Halloween Day Off

It was a real holiday at our house. Carter had the day off school. Not because it is Halloween, but because it was the end of the quarter. That made things extra nice. Not much homework and a long weekend.
Russ needed Carter and me to meet him at the mall to do some mystery shopping for a client of his. That was not a hardship, shopping for insights. Then we all went to lunch together. Carter made sure to get credit for eating two meals in twenty four hours with us. It was an unusual occurrence.
Russ left us after lunch, but Carter and I continued with a little shopping. We were already at the mall and we NEVER go to the mall together. Actually I try never to go to the mall at all. I guess shopping was too strong of a word. We spent a little time in one department in one store and Carter got a few things under the “birthday is coming” umbrella.
We continued our fun girls excursion wth a stop at a cool new nail salon that must have had thirty pedicure chairs. I have never seen such a big place in my life. We just got manicures, but Carter commented that it was a really fun day. I agreed.
Carter had two friends come over to have dinner, give out candy and watch a movie. I walked to my friend Karen’s house for a Halloween dinner. I was not dressed in a costume. When I got there I discovered that my friends Christy and Lynn were also there without their husbands and not in costume so we decided we were actually in costume as sister wives. Luckily, no one asked us what we were. It was great to not have a small child hanging on me begging me to please leave to go scoop candy up. I hate trick or treating.  
I got home just as a family I did not know was walking up our walkway to get candy. They were the second to last group to come to our door, before we were cleaned out. I turned the lights out in the front of the house and retreated to my bedroom, leaving Carter and her friends to watch Funny Girl. Nothing scary going on at our house. Instead of Halloween it should have been called girls day.


Is Two Weeks a Tradition?

Last Sunday the three of us went to dinner. It was Russ’ idea as a chance to actually get to eat a meal with Carter. What, with his travel and her school, the two of them are not often in the same place at the same time. It was such a nice dinner Russ suggested we have a family meal out every Sunday until she leaves for camp and college. Carter, sensing better food options readily agreed.
This weekend Russ was up in Philly visiting his family. He made a reservation at a new restaurant and told Carter about our Sunday night plans. While he was still away she came to me about the menu. “I don’t want duck tongues for dinner,” she told me. I looked more closely at the choices and I agreed it was probably not the best place for her. Rather than end the fledgling tradition I suggested a different restaurant.
“I don’t want to hurt Daddy’s feelings,” she said.  
“Daddy doesn’t care where we eat. He just wants to spend time with you.”
Daddy readily agreed to the new choice.  
It was a win-win. Food that made everyone happy. Good company. Great conversation and quality time together. We may have a tradition.
I am wondering if the same dynamics would work if we were at home. Of course I am happy to cook and that way I can make things that are also good for us. Russ usually prefers my cooking over most restaurants, but not Carter. For her “restaurant food” is always better than mine.
I am not sure that time at the table would be half as long if we were at home. I feel like the pull of “other things to do,” would draw Carter away. I guess we are just going to have to keep going out. Fine with me. Russ and I will have years to eat dinner at home, but mere months with Carter.

The Loudness Continues

Tonight I finally paid off the Christmas gift I gave my mother last year. It was a night out to dinner and to see a show at DPAC. Turned out the show she wanted to see was Fun House, but when she got here today she couldn’t remember a thing about it.  
We went to a lovely dinner at Revolution. The only bad part from my mother’s point of view is that she ordered two appetizers and by the time the second one came she was already full and she could not take a doggy bag to the theater. Wasting food is not a good thing in her book.
After the yumminess, we walked down to DPAC where we waited in line to get our bags searched. It took a little longer than I thought it should because we were behind two women who had a bag that was considered too big to bring in the theater and it also contained a flask which they were told was contraband. Such tight security, who knew. I was a little concerned, not because I thought my mother had any contraband in her bag, but that they might have considered my purse too large. It was in fact bout the same size as the backpack of the woman in front of me, but it was purse shaped. Thank goodness we got through.
I enjoyed Fun House and so did my mother, though Fred it was over she told me she did not understand all of it because she was only wearing one of her hearing aids. Turns out she only needs one when she is with me since I am loud and my voice is the register she can hear. Sadly she missed some of the show, but liked it nonetheless. Given its racy nature perhaps she heard just the right amount.
She says a night out to dinner and the theater is her favorite gift. I guess not hearing doesn’t matter.

The Curse Of The Loud Laugh

For my child the fact that I have an incredibly loud laugh is often cause for great embarrassment. I tend to hear the funny in things just a split second before others so my big laugh often leads the chorus. When Carter is sitting next to me I usually receive a slap on the arm with a rebuke.
Tonight we went to see her school’s fall production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a comedy by Steve Martin. Since Carter is a senior, most of the players are kids I have watched through many fabulous productions, but tonight’s was extra good. Three principles, Thomas Benson, Jaxon Wilkerson and Ellie Dusek are in Carter’s advisory so they are used to me and I to them. Their performances were dead on, delivering the quick witted lines with perfect delivery. Chris Villani, as Picasso had me rolling with his faultless interpretation. I laughed loudly and often, but so did the rest of the audience.
After the show was over, Ellie and a number of other cast mates told me they were looking forward to this show since I would be in the audience. Apparently my reputation as a loud laugher is welcomed by the performers. “Mrs. Lange we could hear you laughing,” was repeated over and over again.
There is no bigger compliment I can give an actor that that of true heartfelt laughter, as long as funny was what they were looking for. I hope that my loud voice did not annoy any audience members, other than my daughter.
I wish that I had a loud sound to recognize the tech crew because the also were outstanding. The set was incredible, especially the lights, and everything went off without a hitch. Bravo to Campbell Hannan and Evan Ballew for their superior stage management. My loud laughs are for you too. Without you doing your job well the timing of the actors would not have been so funny.
I may be loud, but I am happy that my sincere feed back to the people on stage makes them know how much I loved their performances. Laugh loud and often, it makes everyday better.

Women in Leggings

Tonight I went to Smitten, a downtown store for women, where my friend Sara was having a party to benefit a charity. Most of the women there were around my age and the clothes at Smitten are age appropriate for us.
As I was waiting to pay for my purchase a number of us got to talking about leggings, prompted by a sign that joked about appropriate legging over-wear. What is “over-wear” you wonder? It is the shirt or sweater you wear on top that is long enough to appropriately cover your butt in leggings.
Only sweet young things can wear leggings with a shortie top and then only in yoga class. For most of us, we need a good rear view mirror to make sure that we are not exposing something we wish we weren’t.  
As I was standing in line I came up with the solution. Leggings should come with a phrase written across the bottom side of the buttocks area that reads, “if you can read this my shirt is too short” in bright neon words.
It would make pairing the right top with your leggings so much easier because you would only have to glance in a mirror at your backside, or even a big ass, no pun intended, plate glass window to see if you could read the neon words. If you couldn’t, then you would know the shirt you are wearing covers enough.
Of course this advice does not apply to the Kardashians or professional dancers, of any kind, but most of us need a DMZ line that absolutely must not be crossed. Better yet, maybe leggings should be re-thought all together. Na, that’s not going to happen.

Dana Lange Out Loud

Introducing Dana Lange Out Loud, my new podcast from Durham Magazine. For those of you who know me you might think the name is a little redundant, but you know we could not name it Dana Lange Whispers.
My first guest is Michael Goodman who is one of the co-chairs of the education bond committee in Durham. With the election underway in North Carolina with early voting it is very important that Durham voters know about the four bonds for public schools, Durham Tech, the library system and the crown jewel, the Life and Science Museum.
Michael does a good job laying out the importance of supporting these bonds. The best bit of information he passes is is that we all need to turn over the ballot, because the bond questions are on the back.  
Yes, the presidential race is at the forefront of most of our minds, followed quickly by governor, but the bonds have a very local, long term effect on our city. Please listen to the podcast and share it with your friends and neighbors.  
Click here for a link to the Podcast. Dana Lange Out Loud – Michael Goodmon.  You may need SoundCloud to listen, or you can go to the Durham Magazine website and look under the More tab for podcasts.  If you have suggestions for guest I would love to hear from you.  

I Need Multiple Timers

I am a multi-tasker from way back. Seems like I get more done if I am doing more than one thing at a time, but maybe it is not always good. Sometimes when I am cooking something that takes a long time, like caramelizing 20 pounds of onions, I certainly have to do another job at the same time. I can’t stand over the pot and watch it for four hours. So then I start answering e-mail. A job that never ends and can be stopped at a moments notice so I can go stir the onions. Suddenly the phone rings, I stop writing, stop stirring, start talking and my mind forgets that I still need to go check the pot every ten minutes.
I have a watch that has a timer on it. It is probably my favorite feature, after the fact that I also get my text messages on it. If I am smart, and remember, I set the timer on my watch to remind me, “go stir the pot” every ten minutes. It is amazing to me how fast ten minutes goes by if I am doing something like writing or playing a game on my iPad. Yet if I am walking on the treadmill ten minutes takes an eternity. Regardless of what I am doing in those ten minutes, be it something engulfing or something annoying I will have totally forgotten about stirring the pot. If I did not set a reminder I am sure to burn the onions.
I don’t think, actually I know, I did not used to be that way when I was younger. I could keep many balls in the air, in my head, and not forget which one needed my attention at the precise moment. The loss of this skill is the one I think I miss the most, and perhaps it is tied with the loss of my perfect eye sight.
Today I had multiple jobs going at once. I was baking tomato pies and not all of them went in the oven at the same time. I was also roasting Brussels sprouts and cooking carrots. It turned out I needed multiple timers to keep me going. I have multiple timers, on my watch, on my oven and a stand alone old fashioned one, but every time one went off I was not sure which job it was for. I also could not leave the kitchen because I can’t hear the oven timer anyplace except right next to the oven. So maybe I miss my good hearing also. Needless to say I could not multi-task liked I would have in my youth and add one more job to the three I was working on.
Maybe I don’t need multiple timers, but fewer jobs at the same time. I do not like the idea of being less productive, but I don’t want to burn any onions.

Food Bank Dream Comes True

Today was the friends and family opening of the new Raleigh Headquarters of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC. It was a long term dream come true for the board and staff who have been trying to get this done for years.  
The real dream is that we end hunger in our state. With that in mind the new 108,000 square foot building is being called the “hunger solutions center.” We are not just tying to give food to people who don’t have food, but we are working on ways to end the cycle of poverty that keeps people from being able to provide food for themselves and their families.  
In our new building not only do we have giant freezer and coolers to keep fresh meat, produce and dairy. We have a clean room so we can repackage bulk foods. We have a teaching kitchen so we can train people how to cook real food as well as two third of an acre garden plots for teaching people how to grow food. We have a huge community space where partner agencies can use conference and training rooms. And the best space for volunteers to help us sort food.  
We dreamed big and thanks to my friends on our board we have done what seemed impossible. The campaign to pay for this building is called So All May Eat. We have quietly raised $9.1 million dollars so far. Now is the time to tell the world about our campaign and get the last bit of money we need to help our community.
Tonight as the staff, their families and both old and current board members toured the new building we were astonished at how perfectly it turned out. The offices are nicer than anything the Food Bank has ever had thanks to a generous donation by Kimley-Horn and my board chair predecessor Barry Barber who gave us all their old office furniture and cubicles because they were moving offices. It may have been “used” but it looked new and beautiful to us.
The original building had once been a department store thirty years ago, then it went way down market and was an indoor flea market, with individual booths built inside. It took real vision to see that it could be renovated into a perfect Food Bank. Tonight I joked with my fellow board members that if we could end hunger we could “flip this Food Bank” and sell the newly renovated building for more than we have in it.  
It was a big job, especially given that the staff not only had to work on the renovations they also simultaneously had the biggest year in Food Bank history distributing almost 65 million pounds of food. A shout out to President and CEO Peter Werbicki and Operations VP Charlie Hale who did double duty managing this project and their day jobs. I am enormously proud that I get to work with these selfless people. To reward them now we have hurricane Mathew relief that is causing us to need all the new space we have as well as still using our old building until it closes.
If you ever want a tour of what a state of the art Food Bank is, I am happy to give you one. Of course if you are interested in helping the Food Bank with a gift I will run over and get it from you. The Food Bank is the central hub that over 800 feeding agencies depends on to get food to feed people who need it. Now doing that good deed will be a more pleasurable experience.

Reverse Advent Calendar

My friend Stuart Wright, from the great north land of nice people, otherwise known as Canada, sent me a wonderful idea today. It is a reverse advent calendar. Instead of opening a little door on a calendar and getting a piece of chocolate during advent you get a basket and put a non- perishable food item in the basket everyday during advent. Then on Christmas Eve you donate your advent basket to the Food Bank.
Leave it to those friendly Canadians to come up with a major improvement on the advent calendar. Who really needs any more candy or tiny presents during the holidays? I know advent calendars are mostly for children, but most of the children I know have too much as it is. If you can afford an advent calendar you can afford to do the reverse idea and teach your children what the real meaning of Christmas is.  
Now I don’t want the Christians to hog this idea. No matter what your belief system is, or even non-belief you can get in on this reverse giving too. I can see playing dreidel and instead of getting some waxy bad tasting chocolate gelt, you could put a can of beans in the pot to give to the hungry. The only thing I suggest is that you don’t put in a jar of gefilte fish, not because it is not the best tasting item, but because it is a glass jar. The Food Bank does not like to accept glass jars because if they break and the contents spills on other food it all gets ruined. You can only imagine was a broken jar of gefilte fish could do to ten boxes of shredded wheat.
I am going to put a basket in my front hall, so that every time I walk past it I am reminded the meaning of the Christmas season. Anyone who visits my house will be welcome to contribute to my advent basket for the Food Bank. I am happy to fill my car and take all donations in. Of course checks make the best presents, in the advent basket or anyplace else.
Thanks for the idea Stuart!

Fall At Last

Finally it has gotten seasonally chilly! Last night I opened the front door to let Shay go outside and I could hear the trees swaying in the cold night breeze. It just sounded colder.
I am tired of the consistent hot weather. The reason to live in a North Carolina is to have four distinct seasons. As long as we have this governor we at least deserve a nice long fall. Fall is my favorite season and I fear we might go from a long hot summer to a long cold winter with hardly any buffer seasons.
Russ and I took Shay for a walk up at the Eno Park. It was cool enough to wear a sweatshirt, but still enjoy the sunshine. The leaves have started to fall, disguising the trail. A number of large trees have fallen across the trail, probably from hurricane Mathew. At one point Shay thought she could jump over a pair of trees and she made the vertical jump, but once she was on top of the fallen trunk she was not sure footed on the round tree. Russ came to her rescue catching her as she fell to the side.
The cool weather made the walk better for Shay too. She was not panting from exhaustion after climbing the big hill up from the river to the parking lot. Hooray for fall. Let’s keep it like this for a couple of months.


The news keeps taking about this election possibly being a low voter turn out race. You couldn’t tell that from the crowd at the early voting poll I went to today. I knew it was going to take a long time when I drove up and there was a line of cars waiting to turn into the parking lot. My friend, Andy, told me she waited there yesterday for two hours. I was prepared to wait at least that long.
Turns out I only had to wait an hour, but it was quite a pleasure. I had the nicest group of people in line with me. Our conversations started very tenderly, with no one wanting to step on another’s persons toes and ended with the exchange of information on the down ballot races.
This is a historic election that I was sure would come in my life time. No, not that we would have a non-politician as a major party candidate, but that we would have a woman. Having gone to an all girls school at the height of woman’s lib I was certain that we would have a woman candidate. I actually am surprised it took us this long.
I am going to go out on a limb and disagree with the newsmakers and say that this will not be a low voter turn out race, at least in North Carolina. There is a lot at stake and I feel like the citizens are taking their civic duty seriously.  
Tonight Russ texted me from his flight coming home asking if I wanted to go vote with him tomorrow. I guess he did not read my blog last night and now I feel guilty that I went without him. I was just so ready to get my vote in just in case something happens to me. I’m just sorry that Carter is a month too young to vote.
If you can vote early do it. But if you can’t, hopefully all these people voting early will make the lines not too long on Election Day. This election has been long enough.

Only 19 Days Left

For the next 19 days I can’t watch any TV in real time. See, like most of you I can’t take the political ads any more. The half truths, the spin, the nastiness is ruining my mood. The local bullying ads are the worst. When an older, blond white woman calls a candidate an “odd duck” I want to strangle the copy writer who wrote this ad. If a candidate has no positive platform, record or plan to run on they just say bad stuff about their opponents.  
Since civility is not going to return in this election I am just going to turn a deaf ear to it. This also means that I am going to have stop looking at Facebook. I want to continue to like my friends and it is best if we don’t know each other’s politics. I am sorry to those readers of my blog who have read and disagreed with mine. I am not going to make any more political comments, unless one of the major candidates does something so outrageous that I just can’t help myself.  
It is time to DVR, Stream, Netflix and just plain turn the tv off. Nothing I can see or hear is going to change who I am voting for. The constant bickering could just possible ruin my diet. So I am not going to fall victim to any election stress eating.
To justify not keeping up with the last minute changes to all the races I am going to vote tomorrow at the Eno River Unitarian Fellowship on Garrett road. I feel a sense of peace voting at the Unitarian Church, Iike perhaps we can all get along again.
It has been an ugly race, but when it is over we have to be one nation again. I am hoping for the best which only can happen if everyone participates. If anyone needs a ride to go vote I am happy to drive you. Just no excuses for not exercising your rights. Soon enough all this noise will be over and the politicians can get back to doing not as much as they should.

Lunch Lady Diet

I made exactly 37 quarts of Tortilla soup today, sans the tortillias. Those will be made tomorrow. 37 quarts is a lot of soup to go in the fridge at the same time. I have learned my lesson long ago about not overwhelming appliances, but I also know that food needs to be chilled quickly. What am I to do?
I eventually put quarts in a cooler with a whole bag of ice on top to get them to be refrigerator cold before going in the icebox. This is when I wish I had a blast chiller. Of course that is not a home appliance I really need that often.
I am sorry to say that all that soup was pre-spoken for so I have no extra. In fact I needed 37 quarts and that is exactly how much I made. How I figured that our I do not know.  
Russ and Carter walked in the house and said, “I want that smell for dinner.” Thank goodness I had some I had made the other day as a test. It would be terrible to not feed my family while feeding all my friends’ families.
All this cooking is still the best diet. I was too tired to eat dinner and just had an apple and a piece of cheese. I need to make a large amount of food everyday so that I do away with my appetite. Maybe I should become a lunch lady. The. I also would not need. A blast chiller because the food would be consumed right after I made it.
Next up is going to be jambalaya. That is going to need chilling too!

Announcing The New Food Bank Headquarters

For years I have been keeping a secret. It is that the Food Bank Of Central and Eastern NC has a new headquarters. I am thrilled that I can finally shout it from the roof tops.
The Food Bank is a very frugal organization. Never wanting to spend any money on ourselves, but instead always putting money into getting food out to hungry people. As a member of the board we knew that we had out grown our old headquarters on Tar Heel drive in Raleigh years ago. At 48,000 square feet it was much too small, but we made due.
The board spent years considering all our options. Plenty of people wanted to build us a new building, but the locations were always much too far from the people who we serve and the volunteers who serve us. Location was a big issue for us. We also could not see building a fancy building. It goes against our mission.
We held out. We kept looking. We passed up big places in good locations that might be bio hazards. Then one day we got wind that the Old Raleigh Flea Market on Capital Boulevard might be willing to sell. After long negotiations with the family who owned the 108,000 square foot building on eleven acres we got it. That was just the beginning.
We started a private capital campaign and a renovation at the same time. I had to keep many secrets; that we bought the building, that we were renovating it and that I was chairing the board division of the capital campaign. If you asked me what I was doing, I might have said Food Bank stuff, but I was vague since I was really out shaking people down for pledges for our fabulous new building. I was not aloud to say anything until now and you know how hard that is for me.
Today it goes public! Couldn’t help it since the Food Bank moved last week in the midst of Mathew. It seems that whenever the Food Bank moves into a new building we also have a devastating hurricane. Moved into a new building a week before Fran, into a new branch in Greenville a week before Floyd and now this one.
We are going to need every inch of our more than double the space since what we know is that the after math of these hurricanes is a multiyear bump in the need of our services. We not only need to finish the capital campaign to pay for the building, but we need to increase our food capacity for the hurricane.  
If you are interested in seeing the building, or helping the Food Bank let me know. I am happy to drive you over and give you the tour. It is an exciting place that we hope we don’t outgrow for a very long time. We do know that everyone who encounters the Food Bank, as an agency who gets from from us to a volunteer who helps sort food will enjoy it so much more in our new home. 

Loss of My Second Best Sense

It finally happened, I lost my second best sense. For most of my life I had superior eyesight. I was 20/10 in one eye and 20/15 in the other. Most people don’t even know that you can be better than 20/20. Unlike so many of my friends in high school, I could wake up in the morning and see perfectly without having to feel around for glasses, or touch my eye to put contacts in.
My husband, whose worse sense is seeing, would say, “There are five lights ahead?” in response to my directions, “turn at the fifth light.” I could see far and in perfect focus.  
Then around forty five my close up vision started to go. I could not tell which bottle was the shampoo and which was the conditioner in hotel showers. I broke down and got readers. First 1.0, followed quickly by 1.5, and a year or two later 2.5, skipping 2.0 all together. But they were just readers. No doctors’ intervention.
Then I went to a museum with my husband and I could not read the descriptions on the wall from behind the rope. I would lean over as far as the docent would allow me. I would put my reading glasses on and take them off, to no avail. My sight was gone.
Today I went to the eye doctor. Sure enough. From 20/15 to 20/25. She described it as two clicks from normal. I thought of it as the death of my superior sense. I had to pick out glasses to wear when I go to museums. I did not bother to get bifocals since the doctor told me that I did not need glasses for most things so my readers will remain my permanent necklace, but when I go to museums I will have to carry two pairs with me.
For the record, my best sense it that of taste. I can taste something and most often diagnose exactly what is in it. I am thankful that my best sense is still with me because there are no corrective measures for tastebuds.

Happy Toy Camera Day

Since Russ left for Washington, Carter and I have been looking at old scrap books and reliving Carter’s childhood. After a while I told her I had to stop and write my blog. “No, let’s look at more photos.”  
I asked Carter what I should write about today. She pulled up a list of what today’s holidays are. Turns out today isNational Cut up your credit cards while at the same time, National Department Store Day. Seems a little at odds to me. As Carter kept reading the long list of national days she came upon, National Toy Camera Day! Ta Da!
It all came full circle. I pulled out the scrap book from 2,000 when Carter was just over a year old. There it was, a page dedicated to Carter’s earliest photo taking. Before she could even talk, Carter would communicate that she wanted the camera by tapping her finger to her eye. I would hand her the little camera and she would hold it up to her eye and push the button. Her first photos were not great works of art, but of things that were at her eye level, like Russ’ foot.  Happy Toy Camera Day.

The love of photography must be genetic. I easily have hundreds of thousands of photos, mostly of a Carter. Carter is well on her way to beating me in numbers of photos taken. Of course most of mine are on film and she has the advantage of all digital.
So happy Toy Camera Day. I am not sure there is even a need for toy cameras since real ones are so cheap and prevalent. What I do espouse is taking as many photos as you can and find a way to save them so you and your family can look at them often. Take photos of your cars, your living room decorated at Christmas, your grandparents at Thanksgiving.  
It may not seem important at the time you are taking the picture, but someday you will look back and say, I remember that day. You may also get a big laugh about the fashions, the hair styles, or the decorating.  

Fortuitous Break Down

Yesterday was a beautiful day so I took my Morris Minor out for a drive. The fifty-two year old car needs to be driven to keep it going, but I only like to drive it in perfect weather. I picked up my friend Lee for lunch and off we went. I knew that something was not quite right while I was driving it, but it made it to lunch and back.
Today was another gorgeous day and Russ suggested we take the Morris out to a place called Road Scholars, a high end car restorer where our personal mechanic happened to work. They were having an open house and car show so we took Shay Shay, since it was an outdoor activity.  
As we drove the twenty the minutes there in the Morris Minor we discussed what possible problems the car might have. The engine was louder than usual and the acceleration was dwindling, but since it barley has a sewing machine inside we knew it probably was nothing too bad.  
We arrived at the car show and parked. Young men who were looking at the many Porsches they specialized in gave us the thumbs up and a “You’ve got the best in show,” shout out. We looked t the cars and eventually found Simon. He showed us the fine motor cars he usually works on. I felt proud that he liked to work on our humble little car. We discussed what might be wrong with our car and he said he would get some parts and would come get the car in the next week.
Russ, Shay and I went back to our car to head home, getting more waves as we drove off. Not one block away something went wrong with the exhaust system and we turned into a loud rolling bucket of bolts. I pulled over and Russ walked back to find Simon. He had us bring the car to the back parking lot where he promised to take good care of it and look at it soon.
We called an uber and got a ride home. If the Morris was going to break down any where it couldn’t have been at a better spot. I hope she is not intimidated being in the company of so many fine and expensive cars. The garage at home seems a little sad without the robin’s egg blue woody in it.  

Tech Un-savvy

Apparently I am unable to video record anything with my I-phone. I don’t know why this seems to be a skill that eludes me. Twice Carter has asked me to record important moments in her life and both times I have failed.
The first time was when she was in the recovery room after getting her wisdom teeth out. She wanted to know what she was like under anesthesia. For the record she was darling and funny, but I have no proof of that since I thought I was recording, when in fact I was not.
Today, Carter sent off her college application. She asked me to record the pressing of the send button so she would have record of what we hope is a very happy moment. True to my lack of skills I pushed the big red button and held my phone up for the whole five seconds then when Carter said I could cut, I pushed the red button again. That was when the recording actually started.
What I did get was another attempt at filming her where she called me a butt hole. So much for the darling funny girl under anesthesia. I can’t blame her because I am a butt hole. Why can’t I figure out how to take videos?
I am going to have to practice everyday so when the next big moment comes I can actually capture it. Hopefully it will be the reading of a college acceptance letter. For now, I want to publicly apologize to Carter for my lack of tech skills. I wish I had a video of that moment too. But the butt hole one is really much funnier so maybe it worked out exactly the way everything in our lives do, funny.

Replacements Field Trip

My friend Lane and I took a field trip today to Replacements, the largest seller of china, crystal and silver in the world. Since both Lane and I like china and silver it seemed like a fun place to go. When I say we like china I should clarify that Lane likes china and I have a genetic mutation that make me love china. I inherited this gene from my mother, which is funny since she does not care about food or eating, just china.
The giant warehouse and showroom house something like 12 million pieces of china according to our tour guide. I think that estimate is low based on the ten football fields we walked through with shelves twenty feet high.
After viewing a portion of the inventory I think I need to clarify my genetic mutation description. I do not have an uncontrollable irrational love of all china, just the patterns I consider to be beautiful and they are a small percentage of the china available. For the most part I have to say most of what Replacements has to replace is ugly. Now before anyone gets up in arms, just consider why most of the 12,000 china patterns they carry are discontinued in the first place.  

Of course there are the gorgeous Flora Danica, museum quality plates, but then there are the ugly plates covered with roses. No comparison.
The silver was my favorite section. The incredible narrow uses of a things like the asparagus serving tray with a pierced piece to set the green spears on so that they would not sit in water and get soggy seemed beautiful, but not an everyday item. There was one big ass dog bowl that was at least 14 inches across that could be used everyday. Of course it was not listed as a dog bowl, but a center piece with four candle sticks. At just under $9,000 I guess your dog would get to stand on the table and eat their food from that silver bowl. The candle light is just a nice added touch for the dog that has everything.
I am most proud that neither Lane nor I made any snickering remarks during our tour, despite the desire to comment on the glasses that looked like Ronald Mc Donald. I can’t wait to see where our next field trip will be. The tackier the better.

Aging Microwave 

When I was a kid we never had a microwave oven. When they first were invented they cost a crazy amount of money and were big enough to drive a VW bug inside. Since they were invented after my parents had added the third kitchen to our house there was no dedicated space to add such a large and ugly appliance to our main kitchen. The other two kitchens were hardly ever used so we certainly were not going to spend any money outfitting them.  
Since I did not have a microwave during those early years that I was developing as a cook I had no interest in getting one of those new fangled machines myself. It was not until I was out of college a number of years and the prices really went down to be less than the cost of a television did I get one.  
I never used a microwave to “cook” anything. It was purely to reheat leftovers, something I always had a lot of. When I met Russ he had a giant ass kenmore microwave, large enough for a 20 pound turkey. He also had a microwave cookbook, but I would bet good money it was never opened once. Probably seemed like the perfect gift to give a bachelor son.
As soon as Russ and I consolidated our households I did away with the big ass microwave since I had been brought up in a home where the kitchen was a room to look good and annoying ugly appliances were unwanted. Not that I did not have and use many appliances.
I have grown to love my microwave as the feeder of family members when I am not home. All they have to do is pick out one of the many containers of previously cooked food from the fridge and in a matter of moments they had a homemade meal.
For the last few months I have felt that our current microwave is not doing as good a job of heating so it used to. Sometimes I have to put a bowl back in a couple of times to ensure that the middle of a soup is actually hot, this despite stirring. Since I don’t buy frozen food with heating instructions I am not sure if the microwave is actually getting less effective or I am imagining it. Maybe I should buy a lean cuisine and cook it according to the package and see if it is hot and that will tell me if my machine is working. I just can’t bring myself to buy that kind of food.
I guess I will keep this microwave until an epic failure even though new ones cost barley as mush as dinner out for the three of us. If I felt like I might cook a fresh meal every night I might do away with the microwave all together, but that is too much pressure on me and then what would we do with all the leftovers in the fridge?

Help The Food Bank Help Hurricane Victims

Hurricane Mathew may be long gone, but the flooding and devastation to eastern North Carolina is not over. Thousands of people are out of their flooded homes and the end is not in sight. Sadly this is not a first time disaster. In the past twenty years we have had hurricanes Fran and Floyd that took years to recover from.

Those people who have been flooded out are in shelters that may give them a meal today, but as soon as the water recedes those shelters close and people are left to fend for themselves.  Providing food for people whose homes are destroyed is the front line to helping them survive to rebuild.

The Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC is the agency that is responsible for managing the federal and state emergency feeding programs. As we learned in previous hurricanes the programs that the Food Bank runs are needed more than ever. The good news is our Food Bank is expertly equipped to set up and run emergency feeding programs, but it takes money.

Despite the government’s dependance on the Food Bank they do not provide all the funds needed to help hurricane victims. The news about the flooding is not over. If you can help people of North Carolina through the Food Bank I personally would appreciate it. I can promise that the Food Bank is a very efficiently run agency that can turn ten dollars in cash into $100 worth of food and put it in the hands of people who need it today.
If you are able to support FBCENC in our disaster efforts:


Donate Funds: Donate online at foodbankcenc.org/matthew

Donate Food: Food donations are accepted at Food Bank distribution centers in Durham, Raleigh, New Bern, Greenville, Southern Pines and Wilmington. See the most needed items here: http://www.foodbankcenc.org/site/DocServer/Disaster

Virtual Food Drive: www.foodbankcenc.org/goto/matthew-vfd

Volunteer: At this point we are still assessing volunteer needs, please follow @FoodBankCENC on Twitter for continued updates.


If you are in need of assistance, please search our directory to find a partner agency near you. (Link: http://content.foodbankcenc.org/about/zip.asp)


Cooking Is A Good Diet

I’ve been cooking more than usual. Actually I’ve been cooking larger quantities than usual. It started as a bit of a joke about what I was going to do when Carter goes to college. Some friends suggested I could make their dinners when she was gone. So I started a bit early as a test.
First I made tomato pies and butternut squash soup for five families. Then four days later I made red wine vinegar chicken, rice and roasted green beans with shallots for ten families. Yesterday I made dozen butternut squash and chicken lasagnas.  
Since I don’t cook with recipes I over bought the ricotta cheese for the lasagna. Not only did I over buy I also added the eggs to it in great abundance. That precipitated me to make three dozen ricotta cheesecake cupcakes, one small cheesecake and a big ricotta brown sugar bundt cake this afternoon. I texted a couple of people about the dessert offerings and have sold almost all of them in five texts. I can’t send an email out to my sales list because now I only have one small cheesecake and a few cupcakes.  
Besides the obvious commerce benefits of this little experiment has been my rediscovery of my disinterest in eating the food I am cooking when I do it in bulk. It is a strange phenomena for someone who likes food as much as I do, but not one that is unfamiliar to me. When I used to cater in my youth I was excellent at sticking to my diet when I had huge parties to cook for. I wish I knew if this is a documented psychological reality or just a one off for me.  
Shay has decided that she loves this food business because it means friends are coming and going constantly. She of course thinks they are here just to see her. I am not going to break her heart and tell her they actually want their dinner. I think I am going to have to keep this up until I reach my goal weight and since that never seems to happen I hope my friends don’t tire of my cooking.

Dana’s Dinners

Between the Donald tape, the debate, the hurricane and the devastation from the flooding I am ready to poke my eyes out. The only thing I can do in times like this is cook. So that is what I did today.
I made a dozen pans of chicken and butternut squash lasagnas for my friends to buy. In a matter of moments ten of them were claimed. I still have two left to sell.  
If things keep going the way they have this past week I am going to be cooking up a storm.  

No Power, No Blog

Thanks to hurricane Mathew our power went out around six tonight.  With the power went our whole communications system to the outside world.  I am attempting to send this tiny message out to the world.  Unsure if even this will go.  Until I have power it have nothing to say!

Hurricane Names

As hurricane Mathew is bearing down on the southern east coast I got to wondering about the names of hurricanes. Used to be that all hurricanes were named for women. Seems very sexist to name something so deadly and unpredictable exclusively after women.  
In 1978, when women’s lib was at an all time high, the World Meteorological Organization, the international hurricane naming authority, changed the protocol to include men’s names. They created a six year rotating list of names that get reused. Only if a storm is so big and bad does a name get retired permanently.  
The first big hurricane I ever heard of happened well before I was born. It was hurricane Hazel and I was familiar with it because it devastated Pawleys Island. Turns out Hazel, was the second name to be retired, after Carol both in 1954. Of course most of us can name big storms that happened in our lifetime, like Katrina, Sandy, Hugo, Floyd and Fran. It is no wonder those names were retired. But when I look at the list of retired storm names I don’t recall some of them ever happening. Like in 2008 Gustav, Ike and Paloma were all retired. Never heard of those storms, of course they must have been devastating to somebody, some where.
I looked over the six year list of storm names and am happy that Dana, Russ and Carter are not included on them. This does not mean that someday they might be added to the rotation to take the place of a retired name.
Based on the list of retired names the most common first letter of the name to be retired is “I”, with Igor, Ike, Inez, Ingrid, Ione, Irene, Iris, Isabel, Isidore, and Ivan all being such bad storms that we can never repeate their names in the list of hurricanes again. This current “I” names in the six year rotation are Ian, Irma, Isaac, Imelda, Isaias and Ida. Seems like we are going to run out of names that start with “I”, both male and female and we are going to have to add dog names to the rotation.
If there was a way to bet on if a name was going to be retired I am certain you would win money if you bet on Mathew. This storm has already been terrible for Haiti, where they can hardly afford to live in perfect weather. I hope that the US areas affected are not that bad, but fear it is already devastating for so many. Mathew, of we go on and retire your name now, could you just go on out to sea and die?

They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

Tonight Russ and I went to the opening of the Art Deco car exhibition at the NC Museum of Art. It was the perfect place for these gorgeous cars which certainly were works of art. Just the colors alone were more beautiful than any car on the road today. When was the last time you saw a really beautiful green car? Even the red car was a more vibrant candy apple red than any car made today.

One of my favorites was a black and orange Peugeot that had the color scheme of a tiger. I bet that every Princeton graduate of the time would have wanted this car if they knew that it existed.  

I know that cars have come a long way with safety improvements and don’t get me started on suspension, but why can’t our current cars be as beautiful as well? Today’s cars re better than the Pacer and the Vega of the seventies, but common, nothing like the Art Deco cars.

One of the fun parts of the exhibits was the displays describing all the details about the cars. The most interesting to me was the original cost of the car and what that translated to in today’s dollars. They were expensive, but not outrageous. If it cost $5,000 in the thirties is would equal $80,000 today. That is an expensive car, but not unheard of. Given what works of art they are it was money well spent. They also certainly appreciated well, especially the ones that only had a handful of that particular model made.

One funny car had what looked like a door bell as its opening mechanism for the door.  It was fitting since the inside of the car had a table and side chair making it more like a rolling house than a car.  Really could have been the inspiration for. Minivan.

If you love beautiful design this exhibit is worth going to. It is small, maybe a dozen cars, but so worth the trip.  

Dana’s Dinners

 Apparently most of my friends do not want to cook dinner. Not that they want to go out either. Last week three friends encouraged me to make extras when I was cooking dinner and they would buy the “leftovers” to feed their family. So I whipped up tomato pies and butternut carrot soup. I made an extra serving of each and just as I finished packaging everything up a neighbor came by and got in on the deal buying the leftover of the leftovers.
That was a test to see if it was too much trouble and if people liked what I made them. No sooner had everyone received their food than I got a request from a friend who missed the introductory test. So last night I made a big batch of Red Wine Vinegar chicken with herbed rice and roasted green beans and shallots so my left out friend could buy dinner.  
After I finished cooking I packaged it all up and determined that I had eight dinners for four. I asked one friend this morning, then sent a text to two others and then one at Mah Jong and before I knew it all but one was spoken for without any trouble.
My Mah Jong friends asked me if I had offered dinner to my friend Lynn. They knew that I would be in big trouble if she found out I was cooking for others and not her. Not because she needs food, but because her husband loves good food.
I called Lynn and got her full voice mail. I texted her and did not hear back. Eventually she called me. I told her about the one last meal and before I finished the sentence she was saying, 

“I’ll take it.” I told her I should have called her husband because he would have paid double or even triple.
I guess I might be in the dinner supplying business. It is not going to be a regular thing. Just as the mood, my time and good fresh ingredients at the farmers market hits me. I am going to keep an email list and when I have something available I will send an email out with a description and a price. It will be first responders who will get it. I will not do special requests. I am not getting back in the catering business. This is really my cooking for fun.  
If you want to have your name added to the dinner alert emails let me know. There is no delivery and I will not mail food to you far off friends. Sorry, you just have to come visit for me to feed you.

Frances’ New Book

I had lunch today with my friend Frances Dowell. She is my real writer friend. You might know her from her young adult fiction like Dover Coe or The Secret Language of Girls. Frances is not someone who just dabbles in writing, but is a hard working writer who puts out work constantly.  
Frances has been writing for the middle school crowd for a while. Today she told me that not only has she branched out into a series of grade school chapter books, but she just published an adult fiction book. Hooray for me, I love her books but think I am past the grade school level.
Frances new novel is called Birds in the Air and it has a quilting theme. Did I say that Frances also is a fabulous quilter?  
I bought the book as a kindle download, which is the fastest way to get a book these days. The best part is that since it is new and hot it is available for $2.99. That is cheaper than a greeting card.  
As a needlepointer I feel that some of those handicraft skills will translate when reading about a quilter. Of course it is not a book about quilting, but instead about a woman who takes it up and all that is going on in her life.
Reading Frances’ book will be a great distraction from the world of politics. It is always inspiring to me to read the works of people I know personally. Perhaps one day I can grow up to be a writer. 

When In Doubt, Add Fish Sauce

Carter was working on her college essay today. That got her in the mood for food like she ate in Taiwan, where she went to school when she was thirteen. She asked me if I would make her hibachi vegetables for dinner which I think of as a totally American thing, but what the hell, she was asking for vegetables. While she was at basketball practice I cooked up some onions, zucchini, yellow squash and mushrooms. At the end I added minced garlic, ginger and soy sauce, per Carter’s request.
She walked in the door and tasted the mixture and declared it not Asian enough. No surprise. Does it need vinegar, she asked? I reached into my magic cabinet of flavors and pulled out the fish sauce bottle. One douse of the smelly liquid and voila, instant Asian. Carter was happy and therefore so was I.
I first learned about fish sauce from a woman in Bethesda, MD who I used to cater for. She kept a bottle of it under her sink and her husband used it in some foul smelling cocktail he would make. She told me that he had become addicted to it when he was in the war in Vietnam. She said it smelled too bad to keep in her regular pantry.
I quickly came to disagree with her that it should be kept with other food stuffs, and not Ajax and dish soap. Even though I was her caterer and came to her house with most of the food I would be serving fully prepared, she would still want to taste it all before I served it. Sure enough she would often suggest we add a douse of fish sauce to all kind of food and sure enough, she was right. It added just a hint of something exotic.
If you don’t know about fish sauce, don’t buy it at the regular grocery store where they charge a ridiculous amount of money for it. Instead go the an Asian market and buy any old brand. I get mine t the big Asian superstore, Li Ming and I think I pay something like $1.29 for a half litter. Don’t keep it with the poisons in your house. On its own it might smell like it can kill a rat, but added to food it is magic. It is salty and tangy at the same time. Please don’t take. Big sniff of it and expect to know what it tastes like. Somehow the awful smell turns into a yummy taste.


Pie For Russ’ Birthday

It’s Russ’ birthday today. He is not one for big parties or even big gifts. But he does like an apple pie. Given his well researched druthers he would probably like a Harris Teeter apple pie best. Since they are too big to have around due to the weight watching going on around here I made him his own tiny pie. It is a really ugly little pie. Thank goodness Russ does not have the best eye sight.
While I was at it I made five big tomato pies and ten quarts of butternut squash soup. Not for Russ’ birthday, but for my friends who want me to go into the “Dana does dinner” business. See, last week at lunch three friends said they would act as guinea pigs if I were to package the extra food I inevitably cook when I make anything. Then another friend heard about the testing option and she got in on it too.  
Since I was making pie crust for tomatoes pies I just made a little extra for Russ. Poor guy, that is the way it goes. Nothing special for him. Just the stuff that falls off the truck.
After I had finished cooking the “dinners” for my friends I still had leftovers. My neighbor came by to return some borrowed butter and she ended up buying the extra from the test batch.  
I calculated the money I will make from this exercise and the per hour cost after ingredients was not great. Then Russ told me to look at it another way. I would have been cooking no matter what, so in essence I am just selling the leftovers. He thinks it is all profit since it meant he got a tiny pie from the deal.
After my testers have tried this round I will decided if I should do it again. I was craving some red wine vinegar chicken and that makes great leftovers so I may be offering it for sale next week. For today I just have to go finish making food for Russ’ birthday dinner. He is not getting leftovers!

A Quarter Century of Shirts

Twenty five years ago, when Russ and I were first engaged I discovered something about him, he just didn’t care about clothes. If he could have worn shorts and a tee shirt all the time he would have. That was frowned upon at work, but he spent as little as possible on work clothes.  
In his perfectly pared down engineering way he had worked out that he only needed three button down shirts. One he would be wearing. One he would be washing and one would be hanging up to dry. This also meant that he had to go home everyday and wash a shirt.  
This scenario also meant he had to iron his own shirts. Once again he engineered this process to be the least amount of work. Russ figured that with a jacket on the only parts of a shirt anyone saw were the collar, cuffs and the front placket, therefore that was the only part that need to be ironed. One rare day I was at the office with him, he got hot and took off his jacket, much to my horror to discover the wrinkled mess on the body and arms of the shirt.
I decided that this 3 shirt program had to change. One, because it cramped our time together since he always had to have time to wash a shirt and two, because I thought he was much cuter in a fully pressed shirt.
So twenty five years ago tomorrow I gave Russ ten shirts and introduced him to the Chinese laundry down the street from his house. I know this was the date because tomorrow is Russ’ birthday and it was our first together.
Russ had no trouble adapting to this new found embarrassment of shirt riches. Going to the laundry is one of his favorite chores. He has even trained Shay to love to go with him when he drops or picks up his shirts because they give her a dog bone there. Shay does not like to eat the dog bone, but she still wants to go to the laundry.
I know that I am the luckiest wife on earth because I married Russ Lange, but I am also very appreciative that he took so quickly to a larger shirt wardrobe and never expected me to take care of them. Sadly now he has so many shirts I can’t give him those for his birthday.