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.