Nothing Spooky Here

I’m not one for scary Halloween stuff. I never liked haunted houses or slasher movies. I’m much more to cleaver or cute Halloween costumes. I remember one year when our club had a Halloween party and I was too tired to come up with a costume. As I looked around my very messy bedroom for inspiration at the last minute it came to me. I took a plastic laundry basket and cut a hole out of the bottom that was big enough to fit over my body. I tied some sneakers and slippers to the sides of the basket and draped people magazines and some laundry over it. When I got to the party with my basket full of crap around my body I told the costume judge I was there as my bedroom floor. I won the contest.
When Carter came around I used her as my costume model. Thinking up and making costumes was something I did for months before Halloween. For Carter’s first Halloween as a non-walker I made her a dragon fly costume which was comfy enough to wear in the jogging stroller. Her second Halloween she was a garden, a soft sculpture version that she wore like a smock, her third year a scrapbook made out of cloth with real photos of her life printed on the material.
Carter’s fourth Halloween she wanted to have input and requested to be a bride. That was the year she had an invisible husband as well as a boy in nursery school who asked her to marry him. When she told me that Conner had asked her at school one day I asked her what she said in reply to his proposal. “What could I say? He asked me right in front of my husband.”
The years of my having any say in her costumes is long past. This year she has had two, a school girl with her friends and “Oh dear.” With her face made up as a deer and a shirt that says OH on it. It is much better than the combination I would have come up with for a shirt that said, “OH.” Of course I don’t know how to make an “OH S#%?” costume.


This Used To Be Mischievous Night

When I was a kid the night before Halloween was called mischievous night. In my very homogeneous town of Wilton, Connecticut that usually meant that some kids would TP the trees in the house of the most crotchety person in a neighborhood, of throw an egg at someone’s house, but nothing more than that. I always wondered whose parents let them go out on the eve of Halloween because it certainly meant they were up to no good.
The draping of trees in toilet paper might have just been considered harmless, but it seemed like a royal pain to me. I can not imagine trying to clean up multiple rolls out of a tree where I certainly could not reach the branches. Most people had to wait until the rain washed the paper from the things and then go pick up bit of soggy paper from their lawn. And eggs can really do some damage to paint job if not washed off immediately. How were these things condoned with a night dedicated to them?
This is one tradition I am glad has disappeared. I might be the crotchety old neighbor now. I have the perfect trees to be TP’d with long twiggy branches and good street visibility.  
The whole “trick or treat” mentality is just wrong. Why on Halloween do we tell children to basically threaten their neighbors into giving up candy, and good candy, under the threat of having a trick played on them if they do not?  
We will be giving out candy tomorrow night until it is time to go out to dinner, then Carter will take over. I know she wants to go out with friends at some point. This is when I wish had a Harry Potter invisibility cloak we could drape over the house. I am happy to give candy out to little children early in the evening, but I would like to black the house out and not encourage anyone to come up our walkway and not find us home. Am I tempting a trick?  
What is a person to do when Halloween falls on a Saturday? Must we give up a fun invitation out just to stay home and protect our house? I hope not. What I really hope is that most kids have no idea what’s mischievous night was and that they are ill equipped to follow through on the trick part of trick or treating. I really don’t want to have to repaint anything because I discover too late an egg has been thrown at the house.  

Spice Girl


I brought some soup to a friend who asked me for the recipe. When I gave it to her she called me after she had made it, “My soup tastes nothing like yours.” Now I am not a perfect recipe writer because I am not a cook who measures as I cook so I am guessing at amounts when I write after the cooking and tasting are done.  
I was concerned that I might had been so off in my writing so I quizzed my friend. “Did you add this? Or that?” I asked. “Did you cook it long enough?” “Did you add lemon juice or vinegar at the end?” I got satisfactory answers to all those things. I looked back at the recipe which was my Senegalese Stew. It has a lot of spices in it. Then it dawned on my why it might not have tasted anything like mine. 
“How old are your curry powder, coriander and cumin?” I asked.
“Old? I have no idea I’ve had them in my pantry forever.”  
Ding, ding, ding. This is the problem with so many people’s cooking. Spices get old much faster than most people use them up. I bet only one in one hundred of the people who read this blog throw away a spice bottle that has anything still in the bottle, let alone date your bottles so you know when it first was opened.
Spices may seem expensive, but consider how expensive it is to ruin perfectly good food by using old spices. They lose their potency so if you are really opposed to throwing away a jar of paprika that is five years old you have to make up for it by using much more than the recipe calls for. But it is not a one for one trade that for each year over the spoil date you have to double the amount. Some spices just get an “off” taste, especially if they have gotten warm by being in sunlight or by the oven.
I hate to have to write on every recipe “make sure you are using fresh spices,” but I feel like I should. Today I went to the Penzeys spice store in Raleigh and bought a bunch of my favorite and most used herbs and spices since day light savings time brings on the savory cooking and spicy baking season. I tend to stay away from spice blends and rather buy basics that I can mix together as needed. It is much cheaper to buy the bags and put them in my own jars, but if you don’t cook that much just buy the smallest jar available and use it all up quickly.
An investment in $4 worth of spices is money well spent when you consider you might spend $20 on the meat and $15 on the vegetables that go into a recipe.  
If you are somewhat of a spice virgin these are my go to favorites in the order of most use at our house; salt, black pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, curry, basil, rosemary, dry mustard, white pepper, tarragon and marjoram. I have many, many others, but they get used at a much less frequent rate. If you have the ones I listed you will be covered for the majority of recipes you might find. Of course if you want to make dill potato salad you need dill, or some stewed German pork you might need caraway seed, but things like that can be purchased at time of use.  
The best thing you can do is make a dish based around a spice you already own. Search the Internet by the spice and you will get a list of things where it is in the ingredient list. It will expand your cooking repertoire dramatically and not waste your good spices. The best thing you can do this weekend is open your spice jars and take a big sniff. If the smell is not very strong it is probably time to replace it. If it is something you only used once then you don’t need to buy it again. Just don’t ruin perfectly good meet and vegetables, or an apple pie by using the old spices.

Make Your Own Wishes Come True



The other day someone said to me that if they had three wishes they would use one of them to get skinny and the other to have a better metabolism and the third had nothing to do with losing weight. I think that for many years in my life I had those same wishes.


I am not sure when I stopped wishing for wishes and actually making my wishes come true, but it was a long process that was not a straight line. Realizing that I was the key to succeeding at something that seemed only possible through magic was a real game changer.


I am not blessed with a fast metabolism. If I were born three hundred years ago it would be a positive because I could survive a famine, drought or long cold winter, but in today’s food everywhere culture it is a curse. What a terrible first world problem to complain about.


I am not here to pat myself on the back for losing weight. I have done it multiple times which means I have gained it back in between. What I have learned is that every time I tackled my weight and set it as a goal I was able to magically lose it, thus having one of my wishes come true. Once I had succeeded at fulfilling my own wish I realized that I could make anything happen I wanted.


Now I have never wished to have more money than I needed, since I hardly know anyone with unlimited funds who is truly happy. I never wished to be taller or to have smaller feet, things that would have to be a miracle to happen. On the other hand I have wished to help end hunger and have seen that happen more and more in our community.


I am no super power. I am just like everyone else. So I want to encourage anyone with a wish that is even slightly within your own sphere of influence to stop wishing for it and instead work for it. Attaining the goal of your wish is the most empowering thing you can do. Once you cross off that accomplishment off your list you feel the I-can-do-anything power that is already in you. That is the secret of the three wishes.

We All Want Our Lovey When We Are Sick

On Sunday morning I was awoken at 5:30 by the terrible sound of Shay Shay about to throw up on my bed. I was able to grab a towel nearby and catch most of the sickly yellow bile. (Sorry if you are eating dinner.). I felt her tummy and she was not too warm, but she gave me the pitiful, “please help me” look. I felt utterly powerless.
I got a warm wet wash cloth and wiped her face clean and she snuggled up against me and went back to sleep. It was harder for me to do the same since I did not want to disturb her.
When we both got up later on, she was still poorly. Russ took her out and she came right back to our bed when she slept most of the day away all alone. I took her to the vet yesterday and although no absolute diagnosis was given I found out she did not have a fever and probably did not have an infection. We came home and she went right back to my room. I came up to check on her and found her sleeping with two of her lovey stuffed animals tucked underneath each arm.  

These toys had been in the sun room all the way on the other side of the house. I do not know when she had gotten them and brought them up to bed.  
Today she seemed a little better, but not totally back to herself. I came up to my room after dinner and found Shay still sleeping on my bed, but now a third lovey from the sunroom had joined her other two. They were all placed out in a line next to her.  
I felt a little guilty that she had to have dragged herself down to the sunroom and dug through her basket of loveys all by herself until she found one that she could carry up to keep her comfortable.  

If anyone ever doubts that we share traits with dogs I want them to explain to me why a sick dog expends the little energy she has to go and get her toy to snuggle with? Now I am doing my best to help her feel better by rubbing her belly ever so lightly, just the way she likes it. I don’t want her to think she has to shoulder her sickness alone. She is my lovey.

Rich is Easier Than Skinny

Oprah has proven the point again that making a boatload of money is way easier then being thin. Last week while I was at the gym working out at eight in the morning I glanced up at the financial news playing silently on the TV. As the most active stocks scrolled by on the bottom of the screen I caught a surprising glimpse of Weight Watchers, which was up from $6 a share to $10. Something big was happening, I thought and I should have guessed that the jump was all due to a celebrity.
Latter in the day I learned that Oprah had bought ten percent of the weight loss biz and more than doubled her forty million dollar investment. Brilliant, but I saw her on TV and she said that Weight Watchers had approached her in July and she did not want to invest until she had tried the diet. She did and in about two months had lost about fifteen pounds. I guess she was happy enough to buy into the company.
Now the fact that she more than doubled her money in a week shows it was a good move, but maybe she could have done better. See, I don’t think the analysts who are saying buy WW on Oprah’s association are going to stick around if the company fundamentally does not improve.
Seems to me the whole deal would have been a lot more successful if Oprah had kept it quiet that she was doing Weight Watchers for a few months and had continued to lose, hopefully as much as fifty pounds. That would have made people take notice and not just want to buy Weight Watchers stock, which is all well and good, but the millions of overweight Oprah lovers would have joined Weight Watchers because of Oprah’s success.  
Having real customers hanging on every Oprah word as she talked about changing her life with Weight Watchers would be a much better long term situation for the company than just the news that the still fairly big Oprah was buying the stock. The bottom line is just owning Weight Watchers stock does not make you skinny, it still takes counting points to do that.
So in Oprah’s case it was a hell of a lot easier to make forty million dollars in a week than it was to lose ten pounds. Too bad that is not a skill she can share with many people. Being a market mover is something that is limited to a handful of influencers.
Good luck to Oprah on Weight Watchers. I highly endorse it for anyone who has a lot of weight to lose, but like all diets you have to actually follow it. I wonder if Oprah is going to meetings? It would be great publicity to see her weighing in with the rest of humanity in a church basement. Really the best marketing WW could do is to have Oprah travel the country and drop in on different meetings and surprise the attendees. That would really get attendance up and then maybe the stock would actually be worth the amount the Oprah affect had on it.

Raw Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

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If you asked me to eat a Brussels sprout in any form thirty years ago you would have gotten a sourpuss face from me. There was never a vegetable I hate more. Many a Brussels went in the trash in my paper dinner napkin. How my taste buds have changed. Now I even like them raw. This little salad, which could be considered almost a slaw – I put some cold sliced steak on mine and it made the perfect lunch.


1 large shallot- grated on a micro plane

Zest and Juice of one lemon

1 t. Dijon Mustard

3 T. red Wine Vinegar

2 t. olive oil

2 packets of Splenda

Lots of Black Pepper and a little salt

1 Bag of shredded Brussels sprouts form Trader Joes – or a pound of whole Brussels shredded on a mandolin

½ cup. Grated Parmesan Cheese


In a large bowl mix up the shallot, lemon juice and zest, mustard, vinegar, oil and Splenda. Add the shredded sprouts and mix well. Crack a bunch of black pepper and add the Parmesan Cheese. Taste and see if any salt is needed.

Why Did I Pull That Thread?

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Did you ever read your kid the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? It’s a circular story that starts off with a hungry mouse showing up and you give him a cookie, which makes him want a glass of milk and after he takes a drink of milk he looks in the mirror to see if he has a milk moustache and that makes him realize he needs a hair cut… I know it is a children’s book, but I am absolutely sure the inspiration for the book was the very grown up thing of redoing, repainting, recovering, reanything one thing in your house.


Six months ago I redid the drainage and apron of the driveway. It was such an improvement on the problem of our gravel at the street end of our driveway washing away and it made both Russ and I very happy. Especially Russ, since all he had to do was earn the money to pay for it.


That improvement made him say to me, “Don’t you think we should redo the floors this summer?” So I did. Well, like the mouse looking in the mirror for a milk mustache and only then seeing he needs a haircut, redoing the floors made the rest of the house look shabby.


So I called my friend Lane about recovering the twenty-year-old furniture in our playroom. Since the TV in that room is twenty years old we don’t watch it so if we are going to make the furniture nice we might as well replace the TV. That means I have to call the electrician. While he is here he can replace the yellowed baffles of the can lights. He will have to touch the ceiling to replace those, which means the ceiling will have to be painted. If the ceiling is being painted that walls should too, because nothing will make them look worse than a fresh white ceiling.


Before I could do anything in the playroom I had to know which TV we were getting so the electrician can know where to move the wires. And so on…


Now I have a replacement TV waiting for this all to happen, but I need to find someone who wants my old TV, is strong enough to lift it and has a car big enough to take it. I am not sure there is anyone on earth who wants a 40-inch square TV, but I just want to give it away.


I am wondering where pulling that redoing thread is going to end. I think that if I stop wearing my reading glasses in the house I might not notice what looks shabbier next to what has been improved. That is only after I replace the breakfast room chandelier and do something about the living room drapes.

Personal Stylist Available, His Name is Ed Carter


The other day I got a phone call from my Dad. “Do you have any paper in your fax machine?” he led the call with. I should have asked how much paper knowing that my father has been addicted to creating volumes when it comes to writing, and thinks everything needs to be printed out and then faxed so someone else can have a printed copy.
I know my father does not have enough to do because the subject of the reams of paper he sent me was, “the fashion of AM Weather Channel anchor, Stephanie Abrahams, and how good the style of clothes she wears would look on Carter.”
The cover page handwritten letter encouraged me to get up early on a weekday and watch the weather channel since this woman is only on the air from five AM until seven. Already this is a project I am not interested in. My Dad goes on to explain that he thinks she has a similar body to Carter and she wears a style of clothing that is very flattering. Since he was unsure what the style was called he researched all the web to find other people who were writing about her clothing and found words describing her dresses. Then he used those words to search for dresses for sale on the Internet and found at least twenty that fit the style he was looking for.
So page after page of black and white fax copy came out of my old machine. Below the blotchy photos my father had made editorial notes that said things like, “the skirt is not flared enough” or “would be cuter with a higher waist,” or my favorite,”quite a deal at $7.49.”
It was all very cute. Having spent so many years working at Avon and having a wife who loves clothes and three daughter he has spent his life around fashion. Sadly we have all out grown having him take us to Saks to buy our school clothes so his attention eventually fell to Carter.
Tonight I finally saw Carter at a decent hour when she was not studying so I gave her the pile of dress suggestions from her Grandfather. She loved the notes, but had a hard time getting a good idea of what the clothes really looked like, fax technology being what it is. “Does he know I don’t really wear dresses?” she asked. “Do you think he could work on shirts and sweaters?”
“I’m sure if you tell him he would get right on his computer and begin to research it,” I told her.
I think as long as he can find a television reporter or news anchor that is the style icon and body double he can use them as inspiration for finding the clothes anyone would look good in. The hardest thing for me to get across to him is that high school juniors mostly wear jeans or workout clothes. I know that Carter’s lack of interest in dressing up is frustrating for my father. So I am offering his services to the greater community. If you have ever wanted a personal stylist like the stars have, but have a JC Penny budget I think I have your guy. I personally have never found a dress for $7.49 so for that one find alone I am impressed.
Now if I can just teach him about e-mailing the photos, even screen shots would be better than faxing me. There is nothing I hate more than printing out anything.

The Best Surprise


It should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me that I spend a lot of time asking people for money. No, I am not a pan handler standing on the street corner asking for money for myself. I do it on behalf of different organizations that depend on the generosity of those who have more. This blog alone was started as a way of raising money for The Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC while in incented me to lose weight–the ultimate win-win.
The fact that I spent most of this week meeting everyday to plan for or ask people for money is more than I do on an average week, but between church, school and the food bank it is money asking for season. I am thankful that people don’t run when they see me coming. The chairman of one group I am working with just said out loud, “They are afraid of you,” when talking about people I am recruiting to help me. Well that’s not good either. I certainly don’t want to scare anyone.
My goal in all my fundraising activities is just to educate people about any given need and let their own heart decide what the right thing to do for them is. I am yet to actually grab anyone’s hand and force them into writing a check. I also never treat anyone who tells me no any differently after they have turned me down. I understand everyone has their own causes and their own financial situations. But, I must say that most everyone says yes to some degree.
Today I had the nicest surprise in the mail. A card from the Food Bank announcing a generous gift in my honor from my friends Shelayne and Frank. It came as a complete surprise since I did not solicit them. I should have not been surprised at all since it is not the first time they have spontaneously given to the Food Bank in my honor, but they never give me any warning or heads up, just quietly give.
I want to publicly shout out a big thank you to Frank and Shelayne. Although I really have no problem asking people to donate money, I don’t take it personally or remember if they say no. That is probably why I ask again. But to get a donation I don’t ask for makes this a wonderful day. This is something I will remember. I say that and will probably be surprised when Shelayne and Frank give again–the best kind of surprise, one given from their heart unasked for.

Back To The Future Day

No matter what, the future always seems to get here faster than we think it will. When I was in fourth grade in 1970 I remember going to the school book fair where a local book store had set up tables with lots of books that were age appropriate that we could buy. One title intrigued me, 1984, so I bought it. My teacher told me that I would be out of college by 1984. I am certain I hardly knew what college was when I was in fourth grade and I certainly could not have imagined what the world would be like in 1984.

The ideas about “big brother” that George Orwell wrote about in 1949 were still very futuristic to me as a ten year old in the early seventies. People were calling for “free love” and shunning big government in response to Vietnam so the world of 1984 seemed very far away. George Orwell might have gotten the timing slightly off, but the idea that we are being watched has certainly come true. How many times are you surfing the web and an ad for the very shoes you looked at the day before comes up in the sidebar. Thank you George Orwell.

Today is the day that Marty McFly from Back to the Future II put in the time machine to go forward from 1989. When Marty arrived in the DeLorean in 2015 he found kids riding on hover boards, well we don’t exactly have them, but it’s close, big screen TV and video conferencing, got that, drones, yes, video glasses, kinda, I hear Google Glasses are being redone. There are probably more things I don’t remember, it was 26 years ago. But I can remember watching the movie and thinking, 2015 is a world away. Well, it really wasn’t.

I wonder how many of these things that were predicted in movies and literature were developed because someone was just producing someone else’s original idea. It is hard to judge. The one thing I do know is that the future is getting here before we know it. No matter how long away something sounds, when it rolls around it feels like the blink of an eye.

This is not news to anyone, but it should be a warning to not wait around for the future to do something you want to do because before you know the future will be here. The last thing you want is to look back at the years and say, “I wish I had sooner.”

Consider this your starting whistle to get to work on the dream you have been putting off. Whatever you want to accomplish can happen, it did in 1984 and Back to the Future. They may be fiction, but look how often fiction becomes reality. So take the fictional story you have in your head and make it your reality.

Breast Wars

For as long as I have had breasts, and that is a really long time, there has been changing advice about how to keep them healthy. I am talking about catching breast cancer. In the early days I was told to do self-breast exams once a month. Exactly what I was feeling for was never really explained, just to be on the “feel” for anything unusual.

Now most woman who have anything more than an A cup will tell you that breast tissue changes during a given month and over the years. Since I have never felt an actual breast lump I was always unsure what exactly it was that I was searching for.

I was perfectly happy to have my GYN do a breast exam and tell me that everything was “normal.” That was reassuring to know that sagging and soft was normal. Then came the mammogram era where we had a machine to squish and squeeze us in order to get a good picture and actually “see” inside. But we were told to keep doing self-exams all the same since we only had a mammogram once a year and something could develop between photo shoots.

A couple years ago some “breast authority” deemed it unnecessary to have a mammogram every year and not to start at 35 but wait until 40. Then today the “breast authorities” moved back the start year for mammograms from 40 to 45. The “data” shows no more risk in starting then. It sounds an awful lot like the insurance companies don’t want to pay for mammograms and they are willing to risk the few women who will get missed by waiting.

The real news that came from the “breast authorizes” today is that they are advising doctors not to do physical breast exams any more since the “data” shows they don’t really work. My big question is what about my self-examination? If I am no longer being felt up by a professional who knows what they are feeling for should I continue my amateur search?

I have friends who say they discovered their breast cancer themselves when they felt a lump so I guess that when something feels different you know it, so why should we stop letting doctor, PA’s and nurses do the feeling? I am sure plenty of women are not very religious in doing their self examinations so a once a year little rubbing seems like the least we could so especially since you may not be getting a mammogram anytime soon.

I am all for trying to cut the fat out of medicine, but it feels like not getting felt up is not going to save that much money and it will take a few years for the “data” to show it was a bad idea to cut back on manual exams and mammograms. I am lucky that I have an older doctor who is probably not going to change no matter what the fashion in recommendations is, but someday he will retire and then what will happen? I guess I am going to have to look for someone else to keep my breasts safe because I just don’t know who these “breast authorities” are.

I’d Make A Cooking Video If…


Recently I have had a couple friends ask me if I would make a cooking YouTube of recipes I’d written. “I’d like more humor in my cooking instruction and I think that is what I would get from you,” was the tempting request from a friend.
Now, there is nothing I like better than an audience, but I feed off live people so much better than just a video camera. If I ever were to make a video I would at least need a few people sitting at the counter to talk to. Witty banter with one’s self never really works.
There is one big thing that is totally holding me back from video taping my cooking, my cookware. When I watch cooking shows on TV all their pots and pans look brand new. Hell, they are on TV so they might be brand new. In my house my cookware is old and loved. No matter how much I scrub with steel wool or treat with Dawn power wash my half sheet jelly roll pans they have darkened corners and brown stains on the “stainless” steel. I think I have proven that “stainless” steel is a misnomer. I keep a fairly clean house and my cook ware is all “clean”, but it certainly does not look pristine.
I often don’t trust a perfectly spotless pan, certainly not a cast iron one. There is flavor in the pan that has had a million garlic cloves cooked in it that you just can’t get from a brand new and spotless pan. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have five new half sheet pans that don’t look like Dalmatians, but I am so attached to the five I have that I can’t justify just throwing them away when they cook perfectly. I still remember the day in the eighties when my Sysco food rep sold me those pans for $10 each. They were my first commercial grade pans and they have served me well and will into the future.
Maybe I should have scrubbed the first stain a little harder at it’s first appearance. Perhaps years of baking stains on to the pans have made it impossible for them to ever look factory new. I imagine TV cooks have some stain removing specialists who keep everything looking spic and span, no pun intended. I consider myself lucky to just have Russ Lange who is good at loading the dishwasher. As an expert cook I can’t be expected to be a good cleaner too.  
So no YouTube cooking for me unless someone brings me a new loaf or sauce pan to use for the taping. I can only imagine that no one would see what I was cooking if they had to watch me use my old cookware. “What is in that disgusting pot?” Is all that anyone would say. For now I will keep my half sheet pans in the oven and only serve on my nice, stain free china. I know that things taste better if they look pretty, but no one has to know my secret to making things taste good is my old pot.

One Day State Fair Perfection

Although Carter went to the state fair horse show on Friday and spent 48 hours there, Russ and I only went to watch the competition today. It was a perfect day – cold in the morning, but sunny and dry.
I got up and prepped all the food I was bringing and Russ packed the car as Shay Shay stood on the console between the front seats waiting to go with us. We have now entered that phase in life where making our dog happy has taken precedent over anything else.
Shay was a big hit at the horse show. She never barked at anyone, horses or people. She sat attentively in Russ’ lap watching the events as the riders glided by on their mounts like she was watching one giant TV show. One horse mother was concerned that Shay might spook the horses if she barked when her precious baby rode by, but I assured her that she would not make a peep. Of course I had no idea if that were true, but Shay did not make me a liar.

Shay was not the only dog at the horse show. People who like horses generally also like dogs so I would guess that every third of forth group of spectators either had a dog or wanted to pet Shay.  
The day was not all about Shay watching the events, Carter also figured prominently for our attention. She had a lot of fun and won some ribbons which also makes the day successful. But the big win for us was the fact that Russ and I got to just go at ten, watch, feed some people, pack up a little and leave before it was time to put the horses in the trailers. Carter who had been up since five in the morning had to prep and exercise the horses, feed and clean, pack up and drive herself home.  
I got home a few hours before she did and was practically finished with repurposing the food and freezing what was left over when she came in and practically passed out on the steps. It was a long weekend for her and a long day for Shay, who is passed out next to me now. For once I am not at all exhausted from the state fair horse show. This is really the way to go.


Mother Guilt Onion Soup For A Crowd


Yesterday I was singing the praises that Carter was at the state affair horse show without me or my cooking. Carter had proudly told me that she had not signed me up to do any cooking and I was very grateful for that. Then I woke up this morning and had terrible guilt that she was partaking of the hospitality of others. I texted her to check in this morning and asked her if they could use some food tomorrow and she quickly wrote back that hot food T lunch would be welcomed since they had nothing new planned.  
“How about French onion soup?” I texted back. I got an enthusiastic thumbs up.
I know that onion soup is not your first thought for what is basically a tail gate, but it actually works great if you make the toasted French bread with melted cheese at home and bring the soup in a crock pot. When you serve it you just put the cheese bread in a bowl and spoon hot soup on top which will heat the cheese up enough to enjoy it.
This recipe is enough to feed 20 people
12 Giant sweet onions sliced in 1/4 slices

4 T. Butter

6 cloves of garlic minced

32 oz. beef stock

64 oz. chicken stock

Big handful fresh thyme- tied with kitchen twine in a bundle

4 bay leaves

16 oz. vermouth

2 T. Apple cider vinegar

2 T. Brown sugar

Salt and pepper
French bread cut in 1 inch rounds

12 oz. Gruyere cheese
In a giant skillet put one tablespoon of butter on high heat and add one quarter of the onion. Cook, stirring often until brown. When browned dump them into a huge stock pot and repeat browning onions, add the garlic to the last batch when it is half way browned.
Once onions are done add the stock, vermouth, thyme and bay leaves and bring the pot up to a simmer and cook with a lid on for half and hour. Add the vinegar and sugar and taste for seasoning.
The soup is best if it can sit for a while so that the onion flavors develop, but it can be served right now.
Lightly toast the French bread. Lay the bread out on a cookie sheet. Cover the toasted bread with cheese and put under the broiler just until it is melted.
Put the toast in a bowl and spoon soup over it.

Carter Can Drive, No Fair For Me

Well, it’s that time of year again, State Fair, with this being the youth horse show weekend. Although it is my daughter’s favorite weekend of the year I can honestly say it is my least. I really don’t love horses, the smell of horses, sitting in lawn chairs outside horse stalls, waiting, waiting, waiting for one of Carter’s few events, serving food out of crockpots inside a stall with you know what floating in the air, the abundance of fattening foods and nothing healthy, the randomness of the judging, the getting up at five am to drive Carter to the fair just to wait six hours before she shows and on and on.  
But this year is different. Carter now has her full on driver’s license and has driven herself to the fair! One of her barn mates sainted Mother has rented an RV so Carter is able to spend the whole weekend at the fair and not drive back and forth. Since Carter is sharing a horse she is only showing on Sunday so Russ and I don’t have to go and sit for tow and a half days, one will suffice. Carter did not volunteer me to make any food, let alone all of the food like she did one year.
I know I should be sad that youth horse shows will come to an end soon for Carter, but the state fair is really the only show she goes to. For her it is not the showing, but the love of the horses, taking care of them and improving her technique for the fun of it and not the ribbon. That love of riding is something she never has to quit. She can ride her whole life and always be learning and improving without ever going to another show.
I appreciate that this weekend is about fun with her barn friends with some riding thrown in, but I no longer care about the showing or competition part. I am glad that Carter can take herself and I can just show up as a spectator. Maybe this makes me a bad mother. I really appreciate those horse mothers who are there doing all the work. Thank you. I hope my child chips in as she has been taught to do and helps out.
I’ll show up on Sunday watch a few events and go home and eat my good for me dinner. Not spending fifteen waking hours a day at the state fair barns will certainly save me many bad for me calories. So good luck at the fair girls. I hope you have fun and stay safe. I’ll see you on Sunday.

Get Those Steps After Slacking Off

Earlier this summer I stopped wearing my Fitbit in favor of an Apple Watch. The watch was good at tracking my steps and is harder on me about what it considers “exercise” versus just steps. That is the good news. The bad news is that I lost my community of accountability in my “Fitbit friends.”
I had a bold goal of doing 20,000 steps a day when I was wearing my Fitbit. Knowing that it automatically reported my steps to my “group” was good incentive to stay on that treadmill until I was really done. Although I still have a big goal, without the reporting I have found that it was easy to miss a day or even a week of getting the steps I need.
Russ discovered the benefits of getting at least 10,000 steps and often comes home from work and gets on my treadmill. He reports that his back and shoulder feel so much better when he gets his steps. His need for my treadmill is no excuse for me not to get my steps, especially when I don’t have to go to work everyday.
Today I recommitted myself to getting my steps. It helped that I did not have any meetings. I did have errands and I opted to take Shay with me so that I could walk her between visiting stores. It was a very nice surprise to discover how many stores she was allowed to go in. The big winner was the Apple Store where they asked if she was interested in being the store mascot. I can see Apple branching into i-dog devices that speak out in words what our pets are thinking.  
I know that most days I am not going to get my steps by walking Shay into stores and I need some accountability. I am not above public shaming, and certainly like a little friendly competition. I just need to report to someone if I made my goal. This seems like something my watch should do, but for the life of me I can’t figure it out. So to the world of Apple Watch wearers and fitness freaks can you give me some hints on how I can recreate my accountability group, preferably get my data into my Fitbit profile so I can keep up with my same people.  
For today I will just say that as of 7:30 I have done 8.4 miles so I am going to get back on the treadmill right now to get to nine miles before I allow myself a night of TV and needlepointing. It’s a life’s work, this working out thing!

Good Volunteers


Today Carter’s class had to take PSAT’s in the morning and do community service in the afternoon. I was particularly pleased that when Carter’s advisory got to pick a new agency to help for community service that they picked the Food Bank. I’m not sure how much lobbying Carter did to get them to pick it, but I am pleased that all my lecturing about the good work the Food Bank does must have sunk in some how.

Carter texted me a photo of the plaque than hangs in the “Dana Lange Volunteer Project Area” so I figured she was not actually embarrassed by me today. I texted her back, “What are you sorting today?” When I heard “Sweet potatoes” I was hopefully it was a fresh batch of tubers that had been dug up before the two weeks of rain we had at the beginning of the month. There is nothing like the smell of wet, old sweet potatoes, but if you are hungry they make a good meal.

“Please text me a photo of your advisory in front of your potato bins,” I asked

I got back this sweet picture of happy kids in front of the “Dana Lange” sign. I think they are a fairly sincere group so I hope they actually had a good time helping feed hungry people in our own town.

My goal is that volunteering at the Food Bank is like a pyramid scheme. I started and taught Carter, she brought her advisory along and they all volunteered. In the future they each come back and bring a couple more friends and so and so on. If everyone just volunteered once or twice a year and brought a few friends who all did the same we could greatly impact the lives of hungry children and seniors who appreciate the good food from the Food Bank.

So thanks Mr. Bohanek’s Advisory and any other advisories that went to the Food Bank today. I appreciate your volunteering and I want you to know that the work you did of sorting sweet potatoes and putting them into net bags so people can take them home easily is good and needed work. You made a difference in the world today.

Throw It In A Pot Dinner


I am a well-documented cheep skate. What is a “cheep skate” anyway? I digress. Anyway I hate to let perfectly good food go bad in the refrigerator to the point that it becomes inedible and must be tossed. As a person who likes a good deal I often buy too much of something at the store just because it is a good deal. If I had a bunch of children none of this would be a problem because I am excellent at feeding multitudes with things I have created with just the food I have on hand.

Unfortunately, I live in a house where the number of people eating dinner is an unreliable number. I never know if Russ is going to be around or if Carter is going to eat what I make. The best answer I can come up with is to make up a meal from the food I have just before any of it goes bad and then freeze the newly created dish so I can serve it to Russ when he is actually home. I just have to remember to defrost things from the freezer, not my strong suit.

Since we were away for three days in Boston I came home to a number of items that really needed to be used today. So I put everything together in this chicken chili and came up with something Russ loved and Carter was willing to eat. I think I will freeze it for the State Fair Horse Show this weekend.

Of course you can substitute anything you have on hand to make this recipe.

3 large yellow onions chopped

3 peppers- yellow, orange and red- chopped

3 garlic cloves- minced

2 cans of diced tomatoes

3 cans of bean- black, red and cannellini- drained and rinsed

1 can of creamed corn- I thought it was corn kernels

2 cans of chicken stock

5 Cooked boneless skinless chicken thighs- chopped

4 big handfuls of chopped Kale

Big bunch of cilantro

1/3 cup Chili powder’

4 T. Cumin

1 T. garlic powder

Pinch of cayenne pepper

2 T. lime juice

1 T. brown sugar

Salt and Pepper

Spray a big stockpot with Pam and put the onion in on medium heat. Cook for three minutes, stirring every so often. Add the peppers and the garlic and cook another three minutes. Add the spices and salt and pepper cook another minute. Dump in all the canned vegetables and add the chicken stock and turn the heat up to simmer for twenty minutes.

Add the kale and cook for five minutes. Add the chicken and cook until hot. Right before serving add the cilantro, lime Juice and brown sugar.

Serve with crushed corn tortillas, shredded cheese, avocado and sour cream, or just plain if you are watching your weight.

A Labradoodle Would Make A Great College Mascot


We are home from looking a couple of colleges and Shay greeted us with the best “I’m so excited you are home” jumping and kissing. There is no better welcome that that of a soft and cuddly ball of fur who lets you know you were greatly missed.

We have seen some schools with different breeds of dogs as mascots and I am sure they all have their good qualities, like being loyal and protective and maybe even a little bit intimidating to rival teams, but none are as cute as a labradoodle.

Now cute is not what founding- mostly fathers -went for when they picked mascots. Yale picked a Bulldog and I don’t think of the slobbery muscle bound Handsome Dan as the kind of dog you want to snuggle with. In fact many Universities have Bulldogs as mascots, think University of Georgia, “Go Dawgs.”. Huskies and Terriers are also popular dogs, followed by Greyhounds, and even a Saint Bernard.

As far as I can tell Labradors and Golden retrievers are not mascots, even though retrieving knowledge seems like something colleges might want students to do. I am yet to come across a poodle as a mascot, even at a girl’s school.

It seems like with all the political correctness in Mascots these days that if a school needed to change from something that is now considered insensitive that the perfect answer is to pick the super sensitive and loving Labradoodle as your mascot. Now other doodle dogs could be considered also, like the happy goldendoodle or snappy cockadoodle.

Just think how easy it would be to get the student body to rally around the cutest face a dog has ever had? There would be no religious issue with a doodle dog, like some fundamentalist have with Devil mascots.

Colleges have long ago realized that petting a sweet furry puppy is one of the best ways for students to relieve stress during exams. Really the best reason to have a labradoodle as a mascot is they would act as a stress reliever year round. I just think that a labradoodle would attract the nicest group of applicants to a school so what better reason to change your mascot.

The Boston Selling Point

For Carter looking at colleges is as much about looking at the city as it is looking at the schools and Boston has a lot of positives. For Carter Boston has one thing that no other city has, her eight year old cousin Sarah Lange, otherwise known as “party of one.”  
Sarah is Russ’ first cousin Mike and his wife Andrea’s daughter and she is a bundle of fire. Her older brother Jason is a senior in high school this year and is a good egg too, but since he is leaving for college he does not hold the draw that Sarah does. Sarah in great anticipation of Carter’s visit had told her whole class of her visit as well as a wrote about it in her Friday Journal at school.
Today we spent the afternoon and evening with the Boston Lange’s doing off the beaten path tourist things natives never do unless relatives come to visit. The first stop at the Mapparium in the Mary Baker Eddy Museum was a visit to a giant glass globe of the world as it existed in 1935 where we stood on a glass bridge on the inside of the globe. It had all the acoustical properties of a dome so we could whisper across the room to each other and sound like we were talking in a normal voice right next to each other.
After looking at the opulent splendor of the mother church of the Christian Scientist as well as the beautiful reflecting pool we all piled in the Lange car to go to Castle Island in South Boston. Sarah was very disappointed that the “castle” was just a fort with cannons on top, but we enjoyed the walk around the property that looks across the harbor to Logan airport. Sarah was able to quiz Carter about all her favorite American Girl and Magic Tree House books.     
We took a circuitous route back to Beacon Hill where we parked and continued our walk before stopping for a fabulous dinner. Sarah pulled out her Friday Journal so Carter could read the letter she had written to her in it. Carter reciprocated and wrote Sarah a letter back in the journal with the promise to stay in touch. The love an adoration of the girl cousins was palpable. 
The draw of all these fun Lange’s gives Boston quite a leg up. Andrea already started planning our visit for Carter’s first thanksgiving vacation in college with us all going to Plymouth Plantation. I would love for Carter to have Mike and Andrea nearby as surrogate parents.  
Now we are going to have to see what the NYC Lange’s are going to bring to the table when we go to visit colleges there. The Carter’s are going to have to lobby for Washington, DC Schools. Any other relatives out there who want Carter nearby who have a good college?

Her People


Looking at colleges has been hard since for the most part Carter’s response to the few places we have seen has been, “not my people.” Her idea that she needs to leave the south for a change of venue has drawn us to Boston to try and find Carter’s people. The funniest thing about Carter’s people is that she wants them to all be different, so diversity is at the top of her list.
Well Boston certainly has provided the diversity she has been craving. Hooray! As we toured a school this morning he saw every type of face and Carter felt happy about that. Russ heard good things about the academic program and I just felt relief that their was at least one school on the “I like it list.”
Since we are at the beginning of the search I had no guilt about not spending the afternoon looking at any schools and instead going to the North End for lunch in hopes of getting to eat at Neptune Oyster. A three hour wait was the greeting we received so we opted for an Italian place and made plans to go back to Neptune tomorrow and get in line before they open.
With the change from seafood to Italian I had to add guilt back into my day since I shared a pizza with Russ. To overcome that guilt Russ and I decided to walk back to our hotel near Fenway, which was a good two plus mile walk, still not enough to walk off the pizza, but better than not walking it.  
Carter took the T back to the hotel so she could do homework, now more enthusiastic about grades since she has at least one school on her list. This meant that Russ and I could shop a little on our walk, add more guilt to the day. Our first stop was Allen Edmonds, the only shoe manufacturer on earth that makes shoes in Russ’ weird size of 14aaa. Even though Allen Edmonds makes a couple of models in his size they don’t normally stock them in the stores, and he usually never gets them on sale. But today was his lucky day in that the manager ordered him his very special size, but also gave him the sale price.
We continued our walk to the needlepoint store and I got a cute ornament canvas of the ducks at Boston Common with little Santa hats on. Russ was a good egg and sat patiently in the husband chair while I looked at canvases. Only a little guilt since I got a “Boston” canvas and not one I could get just anywhere.
Last stop was the Marimeko store which has been a favorite brand of mine since the sixties. Talk about not changing, but I still love it. Back at the hotel for a little rest before heading out to Cambridge for some Korean food. Carter’s favorite kind of diversity extends not just from friends but also to food. I wonder how much guilt dinner will entail?  

Joys of Flying
We are trying to go to Boston today to look at colleges. Carter came home all excited from a good day at school in anticipation of this fun long weekend. Even Russ was on time from the office and we got to the airport in record Friday afternoon traffic time. The airport is full of college students traveling on this long weekend. It appears to be some kind of college marketing rule that students flying through RDU be required to wear at least one item of identifiable college clothing.  
Apparently the weather in the Northeast is very bad so the flight coming into RDU was delayed. There is nothing I hate more than hurry up and wait. As Delta made a very slow roll to put us on the flight that was all ready and hour and a half late, we knew it was not a good sign. Sure enough once we were all strapped in and heating up from the lack of air conditioning the captain lets us know that our window of take off had been pushed back by another hour. So here we sit trapped and sardine like with the door open. The excitement of going to Boston has already worn off for Carter.  
Thanks to Russ always doing everything to get the exit row we at least have leg room. The flight attendant just brought us water in hopes that will keep us pacified. I went to put my tray table down to place my water on and she told me I was not allowed to use it since I was in an exit row. No where does it say I can’t use it.  
“Why can’t I use it while we are just sitting here?” I ask.
“You can’t because you are in an exit row.”
When I ask her what kind of emergency we are going to have sitting at the gate with the door open Carter gives me that, “Stop breaking the rules look.”

I opened my “Safe and Secure” instructions for exit row passengers and can’t find a rule about not using my tray table, but I came upon a disturbing message that “Exit Weight not to exceed 42 pounds.”

I start to look around for any infants and toddlers who are going to be the only ones I throw out the window in case of emergency. Of course the under 42 pound people would have no trouble fitting around my tray table if I were allowed to put it down. Maybe they want that extra room for the parents to come and throw their own child out the window.
Maybe this flying to look at colleges will make Carter want to go to school closer to home. Certainly driving on I-95 is looking better than flying.

Reunion Lunch


There needs to be more reunion lunches in my life. Today I had a visit from my old friend Penny Soder and it was great, but also made me miss our crowd of friends.   Penny and I have multiple connections. The first is she is married to one of my best friends from college, Doug Soder.

Doug is the reason we live in our house because when we decided to move here Doug, who was in Raleigh, told us about Hope Valley as a nice neighborhood and the rest is history. Penny ended up getting a job with my Dad and we worked together here and in London. Sadly the Soders left North Carolina for Long Meadow, Massachusetts with Penny vowing it would just be a few years that was 19 years ago.

Although we have seen each other on short visits and farm reunion weekends with college crowd, spouses and kids it has been too many years between visits as all our children got busier. We vowed today that once all our kids were in college we would have a real reunion.

I got to thinking about different groups of friends I have had over the years, boarding school, college, school in France, Washington friends, beach house friends, work friends, the list goes on. Facebook has changed the world to be able to keep up with what people are doing now, but it is not a good place to reminisce with groups of old friends. What I want is to have real face-to-face, live reunions with all my groups.

I know that people are busy and groups change thanks to moves, divorces and fights, but really all those things could be over come. If I won the lottery I think it would be fun to buy a big resort and just have a different reunion every weekend.

My family has had a fairly good track of reunions mostly put on by my parent’s generation. My cousins and I are now feeling it is time for us to step up and put on the next reunion but finding a time is proving the most difficult part of the whole thing.

The actual reunion is easy, bring people together who liked each other at one point, but have just not seen each other, give them a little food and a good place to sit and talk and the rest will take care of itself. I’m calling out to all my groups, lets have some reunions.

You Get What You Pay For

Today, as a Mah Jongg game was ending my friends puled out their coins to pay the winner. Not much, a quarter or two. Since one of the players could not find her Mah Jongg change purse in her giant pocketbook she rummaged around the bottom of the purse pulling out lose nickels and dimes. I had a flash back to my childhood when we used to feel the lining in my mother’s extra purses that were stored in her closet. It was always a good source of change, which back in the day could really buy something, like a 10¢ Hershey bar.

It got me thinking about how prices have changed, but not always up. Yes, most food has gone up, especially eggs right now thanks to the great chicken flu and soon they may go up again now that McDonalds will be serving Egg McMuffins all day. Then there are the prices that have gone down.

When I was in junior high school I remember one particularly rich kid who brought a calculator to school. He bragged it cost something like $40. We all oohhed and aahhed over the thing that could do long division out like 8 places. Today I saw a calculator at the dollar store, but they were 2 for a dollar. The calculator today at .50¢ is even better than that $40 one because it was solar and never even needed batteries.

All things getting cheaper is not always good. My friend Lynn and I went to get a Mani-Pedi today. Back in the day a Mani-pedi was such a special treat that no one I knew ever got them. Today you can find a deal on a polish around the corner for very little, but something has changed.

Back in the 80’s when nails started getting big having them done was still a treat. The manicurist treated you nicely and may have even complimented the height of your teased hairdo. Today getting a manicure is practically combat duty. I have a toenail with a line in it right now, how it got there I have no idea, but the technician was quick to tell me of my imperfection.

Then the manicure started. After she removed my old polish she questioned me like the Gestapo under a bright light about why my nails were yellow. “I don’t know,” I told her casually.

“You must wear base coast,” she barked at me.

“I do, always.”

“Then you left your polish on too long. You must change it more often.”

“More than every five days?” I asked, since that is as long as any polish will stay on my nails.

“That’s good.” She softened slightly, still trying to blame me for my yellow nails.

“You must have had a dark color on.”

“No, always nude.”

Unsatisfied that she could not diagnose my issue and lay blame with me she gave up. Somehow I felt like I was a nail criminal. The mani-pedi was cheep, especially in relation to how expensive eggs have gotten, but I gladly would have paid a little more to have it be a less combative experience. This was not an isolated incident. I have tried many places with similar results. Perhaps I am on some nail wanted poster. I know I don’t have perfect nails to work on, but if I did I could do them myself.

Potty Day at The Apple Store


I promise I did not throw my old 5s phone in the toilet just to get a new phone for if I did I would have done it on a day I had seven free hours to replace it or even better on a day when Russ was home, but I am just not that smart. Instead I made an idiot move and had my phone fall out of my back pocket into the potty for the second time in my life. To make matters worse, not only did I disable my communication device but also Russ’s in the transaction of trying to replace mine.
As soon as I heard the plop in the water I knew my day had changed dramatically. Russ is in Colorado on a big week away so I had no tech department to lean on to help me fix the mess I had made. I quickly dropped my phone in a bag of rice, which really did nothing and drove down to the Apple Store, which really is more like a nursing home these days with people old enough to be my grandparents trying to understand their devices.
After waiting almost an hour to see a tech I was told despite having Apple Care I would not be able to get a new phone for five days since my “old model” was not in stock. This is a brilliant marketing move to sell me a new upgraded model. I was passed from a tech to a salesman who asked me virtually no questions and had a new model in my hands within moments. Also too good to be true.
After credit card exchanges and contracts to sign I was passed off to an install specialist who walked me through downloading my info from the cloud. Thank goodness for the cloud, but the walk through was a crawl that took an hour and I finally had to walk out before all my apps had been loaded, but my tech promised me I was well on my way.
I called Carter as my test call. Of course she was in class and could not answer, so I left a message, confident that the phone worked. As I was walking back to my car she returned my call with the question, “Why did Daddy’s name and number come up on the voicemail with your voice?” This was a technical question to me, so I just thought it was because he was the account holder. WRONG!
I got to lunch and as my friend Shelayne arrived she asked me if I got her text. No. “I got a text from you from a strange number,” she told me. I looked at her phone and discovered the text I sent her was attached to Russ’ phone number and that the Apple Store had not ported my phone number over to the new phone, but had changed Russ’. S%#* T. Then I got a text that was meant for Russ. DOUBLE S&#T!

I sent Russ an email alerting him that his calls and texts were coming to me and promised I would fix it, but of course I had no idea if that was possible. After a quick lunch it was back to the Apple Store where I told the first victim, I mean employee, that I might wreck the store. He quickly recognized the error of the store’s way and got me Ricky, a person trained in hostage negotiations, to help fix my problem.
Turns out once they made this mistake they could not restore Russ ‘ phone at all. It would take his going to get a whole new SIM card somewhere out in the wild wild west between important and back to back meetings. Right!  
Apple could restore my number to my new phone and it only involved returning the current phone and repurchasing it and giving me a new SIM card. After an hour of that Ricky was on the way to restoring my apps and he discovered that the new phone I was sold was the wrong storage size by 300%. TRIPPLE S#%T!
Return the phone again and get the right one and download everything from the cloud again, check it, wipe the old phone clean and return it. Seven hours in total at the Apple Store. I got in my car and discovered that my new phone did not pair with my car, nor my watch and many of my apps needed passwords I am too old to remember. QUADRUPLE S#%T! Only appropriate since this all started by dropping my phone in the toilet.

Laundry Heating




The cold and rain continues for day twelve. Just when I thought we were almost headed to sunnier skies the rain started up again this afternoon. All this time being trapped inside has caused Shay to go into a doggie hibernation where she stays curled up beside me wherever I am. This is fine if I am sitting on my bed typing on my laptop, but if I am walking on the treadmill she is perturbed about having to snuggle on her dog bed by the drafty fireplace.


So far my favorite stuck-at-home-sick-of-the-rain job is folding warm laundry. I have discovered that if I take a hot load out of the dryer and throw it over me while I am sorting and folding it I can stay quite warm. I am more caught up on laundry than I ever am, with the exception of Carter’s clothes. I have begged her to give me all her dirty stuff, but despite the piles on the floor she claims they are all clean.

What she does not realize is I am really just looking for an excuse to snuggle under warm clothes.


The thing I hate about this time of year is the cross over from air conditioning the house to running the heat. As a child we never had air conditioning so we just went from having the windows open to closing them to at last begging my parents to turn on the heat. Of course our HVAC system is much more modern, so it can go right from cooling to heating with the setting of the sun, but somehow it seems wasteful to turn the heat on for just a few hours to heat the whole house when Shay and I are home alone. Running the dryer might be expensive as a heating source, but if I am doing it to dry clothes and using them as my way to keep a chill at bay then they are doing double duty.


The one strange thing about losing weight is that I am always cold. When I was really fat I was not hot, but I was never cold. Once I shed my extra thick layer of blubber I lost my ability to keep warmth inside.   I am not advocating getting fatter, but I do miss having feet that don’t need to have socks and fuzzy slippers on them at all times. For now I am just going to dry a few extra towels and keep folding and unfolding them. At least I can pretend to be productive while trying to stay warm.

Don’t Be a Slave to Your Stuff

On this cold windy damp day after at least ten days of rain I think I have actually turned into a hermit. I stayed in all day to be with Russ for the few hours he was home before having to fly off for a week of work. Turned out staying in with him meant that I binged watched HGTV home renovation shows like, Love It or List It and The Renovation Brothers.  
After a summer of cleaning out closest and redoing floors I am looking at everything else in my house with a new eye. I called my friend Lane to work on recovering the almost 20 year old furniture in the playroom. Once she and I moved some things around I discovered piles of out grown toys and baskets of dried up markers. The cleaning out never ends.
As I was watching TV shows with young couples buying their first homes I was wishing there was a different home show that gave advice on how you build a house for the today and the future. One couple who were buying their first home in a very expensive neighborhood had to spend over a million dollars to get a small three bedroom house.  
They were in their thirties and childless but had high end tastes. Nothing wrong with any of that. The one thing they did in their renovation that I was practically screaming at the TV about was the wife took one of the spare bedrooms and turned it into a closet. She did ask that the clothing racks be made in a way that when they had children she could turn the room into a nursery.
Wrong, wrong, wrong I thought. If you have so many clothes that a walk in closet does not hold them and you need a whole additional room how are you ever going to have room for a baby? Decide now what you really want to keep and can actually use and sell those beautiful clothes you don’t need while they are still in fashion and have value. It was no wonder to me why this couple still did not own at house at their age since she spent all their money on clothes.
The best lesson I learned from my summer of cleaning is to have a keen eye about what I need to keep and declutter the best I can everyday. This clean way of living carries over to clean eating. 
I still have many rooms, garages and attics that need to have the tornado cleaning treatment, but I figure, one room at a time and maybe I can get the whole house done in twelve months. I should have spent today working on my office rather than needlepointing while I binged watched. I could have seen the same shows, but been more productive. Wait, needlepointing is productive. At least I done use one third of my available bedrooms as a closet.


Pasta Carbonara – Russ Lange’s Favorite Birthday Meal


There is no food on earth Russ loves more than pasta carbonara, but because he is such a nice husband he has pretty much given up eating pasta at home. Back in the army days of our marriage we did not have any governor on the amount of pasta we ate and it showed on both of us. Now in our clear middle age we have cut pasta down to birthdays only and it is about the only way we are going to live into old age.
Since yesterday was Russ birthday we got to have his very favorite meal. It may be a very fattening meal, but it is about the easiest thing to make on earth and you probably have everything in your kitchen to make it on any night. See, carbonara could be called bacon and eggs spaghetti. So next time you are looking for a fast and yummy meal, make this.
10 oz. Bacon- cut into 1 inch pieces

1 lb spaghetti

8 eggs

1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Black pepper
Put the bacon in a big fry pan and cook it over a medium heat stirring it often to cook it evenly. Don’t cook it until it is too crispy. Keep the bacon in the pan, but tilt it to the side and spoon out most of the oil. 
While the bacon is cooking boil a big pot of water and cook the spaghetti to just a tad under the time suggested on the box.  
While the pasta is cooking beat the eggs and add a big amount of black pepper. That is then “carbon” part of carbonara.
As soon as the pasta is cook use tongs to transfer it to the fry pan with the bacon and the little bit of bacon fat that was still left in the pan. Reserve the pasta water. Turn the heat on medium on the fry pan. Pour the eggs evenly over all the pasta and bacon and keep turning the pasta over for a minute so the ages can cook a little on the hot pasta. Add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the pan to help even out the eggs. Add then Parmesan and keep stirring. Add a little more pepper and serve. You don’t want the eggs to cook too much, they should not look like scrambled eggs on pasta, but a yellow coating.
Since this is like breakfast it makes a great leftover for the morning.

I’m Lucky Russ was Born


On this day fifty-one years ago at Fort Dix, New Jersey, baby Russ Lange came into the world. Little did I know as a much older woman, at three and a half, on this same day, where I was probably at nursery school in the church basement in Dayton, Ohio, that someday I would meet him.
While I was growing up in Connecticut, Russ was in Buck’s County, PA delivering newspapers, mowing lawns and attending school with the same twenty kids who were tracked together for their superior brains. They all wondered why Russ did not invite them to his Bar Mitzvah. It never dawned on them that he was not Jewish. When he was thirteen I was seventeen and leading the chapel services at boarding school with no idea that one day he and I would stand up in church together.
Russ went to college at Drexel University and while he was a new Freshman I was an experienced Senior at Dickinson College. He had his head down in his engineering books while I was doing my best to get college credit for classes I made up and ran myself. I could have used his brilliance to help me through college, but as of yet I had not met him.
Eight years later while I was demonstrating a new System 100 mail opening and extracting machine to a large group of visitors at the OPEX, Corp. grand opening celebration I did not notice the tall electrical engineer in the back of the room who was responsible for that very machine. Lucky for me he liked the way I could bring mail opening to life.
Two years after he came to work at OPEX he finally got up the courage to ask me out and ten days later to ask me to marry him. Little did I know all the great things he would bring to my life. Everything about Russ was different from what I knew and visa versa. Somehow the differences have melded into an exciting life.
So happy birthday Russ Lange! You are by far the best thing to happen to me and because of you we got Carter. I am forever thankful for your love, generosity, patience and sense of humor. I know I am lucky you took a chance on this crazy lady.  

Automated Hell

Automated Hell

As a menopausal middle-aged woman I take a number of daily prescriptions that my health care providers have told me I will be on “for the rest of my life.” The idea that I take a pill when I wake up and two when I go to bed does not really bother me, that is until it is time for my prescription to be renewed.  


Needing to get my blood work done in order to get my medication renewed keeps me to a fairly tight schedule for having my annual physical. The only problem is that I get my blood drawn and my doctor sends it to a lab to be analyzed. I can’t leave the doctor’s office with a physical paper prescription because he has to wait for the test results to know what dosage I should get. “Don’t worry, the pharmacy will take care of it,” I am told. Not exactly.  


Earlier this week I noticed one of my pill bottles was down to about four pills left. I called the automated phone system at my pharmacy to order my next 90 day supply. “That prescription is not refillable. We will contact your health care provider.” I have heard that message before. Sometimes it works, but when it doesn’t … well all I can say is it is amazing you did not see me on the news tonight wrecking a store.


I called the automated system yesterday and learned my doc had still not responded to the pharmacy request. I called and talked to a live person who said they had sent the e-scrip, a secret way pharmacies and doctors do things now, they had also faxed a request and called and gotten no where. The Pharma tech asked me if I would call my Doctor.


That is the worst thing that could happen. Calling the office meant nineteen automated levels of hell, having to listen to the entirety of each menu before pushing the numeral of my choice, since “Menus have changed,” to then be told prescription refills take 48 hours and no person will possibly call you back for 48 hours. I almost broke down and pushed the numeral for “A baby is coming out of my vagina right now,” but that would just get me to 911.


After leaving multiple messages and pushing varying combinations of menu buttons I finally got a live person who I told my tale of woe to, “Yes, I see the request for the Prescription that came in four days ago and has not been approved yet.” This woman was actually embarrassed for the lack of attention to the simple request and got my nurse.


“Yes, your results were all fine,” she told me.  


“I know, I got the results last month after my exam,” I said through gritted teeth.  


“I’ll call your prescription in.”


“Thank You.”


An hour later I got a call from another person at my Doc’s. “We sent your prescription.”


“Thank You.” I thought it was already done, but I did not say anything.


Three hours later I went to the store to pick it up.  


“We don’t have your prescription from your Doctor.”


“What the %$^&!”


“Maybe they left it on the voice mail.”


“I’ll shop for a few minutes so you can find it. Two different people told me they sent it.”


Twenty minutes later I came back. No scrip. I have not been on blood pressure medicine before this; perhaps I now need a fourth prescription.


I called my Docs office and left an irate message on the line that only gets listened to every 48 hours. I will be dead by the time they listen to it.


The sweet pharmacist promised she would call them directly through the special bat line they actually answer when another doctor or pharmacist calls. Three hours later she called me at home to tell me she finally got it. I don’t think I can do this every year for the rest of my life.