Oh So Versatile Mushroom Ragout


I was having a craving for some saucy mushrooms today, but since I am trying to steer clear of pasta I needed to make something I could eat on a bowl of sautéed zucchini and grilled chicken while others in the house could eat it on penne. This meaty dish satisfied us all. Russ ended up skipping the pasta and eating his on bread so it worked as a sandwich as well.
30 oz. various types of raw mushrooms sliced

1 large sweet onion diced

2 shallots minced

1 T. Butter

1 T. Flour

1 12 oz can fat free evaporated milk

1T. Dried Thyme

1/2 c. Grated Parmesan Cheese

Salt and Pepper
Spray Pam in a large non-stick fry pan and place on high heat. Add about a third of the mushrooms when the pan is hot and dry sauté them until they are brown. Set browned mushrooms aside and repeat twice with the remaining mushrooms until they are all cooked. Then in the same pan sauté the onions and shallots and add to the mushrooms.
In a large sauce pan melt the butter on medium heat and add the flour, cook stirring for one minute. Add the mushrooms and onions and then the can of evaporated milk. Cook for two minutes, add thyme and a little salt and pepper. Turn the heat off and let the flavors mingle for at least ten minutes, but more is better. Add the Parmesan cheese right before serving. If the mixture has cooled down to the point the cheese won’t melt, heat it back up on a low temp to just get the cheese to melt.
This stuff will make shoe leather taste good.


Carried Away


Fifty-six years ago yesterday my parents got married. He saw my mother across the quad at Chapel Hill and said that he had a premonition that she was going to marry him and he never looked back. He asked and she said yes so right before classes started for their senior year they were married relieving my grandfather of one of his three daughters. A year and a half I came along.  
It is not an unusual story for their time, but as I think about my own sixteen year old daughter now I could not imagine her getting married five years from yesterday, let alone today or tomorrow. Agreeing to spend the rest of your life with someone seems like a decision you should make when you are old enough to know who you are. But then I consider my own story.
I was the ripe old maid age of thirty when Russ asked me to marry him, old enough to know myself and what I was looking for. But the difference between me and my parents is that I said yes to Russ when he asked me after ten days of dating. It is no less crazy than marrying between my junior and senior year of college. Both scenarios seem risky, but both have worked in their own ways.
I guess the moral of the story is take a risk, but once you do work to make it succeed. So Happy anniversary to my parents. I know it’s work, but living with anyone is a set of compromises. Just know that that give and take is worth it, at least this child thinks so.

Roof Top Downtown Magic 


Russ and I went to brunch today on the roof of the New Durham Hotel. Don’t get excited, they are not yet serving brunch there regularly, but do get excited about going to enjoy a drink on the roof. The space is fantastic. The majority of the roof top deck is covered so it was not a bake in the sunshine situation, but an enjoy the breeze kind of morning. Along one side is an open air, unroofed, terrace with comfy sofas and chairs grouped in intimate clusters. We could look out over the whole of the downtown and were thrilled by how beautiful Durham is from above.
The Durham Hotel is just one of the new hotels making use of old bank buildings in downtown. What was once the mid-century modern Mutual Bank that felt like George Jetson might deposit his moola there is now repurposed as a boutique hotel.  
About fifteen years ago Russ and his business partner Rich got their first office in downtown Durham and people wondered why. They looked around Main Street and thought the old buildings were wildly more interesting than some office park box. The revitalization on downtown was well on it’s way, not in its infancy, but more like a toddler. Today I can say that downtown is way past middle school. Gone are the awkward years of braces and zits.  
We got up this morning and were at the farmers market in Central Park at eight. Stopped by our favorite bakery, Loaf on our way to stop in Russ’ office at American Tobacco before taking our food home in time to shower and change to head back downtown for brunch. Two trips to the center of our city all before noon was something that would be unheard of even six or seven years ago. Now it seems like our first choice destination.
Both Nancy Pike and I showed up on the roof in the same dress at the same time, which we both happen to buy at the same store in Beaufort, but being laid back Durhamites it did not phase us one bit. Enjoying the last wonderful Saturday in August in a beautiful place with friends made us all happy.  

Where were You In 1968?


Do you know what this is? It is a blanket chest of my younger days. Carter’s favorite class at school so far is “the late great 1968.” She had come home everyday this week and talked to me about what I remember from 1968. Since I was seven years old the answers I have to give her are not fantastic, but she certainly is causing me to rack my brain about where I was when RFK was killed. The one thing I do have is a large collection of music some of which was from 1968 and today Carter got me to give her some of my old albums.
We pulled out all the Beatles albums I have, which included Meet the Beatles, The White Album, Revolution, Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Let it Be and a few others. Truth be told all these Beatles’ albums first belonged to my Dad and I lifted them from him when I was in high school. My Dad loved the Beatles and even though it used to embarrass me to no end, he could sing along to the radio really well. I have a very strong memory of him singing Penny Lane in his black Corvair while he pulled up to the book return at the New Canaan Public Library and had me get out and drop the book in. I can still hear him harmonizing to the song today.

The power of the music really made a memory.
We are going to the farm on on Sunday so I know that Carter is going to pepper my Dad with questions about what he remembers from 1968. We lived not that far from Woodstock, but since my parents were suburban parents who had just turned thirty it could have been a world away from them. This was an era where “never trust anyone over thirty” was a popular phrase.
We lived in a town with a weekly newspaper that only reported things like new sewer pipes being put in the village center, so if you missed the nightly news you might not know what was going on in the bigger world. In 1968 I was still young enough that when Walter Cronkite opened the news with the number of American who had been killed in Vietnam that day I thought he was actually reporting how many Americans had died in the whole country.
The best source I had for learning what was going on in the world was Time and Life Magazines. Our next door neighbor, Ellen West, was and editor at Time/Life and I always got to look at all her magazines. Her husband, General Charles West was retired from the army, but was still secretly working for the government in that secret agent way. Their only son, Jonathan was enough older than me that he was in the war in Vietnam so when he came home messed up I had an eyeful of what a horror the whole war was. That was as close as 1968 came to me besides the music.     

No Wheel Expert


When my mother turned forty years old my father told her it was going to be a big birthday celebration. Four days before her actual birthday four wheels, like the rims that the tires go on for a car arrived and my mother burst into tears fearing she was getting a new car in four parts. See, she really did not care much about cars.


My father had no idea those new rims for his beloved Sirocco were arriving that day for if he did he certainly would have warned my mother first. Lucky for him he arrived home with four new pocket books and four new pairs of Italian shoes and made my mothers day before she could launch into him about the wheels. That was my introduction to wheels.


Fast forward to today when thanks to a slow leak we discovered a bent tire rim, which requires a new wheel. When the tire man called the dealer to inquire about replacing the one we have he came back to me ashen faced with a crazy price in his hand. I told him I would do a little research before we just ordered from the dealer.


OMG! I had no idea how many car rims there are in the world. What I’m looking for is a fairly basic five spoke alloy aluminum, nothing fancy, but not easy to find. I started looking online and must have viewed hundreds of different models with looks that vary from 5 spoke to 14 with a rainbow of colors.


Apparently rims are the most popular way to customize cars these days. Given that the choices of colors has really dwindled to black, gray, silver, white and one other, either red or blue, car manufacturers don’t want to date their models with paint colors. When was the last time you saw a new teal blue car? But for those who want to get some flash in their ride wheels are apparently it.


Well I am not looking for flash — in fact quite the opposite. I just want to match. It seems like a real crap shoot to me to find a rim for a six year old car that matches anyway. Paying huge bucks for a new one won’t exactly match because it won’t have six years wear on it, but getting a refurbished on also seems tricky.


The only way to ensure an exact match is to buy four new rims. Goodness no. That goes against everything I am about. So now I am going to have to become a rim expert and talk to a bunch of motor heads to ensure I am ordering the right thing before I do it. I am feeling a little bit like my mother when the four wheels arrived at our house in Wilton. I just want to burst into tears over rims.

Everyday is a Dog Day Around Here


If you logged on to Facebook today you would probably wonder if it was the first day of dog school based on the preponderance of sweet fur faces who have supplanted the kid’s first day photos. Today is National Dog Day! I know there are a lot of “days”, like the standard Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Labor Day all deserving of attention and sometimes a gift or card, but National Dog Day? I thought everyday was dog day! It is at our house.
National Dog day was created eleven years ago to promote “everything about dogs.” It seems like anyone who has ever met a dog would recognize that dogs are good at promoting themselves. I don’t think I have ever met a dog who did not proactively introduce herself, ask for some love and return the favor if offered. Yes, there are shelter dogs who might be kiddish and in need of coaxing, but once they know their human they are usually not so shy about asking for love.
Humans could take some lessons from their dogs. First, don’t hold back on asking for what you need. A bathroom? Just ask. A meal? Let it be known. A belly rub? Lie on your back with your legs splayed open and look cute. Love? Well just love unconditionally all out and never hold back.  
Rather than National Dog Day maybe we could have National Be More Like Your Dog Day. It could put an end to all wars, family feuds, neighbor squabbles and sibling rivalries. If we all started acting more like our dogs we would quickly become a species who are happier with our lots in life and more appreciative of the little things.
One of my favorite quotes is, “I hope to grow up to be the person my dog thinks I am.” It’s not to late to be that good person your dog loves. If you don’t have a dog please visit an animal shelter and see if you can find a friend whose life you can save who will change your life. I promise no dog rescued from a shelter ever forgets where they came from and who loves them.
So happy National Dog Day, or in the eyes of our sweet Shay Shay, just another day where she is the star of our house.

First Day of School Lessons



“One day I put my arm in my coat and out came my mother’s hand.” — Jean Harris


No true statement was ever made than that of ex –Madeira Headmistress, Jean Harris, when talking about the surprising things we do that remind of us our mothers.


Today was Carter’s first day of junior year at Durham Academy. The great thing about being a junior is you know your way around, are acquainted with plenty of people and are comfortable with how the first day is going to go. After school she gave me the download on the happenings of her day; all the teachers she was excited about, who was in her classes and the games that take place on the first day.


Once she finished with the good things she turned to the thing that annoyed her, thankfully it was small. “At break I went into the store to get a bottle of water,” she told me. “When I came out there was a group of tiny freshmen boys who were just standing at the pinch point by the TV screens blocking all traffic.” I could feel exactly what she was going to say before she said it. “So with flight attendant like motions I said in my regular loud voice, ‘Just keep moving’ as I waved my arms in unison in a forward direction. A group of sophomores who were sitting on the sidelines just started laughing as the freshman finally moved on.”


Carter told me how some of her friends were horrified when she retold the story to them. “But Mom, how else are they going to learn?” The apple does not fall from the tree, and I told her the following story:


Years ago while I was working in London my sister and I had to go food shopping at Selfridges on a Saturday. That is never a good thing, but this particular Saturday the store was more crowded than ever. In perfect old building design imperfection there was only one single person wide down escalator to the basement where the food hall is with a long queue snaking through the first floor.


Slowly we made it to almost our turn, but the woman in front of us was paralyzed to get on the escalator. Her foot hovered over the moving steps as they came and went with no nerve to put her foot down. At this point I had had enough so in my strong, Carter-like voice I said, “GO.” She did.


My sister was furious with me. How could I have been so rude? I considered it rude of the woman in front of me to keep the giant line held up so long and I was just doing a public service, even if the execution of it was a little course.


I pray the poor Freshman who are probably scared to death to begin with are not scared for life, but I am sure the upper classmen are appreciative of Carter’s instructive tone. It certainly was my hand coming out of her sleeve today.

Happy Needlepoint Christmas Eve


Since I needlepoint Christmas ornaments all year long I regularly get a comment from some bystander saying something like, “Wow, you are really getting a head start on Christmas”. This especially true when I am stitching a red and green Santa in May or a snowman in July, but what these well meaning admirers don’t understand is that the Christmas deadline is tomorrow, August 25th. By May or July I am feeling the deadline to complete my canvases so I can have a finished ornament back from the fabricator in time to enjoy it this Christmas season.
At the Christmas deadline party I attended the first full year of stitching Elizabeth, one of the very prolific stitching advisors asked me how many ornaments I had made that year. I proudly said, “34.” In reality it was not a ground breaking number. She challenged me to a contest for the next year that started that very day. I worked my finger to the bone, loving a challenge and never ever wanting to lose a contest.  
I worked and worked and on that years Needlepoint Christmas Day I proudly turned in the last of my 45 canvases, thinking I certainly had won. But no… Although the I had beaten Elizabeth, only because she worked on many non-ornament larger canvases, but Kate, another stitching advisor had pulled ahead and came in with 50 ornaments. Shoot, a dark horse I had not expected.
Elizabeth sat this year out to spend time finishing lots of other works in Progress and Kate was training for her Kilimanjaro hike so I was thinking I had a good chance to win this year. My pace was better than last year so I took the luxury to complete some larger canvases thinking I was still going to having the winning number.   
Come sometime in July, when I had finished about 58 ornaments I asked my friend Christy what number she was on. Sixty-seven was her total with more than a month to go. My heart sank. Another year I would not win, but what was I really losing? There is no money on this race, no trophy, no cake or a sash or even a tiara.  
Tomorrow I will go to Chapel Hill Needlepoint, with my friend Christy. I have ornament number 67 finished and ready to turn in. I may get 68 done by then, but there is no guarantee. I have not asked Christy what her number is, but certainly I know it will we’ll beat mine. In advance I would like to congratulate her on a really good year.
I look at it this way, I won by making 67 or 68 beautiful works of art that I will cherish forever. I am not sure my child will love them as much as I do when I’m gone, but for a I hope many more Christmases I will love taking them out and putting up to celebrate the season. I am officially going to stop competing in the number or ornaments contest and spend the next year concentrating on learning new stitches and taking on my difficult projects. I may never have won the challenge, but I have not been disappointed in the competition.
So Merry Needlepoint Christmas Day. I had to write about it early because tomorrow also happens to be the first day of junior year for Carter. That is a much more important day in my life than the end of the needlepoint year so I have to reserve my blog for that tomorrow. I need to have a little perspective when it comes to needlepoint. 

Hat Hair


I am not a golfer, but I do like to watch a good golf tournament. With the Wyndham Championship happening in Greensboro and Tiger playing it I got more involved I watching on TV than I usually would for a tournament of this ranking. it is obvious from the sweat soaked shirt and slacks of Jason Gore that these players are not the ones who the athletic clothing companies are sponsoring.
As the players finished up their fourth round on Sunday at the eighteenth, man after man took off their ubiquitous baseball cap to shake hands with their opponents and their caddies. One after one these players who impressively were shooting plenty of birdies revealed their less than attractive hat hair once their game was over.
What came to my non-golf mind is why in the world has no one invented a golf hat that does not make their hair look horrible? Companies like Under Armour are spending millions of fabric technology to aid in sweat wicking or wrinkle free slacks, but they are missing the boat in hats.  
Watching movies from back in the olden days when men wore hats all the time I don’t remember men having such bad hat hair then they took off their fedora. Certainly hair itself has not changed that much. Hair style, from long and curly, to practically bald seemed to make no difference in combatting a bad do from wearing the hat. Women are not immune to hat hair either, but visors and pony tails seem to fair better in the style ruining department.  
As far as I can tell, hats are as important to players as shoes since I never see a pro or his caddie on the course without a hat. Keeping the sun out of a players eyes and protecting his noggin from sunburn are good reasons to wear a hat. They certainly are a mainstay of advertising for their sponsors since almost every picture of a winning golfer includes a shot of his head. So given the importance of hats you would think they would garner the attention of the outfitting experts.
Perhaps they do already. Maybe no one but a few of us casual golf watchers care one bit about hat hair. I would guess if Pantene were ever to become a sponsor of a golfer hats would move up in ranking of importance. I guess until then CBS should just do the golfers a favor and turn the camera away when the golfer’s remove their hats and shake hands. Yes, we all like to see good sportsmanship and the humanity of the players who may be congratulating a guy who just slaughtered him, so the camera could zoom in on the hand shake and leave the hat hair out of it. Isn’t it humiliating enough that someone gribble bogeyed the 11th, do you have to show his bad hair too?  

Learning to Love Spinach


When I was a kid spinach was not a favorite in my house. I think it had something to do with Popeye and canned spinach. I’m not sure if the canned spinach producers sponsored Popeye, but that watery tasteless spinach from the can did nothing for me and as a girl of the sixties being strong like Popeye didn’t have any appeal either.  
About the time I was twelve years old my parents went to Italy and my father discovered fresh cooked spinach with garlic. I am forever thankful that my Dad’s love of food and high school Latin classes gave him enough language skills to learn from the Italian restaurant people how to make spinach perfectly. Of course my Dad’s version had a good amount of olive oil in it so it was no wonder it tasted delicious.
Once that first trip to Italy happened there was no more canned spinach in my childhood home. We still had plenty of frozen spinach, but that too was doctored up with fresh garlic and olive oil.  
Nowadays fresh spinach is sold mainly in the baby form. This is a huge improvement over the last century version, which had tough stems. The only issue is that baby spinach cooks down to virtually nothing so it takes a huge amount of raw greens to make a decent serving. Since there are very few calories in spinach why not eat a huge helping? Oh yeah, you need a huge bag.
I stopped at Costco this week to get some salmon and spinach and was lucky enough to find a 2 1/2 pound bag. Carter’s friend Ashley was in the kitchen as I was cooking dinner for me and Russ since the girls were going to a party. “That’s a lot of spinach,” Ashley said as I mounded handful upon handful of leaves into my giant skillet with the barley cooked garlic already in it. I told her to watch as I deftly flipped the raw leaves over in the hot pan with my kitchen tongs two or three times.  
Suddenly the once overflowing pan had a small mound of hot wet spinach, no oil or water was added in my version. A flick of the nutmeg grater and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and it was done. It only took a little more than a pound of spinach to feed two of us. I can’t imagine how many bags it would take for a whole dinner party.
The best part about eating that spinach is that every time I make it I am reminded of the time my father first did it for us when he returned from Italy. Learning the difference between a fresh and canned food unlocked a whole world to me. It also taught me that if I did not like one dish it did not mean that I never would like that ingredient. It started me experimenting with food and taught me that often the simplest way was the best. It also taught me to follow my father’s lead and if I liked the way something was cooked to ask a lot of questions and learn from everyone I could. Popeye could have done a better job selling spinach if he just said it tasted good, rather than saying it made him strong.


When Did Dorm’s Need Decorators?


It’s college move in time and based on my Facebook feed I have quite a few friends who have children moving into dorms right now. I am not at this point in my life so the following observations are completely from a voyeur’s point of view.  
One thing that I find true to the posts I have seen is that girls are completely into decorating their rooms, even coordinated decorating with their roommates whereas the boys look perfectly happy and consider themselves fully moved in with blank bare walls and nary a throw pillow to be found. Nothing much has changed since the days I went to college when a Freshman boy could mistakenly walk into his neighbor’s room, get in bed and go to sleep and not even realize he was in the wrong room.  
Living in a college town, next to another college town means seeing students out shopping for room accouterments with their parents is not an unusual sight. Since so many kids come to Duke and UNC from far off places it makes perfect sense for them to buy their necessities, like sheets and towels and even wall monograms here rather then paying to ship it here. But there is something new In dorm outfitting I recently discovered.
While I was doing an errand at the mall recently I overheard a mother and her freshman daughter discussing which Crate and Barrel sofa she needed for her new dorm. I knew she was a freshman because her mother said, “Let’s get a nice one that will last for all four years of undergrad, but when you go to grad school we can get a decorator for your apartment and she will probably want you to get a new sofa.”   
Whoa… A new Crate and Barrel sofa for a dorm. When I got my off campus apartment junior year it was a big deal to go to Stan’s used furniture store and pick out the world’s most uncomfortable ugly brown sofa because it only cost $25, which at $6.25 per housemate was just right. One friend put a photo on face book of the pottery barn delivery truck outside a UNC dorm on move in day. I assume the delivery truck only brings furniture and not sheets and towels. Must have been for a girl’s room.
When it’s time for my daughter to go to college I am perfectly happy to help her get things for her wall and maybe a nice comforter, but I think that the school provided furniture, you know, dressers, bed, desk and chair, will be just fine for that Freshman room. No brand new sofa and certainly nothing that needs to be delivered. I wonder if anyone has brought in their own wallpaper guy or carpet layer? It all seems just a little to over the top for me.

Who Are The Trump Republicans Who Want To Clean Their Own Houses?

I don’t like to write about politics because I feel it is a highly personal issue, unlike the things I regularly write about like under garments, weight struggles or dysfunctional family issues. But as I was watching the news tonight the comedic possibilities so overwhelmed me that I can’t help myself.
I have been baffled for weeks how Donald Trump has stayed so high in the polls. I wrote it off at first that polls are the most old fashioned of tools, calling people who have land line telephones and asking them which candidate they like as a list of sixteen names are read. Let’s consider what a small population of mostly very old people still have a wall telephone in the kitchen and answer it. At their age and probably hearing ability by the time the pollster finishes reading the long list the only person they can remember is Trump. Name recognition goes a long way.
But as the insults from Trump have piled up so have his poll numbers. Today on the news he was touting his plan to get 10 million “illegal aliens” out of the country fast. Wait, wait, wait, who are the republicans who are for this? Which republicans are willing to give up their maids, lawn service workers, country club greens keepers, restaurant dishwashers, fresh fruit and vegetable pickers and poultry processors?
Is there a huge population of unemployed republicans who want these jobs I don’t know about? Are there so many people born in America who want a really hard, barley minimum wage job who can’t get one and are just saying,”Once Donald Trump clears everyone out I will be set for life with my dream job of cleaning someone else’s house?” Are these people republicans who actually vote? They can’t be the people the pollsters are calling because they can’t afford a landline.
Why haven’t the republicans who utilize the many services of these people not gotten together in fear and wondered who is going to cut their grass if Trump wins? Of course, they might not be able to go out and play golf since the course might be closed so the only thing left to do will be to take care of their own property. They better learn to plant gardens because the amount of fresh produce in the store will certainly dwindle with no one to take on the life of migratory worker.
I wonder who the people are that clean the bedrooms in his hotels? Maybe they are relatives of his Slovenia born wife? How did she become a citizen? Is Trump talking about sending people back to Europe who are in America illegally or is it just those Mexicans he does not like?  

I’m just really confused who the republicans are who think this country can run without the huge workforce that the Donald is targeting.


Fries on a Salad?!?!?

I think I’ve heard it all now. My friend Nancy came home from her “taking dad to his childhood Ohio home” tour and told me that everywhere she went in central Ohio they served fries on salads. Even my auto correct does not want to accept this notion and keeps trying to write fries or salad. You read this right, French fries served ON a salad. Something is wrong in the world.
Tomorrow I am taking my friend Jean out to lunch to celebrate her birthday. When I asked her where she wanted to go she said, “someplace I can get just some meat on a salad. That is basically all I am ever looking for when I go out to eat too and let me tell you how difficult it is to find.
Yes, there are a couple of places that have salads, and I mean the plural, like more than one choice, like Bull street Market. But for the most part, it is incredibly difficult to find an interesting salad that is low in the carb department with a number of protein choices to go with it. Now chicken or tuna salad are not favorable choices because the mayo situation throws them into a high calorie stratosphere. 
A Cobb salad does not count because once you put bacon, two kinds of cheese, avocado and then chicken on a salad, add in the dressing you might as well get a burger and fries. The only way to make the Cobb salad more fattening is to put fries on it. Have you ever? May be you have of you are from Ohio. 
The other non-starter in the salad department is the buffalo chicken salad, which is full of fried chicken and blue cheese. This is not what I am looking for. Or with salads that are full of pasta. An Asian a chicken salad with cabbage is good, one with soba noodles is now not a salad, but a cold noodle dish.
Caprese salad, you know, tomato, mozzarella and basil is not the answer because the amount of cheese is equal to a whole Philly cheese steak. If I am going to eat that many calories I want cake, no fooling myself that I am eating healthy with that “salad.”
So restaurants, I can’t be the only person who wants some interesting veggies on good greens, read not iceberg, with some tasty grilled skinless chicken. I know dressings are hard for you chefs,and I am fine with just getting vinegar and not expecting you to come up with a delicious low fat dressing. Just please give us something to put the vinegar on. I’m tired of searching for lunch menus on websites to no avail.
Oh, and whatever you do, don’t think that North Carolina needs to adopt French fries on salads. If we were going to add a fried side dish to a salad it would be onion rings all day long.

The Last Week of Peace

A week from today Carter starts her Junior year of high school. Right now she and her baptismal partner Ellis are watching a movie in the sunroom and eating their dinner. It seems like yesterday that they were being baptized on the same day at our church. Of course no one thought to tell either family that their were going to be two Baptisms on the same day so when Ellis’s Mom, Lynn came to sit in the front pew I was taken aback. We did not know each other. Thank goodness she turned out to be just the nicest person on earth and got over any offense I caused by saying out family was going to take up the whole pew since we were having a baby baptized.  
The time between the baptism and now feels like the calm before the storm of the all important junior year. Yes, we had to get through adolescence and learning to drive, but what comes ahead is the year I have been bracing for. I am trying to take every step at the right time and not worry in advance. I noticed that my answering light was flashing today and when I listened to the message from my Dad about a website that rated college is lots of different ways, including which campus’ were the most dangerous, I started to panic slightly.
I would like this last week of summer to go slowly. I would like to enjoy every last second of life before the college search starts. I would like to remain ignorant of which campus are the most dangerous. I know the path is Carter’s to take, but as my only child I have to walk it with her.
I don’t have the luxury of having multiple children to get more and more laid back on as they apply to college. By the time my youngest and smartest sister was going to college my parents let her pass up multiple offers to Ivies and comparable to go to the University of Colorado, “because I want to ski in college.” Only a third child gets the responses, “That sounds like a great idea.” Sadly, Carter will not have parents who are practiced.
So summer, please stick around a little longer. I know there are parents who are so ready for the kids to get back to a routine and be out of the house for a solid bit of everyday. I am not one of them. Not that I want to go back to six grade either, but just a little more time.

A Successful Surprise


Carter’s wonderful friend Ashley had a very tough time while Carter was at camp with the sudden loss of her beloved Grandfather and the move of her Grandmother from Atlanta to Ashley’s house. Carter and Ashley are more like sisters this I am Ashley’s bonus mother. I had to do some filling in for Carter when Ashley needed an ear to cry to. Six weeks apart is a long time in the teenage world.  
As unluck would have it Ashley was away when Carter came home from camp. Ashley and I discussed this and came up with a scheme to make Carter think she was going to be away two days longer so we could surprise her and have lunch together today.
I asked Carter three days ago if she could drive me to an eye appointment since my eyes would be dilated and I could not drive home. She happily agreed since it was not first thing in the morning. When we were in the car this morning she said, “Isn’t great to have a teenage daughter with her license to help you do these things?” I just laughed and said yes.
Ashley and I had decided to meet at Nordstrom Cafe for the surprise so I lied to Carter that there was a walk in eye clinic near customer service at Nordstrom. Of course she believed me since Nordstrom is full service. I texted Ashley as we neared the meeting spot. Carter was not one bit suspicious. I pretended to go to the fake eye center and circled back behind Carter who was looking at clothes. After three minutes of my lurking behind her waiting for ashley to jump out from behind the dresses Carter turned and saw me. “There is a 40 minute wait,” I quickly lied, “let’s go eat lunch.”
As we walked toward the Cafe Ashley jumped out and surprised Carter. From the tears and the squeals you would have thought they had been apart for a year. Lots of hugging and inquiring how she got back from vacation. Only then did we tell her we had been working in conjunction on this surprise for weeks. It worked beautifully. I am thrilled I have such a trusting daughter that I was able to surprise her, but I might have blown my chances to ever do it again. At least Next time I will have to come up with a better story that an eye appointment at Nordstrom. Even with as good as their customer service is they don’t do medicals. 


Mustard Fig Sauce


After my out of body non-cooking fit yesterday I woke up and wondered who that was. Yes , I would rather play Mah Jongg than do almost anything else, but it does not often take over my personality and cause me to dislike other things I love.
To make up for that I cooked a bunch of things this afternoon so I had good leftover for the week ahead. I made a corn, shallot and cherry tomato hash that made Carter very happy. A baby eggplant and okra dish that I loved and I finished up the chicken thighs I forgot in the oven last night. Since they were already cooked through I warmed them up in the pan on top of the grill and once they were warm I took them out of the pan and charred them directly on the grill. I made a sauce out of some figs that my friend Christy gave me since her fig tree was raining figs. It was perfect on grilled chicken thighs.
1 c. Fresh figs, stemmed and halved

1/4 c. water

2 T. Balsamic vinegar

2T. Good mustard, I used a German one, but Dijon would work fine

1T. Green peppercorns

1T. Honey

1t. Lime juice

Pinch of cayenne pepper
Put the figs and the water in a sauce pan on medium heat and cook covered for ten minutes. Mash the figs up with a potato masher and add the vinegar and mustard and continue cooking for five more minutes. Add everything else and cook another five minutes.
Spoon sauce over cooked meat and serve. Can stay in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Also good on pork.

A Cooking Break

I had every intention of making a family dinner at home tonight. I got up early. Went to the farmer’s market. I thawed both chicken and steak to satisfy the requests of both my family members. I was set to cook a full meal for the first time almost all summer, then I got a text for an impromptu Mah Jongg pool session. Sure I could go sit by the pool and play and stitch at the same time and still make dinner.
I played for close to three hours in the sunshine and had no idea much playing outdoors would wear me out. I arrived home at six and realized I was way behind on my cooking plans. With the oven on full blast, I threw the chicken in a pan to par cook it before I planned on finishing it off on the grill.
Suddenly my time in the sun overcame me and the thought of cooking an entire meal seemed undoable. My summer of non-cooking had dulled my skills. Then it dawned on me that we had not met our food minimum at the club and today was our cut off. Cha-Ching. Best excuse that we needed to go out to eat tonight ever.
I alerted the family of our change in dinner plans and called for a reservation. After we had all gotten in the car and arrived at the terrace for dinner did it dawn on me that I had left the house with a pan full of chicken in the hot oven. Thank goodness we live so close and Russ is such a good sport. While Carter and a I pursued the menu, Russ was driving home to rescue the chicken from the oven.
I am not going to keep up this non-cooking life much longer. Now I have a half cooked chicken that I am going to need to finish up. A fridge full of farm fresh veggies that need to be enjoyed. A family who is looking at me wondering where their chef is. I am very happy to have my girl back from camp and for Russ to be home, but not being able to just cook up a pan of chicken one night and eat it all week is causing me pain. I got really used to eating the same thing night after night because one it was easy and two it was healthy and three it removed all the temptation for eating something fattening.
I guess I will ease back into the full meal routine tomorrow, but I obviously can’t wait until six at night to begin preparations because I may back out all together. Perhaps I could feign a headache or a stomach bug. I guess not now. Oh cooking, I did not really miss you.

Practice Parting


Shay is a dog who like to sleep snuggled up on my bed, day and night. most days I have a hard time enticing her to get off the bed to go out or even come to the kitchen for a fine meal. This morning I said to her, “Come on, let’s go get Carter.” And before I could get near the door Shay had jumped off the bed, ran down the stairs and was waiting by the garage door. I wish I had a video of it. Obviously she has been missing Carter too.
Shay and I got in the car for a little road trip to pick her mother up from six weeks at camp. Carter had asked me specifically to bring her baby, but since pick up was on a Friday, that meant I had to ride all the way out to the mountain with my fur baby on my lap. It was hard for me to stretch the drive out so that I did not get there too early since Carter’s duties lasted until 3:30.
As a I turned on to Camp Cheerio road a half an hour early I started to get very sad. Regardless of what happens in the future with Carter getting a job at Cheerio this would be the last time I would pick her up from camp. If she is lucky enough to be chosen to be a counsellor she will drive herself to and from camp. The beautiful cool dry day with a big blue sky and a few white fluffy clouds did not help my sadness. I have come to love Camp Cheerio as much as Carter does, but for very different reasons.
How can I help but be grateful for a place that makes my child feel she is the best version of herself? The friends she makes at Cheerio are deep and true. Drama does not seem to play a major role and competition is nothing but friendly. This CIT year was exhausting and challenging, but it stretched her in all the right ways and she loved every hard minute.
After I wasted some time at the office signing Carter and another CIT we were giving a ride to out and picking up their phones I drove the car to the field by her cabin. Hardly a step out of the big old black Land Cruiser and I saw my girl coming running faster than I have ever seen her run up to hug me while Shay jumped into her arms. Shay monopolized her for much too long.  
I got to go back to her cabin where this session she had eight year olds. Just one little one was still standing there waiting for her parents. Carter sweetly introduced her to me and proudly told me this child was honor camper this session. The little girl hugged Carter and I could see a bond. Carter’s senior and junior counselors enthusiastically met me saying they loved working with Carter. I could already feel how hard reentry back to home life was going to be. No adoring crowds at home, just a small family.
I had three good hours in the car. It was not the full of information dump since a co-cit I did not know was in the car with us, but it was still great to hear the news. Not home half an hour and she was gone again, out to dinner with her friend Cait. Shay is passed out on my bed, exhausted from the excitement of her big trip to the mountain and back. A huge milestone is passed, my last trip to camp. Just practice for future partings.

Friends of All Ages


When Carter was in preschool she used to ask me, “Why are you friends with all the Grandmothers?” I did not want to tell her it was because I was as old as a Grandmother when I had her, or that I had a big work life before she came along, which was different from her friends’ mothers who were very young. Instead I told her, “I like to do the things Grandmothers do, like play bridge and Mah Jongg and do crafty things, like needlework and scrapbook, cook and garden.” That answer was also not untrue.
Well in the years since she was three I am still friends with the grandmothers, but at last the young people mothers have joined my ranks in people who like to play games, needlepoint and all the other “grandmotherly things” I like to do. Evidenced in my young friend Stacey whose birthday it is today. I think she is actually eleven years younger than me.  
My neighbor Mary Eileen had a birthday stitch and bitch lunch for Stacey today. Although I was unable to come to the lunch I happily walked over for an afternoon of gabbing and needlepoint on Mary Eileen’s back porch. It was such a southern grandmotherly thing for us to do, sipping tea and working on our canvases.  
As I looked at the young women around the table I thought that Carter might ask me something like, “Why are you friends with all the little kids’ mothers?” My answer would be, “Because they like to do the same things I do.” I’m glad that my hobbies have become things that young an old alike enjoy. I love having friends of varying ages and stages. It makes the tapestry of life so much more interesting. Happy birthday, Stacey. You will always be young to me, but that’s OK in my book.

I Miss Carter


For the last six weeks Carter has been at Camp Cheerio as a CIT. Except for the 24 hours we saw her in the middle of the sessions I have been without her. Now it is less than 48 hours until I get to drive to the mountain and take back my girl. Six weeks is a much longer time to not talk to her everyday than I thought. I really miss her.
Of course when she first went to camp I was busy with a fun girls trip and cleaning out the house. Then I went to Maine and that really kept my mind off missing her. But for the last week and a half I have done nothing much exciting and the days are dragging on until I can go see her.  
It does not help that Russ has been working like a crazy person and has been away. Poor Russ flew out on Monday morning which involved getting up at 3:45. Then after a long day in Atlanta his flight to Kentucky via Charlotte was delayed six hours causing him to only make it to Charlotte where he got to sleep two hours before getting on the second leg. Last night on his way to the airport in Kentucky to fly to Chicago he texted me that he was in an Uber car with a driver that was only on his second day on the job and he had never been to the airport before in his life. Tonight he called me and asked me what day it was. Poor guy. It must feel like it is Friday, but only if it was I would have Carter back and Russ would be on his way home.
I am trying to document this feeling of missing Carter because I am sure that she has not missed me as much. As soon as she gets home she is going to start up about how much she misses camp and her friends there. I am not going to take it personally. I am thrilled she has a place she loves so much. I am also going to have to remember how much I missed her when she does something that drives me crazy. Not that I can think what that will be right now, but then again I have not gone down to her room and seen the condition she left it in.  
Reentry from camp is never easy. First there is the unending amount of laundry and all the camp stuff, like trunks and crazy creeks and things that need to go to the attic, but instead sit in the hall outside her room. Then there is the catching up on sleep, which is next to impossible to do. Lastly the reconnecting with school friends. There certainly won’t be any time for me. I have to keep that in mind.  
So I am just looking forward to the ride home, but then we are giving another CIT I don’t know a ride. It is going to kill me not to have any alone time to hear all the news and camp gossip. Maybe she will tell me over thanksgiving, or Christmas break or sometime when she is trapped at home alone with me. I guess I need to get used to her being away more and more. I guess I need to plan more trips for myself while she is gone. Clearly being home alone waiting is not good for me.


My Super Power of Choice


If I could have one super power it would not be to be able to fly, be invisible or turn anything into gold, no I want a super power that Marvel comics never represented, nor even thought of, I want the ability to stop eating the moment my body had taken in enough calories just to live. Of course no comic book character has ever had this power because most comics are written by men, but if they were written by woman I think they would be way different. Like I could imagine a friend or two of mine who would like the super power to make dinner appear on the table without her ever having to enter the kitchen, or to grow old gracefully without ever getting a wrinkle.
I recognize that I like to eat and I like to eat good tasting food. My problem is that my body really needs very little food to survive and my mouth likes it more than my body needs it. Knowing that I am never getting any super power I have had to adopt a power tool to help me from eating too much. My tool of choice is my kitchen scale.
At this point in my half century existence my brain has learned what I should eat and how much, it just is not always cooperative. To be at my best healthy place I have to use portion control to the max. Smaller plates and bowls help, but the absolute most fool proof way not to over eat is to measure out my food. Not all my food, lettuce or green beans are not that caloric so if I am going to over indulge in anything, the green things are fine. But things like meat, or cheese or anything with oil, you know the stuff that tastes good and it calorically dense, these are foods that are best weighed so there is no fooling myself that one more bite, or spoonful would be OK.
I know people who need to diet often ask me, “Do I have to weigh and measure my food?”, as if it is a hardship that is too unbearable. No one who needs to lose weight is good at portion control or will power naturally, otherwise they probably would not need to lose weight. None of them have the super power to just push away from the table the second they have consumed just enough to sustain life. That being said, weighing your food is really not that hard.  
My scale has a function that can reset back to zero with the touch of a button. What does that mean? I put an empty plate on the scale, it might weigh 8 oz, but what do I care, I am not eating the plate. I push the zero out button and the weight goes to 0. I put some chicken on the plate, the weight on the scale is only showing me how much the chicken weighs. Once I have four ounces of chicken and I want to add half an ounce of cheese I just push the zero button and add some cheese to the plate with the chicken already on it. It is amazing how little cheese half an ounce is. If I wasn’t weighing it I would easily eat 2 ounces and swear I thought it was half an ounce. And so on. It is not hard, but it is the only way to really be sure I am not over eating.
Next time you go to make yourself a bowl of cereal do this experiment. Take your regular cereal bowl and put in it what you usually eat. Now measure it. Your box of cereal may say that one serving is 3/4 of a cup and is 150 calories. I bet your pour was closer to two servings and you thought it was small. Imagine if everything you ate was double what you thought you were eating. I wish I could invent my super power of choice and sell it. I know it would be a hit.


Kathy Jacobs–Hairdresser, Chef Extraordinaire  


I, like most women, am devoted to my hairdresser. Ok, that might be a terribly old fashioned word, I guess I should call her a hair stylist, but more correctly in my case a I should call her a magician. I have thin, the only thin thing about me, hair, with a double crown – a term she uses to describe how my hair sticks up in the back, not about my royal status. Having grown up in the Marcia Brady days of the 70’s the only hairdo I could do was long, straight and parted in the middle. I was pre-Farrah big wings and never learned to master any styling tools.
Thanks to my poor quality hair and lack of styling skills it really helps that my stylist, Kathy Jacobs at Blueprint Design, takes all this into consideration when cutting my hair. Not only does she give me flattering style, but one I can wash and wear myself. But enough about her profession, her true calling should be as a sauce/salsa maker.
Today I was lucky enough to get a last minute appointment to get my hair cut. Little did I know it was also the day she brought jars of her world famous Pico de Gallo, other wise known as salsa fresca, into the salon. Now I have been the lucky recipient of Kathy’s Pico and BBQ sauce before, but today’s was an extra good batch.  
It could not have come at a better time. Today was my recommitment to my diet day after a three week eating fest while I vacationed and had the floors refinished. It is amazing how easy it is to justify eating naughty food if you are not in your own kitchen. Now I had no excuse since my life is back to normal.
With Russ away all week and Carter still at camp I needed to have a come to Jesus big time clean eating plan. Somehow Kathy knew that Pico was the perfect food to give me to add flavor and freshness to my meal without adding many calories. Really, who better than your hairdresser to give you the answer when you have not even asked the question.
Tonight, with my perfect jar of Pico in hand, I sautéed up a handful of big shrimp and spooned the Pico over the top and ate the most delicious and easy supper I ever could have thought of. Amazing how happy it makes me that my hair is done, my dinner was yummy and my psyche was in a good place all thanks to the magical powers of my Hair Master, Kathy.  
You can’t buy her Pico, but you can be inspired to make your own and keep it on hand, not to eat with chips, but as a condiment for a nice piece of grilled fish or on some roasted chicken. It also makes the best oil free salad dressing ever. Thanks Kathy Jacobs, you made my day.

New Floors, Same Old Face

Have you ever seen those magazine covers of celebrities after they have done one too many plastic surgeries. I often look at them and think, “What were they thinking?” They were very attractive before they started fooling around with self improvement and suddenly they have gone way over the edge.
I think I figured out what leads to this self improvement overload. When we bought our house 21 years ago our floors were already 40 plus years old and had never been refinished. I think that the original owners had a lot of wall to wall carpet that kept them fairly protected, but still they were never close to perfect. Now with our floors clean and beautiful in a way they never have been in my lifetime I begin to look at everything else as old and shoddy. As my bare feet slide over the smooth surface I feel nothing but clean.
I think of an aging celebrity getting a little Botox and then suddenly with a smooth and wrinkless forehead looks at her crows feet as not fitting in so she gets some work on those. Suddenly that slightly droopy neck needs a little tightening, brows lifted, nose thinned, lips plumped, oh hell, pin back those perfectly fine ears and add a cheek implant while you are at it. Now that once darling face is unrecognizable. And it all started so innocently with a little injection.
Thank goodness I am busy enough trying to get pounds off my middle to not worry about minor tweaks to my face, but the floor redoing certainly shows me how an obsession could get started. I am carefully eyeing my next redo opportunity, but a good upholsterer rather than a plastic surgeon is in my future. Before I can get started on that it’s time to get back in the working out and eating healthy saddle. No more trips to keep me out of my house or eating many meals out because I don’t have a kitchen, no more excuses. But I do have nice floors and organized closets and I am not going to fall prey to feeling like I need to upgrade my face to fit into my house.    

Whining Is Bad For Your Waist Line


I admit that I have been incredibly whiny for the last week. Living through the house renovations has caused me not to just lose my sense of humor but also all my willpower. It started with my renovation demanded vacations. After some eating deprivation weeks I mistakenly thought that I deserved not just a vacation from the renovations but from my diet. So lobster rolls, and ice cream were part of my daily diet.
The problem eating continued way past my vacation. Coming home to floor refinishing hell put me in a perpetual bad mood, which caused mood disorder eating. Then the whining really got out of hand. Was I eating because I was whiny or was I whiny because I was eating? Either way neither was good. To top it all off I was writing whiny and that caused me to get quite a few comments from well intentioned friends who felt I should just shut up and stop complaining.  

I wish someone had slapped me earlier because I might have saved myself, both from my bad mood and from my eating.
But the end is in sight. The movers showed up and even though Russ had to to go to work all day I was able to almost get the house back together before he got home. I did give him a little bit of a scare though since he came home to find me almost passed out under one of the beds. Actually I was just resting after I had shimmied under the bed to plug in an extension cord.

After spending all this time and energy to get the floors refinished I figured I should really enjoy some time actually on the floor.
I am going to have no excuse to get back on the healthy eating wagon and exercise routine tomorrow, but for tonight I am hoping that Russ will take me out to dinner. Not to complain, but I don’t have a thing to eat in the house. I just couldn’t cook and put everything I own back in their respective closets at the same time. I really hope my sense of humor returns now that the floors are done. I’m getting sick of living with my whiny humorless self and I can only imagine how others around me feel. Please accept my apology.

Farro Chicken Salad


I had a totally first world problem today. My movers who were supposed to come to move my furniture back in my house today changed the date of my move to tomorrow without telling me. I was admonished by some of my other first world friends, but hey I have always been first world and hope not to change. I know it sounds bratty to whine about it, but I was ready days ago to get back to a regular life, one where I am able to help other people.  
Two things I was planning on getting back to normal were having my dog Shay Shay home and cooking something for dinner. Despite having no furniture I got Shay back and cooked dinner for me and Russ to eat camp out style. My problems of delayed furniture movers seems like nothing compared to Russ’ work/travel schedule. He flew the red eye in this morning from California so I think he does not notice life without furniture as long as he has a bed to crash in. I was really trying to get the furniture moved back in before he came home so it did not disrupt his tiny amount of free time on Saturday. I am a first world wife and want to keep it that way.
I did like what I made for dinner so it is worth a try whether you have furniture or not
2 shallots chopped

1 c. Farro

1 t. Olive oil

2 1/2 c. Water

1 chicken bullion cube
2 cooked skinless chicken thighs, or 1 large breast chopped

1 nectarine – chopped

1/2 an English cucumber chopped

1 avocado chopped

1/2 cup dried cherries

10 oz. Arugula

2 oz. goat cheese crumbled

1 oz. chopped pecans

Juice of one orange

2T. Red wine vinegar

2 T. Olive oil

3 packets of Splenda or 1 t. Sugar

Salt and Pepper
In a medium sauce pan put the olive oil and shallots on a medium heat. Cook for two minutes. Rinse the farro in a strainer and add it to the pan and toast, stirring for two minutes. Add the water and bullion and bring to a boil and reduce to simmer, cooking for 35 minutes until the farro is cooked. Make sure you watch the pot and not let the water cook out completely and let the farro stick to the pan. There should be no water left in the pan when it is cooked, but it may be a little sticky. Cool the farro in the refrigerator.
Mix the chicken, nectarine, cucumber, avocado, and cherries together. Add the cooled farro. Mix the dressing up and pour over the farro mixture. You can do the recipe up to this step in advanced.  
When ready to serve put arugula in a bowl and top with a scoop of the farro mixture. sprinkle with goat cheese and pecans. Enjoy, with or without furniture. 

Supporting Dreams


When Russ suggested we get the floors done while Carter was at camp it was so we could use her room to camp out in when we had to move the furniture out. Of course we had to leave the house completely or expire from noxious fumes for most of the time. Tonight is my last night living in my teenager’s room. I had given her fair warning to get rid of anything she would not want her parents to find, but from the looks of hear room I think she just covered anything up with more clutter.
Even though I have slept in here for at least seven nights it was not until today that I really took a look at some of the things on Carter’s wall. Since her room used to be a guest room until a couple of years ago it has paintings in frames that are not your typical teen style. On one wall where two prints hang Carter has covered the pictures with papers that read, “Before I die I want to…” and then a sentence about a life’s goal.  
I remember when she wrote all these papers during a fortnight of serious illness during eighth grade. I think she was worried that being so sick her life might be coming to an end. Thank goodness it was just a virus. At the time I was more concerned with her health than her goals, but today as I was moving my clothing out of her room and back to my own closet I stopped and really read what she had written.
Before I die I want to

 live in the country on a farm with two horses and a dog.

 befriend a homeless person.

 get into a WONDERFUL college.

 live in a foreign country for a year.

 tell my parents I love them everyday of my life.

 be a grandmother.

 get married to the love of my life.

 appreciate what I have.
The list goes on, each one as thoughtful as those. I am struck with the maturity of her list. I certainly don’t think I would have thought of some of those things when I was her age.
I really miss my girl at camp. I know that she is working very hard and loves it more than anyplace on earth. I want to keep her list in my mind when she gets back and try and not sweat the little stuff, like how clean her room is or isn’t, but rather am I supporting her towards reaching these goals. Now I can’t do a thing for her on that grandmother thing and I don’t want to solely focus on her getting into college because getting in is just one tiny step to the bigger issue of continuing a life of learning, but I can help her to continue dreaming big and keep setting goals.
I wish I had a list of my teenage goals and could see how I’ve done on what I dreamed of. My gut says I never dreamed as big as I have lived, but I wonder what I could have done if I set bigger goals at a younger age.  


Final Floor Report


Despite the still strong odor I came home today to stay. I just got tired of roaming homeless and since my refinished floors had dried over 48 hours I was given permission to move freely over them. Not that I have anything back in order. The moving men are coming Friday morning to replace my furniture. Until then I have begun to move what I can back into closets and rehanging pictures and the such.
So many people have mentioned that they need to have their floors refinished and wanted my honest review of the company who did the work. Considering what refinishing floors entails; taping the baseboards to protect them and then sanding off all the old finish while simultaneously sucking up the dust that creates, then putting three coats of finish on with a sanding and dust sucking job between each coat and lastly removing all the tape it is a job I would not want to do myself. Not to mention the bending over or squatting involved in the hand work of sanding the edges and corners.
I have to say that I think the floors turned out beautifully. It might have helped that I had quarter sawn oak to begin with and I was not doing any staining, just clear coat so there was not much to mess up. It would have been a much bigger risk if I wanted to change the color of my floors and had to stain them.  
The good news was not only did they show up on time, take excellent care of my house and kept the dust level to a minimum, but they finished one day early. My only complaint was they seemed to use every bathroom in my house and apparently never met a toilet brush, despite their availability next to every toilet. Given that was an easy thing to clean up I have to say I give them an A+.
The only problem now is the floors are so nice I don’t really want to cover then up with rugs and furniture, but I also don’t want anyone walking on them potentially scratching and scuffing them. Now of course the floors in the back of the house, which were not refinished, look like the country cousin and are going to need to be redone. I just don’t know if I have the stamina to face this job again too soon. At least the back floors don’t have closets to be cleaned out, but they also are adjacent to the kitchen all the cabinets would have to be cleaned out after the dust got in them.
I am hoping that this floor job is going to be like childbirth and after the furniture is put back and the closets are all refilled in a much more organized way I am going to forget the pain of getting it this way and just enjoy my beautiful new baby, oh I mean house.
So thanks to Accent Hardwoods. You are a great business . I highly recommend using them, just bear yourself for the part of the job that falls on you, the moving all your stuff, that part is hell. 


One Renovation Leads To Another

At last the floor men have finished with my house, but that does not mean my house is ready for me to live in it yet. Although the floors look fantastic the smell is strong enough to kill an OX. I was given permission to “sock walk” on the floor this morning, but not move anything on to the floors for at least one more day. Of course the movers don’t come until Friday and I certainly don’t want to put anything in the closest until the smell is gone. God, I hope that is Friday.
I left our little downtown apartment early this morning so I could meet the plumbers at our real house. While I was waiting I started the wipe down of walls, baseboards and windows to remove any dust that was left. What a horrible and boring job that is. The plumbers were able to fix the last of the broken things I needed done and I was beginning to see the light at the end of the “summer of renovation tunnel.”
Just before I was about to expire from a smellsation headache my friend Christy called for us to go to lunch. Really, what would a day be without a good lunch break with a friend? I could hardly bear to go back to my wiping the house down job so I ignored it and went off to Needlepoint to spend some quality time with the Stitcher’s Table Advisors. Nothing makes me happier. I am very thankful for that supportive group.
After I had ignored my responsibilities long enough I got back in the renovation saddle and went to pick new pads for all the rugs I had moved. It seems like fresh floors did not need old and crumbling rug pads put back on top of them. That is the problem with doing one improvement, it makes you realize how everything needs to be upgraded, painted, repapered, cleaned, repaired, replaced or redecorated.  
After all this cleaning I realized I needed some supplies for the downtown apartment, like toilet paper, laundry detergent and the like. Living in two places fifteen minutes apart from each other is really a pain. Like when I woke up this morning I realized I had made iced tea at the other house, but did not have any where I was. How do people who live double lives and have two families do it? But I digress.
I know I must appear to be very pitiful because my friend Sara, who keeps inviting me to stay with them finally convinced me to come for dinner with her family which was a huge treat, not to be sitting alone at the apartment. Not only was the food yummy, but I got some quality time with her dog Brady, who is Shay Shay’s cousin. How many more days to I have to live like this vagabond? There is no truer phrase that “Home Sweet Home,” and only one home for me. It is too exhausting to run back and forth and I look like a crazy woman coming from the parking garage carrying rolls of toilet paper.

I’m Not On Vacation

The worst thing for my diet is vacation. As good as I can be at home with healthy eating, when I go on vacation I give my self permission to eat ice cream and the like. Even though I came home a few days ago I did not get to live at home thanks to the great floor refinishing project. This is my third night in the downtown corporate apartment and I finally realized this is not a vacation and I need to get back in the eating saddle.
One thing that helped is I spent most of the day back at the ‘ole homestead waiting for the gas man to repair the hot water heater, cleaning the kitchen, taking the garbage out, and lots of other mundane household chores. I also spent a few hours on the walking desk.
Even after that rather torturous day I had not gotten all my steps before I returned to the downtown world. So I took advantage of this city living and walked around the lovely world of the American Tobacco Campus. This is my photo blog of my getting back on track.









Not My Home

Denial is a wonderful thing, but eventually reality us to be faced. Coming home from Maine was wonderful because I got to see Russ, if only for 20 hours, but facing our house has been hell.
It started before I got home when Russ texted me the news that our floor refinishing contractor had a fire at their headquarters Saturday morning. Thankfully no one was hurt, but all their vans and equipment were destroyed. Then Russ added the information that our hot water heater was not working. A code 79 was shutting it down, which has been a reoccurring issue that can only be resolved by a visit from the gas man. Finally he threw in one last failure in the plumbing department. All this and thanks to the smell from the first two coats of finish and we could not spend more than five minutes in the house before a terrible headache would set in.
There was nothing I could do about the floor guys, but wait to hear if they were going to be OK to show up Monday and finish the job. I called the gas company and made a service request for tomorrow and I am not going to bother my sweet plumbers until the smell goes down.
So Russ and I moved into his company apartment they keep downtown by his office. I know we are lucky to have another place to stay, but somehow I feel very homeless. This is ridiculous since I am in our hometown, with a bed and a kitchen and a washer and dryer that I have been running non-stop. Why is this so unsettling?
Perhaps it is the trains passing by just outside our windows, or not having our sweet Shay Shay with us, but I have a feeling of helplessness to get my house back in order. I hate sitting around doing nothing when I know there is so much to be done, eventually. 
I can’t imagine how real homeless people feel, but just being displaced is unsettling. It is like I don’t feel like I belong. I now really appreciate the phrase, “there is no place like home,” like I never have before.  

99% of Texans

Visiting our friend Julie, whom we all call July, yesterday Warren, July and I talked about the last time we were all together in Maine during the winter of 1984. The one missing piece from that trip was our fourth, Shannon. Shannon was July’s roommate at walkers and was as opposite from July as anyone could be as a fast talking girl from Fort Worth, Texas.  
Shannon was very self assured and in the preppy world of New England she held tight to her southwestern wear. While I was wearing grosgrain ribbon belts with big frog buckles on my straight leg Levi’s, Shannon wore a beaded belt with her name in seed indian beads across the back holding up her boot cut jeans.
I used to ask her about the popularity of those bead belts with tooled leather and silver buckles. In her strong southern accent Shannon would say, “99.99% of people in Texas wear Shannon belts,” almost faster than a normal human could understand. I used to tease her that everyone must be named Shannon.
While July, Warren and I walked back to her office yesterday I repeated Shannon’s mantra in my best Texas drawl. After a big laugh, I asked July if she had Shannon’s number since I had not been in contact with her in 35 years either. She did not, but we vowed to try and find her and have a reunion.
Last night after Warren and I had our dinner on the front porch of Clam Cove as the evening sky gave way to darkness I pulled out my phone and began my google search for Shannon. In a mere four or five clicks I found a landline and despite the late hour Warren and I called it. Miraculously Shannon answered in her familiar southern drawl and I told her that I was Dana Carter. Her reaction was as if she had been sitting in Fort Worth waiting for me to call this very night.
We covered all the regular info and set a date for a reunion for the four of us next summer. We told her to look at the blog to see a picture of us with July. We hung up the phone thrilled how quickly we had reconnected. In a moment my phone buzzed a message from my blog. This is what it read;
“How wonderful to hear from you and to see this blog! July looks exactly the same and so do you and Warren. Love the quilt as the backdrop. Can’t wait to reconnect now and looking forward to a real reunion next summer!

What a great Friday night!

Love, Shannon

P.S. 99% of the people in Texas wear Shannon belts!”
Really great friends never forget!