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.