Farewell and Good Riddance 2016

I know there were some good things that happened in 2016, but sadly they were so over shadowed by the bad. The most obvious being the election. I’m not talking just about the outcome, because obviously somebody is happy, but about the loss of civility. The long, long road of the primaries and then the general election practically did me in. I was just waiting for the election season to be over so I cold turn the television back on, but then. All I can say is thank goodness for Netflix and Amazon.
So rather than reslinging the hash of the horrible stuff that happened this year I am going to praise the good diversion stuff on TV I used to ignore reality. Top of my list was The Crown. Seeing a young Queen Elizabeth handle the scandals of her time with grace and good sense gave me hope for the future world.  
Stranger Things gave me a good few binge hours on the treadmill. It was a complicated enough story though that I am going to have to rewatch the whole thing again before the next season comes out. I have never liked Winona Ryder more than as a mother who does not give up trying to find her son. The fact that the co-creators and writers are a pair of brothers who grew up in Durham makes it even more fun.
Speaking of local stars, I loved Megan Ketch in the summer hit American Gothic. She was perfect as the “good” sister trying to have a baby. I was drawn into the story to figure out who the killer was week after week. The only bad thing is that it was on CBS broadcast regular TV so I could not binge it. I am becoming bad at watching serial TV. I am hoping that it comes back next summer, but I am worried that Virginia Masden, who played Megan’s mother is now staring on Designated Survivor another show I have started watching. With Masden committed elsewhere I am wondering if that kills American Gothic.
I relived the eighties with The People vs. OJ. I like Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark so much more than the real Clark. My favorite side bits were where the Kardashian children appeared, well before anyone was keeping up with them.
My last guilty pleasure is Fixer Upper. I am certainly not the only person who fell in love with Chip and Joanna Gaines this year. I am hoping that they are able to keep their relationship as light as fresh under the huge spot light of such fame. Magnolia Farms is the best thing to happen to Waco, Texas ever.
Using TV to ignore unpleasantness in the world is only possible with streaming, dvtvr and fast forwarding. If I really wanted to retreat from reality I would just read books. Please 2017, I like books, but don’t make things any worse.

Debutante Elves

I woke up in Charleston this morning, but had to leave before Carter’s final basketball game to get back to Durham to do my duty at the Deb ball. My drive was not difficult, but missing Carter starting the game and her team winning was. It was all in service of the thirty girls making their debut tonight.
I got home, showered and put my ball skirt on, heading down to the convention center at three to manage the family pre-ball photo sessions. I was so happy to have helpers, Marjorie, Pokey, Holly and Lynn to be Elves in service of escorting families through the photo stations. It is the best Deb ball job because your get to see every girl dressed in their beautiful white dress and their families all gussied up before any of the stress of the dancing begins.
Everything went smoothly since most families showed up early for their appointed photo times. There was no fighting and beautiful pictures were taken. My job running photography for the last few years is officially over. I have had fun shepherding this process, but will gladly turn the reins over to the next queen of photography.  
If I had known that doing this job would mean I miss the best basketball playing my own child is doing I never would have volunteered. But my leaving early meant that Russ got plenty of quality time with Carter driving back from Charleston together.  
It was a special day for so many people and I am thankful for all the people who volunteered to make it happen.  

Killing Time

If I were to design the perfect basketball tournament schedule my daughter’s team would play everyday at 3:00, would win and would play again at 3:00 the next day. That would give them enough time to get up, eat, do something fun, warm up, play, celebrate, eat again, do something fun and get a good night’s sleep. Sadly this is not how it goes.
For the last two days we have had late games. That means eating schedules are crazy. There is a lot of waiting around to get to play and then it is very late to eat dinner and then do anything fun. For parents it is even worse because we have time to kill, but still need to be available to do what our daughter needs us to do.
Today Carter and the team went downtown to the market in Charleston. Russ and I stayed at the hotel so he could work. Then she wanted to have lunch with us, but she really needed a nap. I had hours to kill so I decided to go to the movies since I was dying to see La La Land.  
Unfortunately it was only playing at a theater that was far off so I had quite a drive. It seemed as if every other old person in the Charleston area was also interested in seeing a 2:20 showing and the movie was full as could be. I ended up moving seats to make room for a couple to sit together next to me.  
The movie was wonderful and sweet and I only felt like falling asleep for a moment in the middle which is a real feat for me. I sat silently between two older women through the whole movie. We never spoke, or even looked at each other, but as soon as the movie was over the one on my left turned to me and not her husband and said in the most gushing way “That was wonderful, don’t you think?” I agreed with her. She and her husband got up and walked out one end of our aisle. I stoop up and the woman on the other side of me, whom I had not spoken to since I moved for her to sit there said, “That was so great. I hope Debbie Reynolds saw it before she died.” It was a strange thing for her to say to me since I did not know her, but I felt it too.
I did not want that good movie feeling to end, but it did quickly because when I got in the car I texted with Russ and discovered he had not made the connection to get a ride to the basketball tournament so I had to drive back to the hotel a long way and get him and drive back past the theatre a long way to watch the game.
The girls lost a hard fraught match against a team of… well I won’t say more. It was late and we rushed to dinner before the team went off to go on a ghost tour, the fun part of the day that had to wait until very late to enjoy.  
The tournament part of the day may be trying, but the movie part was great. I especially liked the nice people I sat with. Apparently a 2:20 movie in the middle of the week draws a polite crowd.

Ham for the Win

Figures, just as we are learning how to do basketball tournaments right, Carter is about to graduate from the team. This week is the Charleston invitational, or some name like that. It is the second year that we have gotten to spend the time between Christmas and New Years in Charleston. It is a sweet place to come.
Carter’s team played their first game today. Our venue is not as good as last year. In our first match up we were playing the team whose gym we are playing all our games at. The home team advantage was definitely felt for most of the game. We were behind by more than ten in the first quarter. Brought it to within two at the half and kept it there in the third. We officially never had the lead until late in the fourth quarter.
With just a minute to play we were up by four, then foul trouble brought the game to a tie causing it to go into overtime. The home team, who had led so handily through the whole game had not met the DA overtime team who put the whole thing in overdrive and won by six. It was a sweet win.
Russ, having learned at last year’s tournament that reservations for dinner are hard to come by had made a reservation at Husk months in advance. Thank goodness the only available table was for 9:30 since the game ran so long. Carter was just looking forward to a good meal with us and a waiver from the team curfew since she was out with her parents.
Fine dining is something we Lange’s are varsity on. Carter got the best thing, an appetizer that was a deconstructed ham biscuit. It was a few pieces of Country ham served rolled up on a charred log. Carter said how could you go wrong with meat on a log.
It was nice to enjoy the win and the time together. Tomorrow is another late game. This is what you get when you win, the last slot in the game day. That means that I have tomorrow to have some fun before the girls hopefully do it again.

Carrie Fisher Was The Force

How is it that Carrie Fisher, only five years older than I am, is dead? Carrie Fisher has been a constant in my life. First knowing she was the child of poor Debbie Reynolds whose husband cheated on her with Liz Taylor. Who could compete with Liz Taylor once she set her eye on your husband? Then Carrie was the only female in the male dominated Star Wars world. Even with those honey buns on the side of her head she was powerful.
When I really came to love Carrie Fisher was when she was in When Harry Met Sally. She was the sassy woman I wanted to be, of course without the mental illness or drug problems. Carrie was a constant. Never afraid to speak her mind and in the wittiest possible way. She never appeared to give a shit what anyone else really thought, but she was not cruel.
The world has lost a true original much too young. The only thing I can think of is she just could not stand the thought of what was going to happen after Inauguration Day so she just decided to get out of it all together.
Poor Debbie Reynolds, she lost her husband, later her fortune and now her daughter. The world lost a great humorist and writer and young boys who grew up Star Wars nerds lost their original crush. Carrie Fisher the force was always with you.

The Satisfaction of Nothing To Do

Last night, after the big meal was eaten and the presents were opened and the family had left I did something I never do. I went to bed with dirty dishes in the kitchen. Not all the dishes, mind you, just one ones that would not fit in the first load of the dishwasher.
For some people this is not a big deal, but I have a thing about going to bed with the kitchen perfectly clean. When I was a kid my parents used to throw a lot of big parties. They would be wild and loud. My favorite sound to fall asleep to was that of dance music playing, roaring laughing and feet dancing in the room above my bedroom. But when I woke up early in the morning, while my parents were still sound asleep, my sisters and I would come up to the party floor of our house and there would be glasses everywhere and food on the dining room table. It definitely had an effect on me. In my parents defense, they outgrew this big time partying fairly early on.
So back to my going to bed with dirty glasses on the counter. I did this not just because I was tired, but because I knew I had absolutely nothing to do today. What a gift. Well, now I had a little kitchen cleaning to do, but my wonderful husband got up and did those dishes. So I basically played games on my iPad, and watched some TV, put way a few gifts and just ate leftovers. No cleaning, no cooking, no prepping for the next event, no wrapping, no nothing. It was a fabulous gift.
I have just been looking at the Christmas tree contemplating leaving it up all year. Think of the amount of time that would save me if I did not have to take it down just to have to put it back up eleven months later.
Today is officially my laziest day of the year and I am enjoying it. Being terrifically unproductive is very satisfying. Happy Boxing  day to you and yours. I hope you got to do nothing too.

Christmas Come and Gone

As a child my mother used to say, “You’re as slow as Christmas.” I understood fully exactly what she meant because it always felt as if Christmas would never get here. Waiting for Santa took forever. I have never gotten over my love of Christmas.  
I was up this morning at 5:40 too excited for the festivities to start. You would think I was waiting to see which list I was on. Like I don’t know that I am always naughty.
My family was coming from the farm to open gifts and have a late lunch. This made for a very long and leisurely morning. Carter opened Santa gifts, I cooked and Russ walked Shay. Almost when Carter couldn’t stand the waiting any longer the family arrived in many cars laden with gifts that took many trips to get into the house.  
Circled around the tree we opened and opened. Everyone was surprisingly happy with each and everyone. The funniest gift was from my mother to my father, a dozen white envelopes each labeled with the name of a local establishment he frequents; Midtown Market, Barber shop, Lowes… and inside were not individual gift cards from each of these places, but $20 bills. We all got a big laugh out of that one.
After the gifting our friend Rich arrived to join us for the Christmas feast. The ham and salmon satisfied all, but I think the broccoli rice casserole I made specifically for my sister Margaret was my favorite. We licked the cups of our ginger ice cream clean and did the dishes.
Half of my family departed for naps at the farm and my sister J and Sophie stayed and I taught Sophie how to needlepoint since that was part of her Christmas gift. We talked and laughed and when they left I looked around at all the mess and decided just to leave it until tomorrow. It was a happy, harmonious holiday. Carter reported on Facebook that no fighting took place, for which we are all thankful. But now I have 365 very slow days to wait for next Christmas to come. I can hardly bear the thought.

Let Your Heart Sing

Silent night! Holy night!

All is calm, all is bright,

Round yon Virgin another and Child!

Holy Infant, so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.
Silent night! Holy night!

Shepherds quake t the sight,

Glories steam fro heaven afar,

Heavenly hosts sing: “Alleluila!”

Christ the Savior is born,

Christ the Savior is born.
Silent night! Holy night!

Son of God, love’s pure Light

Radiant beams from thy holy face,

With the dawn of the redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at they birth, 

Jesus, Lord, at they birth.
Silent night! Holy night!

Wondrous Str, lend they light;

With the angels let us sing, 

Alleluia to our King,

Christ the Savior is born,

Christ the Savior is born.

Sugar’s Up

Tonight I saw something on the news about there being a great egg nog shortage. That and my friend Ann O’Reilly facebooked a photo of all the Christmas candy being sold out at her local store. It appears that people are so exhausted from the brutal year that 2016 was they have thrown in the towel and given up on healthy eating and are just going for the most fattening things they can find.
Case in point, the Kringle. For those of you who may be Kringle virgins let me describe it to you. It is a very buttery, flaky pastry ring filled with yummy, but caloric center of things like ground pecans or almond paste and topped with a sugar icing. Kringles are made in Racine Wisconsin and can be mail ordered for $20 or so. But for the last few years Trader Joe’s has carried them for $7.49.
The first year they had them during the Christmas season you could almost always find one if not fresh, then in the freeze section. Last year they were sold out by a couple of days before Christmas, but for the most part you could have gotten one for Christmas morning and put it in the freezer. This year the Kringle craze started at Halloween with pumpkin Kringles. That just introduced the concept to a whole new slew of people. Then the election happened and people thought, what the hell. The country is going to pieces I’m just going to eat sugar.
The Christmas Kringles came in and flew out of the store. The whole company was sold out weeks before Christmas. I personally know that my very thinnest friend, who actually does not eat real food, ate two Kringles in early December. She claimed that it caused her to gain five pounds, which I could not see, but I believe her.
I know a lot of people make Christmas cookies. This is not something I have ever gotten into, but it seems that this year every time I open my email I am bombarded with more and more cookie recipes.  
I guess that people are saying, “Sorry Michelle Obama, you have spent the last eight years trying to get us to eat healthy, but we are eating our way to inauguration.” Unfortunately no amount of sugar can change what is about to happen. No reason to be fat and miserable.
I wish that I had invested in sugar stocks right after the election was over. At least I could have made some money during these dark days.  

Holiday Eats

Planning the menus for Christmas is so much harder than at other holidays. Thanksgiving is turkey, Easter is Lamb or Ham depending on how high church you are, forth of July is burgers or lobster depending your bank account, but Christmas is a roulette wheel. In my family we did not have a standard Christmas meal.  
When I was a child we threw a huge Christmas Eve party and served Oyster stew and ham biscuits because we were the only southerners in Wilton, Connecticut. Since we had no family close by we invited all our friends who did not go to grandma’s house. Serving 150 people dinner right before Santa came meant that Christmas Day dinner was not at our house. We would go to out friend the MacLeas and we usually had beef.
Now as a grown up I have to plan both the Christmas Eve meal and the Christmas Day dinner. Now planning menus should not be difficult for me with my extensive food knowledge, but without any protein parameters the possibilities are almost overwhelming.
The last few years I have served the traditional beef tenderloin or standing rib roast on Christmas Day, but as we all age the ability to handle so much beef has diminished. I also came to find out that one of my newer family members does not like meat. I have a different set of guests at the table on Christmas Eve, who are uber appreciative of anything I serve, but one of them too also is not a big fan of meat.  
When I mentioned to Russ and Carter that I was having trouble devising the menus they both threw out requests for things they really wanted. Carter wanted lamb chops and Russ wanted ham. Neither of those things satisfied my non-meat eaters, but I decided I wanted to make everyone happy this Christmas.
I decided to make scallops and lamb for the eve meal and ham and salmon for Christmas Day. Not a cow will be found anywhere on our table. I am a little worried that the real traditionalist amount us might be disappointed, but I just can’t see making a fifth meat.
I have to say I am not “making” the ham. Today I went to the Honey Baked Ham store to pick up our meat. I have no guilt about buying a ham since I wold be hard pressed to make a ham better than the honey baked one.  
As I was standing in the “paying” tent in the parking lot of the Honey Baked store a film crew from some local TV station starting filming the people in line to buy their Christmas feast. The woman in front of me said, “I don’t want to be on TV because I don’t want my family to know I don’t cook this ham.” Shocked by the thought that she could keep it a secret I said, “Don’t they know a Honey Baked ham when they taste it?” She replied, “No, I have been lying to them for thirty years that I make and cut this ham.”
So for full disclosure to my family I am announcing now that Honey Baked store bought ham will be on the table. Not to worry if you only want to eat Dana prepared foods. I will have made everything else, including the homemade ginger ice cream. What else we are having with all those proteins I do not know yet since now that we are not having beef the side dish world is my oyster.

Mother-Daughter Christmas Tea

Today was the annual Mother Daughter Christmas tea organized by my dear friend Cooper. Last year Carter and I missed it because we were visiting Russ’ family in Pennsylvania so I was happy to be here this year. Since our group is made up of mother’s of seniors we knew this was going to probably be it for Mother-Daughter Christmas tea. Next year everyone will be busy with other things since kids will be coming home from college at all different times.
That idea is exciting to my daughter who is ready to go to the next stage. It is harder for the Mamas who know that we will miss them more than they will miss us. I think that next year I want to have a tea for the Mamas of sons and daughters without the kids.
Tea is our favorite meal of the day, of course it is a very special day when tea is our meal. I know that tea is about the “tea” and I am happy to force myself to go to Tevanna and get a number of yummy tea choices, but for me the best part of “tea” are the scones.
Today we had yummy currant scones and sugar scones with lemon curd, clotted cream and apricot jam. We had a few savory items, but no real traditional finger sandwiches. Having lived in London for so many year I became quite the expert on finger sandwiches since my boss Janet liked to have “meetings” over tea. She was a really good boss.
Tea sandwiches are the second most important part of tea for me, after the scones. I like smoked salmon or egg and cress. Today we had a zucchini round with grilled vegetables with no bread at all. The kindest mama amongst us said it was the gluten free item at tea. Tea is not a gluten free friendly meal.
The big waste in tea is the sweets. Most of the dessert items sat untouched. After scones and savories no one wanted a cupcake, although most of us ate a chocolate covered strawberry, probably because it was a guilt free fruit.
I am not thinking of the last mother-daughter tea as a sad occasion, just a transitional one. Us Mamas are going to have many more years without children at home than years with children around. As much as we like our daughters we should have no guilt having friend tea next year.  

18 Needs to Be Celebrated

As if it is not bad enough to be born on Pearl Harbor Day, this year Carter’s birthday was the week before exams and just before all the early decision announcements from colleges. This being so she said she did not want to do a birthday thing. The stress and the pressure were just too much. Well, 18 is too big a birthday to just be ignored. Instead I planned a surprise dinner for tonight, the last day of exams.
I sent a handful of Carter’s closest friends invitations asking them not to spill the beans. Thankfully they all kept the secret and also could come. I made a reservation at Nana Steak since Carter always likes a place with the word steak in the name. What I did not do was check to see what time the show at the DPAC started so we had a little competition for parking, but I am getting ahead of myself.
My other mistake was I did not check Carter’s basketball schedule. I assumed she did not have practice tonight since it was an exam day, but I was wrong. You just don’t have practice on the night before an exam day. An actual exam day is fair game. I let the coach know that I was doing this surprise so Carter could get out of practice on time.
Then I had to come up with a plausible story why she had to change into nice clothes after practice and let me pick her up. I am not sure that part of the surprise worked, but at this point what difference did it make. She was going to get a party whether she wanted one or not.
We got to downtown and I was able to sneak in the parking garage a side way, missing the long line of cars backed up to go to DPAC. The only problem with that is the teenage friends did not know the secret way to park and half of them were late due to parking issues. So much for the big surprise. It didn’t make one bit of difference. Carter may have been on to me, but she still had a wonderful time.  
No exams to study for, good friends and good food, what could be bad. You are only 18 once and it should be celebrated. Thanks to Carter’s sweet friends she had a fabulous night.

Problem Solver

When Carter was about seven or eight she was obsessed with American Girl dolls and the back stories that went with each of them, usually with some tragedy. For at least the first year Carter had only one doll, “blue eyes” who looked like her, but had no book, movie or accompanying clothing, animals or furniture that went with her era. Russ had a business trip to Chicago over Carter’s fall break so we decided to go with him and make the “meca-like” trip to the, at the time, only American Girl doll store.
Carter had saved up $27 from taking care of a neighbor’s animal. I knew that would not buy much at the American Girl Doll store, maybe some hangers for doll clothes she didn’t have or a pair of doll socks. So I gave Carter $75 to add to her money. Learning to live on a budget was a lesson I was trying to teach here.
We arrived in the Windy City and after dropping our bags, I mean literally dropping, we practically ran to the American Girl Doll store. It was a three story wonderland, with every doll, item of clothing, and extensive furniture collections beautifully displayed behind glass. In front of each item for sale were little slips of paper with a photo of the item, a description, and price on it. I told Carter that we should make one sweep through the store and she could take a slip of paper for every item she was interested in. We could take them back to the hotel and determine what she wanted to spend their $102 on, then return to the store to purchase said items.
As we entered the beautiful lobby the very first display we encountered was the Christmas sleigh, being pulled by a beautiful horse, that came with it and two Christmas coats for two dolls and Christmas garland to decorate the sleigh that had bells on the harness. It was quite a piece of craftsmanship, the all wood sleigh. Carter, being the horse lover stood drooling at the sight of it. “Look at this sleigh,” she barley whispered as if she were deprived of oxygen.
“It is beautiful,” I said. “How much does it cost?”  
Carter looked for the little pad of papers with the photo of the sleigh, she ripped one off and turned it over and gasped, “$350.” She was young enough I thought she might have been missing a zero since it was so magnificent, but she was right. I did not want to let on that I thought it was not a bad price, considering the horse and the coats.
“How much money do you have?” I asked, knowing full well. She looked down at the floor, “Only a hundred. It will take me three years to get that much.”  
“Well, $350 is a lot of money. That is just too much for me. Let’s go look at the rest of the store.” And we did, having a wonderful time studying every doll and the paraphernalia that went with each.
As the days in Chicago went on Carter did not forget the sleigh. She walked up and down Michigan Avenue mumbling, “I really want that sleigh…I really want that sleigh.” At meals She discussed that $350 was too much money for us to give to her and too much money for her grandparents. She had no idea if that were true, but she had a good work ethic and knew how hard it was for her to earn $27.
On our last night in Chicago, after we had purchased the hundred dollars worth of clothes and a dog to go along with her doll Blue Eyes we were walking back to the hotel after dinner. The sidewalks were crowded and I did my best to hold Carter’s hand when crossing the streets. With her doll in her arms in the middle of a long block Carter suddenly stopped and said in a very loud voice, “I’ve got it, I’ve got it. I know how I can get that sleigh.” Russ and I had already walked a few steps ahead of her and realized she was not with us. I came back and she looked at me with a huge smile. “I know how I can get the sleigh,” she smiled the big toothless grin of an eight year old. With my head cocked in a curious way I said, “Really?”  
Enthusiastically she shouted, “I can ask Santa for it, then it’s free.” And so she did. A true believer got that sleigh that year. I was so proud that she solved her own problem.

You Need Gloves

Yes, it’s winter and you need outdoor gloves in the days it is below freezing, but that’s not what I am advocating. I am talking about rubber gloves. Now before you think anything kinky I am talking about wearing gloves in the kitchen.  
Years ago I developed a skin allergy to citric acid from juicing too many lemons and peeling too many tomatoes. It took years for doctors to determine that I had developed Phyto-Photo dermatitis. There is no real solution to this allergy but to keep my hands away from citrus juice which is harder than you think if you cook at all.
I have found that wearing gloves when I am cooking anything more than a salad makes life so much easier, but not just to protect myself from stray lemon juice. Wearing disposable gloves, keeps my hands from drying out or turning orange when I cut up butternut squash. It protects me from getting smelly cutting onions and I can’t say enough about handling meat. I am not squeamish about doing my own butchering, but gloves makes it more pleasant.
If I am putting a dry rub on a beef brisket doing with gloves on means that my hands do not turn red from the cayenne pepper. It also protects me from strong peppers which can burn sensitive cuticles.
The real reason you need gloves is that they are the best diet aid. I am yet to lick my gloved fingers like I would have naked fingers. Some how rolling cookie dough in gloved hands means I never taste the raw dough.  
Also wearing gloves means that my hands do not dry out which means I don’t need lotion. Lotion and food really don’t don’t mix. The taste of lotion has never improved a soup I am making.  
So consider buying a box of disposable gloves to improve your kitchen experience. Don’t steal them from the doctor’s office and make sure you get the ones without powder. Your hands will thank me.

The Fattening Repurpose

As a well documented cheapskate I have perfected the skill of repurposing food. I am not talking about making turkey sandwiches from the thanksgiving bird, but vegetable strata from old bread and leftover veggies. The problem with this ability is that more often than not the new dish is much more fattening than the original ingredient alone was.
As an example, I over bought cream and half and half for my garden club casserole. Now cream and half and half will keep quite a long time in the fridge, but I often get tired of looking at things taking up valuable cooler space so I want to more them along. So after working the father/daughter deb brunch this morning I came home with the determination to clean out some of the older food in the fridge.
Since I had already made a cream soup with some of the fattening dairy I decided to go one step further along the calorie scale and I made the base for ice cream. Looking at other ingredients in need of repurposing I vetoed Brussels sprouts ice cream, and kale ice cream in favor of ginger ice cream. This seemed like a holiday appropriate flavor, perfect for Christmas Day.  
My ice cream base is really a custard because I find that an ice cream made with egg yolks is much more successful in my little cuisine art ice cream churn. I was successful in using all the cream and some of the half and half, but now I have seven egg whites that need to be repurposed. The initial recipe that comes to mind to use them up is meringues, but now that is quadrupling the calorie count of the innocent egg white. My mind then went to macaroons, but now not only are we adding sugar, but hours or work. Soufflé, same problem.
Then it dawned on me, egg white omelet. Why I go first to making orphan ingredients more decedent I do not know. I need to either learn that it is ok to throw things away or find less fattening repurposing uses.

Santa Joy

Months ago I planned out my December calendar to help keep me busy and distracted from waiting for the college decision letters. I purposely planned to give three parties in an eight day period just because when I am giving a party I can hardly think about anything else. “Do I have enough ice?” over takes any more important thoughts like, “when will Carter have time to write more college applications if she doesn’t get in?”
All that planning to keep me busy was for naught — in a good way. But then again, I am superstitious enough that if I did not plan things to keep me occupied the news would have been bad. I know it doesn’t make any sense.
Today was my first unscheduled day where I was not cooking for other people and I did not have any big commitments. So I did what most regular people do and went shopping. I try and get most of my Christmas purchasing done well before December, but it never fails that I have forgotten some people or I have come up with a new and brilliant gift idea that I must research.
The mall and the stores were not too crazy since school is still in session and I went in the middle of the work day. The last minute, “I’ll take any ‘ole thing” shoppers have not felt the pressure and gone out so on the whole it was a civilized day to get things done. I can’t say where I went or what I got because receivers of some of my gifts might be reading. I will say that I was very happy with what I found.
The best part about the day is that since I was alone I got to stop and watch the little children visit with Santa. This made my day. The pure joy and happiness on the faces of the true believers gave me hope. The Santa was a really good one and the children gave him high fives as they got close enough to touch him. He spent a long time looking them in the eye and talking to them before they had their picture taken together. The other parents with small children waiting in line did not seem to mind enduring long visits because they knew their small ones would probably have the same positive experience.
Tomorrow the wrapping marathon begins and that is where I actually figure out that I have over bought for one family member and under bought for another, which will precipitate more shopping and more wrapping. Hopefully next year I will be better and get everything done in October, but then I would miss getting to share in the Santa Joy.

Chicken Mushroom Wild Rice Casserole

I made up this recipe for my Garden Club Auction. I am not usually a casserole girl because I refuse to use cream of anything canned soup in my cooking. My co-hostess Carolyn convinced me to make a casserole so I did it the hard way, by making my own soup first. The other thing I don’t like about casseroles is when ingredients turn to mush because they have been over cooked. I think I solved that problem by basically cooking all the parts separately and just assembling them into one dish and reheating.
I had a bunch of requests for the recipe so I made sure to write it down before I totally forget how it made it.

12 oz. mushrooms sliced

2 large onions chopped

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs

3 T. Butter

2 T. Flour

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup cream

2 T. Thyme

2 T. Knorr chicken broth powder

1 T. Garlic powder 

Salt and pepper

1 cup sour cream

1 cup uncooked wild rice

2 cups uncooked white rice

4 stalks of celery chopped
2 cups Fresh made Bread crumbs

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

2 T. Melted butter
Cook the wild rice according to the directions. Let cool

Cook the white rice according to directions. Let cool
Spray Pam in a big fry pan and cook the mushrooms until brown. Never salt mushrooms until they are cooked. Salt and pepper- set aside.

Add the onions and cook until just brown, salt and pepper- set aside.

Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces and cook in the fry pan, sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper while cooking and thyme after done.  

Put the mushrooms, onions and chicken in a big stock pot. Sprinkle with knorr chicken powder and add 1 1/2 cups of water and heat.
In a small sauce pan melt the butter and add the flour and cook for two minutes on medium high heat, stirring with a whisk. Add the milk a little at a time whisking the whole time. It will be thick like a sauce. Add the cream. Mix together with the mushroom chicken mixture. This will make a cream soup. Take off the heat and let cool a little. Add the two rices and the celery and put I a buttered casserole dish.  
Mix the bread crumbs and the melted butter together, add the cheese. Sprinkle on top of the casserole.
Bake at 350 for 45 mins until hot.

Garden Club Christmas

My last and largest party of the season was my garden club Christmas auction today. With twelve more days until Christmas and my house fully decorated I feel like I need to plan at least one more party. I’m not sure what or when it will be, but some kind of open house, pop in, coffee, lunch, but something should take place to amortize all this decorating.  Plus Shay thinks every party is an opportunity for people to come visit her.  With three parties in eight days I hate to slow down Shay’s social life.
I love the Garden club party because I had the A team of co-hostesses. For as many years as I have hosted the party I have had Kay Peters help me out. She has done it so many times that she knows where everything is in my kitchen.  Carolyn Sloate is also an A team repeat who does not have to be told what to do, but just quietly goes about getting it done. New players this year were Theky Pappas and Mary Lloyd Prebble who I would do anything for since they continually do anything for me. Lastly Jean Bethea filled out our roster which was above and beyond since she was not required to host this year, but she just wanted to help.
Carolyn and I met before the party and made all the executive decisions about what to serve. Of course I had some ridiculous ideas for things that would have been way too labor intensive, like the year I made 60 individual strudels. Carolyn talked some sense into me and lobbied for a casserole. “Just give us a recipe and we can each make one.”  
Just giving people a recipe means I have to make a dish twice because I cook by throwing stuff in. Instead of making up something, then writing the recipe based on what I threw in and then making it again along with everyone else I just volunteered to make it all. I spent yesterday creating a chicken, mushroom and wild rice casserole. I think it turned out quite yummy so now I better write down exactly what I did because I will never remember.
The good thing about the A-team is they manned the kitchen while I did the auctioneering. We had a full house with lots of high bidding guests. Every pie and cake sold for crazy amounts of money. The Christmas decorations sold as if people did not have a wreath or tree already in their house. Even I bought two Christmas decorations despite not having a surface or wall without adornment already.
Lastly, we celebrated our Garden Club bee hive with the sale of the honey that came from our hive. The queen bee of our hive is named Doreen in honor of our wonderful member Doreen Yarbourough who passed away last year. Her sweet daughter Marjorie was a guest at the auction today and I teared up a bit when she won Karen Rabenaeu’s beautiful bee napkins in the auction.  
We raised a bunch of money, had a delicious lunch and visited with so many wonderful friends. When it was all over the A-team cleaned every inch of the kitchen and put away every fork and plate. I made them containers of leftover casserole and we were all happy that another Christmas auction went off so smoothly.

Thanks to Teachers

Tonight, I was in the kitchen cooking for my Garden Club Christmas auction tomorrow, Russ was still at work and Carter at basketball practice. I looked over at one of the many Christmas decorations that adorn every inch of my house and I burst into tears. No heirloom had burned up, or expensive ornament had broken. No, I just really looked at a small felt hanging of a Christmas tree made of Carter’s hand prints. It was just yesterday that her hand held mine every morning on our way into Westminster school for young children where she made that gift with the loving help of her teacher Betsy Voorhees.
I got to thinking about all the wonderful teachers Carter has had through the years and the small gifts that each of them have given Carter. The love of science thanks to many fabulous women role models. The passion for photography thanks to one kind man. A keen interest in history and the role women play in the world thanks to many great history lovers. A curiosity, a voice, an opinion, a point of view, fearlessness, all fostered by wonderful teachers.
I feel so lucky to have gotten to know these teachers through the years. Sometimes Carter would come home complaining about something a teacher was doing. I would tell her that usually it was for good reason, that someday she would understand. Often that someday was just the next day.
This chapter is closing. When Carter goes to college I will not know, or even ever meet the Professors that will take her to the next level of learning. What I do know is she has had the best opportunity to build a strong foundation for life long learning thanks to the special people who chose teaching as their profession.  
I wish I had a little felt banner from each teacher so I could always look back lovingly on the impression you made on my child’s life. Know that I appreciate all you have done.

Most Dangerous Time of The Year

I have an ear worm from that song, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I hear it everywhere. Although I too think it is the most wonderful time I also feel like it is the worst time for my diet. So I have written new lyrics for that song. Go on and sing it to the tune of “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
It’s the most dangerous time of the year

With chocolate selling

And everyone telling you, “come eat here”

It’s the most dangerous time of the year
It’s the fat- fastest season season of all

With those holiday greetings and cookies at meetings

When friends come to call

It’s the fat-fattest season of all
There’ll be parties for hosting

Marshmallows for toasting 

And gorging at the buffet

They’ll be nog for the drinking

And more times for eating

And hundred cookie arrays
It’s the most dangerous time of the year

There’ll be peppermint candies

And gingerbread handy

When loved ones are near

It’s the most dangerous time of the year

I Missed My Own Podcast

Maybe I should follow twitter, but since it is Donald Trumps majority form of communications I am less likely than ever to join that universe. I say this because apparently I missed the hundreds of tweets about my most recent podcast. I actually did not even know that the podcast had been put up, my bad. 
I ran into Jennings Brody last night, the guest of the show and she said she loved it and we should go on the road together. I have to admit interviewing her was very fun. Jennings is the owner of Parker and Otis- downtown restaurant and gift store, Chet Miller – Parish Street gift store and the soon to open baby and children’s store Tiny.
You can click here to listen to the podcast. 

Dana Lange Out Loud
It was recorded over a month ago and at the time Jennings thought Tiny would be open by now. It is not, but she told me that it will open for four days as a pop-up store this Tuesday. So if you have babies in your life run down to Parish street and get all your gift needs.

Seemed Like A Good Idea At the Time

A few months ago when Carter applied to college we knew that the decision date was December 15. Not a great date given that it was the first day of exams, but there was nothing we could do about that.
Since I already was not sleeping well months in advance of the letter I decided that I need to plan lots of things to keep my mind off the impending decision. I planned to host three Christmas parties in an eight day span as my diversion. Seemed like a good idea at the time. I love giving parties and once my house is all decked out why should I hoard its glittery sparkle.
Monday I had my stitching group. Just a dozen, very civilized. Today My friend Lynn and I had 26 for our Chinese Auction. A little rowdier since we bring gifts to exchange in a complicated game show like stealing scenario. I not only have to play game show host and keep the game of picking gifts and trading them going in a brisk pace according the the rules, I also had to cook the lunch at the same time.
Lots of trading went on it was fun as always. Lynn stayed on to help clean up and by four in the afternoon my house was all cleaned up and ready for the third and final party on Tuesday. 65 of my garden club ladies and their guests for the Christmas auction and lunch. Not only do I have to create the main dish but I am the auctioneer.
All these parties seemed like the perfect way to keep my mind off the question, “will Carter get into Northeastern.” But then the decision came early last night. It was thrilling good news, but I stayed up much to late being overwhelmed with excitement. This caused me to sleep late this morning, throwing off my cooking schedule. My plan was not working. I wanted to have some time to absorb the feeling of elation that Carter has gotten into her first choice. Instead I was barley getting a half hours rest between one party ending and my going out to dinner with my Texas friend Jan who came into town.
I am hopefully going to rest a little tomorrow so I can gear up to cook again and entertain 65 of my nearest and dearest. I think I have learned my lesson that over scheduling myself as a diversionary tactic is not a good idea. Next time I have something big I am waiting for perhaps I could learn to meditate instead. Now if I can just remember this.


A year ago October Carter, Russ and I went to look at colleges in Boston. The things Carter wanted in a college were very specific. Large school, in a large city, lots of international possibilities, highly diverse student body, yet a school that would accept an undecided major and still offer her the chance to study anything. Sounds like it should not be a hard school to find. What we did not know is there would be one school and only one school that fulfilled all those things and added a twist, experiential learning. That means not just classes, but co-ops which are real jobs in real companies. That school is Northeastern University in Boston.
During our visit to the campus Russ and I kept looking at each other and not saying it out loud, but with our eyes, “this place is amazing.” We did not want to taint Carter’s response. Well, her response was fast and definitive, “this is the place.”
Finding the place where you feel like you are with your people is a great feeling. Waiting to find out if they think you are their person is not a great feeling. Every school we visited after Northeastern was measured against that bar. Nothing else measured up.
Carter met with her college counselor in the spring and told her that Northeastern University was her plan. Not only did she want to go to Northeastern, but she wanted to go to their freshman first semester abroad program, adding an additional hurdle in the admissions process. “Done, but you still need a back up.” Carter reluctantly came up with a couple of places. No applying to a dozen schools for her.
Tonight I was celebrating my friend Dave’s birthday at a dinner at his house. Russ was home, still sick and Carter was finally over her concussion and slowly resuming her basketball workout. I got a text at the table. I ignored it. My watch beeped. I ignored it. My phone range. I ignored it. Then I worried that Russ might be really sick or Carter hurt. I looked at my phone. Rudely, I jumped up and said my apologies that I had to go home.
I called home from the car and Carter told me she had gotten an email telling her that her decision was in, but she had not logged into her Northeastern account to see the answer, waiting for me to get there to be with her. I was home in a flash.
Carter and Russ were sitting on the guest room bed. She started the video on my phone so I could capture the news as it happened. Given my bad filming history I tried very hard to do a good job, but we all were incredibly nervous. What if she does not get in? She was going to have to change the dream she had been having for over a year.
She clicked the computer and read, “Congratulations!” Not only was she accepted into Northeastern, but she got into the international program for first semester. Carter and Russ both started crying. I have only ever seen Russ cry once before and that was at his mother’s funeral.  
The emotions are high around here. It is a relief and a joy. I am now wishing for all of Carter’s friends that they too get the answers they want and soon.  
From the moment Carter stepped foot on Northeastern’s campus she felt it was her place. That feeling helped keep her focused on doing everything possible to realize the dream. I am so happy that her dream came true.  

It’s All Adults 

Today we only have adults living in our house for today Carter turned 18. It is one of those moments I thought was much further off, but suddenly it snuck up on me. My baby is not a baby, at least not in the eyes of the law.
Having your birthday on Pearl Harbor Day is not a very cheery holiday. That and add that it is the week before exams and the stress of everyone waiting to her from colleges, and concussion recovery and it is hump day, just not a lot of fun. To help counteract all these things I enlisted two of Carter’s friends to hand out cookies to two of her favorite classes in honor of her birthday. I also had 18 Mylar balloons appear one or two or more at a time all day.  
First I brought her four balloons in the art studio where she has a small breakfast club like class. It made her very happy. Then she got a one in Phycology and one in Modern Euro. Four more balloons were tied to her car, another few to the mailbox at home and her seat in the breakfast room and lastly in her bedroom. In all the gathering of the balloons she only lost one to the sky and one untied itself from the mailbox. We call that a birthday party in heaven when you have a balloon fly off into the atmosphere.
Sadly Russ was very sick today. Last year he was in Australia on Carter’s birthday. Perhaps he is secretly protesting her getting older. This sickness got him out of going to Carter’s choice of restaurants for her birthday dinner. In an unintended show of detente Carter chose a Japanese restaurant at which to celebrate. We invited her friend Ashley to replace Russ since she is like a member of our family.
After dinner Carter and I came home to have her cake with Russ. In a nod to her German heritage I made her a gingerbread cake. Her German father enjoyed it immensely and it might have helped him feel a little better.
Carter opened her gifts and that is when I could see that she was actually an adult. She was genuinely excited to be getting socks and underwear. She got a good winter coat and a beautiful jacket from my father and she was thrilled. Not a lot of hoopla, but a very grown up day. I no longer have a child, just a really nice adult daughter for whom I am so thankful.

ABC11 Together Food Drive

Tomorrow is the Food Bank of CENC’s big holiday food drive day. It used to be called the Heart of Carolina Food Drive. During this holiday season it is a good time to do a little something to help someone who needs a good meal. Our food bank is the major provider of food to over 800 partner agencies who feed people. When you donate to the Food Bank you are also helping places like Urban Ministries, Meals on Wheels, Durham Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and many more because they depend on the Food Bank to get food.
Drive through day is a chance to bring food you may have in your pantry that you might not need and donate it. The Kroger on Hillsbourough Street in Durham will be collecting food all day. In years past I have appeared on one of the ABC news cut in spots talking about the need in our community, but tomorrow is Carter’s birthday so I will be tied up.
An even better way to help and one you can do from the comfort of your own home is to just log on to the Food Bank website and donate funds.www.foodbankcenc.org The Food Bank is able to take a dollar donated and turn it into $10 worth of food through our network of farmers, growers, packers and food companies. So please don’t go buy new food and give it to us, unless you an extreme couponer and can also buy food for ten cents on the dollar.
I know that anyone who has read this blog more than once has heard me go on and on about the Food Bank, but in terms of the impact that the organization has on the community there is no equal. Last year we provided over 65 million pounds of food to our community. Sadly that is not close to what the total need is.  
My goal is that the Food Bank can be put out of business because the is not one person in our 34 counties so is hungry. I am not sure I will live long enough to see that goal reached, so until that time we need places like the Food Bank to ensure that no one goes hungry.

Needlepoint Christmas

A few years ago I was honored to be invited into a group of stitchers who secretly needlepoint an ornament for someone else in the group. Then as tradition holds it we get together for a lunch on this first Monday in December and exchange our lovingly stitched pieces. It is one of the highlights of my Christmas season.
I love this group of ladies. We all share a passion for needlepoint, but also for each other. Most of them I don’t see outside of needlepoint, but when you sit around the stitching table together you get to know a lot about each other.
Making an ornament for another stitcher is a satisfying activity. Most other people are not as appreciative of what goes into our small ornaments. This group oohs and ahhs over each precious jewel, admiring the decorative stitches or color choices.
I hosted the lunch at my house because everyone knows there is nothing I like better than having people come and enjoy my Christmas decorations. My stitching friends are the most appreciative of all my Christmas ornamentation. Today, Nancy and Ann studied my tree for the longest time. It was so fun that they ask me questions about different ornaments and seem to have a fondness for many of my favorites.
Sharing the love of needlepoint and especially Christmas ornaments is a joy, but not as much as the treasure of the friendships. First Christmas party of my season down. Makes me a little sad that I have to wait another year to do it again.

Not Bred For Camping

Today was actually cold. The drizzly dark day made for the perfect opportunity to have a fire in the living room. Based on the dried magnolia in the fireplace, placed there after undecorating the mantel from Christmas two years ago, it had been too long since we had a fire. Magnolia is normally not good for a fire, but this petrified mound made the perfect tinder to start the also dry logs.
My favorite time with a fire is that big burst of flames when all the small dry stuff combusts. Ours did not disappoint today. Russ and I sat like two old people in our chairs reading by the fire. But one member of the family was decidedly unhappy about the popping and hissing coming from the black hole in the living room, Shay Shay.  
She left the room as soon as the fire started and stood cautiously in the entry peering around the corner. Normally Shay would be snuggled on Russ’ lap or nuzzled next to me on the sofa, one leg thrown in the air, conveying the message “rub my belly.”
Even with the promise to scratch behind her ears and hold her protectively from the fire she did not want to come in. In protest she went to her bed in the kitchen and made small crying sounds. Who knew she was so afraid of fire.
We decided she is not a dog that is cut out for camping. She loves deer and when she sees them in our yard she makes not a peep, but does try to get close enough to play with them. She has never caught or killed anything. She does not like to go out in the rain. All the dog has been bred out of her.  
Instead she is loving. Her best skill is snuggling. I guess that given the frequency of fires here it is OK that Shay does not like them. I would rather have a warm dog to curl up with than a fire anyway.

Share Your Christmas

I was late to the tables where poster boards with little slips of paper listed the name, sex and age of someone in Durham who social services knows is not going to get anything for Christmas. The slips of paper give precise suggestions of exactly what each person might want. Boy, aged six, a basketball, jeans size 8. Girl, age 13, puffy vest, socks, colored pencils. Man, age 72, pajamas, size large. 
For two decades our church has participated in the Durham Share Your Christmas. We take over 150 cases and ask anyone at church who feels inclined to pick a slip of paper and purchase gifts for one specific person. It is my favorite Christmas shopping. I don’t know the person, never will see them open the gift, won’t get a thank you, but I feel like it is the gift that makes the most difference.
This year I was late. Most of the slips of paper were taken. The ones for kids always go first. People feel like Christmas is mostly for kids and they certainly should not be without something on Christmas. All the young people were taken, and so were the very old. I looked at the boards and found a 58 year old woman whose slip was still available.  
I have taken middle aged women in the past. People usually don’t take them because they usually want things that are hard to buy for someone you don’t know, like work pants, blouse or sweater. The slip for this woman asked for nothing hard, just a set of twin bed sheets and a blanket from Walmart.
I thought about what it meant that the only thing she wanted was a set of twin bed sheets. She probably does not have a partner since she has a twin bed. She may not be warm enough since she wants a blanket. She does not ask for much, she certainly would use sheets and a blanket everyday.  
It was easy to get this present, but I wanted her to have a little more of a surprise, a little more joy, a little more Christmas than just sheets. I got her a gift card from Walmart since she specified that as her store, as well as the sheets and blanket.  
Christmas is not just for children. The promise of the Christ child is for us all. Everyone, no matter their age or place of life needs to know they are loved with a gift, no matter how small. There are so many organizations that provide gifts at Christmas for those in need, Toys for Tots, the Salvation Army and your local social services. If you have an elderly neighbor who lives alone, consider dropping a loaf of cranberry bread at their door with a note, or even better invite them to lunch. I promise you will feel the Christmas spirit.

Crafts On Hand

When Carter was pre-reader, you know someone who could not read to themselves, I always had a bunch of kid arts and crafts kits on hand for those times when she was tired of listening to me read or play trains with her. There was nothing more exciting than pulling out a felt mitten kit or make your own miniature snowman out of little white clay pots to bring a smile to a bored Carter’s face.
Today Carter tried to go to school, bored with being home with a concussion. She made it about an hour before the headache came back too bad to stay out in the light. Back to the dark silent cave that is her room. Recovering from a brian injury is the most boring thing in the world. You are told to not think. That means no reading, no screens, no noise, no light. What is left ? The hardest part is you can’t stop thinking about falling behind, which makes your brain really crazy. But that thinking slows down the healing.  
It is a lot like telling someone who has high blood pressure due to stress to reduce stress in their life to get their blood pressure down. Telling me to reduce stress actually just increases stress.
The good thing about Carter coming home from school is that she was able to take the muscle relaxer for her whiplash and that zonks her out so when she was sleeping she was not actively thinking as much. When she woke up I tried to find something for her to do that would keep her occupied, but not with too much thinking.  
True to her toddler days I had something on hand that fit the bill, a ginger bread house kit. She thought that was a grand idea and went to work assembling the premade cookie walls. While we were waiting for it to harden before decorating could begin we played two games of Sorry. I can fully attest that no thinking whatsoever goes on during Sorry. After she won a game she felt it was time to decorate. A roof and one wall and she was already tired of that craft. “Can I finish it tomorrow?” Just like when she was two.  

Poor You

Today was the annual Friendship Charity lunch where a group of women get together for lunch and instead of giving each other gifts for the holiday we donate money to charity. It is always a nice fair and one that I am glad I did not miss this year.
It was touch and go if I was going to make it since I had to take Carter to the Doctor. She is going to be fine, but there is a lot of paperwork with a concussion. While she and I were sitting in the exam room I read a poster on the wall out loud, “Do you have a child about to enter the 7th grade? Poor you.” I added the “Poor you,” as an editorial comment, but Carter did not know that and said, “does it really say that?” We were laughing about it as the doctor came in. We told him why we were laughing and he said the “poor you” is implied.  
As sad as I was to have to take Carter to the doctor I enjoy it so much more now than when she was, say in 7th grade. When we have to talk about something difficult it just isn’t difficult any more. If things are not going in the right direction it is not a fight, but a discussion. It is much more a friendship than anything else.
Next year I will probably be going to the friendship lunch again, but I probably won’t have Carter at home to talk to about who was there and how much fun it was. It is the right order of life. Time for her to go away, but I know I am going to miss her falling for my editorial comments.

That being said, I am happy not t have a seventh grader again. I may miss Carter, but not that much.