Good People Always Are

  

When I thought about having a relaxing getaway to Maine I envisioned sitting on my friend’s porch over looking Clam Cove in the cool north air, eating lobster, playing cards, stitching many ornaments, telling stories and laughing, laughing, laughing. Somehow only a few of those things happened, but I am certainly not disappointed.
When Warren and I discussed what we might do during my visit I had one request, to try and see a very good Ethel Walker friend, Julie Williams now Julie Wagoner, whom I had not been in contact with for 35 years. I knew from Warren that she worked in Bath and he had seen her just a few years before. The fact that I had not kept in touch is no indication of how much I had loved her when we went to school together, but like so many people we know when we are young, we just lost contact.
Warren and I hatched up a hair brained scheme that we would surprise her at her bank where she was a commercial loan officer under the auspices that we needed a loan. I was a little worried that she might not be at work if we just showed up so Warren called the bank and asked a co-worker of Julie’s if she was going to be in, but to please keep the secret of our arrival. It was a good thing we did that because she was out the day we planned to visit and had to change our plans.
Today we drove to Bath and waited in the lobby of her Bank while the receptionist asked her to come down to see some customers. Despite the years she recognized us and I would have known her anywhere, she had not aged one day, let alone 35 years.
After she got over the original shock she showed us around and introduced us to her co-workers before we took her to lunch. Julie was still the kind and thoughtful person I knew as a teenager. She told us all about her family and her work. Julie, like me loved to do crafts, even at a young age and she told us she was still making quilts, like her mother.
She told us how she collects old featherweight sewing machines that are particularly coveted by quilters because they are light and easy to transport when going to quilting classes. One day her mother called her and told her about a 90 year old woman who she knew who had a feather weight that had belonged to her mother she might want to sell. Julie called her to say she heard about her machine. The woman talked lovingly about how much her mother adored this machine. 
Julie, who already had a couple of sewing machines and really did not need another asked how much she wanted. The price the woman gave her was too good to pass up so Julie said she would take it on one condition, that the woman would give Julie a copy of a picture of her mother so she could attach it to the case of the machine and think of her whenever she used it.
Julie asked the woman if she wanted her to bring her the money that day or the next week and the woman said, “Come today, it is so much better to do something hard faster.” As she told me this story I thought how typically thoughtful of Julie to come up with the perfect way to ease this old woman’s pain of selling her mother’s prized sewing machine by assuring her that her mother will never be forgotten, when the woman was not even asking for that.
It is so wonderful to know that a person I thought was the highest caliber human being when she was a teenager, really was and continued to be. The years apart were merely a blink of an eye. We promised to not wait another 30 years and try and see each other again next year.  


The Power of Blue Eyes

There are two things my friend Warren loves, Howard Johnson’s and antiques. His house is a contrast in styles, the main living space which is full of country, primitive and fine antiques including the kitchen with a 1920’s stove and 1935 General Electric Monitor top refrigerator and the HoJo’s room which has Howard Johnson artifacts from the thirties, through the mid century modern era to the seventies right before the HoJo’s started disappearing. Now many people think Howard Johnson’s is an antique given that there are only two HoJo restaurants left in America, one is Lake George, NY and the second in Bangor, Maine.
Being that we are only an hour from Bangor Warren thought we should go and visit a real Howard Johnson’s and eat fried clams since he felt like the kale salad I was cooking at his HoJo’s was not very traditional fare for the turquoise and orange. So off we went this morning after visiting the town dump to drop off the trash and recycling. Oh what excitement here in Maine.
We pulled into the restaurant, without an orange roof, with only one other car in the parking lot. I was a little worried about the future of this HoJo’s, but after a lovely meal sitting at the counter we learned that there was an interested buyer who wanted to revive the Howard Johnson’s brand in Bangor.

  
Full and satisfied we left to head home, but true to Warren’s nature we veered into a few antique stores we passed on the way. I browsed as Warren struck up conversations with store owner’s quizzing them about their knowledge of antique refrigerators. See, Warren’s beloved Monitor top, which is his primary cooling device is somewhat on the fritz. After many a call to repairmen and much searching of the Internet he was yet to find someone to work on his prized machine. At one stop a nice woman said there was an appliance store in town that had vintage appliances in the window, so off we went to talk to yet another person.

  
While sitting in the service department with young Andrew who could not fix Warren’s fridge himself, but who was keen to help he finally said that Warren needed to go visit Al, at General Appliance around the block because he could fix anything. So off we went. At this point I feel like I had learned enough about vintage refrigerators to be able to fix it myself, if only I had the parts.
Right around the block must mean different things to Mainers than it does to southerners and eventually we found a building that was named Picket Appliance that we assumed was the right place. Outside the building sat strange looking stoves from Brands I had never heard of and when we entered the building it was full of one type of fridge, one that does not need electricity. In the corner was a composting toilet. We were not in Kansas anymore.
A woman approached us, Warren in his polo shirt and I in my pink peddle pushers were not the normal customers for this store. Warren asked to speak to Al and the woman protectively said he was unavailable, we assumed the man on the phone at the counter in the rail road engineer cap with the curly grey hair sticking out beneath was someone else.
Warren described his old fridge dilemma and as soon as the woman decided we were not tax collectors or FBI agents she said that Al could help us as soon as he finished on the phone. Such screening for an appliance repair guy.
Warren introduced himself to Al and began to tell his tale of woe. Al made some comment that Warren should be fine if he had me as a wife. We laughed and Warren made a comment about the fact that I was another man’s wife and the investigation about if Al could help continued. Warren was feeling like he was finally making some real headway as Al described possible fixes for Warren’s sick machine. Then in the middle of a sentence Al stopped short and looked at me and said, “has anyone ever told you you have the bluest eyes?”
That was it! Warren was furious that Al had lost his train of thought about the difference in compressor or electrical issue and it was all my fault for standing there with my eyes open. In the end it was fine since Al said he could help Warren in the winter, when his busy season was over. Turns out Al’s business is to supply appliances to people who live mainly off the grid. It was clear to me as Al described his customers that I was probably the only female he ever saw outside the old woman who worked for him and that I was certainly the cleanest. Warren says I may have to return to Maine when he takes the fridge to Bangor for Al to repair so I can ensure good service.
     


The Vanns Come To HoJo’s

  
One of the nicest things about my friend Warren is his generosity in sharing his home with me and allowing me to entertain at his HoJo’s as if I were the franchisee. Yesterday when I had just barley arrived we had my friend Wendie over and today m Durham friends Sheppy and Dick Vann.
Sheppy and Dick are actually now Nashville friends having moved away from Durham after Sheppy’s retirement from DA last year. They summer in Liberty, Maine where Dick’s family has had a house for something like 90 years. I am thankful that they come here because it increases the chances that I will see them.
Last summer when I stopped by the Vann’s house when I was at family camp I told them all about Warren’s Howard Johnson’s. Sheppy is of the age that she visited HoJo’s regularly when on family trips because it was always a reliable place to eat. When I made plans to come to Maine this summer I asked Warren if it would be alright for me to have Sheppy and Dick for lunch, knowing they would appreciate the HoJo’s. Of course he said yes.
Although Warren has all the HoJo’s corporate cookbooks I chose not to make traditional lunch offerings since there is probably nothing healthy in clam steps, chicken croquettes or Mac and Cheese. Instead we had to make due with tomato, basil and burratta served with oat bread with butter, radishes and salt finger sandwiches served on Howard Johnson china. We followed the first course with a kale chicken Caesar salad with some purple roast baby carrots. Warren is not usually an adventurous eater and was a little worried about the anchovies I put in the dressing. Howard would be rolling in his graves for he saw my menu. But everyone seemed to like their lunch and even Warren ate the whole thing.

  
After lunch we retired to the front porch to enjoy the breeze from Clam Cove and have blueberry pie for dessert. Sheppy thankfully brought her needlepoint and we had a great visit while Dick and Warren wondered the property. Just as I thought, Sheppy loved the HoJo’s and Warren thoroughly enjoyed both the Vanns. What a fun day it was. I am thankful to know such wonderful and interesting people who are generous enough to open their homes or drive an hour for lunch. Life in Maine makes me happy.

  


When Your World’s Collide

Thirty-eight years ago I met my friend Warren and we became fast and furious friends. We have remained so ever since, building up years of memories especially in the last few years as my family has come to stay with Warren every summer at his lovely house in Maine.

  
Thirty-one years ago my ground zero Washington DC friend, David MacKay, who is responsible for practically every friend I made in DC, introduced me to Wendie Demuth. We became life long friends immediately, who could go years without talking but able to pick right back up where we left off without skipping a beat.

  
This morning I boarded a plane in North Carolina, not without first spilling my giant Starbucks all over the floor of the ladies room without having first taken a sip. It did not seem like a great way to start the day. I arrived at Logan airport and learned that my flight to Owl’s head was delayed. Day not getting any better.

  
Eventually me and the eight other passengers were escorted to our tiny plane where I got to be the co-pilot. Happily I was able to needlepoint, while flying the plane. And some people thought I only needle pointed through board meetings. The day was looking up.

  
Thanks to my not hitting any of the levers or steering thingies we landed safely just as Warren was walking in the airport to pick me up. At last I was in Maine for my summer vacation, it was just a little sad that the rest of family was not. 
At a little bit after five Wendie, who it turns out was living in Maine arrived at Warren’s house so I could take them both for a lobster dinner and introduce them to each other. It was the collision of two of my greatest friends who should have known each other long before now.  

  
So off to Belfast we went to eat on a beautiful dock, tell stories and laugh. It was a very, very good day. There is nothing I like more than introducing people to each other who should be friends. If I could have this happen everyday I would throw a Starbucks coffee on the floor of the ladies room all the time.  

   
 


A Case of Farmer’s Market Tomatoes Marinara Sauce

  

It’s a big tomato season this year. Farmers are picking more red globes than usual and the prices are reflecting the over abundance. At the Raleigh farmer’s market you can get a case of “canning tomatoes” for $10, that’s .40 cents a pound. Canning tomatoes are just not a beautiful as the slicing tomatoes, but perfect for making sauce.  
2 large sweet onions diced

40 ripe tomatoes – cored and quartered

Salt 

1 small can tomato paste

2 T. Sugar

In a giant stock pot put the onions and the tomatoes and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Stir the pot every ten minutes and cook until the volume reduces by at least half.  
Using a food mill with the medium sieve run all the tomatoes through food mill to get the skins and seeds out. Return the sauce to the pot and add the tomato paste, sugar and salt to taste. Cook another 20 mins.  
This is a good base for so many sauces and soups. Freeze in smaller containers so it can be defrosted in a timely manner.   


It’s Clean and Empty For the Last Moment

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After our much too fast 24 hour visit with Carter ended Russ, Shay and I made the familiar drive home from camp to the empty front half of our house and the disastrous back half crammed with all we own. In these last few hours before the floor men arrive we finished covering up the window treatments and covering the furniture with sheets.

 

I had a half a case of tomatoes and since I am not going to be able to use the kitchen to cook I made marinara sauce for the freezer. I must be the only person on earth who in the final moments I have left in my house for two weeks decides to slow simmer a stockpot of tomatoes. I just could not let them go to waste.

 

I also made two tomato pies, one for dinner and one for the freezer while doing two last loads of laundry so Russ will have all the clothes he has access to clean. See I thought he had set aside the clothes he needed for these two weeks before the movers came and put his two dressers wrapped in shrink-wrap in the middle of all the other furniture. When he asked me where his belts were and I pointed to the inaccessible chest he gave me that, “Are you kidding me?” look.

 

After what feels like years, but in reality is only two months of getting the house ready for this face lift of sanding and refinishing I realize that come tomorrow I will get a two-week break from working on the house. I am going to be quarantined from cleaning anything else. Even though I will have access to one part of the house it is going to be unpleasant to be here so I am doing the best thing and leaving town.

 

Shay has been the most upset by all this moving around. She picks up her blue stuffed dog and carries it around crying because the bed where she likes to bury her stuffed animals is gone. She wanders the empty rooms and is disturbed by the lack of the familiar. She cries and sticks close to us worrying that we might disappear too. Thank goodness she is happy to go and stay with her friend Mary where there will be a pack of dog friends to keep her mind off her loss of habitat at home.

 

First thing in the morning the crew will show up. I am staying home for the first day of the job because I was worried about running out of town and not being available to answer any questions they might have about the color or finish I wanted. I hope that it was not a mistake to just run away as soon as the refinishers walk in the door.

 

I am mostly looking forward to the mandatory break from cleaning, packing, throwing/giving stuff away and reorganizing. The only bad part is that it is just a break. As soon as the floors are done I have to undo everything and put it all back in their rightful places as well as clean every surface in the whole house, including the parts that were not refinished because I know dust will get in every nook and cranny. For now I am just going to pull a Scarlet O’Hara and “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

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Camp Visit by Shay Shay Lange

Hooray! Today has been a great day to be a dog. I got to ride in the car on my daddy’s lap all the way to Camp Cheerio. We came to take my mother Carter out of camp for her 24 hours off. I have missed her so much since she has been gone for three weeks. Since I can’t read the calendar I have no idea how long three weeks is, but it feels like forever. I wander around the house and look for her day and night, but can’t find her anywhere.

  
When we got to camp I was able to visit with all my Mom’s camp counselor and CIT friends. It seems like camp is the perfect place for dogs. Lots of wide open spaces. Why don’t they have dog session?

  
We took Carter and her friend Trey out to lunch. We had to drive on the blue ridge parkway a long distance to get to the biker bar that is the only place with outside seating for me. I don’t like bikers and especially loud Harley’s that the old people ride on. Every time one drove past us I jumped. I did like getting to sit on Daddy’s lap and next to Trey at lunch, especially when Trey gave me his chicken from his salad.
After we dropped Trey back at camp we drove down to Winston Salem to a hotel made just for dogs. I got to go on a long with with my Dad while my Mom and Grandmother, that’s what I call Dana, went to the mall to buy my Mom some new converse sneakers for camp.  
I really like staying in a hotel with two beds because I can jump from one to the other. My mom is really happy because she has her own room where I get one bed and she gets the other. She says a long shower, some TV watching and a good nights sleep are just what she needs.  

  
I love camp visiting, staying in hotels and rising in the car. Mostly I like seeing my Mom. sIx weeks without her would have been much too long. I don’t know how long that is, but it’s too long just the same.

  


The Sad Empty Sound

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Smells have always evoked a strong memory for me, but as I walk through my totally empty old half of my house the echoes of my footstep bring me back to the first days we lived in this house. When we got here twenty-one years ago this month we lived many more days than we had planned without our furniture. True to their reputation our movers did not live up to their promise to get our furniture to us any where close to the promised date. Of course being furious about that did no good whatsoever. I really don’t recall that many specifics, but the house sounded so big empty.

 

Since we did not know a soul and had no commitments in our new town I certainly never imagined then what strong roots we would put down in Durham. We came here for Russ to go to Business school at Kennan-Flagler. The house we tried to buy in Chapel Hill did not work out and if it weren’t for our dog Beau and three cats, Stormy, Charlotte and Chappy needing a house rather than an apartment we might never have discovered the house we live in now.

 

We almost did not look at it because the MLS listed it as only having two bedrooms, but Russ, ever the eagle eye, noticed some strange discrepancies and stated it had to be a mistake. Of course he was right. We were looking for an “older house” and our agent kept showing up things that we just considered “used” at five years old. This was the oldest house we saw, at 50 years old. To us it was still in its infancy considering we had both grown up in places with 300 year old houses. But running out of time we decided this was the right house at the right time.

 

We have loved it well and hard. As the furniture was moved out of the rooms today and the rugs were pulled up I could see the places that the cats favored to let us know they did not like us leaving them home alone. In the dining room I can recognize where the old house used to end and the new portion began when we added on. With all the clothes out of my closet the only thing left are the markings of how tall Carter has been through the years.

 

I know this empty sound is only temporary, but it gives my stomach an uneasy feeling like I had waiting those days for the moving van to arrive with all our possessions. But unlike those first days now we know and love Durham. This is where so many of our friends are, we know our neighbors, and like most of them, Russ has a wonderful business here, we have our church and Carter’s school.

 

So as the floors get refinished, the marks on them that represent the living we have done here will get sanded away and be remade new again. No sooner than two weeks from now we will begin to scratch them up again making new memories. I don’t like the echoy sound of an empty house. I want everything back making this a place filled with friends and family, laughter and good story telling because this is our home empty of furniture, but full of love.


The Places Dust Lives

Today was my fifth day of moving all the belongings out of half of my house into the other half of my house in preparation for the floor refinishing. Tomorrow, bright and early the moving men come to move the furniture. In order to be ready for that to happen I had to move all the small stuff off every surface, all the pictures off the walls, every towel, shoe and arts and crafts items out of every closet.  
The worst part of the job was not the three hundred and forty two trips I made up and down stairs carrying arm loads of clothes or piles of umbrellas. The most disgusting job was the unhooking of the flat screen TV that lives in an antique linen press that it fits like a glove in. Despite the excellent cleaning that Blanca does at our house every week with a duster moving over every surface like a whirling dervish, when Russ and I carefully slid the TV out of it’s wooden case we were met with an inch of dust attached to the back of the machine.
The TV is not that old, but it never had been moved so that it could be cleaned behind it. Perhaps this floor refinishing will be there best thing that ever happened to our house. No surface will go unexposed and thus everything will eventually get cleaned. Well, that is after everything has been covered I a fine layer of dust from sanding all the old finish off the hard woods.  
I know that when this process is over I will block all the work out of my mind like a mother who has endured a grueling labor, but while I am in the middle of it I am swearing like a woman in the 20th hour of labor without an epidural. There is just no way out of doing all this grunt work. No one else could look at everything we own and decide if we should keep it or get rid of it. No one else could move it as carefully and know where it is in the interim in case I need to find my green keens, or red belt, and certainly no one else can put it all back after it is over and have any recollection of where it is. 
The one thing I know is that I am going to need to put things back in about the same places because they are in my long term memory that way. So the flash lights have to go back in the ironing closet and the sewing machine in the linen closet, even if they don’t make perfect sense to be there. Changing the home of all my belongings know will just mean I won’t know where aching is and then I might as well have just thrown it all away.
I just hope that when the movers come I don’t find too many more giant dust piles . There is only so much dust I can deal with before the great dust creation.  


How Many Does a Pig Head Serve?

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After yesterday’s eating fest at the Chef and The Farmer in Kinston, Russ, our friends Chuck and Karen and I tried to slow things down a bit, but the morning meal at our Bed and Breakfast was another wonderful extravaganza. You would think that after all that eating the last thing we would want to do was talk about or shop for more food, but that we did.

 

Chuck and I are scheming up a plan about entering some cooking contests at the State Fair in October. This plan means we need to do a lot of testing of recipes and creating thematic stories that go along with them. One of the contests we are considering entering is the SPAM contest. Neither of us has much history cooking with SPAM, but why should that stop us.

 

To help further our education of pork in general we decided to stop at the Nahunta Pork Center that was only about ten miles out of our way on the way home from Kinston today. For as many years as I have lived here I have passed by the many bill boards on the road to the beach advertising “Largest Pork Display in the World” and wanted to know what in the world a pork display was. Luckily Chuck and Karen also were interested in visiting so we all ended our virginity at the same time with a slight detour.

 

Nahunta, also known as the Pork King, did not disappoint. We entered the very clean and bright building at the door at one end of the skinny building that said, entrance only. Since I was sure before I even got in the building that I would buy something I grabbed a cart from outside the entrance. It was a good thing because they have the store set up in a way that you have to walk past everything they sell in single file one direction almost like being on a conveyer belt passing by every conceivable type, cut and variable pork product.

 

First up were the real specialty items; whole hog faces, feet, tails, tongues, etc. I’m not quite sure how many people a hog face feeds, but at .99¢ a pound it seemed fairly cheep to me and you all know I love a deal. If you did not want a whole face you could just buy a tray of ears.

 

Since I could see many more choices ahead I decided not to fill my cart with any of the most precious specialty items. I figured I could always send Russ back through the line if I decided I really wanted a head or two. Nothing about Nahunta was disappointing. I got bacon, country ham, smoked pork roast, fresh tenderloin and hot sausage. Brilliantly at the checkout were freezer bags and bags of ice. Just to round out the shopping I bought a 2 lb. bag of lima beans because I was looking for something to balance out all the meat.

 

Of course no SPAM was sold at the Pork Center but I felt like I was still inspired by the array of pork to help us on our quest for a winning SPAM recipe. It is my humble opinion that the billboards do not lie. It was the largest Pork Display on earth. I highly recommend you make a trip there yourself, but bring a whole cooler, those pig faces are fairly large.


Kinston Part Deux

   
   

Almost two years ago out friends Chuck and Karen asked us if we had heard of a little restaurant in Kinston, NC called the Chef and the Farmer. Heard of it? You bet we had been salivating over it watching the PBS series “A Chef’s Life” all about the hidden gem in the unlikely Eastern North Carolina tiny town. We made plans then to come to eat at the restaurant together.
Well, life gets in the way and Chuck and Karen could not make the first trip we took to visit Kinston in late winter a year ago. By all accounts our first visit was a big success. Russ got us a room at the most lovely Bentley, Bed and Breakfast where we met Linda and Ward, our hosts. We had a fantastic dinner at the Chef and the Farmer on Friday night followed by a huge four hour breakfast on Saturday morning because we talked so long to Linda and Ward. As we left to go see what there was to Kinston and visit the Boiler Room, the sister restaurant to the Chef and the Farmer we got the kind of phone call every parent dreads. Carter had fallen off her horse and was in the hospital. A terrible end to a great trip.
Fast forward more than a year. Chuck and Karen still had not made it to The Chef and the Farmer and were talking with is about it. Russ wasted no time searching for reservations and found that due to its extraordinary popularity only a Tuesday might be available even three months in advance. He contacted Linda and we were lucky that she was available to host guests this same night.  
The two year wait did not dampen the expectations. After taking a scenic route to get here because of a little too much talking in the car we finally got Chuck and Karen to Kinston. We checked into the Bentley which was a very pleasant surprise for Chuck who claims to not like to have to talk to people who stay at Bed and Breakfasts. It is no wonder that he and Russ are friends since Russ has the same affliction.  
We started our culinary tour at the Boiler Room for drinks and some oysters to prime us up before dinner. I heard that the watermelon Pimms Cup was a mighty fine libation. I probably would have been happy eating a burger at the boiler room, but knew it was not the reason for our trip.  
We walked across the street to the restaurant a few minutes before our reservation. Soon enough we were seated with the much anticipated menu before us. So many good choices and only one meal to eat, this was just not going to suit. Thank goodness we had Chuck and Karen. We started by ordering a pizza to share before we even could consider looking further at the menu. The perfectly thin crust was expertly covered I a layer of creamed corn, local bacon, pecorino cheese and fresh basil and hot honey. Who would have thought that creamed corn makes the best pizza? And I have no idea why hot honey is, but I want it on everything.
We continued the sharing with a tomato salad, fried collards and a blue cheese spoon bread that was a side for the ribeye that we ordered, hold the ribeye. Splitting all these yummies four ways was the perfect way to taste more things. But that is where the sharing ended when three of the four of us order the tomato pie for dinner and Russ had the lamb burger. So much good food. I will be paying for this for a week of walking, but really once every 18 months it is worth it. Oh, did I mention the coconut tres leches cake with peaches, caramel and smoked pecans? Add one more week of walking just for that.
back to the Bentley to sit in the parlor just to digest a little before trying to climb the grand staircase up to bed. It is not a special occasion, but just a really good Tuesday. Certainly to me worth a trip to Kinston with good friends.   


The Great Stuff Migration

  

Today I began the movement of everything we own from the front of our house having to move to the back of our house so the floors can be refinished. I am not a lover of wall-to-wall carpet but right about now I would give my non-needlepoint hand to just be ripping up carpeting and replacing it rather than refinishing floors.    
In preparation for the the complete emptying of every closet and room I cleaned out and reorganized all out closets. It was probably the biggest job in the series of things I have to do. The sad part is now I have to dismantle these perfectly organized closets and pile everything up in our playroom while still leaving room for the movers to put all our big furniture there on Friday. Our playroom is much bigger than a moving van so I figure I can fit three bedrooms, a living room and dining room worth of furniture in it with all the playroom stuff.
The worst part of the move is the clothes. I have borrowed four large clothing racks to add to the two I already have. Today I looked like a Seventh Avenue garment worker rolling the industrial size rack into the breakfast room full of winter clothes. I’m sure that I could have weeded out a few more items before the migration happened, but I just was too hot to try on any wool.
As I took down the family photographs from the bedroom hallway I relived many of the trips they were taken on. Carter awaiting a train in Ireland wearing the orange shirt we bought when her luggage was four days delayed, Russ and I as tiny figures against a huge Waterfall in the North Carolina Mountains, my parents in the Vermont woods when we went to my cousin Haidee’s Appalachian trail wedding. Although I pass by these pictures dozens of times each day I don’t really look at them closely enough to step back into the memories they represent.
There is something wonderful about putting you hands on your memories. I decided that if something does not take me back to a place, or make me happy I should consider parting with it. The problem is that my long term memory is very strong and most of the stuff I moved today had meaning for me. I guess I am lucky that we are not down sizing yet, just moving everything temporarily. Then in three weeks time when the dust has actually settled and our well worn floors are remade new again I can loving move all this S$&# back into their rightful homes, hopefully more organized than before. 
Today I am reveling in the completely empty closets and bare walls. The look is sad, but the promise that it holds is great. I just pray that everything will fit and not fall on us.


No Cook Tomato Juice

  

I won’t make you read through a long post to know which tomato juice, the cooked and food mill one or the no-cook Vitamix version won the taste test. Russ as the impartial expert declared the no-cook version the winner. He says they both are good and worked well as the base for his doctored up concoctions, but the no cook was slightly better from the taste stand.
From the ease to make the no-cook is a no-brainer so from now on I don’t see any reason to look further, as long as you have a high power blender.
1/2 yellow onion- chopped

1 stalk of celery – chopped

4 large ripe tomatoes- cored and quartered

1 t. Lime juice
Put everything in the Vitamixer and start on the lowest setting and turn it up slowly over 30 seconds.  
Put a small mesh strainer or chinoiserie over a bowl and pour the liquid in. Using the back of a spoon push as much through the strainer as you can. Throw away any big pulpy mess that is left in the strainer. You should get most of it through the strainer. Salt to taste.
You can add peppers, either hot or sweet, carrots, cabbage, kale any vegetable you like to the vitamix, but the onions, celery and tomatoes are a good base to start with. 


Homemade Tomato Juice – The Cooked Version

  

I don’t know why I got this crazy idea that I wanted to make homemade tomato juice. Perhaps it was the yummy virgin Mary’s we had in Denver, but I knew it could not be that hard. I stopped at the farmer’s market and bought a 25 pound box of canning tomatoes for $10. Given the high price of premium Bloody Mary Mix I knew I was on to something. Then I researched how to make tomato juice.  
Turns out there are many camps from those who use and electric juicer and just run the tomatoes straight through raw to the cooked tomatoes and food mill way. Since I don’t have a juicer per se I started tonight doing a cooked version and running it through the finest strainer of my food mill. If you don’t know what a food mill is it s like a strainer with a blade that pushes the food through a metal plate that has holes.  
I liked the end product of straight juice, but in the morning a I will doctor it with lemon juice, hot sauce, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce and some spices to see if it makes Russ a happy Virgin Mary.
Tomorrow I am going to try the uncooked version and do it in my vitamix. You will get the full taste comparison then with that recipe. But here is how I made the cooked style.
1 yellow onion chopped

3 stalks of celery- chopped

10 big garden tomatoes, cored and quartered and all blemishes cut out

1/2 t. Salt

3 Splenda packets
I sprayed a big stock pot with Pam and put the onions and celery in the pot on a medium high heat on the stove. Stirring often to prevent any blackening cook the onions and Cleary for five minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook on high for 25 minutes, stirring often. The tomatoes were not all perfectly ripe so I added the Splenda for sweetness. If you have very ripe tomatoes you won’t need more sweet. Add the salt to taste.
Put the food mill over a deep bowl and working in batches add the tomato mixture to the food mill, turning the handle to extract the liquid from the solids. Half way through you may have to dump out the solids left in the food mill. Transfer the juice to a pitcher and chill. Taste and add any spicy ingredients you want.


Vacation Recovery and Vacation Planning

  

Shay has been a sleeping puppy today trying to recover from her vacation from me. I too have been a little bit of a mess. I have only half unpacked, did no laundry, no grocery shopping, nothing serious except for throwing practically everything in the refrigerator away.
Instead I kind of eased back into real life. Christy and I went to lunch and then to Chapel Hill Needlepoint because we had to hear the story of our friend Elizabeth’s visit to the highland’s needlepoint store. Apparently it was just as much a jumble twelve years ago. I am practically sure that the computer belt was hanging on the wall in the same place then.
Sadly Ashley’s grandfather did pass away and she called me missing Carter. I was able to call camp and ask them to let Carter call her friend. Then after that Carter called me. All this sadness precipitated a request for us to come and take Carter home for one night during the session break next weekend. I thought about it, but then realized that our house will be uninhabitable because the floors are getting redone. So I decided we would drive out to camp and pick Carter up and go spend the night someplace out there.
Carter’s real request was to see Shay. This makes finding a place to stay particularly difficult. As it is the choices are very limited for just humans. When you add that I really like to sleep in clean places most of the “motel” choices are out of the question. Many of the nicer Bed and Breakfasts have a two night minimum on weekends and the air bnb’s that allow dogs are mostly built of cinder blocks. After hours searching the internet I might have found a place to stay in Mount Airy, only 50 minutes from Camp. I hope that Carter appreciates our visit and does not change her mind.
So before I could recover from one vacation I had to work on planning another. Although It is not so much a vacation as a chance to see our girl and give her some puppy time. Now in the time I have been writing this the place we were looking to stay got booked and now I have to go back to the drawing board to make this plan work. Vacation planning is a big pain in the ass.


The Ying and the Yang

All good things must come to an end and so the end of mother camp happened today with closing ceremonies over the final Mah Jongg table. Fours days away with my good pals, Mary Lloyd and Christy was the perfect mix of games, laughs and a break from the rigorous diet. It was not as much exercise as a I needed based on what I ate, but I came home ready to get back on both the healthy eating wagon and the treadmill for that last push.
Shay was exhausted when I went to pick her up from Camp Mary. She had spent the first two days going to work with Russ which meant she hardly napped at all so she could keep an eye on him and make sure he never left the office without her. Russ said she was a good work dog and even performed like a champ when they had a fire drill and she had to walk down four flights of stairs with the sirens blaring. Due to Russ’ company team meeting she had to go to her camp and play with the seven other camper dogs that were spending time there. Now she can hardly keep an eye open.
The only bad thing is that this morning before we left Highlands my phone rang and it was Carter’s great friend Ashley, who is my bonus daughter. She was sobbing and just needed to talk because her grand father on her mother’s side had fallen and is critical. With Carter unavailable by phone at camp, Ashley called me as the substitute. It broke my heart to hear the pain of losing her first loved one ripping her to pieces. I tried to be there as much as a I could talking and texting with her multiple times through the day. My heart goes out to her mother and whole family as the shock of this unexpected accident starts to sink in.
Being away from watching TV, hearing news, getting mail and dealing with day-to-day issues

was a wonderful break from reality, but listening to the gasping wails of a young girl in pain brought me back to the real world fast. It makes me cherish all the good things more, my family, puppy, friends and all that is good. I am reminded to be thankful, appreciative, humble and ever mindful that time is short.
I am holding Ashley, Ellie, Terry and Kayley in my prayers. I am hugging my husband and thanking him for the gift of time away with friends. I am rubbing Shay’s belly and snuggling her, appreciative for the calming effect a loving dog has on us. I am writing Carter at camp and telling her to contact her friend who needs her love and support. I am thinking of my good friends who bring sunshine to my world and appreciate the gift of friendship. Lastly I am thinking of my own wonderful family and be mindful of what they mean to me.


Merchandising Hell

  

Day three of the great girls get away and we have settled into the perfect balance of Mah Jongg playing, needlepointing, shopping, spaing, eating and lounging by the pool. This morning we ventured out of the hotel to have breakfast looking for something less formal and different. Although there are many restaurants in Highlands very few of them are open for breakfast. After searching the internet we found two choices, one in the back of a pharmacy “where the locals eat” and the other in a grocery store.  
We were not sure about eating at the grocery store so we walked up and down the sidewalk in search of the elusive “local’s spot.” Interestingly very few of the stores had street numbers on them and we were stumped. We stumbled into an alley thinking it might be on the back of the Main Street and still we could not find it. Instead we found a needlepoint store. For you non-stitchers you need to understand the sacristy of actual local needlepoint stores. This one might be the only one in Western North Carolina. Excitedly we peered in the windows of the very tiny shop. It was slightly untidy, but we were still excited nonetheless. Rounding the corner to find the front door we saw the sign “open at noon.”
Since it was still breakfast time we knew we needed to kill some time before the store would open so we settled on eating breakfast at the grocery store. It was absolutely the best thing we could have done. The food was delicious and the tables were comfortable so we had a long a leisurely gab filled meal. Since it turned out to be such a good store we bought some items to take home so we went back to the hotel to drop them off.
The mid-morning was still a little cool so we finished off visiting all the shops on the end of the street that we had not already gone in. Their merchandising was similar to the shops at the other end of the street. My favorite example was a kitchenware a store that had Crabtree and Evelyn nail polish, next to wrought iron cookbook stands, next to ceramic owls, next to fancy dish washer soap. You get the idea that it is a bit of a dog’s breakfast.
At last the hour that the needlepoint store should open approached. We wandered back through the alley and sat outside a beauty salon that was neighbor to the needlepoint shop. Noon came, no needlepoint opening. Mary Lloyd went and asked a neighboring shop owner if she knew the needlepoint lady. We came to find the hour sign on the door was merely a suggestion. As we loitered in front of the store we noticed three older ladies sitting in their car in front of the shop. They called out to us to ask if we were waiting for the needlepoint owner too?  
We struck up a conversation and they told us they were friends who all live in Florida and one of them had a house in Waynesville where she summers. They were like an older version of us, one even had a double name like Mary Lloyd. They said they came to this shop every year and had called the owner Monday to make sure she would open for them. Waynesville is an hour from Highlands and we were hopeful then that the owner would show up since now she had six customers waiting outside her shop. We were doubly hopeful she had better canvases than the ones we saw through the slightly dirty windows since these ladies came so far.
Eventually the owner came teetering down the path only twenty minutes late. She fumbled with the keys and we waited to be let I as if we might find some hidden treasure. The store was small and very well loved. Canvases were stacked on tables and in baskets and hung on the wall. Clearly many of them had been there quite a long time as evidenced by the “computer” themed belt with floppy disks and CD roms on it.
Mary Lloyd, Christy and I flipped through every Christmas ornament canvas in the place, desperately looking for something to buy after waiting so long to get in. Christy tried to get me to buy a mini stocking with a theme of cans of tuna fish, but I just couldn’t do it. Eventually I found a Peter Rabbit and Christy reached in a paper bag and found a heart that had very old yellow tape on the edges and a receipt from 1991. When she inquired about it the owner said, “you can buy it if you don’t mind that it belonged to a dead person.” Mary Lloyd had to leave the store at that point.  
Overall Highlands is a beautiful place, but it is clearly the land of misfit merchandising. I think that the whole town could be a case study for a retail merchandising class. I love to support local stores, and the ones in this town are not short on wares to sell, but clearly many of them need help to learn how to display things so customers can see what they have to sell. Except maybe the needlepoint lady, she just needs a lot more old customers who still have floppy disks.


The Dove Bar Room! 

  

I am person who likes to take full advantage of all amenities offered by a hotel. What’s the use of staying some place nice and not enjoying what you are paying for? The place Christy, Mary Lloyd are I are staying is nice with a capital N. Not only do we have a cute cottage with some big ass rooms, but we have set up our Mah Jongg table right in front of the fireplace and it makes a cozy place to play while we are dressed in out “soft clothes.”
After “hiking” this morning to look at a number of beautiful waterfalls with very short trails we headed back to town to do a little retail therapy. It was probably a good thing that most of the stores have very bad merchandising. You know, too much stuff crammed into to small a space and not in any order that makes any sense — bras on hangers, next to red rubber boots, next to lime green crinkle blouses, next to “the world’s best leggings.”
The rain started coming and we took that as our cue to get to the spa where we made an afternoon of lunching, whirlpooling, steaming, chaise lounge lying, needlepointing, being massaged, detox drinking, more lounging and then… Shopping. We did everything in the spa we could and are going to do it again tomorrow.
After all that hard work we had to brake down and visit the best free hotel amenity I have ever seen, “the free dove bar room.” I am not talking about birds, but rather the incredibly sinful and rich vanilla ice cream bars double dipped in the richest chocolate. Who has ever seen a whole room with a freezer full of ice cream decadence right there for the taking. Granted it is worked into the cost of the room, so you would just be a fool not to enjoy it.  
Being as exhausted as we were from all that spaing we decided we could not possibly go on to play Mah Jongg without some nourishment. So off to the dove bar room we went. I am going to be paying the piper for this break in healthy eating, but it was already paid for and quite frankly worth every last bite.  
Who knows what amenities we are going to stumble upon tomorrow. I am very hopeful that there is not a secret free cake cave. The dove bar room is bad enough.  


Moms’ Camp

   
 

Earlier in the year my friend Christy and I decided that we wanted to go to an advanced needlepoint class while our children were away at camp together. We have gotten fairly good at teaching ourselves new stitches and techniques, but knew that there things that one of the experts could teach us. We found the perfect class in Austin, Texas and in January we called the store that was hosting the class. The woman who answered the phone practically laughed me off the line when I inquired if she had two places for the July class. Apparently that class was filled two years ago and we could put our names on the list for the February in 2016!  
Christy and I certainly have no idea if we are available in 2016 and our children will not be a summer camp in February. Scratch that plan. Then we got to thinking about what we wanted to do with our time away from home and decided we could create our own needlepoint camp and throw in Mah Jongg and some spa treatment. Once we hit on the idea of adding Mah Jongg we asked our friend Mary Lloyd to join us since she liked all the same things we did.
Well, this Mommy camp idea is way better than going to a needlepoint class any day. We picked a place to stay in Highlands, NC which was a leisurely five hour drive from home. It would have taken five hours if we hadn’t had such a good time yakking in the car and driven 13 miles past our exit. No harm, we just turned around and eventually arrived at our Inn.
Jackpot! We have a not just two lovely rooms, but a huge living room where the Mah Jongg table is set up but two porches for outdoor playing in the day time. We wasted no time going to one of the pools and relaxing in the hot tub before a really yummy dinner.
Now we are back at our stone cottage readying ourselves for a good night of games and stitching. Why in the world did we think we needed to go to a class when now we can get a massage, play some games and needlepoint. I have already voted for Mom Camp every year. This is probably the best idea we have ever had. 


Camp- A Place to Practice

 

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One of the best things about having a daily blog is that it keeps my family up to date on what I am doing.  This makes the calls with my father so fun because he almost always has an opinion, a story or a question about something I have written.  If your calls with your parents are mostly about the weather, their health or family gossip and you would like to change the content of your conversations I suggest you start writing a blog and you no longer will have time to discuss the weather.

Today after my Dad finished telling me his opinion of Denver the topic changed to how important it is for kids to learn self confidence.  He had recently been with some kids he thought needed help learning skills that would serve them well I adulthood.  We both agreed that going to camp is one of the best things that can happen to a kid.

My first camp experience was a weekend type camp with my Girl Scout troop when I was probably in third or fourth grade.  It was a good test for longer sleep away camp, but nothing really like summer camp.  I have one big memory of Girl Scout camping at that age, it was that I could cook food for large numbers of people fast and good and that made me very popular.
There were very few safety rules because I distinctly recall cooking pounds and pounds of bacon in a huge cast iron skillet set right over an open fire all by myself.  My fellow troop mates voted that I do all the cooking after that.

I was so lucky that my grade school friend Tammy Monge who was in my Girl Scout troop went to a great summer camp, Idlepines and convinced me to go too.  I never forgot when I asked my parents if they would send me for the minimum amount of time, a month, that they even considered it.

The woman who owned the New Hampshire camp happen to live in our town so she came over to our house to give us the “camp pitch.”  I was excited about everything she talked about, living in the cabins, swimming in the lake, going on over night canoe trips.  Then I heard the cost.  It seemed like more money than my parents ever had.  I think I went to bed thinking that camp was something I would only dream about.  But my parents said yes and that began my real independence from my parents.   Camp was where I learned to be who I was and not a child of my parents.

It seems like parents today do so much for their kids that they are denying them the chance to learn what they can do for themselves.  Yes, a I am not sure it is a good idea to let an eight year old cook a big pan of greasy bacon over a roaring open fire, but I survived and learned a lot of self reliance from it. It is harder and harder to find ways to let our kids practice grown up skills.  I am thankful that camp still exists and is a place for them to practice.


Breakfast Is Da Bomb in Denver

  

I wonder how big a city needs to be to support not just one, but a chain of a few nothing but breakfast restaurants? This morning Russ and I walked from our hotel to the Snooze at Union Station at eight in the morning and still had to wait forty-five minutes for a table. Snooze is a breakfast only place open from 6:30 ’til 2:30 that is none too small, inside with a nice patio of many tables outside too.  
This thing about waiting for breakfast is perfectly normal there as evidenced by the many, like hundreds of people willing to wait to eat. Snooze does it right by taking your phone and texting you first as a test, that you are waiting for a table and then when it actually comes up. They also have a big free coffee station with really cute bright orange mugs for all the waiting patrons. That was really smart because it kept people happy and put no work on the staff whatsoever.
Russ and I went out into the beautiful Station waiting area and sat with our coffee. Yesterday I wore the wrong pair of shoes for our walk to dinner and got a huge blister on my little toe. I thought I had it under control when we walked to breakfast, but I was very wrong. Thank goodness I found a pair of flip flops to buy after breakfast, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Back to Snooze –The menu was extensive. It was broken down into the art of Hollandaise, from the hen, the lighter side and then the sweet stuff. One thing they do to make deciding what to get easier is they give you lots of options to mix and match. Russ was then able to get two different Benedict dishes, one a Spanish style with pulled pork and the other a more Mexican one with Chilaquiles that has beef. I had a lighter smoked salmon with arugula, but was totally eyeing my neighbors three pancake mix and match that had a strawberry basil pancake, a lemon blueberry one and a sweet potato. If she had ordered the peanut butter cup pancake I would have reached my fork over to her plate and taken a bite.
We also had virgin versions of some great bloody Mary’s. Russ hit the jackpot with the Bangkok, which had sriracha, lime, basil, fish sauce and house spicy bloody mix. We will be recreating this at home, but it means I have to buy a case of tomatoes at the farmers market and make some homemade tomato juice, more to come on that.
All in all I would go back to Snooze in a second and even wait an hour again. What I want to know is Durham big enough to support a breakfast only, ok breakfast for lunch too place? I’m not just talking a weekend brunch type thing, but weekdays too. It just seems like we don’t have many options for real breakfasts, other than the big rise of donut shops. Maybe only workout crazed Coloradans have the metabolism to consume these kinds of calories so early in the morning. The place is full of young people. But Durham has its fair share of college students and the like. We need a Snooze.    


20,000 Steps in Denver and a Cold Shower

   
    
 

Russ has a meeting in a Denver suburb today so I came with him to make it a two day fun trip. just because I am here does not mean Russ is taking any time off, but we were lucky enough to be upgraded to a suite so when Russ woke up at three in the morning to start working he did not wake me because he went out and sat at the desk in the living room. Instead I was awoken at 5 by the sound of someone running on a treadmill in the gym above our suite. Since Russ was out of the bed I was able to go back to sleep by using his pillows to muffle the “shoowoosh, shoowoosh, shoowoosh of what had to be a two hundred pound marathon runner.
After a lovely breakfast of food I have not eaten in two months I was ready to take on the city while Russ was out in the burbs working. I had studied the local city magazine and spotted a number of places I was interested in visiting. On my way out the lobby I stopped at the front desk to see what the situation was with the “shoowooshing” and was told that yes, the gym above was the cause. There are American Idol tryouts today in Denver as well as a few other conventions so the hotel was booked. The manager on duty offered to comp our breakfast as an apology. I took it.
I headed out for a mile and a half walk to the Molly Brown House, you know Kathy Bates character in Titanic. It was not that early, but the streets were full of what looked like homeless people. Now this is Colorado, so I could have been mistaking some fully employed homeowners as homeless, but if I only counted the people with signs that read things like, “I really just want to buy some pot,” there were still many of them. These homeless people have obviously had too much pot because they had no idea how to ask for money. I almost felt like I should teach them, but their attention span’s could not handle a class from me.
The Molly Brown House was fine as these things go. I liked Phil our tour guide, who was probably ten years older than me and kept forgetting his place in telling the group the story of Margaret Brown, as she really was called before they made the movie “The unsinkable Molly Brown.” Maybe Phil had had too much pot too.
After the tour I walked up Pearl street looking for a gallery I had read about in 5280 Magazine (that’s a mile high). When I got to the street number for what I thought was going to be Art and Soul gallery I found a pot shop. I did not go in to ask where the gallery was, but looked it up on my phone. Turns out it is on Pearl St. in Boulder. That bit of info would have been helpful Ina magazine article, but maybe the editor had smoked too much that day.
I continued my walk around the Capital and back to the newly refurbished Union Station where I was hoping to have lunch at a place called the Mercantile I had read about. No luck it was closed for a week so the employees could have a vacation. Wonder what they are doing this week?
I continued walking and grabbed a bite while I did, looking for local stores. Those don’t really exist anymore. Denver has more hotels and restaurants downtown than I can imagine they can fill. The next greatest concentration of store front businesses are health club and gyms. If you aren’t homeless you work out a lot. People on the street are either dressed in yoga pants or tattered dirty shorts with heavy jackets, or are almost naked. This one guy was playing soccer by himself in front of a fancy hotel. I think he might have been the valet, but without a shirt I’m not sure I would give him my car.

After my many hours of walking, grimy and dirty and feeling like I should hold up a sign, I headed back to the hotel to take a shower and get ready for our one night here dinner with Russ. I was greeted with this letter on our bed — due to some emergency the hotel will be without hot water until 6AM. I guess they really want to make me feel like a Deverite. Well I don’t think I want to.


Made It To Denver

  
It’s summer and the fact that it is hot outside is no surprise. I have gotten more sensitive to air conditioning being too cold since I lost weight so today as I was packing to go to Denver with Russ I was surprised by how hot and sweaty I was feeling in my house.
I also was anxious to hear from Carter at camp since I had not gotten that first letter yet and was very interested in how she was doing as a CIT. The camp director had set the expectation that not all kids who love camp love being counselors. That unselfish move from being the one entertained to being the one doing the entertaining is a big transition.  
So in the sweltering heat I walked Shay Shay back and forth to the mailbox awaiting any possible letter. At last around one when I opened the box I was cautiously optimistic when I found four envelopes in the box. Junk, bill, plea for donation… It was not looking good that I would hear from Carter, then at last stuck to the Duke Energy power usage report was a letter from my bug.  
“I love being a CIT! I have the youngest girls and I am having a blast with this age group…. Gush, gush, gush. All good news. Then came the traditional request section. “Please send money, two of my three dresses require me to wear a cardigan, (for modesty purposes) and I want to buy one on Saturday when the CIT’s get to go shopping at Walmart.”
This being Thursday the only way I could get her money was to send it overnight. I gathered up some of the items I had collected to send in a care package and ran to the fed-ex.  
I rushed home because I still had not packed for my trip and when I got to my bedroom I felt like I was unusually hot and sweaty. Yes, I had been running around a lot, but not this much. I went to check the thermostat and discovered the temperature was 77 degrees inside. Oh no, two hours before our flight and I discover the air conditioning unit is broken.
I called the HVAC people and asked if there was any chance they could come right now and look at it. “We’ll do our best, Ma’m, but don’t expect it.” I called around looking for a teenager who could stay at my house until it was fixed. No luck, teenagers have very busy lives. I took Shay to Mary’s and she said she would be happy to stay.
When I got home the HVAC guy was working on our unit, just a clogged drain pipe. It was fixed well before we had to go. Between getting a letter from Carter that camp is going great and getting the air conditioner fixed in record time I would say this is a good day. Now we just pray the weather in Denver does not prevent us from landing.


People In Glass Houses…

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About a month ago I brought a homemade gift I had cooked with food from my garden to a new neighbor with a note welcoming them and giving them our names and number if they needed anything. I gave it directly to the husband thinking he would share it with his wife. Now I have no idea if he did and that could be what has happened because although I have seen the wife almost daily for the last month I am yet to hear even an utterance of thanks.

 

One day when I was out walking Shay and she was pulling out of her driveway I thought she might roll down her window and just throw me a “thanks for the zucchini bread,” but no. I certainly did not expect a mailed thank you note, but one word, nothing.

 

Then today I went to write Carter a letter at camp and I pulled out a box of stationary I had not used in a while. I opened it up and to my horror there were two written and addressed thank you notes for friends I had received Christmas gifts from. I am fairly certain I had thanked them when they gave me the gifts in person, but that is still no excuse for not sending them a proper note.

 

Thinking a thank you does not count in anyway, writing and not mailing a thank you is the same thing. My friends have no idea that I even was thankful, which I was. Thank goodness they both continued to speak to me and not write me off for such poor manners.

 

With e-mail and text it is so easy to thank someone, no engraved stationary necessary. I know that I have made “thanking mistakes” in the past, but vowing to be better has not worked. I need to institute a new protocol for letting people know how much I appreciate them everyday.

 

I did put those Christmas thank you notes in the mail today with an apology on the back, but that hardly seems like enough. So Denise and Anna if you are reading this, expect a surprise from me sometime soon. To anyone else I have not thanked in a timely manner, please forgive me. It is easy for these things to slip by us. I’m going to try and forget about my neighbor’s non-thank you. Perhaps her husband just ate the whole thing and never shared it with her.


Women’s World Cup Winner Could Be Food Bank Clients

 

 

Sunday we went to our friend’s Lynn and Logan’s house to watch the Woman’s Final of the World Cup. Every TV was on and the guest’s full attention was on the game. And what a game it was. I am not usually a soccer fan, but the excitement of the big scores in the first few minutes of the game really drew me in and held me there.

Apparently we were not the only people watching. A record number of 22 million joined us via TV.

 

When the game was over and the FIFA officials came out to present all the various awards, the bronze ball and the gold glove and the like I was very disappointed in the actual “world cup.” It seemed small and underwhelming. I asked if the Men’s was the same and was told it too was diminutive for such a global honor. But that is where the parity ended.

 

Turns out that the American Women’s Soccer Team each earn only about $14,000 a year when their male counter parts earn over $300,000 a year to be on the team and they did not even make it to the finals.   Not surprising since women’s sports have gone notoriously underpaid in most cases. It took Billie Jean King and her cohorts starting a competing tennis tournament, the Virginia Slims, to get equal pay for women in tennis.

 

The real crime is that the women’s world cup winning team gets 40 times less in prize money than the men’s world cup team. With 22 million people watching the final FIFA has got to be pocketing a huge payday for the Woman’s tourney and not sharing it with the stars. Seems like that is the real crime FIFA is committing. Sure Qatar is a questionable location for a men’s world cup, but could the Qatari Nation pay off FIFA as big as the profit’s from the women’s world cup? Hey, Attorney General, or Canadian equivalent why don’t you look in to that.?

Just to put this is perspective, with what the women team members are paid they would qualify to receive food assistance from a food bank agency. Really, do we think that is right?


I Measured Three Times

This morning while I was cooking dinner for an friend who had been in the hospital I turned on the kitchen TV to Rachael Ray. Normally I don’t really like to watch her show because her, “what’s for dinner tonight” segment is hardly ever anything I can or should eat for dinner and I don’t need some pasta imagery floating through my head. But today’s Rachel started with a segment called, “are you wearing the right bra size.”  
I know all the statistics about 85% of American women wearing the wrong bra size, and I even actually already knew how to measure for the perfect fit already, but I watched the show anyway. It was something to do while I made green peppercorn chicken. The “bra expert” said something that was news to me. Women need to get measured every six months because things change due to hormones, and weight changing and gravity.  
As I stood by the stove, stirring the sauce I thought, “well, I have lost 24 pounds, maybe I should remeasure.” Right there in the kitchen I pulled out the tape measure from the junk drawer and ran the tape around me at the smaller band part. “What?” That number can’t be right? I moved the tape up to the bigger part and measured that. “Yeah, five inches difference, that seems right.” Being unsure that the first number was right I got out my seamstress tape measure that must be more accurate than a kitchen tape measure, as if the inch markings could possibly vary on the two devices.
Yes, the first reading was correct. I thought my mind must be playing games on me so I went to the bedroom, abandoning the dinner cooking on the stove to look at the size tag in my bra. Sure enough i was wearing the wrong size bra. The one I wore was six inches bigger in the band than I measured and the cup size was one too small. NOOOO! I need new bras. This is not a happy day since I love the bras I have and boy are they comfortable. I guess so if they are six inches too big around. No tight squeezing, take your breath away band for me.
Now this means a I have to go and spend money on the most important item of clothing I will wear that no one will see. I liken it to waterproofing your basement. Costs a lot of money, no one will notice and you have to do it. Well, maybe wearing the right size bra is better than waterproofing. Not that I want anyone to notice.  
I’m within a pound of being at the weight I like the most, one I can maintain, I have a wardrobe for, with the exception of bras, and is healthy. I guess it is the right time to go buy new bras. Poop, the worst shopping there is. Damn that Rachel Ray, why could’ she have started her show with some giant burger so I would have been forced to turn the TV off?


Elevating Mah Jongg To a Sport

 

 

My favorite game has now moved from the inside to become an outdoor activity. As a few of my friends gathered by the pool this afternoon we discovered we had enough people for a Mah Jongg game. Patrick came out from the bar to see if we wanted to order anything and we said a Mah Jongg game. Poof, suddenly we had a set and a table and even a couple of very casual players decided to get in the game.

 

Outdoor Mah Jongg in our bathing suits with a breeze at our backs was much more pleasurable than indoor, freezing air conditioning Mah Jongg. Plus the natural sunlight made needlepointing while playing Mah Jongg so much easier. There were hardly any kids so no splashing went on around us. We decided if we had extra players who had to rotate out of the game they could take a dip between playing and then stay cool while exercising at the same time.

 

This elevates Mah Jongg from just a game to a sport. Perhaps I could even get activity minutes on my Apple watch for playing outdoor Mah Jongg. It relieves a lot of game guilt if it becomes a sport.

 

So Mah Jongg players, let’s move our game poolside if the weather permits it. Also since it is summer why can’t we play more days than just Wednesday? If Mah Jongg is a sport I think I could justify playing it everyday. This also gets me to the pool, using that ridiculous club membership a little more.

 

So hooray for outdoor Mah Jongg. If you missed it, so sorry. Who wants to play tomorrow afternoon? I think it’s going to be a perfect day for this new Sport!


Taking Carter “Home” to Camp

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In the past six years we have not seen Carter on the fourth of July because she has been at Camp Cheerio as a camper. This year Carter has graduated from camper to CIT, that’s Counselor-In-Training to all you British readers. It is an experience she has been looking forward to probably since she was a second year camper.

 

The only hard part about being a CIT this year is that she had to decide between doing the Girls session or the Co-ed session, since she has been a camper at both sessions. I think that her cabin in her last co-ed session last year was such a cohesive group of friends that tipped the scales in favor of co-ed.

 

The anticipation rolling up to this day has been huge. There were Facebook groups for the CIT’s and group chats and lots of discussion about what to bring and if they all had T-shirts in every color of the rainbow for nighttime activities. We packed our old Land Cruiser this morning full of trunks, plastic bins of clothes, sleeping bags and pillows. We keep this old car just so we can take Carter to and from camp.

 

Keeping in our camp tradition we took Shay Shay with us and stopped at the tavern at Old Salem for lunch since they have outside seating that welcomes dogs. It was the only part of the day that felt at all like the 4th with a bluegrass band playing music while we dined, except when they took a break so the Declaration of Independence could be read out on the Main Street.

 

We arrived at camp fifteen minutes early and Carter got out of the car to greet her wonderful friends who were equally excited to be back on the mountain, “At Home,” as Carter calls it. A counselor with the ubiquitous clipboard came down the road while our cars were parked waiting for the gates to open and told us which cabin Carter was assigned to. Since she had been a camper in so many different cabins she knew immediately that she had been assigned to the cabin of the youngest campers for the first session.

 

After the check-in with lots of hugs for old camper friends and counselors alike we went to the parent-CIT meeting. Michaux Crocker, the camp director, gave an inspiring talk about what life was going to be like for our kids. He talked about hard work and leadership and that this experience will help kids figure out if they even like working with children. The one thing that summed it up for me was when he said, “You go from being a camper where everyone is focused on making sure you have a good time, to being the people who are making sure the campers are having a good time.” That is a big step to growing up as far as I am concerned.

 

After explaining what CIT life will be like, learning to look people in the eye and with a big smile say hello or ask how they are, he talked about the terrible accident that happened at the beginning of the summer. I could feel the pain that was still very close to the surface in him. Cheerio had never had an accident in 50 years of camping, but one hurt badly. Life has to go on and I feel like Carter is in the best place ever to learn about herself. It is a place with so much heart. When Michaux ended the meeting with, “give your kids a hug goodbye and head on home,” I was ready to leave Carter to get her training before the campers arrive tomorrow and for her to move up to the next rung of the ladder to adulthood.


Quinoa Salad

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Since tomorrow is the fourth of July you might be heading out to a picnic or BBQ. Not us, we are taking Carter to camp for her summer as a CIT. Since I won’t be cooking anything tomorrow I thought I would share a good side dish with you to take to your event if not tomorrow for some other summer party.

I know that potato or macaroni salad are traditional summer sides, but they are bad ideas to take to outdoor parties. Hey, I know you might love them, but they are full of mayonnaise and even if you can afford the calories you might not want to risk the poisoning you can get if you eat mayonnaise that has turned. The rule of thumb is mayonnaise should go unrefrigerated for less than two hours and then be thrown away. That does not mean you can leave it out for an hour and put it back in the fridge and revive it. The spoiling has already started.

Since I hate to waste food, and face it a giant bowl of potato salad almost never gets eaten at one party. My suggestion is that you make this Quinoa salad that contains no mayo and is high in protein so not only will it not go bad as quickly, it is healthier the whole time

1 c. of uncooked Quinoa

2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth- or water

1/3 of an English Cucumber diced

½ red pepper diced

1/3 cup of diced red onion

30 mint leaves chopped

Giant handful of parsley minced

1T. Olive oil

2 T. red wine vinegar

3 T. lemon juice

Salt and Pepper

In a saucepan on high heat put the Quinoa and the broth and cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Let the quinoa cool a little and then transfer to a bowl. Add the oil, vinegar and lemon juice and stir and out it in the refrigerator.

When the grain is completely cool add the vegetables and the herbs. You can change up what I suggested and add chopped tomatoes, zucchini, fennel, basil, cilantro – the possibilities are endless. It is a great way to use up small amounts of veggies.

Have a Happy July 4th and don’t eat any warm mayonnaise side dishes.


Good Dinner Guests

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When I was a kid my parents gave me a 10-inch Sony black and white TV for my room. I’m sure they soon regretted that because I almost never came out of my room after that. I was an unapologetic TV junkie. At that time my TV was almost always on channel 7, the New York area ABC affiliate since that was the home of the Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family. I would wake up in the morning to Good Morning America and get all the news before I was off to school.

 

On weekends when I went on errands with my Dad and we would talk about what was being discussed on the radio my Dad would ask me where I learned some of the stuff I knew, and the answer was always the same, “I learned it from David Hartman on Good Morning America.”

 

Tonight we had my needlepoint friend Mary and her husband for dinner. Mary is one of my favorite people who always has just read an interesting book or seen something new on TV that she shares with the “Stitching Advisors” as we needlepoint at the table together. She also is a dedicated reader of my blog and is kind to tell me when she has liked a post.

 

Every once in a while Mary would say something like, “David loved your blog last night,” and I would thank her. The Stitching Advisors may make mention of our husbands, if we have one, but they are rarely the topic of our conversation. So I just accepted Mary’s kind words from her husband with little notice.

 

One day while happily needlepointing with the Stitching Advisors at Chapel Hill Needlepoint someone asked Mary about a documentary her husband David was working on and then I suddenly came to realize that Mary Putnam Hartman was married to David Hartman, my idolized childhood news source.

 

Soon after that I had posted a blog about Carter’s photographs and Mary made sure to tell me that David, who is very interested in photography himself, really liked them and would like to meet Carter. Mary and David happened to come visit my church later that month and as I came out I saw them standing in the courtyard. I went to greet Mary and as I approached I saw David was with her. He looked at me just as I was about to introduce myself and he said, “You’re Dana Lange.” My response was, “You’re Mary Putman’s husband.” I’m not sure how often that is how he is greeted, even by someone who was as crushed as I was when he left Good Morning America.

 

It was lovely of the Hartman’s to come for dinner, but the really exciting part was Carter getting to hear stories about people David interviewed in real time while history was being made, like Kaddafi. David and Mary generously looked at Carter’s photographs and then he got out two books on famous photographers he brought to lend Carter and a DVD of a documentary he made with five famous photographers and a copy of the eulogy he gave at one photographer’s funeral.

 

I have to say that David Hartman is still as interesting and as good a storyteller as he ever was, but mostly I think he is lucky that he is married to Mary Putman. I know I was happy to have her come for dinner and bring her husband along.


Help Me Help Meals on Wheels

If my math is correct I have worked at Durham Magazine for the last six years, every issue since number two.  When I use the word work you need not think of someone who punches the clock forty hours a week.  My job as the Community and Events editor, as my title is written in the mast head, is far from a real job, but more of a passion for highlighting people and non-profit agency’s that are doing good works in Durham.  My monthly two-page column is hardly enough to begin to cover all the generous people who are giving their time to make our city a better place.

Although I hardly ever write about my work at the magazine in my blog because I don’t want to preempt myself I want to break that rule this time.  Yesterday I went to Meals on Wheels of Durham to do a story on two wonderful women who deliver food once a week.  I will let their story stand on its own when it is published in next months Durham Magazine but I would like to highlight a great need in the community that I am hoping some of you Durham Less Dana readers might be able to help with.

Meals on Wheels currently serves 340 elderly people who are home-bound a hot meal five days a week.  It takes over 200 volunteer drivers to bring them their food and newspaper everyday.  For a long time there has been a waiting list of over 200 people who qualify for help from Meals on Wheels, but the funding has not been available to feed them.  Recently that funding has been found and in the next month they are going to be added to the client list of MOW and begin receiving the food they need to enable them to remain independent seniors living in their own homes.

This funding is great news, but it means that MOW needs to add about 50 more volunteer drivers.  MOW makes it very easy to volunteer.  You can do it one day a month, every other week, once a week or more.  It starts at 10-10:30 in the morning.  You drive your own car to pick up the ready made food that is packaged and put into to cooler or heat thermal bags on wheels.  You are given a route of about 11 clients to deliver your meals to. You check in on the client, since often you might be the only person they see in person all day.  The whole operation takes about an hour and a half.  You can do it alone, or in pairs. If you have a group, like a department at work, or a club, you can take a route together and share the responsibility.  It is an easy way to help take care of those in our community who need it the most.

I am interested in getting a group together to volunteer.  Depending on how many we can get in our group will determine how often we will volunteer.  The good thing about doing it in a group is you have backup.  If you are really interested in doing this you can volunteer directly and get your own route, or one with a friend.  If I get a lot of people who are interested we might have two groups.  I just want to encourage you to help Meals on Wheels out at this critical time in their growth.

I went out with two women yesterday as they made their deliveries and it was easy, fun and very rewarding.  They also followed their deliveries up with going out to lunch themselves after they were done.  I know I can afford an hour and a half a couple times a month.  What about you?

To learn more visit Meals on Wheels of Durham at mowdurham.org