Recovery Day

We awoke early at our happy Kimpton home at the Cardinal Hotel because Carter had to get back to camp to prepare for today’s arriving campers. Shay had become a popular dog at the Kimpton. Even at seven in the morning as I was taking her down the elevator and out the front door to use her facilities it took a while because she had to stop to be pet by the friendly staff at the hotel.
Shay easily could have stayed and been the hotel ambassador. She is happy to let anyone love on her and her soft coat and friendly smile brought joy to all who encountered her. After our early walk she and I stopped at the hostess station of the restaurant to ask if dogs were welcome there. Sadly the answer was no and the outdoor patio is not yet finished.
Since we did not have time to get room service before Carter had to go at 8:30 we decided to tag team breakfast with Carter. Carter and I got a table and ordered and then called Russ to come down with Shay when his food came. The idea was for him to come in and eat with Carter and I would go sit in the lobby with Shay. Instead the lovely hostess brought Russ his breakfast out at the sofa in the lobby. So Carter and I finished our short time together over our eggs.
Afterward we hugged goodbye and I told Carter it was great to see her after just three weeks and I was glad we had done this. She said, “It was nice to see you, but I really just needed to come sleep in a good bed for a night.” So much for a tender hearted reunion.  
Russ, Shay and I went back to our suite to lounge the morning away while we still could. As we tried to depart the hotel different staff came out saying we could could not go, or at least Shay could not go. Fans, I’d say she’d made a few.
We were off to Hanging Rock State Park to do a little hiking and waterfall viewing. On our way we passed a sign for Vade Mecum, which I think is the camp my father worked at as a teenager. Hanging Rock is a lovely huge state park. The steep steps down to the lower cascades falls were easy for Shay, not so for me. A hot summer Sunday makes the pools at the falls a popular spot for parents of little kids. Those kids don’t mind climbing the rocks to get there. I, on the other hand, was worn out after the climb back in the heat, especially since we did not swim.
We took back roads through towns I had never even heard of, like Danbury and Glen Cove to wind ourselves to Saxapahaw for lunch because we knew we could eat outside with Shay there. Home by three, we were wiped out. Despite hardly doing much today all three of us passed out for a little nap. I was rudely awakened by Shay trying to bury one of Russ’ socks in the bed. If only her fans at the hotel knew of this affliction she has for socks they might not want her to greet guests at the hotel in fear she would try and steal socks from their luggage.
Carter has three more weeks of camp. We got her text, “I’m back on the mountain!!” So we know she is at her spiritual home. Glad we could provide a good bed for one night, we know she would rather be at camp.

Camp Half Way Point

Before Carter left for her six weeks as a camp counselor I asked her if she wanted us to visit her during any of her session change overs? “It’s just six weeks Mom. I don’t think you need to visit.”  
This weekend is the twenty-fifth anniversary of when Russ asked me to marry him. So I planned on going to San Fransisco with him on a business trip and spend the weekend out there celebrating. That was until I got a call from Carter asking if we could meet her in Winston-Salem on her night off between sessions and bring Shay Shay. “Sorry, honey, we’re going to California,” I said. “That’s OK.” And she was off the phone back to taking fish off hooks or leading horses around the ring.
I called Russ and said, “Could we go to Winston rather than California?”  
We did this last year, when Carter was just a CIT and needed a good night’s sleep in a comfy bed and a really long shower. But a couple of wonderful things made this year different. First a Kimpton Hotel opened in the old Reynolds Tobacco Headquarters and they are a dog friendly hotel. Second,Carter has her car at camp so she drove down the mountain and met us cutting out driving time for the weekend down from eight hours to three hours. Third, Carter’s two great friends from home, Ashley and Cait drove out and surprised Carter at lunch today.

As far as I am concerned this is a much better trip than going to California. Thanks to Russ being a superior Kimpton customer we have a giant suite that Shay is having a blast in and Carter has her own lovely room right next door. Shay thinks coming to stay at hotels where lots of people bring their dogs is way fun. There are dog treats, and water bowls and even special dog beds if you want one. Shay of course says, “Beds, that is what I have with Daddy right now. Why would I sleep any place else.”
Winston-Salem appears to be a very dog friendly place. This afternoon while Carter, Cait and Ashley were catching up Russ, Shay and I went for a long walk. It was terribly hot and after a few miles we decided to stop for a drink a a coffee shop in the west end that had tables outside with a dog dish full of water. I went to sit down in the shade as Russ went to order and the lady at the counter told him Shay was welcome to come in the store. It was welcome relief to drink our treats in the air conditioning. They even gave Shay a glass of ice water. They must have noticed that she would not drink out of the communal bowl of warm water.

After dinner at a place with outdoor tables so Shay could be with us we drove around Winston Salem and I showed Carter where my father grew up, went to elementary and high school before going back to the Kimpton where two little girls coming out of the hotel with their parents loved on Shay for a good five minutes. Shouldn’t all hotels be dog friendly?
Spending our twenty-fifth anniversary of the beginning of our family should be spent with our whole family. It was a much better day than I ever could have designed.


Smoked Paprika – A Dieting Bacon Lover’s Best Friend

Loving bacon is almost considered a sin these days. What, with the fats, nitrates and salt content if you were trying to kill someone the most humane way might be with a few dozens pounds of bacon. I know vegans who say the one meat they really miss is bacon. Who can blame them? For that reason (and the cheese and ice cream issue) I could never be vegan.
There is one zero calorie substitute I have found that gives you that question, “Is there bacon in this?” Smoked Paprika. It is not quite the complex flavor of a great quality well cooked slice of bacon, but it does add that hint of smoke and slight exotic flavor to perhaps trick your brain into thinking bacon is included in the dish you are eating.
Tonight I looked in the vegetable drawers of the refrigerator and stumbled upon two small bags of Lima beans and black eyed peas I bought from one of my favorite farmers at the market last weekend. Since I was home alone all week I just ate leftovers so these items went over looked. I hate wasting food, especially beans that someone else has shelled. The bugs were the sandwich size so neither held a huge amount of beans so I decided to make one dish with both of them together.
I also found two poblano peppers and had a few tomatoes that were on the wrong side of ripe. I put the beans in a pot covered with water and boiled them until they were soft. In a fry pan at the same time I put a chopped onions, chopped peppers and chopped tomatoes and cooked it until everything was soft. I added a teaspoon of smoked paprika and the drained beans and a little water and cooked the whole thing together until the water had boiled out and the smokiness had permeated the whole dish. Salt and pepper finished it off and when I tasted it I would have sworn it was full of bacon.  
Trompe l’oei means to trick the eye in French. I think we need a phrase that means, “to trick the tongue.” If we were to use French to translate it literally it would be “trouper la langue.” I’m not sure it will catch on as a phrase, but as a dieting concept I’m sure it is big. For now I am looking for other zero calorie tricks, maybe one for pizza. If I can do that the phrase will follow.

Friend Impressions

My dear college friend Suzanne texted me today that she was playing golf with a girl who grew up in Wilton, the town I grew up in. Although her golf friend was two years younger than I am, she listed a bunch of names of people she thought I might have known back in the day.

When I say back in the day, I am talking about the time before man walked on the moon -Ancient history.
As I read the names a couple sounded somewhat familiar, like maybe I did not know that exact Spangler, but perhaps a brother whose name I could not remember, or those Earle girls, twins maybe, I just can’t place their faces. Since I left Wilton after ninth grade and went off to the unheard of thing of boarding school I more or less forgot everyone I went to junior high or elementary school with. I did not have those high school bonding experiences with the people so they probably don’t remember me and I don’t remember them.
With the exception of a few names of people who did outrageous things, like were horrible bullies, or the mean girl I saw hitch hiking pregnant, or a boy I might have had a grade school crush on, I doubt I can recall any of those kids from my childhood. How different that is from people I went to boarding school with. Not only could I look at a picture of them today and tell you who they are, where they were from and where they went to college, it would not matter if I had not seen them in thirty years, their face would still be familiar to me.
I am eternally grateful that my father noticed how bored I was in ninth grade and suggested I go to boarding school. It was a fabulous time in my life where I made so many life long friends whom I still cherish. It really hit me today, as Suzanne was listing of names of people who grew up in my same small town as me and I probably went to school with for ten years, yet they made little to no impression on me, that I really learned to be a good friend in boarding school.
When I went to college in my freshman year, my floor mates used to joke that I could not go anywhere where I did not know someone. That came from my far flung boarding school friends. I see that same phenomenon with Carter and her camp friends. Wherever we go in North Carolina she is sure to know someone who went to camp with her. It is nice to know people who you grew up with, but it is much more useful to be able to go many places and find and old friend wherever you are. I guess if I went back to Wilton I would be OK since I know an old boarding school and college friends who live there now, but as for people I grew up with, probably not, they just did not make that big a friend impression on me.

What The Fig

When I was a kid the only way I ever knew a fig was on the form of a Newton. Not that we ever got cookies in our house, but I do remember going to Gayle Hemingway’s house and enjoying the cake like seedy cookie. It wasn’t untilI was out of college that I think I ever even saw a fresh fig.  
I might have been introduced to them in Martha Stewart’s Entertaining cookbook, but still had not met one personally. I have some recollection of eating a fresh fig at the restaurant at the Domain Chandon winery in Napa valley on vacation with my family. It seemed very sophisticated, yet so familiar, from those first Newton days, but was so much better fresh.
Figs remained fairly elusive to me in the fresh form, probably because most varieties are fairly thin skinned and don’t travel well. It wasn’t until I moved to North Carolina that I discovered that figs grow other places than Napa valley, in fact right in my own town.
I have neighbor’s who have fig trees and sometimes I am lucky enough to be the recipient of their fig crop. Sadly my best fig source, Mary, sold her house and the new owner took out her magnificent fig tree.  
That prompted me to try and grow my own figs. I bought a small seedling at the farmers market a few years ago. I was told that a fig tree needs three or four years of growth before it will produce fruit. I am in year five and although my tree is getting quite large I can only spot two figs on the whole thing. If next year I don’t get more fruit I may have to do away with the tree as it is taking over one end of my driveway.
Last week at the farmers market one of the stands had a few little boxes of brown turkey figs for a dollar a box. I bought two and brought them home so I could pretend in my own mind they had come from my tree.
I cut the little brown figs in half to expose the delicate pink seedy center. I smeared a button of goat cheese on the cut half and dotted it with a drop of honey which immediately oozed down the sides of the fruit. I brought the small plate of figs up to Russ in the gathering room to enjoy as an appetizer before dinner. We both agreed we could skip dinner and just eat figs with goat cheese and honey if only we had more. Maybe next summer my tree will come into its own and provide us with a bounty that will make us sick of figs. Until then I am going to go out me talk to my tree to encourage fruiting.

Historic Day

Love her or hate her, you have to admit that Hilary Clinton becoming the first woman to be nominated by a major political party for President is a historic glass ceiling breaking that is long overdue. It is hard for me to believe that women got the vote less than a hundred years go and it has taken this this long to even have a serious woman candidate.
So many Americans think of this country as progressive and a world Leder, yet we have never had a female leader. Fifty other nations have had at least one female leader and when you read the list you see they are some of the better countries in the world. Places like Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, India and many more have elected a woman. The list of countries who have never had a woman are less impressive; Afghanistan, Congo, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Russia, Uganda and so many other places I don’t want to visit.  
I am not implying that having a woman leader makes someplace better, but the collective success of the countries who have at least broken through that barrier probably beats that of the countries who have not, save the USA. It is high time that this barrier is broken and the only way it can happen is to at least have a woman candidate.  
Today that has happened now that the Democrats have nominated Hilary Clinton. I don’t care if you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, now that Hilary has broken down that door I hope that many more woman will follow suit in all parties. It has not been easy and I am thankful for her tenacity so that my daughter and all girls across American can imagine themselves as the leaders they can be.  

Blog Excuse

This is not going to be much of a blog. My excuse is my air compressor for the front of the house is not turning. That’s my expert mechanical diagnosis. Of course my electrical engineer husband is in San Francisco where it is a chilly sixty-three degrees.
Things in our house only break on the day that Russ leaves for a work week away. I was able to reach him to discuss my changing the air filter in case that was the culprit, which of course it was not. I tried the “turn the breaker on and off” trick to no avail. I am obviously not alone in this problem during this excessive heat wave because my HVAC people can’t come until tomorrow.
I must have sensed that I should stay home and take care of things here because I passed up going to the west coast with Russ. It would have been a total bummer to come home to this problem so I guess the gods were kind of looking out for me.
For now I am going to pray that Shay does not sleep snuggled up to me. I might sleep in the back of the house on the sofa because I can’t bring myself to sleep in Carter’s cave of a room.  

I guess I really should be praying that this is a minor problem, but experience tells me it won’t be and a new compressor might be in my future. So much for getting a lot done on this week off.

Just Got Engaged Vegetable Pasta

Before I knew Russ Lange, I had a catering business on the side. The majority of people who worked for me at catering jobs were my gay male friends in Washington, DC. They were the best educated waiters and bartenders, who were lawyers, doctors and business men during the day, but loved the fun of working one of my parties at night.
More than one of those men used to tell me that whomever was going to marry me would do it for my cooking. They were gay, what did they know about who would marry me.
This week twenty-five years ago Russ and I had a whirlwind romance where for the first ten days I did not cook one thing for him. On the tenth day, at last the time came for me to cook him something. He had no food in his house so we went off to the Acme supermarket and before we could get out of the car, in the heat of the July night, he said, “I can’t wait anymore, will you marry me?”
That night I made a pasta dinner of many summer vegetables cooked up in a fry pan.  
“Oh my god, this is the best meal I have ever eaten,” he said after his first bite.
It was probably the endorphins of love that made him feel that way, but one thing was for sure, he wanted to marry me before he knew I could cook.
Today I made a pan of similar vegetables, but since we rarely eat pasta anymore we just have them over chicken. Holding out for a man who married me for me and not my cooking was a great thing. That being said, love comes and goes, but good cooking lasts forever. 
You can use whatever vegetables you have. His just happens to be what I had today.
1 red onion- chopped

20 mini eggplants – cut in half

20 okra – cut in thirds

1 sweet red pepper chopped

2 pints of cherry tomatoes- halved

3 cloves of garlic-minced

Crushed red pepper flakes

30 basil leaves – chopped
Heat a big nonstick fry pan on medium high and spray with cooking spray. Add the onions and cook for two minutes, tossing it twice. Add the eggplant and spray with a little more cooking spray. Cook for two more minutes – stirring only once. Add the okra and cook for three more minutes, stirring once a minute. Add the red pepper cook another two minutes.
Add the cherry tomatoes and cook another two minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook two more minutes, stirring a couple of times. Add a pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes to your taste and salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and add the basil.
Delicious over pasta, rice or just as a side dish. It won’t get you married, but it will make your spouse happy.

Not a BLT

Summer Saturdays mean early morning visit to the farmer’s market. Usually our eyes are bigger than our table and I have to work hard to cook up all the interesting vegetables we buy. Since Carter is away Russ and I are happy to eat grazing meals.
I made a Spanish style Gazpacho adding some farmers market tomatillos today. That was a good healthy start on a dinner, but certainly was not enough to complete it. We had bought some pork side meat, which is kind of like thick bacon that has not been smoked. I cooked it in the oven and it felt like a decadent item to act as our main course.  
Russ had his weekly polenta bread from Loaf, the best downtown bakery so it seemed like BLT’s might be in our future. It was a good plan since I had bought so many vine ripped tomatoes.
After enjoying the soup I could not bring myself to eat the bread in a BLT so I decided to make BLT lettuce wraps with a little avocado for a treat. I washed the market lettuce and lay out three leaves, a half a slice of tomato went on top. Since I was skipping the bread I allowed myself a little touch of mayo on top of the tomato. Then added the bacon and avocado. Salt and lots of pepper completed my wraps. Looked like a good alternative to a regular BLT.
It was not. Yes all individual ingredients were good and together they were fine, but they definitely missed the bread. There is something about the way the juice from the tomato soaks into the bread and the crunch of the crispy bacon yields to the bread.
Don’t get me wrong. I normally would be happy to eat these items as a salad, but even a BLT salad is not a BLT sandwich. Even the addition of avocado did not make up for the loss of bread. Somethings are actually perfect in there simplicity and a BLT sandwich is one of those things.
I am going to have to work hard not eat something naughty due to my dissatisfaction with my dinner. I would have been better off just to eat the bread.  

Have You Had Your Mammogram?

Since most of my readers are women I think this is a public service announcement blog. If you are a man you might want to stop reading now. If you continue I want you to serve the woman in your life breakfast in bed once you understand what she goes through.
In my attempt to work through my “to do list” while Carter is off working at camp for the month I made a call to my radiologist to get my long overdue mammogram. To my surprise they had an opening this morning and I knew I should take it, even though I would have preferred to postpone it even longer. The scheduler asked me if I wanted a new 3D mammogram. I asked what the benefits were and then forgot to listen to the answer, while I day dreamed that a 3D would be a less smashing procedure.
If you are a man who is still reading let me describe what a regular mammogram is like. A strange woman takes your naked breast in her hand and lays it on a cold plastic plate and then spreads it out to be as flat as possible, then while still holding your breast she brings the clear plastic top plate down to sandwich your breast between the two plates with what my tech says is 20 lbs of pressure. You stand there, naked and in pain as she walks behind the machine to take the image while you are holding your breath so that your breasts don’t move. Move? The 20 lbs or pressure is holding me by the t$t. Repeat on the other breast and then again with them both at a 45 degree angle. Four major mashings.
My imagination immediately thought that a 3D mammogram would be something like a cup I just hung my breast into and it took pictures all around it while it just hung there. What was I thinking? That a woman might have invented the new technology?
For the record the 3D machine works exactly like the old machine as far as the smashing part goes, but costs $60 more. Now I’m sure the picture must be better and hopefully the quality of catching potential cancers is improved, but the customer experience is exactly the same.
That being said, I encourage all woman over 40 to go have your mammogram no matter how uncomfortable. I know that insurance companies have been fighting about how often they will pay for them, but don’t be deterred.  
Now to all the women imaging engineers in the world, and I am sure there must be at least three of you, please consider inventing the machine my mind made up. Even if we have to lay on our stomach on a table with a hole in it with our breast hanging down to get a 3D image it would be better than smashing them. As it is my breasts already resemble two blue berry pancakes with one blue berry each and I can’t imagine the smashing is doing anything to help keep them perky.
Sorry Men, I warned you to stop reading.


Yesterday I was with my friend Lynn Toms and we were googling her to see if we could find something. Today I can’t even remember what we were looking for, but I do remember something we found about someone named Sheryl Lynn Toms. The Google listing was for a site and it said “Sheryl Lynn Toms, mother of 0.” What?!
I have never heard anything so insensitive, except for maybe things that come out of Donald Trumps mouth. For the first thing to say about a person is that they were a mother to none is not the most descriptive way to characterize a person. If we were to do that you might say “Dana Carter Lange, never in the Army,” which really doesn’t say anything at all about me.
I wonder if Ancestry makes the same distinction about men who never had children. Of course with men you never really know if that is true because there could be children out there they don’t know about, as long as the man is straight and not celibate. 
I love being a mother and really like my child, but it is not the definition of me. I’m not sure I would want my listing to start, Dana, mother of one. I certainly think that anyone who does not have a child, for whatever reason does not want to be called out for it.  
Let’s try and be more thoughtful in our characterizations of people. There has got to be something better to say about Sheryl Lynn Toms. I don’t know her and I would bet you good money she has done something in her life that is more memorable than not having children.
I am thankful I saw this yesterday because it saved me from writing about the Republican convention and Mrs. Trump. Enough has been said on that subject, but I do wonder if Ancestry will list her as, “Melania Trump, mother of one, good quoter of Michelle Obama.”

Mah Jongg-a-Rama 

My friend Denise decided we should play Mah Jongg today at her house and asked us to all bring something healthy to share for lunch. It is amazing how many more people can make it out to play when they are invited to someone’s house rather than just showing up at the club to play.
The action was fast and loud as three tables of ladies kept the tiles moving. For the first time ever I am certain that my table was not the loudest, something no one who was not playing with me would believe. The room was so full of friends there was almost never an empty seat at the table.
My great friend Jan was visiting from Texas and came to play which makes me happy. Jan is one of my original Mah Jongg friends from when I started playing in Durham over twenty three years ago. I looked around the room today and was so happy to be with so many good friends, both new and old who love to play the game. The life histories we have shared over the Mah Jongg table could fill volumes. The support and laughter we share is hardly matched by any other group.
A new friend of Denise’s came and tried her hand, winning a game early on. Even with that win she thought she might want to join my next Mah Jongg class. I have talked to a few people who are interested in taking the three night class but of course can’t remember everyone who tells me that. If you are interested please send me a message so I can find a time that suits.
Thanks to Denise for opening up her home and encouraging such a healthy lunch today. I consider myself very lucky to have this group of women in my life. It also does not hurt that we all love the game so much. It’s days like today that keep us young.

Salmon Burgers

While I was away in Maine Russ was invited to some friends house for dinner. They served him salmon burgers which he raved about to me when I got home. I had never made a salmon burger before but thought I would try it as an alternative to regular old grilled salmon. I was a little skeptical that I could improve on the straight fish, but was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
Salmon burgers are not exactly like crab cakes, there is no egg or mayo holding them together so they are a little healthier than a crab cake. I kind of improvised this, but was really happy with the end product.
The secret is to run half the salmon in the food processor for a few pulses just before becoming a paste. This becomes the glue that holds the whole thing together. They are a little like a blank slate so you can add any flavor you want to jazz them up. I made a basic one for my first try.
2 lbs of skinless fresh salmon 

1 slice of good bread

1 shallot

1 T. Dijon mustard

2T. Lime juice

1/2 t. Garlic powder

Salt and Pepper
Put the peeled and rough chopped shallot and the bread in the food processor and pulse until it is a fine crumb. Remove from the bowl, but don’t bother to clean the bowl.  
Cut the salmon into one inch strips and put half in the processor. Pulse about six times to chop up the salmon well. Add the bread crumb/shallot mixture, mustard, lime juice, garlic powder, a little salt and pepper and pulse two times. Add the rest of the salmon strips and pulse three times. You should still have some small salmon chunks, but everything should be well mixed.
Place the salmon mixture in a bowl and cover and refrigerate it for at least half an hour.
This recipe makes six nice size burgers, which you form just like a regular old burger, gently forming into a patty.
Heat a nonstick fry pan on medium high heat, place the burgers so they are not crowded. Cook for three minutes per side.
I served them with a remoulade sauce.   

Celebrating Sara


Seems like I spend a lot of time during the summer seeing old friends from far away. This is not a bad thing, but it means that sometimes I am not around home to spend time with my tried and true friends. I am trying to find a balance and still be productive in something other than just visiting.


My friend Sara had a birthday last week so I wanted to make sure that I got to celebrate with her soon after the actual day. Sometimes it stinks to have a birthday in the summer because your friends are often away and you get forgotten. It had to be worse to be a kid with a summer birthday because there were no cupcakes brought to school for you, or birthday parties with your whole class.  


At least now with Facebook your friends can wish you happy birthday on the real day. I was happy that Sara was free for us to go to lunch on a day I was home. True to her humble self when I asked her where she wanted to go she did not pick someplace fancy or extravagant, but instead just picked Foster’s Market. I asked her multiple times if that was where she really wanted to go, not that it is not good, but because no one would wait on her there.


With a simple sandwich and an ice tea we got to catch up on all the goings on. After lunch I got to visit with her grown daughters who both happen to be home. Even with a three plus hour visit I don’t think we actually caught up.  


I got to thinking about how hard it is to keep up with those we love. Yes, facebook gives us way more information than we ever used to have about our friends, but there is nothing like that face-to-face time to have real conversations, tell stories and be truly connected. The more I visit with my friends the more I want to see them and see ones I am missing. I guess there is not enough time in the year to spend time with the people we love, especially one-on-one. Today, I am just thankful that I got to celebrate Sara.  

Happy Birthday Logan

Today is our good friend Logan Tom’s birthday. Yesterday when his wife Lynn and I went to the movies I asked if they could come to dinner tonight. Lynn’s initial reaction was no, since it was his birthday. Then Logan heard it was possible for him to eat my cooking on his birthday so that became his birthday wish.
I love to cook for Logan. There is no human more appreciative of a good home cooked meal than he. Describing him as a gourmand is not too strong a representation. Since I had been away from Russ so long he too was happy that I was going to cook an entire meal that he would get to enjoy with Lynn and Logan.
Despite his love of good food, there is no pressure in menu planning for Logan because he truly loves almost everything I make. This quality puts him at the top of my guest list, so I was thrilled to provide his birthday meal.
To differentiate tonight as a celebration from any regular dinner I made a special drink in honor of Logan. It was a blueberry basil ginger smash. The good thing about it is that it could be made as a cocktail or a virgin and be just as tasty.  
Blueberry Basil Ginger Smash
1 pint of blueberries- washed

4 T. Lime juice

2 lemons sliced thinly

1 inch of fresh ginger- grated 

20 fresh basil leaves- chiffonade (that means cut finley)
Vodka-optional or Rum or tequila 

Diet ginger ale
Put the blueberries and the whole lemon slices in a jar and mash them all up, other wise known as muddling. Add the other ingredients and chill for at least an hour so the flavors can marry.
In a glass filled halfway with crush ice, add a jigger of vodka, two big spoonfuls of the blueberry mixture and top it off with the diet ginger ale. Stir and enjoy.
You can live the vodka out and it is just as good!
Happy birthday Logan. You are always welcome at our table.

No News Is Good News

One of the greatest thing about the vacations I have taken this summer is I did not watch any TV or read any newspapers and thus missed all the news that was happening in the world. Well, not exactly all the news. I still had Mr. Information, Russ Lange in Spain who let me know about the most important stuff like Brexit. Outside of him giving me the edited version I was fairly protected.
In Maine, not only did I not see a TV or newspaper, I did not even hear a radio or look at news on Facebook. Now that was a real vacation. None of my time or mind was taken up with unimportant information that I could do nothing about. I had no anxiety about the presidential race, which I don’t need since I already know who I am not voting for.  
Since I have been home I have not turned on the TV. I have continued my no news life and am quite enjoying it. When I was on my way home Russ mentioned that downtown Durham was taken over by Pokemon Go. Amazingly I had no idea what that was by just being out of touch for one week. How can something so new take over so quickly? Don’t answer that, I don’t want to know.
I am wondering how long I can go with this news moratorium. The only current event I looked at was on Weather Bug. Everything I needed to know about how to dress for or plan for a day I got from that one app. No superfluous data came into play. No celebrity gossip, no deals or steals hawking products I don’t know about and therefore don’t need, no super models making me feel inferior, no holy wars that make the world sound as if it is going to end tomorrow even though they have been going on for centuries, no misunderstandings blown out of proportion, nothing.
I know that at some point I need to reenter the world, but I am not sure why so I am in no hurry. I am happy just to play my game on my I-Pad and keep the room silent and free of talking heads, who are just too biased to listen to. If there were a puppy channel I might consider watching that, but that is as confrontational as I want to get. For now I am still on vacation.  
Yes, an old movie star may pass away and I won’t know about until the In Memoriam section of the Academy Awards, but I am willing to take that chance. I am also decreasing my chances for winning a trivia contest by not watching the news diligently everyday, but since I make no money at that kind of thing it is fine I forgo winning. I am embracing ignorance as a truly blissful state. I can only do this while Carter is away at camp because it is ultimately very irresponsible of me, but as long as she is gone I think I am safe.

Getting Off The Sugar Train

Wedding Cake at Cory and Eric’s wedding on the Cape.

Chocolate Cake in Barcelona

Crème Caramel in Maine

In the last months I have been on three vacations, a wedding at the Cape, family trip to Spain and old friend reunion in Maine. This gaggle of vacations have been more fun than any one person deserves, especially when I have been as naughty as I was in relation to my eating. There is something about vacations that make my palate say, “celebrate.”
Well, the party’s over. I have had a lax relationship with my scale for a while. Not that I needed the scale to tell me what I was doing to myself. My bra did that quite nicely. When you have to move hook rows you know you are headed in a direction that was in my cases the wrong way.
My relationship with food is one I need to pay constant attention to and sometimes I take a break that gets too out of control. This last week in Maine was a sugar extravaganza that I will be paying for for two months of clean living.  
Today was the start of my sugar detox. It takes a few days to fully get myself free of that sweet demon, but by Tuesday I should be good. The trick is to keep busy and stay hydrated and well rested. If the desire for sugar rears it’s ugly head the best thing I can do is take a nap. I have found that it is practically impossible for me to bake brownies in my sleep. See that is about the only way I could get some sugar since our house is fairly treat free.
I am hoping that even if I go on another vacation I can stick to the no sugar life style. This idea that I get to take a vacation from healthy eating is over. It has been a delicious few months, but now it is time for my bras to fit better. Back to more treadmill time and no tastes of chocolate. It sounds worse than it is. Dropping recently added pounds can be just as exhilarating as eating a blueberry pie, it just is a much slower reward.
So goodbye sugar. Hello thighs not rubbing together. Farewell white flour. Welcome flatter tummy. So long naughty snacks. Bring on the fruit. It’s time to pay the piper and it was a long beautiful song, that unfortunately ha turned into an ear worm I need to rid myself of.

Lucky to Vacation

On my way home from Maine today I heard a story on NPR about vacationing. It said that 25% of Americans have not had a vacation in the last five years. It made me incredibly sad to think that so many people do not get a chance to go away rest, relax, discover new things and see new places.
I count my lucky stars that I not only get to make memories with my family and go do new things, but that I have the best husband on earth who lets me go away and spend time with old friends while he works. I wish that everyone could find away to go on holiday, as the British say.

There is a reason Maine is called “vacation land” but this trip was not so much a vacation as a visit. My friend Warren is such a great host. It helps that he has a Howard Johnson’s literally built into his house, but without the mid-century modern orange and turquoise motel rooms. My trip involved seeing eight different friends, making many meals, driving up and down the coast, antiquing, and visiting Warren’s booth at the Rockland Market place at least seven times.

Warren has always been into antiques, but the need to recycle some of his mother’s furniture as well as collections he has, precipitated the need to have an easier way to sell things. Thank goodness that both Shannon and Julie got into the job of going through Warren’s attic to help determine what should go to be sold next.  
All week we would prep new dressers, or old tool boxes, sets of dishes or hand crank antique ice cream makers and carry them over to the Marketplace. Each day it was a surprise to see what had sold. And then restock the booth so it was always full. It was not a normal vacation activity, but one that I quickly got addicted to. I was often surprised at what would sell and what did not. It was a good thing I flew to Maine and had no way to bring anything home because I really liked the glass topped coffee table with the soap box derby red metal wheel base.
Vacations don’t have to be a trip to Disney World. Sitting on the front porch talking to friends can sometimes be the best vacation there is. My trip was not relaxing because we would stay up much too late and then because it is summer in Maine where the sun comes up at 4:45 I would not ever get a chance to sleep in even with the curtains drawn. But despite the lack of sleep and the playing store at the market place it was a great vacation.  

I wish everyone had a friend like Warren who welcomes you into his home. But now it is great to be back at my own house, with my own Russ and Shay Shay. Perhaps I can now get some rest and relaxation from my vacation and begin to dream where I want to go next.  

My Friends Becoming Friends

Last year when I was here at Warren’s in Maine I invited Sheppy and Dick Vann for lunch at the HOJO’s room. Immediately they hit it off as Sheppy tends to do. Since Sheppy and Dick moved to Nashville I don’t get to see her as often as I used to in Durham so Maine seems to be our best chance to get together.  
Warren had so enjoyed Dick and Sheppy last year so he gladly agreed to a lunch out this year with them. I emailed Sheppy an invitation and she thankfully was free, but sadly Dick was not in Maine. Warren suggested we meet at a favorite diner about half way between Sheppy’s and Warren’s called the Olde Mill Diner.
It was a beautiful summer Maine day, clear and bright blue as we traveled up the Georges River Scenic Byway. The fields were vivid green with long grasses blowing softly in the breeze. Our trip was only marred by the dozens of Maine department of transportation workers who it takes to fill in a hole in the road, who hold the stop signs stopping traffic one way for at least five minutes without anyone coming the other way.
Miraculously we arrived right on time to find Sheppy standing just inside the door in front of the many homemade pies. We hugged and found a table that was the perfect place to tell stories while we had lunch. I have met my match in story telling in Sheppy Vann and Warren was perfectly entertained as we volleyed back and forth with tales about growing up, meeting our spouses and marrying.  
In all this story telling I somehow got onto the story of when I was a thirteen at summer camp and decided that I needed to give my parents a surprise fifteenth wedding anniversary party when I got home from camp. This involved my sending four special delivery letters to their best friends and asking them to provide food, invite guests and get my parents out of the house so I could set up the party.  
The one thing I did not think about was asking the grown ups to bring the adult beverages. Lucky for me and the fifty or so guest we had, my parents had plenty of liquor to serve a whole party. No wonder my favorite childhood drink was whiskey sour mix. Sheppy was able to match me story for story.

After a lunch of healthy followed by the requisite Maine desserts Warren and I sadly had to leave Sheppy. But Warren and Sheppy now left as friends, not just friends of mine and could see each other here in Maine without me. There is nothing I like more than when my friends from different parts of my life become friends with each other.

Friends or Shopping?

After four days of staying up way too late, laughing much too hard, eating considerably too much sugar, telling too many stories and realizing that we have been apart far far too long our reunion had to come to an end. Sadly Julie drove off for home as Warren and I were taking Shannon to the metropolitan Owl’s Head airport this morning for her flight to Fort Worth. Thirty-six years apart had not dulled our love for each other in anyway. It proves my theory that if you have a great friendship once you can pick it right up at any point.

Despite the lack of sleep in our go-go-go weekend Warren and I had to rush back to his house to get ready for another old friend of mine, Wendie Demuth, who was coming for lunch. Since I just saw Wendie at her daughter’s wedding last month it was a huge bonus to get to spend five hours yaking away with her on Warren’s porch as we watched the tide come in on Clam Cove.  
Warren is such a good sport about entertaining my friends at his house. He made us his famous tuna melts and served us on the porch. Every year I find more and more old friends in Maine and invite them to lunch. If this keeps up at this pace Warren might change me catering fees.
Late in the day Warren and I got in the car to go visit a store called Big Al’s so I could get some things to put in a care package for Carter at camp. I can’t tell you what I got so as not to spoil the surprise, but I can show you somethings I did not get.

The first was this do-it-yourself doll kit. If I were a child and received this package of lose doll parts I am certain I would have nightmares. I have no idea who this “Horsman” is who makes this product, but adding the word “shoppe” to the title does not make it more valuable.

Another item I did not get Carter was the “Salon Perfection Hair Coloring Brush.” Why this blond woman on the package wants to color her hair red I am not sure, but at $8.88 I was not going to find out.

One item I was slightly tempted to buy for myself was this “Jobar’s Sauna Suit.” After all the reunion naughty food I have eaten since I have been in Maine I thought that anything that helps with reducing should be considered and at $2.88 it was not much of a risk. The one thing that held me back is that it says on the package, “one size fits all” and I have a universal rule never to buy anything that makes that claim because I find it just not to be true.

Big Al’s had the most extensive card department with the best organization I have ever seen. They had signs over the racks so you could easily find the card you were looking for, for the person you were looking for. Even those hard to find cards for people like sister in laws, step sisters, or like a sister or anniversary cards for “granddaughter and husband.”  

The most confusing grouping was the graduations cards, broken down between “college and regular.” I am not sure what regular is, but whatever it is, college in Maine must be special.
Needless to say the things I got for Carter’s care package are special and are sure to elicit some big response. I think I should stick to visiting friends in Maine and leave the shopping to another place.

At Last Perfect Maine Weather

The perfect Maine summer day has finally come to Clam Cove. Three days of rain and cold gave way to sunshine, soft breezes and blue skies. Despite going to bed at two-thirty last night I was up early enough to get breakfast ready because my old friend Jamie Kyte Sapoch, who I went to both Walkers and Dickinson with me was coming for a visit. Since Jamie was two years ahead of me in school we never are at the same reunions so it had been just too long since we had seen each other.
There is hardly a nicer person on earth than Jamie and it was lovely to introduce her to Shannon and Julie and for her to see Warren again after all these years. Coming to Maine is a little like going back in time when I get to reconnect with so many wonderful old friends. Jamie is just as kind and fun as she always was and our visit was way too short. Now that I have discovered she is in Maine for the summers I am going to make plans to see her again next year.

After Jamie left, Shannon, Julie, Warren and I took advantage of the fantastic weather and went to the walk the breakwater in Rockland. This sun could not have come fast enough because if we had another day of rainy day eating like we are back in boarding school we might not be able to fly out of Maine. How quickly we fell back into the same girls school eating patterns, dessert for breakfast, lunch and dinner with an afternoon pick me up. Walking the breakwater is a good two mile walk. We probably should have done it twice.
At last tonight we are going to have a big night of games. We ate leftovers for dinner so no time was wasted cooking or cleaning. Instead we quickly had a plate of chicken and squash so we could play Mexican Train dominos. This was not something we played in boarding school, but we can’t remember the rules to “screw you neighbor” and we are just too old and tired to do that anyway.

The laughing continues despite some people not winning any games. I know our friendship can survive a competitive game, but quite frankly desserts help everyone’s mood. I am going to have to renig in this blog as a diet comedy until I get home from Maine. The only good thing I can say is that I did not eat any ice cream today, but the dessert smorgasbord that was just put in front of me by my opponents is obviously a tactic to throw me off my game.

A Day Just Like at Walkers

Today could be described as a day just like I would have had when we were back at boarding school. We started slowly, had a little education where we discovered that we loved learning so much it did not feel like school, had some treats, and ended the day laughing so hard with new and old friends that we almost wet our pants.
The cold and rain continued this morning. My friends Warren, Julie and Shannon and I huddled at the kitchen table over our regular Maine breakfast planning our day. Because of the weather we decided to go to the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland that has a wonderful collection that features works of the Wyeths. We toured the collections and then went on a guided tour through the house of the Farnsworth family that was still in it’s original condition of it’s 1850 building. It was a good tour and we really liked our docent.

Little did we know that it was just warming us up for the best tour we were going to take today. The Farnsworth had acquired the Olson House which had been the 30 year location where Andrew Wyeth had come to paint every summer. If you are at all art aware you would recognize the Olson house as the subject of Wyeth’s most famous paining, “Christina’s World.”  
We drove the twenty minutes down to Cushing, Maine and found the farm on a winding thin road, surrounded by water on three sides. The stark, raw clapboard building sits alone on the hill. We went into the building that was mostly empty. I wondered what kind of tour this was going to be with just plaster white walls to look at.
At just after two the four of us met our docent, Pam, a spitfire of a woman, originally from New York, herself an artist. She took us in the largest room on the first floor and started to tell us the story of the Olson family, a rich sea captain and his wife who built the largest framed house in the county in the 1800’s. She told us of their three boys and one girl, Christina. The painting was beginning to come to life. We eventually learned that Christina was handicapped and by the age of twenty had no use of her legs and lived her 73 years in this house with her next youngest brother, pulling herself around by her hands.
Pam, who new Andy Wyeth, as she called him, told us he met Christina and her brother when he first met his soon to be wife Betsy who lived nearby. Wyeth would come every summer to the Olson House and paint many works. As Pam would walk us through the house suddenly the empty rooms were recognizable as the scenes in Wyeth’s paintings, the blue door in the kitchen, the window looking out to the bay. It was thrilling to be seeing the world of Wyeth first hand. I was actually sad when the tour ended, still hungry to hear more stories of poor Christina, living a hard scrabble life in isolated Maine. Just to show how important a place the Olson farm was to Wyeth we discovered that he was buried in the Olson family plot, near Christina.  

It was a great day of hands on learning, just like we might have had in boarding school. Just like school, we needed a snack after so much stimulation so we stopped at the tiny general store near the Olson farm. Spending time with good friends is always made better with snacks.
We rushed home to Warren’s because we needed to cook dinner for Joan Marshall Losee and her husband David who were coming to dinner. Joan had worked at Walker’s with Warren when we were all students.  
As is my role, I was chief cook, making squash casserole and “Somebody died? Fried chicken” and rice. Shannon set a beautiful table and Julie made the salad under strict instructions from me. According to my friends I am just as bossy as I was in boarding school. They are still my younger friends who I must guide.

Joan and David arrived and he probably wondered how long he was going to have to stay at a dinner of old Walker’s girls. Then the story telling started. One story after another about antics of the old guard teachers and the way they treated the girls and we all were rolling on the floor barley able to hold our bladders. By the end, I’m sure David was wishing he had gone to Walkers.
Another fabulous day with old friends just can’t be beat. I’m not sure how much more laughing I can take, but I am thankful for the stomach exercise to counteract the treat eating. It’s just like boarding school.

Don’t Let Strangers Take Your Picture

Today in Maine I confirmed that I brought all the wrong clothes. We started the day out in the fifties and here I am with shorts and tee shirts. It really didn’t matter in the morning since my friends and I idled away our time telling stories over fresh fruit and Maine Blueberry muffins. After so many hours sitting in the kitchen we decided we needed to venture out to the real world to show Shannon the beauty of the Maine Mid-coast.
Once out in the elements it was apparent I needed some warmer clothes so we stopped in Camden and did a little shopping for winter clothes. It was so great to have Shannon, Julie and Warren to pick clothes out for me so I just had to throw things on in the dressing room, eventually finding a couple of warmer items.
Back out in the elements I added a new layer to my original outfit so I was beginning to look more like a bag lady, but I was much warmer. When we got to the beautiful Camden library we tried to get a group shot. Warren took a nice one of Shannon, Julie and myself.  
Then we tried to do a selfie to have all four of us together. Obviously we were making quite a scene because a couple of tourists watching from across the street could not stand seeing us trying to take our own picture. The husband sauntered over and offered to take our picture while his wife remind far away from us.

I reluctantly handed over my phone to the large man, hoping he could get a better shot. I should have micro managed this stranger the way I do all my friends because I could tell from the angle he held the phone that it was not going to be good. After he took a number of pictures he handed back my phone and I thanked him profusely, but did not dare look at the pictures in front of him because I am sure my face would show my displeasure.
We continued on our tour eventually heading home to change for our dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Primo, where they grow all the vegetable they serve. After the most yummy dinner of squash blossoms and duck we toured the gardens. Of course we took pictures at dinner and in the gardens.
After our big day together laughing, talking, eating and visiting we came back to Warren’s house to play games and look at the pictures from our day. That is when I first looked at the shots taken by the kind stranger. Without a doubt they were the worst pictures with the people only taking up about five percent of the shot.  
Despite the lack of documentation of our fun day today it was the best. I am happy to have at least one terrible group shot. Tomorrow I will try and get another, but I am going to pick the photographer and set the whole thing up in my bossy way.

Thirty-Six Years is No Time At All

For me all girls boarding school was the place that I made some of my truly great life-long friends. Something about sharing the same small space while developing into the people we were meant to be.
Two of my most wonderful friends were Shannon and Julie who were in the class behind me. Julie was from Maine and was as opposite from Fort Worth, Texas native Shannon as two people could be but the three of us made a strong threesome especially when we were with our advisor friend Warren.
Despite our friendship I had lost contact with Shannon and Julie partially because we did not share the same reunion years. After college Shannon went back to Texas and Julie to Maine, but Warren kept us informed on what each of us were doing over the years.
Today for the first time in thirty-six years we are all together and it is if we have never been apart. It helps that we are visiting Warren without our spouses or children so we quickly have fallen into our old roles. Warren tried to reign us in, but to no avail because we have had such a great time reliving old times.
Today was just the beginning of our three day reunion and I predict not much sleep, lots of ice cream and constant laughing. Sounds a lot like boarding school. Being back to together after thirty-six years is plain ‘ole  great.  Why did we wait so long?

Hoping This Guy “Mainely” Knows What He Is Doing

I got up early to fly to Maine as my distraction from Carter’s departure to camp. Russ generously drove me to the airport and I had no problem making my flight to Boston. I got on the Jet Blue plane and as I was taking to my seat mate I realized that we were not taking off on time. The pilot came on and told us of a potential slow leak of a tire and announced the need for a mechanic. 
All the passengers deplaned as one lone mechanic jacked the plane up and took off the big ass wheel with thirty lug nuts and switched the tires out. I guess that I am happy to have a three hour delay rather than a blown tire at landing, but it meant I missed my Cape Air connection to Rockland.
Cape Air may be the smallest airline working in the mainland US. If you remember the TV show wings you saw Cape Air’s fictional inspiration. I visited the Cape Air desk and the guy told me that Rockland was fogged in so my flight was not going there anyway. They were able to rebook me on one of the nine seats of the Augusta flight.
Thankfully my friend Warren was happy enough to drive the hour up to Augusta rather than the ten minutes to Rockland. That is why I come up here to visit him. My other option was to rent a car at Logan and drive the two and a half hours, but with a drop off fee for returning the car to a different location would have cost $165, highway robbery.

The only good part about having to wait my extra hours at the Cape Air gate during the summer is that you always see someone famous. Today I sat next to Leslie Stahl. She was smaller, whiter and thinner than she looks on TV, but very nice.  
Eventually I got to Maine and have had fun rearranging my friend Warren’s kitchen to better suit my cooking for tomorrow our friends Shannon and Julie arrive and then the real fun begins.  
Thankfully Carter got to camp safety and Russ is snuggled down at home with the baby Shay allowing me a week in Maine. I guess that a eight hour trip flying is still much better than a two day trip driving. I’m just happy to be back in Maine.

Last Night

Tomorrow Carter takes herself off to camp to have her first real job as a counselor. This is the first time that Russ and I don’t get to drive her up to the mountain. Of course it also means we don’t have to drive up and back in the same day. No watching the temperature drop exactly ten degrees as we climb the mountain.
This is the job Carter has been working to get since she first set foot at Cheerio as a camper eight years ago. If you asked Carter who her favorite people on earth were they were the people who made camp magical and now she gets to be one of those people for all her campers.
It will be six weeks of little sleep, lots of laughing, cool nights, games, activities and the best friends in the world. I hope it is everything Carter ever dreamed of. In a strange turn of events Carter’s co-counselor in her cabin is also named for a President, Reagan, so they have a theme for their cabin.
Tonight after all the packing and cleaning of her room were done we went for Asian food since it is the one thing she will miss about home. Well Asian and Shay Shay. I’m sure as she pulls out of the driveway she won’t even look back.
She won’t have to make the whole drive alone since she is picking up her friend Jovi, who is also a counselor, at the Greensboro airport. What an adventure she is in for. The best first job she could ever have, one she has been training for for years.
Drive carefully, sweet girl. All of us at home will miss you, but we know you won’t have a moment to miss us.

Standing By The Open Freezer

Growing up without air conditioning we often would go and stand in the freezer section of the grocery store on really hot days. Back then, at the Village Market, the freezers were the chest kind without any lids or doors so they cold would just hang there around the Swanson TV dinners and cool off. You had to kind of lean into the freezer waiting for the cold to engulf your hot sweaty body. It was a pleasurable thing.
Now, thank goodness, I live in a house with air conditioning. Today was the kind of hot day that would have made me want to go to the Village Market and stand by the freezers. Sadly that is what I ended up doing in my own house, unnecessarily. Well, not to get cool.
The freezer in our garage is the worst model for draining. I am no freezer expert, but it seems like we have a very badly designed machine. Water from somewhere drips in the freezer and rather than going out into the pan it collects inside the freezer. Overtime it backs up inside the whole bottom and back wall of the compartment and eventually forces the door open.Today was the open door day which meant I absolutely had to defrost the freezer.    
So like my childhood summer days, I stood beside the open freezer chilled by the giant blocks of ice. The only difference was I was hammering the ice, heating it with a blow dryer and pulling out all the food to see if it was salvageable.
I have come to the conclusion that I should just stop freezing food because most of the time it does not get eaten and I have to deal with it when the freezer gives way. I need to live like the British and only have one tiny freezer compartment, enough for one tiny ice cube tray.
Working to remove giant logs of ice is in no way as pleasurable and just standing by the freezer section cooling off. I was hot, sweaty and filthy by the time this terrible job was done. The only good news is that the freezer got very cold right away after I plugged it back in when it was clean and empty. I am going to wait and see if any water collects in the next day before I add anything to the box. If I can just figure out how to get the dripping water to exit through the drain I might never have to do this job again, but that probably involves a level of engineering I do not possess. Remember I am working with brain which was happy just to lean by the frozen peas and carrots.

Happy Fourth of July! My dad had complained to me in May that he never sees Carter. May is the worst month to complain about not seeing a high school junior what with AP exams, and regular exams and final papers and projects. I promised that he would get to see her before she left for her summer job as camp counselor.
Thank goodness I was able to keep that promise. We spent the day at the farm with my parents and had the big surprise of getting to see my sister and her partner Sophie and her dog Zoe. It was Shay’s first time to meet her dog cousin who had been reported to be overly protective of Sophie when other dogs were around. Apparently Shay did not get the memo that Zoe might not like her and they got along fine, especially since Zoe let Shay lead on the farm walk.
It was a cool and overcast Forth, but we did force ourselves into the pool for a short dip, but not Shay Shay. She never liked the pool and the cooler weather gave her every excuse to stay out. She did however get snuck lots of tenderloin by her best partner in crime Russ.
All in all it was her kind of holiday. Ride in the car, check. Ride all the way on Daddy’s lap, check. Run free at the farm, check. Wear herself out, check. Passed out on the big bed at home, check. Making your dog, and your parents happy at the same time, check, check, check.

Glad we could all be together. Happy Forth of July.

What’s The Plan?

On the eve of the Fourth of July I would like for us to think back to our founding fathers who understood the need for a plan to govern our new nation. They were a diverse group of men who did not always agree on everything, but they did inherently understand the need for structure to run the country and worked on it diligently until they came up with the Declaration of Independence, as well as a constitution and bill of rights later. This is not a political blog, so to speak, so please don’t send me responses debating my point of view. This is a blog about thinking about picking leaders with a plan.
It is clear to me that the majority of people are fed up with our political leaders and who can blame them. Being unhappy with the way things are going makes people want change. Bernie and Donald both have made traction with the idea that things have got to change even though they come at it from totally opposite sides. The majority of voters in the UK also wanted change and thus Brexit passed.
If things are not going well change is a good idea, but changing without a plan is not. It’s not exactly change that we want, but improvement. Improvement takes thoughtfulness and strategy. Not political strategy just to win, but strategy to compromise to make changes.
In the UK the people that were leading the exit group had no plan about what it would really mean if they won. They whipped people up in a furry promising that the country would be better off leaving the EU and when people blindly followed them they quickly discovered that the so called Brexit leaders did not exactly understand what it meant to untangle themselves from their relationship with the EU. It was fervor without a plan. 
Our congress in the last few years has done nothing. They don’t legislate, they don’t negotiate, they don’t plan, when they do vote they mostly vote no. Seems like if congress is not going to do anything we don’t need them. Why pay for people who are about not doing their jobs?  
The presidential race is the worst mess we have seen in a long time. Never have we had candidates who are so disliked. But these are the choices we have and we have got and we have to be involved and make a decision.
It is time to ask all our leaders “What is the plan for improvement?” We need to not just follow people blindly who are espousing change because we are sick of the status quo. Change for changes sake could be much worse.  
I have heard so many people say they are not going to vote for anybody because they do not “like” the candidates. That makes you part of the do-nothing group, like congress. Instead of opting out so you can say, “I didn’t vote for that idiot,” listen carefully to the plans of the candidates and vote for the one who has the one that makes the most sense to you. 
That assumes that a candidate has a plan. If they don’t, I suggest that is the worst choice. Wishful thinking that a candidate knows what they are going to do if they win is not always the case. Look at Britain.  
If you want change, work to make it happen. It is not the most important thing that you like your President, it is most important they they are competent, have a level of understanding about all that the job entails and can make plans for improvement and carry them out.
As for congress I don’t know what the answer is. With as bad as the Presidential race is seems like Congress is the true mess. I think they are thankful for the spotlight on Donald and Hilary so they can continue to do nothing under the radar. I suggest doing nothing is not a plan.

Missing Spain Andalusian Gazpacho

In our house we don’t agree on our favorite type of gazpacho. I normally make a chunky, spicy, no olive oil version because it is the most healthy. Russ likes that kind, but it is not Carter’s favorite. She learned to make Gazpacho in Spanish class the traditional way, well blended with bread and oil. Bread and oil!!! Now it is something naughty.
Last week when we were in Seville, the home of real gazpacho, I enjoyed their version, well blended, a little pink, thanks to the bread, not spicy, but refreshing and flavorful. I came to appreciate a version different than my own.
Now that we have been home three days I am missing Spain and that cold yummy soup so I decided to recreate what I had there. This version tasted very similar, although I did not have any sherry vinegar and used champagne vinegar instead. I think if I had used the right vinegar it would be dead on, but this version still made me feel like I was sitting in a sidewalk cafe on a dry 98 degree day.
2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, quartered and seeded 

1 sweet red pepper, seeded and quartered

1 small red onion, peeled and quartered

1 English cucumber, peeled and seeded and cut in thirds

1 clove of garlic

3 T. Sherry vinegar (I substituted champagne vinegar)

3T. Olive oil

3 inches of a stale French baguette

1/4 cup of spicy V-8 

1/4 cup of water

Salt and pepper
Put everything except the salt and pepper in a powerful blender and turn the power on the slowest speed and blend for 15 second and slowly increase the speed until everything is well puréed.
Season to taste.
Chill and enjoy as if you don’t have a care in the world, like a Spaniard. 

Happy Canada Day

For us American-centric USA dwellers I want you to take a moment and celebrate our great neighbor to the north, Canada for today is Canada Day. It is a little like fourth of July, but without all that celebration about not being part of Great Britain anymore. 
Canada does not get the credit it deserves for putting up with us. I have never heard mention by anyone Canadian the need to put up a big ass wall to keep their southern neighbors from trying to sneak in the country and do a hard days work for underpayment. Not only do they not talk about a wall, they never talk bout making us pay for anything for them.
Unlike the isolationist crowd who thoughtlessly voted for Brexit in the UK, Canada is a most welcoming place. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada and even went to the Toronto Airport when the first group came in 2015. That same year we said we would only take 10,000 then many states started putting up barriers to let any into their state. If I were a refugee, I think I would pick Canada over the US.
In the years that I had the pleasure of working in Canada I was welcomed into many of my clients’ homes for meals when I would come to visit their city. Stuart and Saundra Wright, two of my favorite people I got to know while working with Stuart are a shining example of Canadian hospitality. 
Of course there is my best Canadian friend, David MacKay. Thanks to the kindness of his family I got to know Canadian cottage life at Grand Lake in New Brunswick.  
If you have never been to Canada I suggest you make it your next vacation destination. From the maritimes in the east, the French Canadians in Quebec, the metropolitan life of Toronto in Ontario, the windiest corner in North America in Winnipeg, the comically named capital of Saskatchewan –Regina, the cowboys in Alberta, or the spectacular mountains of British Columbia, Canada has something for everyone and they are not selfish about keeping it to themselves.
We are lucky to have such a nice neighbor to our north. I hope we can learn from their example and be an equally good neighbor to the north and the south. Happy Canada Day! You are a wonderful country full of the nicest people.