New Year’s Eve is Not My Holiday

I’m not a big New Year’s Eve gal. The calendar changing from one day to the next is no different tonight as the next night or the one after that. I want everyday to be a big celebration as well as a time to reflect on how things are going.  

  
For this “normal” day I had a special treat to start it off, our long time friend, and special member of our family as our babysitter for many years, Megan Ketch came for breakfast. Megan spent five years with us while she was in high school and college studying theatre. We knew she was going places when she left us for the big city of New York and since has gone on to a successful acting career. She is currently in Jane the Virgin on the CW and has just been cast as a lead in a CBS hour long drama American Gothic, a series starting this summer. Having Megan around makes us all happy. That was my the celebration part of my day.

  
After our visit I went to do my good deed of the day. Chapel Hill Needlepoint is moving locations. Due to issues beyond her control Nancy, the owner, got the joy of moving everything in the store today, which is right at the start of her big annual sale. Today a few loyal friends came to help unpack and hang up fibers. The new location is a little farther for me to get to, but it has a lot of perks. It is on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd right by the Root Cellar, where the old Foster’s used to be and just beside Fly Leaf Books. The stitching table still be there and now we have places to get lunch.  
I came home in time to get to see Carter for a few moments before she was off to spend New Years with a friend. When you are young, you feel compelled to make something over the New Year. When you are my age you are just happy you have a new year.
I got to think back about the good and the bad in this year. I lost my dear Uncle Wilson, my father’s only brother this year. He was important to me because he was always there and now that he is not I have to keep him alive in my heart. Russ’ brother David has had a tough year with a bad heart attack and now we are awaiting a new heart for him. The good is that he is still here.
Thinking about these things puts any other issues in perspective. How much weight I have gained during “the eating season” seems trivial, especially since tomorrow brings “the diet season.” I am a little calmer about the college search for Carter. I know that the next twelve months will be stressful for her, so I need to keep in mind not to add to her stress and just be supportive. That is going to be something I have to work hard on all year.  
Russ too has worked hard all year and I need to keep things going at home so he is free to work on his company. Helping him with his burdens will be my role. I am lucky that the rest of my family is well and I count my blessing that I have my parents, my dear friends and meaningful work. I’m not really taking stock here at year end, just trying to be mindful everyday of what is good, what I have control of and what is worth ignoring.
I hope that you have more good days than bad in the next year and that laughter fills more hours.  


The World Is Small

Last night in Charleston Russ took Carter and me to a small Lebanese restaurant for dinner. As we were sitting at our table a family of four was seated next to us. Actually, I really did not pay that close attention to them because by the time they sat down I was trying to dissect exactly what was in the spicy hummus with fava beans we were thoroughly enjoying. After a few moments the mother leaned over and politely asked Carter if she was a CIT from camp Cheerio.  
After Carter quickly responded, “Yes,” the daughter leaned forward saying she knew it was her. Turns out she had been one of Carter’s campers. The mother had nothing but the nicest things to say about Carter as her daughter’s CIT, “you are famous!” What she was famous for I do not know, but it was a small world.
Today, I had to get up early to leave Russ and Carter so I could drive back to Durham to do my job as photography chair at the Deb ball tonight. Carter had a very early final basketball game. It was a game I was sorry to miss as I got the play by play via text. One player broke her nose and on the good news front Carter actually scored. The team won the game in overtime by two points. Maybe it was best I was not there, since I’m not sure my heart could have taken it.

  
On a high from a winning game, and since it was over by eleven in the morning, Russ and Carter went to visit Middleton Place, a wonderful southern plantation. After spending time visiting all the animals in the exhibits Russ and Carter went to go have lunch in the restaurant. A women they did not know approached them and introduced herself as Priscilla Goodwin from Virginia. “Are you Russ and Carter Lange? You don’t know me but I read your wife’s blog and I read you were in Charleston for the tournament, have fun.”

  
I don’t think I know Priscilla, but what are the chances that someone who reads this blog and does not know us runs into Russ and Carter in a place none of us lives and recognizes them from pictures? Priscilla if you are reading this now, let me know how you started reading the blog in the first place. I would love to make the full circle on this small world story.
So from basketball, to plantations to debutants it has been a busy day. You never know who is around the next corner, but chances are you have some connection to them, if you can just figure it out.


What Are You Going To Remember?

My college gang of friends used to have a challenge saying we used with each other when we wanted to encourage a friend to do something fun, rather than what they probably should be doing. “What are you going to remember?” I would taunt a friend who I wanted to go on a road trip with me. 
It was certainly true as I look back all these years later. I remember well the “tinsal” (our slang for tinsel) we draped around ourselves for a Christmas party. Do I remember taking finals that semester, no. In fact I can’t even remember what classes I took.
The things in life that are most memorable are not the everyday, but the specials days, especially trips. Today was the second day of playing in this basketball tournament for Carter here in Charleston. For the most part we are going to forget the basketball playing, but the time we got to spend as a family seeing new things and meeting interesting people is “what we are going to remember.”
This afternoon after all the bball was over and the showers were taken Russ, Carter and I ventured back to historic Charleston to walk the streets looking at the gorgeous houses and learning the history. While Russ was searching for parking Carter and I walked through a three hundred year old cemetery until we were told it was closing. I did not know cemeteries ever closed.
Since we were still waiting for Russ we crossed the street where Carter struck up a conversation with a lovely Gullah woman selling her Sweetgrass baskets. If you are unfamiliar with the coiled baskets you might be surprised at how costly the oldest African crafts brought by West African slaves to South Carolina are.
Laurie Bonneau introduced herself to Carter and answered her many questions about making Sweetgrass baskets. In an age of the same mass produced crap that is sold all over the world it was delightful to see something so distinctively tied to this place.  

  
Laurie showed Carter exactly which strands in the basket were grass, bullrush, pine needles or Palmetto fronds. Suddenly that high price for the small basket was understandable. She showed her a piece made by an unnamed relative she might be married to and how it was not quite as fine as one she had made. After all she had been making baskets since she was seven, she should be good at it.  
Laurie had one show stopper of a basket that she took off the fence to let Carter see that had a $5,000 price tag. “How long did it take for you to make this?” Carter asked. The answer of four months makes that $5,000 seem small. Sadly we did not buy any baskets today, but Laurie could not have been nicer.
Russ eventually appeared and we bid our basket teacher goodbye and went off in search of the most beautiful house in Charleston. We certainly did not come to a conclusion because at almost every corner we turned we saw a new favorite house. We did agree that we really liked the houses in the alleys as opposed to the ones on the big important streets because of the privacy the alleys seemed to have.

 
Towards the end of our walking tour we window shopped at a gallery we all agreed was a favorite, a place to commission a portrait of your dog or horse, or just buy a painting of some random cute dog. The perfect art.
I am fairly certain that Carter will always remember learning about Gullah Sweetgrass baskets from Laurie and not the score of her basketball game, which I have already forgotten. 


It’s All About The People

The very best reason for me to come on this basketball trip should be to act as parent support for my player. Truth be told the best reason is to get to spend time with my family. I don’t think that Russ, Carter and I would have had this much togetherness if we had been home and it has been a pleasure.
It has not just been our nuclear family, but the real bonus is that the tournament is in Charleston, so tonight we got to have dinner with my cousin Mary and her husband Ward who live here. Even though Mary and I are second cousins we are more like sisters who don’t get to see each other much, but actually like each other. Mary’s grandmother and my grandmother were two of six sisters in a crazy Michie branch of our family and our husbands are part of the support group, “people married to people with Michie DNA.” We never have enough time together so tonight was extra fun. After we drove away from a yummy dinner Carter said, “We don’t get to see them enough.” I agree.

  
I have also had a lot of togetherness with our basketball family and that has been fun too. I am particularly grateful for such a nice group of girls on the team and their equally delightful parents. There is very little drama with this group and that is such a rarity these days.

  
Our game today did not exactly go as planned. We are here for a basketball tournament after all. But that is not stopping us from having a good time. There is a game tomorrow to make up for today.
Before the game today we all went to downtown Charleston together and did a little shopping in the market before grabbing lunch. We are certainly not the only tourists in Charleston. As Carter and I were getting out of our car on Church street I saw Woody Allen and his stepdaughter/wife Soon-Yi walking down the street. Carter was could not believe I recognized him so quickly and got a picture. You just never know who you are going to see when you are on a basketball trip.

  
We may have come here for a sport, but like most things I am here for the people. How the games go is not the most important thing, but the memories we are making from the fun we are having is the thing I will remember.  


Basketball Logistics

  I woke up this morning to the news report, “Today is the busiest travel day of the year. More than Thanksgiving, with Christmas on a Friday, making it a long weekend, for most returning home today to get back to work on Monday.” This news would make little difference to me normally since don’t travel for Christmas, but unfortunately today we did have to travel.
Carter and her basketball team have a big tournament in Charleston, SC starting tomorrow which meant that today was the travel day. Now as far as places to have to go as a parent support system, Charleston sounds lovely. The only problem is to get here from Durham involves some interaction with I-95 and for an unknown reason to me, it is still just two lanes each direction in North Carolina.
I can give a first hand account for the accuracy of the news. Today was the biggest travel day of the year. The trip, which should have taken four hours and twenty-nine minutes, according to google maps took over six hours and that was with minimal stops. The things that made no sense to us were the cars from Illinois, or California that were heading south. Where were those people coming from or going to? Now the New Jersey or Connecticut cars I could see might be going to Florida and certainly the South Carolina cars were heading home from visiting relatives in more northern states, but the random Wyoming people, what the hell, stay out west we have no room for you on I -95 today.
The speed on the highway was a good twenty to thirty miles slower than it should have been. The worst drivers were the Ontario Canada cars (sorry Stuart) who changed lanes with no signals with hardly enough room to butt in.
Amazingly the whole team showed up at the restaurant we were having family dinner at at the right time. Many of us skipped checking in the hotel until after dinner so we would be on time, but that was no big deal. After dinner the waiters could not figure out how to split the check up so we just paid the whole thing and will figure it out tomorrow. After the terrible day of driving there was no reason to make everyone sit any more than necessary.  
Now we are tucked in at our hotel. Apparently there are 80 teams playing in this tournament and at least one of them is having a party outside our room, by the pool. I can see this is going to be a very relaxing few days. For now I am praying for good playing.


Pink Peppermint Stick Ice Cream for Christmas- or Afterwards

  

Years go I got one of those Cuisineart Ice Cream Machines that uses a frozen container that spins in the machine to make ice cream. The instructions were always poor and I put the machine in the appliance storage area, to rarely be used. Of course there is a good reason not to have an ice cream machine near by, but Christmas and the season of breaking your diet is the only time it might come out.
For this Christmas I decided I would try one more time to make ice cream with the machine and if it did not turn out I could make something else. My father always liked peppermint stick ice cream with chocolate sauce from a restaurant called the Rice Patty in Georgetown, SC, so I attempted to recreate that.
Since I have never had any luck with the recipes that came with the machine I read number of recipes online and made a mashup of various ones. Carter declared it was the best ice cream ever.  
1 cup milk

2 cups heavy cream

2 eggs

1/3 cup of sugar

1 small package of sugar free instant vanilla pudding (the real secret)

1/3 cup of crushed up candy canes

Good splash of peppermint extract

Pinch of salt
In a kitchen aid stand mixer put the milk, cream, eggs and sugar and whisk on medium high until it gets a little thicker.
Add the vanilla pudding mix and beat again for 20 seconds.
Add the peppermint candy and extract and salt and mix again.
Pour the mixture into a container with a lid and chill for at least four hours, but overnight is better.
Make sure the freezer bowl section of the ice cram maker has been in the freezer for at least six hours. Pour the ice cream liquid into it and place the blade in and put in the ice cream machine. Let spin for at least 20 minutes or until the it is frozen.
Remove the ice cream into a container and put in the freezer to finish hardening up. The best thing about it is that the pudding keeps it from getting too hard.
Serve with fudge sauce and crushed peppermint stick on top.


Christmas Come and Gone

   
 

As a kid riding in the car with my mother, stuck behind the trash collectors driving up Ridgefield Road, she used to say, “They are slow as Christmas.” It took me a while to understand that what she was describing was how slow it feels for Christmas morning to come. I should have gotten that as a child because waiting to see if Santa came felt like an eternity. Those last few days in school before Christmas break dragged on and on, but then December 22, 23 and 24 were days with 36, 48 and 56 hours long each.
Sadly, now Christmas comes in a blink. There is hardly enough time to get everything done. I only bought one gift before November, but that was something meaningful from Italy for my sister Janet. This year I paid Carter to wrap all the presents that were not for her and even then I was still up working late last night. Russ jumped in to help me this morning with the preparations of the Christmas feast while Carter was still asleep and before my family arrived for the one day all year we are together. Thank goodness for his precision carrot peeling skills we actually got everything ready on time.
Around noon two cars full of Carters laden down with wrapped gifts arrived, making multiple trips carrying things into the house. Then the gift giving began. We had said this was going to be a smaller Christmas, but still the opening takes time to ohh and ahh at each sweet gift. Not having wrapped my own gifts made each one a surprise to me as well as to the receiver. 
All through the opening I kept getting up to finish up cooking the lamb, or preparing the popovers, or cooking the green beans. After the presents were done we sat down at the dining room table to have the Christmas meal. All the food was done at the right time and my major job for the day was done.
After dessert Mom, Dad and Margaret went back to the farm, while Janet and Sophie stayed for a longer visit. Since this is the one day all year we know we will see them we tried to drag out the visit as long as possible. Then, the time came that they too had to go. This meant Christmas was officially over.  
Despondently, we washed the dishes, sad that Christmas had come and gone. Carter went up to the tree to clean up the bags of paper and called out, “Oh no, an unopened gift for Janet.” It was the special mug from Bar Bruno in Positano I had carried back from Italy. Bar Bruno was the bar she hung out at as an nine year old. I had envisioned the whole family laughing about Bar Bruno when she opened that gift. But now Christmas has come and gone and I messed up big. I waited since March to give this gift, but my old memory just couldn’t remember it all these months, even as fast as Christmas comes to me now. I guess I am just going to have to drive this gift up to the farm tomorrow before Janet leaves…Christmas is not gone yet.