell them I no longer had work for them after one too many let downs.


I had not seen them or thought about them until oddly about two weeks ago I ran across their names in my contact list and I wondered what had ever happened to them. Funny how sometimes I find my self-thinking about someone and suddenly they appear in my life.


I don’t usually answer my home phone anymore, but for some reason when it rang yesterday afternoon I picked it up without looking at the number calling. It was the man, who I will call S. His voice was immediately recognizable to me, but a little weaker. He apologized for calling telling me that he was at a very bad place in his life and just did not know who else to call.


I knew it had to be true that things were very bad for him, because I had been a very tough employer, never missing an opportunity to give him a lesson on how to be a better employee. He explained that his wife had left him three years ago, and he was now homeless and was looking for work.


I honestly did not have any work for him to do since my current yardmen were out in the garden at that very moment and my house was perfectly clean. But I kept talking with him. I asked him how long he had been homeless, if he had a car or a phone and if he had gone to the Durham Rescue Mission? He said he had recently been attacked and was stabbed 17 times. I told him I had not work for him, but I would give him some money.


While I waited for him to arrive with a friend who would give him a ride I asked Carter if she remembered him and his wife since they had worked here from the time she was born until she was about six. She had no memory of them, but got a worried look on her face. I told her there was nothing to be afraid of. I was not letting him in the house, but would talk with him in the driveway. I tried to explain to her that it had to be very bad after all these years for him to call me and I just could not ignore his true need. I also knew that if I got a chance to see him face-to-face I could encourage him to go and get help.


He was not a drinker or a drug addict, just someone who tried to take the easy way out. That almost always catches up with a person. When S. arrived I was out in the driveway. He got out of the car and shook my hand. The woman with him also got out and introduced herself to me and shook my hand, then got back in the car. He was thin and I could see the cuts from the stabbing. I talked frankly with S about where his life was going.


I had written the phone number of the Rescue Mission down on a piece of paper, which I took out of my pocket. I gave it to him and said that I was not a plan on how to turn his life around and that he needed to get help from people who were professionals at this. Inside the car, the woman was nodding her head in agreement. S said that he never forgot my talking squarely to him and told me about a time I told him, “Never do something in the daytime, that will cause you not to be able to sleep at night.” I don’t remember saying that, but it sounds like me.


He said he was ready to go get help. I reached in my pocket and gave him the cash I had on hand. I told him that he did not have to pay me back, but he had to go get help. He thanked me and told me he would eat that night. I told him to get something healthy. He got in the car and they waived as they drove off.


I came in the house and I called down to Carter that he had come and gone. She came upstairs sobbing. “I was afraid,” she said. I told her that he was not scary and it felt like the right thing to do. We talked for a while and I laughed when she told me she had been huddling in her room with her toy musket from Bennett farms texting with her Daddy who told her, “Your Mom has got this, don’t worry.”


I reminded Carter that people are mostly good and if we treat everyone with dignity bad things usually don’t happen. I want my child to learn to be smart and not put herself in harms way, but still have compassion and learn to pay it forward. These are hard lessons to teach. I did ask her what she was planning on doing with her toy musket.

Garden Club Picnic Salad



I could not remember if I was assigned a salad or a side dish for our annual Garden Club Picnic tonight so I made a vegetable salad that could be consider either.

I had bought a beautiful pound of green beans at the farmers market on Saturday so I just added some other veggies to those.


I made a lemon thyme dressing with our new Vitamix since I feel compelled to use it as often as possible to help amortize the cost of the crazy machine. If you don’t have a Vitamix you can make the dressing in a jar. You will just need to zest the lemon and squeeze the juice out to make it by hand.


Lemon Dressing


2 whole lemons – quartered

¼ c. olive oil

2 T. Champagne Vinegar

4 packets of Splenda

Handful of washed fresh Thyme

Salt and pepper

2 T. water


Put the lemons in the blender and on the lowest setting start chopping them up. Add the oil and water and increase the speed one notch every 10 seconds for three notches. Add the thyme, vinegar, Splenda, a pinch of salt and three turns of the pepper grinder. Run the blender for 30 more seconds.


Put a fine sieve strainer over a bowl and pour the contents of the blender in it. Using the back of a spoon push as much as you can through the sieve. You will have a lot of solids left in the sieve, which you will throw away. Taste the dressing in the bowl and add more salt and pepper if needed. Set the dressing aside.




1 Pound of green beans – cut in thirds

1 pound of cooked lentils – Traders Joes has them in the vegetable fridge

½ pounds of cooked and shelled edamame

10 small cooked beets diced

½ pound goat cheese

½ c. walnuts


Cook the green beans in pot of salted water for about four minutes and then drain them and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Chill the beans.


Add the lentils, beets and edamame to the chilled green beans and toss with the dressing. After everything is well-coated toss in the crumbled goat cheese and walnuts right before serving.

I Speak Food



If someone were to speak to me in almost every foreign language I doubt I would understand anything they say. Now I did take French and go to school in France, but that was back when I drank. I know that my French was much better after a glass of wine, but after three glasses no one understood me in any language.


I am a little better at reading foreign languages as long as they are a Latin based alphabet. I am not saying I could read literature, but if you give me a menu I can usually figure out what the food is. This is not based on my knowledge of many languages, but more on my total immersion in food.


Today I was shopping at the local Asian market, Li Ming where I was the only gringo in the place. I was looking for a certain type of vinegar and since most of the labels are in characters I can not tell are Chinese or Korean I had to use my in depth knowledge of food to figure out, without actually opening the bottles.


One problem I have when shopping at Li Ming is that they do their merchandising based on the manufacture and not the item. This means that if you are looking for Hoisin Sauce it appears on ten or twelve different shelves all over the store. So when trying to find lemongrass vinegar I could not just stand in the vinegar section and compare one bottle to the next. I had to roam the store just figure out if their were any vinegars made by each manufacture and then see if I could find a picture of a lemongrass stalk on the bottle.


Despite my menu reading talent I was unable to learn to read Korean today. I finally broke down and asked a woman wearing rubber gloves who worked in the store. Her command of English was about as good as my Mandarin. A smile and a head shaking was all I got. Then I went to see the fishmonger in the store, figuring he had to interact with customers so maybe he could speak English. Yes, on a little English, no on knowing where anything was, he was the fish guy.


Finally I did what I always do when I can’t find a prepared food item I am looking for I decided to make it myself. I bought rice vinegar and some fresh lemon grass and brought it home to steep. One of the skills in speaking food is being able to figure out a work around when all else fails you. Too bad Carter gave up taking Chinese two years ago, not that I think she ever learned the character for lemongrass or vinegar, but maybe she could have talked to the lady in the rubber gloves for me.

Count My Blessings




Happy Mother’s Day! It sounds like a kind thing to say on this day that is dedicated to Mothers, but is it? I feel lucky that I still have a mother who is healthy and young as well as having a daughter that makes me a happy mother, but on this day I am thinking that it is a sad day for some.


I am at the age where many of my friends have lost their mothers or are spending time taking care of sick mothers. So to those of you who are sitting by their bedsides or are grieving this first mother’s day without your Mother I want to send out special hugs to you. It is hard to celebrate your own motherhood, when you are feeling the loss of the woman who nurtured and loved you all of your life.


Then there are the friends and family members who lost their mothers long ago. Russ’ cousin Jeremy, whose own mother passed away when he was just a little boy put a message on Facebook early this morning that just read, “Call your mother.” To many is might have sounded like a reminder, but to me it was especially sad since I knew that he and his two brothers, Mike and Jonathan have gone so many years without a mother. Russ and his siblings lost their mother over twenty-two years ago so until I became a mother this was not really a holiday in our house either, more a day to remember.


The group of people who are most on my mind on this day are the many friends who have lost a child. I have too many contemporaries who fall into this group and to all of you please know that I am sending you double extra special hugs. I hate when the press called Princess Charlotte “The spare.” To all the mother’s who lost a child I know that even if they have other children they never considered any of them “a spare.” You will always be a mother and never stop missing a child who left us too early. I hope that if nothing else you know I am thinking of you on this day and sending you lots of love.


Then there are the people who desperately wanted to be mothers and for one reason or another are not. I hope this day is not hard for you. Or to mothers who are estranged from their children, I am sorry.   Days of celebration should not be days of torture for some, but sometimes they are.


Whatever this day means to you I hope that you can get through it the best way possible. To my own mother I want her to know that I love her and that she made me the mother I am. I feel extraordinarily lucky and don’t discount any day I get on earth with both my mother and my daughter.

Still Seaching For Jane’s Body

Netflix has done it again.  Introduced a new show called Grace and Frankie staring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin whose husbands leave them after 40 years of marriage to marry each other.  It came out yesterday and I have already binge watched the whole thing.  My guilt is only half as high as my usual Netflix binge because it is a half hour show.
The show deals with how 70 year old women deal with the loss of their husbands, but to me it is a diet motivational show.  No two women look as good for their age as Jane and Lily.  Hell, they look better than women my age.
Obviously all those years doing aerobics in leg warmers really paid off for Fonda.  Her body is one I would kill to have, but I am not actually willing to give up eating to get it.  In the show she lives basically on alcohol and admits to not having tasted ice cream for the last nine years.  Maybe living with a secretly closeted gay husband that is the secret to cause you to try and attain a perfect body.  If that is the case, then I am happy to have my terribly flawed and very flabby thighs if it means I have a normal husband who is happy to be married to me.
I remember going to see “On Golden Pond” in college with my boy friend and thinking that Jane Fonda in her bikini as a middle aged woman was about as good as anyone could get. She made me feel inadequate then and she still does.  Well, I am here to tell you that some thirty years later she is even better looking.
Lily Tomlin is no slouch either.  She looks about a thousand times better as an old woman than she did as Edith Ann on Laugh In.  Certainly this gives me hope that the best years can still be to come.  I don’t hold out any false hope to have Jane Fonda’s thighs and certainly not her beautiful hands with the long skinny fingers, but if Lily Tomlin, who was no real looker as a younger person can look so great as an old woman, then there is hope for all of us.
Sadly I’ve finished another new series in two days, but at least it gave me lots of incentive to get my steps done.  When is Orange Is The New Black coming back? I don’t really want to be like any of those prison women, but at least the story is so entertaining that if keeps me on the treadmill and that is the only chance to look like Jane.

Dana’s Future Graduation Pop-up Restaurant

When I was in kindergarten we lived on the street that dead ended into my elementary school.  What that meant is that many of the kids who lived within a mile of the school walked passed my house to get to and from school.  Since kindergarten was only half day and I went in the morning I quickly discovered a great business in having a regular cookie and lemonade stand when the kids walked home from school.  I did it multiple days so kids learned to have a nickel to buy the cookie for three cents and Dixie cup of lemonade for two.  It was a good tax free business.
Later in third grade I sold nickel packages of Sweet Tart filled Jaw Breakers for a quarter since they were a hot candy commodity that was in short supply at the Wilton Pharmacy.  I quickly learned that rich kids had money to burn and were perfectly happy to pay five times the regular rate just to get their hands on the sweet and sour treat.
This weekend is both UNC and Duke’s graduation as well as Mother’s Day.  Local restaurants are taking full advantage of the proud parents coming to town to celebrate their child’s matriculating achievement.  I learned yesterday that the Washington Duke is making hay by charging $31 for a salad.  Russ somehow got us a reservation at Four Square tonight for dinner, but we had to pre-pay $100 and agree to a $68 three course menu plus 18% tip right off the bat.
I realized I am missing my childhood training of making the most of a hungry situation by not running a pop-up restaurant in my house this weekend.  With the great success of Air B&B I think that I certainly could do the same plan, but for lunch and dinner.  Feeding large numbers of people delicious food is something I am trained to do.  How have I lived in a University town for so long and not taken advantage of the people wanting to come and celebrate?
There must be some parents, probably of a son, who are furious that they are having to eat dinner at Wendy’s because their boy did not try and make any reservations for their party of twelve before last week. I know it is too late for this year, but if I put the word out now that I am willing to cater a big graduation party at my house for just the right family I think I could do almost as well as I did with the jaw breakers.  I have enough China and plenty of space that I could have three or four parties all at the same time.
If this goes well I might also consider making Mother’s Day brunch here.  I would rather be making and serving really good food, than eating mediocre food at the only place available in Durham on graduation weekend.
No more complaining about what graduation does to us locals.  Rather than grumble I’m going to capitalize on the situation, um I mean offer a much needed service to the poor parents who are being fleeced, um I mean provided the opportunity to celebrate their child.  Pass the word, Dana’s Graduation spot will be taking reservations for next year.

One Last Bratty Moment From Me




Today a group of wonderful friends took me out to celebrate my birthday. Considering how my actual birthday went with my poor sick husband and daughter I was really looking forward to this lunch. It was a beautiful day and one of the perks of a May birthday is you can enjoy a party outdoors so we picked out favorite ladies who lunch spot with a good terrace.


After we were seated for a few minutes perusing the menu deciding between the Chopped Salad and the Jumbo Lump Blue Crab Salad a head restaurant guy came by and apologized for giving us the wrong menu. Our menu of many salad choices was replaced with a much-abbreviated list of a few salads, one of which was a surf and turf wedge at $31. What?!$%$#$ Who pays $31 for a lunch salad?


The bait and switch was explained to us that it was Duke Graduation weekend and even though the actual graduation day is not until Sunday they change the menu four days in advance so that people don’t see one menu one day and want something off that same menu the next day when they come back. Wait, wait, wait, we saw one menu and picked what we wanted and in a matter of moments it was ripped from our hands.


When our actual waitress came to take our orders she told us she thought she might be able to get us the chopped salad off the old menu. So we ordered seven of them. The same head restaurant guy came outside ten minutes later to give us the bad news that the kitchen had not prepped for that salad and we could not have it. BOO HOO.   Outside of the $31 salad the others were a very poor representation of what was possible in the salad world, but we settled on one anyway.


Half way through the meal the same head guy sent us champagne as an apology. Classy move, but as a non-drinker it did nothing for me. Of course the birthday celebration was all about being with good friends, but I am going to whine about the graduation menu anyway. It just is not my year for my birthday to go without a bump. I know it sounds spoiled and selfish to complain at all, but I only ask for one day and now I have to shut up and wait another year for that one day and who knows how many one days I have left.


Thanks to my friends who tried hard to make everything perfect. I’m not standing here stamping my foot, holding my breath, being a brat about you, but really, how hard is it to get a chopped salad? I’ll go back to pretending to be gracious tomorrow, but then again you know me, I am never gracious!


Spiral Cut Food

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In the world of food “sprialized” is a hot commodity. If you have no idea what I am talking about it is the fashionable way to cut things like zucchini or carrots into ribbons or spaghetti shapes. The idea of cutting vegetables into ribbons got hot when the Atkins diet came back since people wanted to find “pasta” replacements. Amazingly the brain can almost be fooled into thinking you are eating pasta if you cut a squash into long thin strips and cover it with sauce. The shapes and sizes you cut food into actually does have an effect on how it tastes in your mouth.


Knowing that I have a large number of squash plants in my garden I decided I needed to see if I like “Spiralized” food. I did not want to invest in another large gadget so when I saw this small hand spiral cutter I thought I would give it a go. The long and the short of it is I liked the way the ribboned food tasted in the salad I made, but the gadget I got leaves a lot to be desired.


First it is dangerous because the very sharp blades are fairly exposed. Second, I could only spiral about ¾ of any given vegetable because when it got too short I could not turn it in the contraption without cutting myself. Third, I had no control over the size of the ribbons and some were too thin. All that being said the salad I made using the gadget was delicious and I could tell a difference in the taste between the zucchini I “Spiraled” and the bits I cut up with a knife. The bottom line I might want to invest in a real spiral machine.


Asian Spiral Salad




5 packets of Splenda

¼ cup of Mirin

¼ cup of fish sauce

¼ cup of line juice

1 tiny hot green pepper diced as small as possible



3 Zucchini – Spiral Cut

1 Carrot- Spiral cut

1 bag of angel hair cabbage

1 avocado cubed

2 ears of corn- cooked and cut off the cob

1 giant handful of cilantro chopped

3 cooked chicken thighs chopped

¼ c. of slated peanuts- chopped


Mix it all together and it is a mighty fine meal.

Owning Your Own S%$#



One of the hardest things I find as a parent is letting my only child learn to take care of herself. As a mostly non-working mother of one child I have some guilt about not doing things like cooking dinner or doing laundry since I feel like that should come before doing needlepoint or playing Mah Jongg. I don’t have any guilt about not making dinner because I am trying to get my steps –what is torturing me should not also add guilt to my life, but what is giving me pleasure is allowed to.


I don’t know why I have this guilt. I grew up with a mother who trained me to get up, make my own breakfast, pack my school lunch, make her coffee and bring it to her in bed before I went to the school bus, and that was in elementary school. Guilt was not a mother’s job back in the sixties, unless you had a mother who was making you feel guilty.


About the time that Carter got her driver’s license and started getting herself to school and off to work at her barn I noticed I was getting better at letting her figure out her own stuff. What was she going to have for lunch? Who knows, she can figure it out. Does she have money? I guess if she needed money she would ask. Does she have diesel in her car? Finding a gas station that sells diesel is what Siri is for.


Today I really feel like I turned a corner of letting go as Carter was turning a corner of owning her own S$%#. Russ and I were going to Raleigh to have dinner with one of his work friends. Carter had made an appointment with someone she wanted to see to help her with something. She did not run it by me if she should do that, she just did it herself. I told her we were going to be out and she needed to figure everything out. She did. We got home and all was good in the world. I had no guilt about not doing the mother thing, she laid no guilt that I was not helping, but was happy to own her future.


I know that the process of growing up is not a straight line upwards, but it is a great feeling when I can see progress that has nothing to do with me. It makes me a little sad to think the day is coming fast when she won’t be here to ask me to help, but seeing how much she can handle on her own is what I have been working towards all these years. Now if I can just get her to bring me my iced tea in bed before she leaves for school.

You’re Only As Old As….

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The day the new Microsoft age guesstimater program came out Russ, being the early adaptor nerd that he is sent me a furious text that the program had guessed him to be 50 years old. “What are you so upset about?” I asked. “You are 50.”


I was not going to tempt a bad mood and ask some program probably written by people who are young enough to be my child how old it thought I was. Then tonight Carter put her picture in and came up with 27. For sure I was not going to ask. I was not happy that my teenage daughter could pass for someone who should have graduated from college. Then just to get me, Carter put the picture of me we took at dinner last night.


“Oh, No!” I thought. A really recent picture with hardly any makeup. 37 was the age it thought I was! What? What !!!! I love this program. This was not making the rest of my family happy. Russ took a new picture and tried again. 49. Hey, at least he got a year back. I was not about to try again. I was holding on to that 37, but then again…


I don’t think I would trade my age for anything. The 17 years that I have on my picture represent the whole time Carter has been alive. If I were 37 again I would not have discovered the joy volunteering for the Food Bank has brought me, or all the friends I have met in the last 17 years, the thousands of hands of Mah Jongg played, the hundreds of needlepoint Christmas ornaments made (and that is just the last three years) as well as the friendship of the Stitching Advisors.


If I were 37 again I would weigh a hundred pounds more, would not have joined Westminster yet, or volunteered one day at Durham Academy, or snuggled with sweet Shay Shay. I would not have been published since Durham Magazine did not exist 37 years ago and all my darling colleagues I work with at the Magazine were probably still in junior high school. I would not have found my voice in a comedy diet blog since the idea that someone would write a public diary everyday for the whole world to read sounds absolutely crazy.


I would not know all the exciting work Russ would do and see him grow his little company with his one partner Rich into a big company with lots of people all over the country. Mostly I would not have been through my life as a mother, I would not know those moments when your child comes in your room in the middle of the night and asks if she can sleep with you because she had a scary dream, be it with a three or sixteen year old.


So thanks Microsoft for miss guessing my age, but I am really happy with my 54 years. I don’t mind that I can see them on my face, even if you can’t. Those wrinkles around my eyes represent a lot of great laughs with friends, squints looking for my girl riding a horse in the sunshine, and a few tears when I’ve lost a friend or loved one. You just can’t program a life.

Russ’ Pressure Filled Weekend



This is the time of the year Russ dreads. Our Anniversary was yesterday, my birthday today and Mother’s day is next Sunday. The pressure to impress, surprise, delight and satisfy me is all concentrated into an eight-day window. He worries, studies, researches, quizzes, plans, connives, and sometimes just asks me what I want for months in advance. If he gets it right he can coast along for a whole year basking in the joy he created, but if he gets it wrong it hangs over him like a dark Charlie Brown like rain cloud, much more worried about it than I ever was.


This year he thought he had it all locked down early. He woke up at 2:30 in the morning on April 10, the day the Apple Watch was being launched so he could order it at exactly 3:01 hoping he could get one in time for my birthday. Quickly he was notified that the combination of size, style and band he wanted was not going to be available for weeks and weeks. DRATS! Plot foiled and he lost a good night’s sleep.


To help him off the hook I told him that he did not have to do a thing for our anniversary since we were invited to a party. Now going to a party is not always Russ’ number one choice, but after the Apple Watch debacle he accepted the help.


Russ came home from a business trip Friday night sick as a dog. He says he caught it from the sick people in his DC office, but I think the stress of our anniversary and my birthday happening on a weekend added to his illness. I got up yesterday and went off to do a volunteer job I could not get out of and came home to find him feverish. Sad, sad I told him we were postponing celebrating our anniversary and I was canceling my birthday. As he lay delirious he had no choice but to agree.


I sent an e-mail of regret to the hosts of our “After the Derby” Party who don’t live far from our house. That night as I was taking Shay out while I was in my nightgown and fuzzy slippers I could hear the fun sounds coming from the party across the golf course. Sad, sad, come to find out today it was the most fun party to happen around here in years.


Carter feeling the weight of celebrating my birthday falling squarely on her shoulders woke up early for a teenager on a Sunday morning and brought me breakfast in bed—my regular Special K with the number “54” spelled out in dried cherries. There it was, my big weekend reduced to fiber and calcium, as it should be.


Now Russ is going to have a whole year of sorrow and regret that what is the two days of Dana did not live up to his well thought out plans. All I can say is thank goodness for Facebook and all the birthday well-wishers; otherwise this could have been a really horrible weekend. I really have no place to whine, I have a great family, a happy life, and everything anyone could ever wish for, especially a loving husband who worries much to much about these eight days, when all I need is for him to be well.

Twenty-Three Great Years Is A Good Start



Before I even paid any attention to Russ Lange we went to Hawaii together. Well, not actually together. I was there for a sales meeting and he had been flown in last minute to fix a new product he had invented that the company was introducing to us. See, the owner of the company did not think through how hard it would be to air ship a big new prototype of a machine to Hawaii and make sure that it would work perfectly right out of the box.


The owner of the company knew that when he introduced a new product to the sales force if it did not work we would not try and sell it. A day before the meeting when he went to plug it in and it did not work his answer was to call Russ who told him what to do. The owner did not like that idea that he would have to touch a circuit so instead told Russ, who was in the middle of studying for his Master’s exams for electrical engineering, to get on a plane and fly to Hawaii. It took Russ all of five minutes to push the circuits back in the mother board, or some other easy thing and it worked perfectly.


The sales force loved the new product and as a reward to Russ for not just flying out to fix it, but for inventing it in the first place, we gave him a snorkeling trip. I just happen to be on that same snorkeling adventure. Underwater I had no idea that Russ was following me around, but I should have caught on. It was just the beginning of our travels around the world together.


Twenty-three years ago today I did the smartest thing I ever did and married Russ Lange. I don’t know if he had any idea what he had gotten himself into but every time I turn around he is there to make sure all my circuits are working so I can go off and shine.


Russ is not one to want any glory, but he deserves it all. His thoughtfulness, foresight, kindness and wickedly brilliant mind are just a few of the traits I love about him. I count my lucky stars that the owner of our company we both worked for was lazy enough not to bother pushing the circuits into the mother board himself. I don’t know if Russ would have been brave enough to chase me if he could not do it underwater. Thank goodness I eventually turned around and noticed the hero who was right behind me.

Does This Clean Drawer Make Me Look Thinner?

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Recently I saw that Peter Walsh, the organization guru, had a new book out, Cut the Clutter, Drop the Pounds. The premise of the book is that if you are disorganized you are gaining weight, but being clutter free helps you lose weight. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that if you write a book and tie the title to losing weight you are more likely to sell the book. Peter has obviously had luck with this before because two of his previous books are Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat, and, Lighten Up – That one does not even sound like an organization book, just a diet one.


I love Peter Walsh and all his organizing tips, but I can’t imagine that his books vary that much from one to the next. Don’t keep too much crap, only keep crap you actually use, keep like-crap together and keep your crap organized in a way that you can see how much crap you have. But now that he says that if you are organized you will lose weight I took as a sign to finally organize my bedside table drawer.


Actually I’ve had it on my list of crap to do for a long time so I just wanted to get something other than needlepoint actually done today. I have a one small drawer in my bedside table that had not been cleaned out in at least ten years.


I opened it as much as I could, which was only three inches and started pulling out the few things I use all the time, glasses, nail scissors, Emory board, needle and thread, then I remembered that last year I had bought a bunch of bamboo boxes to use to as drawer organization holders. Luckily they were right where I had left them the day I purchased them.


I started grouping things together in the little boxes, dental floss and lip balm in one box, scissors in another, nail clippers and files in another. Once I had freed a few things from the drawer I was able to open it a little further, spare buttons from clothes I had long since given away, foreign coins from countries I have not been to in fifteen years, a life times amount of safety pins, pens from motel chains that have gone bankrupt. I started throwing things away and eventually filled half a trash bag and eight little organizational boxes.


I cleaned the drawer and placed the boxes, which amazingly happened to fit perfectly. The drawer closed easily and I looked at the giant amount of trash. How did it all fit in that one little drawer? I went and got on the scale. I weighed exactly the same amount I did in the morning. How many days of cleaning and how many closets and drawers is it going to take for me to weigh less? Well at least I got to cross my oldest “to do” item off, only 985 more things to go.