Afternoon Tea Addiction

Today my friends Christy, Mary Lloyd and I went to celebrate Mary Lloyd’s birthday with our favorite meal, afternoon tea. The timing on this was very bad planning on my part because I started back at Weight Watchers last week. The bad planning was actually that I let myself eat anything I wanted on all my many vacations this year. Either I need to curtail my traveling or I need to not allow myself to eat bad food away from home.
So I am back to monk like living thanks to the points program. I could do Weight Watchers with my eyes closed, but I need the discipline of weighing in every week, that and the group support.  
I read a really interesting story yesterday about addiction. A scientist in the eighties did a study where a rat was put in a cage with two bottles of water, one was plain and the other was laced with cocaine. The rat, after tying both, chose to drink the cocaine water until it killed itself. The scientist concluded that the cocaine was so addictive that the rat had no choice.
Recently another scientist, thinking that there is more to the story than just once someone has tried cocaine there is no way to stop, thought the flaw in the first study was that the rat was alone. So he created a rat park, with fun and games, a bunch of rats and the two types of water, plain and cocaine. Turns out the rats with lots of fun and playmates liked the plain water better and shunned the cocaine water after they tried it. The theory is that being alone and bored can lead to addictions, but having fun with friends is the best addiction.
I agree! Despite the fact that afternoon tea is my favorite meal, but that it is sadly the most fattening meal with the sandwiches, scones no desserts, I must abstain from it at all costs. So today since this birthday celebration had been planned for weeks and weeks I had to work out how to go to tea and stay on my program.
I decided that I would eat my regular breakfast, but save all my other points for tea and make it my only other meal. Since it was at three in the afternoon the timing on it was perfect. But even collapsing two meals into one would not be enough. So, I decided I would only eat one bite of the desserts since sugar is the highest point value item in all of weight watchers. That plan worked, but only because I was with friends and we were having a blast. I was able to withhold myself from my sugar addiction because I was in the equivalent of rat park. If I had been at afternoon tea all by myself I am sure I would have eaten every morsel.
So I’m calling you all out to get out of your houses, away from your screens and drop those devices. Gather together and have fun and you can overcome any addiction if you are with friends and never alone, except when sleeping, because you can’t do what you are addicted to when you are asleep.
I’m thinking of turning my house into the equivalent of rat park so I can have friends playing games all the time. That should keep me away from sugar permanently. 

Escapism Needed

I miss Downton Abbey. There is nothing on TV both day or night. With Carter on senior challenge and Russ away working I could watch TV guilt free if only there was something I wanted to watch. I also could sleep late, if only I had not woken up at five in the morning the last two days and not been able to go back to sleep. Seems like when I have the time to do something there is nothing to do.  
If Downton Abbey were still on I could watch it because; there would be no political ads since it is on public television, I would feel less guilt about watching since it is historical fiction and I am learning something and I really loved all the characters. Why can’t US shows follow the BBC’s lead and make big cast costume dramas? I am sick of reality (well, except the bachelor). I want fantasy, but not of the science, or space type. I am yet to see a British horror film. Seems to me that the English do not think that the only successful programming is the kind that appeals to teenage boys. Leave it to the British to cater to the older, better educated crowd.
I also have some questions I wanted answered by Downton Abbey before they went off the air. Like, why we’re married ladies served breakfast in bed while unmarried had to dress and go to the table to eat? I don’t even want to speculate on what the answer is. Also,I wish they had shown us more of the servants doing their actual work. I am very interested in how they cleaned all those fancy dresses without a dry cleaner. We often saw a ladies maid mending something or a footman polishing shoes, but I know how to do those things already.
I would like to see a spread sheet of exactly how much money the Granthams had and how much it cost to run the estate. They always were talking about things having to change, but I want to know by how much? Outside of room and board, how much did the servants get paid? They never seemed to lack for anything and had lovely things to wear to weddings that were not their uniforms. I still need details.
The new television season starts in a few weeks and without Downton there is just nothing I am looking forward to. I take that back, our friend Megan’s boyfriend Max Deacon is in a new Amazon show called The Collection about fashion house in postwar Paris. Sounds fabulous, but it starts streaming September second and I will certainly binge it and be missing it in days.
I guess I really should be reading, but it is not easy to do that while walking on the treadmill and I need escapism. I can’t dare turn on the regular TV and run the possibility of seeing any political candidate. That is the most unhealthy thing I can do.

Surprise Visit

I was working at my desk in my office this afternoon and Shay started getting restless. When I say working I am using that term very loosely. I actually was going through a box of old momentous, newspaper clippings, address book and photos. I was reading old letters from friends and looking at old camp pictures.
I did not find, but was reminded of a post card I received when I went to school in France. The first week of my summer in France was spent in Paris with my classmates. We stayed at a horrible little hotel in Pigalle, which was the red light district. Since we were young poor college students we tried to economize where we could. That meant drinking in the breakfast room of the little tourist hotel at night instead of going out.  
The night manager of the hotel was a young man named Rauole, from Tunisia and he used to buy us beers so we would stay up and talk to him. He wrote me a postcard and sent it to my parent’s house in London because that was the address I had in the hotel register, even though I was in Nantes, France at the time.  
My mother forwarded me the postcard with a little note on the side that said, “Who is Rauole?” No wonder because this is what the postcard said:
Hi Dana,
It is Rauole, your friend from the hotel at night. I hope you are well and will come back to Paris and see me. Hope to listen from you soon.
Post cards were like the texting of our time, except there was no privacy. No wonder my mother wondered who Rauole was. It was a much more provocative post card than was the reality.
As I was looking at this box of artifacts laughing about what my mother must have thought my door bell rang. I went upstairs with cell phone in hand so I could pretend I was on a call if it was the guy selling magazines who had come by earlier, but to my surprise it was my parents. They were in town to go to the doctors and just stopped by. Suddenly I felt like I was in school again and my parents were checking up on me. 
Of course nothing could be further from the truth. In reality my mother really wanted to discuss Thanksgiving plans because she likes to know what is going to happen in the future. I guess the good report from the doctor made her want to make many plans. It was fun to relive the things I saved, but even better to get to see my parents in real life today.

My Senior Challenge

With the kids away on senior challenge the parents are having a great time. Last night we went to dinner with our friends Kelly and Mark who are empty nesters because their twins are on the trip with Carter. Tonight we had dinner with Michelle and Richard because their oldest is at college and the young one is on senior challenge. So far us empty nesters are getting along just fine.
Since I had the whole day to cook for them I made some Spanish style Gazpacho for dinner tonight. I had a bunch of farmer’s market tomatoes that had to be used. I threw them in the vita mix with cucumber, a sweet red pepper, onion and garlic. After a few pulses I tasted it. Apparently I used way too much garlic. I added the vinegar, oil and a little bread and tasted it again to see if I had tempered the garlic. No.
Shucks to darn! I did not have enough tomatoes, cucumber and sweet peppers to add to the vita mix to lessen the garlic overload. I did not want to add more bread or oil and make it an unhealthy soup. I poured the soup in a pitcher and put it in the fridge resigning myself to serve something to guests I felt was sub-par.  
I went on to cook the eggplant I was going to serve. As I was looking in the fridge for the eggplant I saw a bunch of green grapes. Huh, maybe if I add the grapes to the gazpacho the sweetness will counteract the garlic without compromising the calories.
I threw two handfuls of grapes in the vita mix and poured a touch of the gazpacho from the pitcher to be the liquid. Pulse, pulse, pulse and I added the two concoctions together and gave it a taste. Just the right amount of garlic! Miraculous.
You can’t usually remove something once you have added too much of it to a recipe, but you can counteract it. That is what the grapes did. I consider this my own form of senior challenge. I may not have to carry a pack with all my belongings, hiking 13 miles a day, and sleeping outside under the stars, but I can come up with a food fix on the fly with what I have on hand. Seems like a life long skill to me.
Wonder what us practice empty nesters are going to do tomorrow? Maybe I could try and change the oil in my car or maybe I could just go to lunch with another empty nester.

Do Think Twice

The senior challenge excitement had us all up early at our house. Before seven I was up, showered and had made Carter breakfast so that she could go off to the woods nourished. The whole family, including Shay Shay piled in the car to get to school to meet the coach busses and all her classmates.  
We were a little on the early side and the only kids that were there were the ones whose parents had dropped them off and been instructed to leave. Carter told us that we did not need to come stand with her and wait for the bus, that we were free to leave, but we didn’t. We stayed a respectable distance away with the other parents who were banned from being near their kids. Eventually we all found excuses to to get closer to our own progeny and say goodbye. 

Russ and I were back home before long and looked at each other in that, “what are we going to do now way.” Russ tried to walk Shay, but it was already too hot and she sat down in protest just one street from the house. When Russ walked back in the door just ten minutes after he left I knew it might be a long day.
He suggested we go to the movies. Wha$#%! Russ never wants to go to the movies. He offered up two choices, Florence Foster Jennings and Don’t Think Twice. I really wanted to see the Florence movie, but thought it more of a chick flick so I opted for the comedy with Keegan Micheal Key. Russ verified that it got a 99% rating on rotten tomatoes which is an unheard of high score. So we went.

It was playing at the Silverspot in Chapel Hill, where they have big giant leather seats. I was so hopeful for an afternoon of belly laughs. The movie is about an improvisational theatre group who has one of its members make it on to the Saturday Night Live equivalent show, thus leaving them. It was the saddest, most despising, joyless movie ever. To top it off the improvisation was not even that funny.  
“This is why I don’t like to go to the movies,” Russ said. “At least at home we have Shay Shay.” So much for finding something to do while Carter is off in the woods with no communication for five nights. We are going to have to practice weekends alone for when she goes to college. Perhaps Russ and I could join an improvisation group. We would not be any worse than the professionals on the screen.

Senior Challenge

For as many years as Carter has been at DA, and that is 14 now, she has heard about Senior Challenge. When she was in pre-school and lower school it was from baby sitters, by middle school she knew some classmates who had siblings who had gone and by upper school she got to witness the seniors returning from the five day outdoor leadership program.
The folklore of this iconic trip has both terrified her and intrigued her. Every year as underclassmen each grade goes on an outdoor trip to help prepare them for senior challenge. But in reality going on a hike in ninth grade does not in anyway prepare you for hiking up a mountain and living outside without even a tent for five days.
We are not a camping family. Yes, camp is Carter’s heart home, but she gets to sleep in an air conditioned cabin and eat meals prepared by real cooks. But this is bigger than just living outdoors. This is a true chance to stretch and discover what you can handle.
I can imagine that for Carter the hardest part is waiting to hear who she will be paired with for her small group that goes off alone for the whole trip. I am hopeful that she discovers she likes people she does not know very well. Certainly surviving a difficult situation is a bonding experience.
Today, Carter packed her pack with all the required equipment, most of which was foreign to us. I sprung for the spray that turned her clothes bug repellent since she is such a mosquito magnet. I hope she remembers to reapply bug spray often. It might also help with the smell since they are not allowed to bring deodorant because it attracts bears. I guess that body order is not a bear attraction.
At least it should not be a problem for Carter to carry her pack since she is as strong as an ox. I am a little worried about some of her tiny friends, but then they will have a much easier time with the rock rappelling. Please God let Carter be her least clumsy self for just the next five days. 

Carter’s Future



Earlier this summer we had our front lawn torn up when Google fiber was coming through the neighborhood installing underground lines. Then just as that grass was healing from its assault AT&T u-verse came through and tore up the same line to put their underground system in. I swore and cursed at the installers who had no idea what I was saying. Furious over the whole thing I vowed I would never subscribe to either provider.


We have been Time Warner customers since we moved in this house twenty-three years ago and it was just fine with me. Fine that we pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for cable and Internet. Fine that it did not always work. Fine because they never tore up my yard.


Then this weekend our Internet went out. Actually I did not notice at first, but my IT department was right on it. Russ contacted Time Warner who said we were not having an outage in our area that they knew of. But you were, Blanche, because we were out. They were sure it was our equipment and they could send someone out 48 hours later.


Miraculously, a few hours later they discovered it was their mistake and it came back on. Then my IT department went on a business trip. And sure enough the Internet went out again. The only problem is I can’t get the number to call them off the Internet. So I had to bother my IT department on his trip to get the number. Suddenly the other providers are looking better.


Earlier tonight Carter told me it was her objective to piss people off. Seems like we should skip sending Carter to college and start her right off in a career at an internet/cable provider because they are her kind of people. I think she really has what it takes to rise to the top job at Time Warner.