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.


Neighborhood Pig Needed

Back when Carter was younger we used to take a week’s vacation at family camp in Maine. It was summer camp for grown ups who just happen to have kids. It was the perfect vacation for a family with an only child because there were other kids to play with and all the activities were set up and ready to go.  
For me it was a true vacation because there was no cooking, or thinking about meals. I loved that they rang the bell and we went to the dining hall and ate family style with all our new friends. After a meal was the only work we had to do, which was to clear our own plates.  
Our camp was owned by a family who were “green” before green was in. So clearing our plates was a very precise operation. First you had to scrape your plate of any leftover food that was good for pig consumption, which was everything except lobster shells and the like. Then you had to put into the trash anything that could not be eaten, like tea bags. If you had recycling, that went in another bin. Lastly you dumped liquids in a bucket and stacked your plates in a rack for the dishwasher.
Nothing that could not be reused went to the trash. The best part to me was the pig food. The pig would eat almost anything, cooked, raw, old, spoiled or perfectly good. It made me very happy to know that nothing that ever was edible, but was not fit for human consumption would go to waste.
Today I found a cantaloupe in my fridge that somehow got over looked. It was a whole melon, never cut into, never enjoyed. But when I found it, it resembled a brain more than a melon, with dimpled wrinkled skin. Clearly it was no longer something anyone in my house would want to eat. Wah!  
Now it did not cost that much. It is mellon season after all, but still it is a waste. I imagine that it was once a juicy, yummy fruit, but I will never know. I had to throw it away. This is when I really wished we had a neighborhood pig I could feed it to.
I am sure I am not the only house in the neighborhood who throws away once perfectly good food. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could alleviate some of our guilt by feeding it to someone, a pig perhaps, instead of adding it to landfill where it will make methane.
Yes, I can compost it and turn it into dirt, but I am not so good at composting and it would be much easier to bring a bucket to a pig everyday. I am not sure what Hope Valley regulations are on home pig keeping, but if anyone in the neighborhood has one penned up out back and is looking for good pig scraps, please let me know. I hate throwing food away.


Last First Day


Carter said to me tonight, “How did I get to be a senior?” I am wondering the same thing. Not that she has not worked hard through the years and put in the time, but a senior, really, that’s old. Even the word means old.
She put on her senior shirt, with the traditional hiking boots as homage to the senior challenge she and her classmates are about to embark on. We came out front of our house to take the traditional first day of school photo. This time she did the art direction and after vetoing my first two tempts, and moved to a new location so I could get her in better light.  
That used to be my job, to present her in the best possible light. Now it is is her responsibility. She came home from her summer job three days ago and spent her time working on her college applications and summer assignments. I asked her about the common app and she told me it was already turned into her college counselor, no need for Mom’s help.
This year will be about weaning me as much as it will be about her finding her next move. At the end of last school year I wrote some blogs about being sad about Carter doing some things for the last time. My father called and asked if I needed to see a therapist because he was worried that I was so sad about Carter leaving. I told him no therapist needed, that is what my blog is for. I added, Carter reads this blog too, what if I was writing, “thank goodness my job as a full time mother is almost over.” He got the point.
Yes, I am sad that today was the last first day of school I will share with Carter at home. But that does not mean that I am also not excited for her and all that she has in her future. Carter is worried what I am going to do when she is gone. I jokingly tell her, “I am buying an apartment where you go to college so I can have lunch with you everyday.” She looks nervously at me, trying to judge what the chances are for that to happen.
I am not about to start worrying about what I am going to do when she is gone. I am just enjoying these last lasts. When she is at college I will have plenty of time to think about what is next. I consider that a huge luxury.
Yesterday we got some very tragic news that my trainer Tiffani, who I had worked out with for three years until she had a baby girl eight months ago, lost her sweet daughter Gena. Three weeks ago she was a happy and healthy little girl, then they discovered she had a rare liver cancer. Eight months old and then gone. It makes me so thankful for my sweet girl. As tightly as I would want to hold on to her I know that is not what is best for her. I am cherishing these precious days.  


Shrimp and Feta

 

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Back to school and healthy eating inspired me to make this easy dish tonight. We ate it on riced cauliflower from Trader Joes and I swear my mind thought it was rice! Even Russ said so.

 

2 large Vidalia Onions chopped

4 coves of garlic grated on the micro plane

3 -16 oz. cans of chopped tomatoes – Italian style

2 pounds of raw shrimp, peeled

Big handful of chopped fresh dill weed

1 cup of crumbled feta cheese

Squeeze of lemon juice

 

Put the onions in a non-stick fry pan and cook on high heat for five minutes, stirring every once in a while. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking for ten more minutes and think about stirring every two minutes.

 

Spray a casserole dish with pam and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

 

Pour the onion and tomato sauce in an the casserole dish and add the dill, raw shrimp and feta cheese and sprinkle the whole thing with salt and pepper.

 

Place in the hot oven and bake for ten minutes, until the shrimp are just opaque and the feta is soft.

 

Remove from oven and squeeze some lemon over the whole thing.

 


Thanks Olympians

I watched the men’s basketball final, not because I thought it would be a close game, but because it was Coach K’s final game as team USA coach. Well, and it was the last event in this year’s Olympic Games that I have been addicted to. 
I know there had been controversy about Brazil not being ready for the games. But I have to say as a spectator of the television kind it was fairly fabulous. The only thing that I saw that was a real mess up was the diving well that grew algae because they “mistakenly” ran out of the chemicals to keep it at the right PH. Hmmmmm. Seemed fairly fast to turn so green.  
Thank goodness the games of Olympic sitting are done for me. I could hardly find another excuse to stay on the sofa. These games ended just in time for school to start Tuesday.  
Between two political conventions and the sports I have watched more TV this summer than ever. Not to mention watching our friend Megan Ketch star in The summer hit American Gothic. Summer is normally a time without TV since it used to all be reruns in the summer. Well, those days are over. This is not good.
For now I just want to thank the American athletes who trained their hearts out for years and years so I could feel bad about being a slug watching them. No really, the Olympics is the most impressive event. Athletes compete for medals, but that’s not the same as doing it for pay. I hope that they all can come home and feel the love. So many times after big life events depression can set on when they are over. Hopefully these Olympians won’t deal with that.  
I on that her hand might have a bit of a let down now that the competition is over and I don’t have any skin in this game. It was a great two weeks. Now back to regular life. How boring.


Failure

Eleven forth eight and I haven’t written my daily blog. Wish I could say it was because I had such a busy and fun filled day that I did not have time. That would just be a lie. I don’t have anything written because I spent the spent the whole day catching up with Carter. That is absolutely not true. She worked all day doing her common app and summer assignments that were assigned late in the summer. I hardly saw her.
Nothing was written earlier because I was on the couch watching the women’s volleyball and basketball In the Olympics. I am an addicted sloth. The only good part was I almost finished my needlepoint ornament that I have to turn in on Tuesday.
I should have written my blog before we went to our friends’ Kelly and Mark for dinner. I had way too much fun and stayed much too late at their house and now I am up against my midnight deadline with nothing new or exciting to write about.  
Tomorrow I’ll do better. I’ll watch the news and have some opinion about what crazy people are doing, or I’ll invent a new healthy dish that will be sure to revolutionize the lives of those of us who would like to drop a few pounds. I promise tomorrow will be better. Maybe I can come up with a cure for cancer or at least a new way to whiten your teeth.  
It’s just that after five and a half years of writing everyday some time I just don’t have anything to say, or anything I can say publicly. I’m sure if you were sitting here I could tell you some fabulous, but embarrassing story, but not in the one minute I have until it is tomorrow. Consider this a failure to entertain blog. It happens.


My Girl Is Home, For Now

Six weeks of Camp Cheerio camp counseling is over. Carter waited all year for this summer job to come and now in a blink of her eye it is over. For me it was a long six weeks, especially the last two. I could hardly wait to see her. Shay and I went and stood in the driveway waiting for her little car to come down the road.
She pulled in the driveway and Shay went running to jump on her as she got out of the car. She was tan with legs covered in bug bites like she always was when she came home as a camper. I don’t know why I thought that once she was a counselor bugs would stop liking her. It was so good to hug my girl again.
Now we are on the three day sprint to the start of her senior year. It is hardly enough time to get all her laundry done, her car unpacked and all her camp stuff put away, her school books readied, her senior portrait taken, and get caught up on sleep all at the same time. Not to mention making sure she has all her hiking gear for her senior challenge, a five day outdoor survival trip that starts in a week.
I have hardly gotten her home when she will leave again. It seems unfair, but it is all just getting me ready for when she leaves next year. I had lunch with my friend Stephanie this week whose daughter is going to college next week. She was filling me in on all the things I need to do this year, like do a year book page for Carter and get reservations for graduation night dinner.  
It is happening too fast. I want a little more time to enjoy with Carter. I know that time will be precious with all she will have on her plate this year. For now I guess my job is to get to work on the laundry. Carter could do it herself, but I know she has been sleep deprived for the last six weeks doing the hardest job she loves the most. The least I can do for her is to wash her clothes so she can sleep a little more. There won’t be much sleeping once school starts.


A Cautionary Tale

The news about Ryan Lochte and his fellow partying swimmers who claimed to have been robbed in Rio is trickling in and it’s not good news. Perhaps the timeline started something like this. The four men go out partying after they have finished competing- nothing wrong there. Needing to use a bathroom, they vandalized a gas station bathroom and paid for the damage – ok, not good, but they made restitution for their bad act.
They go back to the Olympic village and don’t say anything. But it seems like Ryan talked to his mother, and for whatever reason told her that they had been robbed and she called NBC. That’s when the the lying to the world started. Now these four athletes who had a chance to be role models, and perhaps make some money doing endorsements have ruined their reputations over a ridiculous lie.  
Everyone lies. Sometimes we do it so as not to hurt someone’s feelings — “No,you don’t look like you’ve gained any weight.” Other times we do it to make ourselves seems better than we are — “I two putted that last hole.” Sometimes we do it just because we were lazy — “What do you mean you didn’t get my RSVP, I left you a message.”
Maybe Ryan didn’t want to tell his Mama that he had spent all his money partying, paying for taxis and paying off the gas station for the damage he had done. Maybe he was calling her for money and the excuse he gave her was he lost all his money in a robbery. Seemed like a good idea at the time. He didn’t want his Mom to be mad at him. Wrong!
Telling one lie led to the next and the next and now he has an international incident on his hands, Brazil didn’t like being portrayed as a dangerous place, even if it is true and countries that don’t like America use this as an example as what is wrong with us.
The lesson here is that lying is probably going to get you in trouble, especially if you lie to the police. Lochte should have taken his chances with his mother and told her the truth. Moms may get mad, but they are your most forgiving advocate.
As I always remind Carter, Martha Stewart did not go to jail for insider trading, she went to jail for lying to the police about it. If you do something wrong, own up to because the lie you tell to cover it up is going to get you in a whole lot more trouble that the original bad act.


Needlepoint Christmas is Tuesday

I know it is still hot as a devils ass outside, but nonetheless Christmas is fast approaching, Needlepoint Christmas that is. If you are not a stitcher, stop reading now, for you won’t care a cat’s whisker about this blog. But for all you needlepoint friends, this is fair warning that the deadline to turn in your stitched canvases to be finished into ornaments at Chapel Hill Needlepoint is Tuesday by 4:30.
I know you thought you could turn a canvas in closer to the holiday and get it back in time to display on your tree, but no. Finishers are inundated with thousands of other peoples work all wanting the same deadline. 
You still have time to finish up that canvas you are working on. Between the heat and the Olympics there is no better time to stitch up a storm. I will be among you trying to get one or two more ornaments done in time to make the Christmas deadline.
I have not participated in any stitching contest this year so my numbers have been lower. After making 68 ornaments last year and still losing to my friend Christy who made 73, I gave up competing. Instead I turned my attention to some bigger pillows at my decorator’s suggestion. It is nice to see my handiwork year round and not just the month of December, but I really like doing ornaments best. There is a great sense of accomplishment to completing a canvas every few days. I also like changing what I look at, so a small project affords me that luxury.
I know that come Christmas I will wish I had more new ornaments, but I think I’ll appreciate the few dozen I did do. My only sadness is that I have a stash full of yummy canvases I am dying to make and I am not sure that I will get them all done for next Christmas.
If you never have stitched a thing it is never too late learn. It is like coloring with yarn. Relaxing and satisfying. When you get that beautifully finished ornament back you will be so happy when your kids ask, “Did you make that?” The answer is always yes, even if you don’t do your own finishing.  
Needlepoint ornaments make the best heirlooms. They don’t take up much space, they are gorgeous and the choices are endless. One of my favorite things to stitch are reminders of the trips we took that year. Then again, a good old jolly Santa is always good.
Merry Christmas to all, now get stitching.


Why is Recycling So Hard?

I have a cousin who works for Waste Management. His wife put a link up to an article about recycling that was written by someone at his job. Turns out that not all things that have the little recycling triangle on them are actually recyclable.  
Here are the big take always I learned from the short article.  
No plastic bags in your recycling bin. They get tangled up in the sorting machine and stop up the whole process. You can take your bags back to the store and they recycle them, but for goodness sake don’t put them in your blue bin.
Everything must be clean and dry! If you have one yogurt container with the smallest amount left in it, when you put it in the bin with a stack of newspapers it drips on the paper and wet stuff can’t be recycled. The sorting people have to throw everything that is wet or greasy.
Those clear clamshell containers that berries come in are not recyclable despite the markings on the bottom. Just put them in the trash. Along with the foam trays that fresh meat comes on.
Household items that you think are still good should go to a thrift store, not recycling. Bowling balls can not go in the bin. Yes, people have done it.
Broken glass is not recyclable. Glass has to be sorted by color and usually by hand. Broken glass is just thrown away at the Recycling center, so don’t put people in harms way by adding shards of glass to your bin.  
We owe it to our children to be better at recycling. That does. It mean putting more in our bins, but making sure he what we are putting in can be handled. That also means that if the lid on your bin does not fit tightly and it is raining everything inside gets wet. And you know now that wet anything is no good.  
I know this blog is a little off topic, but consider it part of the “more good” in the less Dana way.


Olympic Delusion

Olympic Delusion
My addictive personality has latched onto the Summer Olympics in a big way. Watching top athletes in everything from dressage to synchronized pairs swimming makes me wonder if I could have ever been good enough at anything, not just sport, to compete at the international level.
I guess that having Donald Trump being the GOP nominee for President has given me hope that pure armatures with no actual talent can compete. Then, while I am trying to get my steps in while watching the sporting events, and almost kill myself for lack of walking skills, I come to my senses.  
I think there must be other people who watch these world class athletes doing amazing things and think we could do that. Like the open water 10k marathon swimmers who are out there for two hours and look as strong at the end as they were at the beginning, making swimming in the ocean look easy. I think it would make the whole thing feel as hard as it actually is if they would have a regular person try and compete side-by-side with the Olympians so we could have some yardstick at which we could measure their feats.
I am even more impressed with the athletes who are old by athletic standards. Like the 40 year old gymnast vaulter last night. How do her bones not snap as as she lands hard after flying through the air?
The other thing I have enjoyed this year is the addition of new sports. How is it that golf has not been at the Olympics for the last 106 years? It is an actual sport? Since the Olympic officials are constantly considering new sports to add I am hopeful that it is not too late for me to become an Olympian. If they ever add speed needlepoint I may have a chance to make the games. If the Chinese were to lobby for Mah Jongg I might have a chance to make the USA team, of course we would have to fight it out for which version of Mah Jongg would be the official game. Maybe if I can’t make it as an Olympian I could be a Mah Jongg coach.  

The Olympics make me ever hopeful.


It’s a Dog’s World, Kind Of

I think I need to change the name of this blog from Less Dana, More Good to Less Dana, More Shay Shay. Anyone who has read ten or more of the over 2,000 posts has met Shay Shay our beloved labradoodle. I am not alone in the love of my dog.  
Today I looked at Facebook and saw a post from my boarding school room mate Nancy, celebrating the birthdays of her two dogs, Boo and McGee with homemade meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato frosting. She implored her college aged daughter Sarah to “get home soon. We’re becoming crazy dog people.” Too late, Nancy, but you are not alone.
Earlier this summer a friend, who had a son graduate from college, told me he was looking for a job with the only criteria being someplace he could take his dog to work. I was a little skeptical, but am clearly out of touch. He got a fantastic job in a week and a half, taking his dog on the interview to make sure he liked the place.
I was talking to my new editor, Amanda and she said I should bring Shay into the office so I could meet some of the young new hires. I told her about my friend’s son and his job search. Amanda quickly quoted the stat she had just read that 17% of businesses are dog friendly offices. It is a cheap perk for a business to offer its employees and I think everyone is happier with a well behaved dog around.  
This morning as Russ and I were about to go out the door to church Shay stood at the top of the steps and looked at us with that, “Please take me” face. Why don’t churches have dog friendly services? God loves dogs, that’s why “dog” is “God” spelled backwards. Certainly when I think about beings that are most spiritual dogs rank high; they love their neighbor as themselves, they honor their mother and father and they never take the Lord’s name in vain.
With more and more people looking for jobs that allow dogs I hope that dogs will be welcomed in more places like restaurants. The idea that it is unclean to have a dog in a place where food is being made and served is ridiculous. Everyone with dogs at home usually makes and eats food in the same place and none of us have died from it yet. All those people with service dogs get to take them in everyplace, why not let the rest of us?


Happy Birthday Jean

Sometime many years ago I met my beautiful friend Jean when she chaired a charity gala and auction. I worked for her as the writer of the program. It was my first foray into volunteer work in Durham. I was just getting used to not working for money, but still expected everyone to work as if they were the CEO. It was not always the case with everyone, but it was with Jean. I knew I liked her right away.
Jean was passionate about making sure we got everything could donated so that the money raised from ticket sales and auction items could go right to the charity. This was not easy, but as she said, “Give people a chance to be generous.” She was more right than wrong.
I learned a lot from her about running a gala and continued writing the program for many years. It was the ultimate in creativity to write descriptions of every donate item that was offered in both the live and silent auctions. Sometimes I had to make something odd sound fantastical, but most importantly I had to tell the truth.  
From those first days Jean became my dear friend. She was thoughtful and kind while still being strong and determined. I got to know her dear husband Bill and her darling sons, John and Alan. They would have us to their lake house or come sit at our dining room table.
No matter how busy we are Jean always calls me to celebrate my birthday with a lunch and I try and do the same on hers. She is much better at planning in advance for these things than I am. Since Jean has an August birthday sometimes vacations get in the way, but not this year.
Today Jean turned 60! And her loving family threw a beautiful party for her. Her oldest friends from childhood came from Michigan where they grew up together and all her Durham friends came out to celebrate. It was a gala in honor of Jean.  
So happy birthday, dear friend. I’m so happy that fate threw us together all those years ago. You taught me so much and I cherish you always.


My New Editor, Amanda Mac Learn

A few years ago at Durham Magazine I met a new hire who had recently graduated from UNC Chapel Hill school of journalism. She was young, smart and had a wicked sense of humor. She was also a hard worker who had her priorities straight. Her name is Amanda Mac Learn.  
In those early years she often had to share an office with the then editor Matt Dees who could quote many a line from a movie as the perfect retort to a serious question. Despite the fun that could be had by going down the movie track, Amanda, never let that derail her getting work done.
Altogether I rarely came in the office, preferring to work at home, when I did, Amanda always took time to quiz me about Durham so she could learn more of the city she now was covering. She did not see me as the old lady at work, even though she could be my daughter, just as I did not see her as the kid in the office. She was much too professional to not be taken seriously, while still being fun.
Last month when my most recent and long time beloved editor, Andrea Griffith Cash moved from the magazine to head Chris Rosati’s Inspire Media Network I endorsed Amanda as the right person to be head editor of the magazine. She knew the nuts and bolts and all the players and had proven herself in the trenches, issue after issue. Thankfully she got the job, so I did not have to brake someone new into what it is like for me to “work” for them.
I usually do my magazine meetings with my editor over lunch and today was my first official meeting with my new boss. It was so exciting to sit across from the smart young woman and see how far she has grown in her years I have worked with her. Now it is time for Durham to get to know her as the leader of Durham Magazine. If you have an event or story idea consider contacting Amanda. She has her finger on the pulse of all the good things going on in the city and is great at show casing it.
For me, it is a pleasure to have such an easy transition from an editor I loved to another I love just as much. As my father always says, “Be nice to the people who work for you, you never know when you will be working for them.” As it should be. Let the young lead you.


Successful Hair Transition


Two months ago I got news that no grown woman ever wants. My decade long hairdresser, Kathy, was retiring from the hair business and moving away. NNNNOOOOO! Finding a compatible stylist is sometimes a life’s search. I know people who fly a two-leg trip to see their stylist. I know people who drive two hours away every month to have someone who they consider magic with scissors cut their hair. I even have one friend who considered traveling to Dubai when her hairdresser moved there. 
Luckily, Kathy, who had cut my difficult hair for all these years set me up with Suzanne who she felt would be a perfect match for me. Blind dating is easier than changing hair dressers. If you go on a bad date you only have to endure the pain as long as you are out with Mr. Wrong. A bad hair cut can have months long repercussions. 
Suzanne was not an unknown commodity to me. She had bought the Salon from Kathy last year and renamed it Blue Print hair design. I had seen her cut other people’s hair. She even cut a few of my very good friends’ hair and I always thought they looked nice. But some people have good hair to start or are a whiz with hair styling tools — something I am not.
Two weeks ago I had my first visit with Suzanne. We talked about my double crown, something I actually never understood until she showed my how my hair grows from two different spots on the back. I told her of my requirement to have a no-styling-needed-from-me haircut. Whatever she did it would have to do on its own when I get out of the shower. I think that is a lot to ask of a haircut, but something I have come to expect.
Suzanne told me she did not want to change my style and get a chance to get to know how my hair grows. I was good with that. Given how short my hair is right now I don’t think there are many options for change without going shaved on one side.
I was happy with my hair when she was done, but the real test would be in the subsequent days to see if it is a do it yourself do. I am happy to report that I am thrilled with my hair. Maybe thrilled is a strong word. It is after all still my lack luster hair. But I will say that Suzanne was able to give me a worry free self doing do.
I am interested to see what ideas she has for my future. The real test will be if she can come up with something new that I like even better. The best thing is her salon is only five minutes from my house so no trips to the airport are necessary.  


Use It or Lose It

In the insurance world there is a rule that if you are not living in a house your home owners insurance is more expensive than it would be if you lived in that house. The reason for this is things go wrong with stuff that is not being used, or when things go wrong and you are not there to stop it quickly it causes more damage. For example, if your hot water heater sprung a leak in a house you are living in you would notice and fix it right away. If you weren’t occupying that same house and the hot water heater sprung a leak and water went all over your whole house for days and days without notice it could destroy the building.
Cars that aren’t being used develop problems that cars that are being driven don’t get. The batteries run down, the tires get flat on one side, the rubber parts get dry rot, all things that could be avoided with regular use.
Humans are the same way. If you hurt your shoulder and don’t get it looked at right way you could develop something called frozen shoulder, that could make your shoulder useless in the future. Same is true with your brain. If you stop doing basic math skills you forget what twelve times eight is fairly quickly. The old adage, use it or lose it is so true.
I find that summer living has interrupted my routine of healthy living. I have sat more, eaten more, thought less and produced less and now I can feel that my high living has taken its toll on my brain, my body and my out put.  
I wish that I had been required to pay more to be so unproductive like a homeowner with an empty house. If I had I would have done better on my up keep. Now it is time to try and regain my mobility, elasticity, productivity and self control. Yes, summer has been fun, but expensive. I need to stop the leaking hot water heater that is my body and go back to a more efficient life. Does not sound fun. Reliability is my not be sexy but it certainly has its advantages.


Stuff

This weekend while we were at our friends house on the coast we got to talking about what we would keep in our houses if we were offered a lot of money to sell our houses furnished. It was an interesting exercise to think about how attached we may or may not be to our stuff.  
Interestingly, both Russ and I said the same thing. We agreed that the only piece of furniture we would absolutely not want to sell was our dining room sideboard. Yes, it is probably our best antique, but when you think about it, it probably is not the most necessary thing we own. Many people are doing away with dining rooms. Our own child may never own a home where it will fit. It is much more formal than Russ usually likes. Without a big dining room table and a dozen chairs we would have no need for the sideboard. Despite all that we are attached to it.
Russ went on to add that he also would not sell my Morris Minor Traveler station wagon. This is very funny because it is stick shift and he does not drive it. I, on the other hand, would consider selling it if the price were right. The Morris is just a toy. We went to drive it the other day and it would not start which is very unusual for the little three cylinder car. We had to call our private British mechanic who makes house calls, Simon, who came over to it to get it working. The uncomplicated sewing machine of an engine usually doesn’t take much to fix. In fact I think I heard it start up in the garage just now not ten minutes into Simon’s touching it. Of course he usually works on Porsches so this is like Lincoln logs to him.
As I looked around my house the only other things I would not sell are my mother’s paintings. I know that someday I am going to have to pare down our belongings and I guess I am going to have to move into a house with no windows so I have enough wall space to hang my mother’s art. It will be a strange house. Lots of walls, no windows, a big dining room and garage and nothing else. Of course no one is going to come to my current house and want to buy it completely furnished so this dream is one I will never have to live out. I am happy to think that we are not so attached to stuff. It is a burden I don’t need to carry. I wonder if these imaginary people who want to buy our house fully furnished know about what’s in the attic?
  


Great Olympic Sitting

We were away for the start of the Summer Olympics. I missed the opening and the start of Olympic fever. Seems like I have made up for that now.
Last night we got home at 9:30 and I wasted no time getting to my bed to get sucked into watching sports I care little about except during these summer weeks every four years. Despite being exhausted last night, I stayed up until midnight watching Micheal Phelps win his 19th gold medal. Now that was not outside my knowledge level since I did swim as a kid and was a meet director when Carter was younger.
I should have turned off the TV then, but then the women’s team gymnastics came on. I know the peripheral amount about gymnastics and the expert commentating of the NBC crowd kept me watching. I got an six hours sleep since I had to get up early to work out myself.
I made it almost all day with turning the TV on, then I made the mistake of switching it on to see where the storm was going after lightening just missed my house. Lightweight women’s rowing was on. Whoever heard of light weight rowing? Doesn’t matter, I watched. Then four man rowing, men’s beach volleyball. I was now hooked.  
The programming ended on the main NBC channel to show the news and I switched over to some minor NBC station to find women’s seven person rugby. I had no idea how many players usually play rugby, but apparently it is not normally seven. I have no idea what I’m watching but somehow I can’t look away.
I wish that watching these great athletes was actual exercise. Somehow the Olympics is an exercise suck for spectators. I am not at all inspired to try any of these sports I have discovered over the last twenty four hours, least of which is seven’s rugby which I still don’t even understand. Yet I am still excited when a team scores, even though it means these women are sliding on the grass wearing very short shorts. Seems like it is a grass burn sport on purpose. There has been no mention of zika. Looks like these women’s rugby players can outrun all the mosquitos. Me on the other hand is not even walking.  


Free Food Is The Best Food


Our friend Jon, whose house were stayed at on the coast this weekend, loves living on the water for so many reasons, but I think the biggest is the free food. His wife Lane was instructed to pick up a bag of free fish heads from the fish market on Friday, which we did.  


The fish heads were not the free food I am referring to. Those fish heads were the bait that Jon puts in his crab traps he throws off his dock. The first morning after throwing the trap out not only did Jon get some blue crabs, but also stone crabs and a flounder. Jon, being a good coastal citizen measured the blue crabs and only kept the ones of legal size. The stone crabs he took just one of the claws and threw back the animal to grow another. The flounder was big enough to keep. No filet and release here.


This morning Jon pulled up another crab pot and this one had at least a dozen blue crabs and two stone crabs. I watched as Jon threw back to small ones, wondering how many times he caught the same ones over and over again.


At lunch today, Jon not only ate what he he caught, but also some of the four dozen clams given to him by his neighbor who had collected over 500 clams yesterday. Not only was it the freshest seafood, but the sweetest since it was free.  
When my parents lived at South Litchfield my mother liked free food more than anything else too. She never complained of time my father spent fishing as long as he brought back dinner. Of course we used to joke that every fish actually cost $600 if you amortized the cost of his boat over all the fish he ever caught. But then it makes the fish less tasty so we tried not to do that.
I wish my garden had been more productive this year. The amount of “free” food I got from it was not as satisfying. What I really wish is that I had a wild neighborhood goat who would just stop by r house and drop off a log or two of already made fresh goat cheese. That would be my idea of good free food.


Blank’s Navy


Today was a fabulous day on the water. The Blank’s have three water loving dogs. Petunia, the pirate with the underbite, is like a little tug boat in the water. She may not be much to look at, but she can really swim. Petunia is also Jon’s first mate. She paces on the bow of the boat with a sure foot even as the boat crosses other boat’s wakes.  


Shay was happy to ride on the boat, but as predicted did not love swimming. At least she did try. Swimming was made much easier with the addition of a dog life jacket so there was no panic in Shay that she was going to drown.  
After a good swim and tour of the inner coastal waterway we headed home just in time to ride through a huge down pour. It was the perfect way to rinse off the salty water that had dried on our skin.


Before the sun was setting we tried to get a good photo of the four dogs on the boat in their life jackets. The old adage, never work with children or animals could not have been more true. Trying to get four dogs to stay in one place at the same time and look towards the camera was next to impossible. Shay just wanted to jump off the boat fearful that we were going to make her swim again. Petunia wanted to rule from her perch on the bow as designated first mate. Swizzle, the 13 year old with a cataract was not sure where he was and Winston, the other 13 year old could hardly keep his eyes open since it surely was nap time.


I’m not sure Shay will make it as a navel recruit. At least she did like to ride in the boat when it was going fast because it was like riding in a car, but with your whole body out the window. For my money Petunia the pirate dog is the winning water dog. It does not matter if you have different color eyes and teeth that could greatly benefit from braces if you can rule the boat from the front perch.


That Dog Won’t Hunt

If you are a southerner of the red variety you are familiar with the phrase, “that dog won’t hunt.” Not a literal saying, it means whatever that is, it is not going to work.  
Today’s theme here on the coast is, “that dog won’t swim.” Not all dogs, just our dog. After a day of mostly big giant rain, when it finally cleared up Lane and I put on our bathing suits to jump in the back water. Lane’s pirate dog, Petunia, the one with one blue eye and one brown, put on her life preserver and jumped right in the water. Shay looked jaunty in her red life preserver but was a nervous wreck on the dock and had no intention of getting in the water. As Lane, Petunia and I frolicked in the water Shay paced back and forth from the dock to the sea wall.  
After our swim and a few games of Rummy Kube our husbands and lovers of these girl dogs arrived from the triangle. The dogs were besides themselves with anticipation of getting to snuggle with their Daddy’s.
John could not wait to get out on his boat so we packed up all the dogs, including the two thirteen year old boys with the young Shay and Petunia and went out on the water. Shay rode the whole trip shaking in Russ’ lap, fearful that we might have expectations of her swimming. We did not.
Tomorrow, as long as the weather holds, we are going to the swimming hole where grown ups can stand around in the water and drink while the swimming dogs go round and round the boat. Whether Shay will swim is doubtful, ’cause that dog won’t swim.


Friends With Benefits

At my age friends with benefits means a friend who has a beach house they invite you to. My friend Lane and her husband Jon invited me and Russ for the weekend to their house. The bigger benefit is that Lane and I got to come today with all the dogs. All the dogs are her three and Shay.  
Lane is a tender hearted animal lover so her crew is a thirteen year old Maltese type sweet dog with a diaper, another thirteen year old who is deaf and just had cataract surgery and a three year old rescue with one blue eye and one brown eye and a serious underbite. Shay was very well behaved in Lane’s car on the way here because she is unsure if her host dogs are making eye contact with her or are actually just looking out the window. Hard to tell.
We arrived at the beautiful house that Lane tells me was built by a drug dealer because it is on the inter coastal waterway so boats could make deliveries right to the house. Unfortunately I have to wait until Jon gets here tomorrow to learn the whole sorted drug dealing story, but it makes staying here much more exciting. So far no boats have stopped by.
We went to a nice dinner and then to her local Harris Teeter to stock up for the weekend. I could tell I was at the beach because the listings to show what was in each aisle were different than at my store. One of the most popular aisles was the one with the mixers, cookies, crackers and new age drinks. I’m not sure what is the biggest seller on that aisle. Actually I’m not sure I even know what new age drinks are. Probably at my age there are no new drinks at all. I am happy to stay with tea. If I did have a new age drink it might lead to eating some cookies or crackers and that would just be bad.
For now Shay and I are snuggled in our beautiful room over looking the water. Shay likes the benefit of having a friend who lets dogs visit. Me too.


Hug Your Siblings

Yesterday I got a terrible email from my friend Carol saying she was on her way to her youngest sister’s because she had fallen down the stairs and was on life support for hitting her head. Carol was asking for prayers, which I readily got on my knees to send, but sadly was not enough. Her sister Mary did not make it.
Carol is one of three girls, like me and we often discussed life growing up with in a house with three girls. Carol is the middle and therefore was the piece maker. Mary, was the baby and since she was about my age, much too young to leave this world. It especially feels wrong that she did not just sprain and ankle or twist a knee falling down the stairs. Hitting your head is one of those freak things that makes this all seem impossible.
Hearing this story reminds me of my Aunt and Uncles good friend Ann, who used to go to Pawleys Island with us when I was a kid. Ann fell off a step ladder when she was in her forties and hit her head in just a way that killed her too. She was a tiny woman who was in excellent shape. The freak accident was just that, a freak. But now that is two women in the prime of their lives that I have known who died from an accidental fall.
Please be careful walking, especially on stairs. We all have gotten much more distracted with phones and the like. If you wear reading glasses, take them off when you are walking. You just don’t know what horrible thing can happen.
I am holding Carol her sister Barb and their family in my heart. They only just lost their mother a bit ago. To add real heartache to Carol’s very bad day she also lost her beloved dog, Duchess on the same day. Maybe there is some solace that Mary and Duchess are in heaven together, but that is awfully hopeful of me.
I am sending love to my sisters today. I can’t imagine losing them at too young an age. They are the ones who have known me longer than any friend. They are the original playmates, confidantes or people you fought with first. They know what life in house really was like, what you all used to laugh about and what really makes you crazy. Hug your siblings today. We just don’t know how long we have together.


In a Fig Jam

One of the best things about writing this blog is that sometimes I post something and people answer my requests. Such was the case after my fig and goat cheese blog. My friend Christy not only brought me figs from her tree, but she invited me to come pick this morning. Lucky for me her youngest son, Micheal volunteered to climb the tree and pick as high as he could reach. He thankfully, is light enough to be supported by the tender thin branches of her well established tree.
I came home with a basket full of figs and the promise to return some in the form of jam. So I got to work cutting the figs. I had a recipe for fig jam that called for fresh figs, sugar, lemon juice and water. I did not have enough lemon juice so I made a lemon, lime orange juice mixture. I cut the sugar back since the figs were sweet and the juice not as tart. The one problem with doing that is the sugar acts as the glue in jam. I should have cut out the water all together. The Jam I made is tasty, but not quite jammy enough. It is more like a compote.  
All the same it will be good on cheese, or on pizza. It also would make a nice base for a salad dressing. Toast is better with this thin jam than dry so it still will work as a breakfast item. The thing it might be best is as a mix in to yogurt. All the same I learned some things about making fig jam and will do better next time. Now that I think about it it will be the perfect topping to pork tenderloin. Oh the many uses of fig jam.
Here is the recipe as I think it should be.
2 lbs of figs quartered

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice
Put all the ingredients in a non-reactive pan (that means stainless steel). Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to simmer. Cook about half an hour, stirring every so often. Place in clean jars and cool on the counter before putting the the refrigerator. Will keep for 3 months, but use it more quickly or you will forget you have it.


When You Are Wrong Don’t Make Excuses

When I was in college my good friend Hugh and I used to talk about writing a book entitled, “Excuses, Excuses.” We were excuse experts. We had many excuses about why we never wrote it. As we got older we both stopped using so many excuses and learned that honesty and apologies got us further. Today I encountered a young guy who is still in the excuse stage of life and it was my interaction with him that reminded me of that book idea.  
This morning as I was trying to get out of my driveway to go to the gym my line of sight was completely blocked by a giant dump truck with a trailer that had pulled up right to the edge of my driveway. Since the name on the truck indicated they were a grading contractor and the trailer was empty I assumed they were working at my next door neighbor’s house. Since it is the only house having any work done right now I thought they would back the truck away from my driveway when they had a chance since it was blocking my mailbox. They were the only vehicle parked on the street as far as the eye could see.
I returned from the gym and the truck was still there, but I had to go right back out to take Shay to her check up. I got home and the truck was still there. When I went to lunch, it was still there and I had to roll all the windows down in my car so I could listen for any cars coming down the street since I could not see that way the truck blocked my view of the road.
When I came home at three-thirty I had a terse note from my postman about the truck. Now not only had the truck made me mad, but it had pissed off my most important civil servant. I walked down the driveway to find the men who owned the truck. “Are you going to be working here tomorrow?” I asked the two of them.

  

“Yes, Ma’am.” The older of the two men replied.
“Then, can I please ask you not to park in front of my mailbox and so close to my driveway? I could not see to pull out of my driveway and the mailman is mad.”
The easy answer could have been, “Yes, Ma’am.” They already knew those words. But the twenty something spoke first. “It was the only place to park, ” he foolishly said to me in a defiant tone. The older one was getting nervous. “I’m moving the truck.”
I gave the younger one the “what kind of fool do you think I am look” as I gestured to the completely empty street, save their truck, and said, “Really?”
“It was all parked up this morning,” he back peddled.
“I live here, I know exactly how parked up it was all day.”  
The older one, knowing they had not excuse and fearing that older-woman-going-to-pick-a-fight-you-will-never-win tone in my voice said, “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
I looked at the young one and said, “That’s how you respond.” I turned to the older one and thanked him as I walked up the driveway. As I walked out on the completely empty street except for their truck I thought this young guy was a total amateur in excuse department. Never make an excuse where the truth boldly refutes you with one glance.