All Cake, No Presents

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Today is my friend Kristin Teer’s birthday. As she has been known to do, she threw a beautiful, and when I say beautiful I mean gorgeous, lunch, but not for herself. It was a party to celebrate her friends. Since it was not a birthday party for her we were instructed to absolutely not bring her any gifts. So I showed up empty handed, ate what I was served, more about that in a minute and left feeling totally celebrated and happy. But like the little drummer boy I felt like I needed to something and what I can do is so small, so KT this blog is for you

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First I want to talk about what was the real hardship about going to a party at KT’s, it was being forced to eat the fabulous food prepared by her chef partner Paris. A perfectly composed salad with apples, candied pecans and goat cheese shared the plate with a black and white orzo topped with a delicate shrimp cake and the surprise yummy on the plate was a grilled piece of bread which I think had rosemary in it, but I was so overwhelmed with perfect tastes I can not be certain.


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Thankfully that plate was small so no one thought they were overeating. That just meant that no one had any excuse not to eat at least one of the, let me actually count the ways, five different desserts. I was seated at one end of the birthday table between Morgan Moylan, the other birthday girl and Stacey Burkert. Stacey and I sing from the same choir sheet that believes it is not a birthday in Durham without coconut cake from Thai Café. Really if you are going to break your diet, it is the thing to do it for.


From where Stacey and I were sitting at lunch we were looking across the table not at our friends on the other side, but at the sideboard laden with a whole coconut cake, a large platter of French macaroons and two big plates of Tonya Petrucci’s works of art sugar cookies. I could feel my head practically explode as I thought about which dessert I would celebrate this birthday with.


Before I could make up my mind a surprise dessert was placed in front of me. Of course Paris was not just going to serve desserts made by others at the celebration of his love’s big day. A not so small glass with a layer of hot fudge on the bottom and a slightly warm and gooey espresso brownie on top and a rather large scoop of salted caramel ice cream as the crown was Paris’ entrant into the dessert Olympics. Stacey held off from accepting the ice cream having gotten her mouth set on the coconut cake. Morgan and I foolishly tasted our Paris dessert and decided to have it and the coconut cake.

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The only good decision I made today was to stand up from the table before any macaroons or sugar cookies were offered. My mouth was so happy, but there is going to be a piper to pay for all this celebrating.


To distract me from running a finger through the cake plate I met Kristin’s newest rescue dog. I am not sure if that makes 7 or 8, but I am fairly certain that one of the guests, who shall remain nameless because her husband could read this, almost put that dog in her purse. She could have blamed the dog napping on the sugar high since she is also a coconut cake lover, but she withheld and left the party puppy free.

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All I have to say is thanks, Krisitn Teer for all the fun you always provide. Your generosity, creativity and style should be enough, but you know I love you for your sense of humor most. I won’t blame you for what the scale will say tomorrow. The celebration was worth every calorie.




Costco Needs A Salad Bar



Russ had a few Costco Items on his list for me to pick up today. Things that are certainly available at the regular market, but why buy them where I pay twice as much, like salted peanuts or real bacon bits.


I do my best not to go to Costco during mealtime or when I am hungry because the temptation of food samples is so great. “It’s just one bite,” is the downfall to any diet. One bite of a taquito, a small cup of candied pecans, a scoop of cheesecake, a cracker with a teaspoon of lobster salad and a cup of “green juice” is a meal worth of calories, but of course you never count that as a meal.


The other thing I try and stay away from is the Costco snack bar. As far as I can tell there is nothing there that is healthy. The closest thing is the Chicken Caesar salad, which with the dressing, croutons and cheese is equivalent to a Big Mac. Of course I have never actually seen anyone eating the salad.


The sad people sitting in the Costco picnic table area I have to drive my cart past to get out of the store usually have one of three things in front of them, pizza, a hot dog & soda or ice cream. For the most part none of them should probably eat any of those items, ever, but I understand they are in expensive and filling.


This is the problem in America. Eating healthy food is expensive and time consuming. Costco sells plenty of good for you foods. I hardly go in there without coming home with a giant $2.99 pineapple or a big bag of haricot vert for $4.99. But both of those items have to be prepared. Hell, in the case of haricot vert you have to take French first to even know that that just means skinny green beans.


I know that Costco is not Whole Foods, but I think there is a business plan to be made for keeping their customers alive longer and adding a salad bar to the snack bar would be a step in the right direction. Maybe it’s not exactly a salad bar, but at least some lower calorie, already made, fast to eat items. A big fruit cup could go a long way to longevity of the card-carrying members. If Costco was to lengthen the life or at least the ambulatory life of the customers it already has they might increase sales year over year.


Any business knows it is cheaper to keep a customer than it is to acquire a new one. At the calorie rate Costco is serving it’s customers they appear to be doing their best to kill them off. Healthy food can be really tasty. Costco already knows this since they sell so many vegetables. Why not make then available ready to eat by the door?

No Walking In The Rain


I have full proof that our labradoodle is a real princess, she does not like to walk in the rain. I don’t know how much of her is actually Labrador since getting wet is a basic affront. The misty rain actually helps curl her brown fluffy coast to be more poodle like but that hardly matters to her.
When it is raining Shay Shay stands at the front glass door looking longingly outside, but when I put her leash on and open the door to go out she stands her ground hard. I have tried coaxing and begging but I practically have to drop her down the front steps so she can potty. The looks she gives me could kill a large mammal. “Why do I have to get wet?” Is what her little eyes are saying.
She will quickly pee and then drag me back to the cover of the front porch. It does not matter than she has not done more than pee in five or six trips outside. She refuses to spend more than thirty seconds in the rain.  
This is not a big issue if we are having one day or even one hour of rain, but the biblical five days so far with at least four more ahead must be messing with her system. I am practically at the point of buying some turf to put down in the garage to see if she might go there.
I have taken to watching the radar and the second I see a dry opening in the cloud cover I am running home to get her to go for a walk when the sky is not crying. App antsy it is not just falling water that she does not like, but wet pavement and soaking grass is practically as bad.
Where did I get such a princess? No one else in our house is so particular about anything. Just the one who must have rotisserie chicken mixed with her kibble for dinner and a freeze dried liver treat after every venture outside. You would think the promise of liver would make her want to go out just so she could come in and be treated, but nooooo.
So very few outdoor steps for me in the last few days, but even worse, no steps for Shay since she also hates the treadmill. 

Useless French


When I was in fifth grade my teacher, Mrs. Baldwin, started a French club and asked a select group of us if we wanted to be in the recess time club. I felt very honored to be asked, but I have no idea what her criteria was to join. Most likely it was not the smartest people, but the ones who failed at play ground dodge ball, and no they were not the same group.
I can remember taking a 1950’s French beginners book out of the library. The first lesson I learned was the oh so important phrase, “ouvre la fenêtre”, which means “open the window.” I don’t know how often I say that in English let alone in French, but it has stuck with me for the last 44 years. I think I was most interested in French because the cutest boy in my fourth grade class had moved to Paris. He spoke perfect English so why would I need to learn French?
Over the years I have used my French a little hear and there. Like when I went to school in France the summer between Freshman and Sophomore year in college. I really was just trying to get my language credit out of the way and I hardly spoke at all out in the French public because I either had my fluent friends Wendy Yazuzian or Marty Dluzansky to speak for me. In Marty’s case I could read menu’s and he had his father’s American Express card, so it was a good match.
As life has gone on I have found myself often wishing I could speak Spanish since I encounter people daily for whom it is their first language and I must say never do I meet anyone around hear where French is the case. When Carter was able to chose a language at school I encouraged her to take Spanish for this very reason. She seems to enjoy it.
One of the requirements of her class this year is to go out to places where Spanish is the main language being spoken. It is a fairly easy task. So today she and I went to Raleigh to La Fiesta Del Pueblo. Thank goodness she does not have to go find a festival for French.
I ate lunch before we went because I was sure that I did not want to be tempted by the food. It was a good plan. Carter asked me what was for lunch at home and I told her to get something at the festival and she was happy. Ordering from the vendor in Spanish was no issue, speaking menu is an important skill I instilled in her in many languages. The neon orange soda she got was not something I craved, but her asada quesadilla looked mighty fine. Carter tortured me by oohing and aahing all about it.
After the food portion we walked Fayetteville street looking at the various tents with Latin radio stations giving away cups and pencils, immigrant service providers offering advice and the strangest group of republican presidential candidates tents with voter registration. We watched dancers from Honduras and Chile and heard proclamations made declaring it Latin Month from September 15- Oct. 15. I found that an odd range, since months usually indicate one actual calendar month and not a 30 period that spans two months.  
The good part of the festival was that Carter was able to translate everything for me. I knew she was right when she was telling what the proclamation said when they announced it first in Spanish and then it was read in English. It just would not be done that way in French. If there was a Franophile festival they would read the proclamation in French and leave it at that, if you did not understand then , “ffff” the sound of disdain coming for the Frenchman.
The only thing about a Francophile festival is the food would be great. I can just imagine the crepe stands or the escargot vendors. I can still speak that language and now I don’t even need Marty since I have my own American Express card, but it would be fun to show Carter.

Just Ten Foods

When I graduated from college my parents moved to Washington, DC. As I was looking for a job, my Dad was learning the phone business and my Mom was renovating a house we lived together in a tiny apartment in Crystal City, otherwise known as the Houston of Washington for its lack of zoning. The apartment had been the model for the building with bad corporate furniture and I slept in the coat closet by the front door. Since we all were new to the city none of us had any friends so I would leave every weekend and go visit friends who were living back home with their parents, but at least in regular sized houses.
One Sunday I returned to the apartment and found my parents sitting on the two chair balcony watching the planes land at National Airport, each scribbling things on pads of paper. “What are you doing?” I inquired. I was quickly shushed and they continued writing.  
My father broke the silence first, “Steak, cheese, potatoes, milk…”
“Milk is a drink and we already agreed that was free,” my mother interrupted.  
“Great, I have to redo my list then,” my father continued.
“Artichokes, Chicken, avocado, eggs, cheese…” My mother said.
“What are you doing?” I demanded from the only other chair inside.
I came to find out that my parents had spent the entire weekend discussing the foods they would choose if they were only allowed to eat ten things for the rest of their lives. Not just one conversation, but a whole weekend. They negotiated the milk truce and other finer points before they finally got to the list point. I thought they had really lost it, but the older I got and the longer I’ve been married, the more I understand it in a weird kind of way.
As I was eating my regular arugula, chicken, goat cheese and caramelized pear salad I thought about what my ten foods would be. It seems to me that I have practically already gotten to the state my parents were only hypothetical about. If I am alone at home I eat exactly the same foods over and over when I am trying to loose weight.  
I thought then ten foods game was a crazy one for my parents to play, but now I have fallen into living it. When I vary from my regular foods I tend to over eat and eat naughty things I know I should not. It is so much easier to make my standard salad, which I really love, but know that it does not make me crave a gooey undercooked chocolate chunk cookies or bowl of salted caramel ice cream.
As much as I like to cook for others when it comes to me alone I am satisfied to just have the regular. I wish my parents had kept their lists. I would love to see if their tastes from the early 80’s has changed or if they would have been happy with those same ten foods for the last thirty plus years.

Perhaps You Are In The Wrong Job


I can only imagine that having a job that I don’t enjoy would make me a little grouchy, but even in my most insignificant jobs I tried to make the most of it, or at least pretend I liked what I was doing. Obviously the economy has a lot of people doing things that they are probably over qualified for, but if they can’t do those jobs well I am not sure they are ever going to go anywhere else.
Today must have been my time to encounter those people. It started with a call to the customer service department at Russ’ life insurance company. Paying your life insurance bill is high on my list to get right. In August I used my banks automated payment system as I do to pay all my bills. I was quite unhappy when I discovered two letters saying I had not paid. I went online and found the confirmation from the back that indeed I had paid, but the check was not cashed.
I called customer service and after an unsatisfactory call with a regular rep who would not talk to me since I was not the policy holder I asked to speak to a supervisor. After many “hypothetical situation” questions, since I was still not the policy holder I finally got out of this guy that they had changed the payment address a year ago and my check probably went to the old one. I got him to take my new payment over the phone and asked what would happen to my check if it ever got to them. I was told they would cash it and credit my account for an extra year. Not the right answer, but I would deal with the bank on that.  
I suggested that they might pay the post office for a longer forwarding service so they would not miss other payments that were automated like mine. “Not my department,” was the I don’t care answer.  
“Yes, but it affects your department with all the customer service calls you have to take,” I said.   
“That’s good job security.”  
Wow. So purposely annoying customers is good for this guy personally. I could feel his disdain for me over the phone. Time for him to get a different job, but as far as I could tell he was unemployable.
After my morning frustration with insurance I went to lunch with my friends Lynn and Christy at a locally owned restaurant. We had a waitress who acted as if serving us was too much trouble. I ordered the beet salad and asked her to leave off the polenta croutons. Her surely response was, “That doesn’t come with croutons.” Then all the better, I did not want them anyway, but for good measure I looked at the menu to make sure since she was not going to request something be left off that she did not think was on there to begin with. I had not been dreaming, polenta croutons big as life in the description. She was not happy about being wrong.
We had to ask for tea refills which took forever as did the change giving from the check. Being the queen of cash I put a twenty in my check folder. Eventually she came back and brought my change. Interestingly even though the ticket said the change was $3.34 she only gave back three ones. I was planning on leaving all the change for a tip, since I feel like restaurant workers are underpaid, but I thought it was quite presumptuous of her to not return the coins. She might not have even made the change, but she certainly did not care enough to check. Really being a waitress is not the right job for her, or perhaps she had just had a terrible run in with an insurance company customer service supervisor.

Giving A Hand Not What I Expected


This morning nine members of the Hope Valley Garden Club assembled at Elizabeth Wiener’s house to get our orange vests, black spider gloves and official road side trash collection bags to help with trash pick up week. Our garden club has volunteered to pick up trash along the sides of the road before and I thought it was a fun way to be with friends, get some exercise and do good at the same time. And who can deny that the orange vest is not a big enticement?
Last time we did this job we were assigned about a half a mile of busy road to clean. We must have done an exceptional job because this time we were given University Drive from DA middle school all the way down to Thai Cafe, a good mile and a half. It seemed like a daunting task.
Elizabeth, ever the organizer had laid out the vests with a pair of gloves on top of each on her front steps. After we had had suited up she had us each pick a playing card from a select group she held in her hand and told not to look at them. Of course I looked before I was supposed to, but I don’t know what difference it made, I did not have any other cards in my pocket to change with. I had the Jack of hearts and after all the cards were picked we were told that we would work in pairs according to our suit. My partner was Beth Sholtz, my birthday partner and good friend. This turned out to be important later.
Beth and I were assigned the north side on University starting at DA. Renee Hodges and Kay Peters took the south side. Starting at the Thai Cafe end was Elizabeth Wiener and Carolyn Sloate on the south and Thecky Pappas, Betsy Ross and Esten Walker on the north. We all started working from our own ends and picked up trash and recyclables until we met in the middle.
This was only a fun job because I had a friend to talk to while we gathered trash, cigarette butts, cans and bottle people had thoughtlessly discarded. The worst things to pick up were the cigarette butts and those little plastic ends from cheep swisher sweet type cigars. As if smoking is not gross enough the people who do it need to realize butts are not biodegradable and not throw them out the window of their car.
About half way down our side of the road Beth and I came upon a cedar tree with branches to the ground that had a lot of trash blown into the trunk. Our arms were not long enough to reach in and get all the plastic bags and beer cans that had congregated inside the tree. Beth brilliantly used a stick to pull things out. I just pushed my way in like a bull in a china shop. What I did not realize is that the rain starved tree’s cedar needles were very brittle and as I was bending over trying to grab the old paper wrapped around the branches I felt a huge bunch of prickly needles go down the back of my jeans.
I stood up and felt like I had a thousand little needles sticking me in the butt. In the most unlady like way, right there on the side of the road I put my hand down the back of my pants but since I was wearing jeans I was unable to dislodge many needles. Beth, being a mother of four and grandmother to two wasted no time and came right over and stuck her hand down my pants while telling me to pull the pant legs away from my full thighs and shake my leg at the same time. With her hand down the back of my jeans, palm towards the pockets she shock me so hard we looked like two dogs mating by the side of the road. Anyone driving by would certainly wonder if two crazy women with Alzheimer’s had escaped from their lock down. Only the orange vest distinguished us as non-runaways.
After a minute of shaking I told Beth we had done the best we could do together and I had to work on the needles inside my underpants myself. The goods is the nine of us were able to clean the whole road in an hour and the needles in my underpants went no farther. Saying we are a close knit garden club is probably an understatement.   

A New Way to Get Steps, at Least For Us


Russ and I took Carter on the first college tour the three of us have gone on together. Carter had already visited one college without us, but it was not the place she thought was a good fit for her.  
Since Carter had off of school today a I planned a visit at a local college just so we could “practice” looking at colleges. I think that it is going to be a very long year of trying to find the place where Carter feels like she has found her people. There are so many variables in the college search. Does a school offer a course of study you are interested in; do you know what you are interested in; is it in the kind of setting you are looking for; is it the right size; do you stand a chance to get in; is it as liberal or conservative as you want and after you figure all those things out are the students your kind of people.
The hardest part of the whole thing is finding the time to visit schools when there are actually students there taking classes. How will you ever know if you have found the right place if you don’t meet the people?
Today as we walked a campus behind a perky tour guide I thought about how we have spent our whole parenthood saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but found that was exactly what we were doing on our visit. Carter looked at the kids and judged, do they look like the kind of people I want to go to school with. Fields of study, even size of dorm rooms did not make a bit of difference, just the look of the students. Now I’m not saying one way or another what she thought, but when a six foot ten inch guy came out of the basketball office Carter did seem more interested. We are not judging schools by how many boys are taller than Carter.
What I do see in our future is a lot of eating pizza at college hang outs and getting our daily steps the slow way while we follow a backward walking tour guide. I am going to try and keep an open mind and actually pay attention on tours, but I bet we could figure out before the tour even starts if Carter has found her people. I hope they are tall.

Has Nantucket Reached The Tipping Point?


I’ve been coming to Nantucket since I was 12 years old. I was lucky enough to have friends that brought me when I was younger and a husband who loved it in my married years. Nantucket has always been a special place — quaint, well preserved, preppy. When I was younger my friends whose families had houses there often had summer jobs scooping ice cream or making deli sandwiches.  
Over the years Nantucket has gotten fancier and pricier. Yes, the quaint still exists but more and more the houses are getting bigger and more outrageous. On this visit my friend Candi looked at the real estate listings and wondered where all the second, third and forth home owners who could afford a five to fifteen million dollar house came from. This got me thinking about the economics of the small island and wondering where all the support people lived.
There has been a strong faction of people who want to keep Nantucket sparsely populated with lots of land in trust. The only problem is that most people who own a six million dollar house don’t clean it, paint it, cut the grass, fix the plumbing, or maintain the security system themselves. In fact most of them only live in it at most a few months a years so they are not even around to keep an eye on their valuable property.
Today while I was taking my long morning walk west of town the majority of people who drove past me were construction, lawn maintenance or house cleaning people of some kind. Where do these people live I wondered? We had a conversation with a restaurant owner last night about the issue of where workers live and she said that it is getting harder and harder for seasonal help to find a bed, let alone a home. College kids whose families own houses no longer want to scoop ice cream. 
N magazine, the island’s full color local yielded some answers to my questions. I found out that last year the most expensive house on the island sold for $21.5 million and the least expensive for $325,000. Imagine you are a waitress, do you think you could afford a $325,000 house. And the supply at the low end is minuscule. N magazine did a feature on how the island relies on a bastion of commuters from the mainland who travel daily either by ferry or plane to their jobs on the island. People like all the fire fighters, the hospital staff, including all the doctors, and most of the craftsmen who build and maintain the multi-million dollar homes. Even the Stop and Shop grocery flys works in daily. Why do they spend two hours a day commuting? Because they can charge a premium to their island customers who have no other choice. But is it really good to have a community where the firemen can’t afford to live?
N magazine was full of ads for the most fabulous estates for sales from $31 million down to a couple of million, but then I ran across a little bullet, home prices are down 20% this year on Nantucket. Wow, that’s a lot. And there are many houses for sale. Have people who own these luxurious places tired of how hard and expensive it is to take care of them?   
Don’t get me wrong, Nantucket is still a fabulous place to visit. And the very rich can certainly spend their money any way they want. Please spend it and keep the economy greased up, but I think Nantucket could benefit from growing their middle class by creating some reasonable housing. Everywhere I went on the island I saw help wanted signs. I probably should have taken on a job for the few days I was there, at least while Russ was working. The business owners I talked to were dying from a lack of help.
Those people who thought they were doing the right thing to keep Nantucket sparse didn’t realize they were creating a place where they might have to clean their own house or cut their own grass or replace their own roof.
This coming weekend a large number of important movers and shakers from all over the world are coming to the island for something called the Nantucket Project. It is a big conference on how people of influence can improve the world. I hope they spend a session or two thinking about Nantucket itself. It just can not be healthy to have an all 1% economy. Eventually it will collapse.


Cause of Death


If something happens to me and I don’t make it through the night my obituary should read, “Poor thing, the lobster took her out.” A giant lobster did not crush my skull or drag me under water and drown me. No, if I don’t wake up tomorrow it was from the lobster taking over my body from the inside.
In my defense I have been at the mercy of restaurant choices made by my husband’s business partner, Rich months ago and with great fore thought. Every day the meal choices have been curated for maximum enjoyment culminating with a double dose of lobster today. Lunch at the White Elephant was the Nantucket Lunch box, a bowl of clam chowder and lobster salad with bib lettuce. I was some what surprised by a giant bowl of clam chowder, yet only one small leaf of bib lettuce. Usually when lettuce is used as a garnish it is not prominently called out on the menu, but neither of those items were the reason for the choice of such an entree. Let’s be serious, the main star was the oh-so-perfectly and lightly dressed lemony lobster salad. Each fork full fully savored and enjoyed.
The partners had to get back to work, so we skipped dessert, but they threw out a comment about craving oatmeal raisin cookies. This gave me and my friends Susan and Ann something to do rather than just shopping the afternoon away. Well, maybe something to do while shopping the afternoon away. We ran across a cute shop off the beaten path that had the nicest woman working there. While I bought a dress we asked her about oatmeal cookie hunting since the in town bakery is closed on Mondays. She phoned up the “something natural” store to make sure they were open and had cookies and told us it was the place to go.
So after some stops at small shops along the way we dropped our bags at the house and walked the cliff road to get the hard workers in our group some cookies. It was important to keep them well fed so they could keep working.
Tonight was our last dinner in a very well fed week of meals and Rich had really saved the best for last. It was the chef’s table on lobster night at Company of the Cauldron. We entered the packed and tiny restaurant and were escorted through the kitchen to the covered back patio with heaters warming the chilly night air. There were no menus to distract us and therefore no anticipation for how much food, and specifically, how much lobster to expect.
The first course was a red rich lobster bisque. Just fabulous and if I could have licked my bowl I would have. A small head of the most perfect baby romain lightly dressed in buttermilk dressing with a small hot lobster cake was next. More than one in our party thought the lettuce was almost the best thing we had and how that was possible with the fabulous lobster we had I do not know. It was quite a competition.  
I would have been happy if I had finished my meal right we there, but no. A plate with a half of grilled lobster tail and the biggest lobster claw I have ever seen in my life, that made lobster boy’s hands on American Horror Story last season look small. Some German potato salad and asparagus that could have won a James Beard competition were on the plate, but who could appreciate them next to so much perfect lobster?
As if I had not come close enough to death the chef tried to finish the job of killing me off along with all the other diners at the table by serving us a homemade donut with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream.  
You used to think this was a diet comedy blog, but now it has turned into a how-to blog on the best ways to die. Death by lobster is the way to go. 

The Poor Waiters Who Get to Serve Me
Day three in Nantucket and I am already tiring of eating too much good food. Now that does not mean I have stopped eating it or even made the healthiest of decisions, but I can feel the collective weight of bread and desserts as well as just regular salad dressing beginning to take hold of me.  
One of the problems of these company retreats is the big dinners after the days of working. Well today it was a half day working and a small trip on a boat thanks to Captain Mark Schweitzer. Unfortunately boating burns no calories whatsoever, just gives us more fun time together.
Tonight we went to Galley Beach to enjoy the sunset as well as a completely decadent dinner. The poor waiter had to endure my comments as he tried to describe the various specials to our table of nine. Nothing is ever going to go easy on a waiter when he begins by telling us about the “4.7 ounce meatball special.”  
“Is it exactly 4.7?” I interject. “Could it possible be 4.6 or 4.8?”
Thank goodness he had a good sense of humor and found his description as absurd as I did.
“What I mean to say is it is a really big meatball.”  

That’s more like it. Don’t describe things to me in terms of how much they weigh. If he said a quarter pounder meatball I would have thought it was huge. The bad news is all that discussion about the meatballs made our whole table crave them so we got three for the table to share. That was like 14 ounces of meatballs for nine of us. I did not need that ounce and a half, but I had it anyway and two bites was just enough.
Russ ordered a pasta appetizer as a main course. He probably would have been fine getting just the appetizer size but the waiter asked him if he wanted to make it a main course size, which means doubling it in food as well as price. I would be better off if I could order half sizes of everything. I want to taste different foods and have a variety to my meal out, but I just don’t need a full meal, let alone an appetizer and a dessert. I know I would feel better when I left the restaurant if I had eaten half as much. I still suffer from the affliction of eating all that is put in front of me, so just don’t give me so much.
I guess that Russ and I are now at the old folks point in life that we need to start ordering one dinner and splitting it. The next thing that is going to happen is we are going to begin arriving at restaurants at 5:00 for the early bird special. I wonder if waiters describe the food there or do they just show you pretty laminated pictures of food?  


Nantucket In Nine Miles On Foot

When I am on vacation I try and cut my diet some slack and enjoy myself. Yesterday I followed that rule in earnest and enjoyed a lobster roll, a fig and prosciutto flat bread and multiple bites of many shared desserts. Consequently I had a horrible night’s sleep, paying in many ways for veering so far off my diet course.
As Russ got up at his early puritanical time of six in the morning and started working I finally fell asleep and stayed asleep until 9:30 this morning. I knew I needed to adjust my vacation ways and get back on a track closer to a monks life, yet still have some fun.  
I decided that the best course of action was to make sure I got my nine miles of walking in like I do on a good day at home. Thankfully the weather here in Nantucket was an absolutely perfect 75 degrees and sunny today. It is actually warmer than I had packed for this trip.
While Russ and his business partners were busy slaving away the morning strategizing the future of their business I walked downtown where I met up with two other CMG wives, Candi Chin and Ann Schweitzer. We did a little shopping, which was actually no spending for me and then Ann and I peeled off to concentrate on really getting a good walk in. Ann is a new addition to the partner spouses since her husband Mark recently joined the firm, but Ann and Mark are old friends to us. I grew up two doors away from Mark and both Ann and Mark worked with my father which is how they met and married.

As we were attempting to leave the shopping distractions Ann had me side step into a most beautiful store called Paris Style where every item of clothing was truly a work of art. A row of blazers hung on one wall with a thirty percent off sign but no price tags at all. A striking woman approached me as I was fingering the fine fabric of a navy jacket with a bright pink silk lining. She asked if I would like to try one on, as she got one in what she thought was my size.  
I slipped into the garment as she described how each piece was hand made in France to my measurements. Good thing since this jacket was made for a woman who never did any manual labor with her arms, or who did not know the flapping feeling that comes from waving my arm wildly. Ann asked how much the blazers were and amazingly neither of us showed any visible flinching when the proprietor unapologetically said, “$2,400.” The 30% off group were not for a custom one and of course I would need custom with my arms. It was clearly time to walk.
Ann and I got about two miles in before it was time to meet up with the workers for lunch. I had a kale salad feeling like the Presbyterian I am. After lunch Russ and I did a little more looking at stores and then spent two hours getting a big walk in. As we neared our house we just caught a beautiful bride heading into her wedding at the Congregational Church across the street. I spent the next forty five minutes talking to James, the driver of the Wauwinet Inn’s old woodie station wagon who had driven the bride to the wedding and was awaiting the bride and her new husband to take them back to the Inn for the reception. James is from Jamaica and has worked at the Wauwinet for 23 years. I have to say he is the nicest person I have met on the island this visit. Sadly I finally had to cut short our talk since I needed to shower before dinner. I was still short a mile of steps.

Our whole group walked to straight wharf for a fabulous dinner where I felt less guilty splitting things with Ann since I was almost up to nine miles and I had only eaten a salad for lunch. Once home from dinner as Russ and came up to bed I realized I was two tenth of a mile short of my goal. I paced the length of our room for a few minutes until my watch buzzed that I had done it. I think that tomorrow I need to get up early and get more walking in before breakfast since Ann and Mark have gotten a boat for an afternoon ride. There is just no exercise riding in a boat, but boy it does make for a fun vacation. 


Little Did We Know 24 Years Ago


When Russ and I got engaged we went on vacation together for the first time to Newport, RI and Nantucket. We stayed at cute bed and breakfast’s. Since the Internet had not been invented yet we found them the old fashioned, by reading books on bed and breakfast spots and calling them up on the phone to see if they had availability. We picked our Nantucket lodgings because it was in town and was reasonably priced.  
When you pick vacations by reading books that had been published years before you never really are sure if what you read was what was happening now so it all was a crap shoot. There were no Trip Advisor reviews letting you know not to take a room on the street side or that the breakfast was not as good as an egg Mcmuffin.
As it happened the place we went first in Newport, although nice as a whole had a great variability in rooms and we had a tiny attic garret that was hardly tall enough for Russ to stand up in. But what the hell, we were young and in love. After a couple of days there we happily left for the ferry to Nantucket.  
Leaving the car on the mainland we arrived at the wharf on Nantucket and walked the three blocks up Broad street to Center Street where we found the Ha Penny House. It was the perfectly typical Nantucket shingle style house where the owners served us afternoon tea before showing to the blueberry room. What a joy it was. A room with a tall king sized bed that over looked the beautiful white Congregational church across the street. It was so much better than described in the old bed and breakfast book, totally making up for the misleading description of our previous Newport spot. Russ and I spent three nights on Nantucket making the end of our first vacation end on a very high note.
Today we flew on to the Island for a five day working vacation of Russ and his business partners and all the spouses. Rich, his partner, had rented a house that was big enough for us all to stay at in town so we could walk to restaurants and shopping. As Google maps led us to the house down Water Street and then on one of the two Ash’s either Ash Lane or Ash Street that run parallel to each other the little voice of the navigator said, “turn right on Center Street and you are at your destination.”  
We pulled up to a beautiful big grey Nantucket colonial right across from the Congregational church, and two doors down from the Ha Penny House. Happiness over came me. Never 24 years ago when we first came to this island could I have guessed all the places we would have gone in our life, the jobs we have had, the homes we have lived in, the friends we have made, the child we have loved to end right back where we started. I can’t wait to see what the next 24 years brings. I know I am lucky if it is half as good as the first 24 years have been.


The Suit Case Dilemma


Traveling is a joy to me now. I have spent so much of my life on the road starting back when I hawked mail opening machines for a living and traveling was more of a chore. It was just a way to get between the joys of visiting Vice Presidents at credit card banks in Delaware and operations managers at the lock box operations in Charlotte to convince them that I could improve their cash flow. Then I moved to the glamorous life of a consultant, flying between Ottawa and Regina, they are in Canada in case you are American, or London and Mexico City.  
The one rule I tried to live with is always carry my suit case on a plane. Anyone who knows my Saskatoon four flight lost bag story knows why. So I am always on the lookout for the perfect carry on suitcase. When I first started flying a lot the road warriors all carried “suiters” — the folding suit bag that was a big envelope to hang your clothes in. It was fine for clothes, but stunk for shoes and toiletries.  
Then the rolling suitcase was invented. I think Lark came out with the first little bag on wheels. That came in light blue meant exclusively for ladies. They must have been add with Barbie play car wheels they had gotten cheep in China. The bags were just a regular hard side suitcases with these tiny wheels and a leash to pull the suit case around. It never really worked, tipped over all the time and was heavy empty. For the record I never owned one of those. I was using the Hartman suiters and a Hartman bag that had something akin to carpeting on the outside.
I will never forget the first time I was sitting in National airport in DC, as it was called when Ronald Reagan was just a president and not an airport name, and I saw a flight attendant walk by pulling a TravelPro rolling carry on. I followed that woman for five or six gates trying to get a look at the name on the bag. There was no internet back in those days, but the Sky Mall magazine yielded the information on that perfect bag. My first Travel pro went around the world at least four years before it was replaced by a second one.
Then the TSA changed the size bag we could carry on and I get a new bag from some place like Tuesday morning because I was not traveling for work anymore. I got red so I could find it in a crowd. It was fine. No bells and whistles but after a number of years the handle gave way and I replaced it with another red one that has served me well.  
Carter coveted my red bag with the extra long handle so when she went to Atlanta last weekend I let her take it. Sadly she checked it rather than following my rule of never check a suitcase. I got it back from her today to pack for my trip to Nantucket and discovered the plastic handle on the base that acts as the foot/balance so the case can stand up had been broken off. It’s too late to replace this bag for the trip in the morning, but I did get right on the Internet to order my next rolling bag so I am well prepared.  
It’s not bad timing since the TSA has once again ever so slightly shrunk the bag size they will allow on planes. I feel like the TSA gets a kick back from suitcase manufacturers every time they change the bag rules. This will be the final voyage for my broken red bag. I am sure I will be annoyed through the whole trip that it won’t stand up just right, but at least I am only going to Nantucket and not doing a planes, trains and subway deal going between European capitals. Oh those were the days.

Profiler Friend Who Can ID Every Slacker



Sometimes and I hope it is only sometimes, I write something unflattering about someone, but I try and not reveal their identity or too much information about them so that they are immediately identifiable. Of course this rule does not hold true if I am writing about a public figure, like Donald Trump, but for ordinary locals or even relatives I try and tell a story without naming names or writing anything that will get me sued.


This also goes for most businesses, especially small local ones. If I am saying something nice I tell you the name of the business all day long, with no gain for me, but if I am slamming the service or some other knuckle headed thing that happened at an establishment I try and not write anything that will cause them to go out of business. So many times when I have encountered the worst possible customer service I want to say, “I have a blog and I am not afraid to use it,” but I hold back knowing that revenge is an unattractive trait. Mostly I just want a good story to tell at the end of the day stupid people doing dumb things make good stories.


For some of you readers you are happy just to read the story and not know whom am I talking about, but for others of you, you have to know and know quickly. You know who you are, the people who call, text, message and practically send smoke signals asking me to reveal all the dirty little details. Only rarely does anyone call and ask me, “Were you writing about me?”


Today while I was with a group of friends one of them asked me about the identify of the unwashed hand pretzel scooper I had written about on Sunday. She did not actually ask me, but said, that person was so-and-so and she was right. I had not described the person by age, gender, ethnicity, home location, family status, or looks, yet she was still able to id the person on first guess.


Then another friend got an aggravating e-mail requesting help for something. As she sat fuming because some people on the group list are notorious non-helpers the Profiler, on first guess, was able to ID the non-helper who was causing the stir.


Now these two back-to-back identifications were impressive and clearly this friend might have missed her calling as a profiler, but more than anything it told me that people are really creatures of habit. If you are a good community member and pull your weight, do your part, chip in and are a positive contributor people will know and consider you as such. But if you are a slacker, free loader, non-responsive, self –important, taker people will also know this about you.


Which do you want to be? No one is perfect all the time, but apparently the imperfect are perfectly consistent in his or her poor member of society ways, so much so that when a bad story is being told about someone anonymous they are the first and correct guess. How horrible to be that person. I am not calling anyone out here, but I am telling this tale of warning. If you are always a slacker, no matter your excuse, just know people are watching and taking note. The best remedy is slacklessness, not always, just every so often. You want to throw the Profiler off.

Scram you Scam



A couple of days ago I read very funny Facebook posting from Holley Broughton about a phone call she got on her cell from “Deputy Howard” with the Durham Sheriff’s Department about warrants for her failing to appear for jury duty. Holley got right on the guy and determined this was a scam.


It was very providential that I had read her whole post because I too received a call on my cell phone today. A local 919 number came up on my car as I was driving so I answered it. A “Deputy Johnson” asked for Dana Lange and I asked whom he was with. As soon as he said the Durham Sheriff’s office my antenna were up. Heaven help me if a real officer ever calls me because the way I spoke to this man should have gotten me arrested.


“How do I know you are a real Deputy?” I asked him. Without skipping a beat he rattled off a string of numbers claiming they were his badge number. “BFD, I told him, that means nothing to me.” He tried to get me to verify my address, which he had right, but I did not confirm, nor did I ever confirm I was who he was calling for. He explained that I had not shown up for a federal trial I was called to for jury duty and there was a warrant out for me, but that since the judge had checked my record and determined I was a good citizen I could get myself cleared by filling out an affidavit. I should have told him I was not a good citizen and seen what he said then.


I told the “deputy” he could send the person he was looking for a registered letter explaining all this. That was when he went into his scare tactics saying that if I got stopped for any reason and the officer found the outstanding warrant out for my arrest I would have to be taken in and may spend time in jail before the problem could be cleared up. I was not falling for this and this guy was good. He went on to say that I could have my lawyer talk with him to clear this up, “You do have a lawyer?” He asked. “A really mean one,” I replied. “But I still don’t have any proof you are who you say you are. Let me talk to your supervisor.”


At this point I was just having fun with these guys, wasting their time so they did not have time to call other poor people who are not Facebook friends with Holley. I was put on hold and after a minute a “Lieutenant” came on the line. He was very well practiced in making this a believable scam. When I told him I would only handle this issue in person he gave me the real Durham Sherriff’s office address. He did say that I needed to finish the “case” on the phone with the “deputy” before I came into to the sheriff’s office and if I hung up the warrant for my arrest would be issued.


Oh so fun! I hung up right away and called the real sheriff’s office where an investigator confirmed this was a big scam they were investigating. I had some information, like the 919 number they called me from and he wanted a description of the men’s voice, like that was helpful. He asked that I spread the word about the scam since many people have fallen for giving these men money to clear up their warrants.


The bottom line is the cops don’t call anyone. If it is a small thing they send you a registered letter, but if it is serious they just show up at your door unannounced. Tell your friends and family. These guys are good and had I not been alerted by Holley I might have gotten taken, or at least been scared.

Does The Bacon Calories Really Count?


My very southern grandmother Granettes taught me how to make tough green beans good by cooking them long and with bacon. The first time I bought pole beans from the farmers market and cooked it that way for Carter she thought she had died and gone to bacon heaven. I finally discovered a vegetable that carter would eat more of than meat. The big question is when you cook with bacon that just flavors the water, but don’t eat it does it impart any actual calories into the green beans? I am just going to hope so!
1 lb of pole beans or broad beans

3 slices of bacon

1 packet of Splenda 

Trim the end off the beans and cut them in half. Put the raw bacon I. A big stock pot and cook on medium heat for three minutes, just to start to render off some of the fat. The bacon will not get cooked to crispy.
Add the beans and cover with water, add a sprinkle of salt. cover the pot with a lid. Put on a medium high heat and cook for at least forty-five minutes. Check while cooking to make sure you still have water in the pot. Add more water if needed as cooking.
You want the beans to be very soft, but not total mush. Sprinkle with the Splenda and taste for salt. Remove the bacon before serving. 

Empty Nest Practice Weekend


Russ recovered from his cross country sickness today by lunch time. It was a slow improvement but I was happy to have him on the way up all day. This was our big weekend of being empty nesters since Carter was away, but it ended up being a stick around at home most of the time weekend. I ended up cleaning out the Disney video cabinet that was full of old vhs tapes and wood beads to string into necklaces that had been very important to Carter’s childhood.
My other excitement was chopping up fruits and vegetables that needed to be cooked or eaten. I made an amateur butternut squash chopping mistake and ran a large cleaver into the base of my finger nail causing a future of bad nail problems I am sure. I have a feeling I am going to be wearing a band aid on my middle finger for the next six months. It makes typing difficult.
By lunch today Russ was stir crazy and wanted to get out of the house so we went to the club where we were lucky to get a table in the grill. We got the worst table closest to the salad bar where I sat facing the bar. This was the worst table because I had a full view of any person who came to get snacks out of the three jars with nuts and pretzels and the like in them that sit on the bar. It was not the proximity to the snacks that was the problem, it was that I could witness who used the proper scoops to ladle out the honey roast peanuts into the little cups provided and who just stuck their hand in the jar of pretzels and hauled out a handful.
It did not really surprise me who the dirty offender was given his lack of manners in all situations, but the fact that no one around him thought to call him out even when he went back to the jar multiple times with the hands he had just licked the salt off. Watching this hygienic disaster was the best diet aid I have come across in a long time. Next time you are feeling a weakness towards a salty snack, think twice.
My dinner meal made up for my lunch experience because we had Church Supper club at the Pottenger’s house. It was a lovely evening with new and old friends made even better by a visit from by my friend Barbara who moved to Alabama last year. We could not stay long at dinner because Carter had gotten home from Atlanta and Russ had not seen her in a week.
Thank goodness she had not fallen asleep before we got home. She told us all about visiting Emory and going to the Ed Sheeran concert and spending time with her friends. Having her home was the highlight of our weekend. Clearly we are not ready for an empty nest. Maybe I should stop cleaning things out now so I have something to do when she is really gone.  

Nurse Shay Shay




Poor Russ was in California this past week and on Friday he got sick in the San Francisco airport, again in the LA airport and again on the red eye. Flying over Friday night after a long workweek is never fun, but being sick the whole way home made it absolutely terrible. Since he arrived home before six in the morning he just went to sleep in the guest room leaving me clueless to his illness. True to form Shay Shay got right up from my bed and went to sleep with Russ. He is her main master and if he is around she is right by his side at all times.


I knew something was wrong when I got up because Russ was more passed out than usual. I tip toed around the house so I wouldn’t wake him. Carter is in Atlanta for the weekend so the house remained very quite. Shay would not leave Russ’ bed all morning, even when I knew she needed to go out.


At last Russ woke up and told me the tale of his horrible night. He thought it might be food poisoning, but as the day and Russ dragged on with not much improvement I think it was an actual flu. Shay snuggled with Russ keeping watch over him all day.


Sadly Russ had to miss the UNC/ NC A&T football game and birthday celebration for Lynn. I knew it was fine for me to go since I was leaving nurse Shay Shay in charge. The actual football game was a lopsided match up with the Heels scoring 53 points before A&T could get one.



The real show was at half time where after a nice showing from the UNC marching band the A&T Machine took the field and put on a superior show. This was what Russ was really missing. In a great spirit of comraderier the UNC band joined the A&T Machine on the field together for one last song. It was clearly the highlight of the game.



I arrived home to Shay reporting that she had taken good care of the patient while I was gone and letting me know that she was still on duty for the overnight watch. Russ was still not well. Hopefully nurse Shay will take care of him by morning.

It’s Baby Chick Time




Tomorrow is my great friend Lynn’s birthday so we started the celebration early. Lynn, better known as Baby Chick in our house and I have been friends for at least fifteen years. Our daughter’s are the same age and since they are both only children they consider each other sisters, and we call them Sister E and Sister C.


Lynn got her “Baby Chick” title at mother daughter weekend at Camp Seafarer one September when our girls were only about eight years old. Lynn, not one to like being cold, was worried that she was not going to get any sleep in the cabin without her electric heating pad that she sleeps on year round. We may have been sleeping in a cabin with screens, but it was still a warm fall weekend in Arapahoe, NC. To aid in her bunk nights Lynn brought a full down comforter rated Alaska winters ready.


The first morning we woke up at camp Lynn, who had slept completely covered in down, popped her blond head up with the comforter wrapped around her. Her yellow fluffy hair sticking out around her face with the white comforter still wrapped around her head made her look like a baby chick just emerging from it’s shell for the first time. Sadly this was long before we all had cameras on our phones so I do not have a picture of the birth of Baby Chick, but the picture above was from the same weekend.


One reason I think Baby Chick and I are so compatible is she and my husband are similar in their taste’s for their own birthday celebrations, small and understated with some alone time for the guests. Russ’ idea of the perfect party is for three friends to come over and bring their own magazines. They all get a drink in the kitchen and say hello, go off in their own rooms and read for an hour and then reconvene in the kitchen to get a refill on their drink and tell each other one interesting thing they read.


Lynn’s birthday was not dissimilar to something Russ would like. We started early in the morning by picking up Stephanie and Mary Eileen and going to a spa downtown, where we all got either a massage or a facial in our own little rooms, certainly thinking about how much we love Lynn, while being individually pampered.


Once we were made perfectly useless and relaxed we headed over to Brightleaf Square to eat lunch where Amanda and Hannah joined us. We had dramatic readings of ridiculous things from the Internet that tickled us all in the same way. After lunch we stopped by Thai Café to get Lynn a carry out slice of coconut cake because for all of us it is just not a birthday without a slice of coconut cake.


By the time it was all over Lynn, who had indulged her birthday self more than she ever does, was ready for a Baby Chick nap wrapped in a comforter with the heating pad set on high. The perfect start to her birthday weekend, which officially is tomorrow. So Happy Birthday dear friend. Thanks for the pampering on your behalf.

Why Do You Need to Know My Occupation?

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Tomorrow I am going to get a massage. Considering the way so much of me feels I think it is overdue. Since I am going with a friend we had to pick a place that could take us both at the same time so I am not visiting my regular person. Today I received the Client Intake form to fill out before my appointment.


The request was for me to fill it out and bring it to my appointment. I often wonder why we don’t fill these things out in advance in case they read something that would prohibit them from treating me. Like in the health section under “Other” the list includes things like: Tobacco Use, Depression, Contact Lenses and Contagious Diseases. I can totally see that maybe if you have a Contagious Disease you might be rejected, depending on what kind of disease it is, but there is no place to specify what said disease is. On the other hand I am not sure what contact lenses have to do with getting a massage, but since I don’t wear contacts perhaps I am in the dark about these things.


One poorly worded question is “Are you currently under the care of a health care practitioner? Just answer yes or no. Well I take three prescriptions a day so I guess I am always under the care of a doctor. The follow up question was not who is your doctor, but “If yes, please specify:” I know they are not going to like my answer of “regular menopausal woman stuff,” but really what else do you need to know?


My least favorite question on this or any form is “Occupation.” Technically I have business cards that say I am an Editor at a magazine, but really that takes up the least of my time. I am not about to put “Blogger” down because I am too old to consider that a job, and it does not pay me anything. “Professional volunteer” is an oxymoron since being a professional means you get paid and volunteer means you do it for free. I also have Needlepoint Stitching Advisor business cards, which is probably what I spend most of my time doing, but since that card was created as a place card for a Christmas lunch and I pay to do needlepoint not the other way around that cannot be an occupation. Gambler due to my Mah Jongg addiction could also be high on the list of what I actually do and I make money at it. I just don’t know many respectable middle-aged women who list that as their occupation. Lastly there is mother. Again the pay issue. What I really want to write on these forms in the occupation slot is “Intake Form Editor” and see if anyone reads it and asks what that means.


As for now I know the real purpose of this two page form is to wear me down so that I pay little attention to the mice type at the end saying that if anything goes wrong it is my fault and that massage people are not doctors. No Shit. The very last line should be the very first line because it says, “I understand that any illicit or sexually suggestive remarks or advances made by me will result in immediate termination of the session and I will be liable for payment of the scheduled appointment.” Oh my goodness!


Happy Birthday Margaret




May your days mostly be happy. Your life be filled with meaning. The world be touched by the beauty you create. Your family be a comfort to you. Your friends be a joy. Your eyelashes long and lush. Your hair thick and full. Your diet coke at the ready and ice cold. Your car always start. Your house free of pests. Your bed always restful. Your sisters always loving. Santa always visiting you and your birthday the best day of the year.

Don’t Change My Order

I just could not make some of the crazy things that happen to me up. Today’s story is all true, I would not blame you if you swore I made this up, but I have two witnesses who can vouch for every word.
I went to lunch with Hannah and Elizabeth at a casual spot in Chapel Hill where the food is all displayed, you wait in line, order, pay and take a number to your table and await it’s arrival. Since Hannah is a busy working woman we did not have all day. We all ordered individually each getting some variation of the same sampler lunch that involved a server scooping a spoonful of one salad or another from the prepared platters and putting it on a plate.
We got our drinks and waited, eventually Hannah’s lunch arrived and her plastic number on a stand was whisked away. A few minutes later Elizabeth’s plate was placed in front of her and her number was removed. As the minutes ticked by I encouraged my friends to eat their lunch, certainly mine could not be far behind. But I was wrong.
After at least twenty minutes a manager type girl came by looking for my number 30 and brought me a new receipt and said to me, “I changed your order and it will be here.”  
I looked quizzically at her and asked why she had changed my order? She could not really give me a straight answer. Had some diet gods reached down and thought I needed a different lunch than the one I had already picked out and paid for. I showed the manager my original receipt and explained exactly what I ordered, with no special requests. She told me my lunch was on her. “Fine,” I said, but I really just would like the lunch I already paid for, let’s deal with that first. She did not seem to understand what I ordered so I walked her over to the glass counter and pointed to the three platters I ordered from. She promised me I would get my lunch right away and it was on her.
Back to the table with my friends politely not eating their lunches. We waited and waited. Servers passed by with lots of other people’s lunches but not mine. Really, three scoops and I could have my plate, nothing had to be cooked. I finally went into full on Dana Lange Mode and found that manager. “This is ridiculous.” I told her. her response was, “your lunch is one me.” 
“Really,” I said, “so far I have not gotten any lunch and you have not given me any money back.” She spoke to a line cook behind the counter who found my number thirty ticket about 20 tickets from the top and finally scooped out my salads while I stood at the counter waiting to serve myself.
The manger eventually brought over a $20 bill which I had to make change for in order for her to give me the right amount of money. She kept saying she was sorry, which had worn very thin and was making me feel bad. I know you are sorry, but honestly scooping three salads on to a plate is not that hard to get right in a ten minute window, but I a thirty minute window it is inexcusable. I am still at a loss to understand why she was changing my lunch and brought me a new receipt to begin with. Do these things happen to other people or are the blog gods just giving me something to write about?

Good Bye Summer, Hello “What In The World Do I Wear Today?”

One of the joys of living in North Carolina is the good weather sticks around well into the late fall months. This makes for nice days, but crazy mornings standing in my closet wondering what to wear. An early spring in the south means it is just fine to break out pink and white cotton clothes, even summery sandals are fine in March if it’s hot enough. But somehow all those white pants feel inappropriate after Labor Day even when the temperature is on the seersucker reading.
I know plenty of people who don’t fall the white shoes rule, but it seems like I am supposed to retire my colorful summer Capri pants for heaven, don’t say it, jeans. I don’t even know which jeans in my drawer of many sizes even are the ones that fit right now. I can’t even bear the thought of forgoing my white linen skirt for real pants.
Can’t we please change all fashion rules to follow the temperature and not the calendar. As long I am getting up and putting on Bermuda shorts and a t-shirt I feel like I have no cares in the world; no meetings, no obligations, all fun and games. But real clothes make me feel like it’s back to work. Ha, what work? I did go do an interview last week, but can write my story in my night gown, no clothes even needed.
So goodbye to summer. I will miss not just the ease of what to wear and the colorful clothes of the season, but all that summer represents; the vacations, breaks from routine, vegetables from the garden, flip flops. Fall has its good points too, but sweltering in fall clothes when it still feels like summer is not one of them. I’m not going to be able to give up summer clothes cold turkey so I guess I am going to have to do it one piece at a time. You may see me out with white pants and a navy shirt or black pants and a pink shirt. I guess I do have to give up the linen and white sandals, but that is as far as I am taking it until the temperature drops to the low 70’s. NOOOOO, I’m not ready.

Baby Eggplant, Okra and Corn Bake


When my friend Stephanie asked me for dinner I asked what I could bring. “How about your spicy okra and tomatoes?” she said. I almost never make the same dish twice and since I did not think I had enough okra to make a whole dish I decided to add baby eggplant I had from the farmer’s market along with some corn to add a different texture. This is a very spicy dish so adjust to your taste.
1 lb. baby eggplant trimmed and halved

1 lb. okra cut in 3/4 inch lengths

Corn kernels from 2 cooked cobs

1 large sweet onion chopped

3 cloves of garlic minced

1 inch of fresh ginger grated

1 28 oz. San Marzano tomatoes

1 t. Cumin

1 t. coriander

1t. Turmeric

1/2 t. Smoked paprika

1/2t. Cayenne pepper

1/2 t. Cinnamon 

2 T. Red wine vinegar


Buttered bread crumbs or cracker crumbs – optional
This recipe is best if you sauté the eggplant and the okra seperately, you also could use zucchini or yellow squash. Heat a large fry pan up on high heat and spray with Pam. Add the eggplant to the pan and cook turning the eggplant over every few minutes. Cook about four minutes until the eggplant is almost cooked through and add a pinch of salt.
Set eggplant aside and them add the okra to the pan and cook it for three minutes with another pinch of salt. Add it to the eggplant.  
Spray the same fry pan with Pam again and add the onions to the pan and cook for four minutes, add the garlic and ginger and continue cooking for a minute. Add all the spices and stir cooking another minute. Add the whole can of tomatoes and their juices and salt and cook for five minutes breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Add the vinegar and taste to see if you need more salt.
Spray Pam in an oblong casserole dish and add the egg plant, okra and corn and then mix in the tomato sauce. If you want to make this a company casserole dish sprinkle the top with buttered bread crumbs or crushed butter crackers. Place the oblong pan in a 350 degree oven and bake for 20 mins.

The Rare Family Dinner

The best way to get to have dinner with our daughter is for us to make a reservation at a restaurant we know she loves and invite her to go, otherwise our chances to see her are greatly diminished. Since Russ is going to be away all next week and Carter was away all last week we decided tonight was our best option for a family night out.  
I am trying to stick to my healthy eating plan and eating at restaurants is tasty for a reason – the wrong reason. Last week while Carter was gone I ate almost every lunch and dinner out. That made me a poor weight loss candidate. So tonight I went out with new resolve, kind of.
I ordered a salad to start, but of course ate the nuts, bacon and cheese that came on it. But then I followed it with the raw seafood platter. Although it was two ice chip platters double stacked with oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, lobster and stone crab, in actual amounts of edible food it was not that much.  
If I had removed all the flesh from the shells and piled it up I would barely have a small cereal bowl full of meat. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was the tastiest thing in town. I am not about to complain about a lobster claw, but I really could have done without the stone crabs.
I am baffled about why people love these things. The shells of the claws are so thick that even thought they had been whacked in the kitchen by a cleaver I could hardly free any flesh from them with the industrial cracker provided to me. I had to interrupt Russ from his steak tartare to get him to squeeze the little suckers so I could try and pry a shell of and pull out a tiny amount of meat. The workout to get the tiny flakes is hardly worth it. The only problem was that the stone crab claws were the primary bulk of my meal.
There must be a negative calorie exchange in the removing the meat and eating it. I had to burn way more calories getting the whispers of food out of the shell than they were putting into my body. You would think that was a bonus for me, but actually food that causes me such frustration makes me want to stress eat something bad for me afterward just so I could feel like I ate something.
So much for my healthy eating at a restaurant plan. I think I have to go back to my old standby of a green salad with grilled chicken. It is so boring, but then I know exactly what I am consuming and in reality it makes me very happy. Russ’ answer to the whole problem is that we should just eat at home since no matter where we go for dinner he always says, “It’s good, but not as good as you make, Dana.” This may be true, but the we are back to the problem of not having our daughter want to eat with us. I guess I need to set up at restaurant at home. Maybe if I had a cute waiter she would stick around.

Faux Caesar Salad Dressing

Faux Caesar Salad Dressing
Every once I. A while I get a little board with my same old healthy salad dressing. I rotate into the balsamic regular some spicy Thai dressing, but even that can wear on me. Today I was craving a Caesar Salad, but eating a regular one of those is equal to eating a burger and fries. I have had success doctoring up the Walden Farms Zero Calorie Caesar Dressing in the past, but since at 1:30 in the afternoon I did not have any I had to get creative. I was not unhappy with the concoction I whipped up so I thought it was worth sharing or at least documenting here so next time I crave Caesar Salad I don’t have to go back to the drawing board.
2 cloves of garlic – mashed

1 T. Worcestershire Sauce

1T. Anchovy paste

2 T. lemon Juice

1/3 c. Greek yoghurt

1 T. Water

Put everything in a blender and whirl it up good. Taste to see if it is a balance you like and correct to your taste buds. I did not add salt because I was adding Parmesan cheese to the salad and that is salty enough.
Romain, grilled chicken and Parmesan cheese with about half the dressing and I did not even miss the croutons.      

Appreciative of Experiential Learning


This week Carter is on her school experiential learning trip. This is something every grade does starting in fifth grade. In the younger years the kids go mostly to camps and although I know they learn a lot, especially about learning to get along, I am not sure they know what they learn. Some years they are learning skills like rock climbing which is helpful when they get to be a senior and have to go on senior challenge and live in the wilderness for a week.
Carter’s junior class trip is the civil rights tour and although it is not developing any outdoor skills I feel like she has gained the best life long lessons she would not necessarily get in a classroom. The trip started in Greensboro visiting the museum that has the Woolworth lunch counter where four brave African American young men posed a sit-in after being denied service. It was a peaceful protest that kicked off the civil rights movement.
From Greensboro they went to Atlanta and visited the MLK jr. Center and happened to get to see one of King’s daughter. Then on to Birmingham Alabama, Selma and ending today in Montgomery. Every once in a while during the trip Carter would text me something that she was learning, or how she was feeling but it was at the last stop today that she really had a big epiphany.
I happened to be texting her that social justice history was happening right now because Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk was jailed today for denying two gay men a marriage license even though it is the law of the land. Carter texted back that they had just spent the last hour and a half learning about the equality social justice center in Montgomery and heard from a man who had been on death row for 30 years but was innocent and was finally freed. Here is some of what she texted me:
“There was a Q and A with him and I asked him what his most important life lesson was from death row and he said ‘Forgiveness’ and it was just so admirable and it all hit me hard. He made a really big impact on me and even though I was far back in the room he looked me in the eye the whole time he was talking to me and telling me to forgive and love because you can never live a life without forgiveness.”    
There is a lot of learning that goes on in school, but as a middle aged person I can honestly say you don’t always remember how to graph an equation or conjugate a verb in French, hell, I know there is something called the pluperfect, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it is, but for Carter hearing this man speak and tell his story will be something she will hold on to her whole life. If the only thing she learns all year as a sixteen year old is to forgive I will consider it a successful year. Going out and seeing the world and learning from the people who were on the front lines of history is a gift I know my child will always cherish.  
I am so thankful for Durham Academy and the fabulous teachers who make this kind of learning possible. Learning with your heart is the best way to do it.

Always My Little Sister


I was eight and a half when my baby sister Janet was born on this day in 1969. It was a turbulent time in the world, Vietnam was in full swing, Richard Nixon was president and women’s skirts were getting much shorter.  
I was just starting third grade at my third school in four years so change was something I was used to. At this point I had been riding my bike all by myself to a downtown, either New Canaan or Ridgefield depending on where we lived for at least three years. I already knew how to cook breakfast, dress myself, make school lunch and go to the school bus by myself so the introduction of this new baby girl did not change my routine much.
What did change was the amount of joy this kid brought into my life. She was a beautiful baby and when she was tiny was fun to dress up, this quickly ended when she discovered she had a voice in what she wore. The idea of putting on a dress quickly ended along with any patience for getting her hair washed or even brushed. It was really too bad she favored the rat’s nest look because she had the most gorgeous thick hair that my mother eventually had to cut completely off in order to keep it at all neat.
Janet was always good at making us laugh, even being a good sport if we were actually laughing at her and not with her. She developed a high sensitivity for fairness at a young age and was quick to stand up to bullies on behalf of others, many times to her own peril. This innate recognition for right and wrong was personified when she chaired the judiciary committee at boarding school. Not everyone can handle doing the right thing when they are a teenager, but Janet worried little about pleasing everyone as long as everything was fair.
She still is that way today. She works harder than anyone I know and never asks more from others than she is already giving. Of course no one else can do more than she does, but she rarely complains. It makes my heart happy that my own daughter admires her so much and thinks she is a great role model, because she is.
Janet might have been born is a crazy time, but she has always been a voice of reason. I am so lucky to have her as my baby sister, even if she is way more mature than I am. Happy birthday Sista J. I love you more than you will know.

Ice Cream Distraction

Carter left this morning for her junior year civil rights tour school trip. Russ flew off to Washington and then I realized I had a free night. I was planning on eating leftovers for dinner since I was going out to lunch, but then thought I should call my friend Deanne who is home alone since her husband is away for work so off to Thai Cafe we went.
Thai Cafe is a good place to get a yummy meal that stays in my diet and I always end up eating the spicy chicken salad. Deanna had the spicy beef salad and we both were happy and good at the same time. But while we were being healthy in our actual eating our conversation turned to what good things we ate this summer when we went away.
I confessed my favorite thing I did on vacation was eat ice cream for dinner. Not just ice cream for dessert, but ice cream as dinner. I also ate ice cream for dessert which made me feel much more guilty than skipping a real meal and just eating ice cream.  
Deanna thought it was a brilliant idea. She told me that is one of her plans when she next goes to Boston to visit her husband. She had mentioned this to her North Carolina hairdresser in an unrelated conversation, apparently a lot of people are talking about eating ice cream, and she told Deanna about her favorite ice cream spot in Cambridge called, “Two Skinny Knees.” WhenDeanna told me the name I know I made a quizzical face since it is such a strange name for an ice cream parlor, but then again it is Cambridge.
Deanna said, “You are right to wonder. I googled ‘two skinny knees’ and nothing came up, so I searched for best ice cream in Boston and discovered it is called ‘Toscanini’s'”. Then Deanna asked her nephew who was at Harvard and he said, “JP Licks was best.” Now Deanna has to do ice cream for dinner as a two course progressive meal.
Suddenly I am thinking a trip to Boston is in my future. Certainly Carter is going to want to look at a college or two up there, but I really can’t turn college visiting year into ice cream eating tour. So I am going to have come up with some justification scheme to eat some ice cream. How many steps will I have to walk in a month to over come this caloric spike? If I need to walk 20,000 steps a day just to maintain do I have to add 5,000 more to enjoy a double scoop of premium frozen goodness once a month? Do I skip both lunch and dinner in regular food in order to substitute ice cream? So many variables. I could spend a life time juggling this dilemma and never quite get it right.
But for today it was just a dream. The good news was all this discussion of eating ice cream made both Deanna and I feel so guilty that we did not even think of sharing a slice of what is the best dessert on earth, not just in Durham, the Thai Cafe coconut cake. Perhaps this should be my new strategy to talk about a naughty food that is unavailable in the place I am to take my mind of the naughty food I have right in front of me.