No More Meals With Just Men and Dogs For Me

Months ago my friend Lane invited us to the coast for this weekend. It is always our favorite weekend of the year, going out on the inter coastal, enjoying good friends and a very relaxing time. Sadly at the last minute Lane had to go to New Hampshire, but she implored Russ, Shay and I to come down anyway to be with her husband Jon and their three dogs. Well, we weren’t going to cancel on Jon, we love spending time with him.

He got in late last night so breakfast this morning was our first meal together. Since this is the weekend before Russ’ birthday I brought his favorite foods. We had polenta bread from Loaf in Durham for toast, avocado to go on it, eggs on top of that. It was a yummy and somewhat healthy breakfast. I was just sorry Lane was missing it.

After a lazy morning we went out on the boat with three of the four dogs outfitted in life preservers. The early fall still felt like a perfect summer day, at 76° and sunny. We traveled up the river to a boat-in restaurant. Turns out the dogs we welcome, in the downstairs bar where we were forced to chose between the two menu items, a pulled pork sandwich and steamed shrimp. We chose both. It was much more lunch than I needed after the fine breakfast I had started with, but eating with men and dogs you just are not going to get a salad.

Between the sun and the food, naps were required for everyone, but me when we got back to the house. Suddenly it was already time to eat again. For dinner we left the dogs at home and ventured to downtown Wilmington to a Belgian restaurant named Caprice. When going Belgian one must have mussels. They were delicious, but the portions were too big. I realized that if I had Lane with us I would have had a lady sized eater companion. Now, without a nap and with too much food I am exhausted. The lesson for the day is don’t try and keep up with dogs or men when eating.

Russ’ Dream

Russ has this long standing dream. We buy a sprinter van and travel around the country with Shay. Not that we have ever camped, or that we have even slept on a bed in a motorized vehicle. The whole scheme is that Russ gets to be with Shay 24 hours a day. Of course Russ says Shay gets to see America, but she honestly only has eyes for Russ and is not interested in the Grand Canyon.
Now there are some flaws in this plan. Russ, does not have one free hour, let alone days, no weeks, to drive around the country. We do not own a sprinter van and from all the YouTube videos Russ has shown me on the subject the beds inside are not long enough for a him. We have never been camping so it is not like we are great outdoors enthusiasts.  
The major flaw is Shay. First she likes to ride on the driver’s lap when going anywhere in a car. That is unless Russ is the passenger, then she likes to ride in the passenger’s lap. We have put one of her many beds in the back seat of the car and she may go stand on it for a minute and then wiggle finiggles herself back upfront. I have no idea how she would do in a big van, but we could test it out. She might like to travel on the big bed in the back since her home base is almost always our bed.
The number one problem is we could never leave her. Shay is the biggest cry baby when we leave her anywhere. Only now at six years old will she stay home with out crying all the time, but even now sometimes after we leave I can hear her crying in the house.
Tonight we came to our friends house in Wilmington. They, being Jon and his three dogs, are not arriving until later tonight. Shay has been to this house a few times so it was not a strange place to her. Russ and I put her bed in our regular room and she acted like she was at home. Then we left to go out to dinner. Barley down the steps and we could her her pitiful wailing. We were gone hardly over an hour and when we returned she was still in full out howling.
We entered the house and she came running down the steps from our room and jumped all over us. “How could you leave me?” Only then did she go to her full dinner bowl that we left before we went out and gobbled down her food. “I was too distraught to eat,” she seemed to say when she looked back at me.
So much for Russ’ dream. We could never take Shay on a trip where she was not with us 100% of the time. She can not stay in a hotel room alone as we would certainly be kicked out. I have tried to reason with her and tell her that if she wants more Daddy time she has to learn to be quiet, but as far as she is concerned crying got us to return.
This all may be good news for me. Although I love a good road trip, I can’t imagine pulling into a camp ground, let alone staying in one. My idea of camping is taking a nice walk in some cool woods, maybe dipping my toes in a beautiful stream and then going back to the Ritz Carlton and have a shower and some iced tea with lots of lime. Thanks Shay for crying, you have saved me from becoming a KOA member.

Shh- Vivian Howard Insider Preview 

I may have retired from the board of the Food Bank, but that does not mean I am not still working to help them eradicate hunger in North Carolina. One of the ways I am doing that is to chair a big event in March, the Chef’s Feast. This year Vivian Howard, star of the TV show A Chef’s Life on PBS and the chef and owner of the Chef and the Farmer in Kinston is the lead celebrity chef at our dinner. Fearrington Inn has graciously donated the use of the Barns for our location as well has their award Winning chef Colin Bedford as one of the chefs.
We are still in the planning stages for the event, inviting chef’s to join us as well as looking for sponsors. I am very excited about what a fun evening it is going to be, with a VIP reception before hand where special guests will get to meet the chefs and have their pictures taken together, a cocktail hour and then seated dinner. Yours truly will be the auctioneer for the event where some one of a kind culinary experiences with the presenting chefs will be offered.
Because you are a reader of this blog, you are getting this sneak preview that the event is going to take place on March 22. I tell you this because, as with all other Vivian Howard Chef Feast events, they sell out fast and many adoring fans of both Vivian and the Food Bank are left disappointed they could not attend.
If you or your company is interested in hearing about what being a sponsor gets you please give me a call. One of the benefits are guaranteed seats and entrance into the VIP reception. For individuals we will be selling tickets $225, with a small number of VIP tickets available for non-sponsors for $500 each. If you love Vivian, great food, fabulous wine and a once in a life time event let me know and I will put you on an advance list so you don’t get closed out when the tickets sell out right away. I can tell you from previous Vivian Food Bank events they are very fun and no one leaves hungry or disappointed.
One note:  the date is March 22, 2018!

My Nail History

I grew up in Connecticut, a place too Yankee for anyone to get their nails done, ever. When I would go into my father’s office at Avon in NYC I would see beautiful woman with polished nails, turns out they all commuted from New Jersey.
After college I got a job as a “sales engineer,” as my card said. I was in and out of VP’s of banks offices and I decided that I needed to up the appearance of my hands. It was the early eighties, the time of big hair, big shoulder pads and bright red finger nails. Since I had small, thin nails I started having acrylic put on them. It was fairly new then and the only place I found that could do it was in, where else, New Jersey. Since the headquarters of my company was there I would make special trips from Washington DC to the home office just to get my nails done.
This was impractical at best and after about a year I found a nail artist in DC, named Blythe, who had been a jewelry maker, but discovered her skills made her great at acrylics and earned her more money. I stayed with Blythe for at least seven years, until I moved away from DC.
I had trouble finding a manicurist I liked as much in NC and I eventually gave up acrylics as well as having my nails done at all. Then along came gel manicures. It was the strength of acrylics without the up keep. I loved the look, but found it did not hold up well when your hands are in water a lot. I went from salon to salon trying to find a manicurist I wanted a relationship with.  
One day I had a manicurist who told me about a powder called SNS that looked and acted like gel, but stayed on in water and lasted three to four weeks. I loved it, but found that very few manicurist were very good at applying it. Then I met Cindy. She was the bomb.  
Recently, Cindy left her old salon and opened her own place called Posh Nail Spa, not to be confused with Posh the Salon. I went today for my first visit. It is a very clean and well outfitted salon next to the Food Lion on Main st. Near Erwin Square.  
Cindy and her husband Tom, did a great job designing the salon. She had over 700 colors of polishes. If you are looking for someone good to make your nails beautiful I highly recommend Cindy. I need her to succeed at this new venture because it took me 23 years to find her.

What’s Good For Me

One benefit of having no child at home is I am available to answer the call for volunteers. Last week I worked the church community clothing sale. Today I volunteered to serve the Urban Ministries shelter meal. Having a chance to do things for other people is really the best thing for me to do to keep my mind off our empty house.
Serving the shelter meal is something I have done many times over many years so it is like riding a bike, something I could do with my eyes closed. Tonight we had a number of old hats and an equal number of virgins. After putting on my plastic gloves and downing my hairnet, it was up to me to instruct how to cut the lasagnas into 12 perfectly equal portions. This is when my quilting skills come in handy. The one skill I found the men lacked was that of using warn wrap.
After we had prepped all the food, but before the doors were open to let the crowd in we had to make up the late plates. Tonight there were 22 plates needed for the people staying at the shelter who had late jobs. We had to wrap the rolls and cookies in Saran separate from wrapping the plate of lasagna, salad and bananas. It became a Saran 101 class.
The doors opened right on time at 6:45 and I had Richard Myer and his wife Pru on my right manning the rolls and salad as I was scooping out lasagna with Bill Burig on my right. Pete McWilliams and Logan Toms handled bananas and cookies and Richard Watson and Brendon, the scout leader did drinks. We did a steady business of feeding about 300 people. 
As the line slowed down I went to a help mother with a three year old son and 18 month old daughter. I fed the little girl because this mother was clearly overwhelmed. I learned that her husband just disappears, she works full time and she doesn’t know what to do. It was heart breaking, but for a few minutes I gave her a chance to eat her meal. It wasn’t much, but it was all I had to offer.
Before I knew it the eight o’clock hour was upon us and it was time to close the serving line and go home. Serving the shelter meal takes away my appetite completely. I got home and could not think about having dinner. Maybe I should spend more time helping other people, if only I could find things that don’t involve a hairnet.

Family Day

I had a light calendar today. Besides my normal working out the only thing on it was having lunch with my Mom. Turns out it was a good thing I did not plan too much else.
My Mom had to take her car in for service so I picked her up at the dealership. When I pulled in I couldn’t help but spot her in her bright red pants and cheerful red and blue tunic. She could have been an American flag all on her own. She was holding two bags. One full of tomatoes from her garden and the other had three new night gowns. I inherited my love of nightgowns from my mother who I know got it from her mother.
My Mom had brought her night gowns for me to hem. So back to my house and my sewing room we went. She liked my set up and told me I could work in the back of a dry cleaners. Oh, when you Mom dreams big for you.
She sat in one of my comfy chairs as I made the alterations to her gowns. By then it was time to go to lunch so we went to Nordstrom Cafe so she was close to her dealership to pick up her car.
I thought I had a free afternoon, so I stopped at the fabric store to pick some fabric up for the backs of the placemats I am creating. Before I could get started on that project my Dad showed up at my door. He was in town for his first visit with his concierge doctor. I was thrilled to learn all about it and know that I was out of the concierge medical position I played for my Dad.
Just as I was about to go do some quilting I got a text from Carter who just wanted to talk. Of course I was free to talk to her. When you college child wants to talk you drop everything to get to have a few minutes with her. The timer on FaceTime clocked us at an hour and three minutes. It was a special day to get so much one-on-one time with so many family members.
Now Shay and I are sitting on the front porch waiting for Russ to come home. A rare Monday night and he is in town. I may have had a light calendar, but it turned into a great day.

I’m Taking A Knee

I lived in DC during the flag burning case days. I thought then, putting a flag before actual American people was a little ass backwards. Of course saying anything that sounded like you were not for the flag first and foremost was considered unAmerican. In fact, I thought being allowed to disagree was the most American of rights.
Now that 45 has made a ridiculous stand against NFL Players who are using the national anthem as an opportunity to make a nonviolent statement I am more determined than ever to take a knee for free speech. When we have a POTUS who does not speak out against Neo-Nazis, who are actually causing violence, but condemns football players for a momentary protest is unacceptable.
I was thrilled today that many players and more importantly, owners spoke out against 45’s stance. With all that is wrong in the country the President certainly should be working on real issues. Of course the only way he can get all the TV coverage he craves is to make more and more stupid comments.  
I predict next he is going to come out against children, then dogs and last Mother Teresa, it won’t matter that she is no longer alive. The man is begging us to relieve him of his duties. Actually being president is not what he thought it was going to be. He self admittedly said it was much harder than he thought. The FLOTUS is clearly unhappy about losing her charmed life and I bet has cut him off.  
We know he no longer wants the job because he came out against Steph Curry and only someone looking to be fired would do that. Steph is a national treasure. So I’m with Steph and all the people who are standing up, or taking a knee for our constitutional freedoms.  

My Civil War Expert Visit

The Civil War has played a bigger role in my blog this year than I would have predicted a year ago. I have had friends practically stop speaking to me over my blogging about the mere mention of Civil War statues. Well, this Civil War blog is not controversial at all.  
Despite not having taken one history class at Dickinson, my classmate Eric became a civil war historian writer in between work as a trial lawyer. He just published his 20th Civil War book, We Ride a Whirlwind: Sherman and Johnston at Bennett Place, which is a Civil War historic spot right here in Durham.  
A few years ago Eric and his wife, Susan came down to Bennett Place so Eric could give a talk to the faithful Civil War history followers. He told me then that he was writing this book and would be back when it got released. True to his word, he finished this book and returned to Durham.  
Susan and a Eric came to stay at the Lange hotel, where most of the rooms sit languishing unused as I am the only one here most of the time. It has been so fun to talk about old college friends and get to know Susan and Eric better.
After a successful gathering of Civil War devotees at Eric’s talk at Bennett Place today and some very good book sales they came back to our house. Russ and I took them on a small tour of Durham’s non-Civil War sites, like the roof of the Durham Hotel, Ninth Street and Duke Chapel.
They treated us to a lovely outdoor dinner at Vin Rouge, despite some incredibly slow service. At one point during the day I asked Eric his opinion about Civil War statues and both he and Susan said that it should be a local issue and whatever the local community wants to do with them as long as it is not destroying them is the right thing to do. I learned that many of the non-Jim Crow era statues were erected not to memorialize the southern leaders work in the war, but the work they did to heal the wounds that the war caused.
Seems like Americans could work a little harder to mend wounds we are creating in the internal war that seems to be going on thanks to Washington. Rather than draining the swamp, it feels like a battle field has gone up in DC. I think my friend Eric could stop working on the Civil War and maybe write some books about how we can just be civil.

How To Be Southern or British 101

There is a strong connection between Britain and the American South at the intersection of finger sandwiches. Born here in North Carolina, but quickly whisked north to grow up in Connecticut I never ate a finger sandwich until my family moved to London in 1979. Why Yankees had not either discovered or embraced the afternoon tea menu darling I do not know, but perhaps it was a holdover from that whole Boston tea party thing.
Once I became a replanted southerner I encountered finger sandwiches at every funeral I went to. Of course it is the perfect condolence food to feed a crowd of people you don’t want staying around a long time since the family of the dearly departed really wants to go home and have a drink after a funeral.  
My church has a funeral committee who puts on a really nice post service spread so the family has one less thing to think about. I am now of the age that I am one of the funeral ladies who makes food for these affairs since they usually happen without a lot of notice.
I am quick to volunteer to make finger sandwiches because my friend Carol taught me the ultimate trick for making them perfectly and fast. The secret is an electric knife. Yes, the Hamilton Beach type thing your 1960’s thanksgiving turkey carver might have used. If you don’t own an electric knife run on over to the Goodwill and buy one for a dollar. If you use it for nothing but finger sandwiches once a year you will be happy to have it taking up room in your cupboard.

Here is the secret. Make a whole pile of sandwiches and stack them up on top of each other is the same order the bread came out of the bag. Gently hold the top and carve down the side barley shaving off the crust. Usually three sides of the bread are even from the pan they were baked in, but the top can be wavy. Try and sacrifice as little of the bread and filling when cutting that side as you can.  

Once the crusts have been shaved away you can cut the whole pile into fingers. To make them the same size cut the loaf in the middle first then cut those halves in half again. You will get four perfect fingers per sandwich. I usually cut a stack of at least four sandwiches at the same time.

Keeping the stack all together wrap it in plastic to keep them fresh. Save the shaved crusts in a ziplock bag in the freezer to use as the topping on a cheesy casserole or Mac and cheese. Neither Brits, nor Southerners let anything go to waste.

Birthday at Saltbox

I am good at stretching out the celebration of friend’s birthdays. I am anti-gifts, because as far as most of my friends go they have everything they will ever need and if they want it they buy it themselves. I am all for spending time with friends for their birthday and lunch out is almost always at the top of the list.
Today was my annual birthday lunch with my friend Jean. Her actual birthday was like six weeks ago so I am a little over the limit of the birthday month celebration. I offered her a couple of choices for her lunch and she chose the famous Saltbox, since she had wanted to go there, but had never been.
The Saltbox is a stand on the north side of downtown with picnic tables outside. Ricki Moore, the owner, man’s the window and the daily changing menu is written on a chalk board outside. We arrived just after noon, as Ricki was erasing the scallop burger as either a roll or platter choice. No worries for us since soft shell crabs were still available as was catfish, tuna and some other small fish that was bone in, so I didn’t consider it.
One of the nicest things about Ricki is he gives you a very realistic heads up about how long your order is going to take while you are still waiting in line. I was thrilled that Jean was able to take the 30-40 minute wait for our food because I certainly think it was worth it.
The lovely weather made it a perfect day to sit and catch up while we waited for our crab

platters that included the yummy lemon slaw, no mayo as Ricki touts and the thinly sliced potatoes with peppers and onions. I had the homemade cocktail sauce with mine, which I could eat as a meal by itself.
While we were placing our order we asked Ricki when his Chapel Hill Boulevard location at the old Shrimp Boats was going to be open and he promised us it would be soon. If you have never been to the Saltbox, grab a friend, whether it is their birthday or not and go have lunch. Just get there early so you might be able to beat the wait time and so you have your choice of items. They close when they run out of food, which is just good business.

She Can’t Fall

I don’t know what kind of epidemic is going around my friends, but I seem to be surrounded by women who are having bugling disk issues. As far as I know my disks are Ok, I just am having bulging problems, but I know what causes that.
After playing Mah Jongg with one disk impaired friend I took soup over to another newly bulged friend. She was fine when she woke up this morning, but did something that caused an injury that left her unable to walk. Thank goodness her son was able to take her to the doctor’s office. As soon as they checked her in they put two hospital bracelets on her. The white ID one with all medical record numbers on it and a very special bright yellow one, that read “FALL RISK.” 
She showed me this new bit of bling when I got to her house and we got a big chuckle out of it. What lawyer decided certain patients needed to be marked as possibly not being able to hold themselves up? I asked my friend if while wearing that bracelet at the medical facility was she constantly surrounded on all sides by medical personnel capable of catching her if she tilted one way or another. “No! And I was identified as a risk.”  
I wondered if she was allowed to stand up, even though she might keel over at any moment. “Yes, no one stopped me or helped me when I had to get out of a chair.”  
So, what is the point of the bracelet? Seems like if she fell once she had been branded as a “fall risk” the medical facility would be at even greater liability since they knew she might fall and get hurt. My friend was already hurt and could hardly stand, therefore had little opportunity to fall.
I am thinking that as my friends and I age we are all “FALL RISK”’s. Maybe Kate Spade or some other designer/bling producer should be making FALL RISK jewelry. I want to give people fair warning that at any moment I might topple over right on top of them. I may be less legally responsible if I have pre-announced that I am a danger. Then again I probably need a bunch of bracelets that read thing like “STRONGLY OPINIONATED”. Just seems like I would be covering my ass then.

Mother Nature is Mad

Weather has dominated the news for the last month or so. Four major hurricanes, many fires and two big earth quakes just in our part of the world and we are not the only place where the weather is wild. Tonight’s news led off with the devastation in Mexico City, followed by hurricane Maria taking aim at Puerto Rico. The third item in the line up was Trump’s speech at the UN general Assembly.
I was cooking today, so I watched that speech. Given any other day it should have led the news due to its unusual tone for a regular American President, but we all know this is not a regular Pres. 
I somehow have an eerie feeling that Mother nature is trying to tell us, we are mere specs, including the POTUS and that she is the one in charge. No matter how outrageous 45 talks Mother Nature appears to be saying, let’s take the spot light off you and I know just how to do it.
In the 70’s there used to be a margarine commercial that said, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” You can’t fool Nature long. Eventually it will win. Well, now Mother Nature is saying, “It’s not nice to hurt my planet.” I am wondering when we will listen to the scientist who study weather and do what we can to be nice to Mother Nature. We can hardly afford to continue at the pace of weather disasters that we are in now.

Fixing It Myself

Russ went to undergraduate engineering school as well as Masters in Electrical Engineering. He always talked about how few women were in his class and that his short-sighted professors went out of their way to make women feel out of place. It was such a sad bunch of chauvinism.  
Since I have started quilting in earnest I have been teaching myself how to do it. Quilting is a precision activity I have discovered. I have become more adept at making the quilt tops, but I wanted to try my hand at the actual quilting, that is making the sandwich of pieced top, batting and backing. Since I don’t own a sewing machine that is made to do that kind of quilting I needed to make something small. I decided that Christmas placemat might be a good way to experiment.  
I pieced this simple top and then realized that I did not have the necessary walking foot to quilt with my sewing machine. I went to look at Carter’s machine and lo and behold, her inexpensive machine from Costco had the fancy walking foot. I carried it down to my sweat shop and went to set it up. As I placed the foot down and tied to sew it would not work and I got an error code.  
Carefully I took the machine apart, cleaning out the gathered lint with a small brush. I put the machine back together and it worked perfectly. I thought about how many women are able to care for our household machines with little or no engineering training, yet how looked down upon those few women were in Russ’ class. It is such a shame that talent is over looked.

With my newly repaired second sewing machine I practiced doing the actual quilting and completed the first, be it very simple, place mat for my Christmas table. I look forward to creating a dozen different yet coordinating mats, all with more and more complicated quilting patterns, but first I have to engineer what they are going to look like.

What to Get A Husband for His Birthday

Today I got my annual message from Russ’ father asking me what Russ wanted for his birthday. I get these messages, three times a year, with Christmas quickly following the birthday and then again at father’s day. It is always the same dilemma, what to give Russ? The message is also my alert notice for me to start pricing that I don’t have a gift yet either.
Russ is a very simple guy. He has no real hobbies, since working is not a hobby, he doesn’t care much about clothes and he has everything he thinks he needs. Top it off that we are in the cleaning out stage of life, rather than the accumulation and that leaves very few ideas for birthday presents, let alone Christmas.
So I turn to you brilliant readers, what do you give your husbands, fathers, brothers and other grown males in your life for gifts? Have you ever given something that so delighted the receiver that surprised you?
One issue I have is that Russ is my IT department. If it is tech, he already knows that it exists and has made the decision whether he needs it or not. I am not a good judge about tech gifts. We am still in the dog house with Russ for laughing about a product called Lantastic.
If only we didn’t already have the worlds best dog who loves Russ more than anything, I would get him a dog. A second dog would be out of the question because that would put Shay’s nose way out of joint.
Books are no good because Russ is an audibleaphile, having quickly made the move to listening to books from reading them on Kindle. Music is gone, now that everything is streamed. No ties, they are hardly worn anymore and Carter has hogged the sock category by always giving him sock of the month club. What’s left? Help.


Watching the devastation in the Keys where people lost everything, and places in Florida where they have not had electricity for almost a week, I feel guilty complaining, but I am going to anyway. Our internet has been out since 1:30 last night. Sounds like a first world problem to me and of course it is. Nevertheless, I am slightly crippled without it. The cell service at our house is horrible so even my cell phone is not useful for looking at a web page.
I got up early this morning to go work at the church yard sale. No internet needed to do that, except I was unable to turn the lights on in my bedroom because they are all connected to Alexa. I could have crawled under the bed and unplugged everything from the internet controlled plugs, but there was hardly time for that.
While working the yard sale, I did get my email because my cell phone works better at church, not good for listening to the sermon, but for selling clothes it was fine.  
Back at home my TV in my sewing room was rendered useless since it uses wifi to get any signal. I was sewing my latest quilt the old fashioned way, without any YouTube instructions and no entertainment.  
All those problems were mere annoyances, but then a real issue came up. I am out of the 240 quart sized plastic containers that I use to put food in for my friends. I was thinking of making Tuscan Ribolita this week, but I needed to order another case of containers. I had to go find wifi signal to hook up to my supplier. If you are someone who has gotten food from me, please bring containers back to me. I have gone through three cases since last October and that is with many containers being recycled to me. The loss of the internet has made the need for recycling more urgent than ever.
The worst thing is that I have been binge watching a TV show on Amazon Prime and I can’t continue without the internet. Oh yes, I am addicted. But my internet addiction is not fattening so I am going to continue to love it and cry when it is down.

Time is Short

A few days ago my dear friend Jeanne, who moved to Alexandria three years ago, texted me that she was going to be in North Carolina and did I have time to meet her at needlepoint and have lunch. When a friend shows up you must do everything possible to see them, so I moved my day around so I could spend as much time with her as she had. Our visit did not disappoint me and we had a wonderful time catching up, even if all the news was not good.
Yesterday I got a call from my friend Lee telling me that a good friend of her and her husband Tom had passed away. Tom and I were classmates in college and the friend who passed was his fraternity brother who I knew, John McClatchy. At fifty-six we are just too young to be loosing our contemporaries.  
I sent an email to five very close college friends telling them of the sad news. We don’t all see each other as often as we used to since life, children and work keep us far apart. But this news caused us all to respond quickly to each other. My friend Hugh, said it felt like the Big Chill, and he was claiming the role of John Hurt. Funny since he is the least likely drug dealer I know.  
The chances to spend time with friends has to seized upon because we do not know how often those encounters will come along. I implore you dear readers to reach out to a few old friends who you have not seen in a while and tell them what they mean to you. I promise they have not forgotten you and probably think of you often. Time is short.


Today is Hunger Action Day

Hunger Action Day is not a day you are supposed to go hungry. Instead it is a day to remind you that thee are 48 million Americans who don’t always know if they are going to eat today. As someone who has rarely missed a meal the idea that, even if I worked, I might not have enough money to buy food is horrible.
It just so happened that I was at the headquarters of the Food Bank of CENC today to chair a meeting of the Roundtable. It is a group of good friends of the Food Bank who gather to help with big picture/big idea issues. We had a nice turn out of people who are very busy with important other work, but were willing to take time to talk about food insecurity and how we can be part of the solution. I was very pleased with the engagement of new friends of the Food Bank as well as the support of many past board members who are true experts on the issue.
One of the highlights of getting to go back to the Food Bank is getting to see the dear Billie Churchwell, who has been the receptionist for 18 years, just a bit longer than my involvement with the organization. Billie is a smiling face who greets everyone with the same gusto, no matter who they are.  
In our old headquarters everyone coming to the building, be it partner agency representative, corporate volunteer or special needs volunteers, they all had to come past Billie. Now in the new giant building, volunteers have their own designated entrance a good five minute walk from Billie’s desk. It has been quite an adjustment for the volunteers who all know Billie not to see her when they come in. I am glad that I still have Billie as my greeter, but I do feel sorry for all the friends who are missing her.  
Orange is the color of Hunger Action and since this is the big day of course Billie was wearing orange. When you see orange this month let it remind you that there are hungry people right in our own community. Consider helping a feeding organization. They do so much for so many. And if you ever are so lucky as to visit the Raleigh Branch of the Food Bank, meet Billie and tell her you are a friend of mine. You will immediately be a friend of hers.

Do I Need a New Microwave?

With Russ away so much during the weekdays I usually just microwave some leftovers for dinner. I am trying to eat smaller portions to counteract my DJT weight gain. To ensure this happens I use a small salad plate as my dinner plate.
I have noticed that even though I have less food on a smaller plate my microwave takes forever to heat up my dinner. I am not sure if it is actually takes longer and I don’t remember how long a microwave really takes or if my microwave is getting less wavy.
I know nothing about the science of how a microwave actually works. I am sure I could Google it, or search on YouTube for a tutorial on microwaves. I’m just going on my gut that two and a half minutes for a small plate to get lukewarm is just a whole lot longer than it used to be.
What I am wondering is am I doing myself any harm using a slow microwave? Could the radioactivity, if that is really in there, leaking out all over my kitchen?
I don’t have that much to do these days so having my dinner take three minutes rather than one is no big deal, unless I am killing myself. Now comes the big question, what kind of microwave do you have and do you recommend it? I don’t need a fancy one or a built in one, just a simple machine to sit on the counter and heat my small dinner.

Warren’s Meatloaf

This summer while Russ and I were visiting our friend Warren he made us this yummy meatloaf for dinner. Since Warren is the one with the Howard Johnson’s it seemed appropriate for us to have meatloaf, especially since there were no fried clams. I used to consider the meatloaf I made with beef, pork and veal to be superior I had to admit I liked this one better. I never got the recipient, but I think I recreated it nicely.
2 lb ground turkey

1 lb bulk breakfast sausage

1/3 cup fresh sour dough bread crumbs

1 egg

1/2 cup chili sauce

1 onion- grated in the food processor

1 cup of carrots- grated in the food processor

1/2 red pepper – grated in the food processor

Salt and pepper

Sprinkle Red chili flakes if you like a little heat

1/2 cup ketchup

1/3 cup spicy mustard

1/3 cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350°. Beat the egg in a big bowl and add all the ingredients and gently mix together. Season with salt and pepper.
Form into a loaf resembling half a football in a big oblong pan. Place in the oven and bake for 45 mins.  
Mix the sauce together and after the meatloaf has baked for 45 mins, spread the sauce over the top and put back in the oven for another 30 mins.  

The Malaise of 9/11

September used to be a beautiful month for me. I loved going back to school, having usually grown bored of summer life around the middle of August. Once out of school I came to see September as the time when I got relief from heat and could enjoy the outdoors without sweating to death. Of course, September was also the start of the fall television season, and back when we just had three networks which produced new shows, the chance to watch something other than reruns was big doings. September also held my two sister’s birthdays so the we’re always parties to throw, and cake.
Then sixteen years ago September changed. This day, in 2001 was the loss of innocence in America. Nothing would ever be the same. We would fear “the other” in away that brings nothing good. It allowed us to hate openly, when we had been making such progress with love. We had to face the fact that others hated us, and did it so deeply.
Now on 9/11 we memorialize those who were lost, but mostly I go around with a pit in my stomach missing the September of my childhood. This year, to top off the sadness of this day, we add the devastation of another hurricane and the giant recovery needed not just for our country, but of the Caribbean Islands too.
All I hope for this world is peace and love. It seems we are further from getting that than ever, as countries become more insular. I have no answers, except the suggestion that everyone be slightly more forgiving and a little bit kinder. Perhaps the malaise is a good reminder that there is much work to be done to heal the world.

Hurricane Guilt

With the weeks of hurricane coverage, both Harvey and Irma, I am beginning to have hurricane guilt that we are dry. My cousins in Houston, Harry and Meredith, did not get flooded, but lots of their neighborhood and friends did. My mother’s two sisters both live in ground floor places in Naples, and I am told they are not there, but I worry about their homes. I offered my cousin Mary, who lives on the water in Mt. Pleasant, our house as an evacuation site. Thank goodness with the turn of the storm she felt like they could stay, but I am still worried about storm surge.
Watching the coverage on the news when we have beautiful weather seems wrong. So many people are still in the line of the storm that never seems to end. I am exhausted from watching an hour of news tonight, I can only imagine how Floridians feel. Of course the Texans know exactly how they feel.
North Carolina has had our share of hurricanes and the rebuilding takes much longer than anyone expects. Of course it does, the are just not enough people who can fix things, and enough drywall and glass and all the other things it takes to repair homes.
My sister Margaret, who is a decorator with a great crew of workers told me today she was willing to try and go to Florida to help people. She knows how hard it is just to get the insurance adjusters to value your loss correctly.
I hope that all our friends and family are safe. The Elam’s who stayed in Naples, we are praying that your flooded street is from the rain and not a precursor to the surge. If I could transport you back to Durham right now I would. I feel guilty being dry.

Need More Sister Pictures

Today is my sister Margaret’s birthday and last Saturday was my sister Janet’s birthday. I wish them both the best wishes for a great year, but I wish I was with them to do it in person. As I was going through the photos on my phone, of which the are over 10,000 only going back to about 2011 I realized that I hardly have any pictures of us together. I had to go back farther, by looking at pictures on my computer. I did find this gem from a trip to Eygpt Circa 1989(?) How could I not get at least one picture of us at least once a year?
Probably because we just aren’t together that much and when we are at Christmas it is a hurried day of presents and meals and just trying for everyone to get along. This Christmas the plan is for my sisters and parents to be in Florida and we will be home, having just returned from Germany. Now with this Horrible hurricane Irma, who knows if Florida will even be inhabitable by Christmas.
For my sisters’ birthday I want to make a pledge that we all get together this fall and make sure we take plenty of pictures. I know it is hard since both Margaret and Janet have businesses of their own to run, but time just slips away and if I don’t make it a priority to see them both another Christmas will have come and gone.
As the oldest sister it was always my job to bake the birthday cakes for Jan and Marg. It was a good week in our dessertless house to have two cakes in one week. Not that we can eat cake now, but I am still the oldest sister so it is my job to get us together. So Happy Birthday Margaret and belated again to Janet. I’ll be calling for dates when I can see you and look your best, I am bringing my camera.

Not All Ladies Who Lunch

Yes, third day in a row, third lunch out with the ladies. Today was a group of friends who all have a new college freshman. Well, that was the rouse. It was actually a surprise birthday lunch for our friend Lynn, whose actual birthday is Tuesday.  
All but one of these friends had our kids start Pre-k together so it is quite momentous that we got them all off to college. As my friend Anne calls me, the perpetual room mother, it is my job to get us together regularly, and we did want to hear how everyone’s kid was doing.  
The mothers of freshman lunch was the perfect cover to surprise Lynn. Of course I should have told her about it , because she was twenty minutes late because she was at work at Pure Barre checking people in. Oh, those crazy workout girls!
It was a lovely lunch on the absolutely most perfect day. Before you think all I do is go to lunch with friends let me tell you what the second half of my day was about. I got a call this morning from a friend of a friend who wanted me to make three meals for a co-worker in Cary who had surgery. Since this friend lives in Boston and had no other local contacts, I could not say no.  
So after lunch I went grocery shopping and picked up the ingredients for three meals and two homemade snacks. Thankfully the co-workers wife, who called me after I had shopped liked the menu I had designed. I spent the afternoon and evening cooking two thirds of the items. Tomorrow morning I will get up and finish the others and deliver the food to Cary.
I had planned all these ladies lunches for this week so that I would be busy in these first few weeks of Carter being gone. Everyone said, “Have a full calendar so you don’t have time to miss your child.” Well, this is insane. I am more busy with her gone than I ever was with her home. I can’t keep up this pace or I am going to wear myself out.  
I guess I should give up anything that resembles work and just go out to lunch with friends. That certainly is the highlight of everyday.

The Joys of Friends Who Lunch

With all that is going wrong in the country, hurricanes, fires, politicians I find that the best remedy is to go out lunch with friends. Nothing is better than spending a few hours catching up and enjoying a yummy lunch. Today I went with my friend Sara to go celebrate our friend Lee’s birthday that was a few weeks ago. Lee is the queen of the birthday pageant. She declares that you get to celebrate your birthday for a whole month. I have totally bought into the concept and love getting to participate in the pageant.
Since Carter is in Berlin and Russ is in Minneapolis I need some human contact everyday and I find lunch is the perfect time. No reason to get up early to go be wth people, or have to be out after dark. Spending time at lunch means that I can put my nightgown on right after dinner and no one will know.  
If you ask me if I am a morning person or a night owl, I would offer this alternative, “I am a lunch person.” I am happiest at lunch, not the middle of the day person because that does not imply getting to eat something, but lunch.
Without Carter and Russ I have taken to eating my best meal at lunch. With no one home dinner has become a bowl of whatever is leftover in the fridge in the way of vegetables and protein and fruit before bed. The only way this works is if I have had something yummy for lunch. I am able to curb my night time eating by just not spending anytime in or near the kitchen.  

While we were at lunch Carter texted me from Berlin. She lives in a dorm with kitchens and they have no meal plan so the kids have to cook for themselves. Yesterday she said some boys are hanging around with her eating ramen while she is cooking real food and they are longing for her dinner. So she texted me today a photo of her dinner, chicken, zucchini, mushrooms and onions and mashed potatoes. “I have you gene for cooking too much food.” I told her to sell her leftover to one of the ramen eating boys. She did and texted me back, “made 7€ and did not have to do any dishes. This is genius.” Oh, how the apple does not fall far from the tree.
Eating with friends is one of the great joys in life. Tomorrow will be another day and another lunch, with more friends.

Inaugural Mah Jongg at Dana’s

After twenty three years of playing Mah Jongg at the club it moved to be a weekly tradition at my house. Our group of players is made up of those friends who would never miss a game as well as those who can only play once or twice a year. There are two things we can all agree on, we never get enough jokers and we always want a healthy and yummy something for lunch.
Over the years the number of jokers we get has remained static, but the lunch has waned. The “salad of the week” got to be a comedy competition among the players at my table, seeing who could rightly guess the mystery ingredient. Pickled blueberry was probably the winner of the worst repetitive offering, although I still hold on to the “beets three ways” as the most unappetizing salad. Roast beets, pickled beets and puréed beets just don’t go together. After so many requests for a good easy salad fell on deaf ears I gave up and volunteered to make it myself.  
It was so nice for Shay to have friends come to the door this morning and sit and play in the living room. When lunch time came, I warmed up the chicken, and Christy and Mary Lloyd helped me plate the greens, red onions, avocado, oranges, bacon, cheese and chicken. We passed round the clinton lime vinaigrette at the table. It was a very simple salad, all that we had been asking for.

After lunch we went back to the tables and played a few more hands. Shay was sad when everyone had to go. It was a much more pleasant experience for me and hardly a bit of trouble to actually get what I have wanted. I should have done this years ago.

Durham Good News 

Durham (click on this link to watch the video)
Today I happened to be in a waiting room when Sarah Huckabee Saunders was holding a press conference about the ending of DACA. I am so tired of the ridiculousness of Trump that I have stopped listening to him or his surrogates, but today I was trapped. The most insulting comment she made was that “All the unemployed African American and Hispanic Americans who are the same age as the DACA kids would like to have their jobs.” Really I could go on for hours about that statement.
With all the real problems, from hurricanes, impending debt ceiling, and the need for a budget, why he feels now is the time to announce the end of protecting people who were brought to this country as children and are for the most part contributing citizens I don’t know. Of course he lobbed it all over to Congress who is proudly said, “I have a 38% favorable rating and they only have a 10% favorable, I am doing better.” Hey, Buddy first amount idiots is no prize.
Instead of whining about all that is wrong in the world I want to highlight something cool that Russ sent to me and Carter in Berlin so she could show her friends where she is from. It is a video about Durham. I don’t the guy who made it. I don’t know why he made it. I don’t know if he got paid to make it, but I do know it is a wonderful representation of what our city is.
Instead of thinking about the idiots in Washington just spend a few moments looking at what is good in Durham. If you are from here be proud. If you aren’t come visit!

Russ Must Be Management

There was no rest at our house for Labor Day. Russ and I went to Home Depot three times this weekend. I was there mostly to pick things out for Russ to work on. It started with my noticing that mulch was on a giant sale of five bags for $10. We started with ten. When I say we, that means I picked the number and Russ did all the rest.  
Once Russ put down the ten bags he was not satisfied that he had covered the area he wanted. Back to Home Depot for ten more bags. While we were there he got new USB outlets for my sewing room and some feet to attach to wood blocks he was fabricating to make my cutting desk standing height. He was doing quite a good job to trick out that room.

While I cooked all day he was spreading the next ten bags, changing sockets, making risers and he also did two loads of laundry, usually my job. Russ interrupted my chicken production to have me come out and advise the mulch placement. It all looked great to me, but he was still not satisfied, so back to Home Depot for five more bags. Here is the thing about mulch, you can never have too much. Maybe that is why mulch is just much with an “l” in the middle.
It was well after five when Russ finally finished the many jobs he had worked on today. It was good timing because that was when I was finishing up the great clean up from a day of cooking. So much for “Labor Day.” I guess if you are management you never can take a day off. I must say I am one lucky woman that I married such a handy guy.

Farmers Market Dinner

Yesterday Russ and I made our weekly trip to the farmers Market. I am trying my hardest to not buy too much since it is just the two of us and often just me when Russ is off working somewhere. Buying and cooking smaller amounts helps not have so many leftovers, but that also means I have to cook more often. Oh, the dilemma.
Since I shop without lists or recipes, instead, just buying what looks good, I often find I am putting together foods in new and interesting ways. Last night’s dinner is a prime example. I have picked up chorizo, eggplant, tomatoes, red Carmen peppers, squash blossoms and some soft cows milk cheese from Boxcar cheese that was pimento flavor.
What is this all going to be? I ended up making an eggplant dish and stuffing blossoms with cheese and frying them. It was a hit at our house.
1/4 pound of ground chorizo

2 small onions chopped

2 medium eggplant chopped into 1/2 cubes

3 red Carmen peppers chopped

4 small tomatoes chopped

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 tea spoon thyme

Salt and pepper
Put the chorizo in a big soup pot and heat on medium high heat until it starts to render. Add the onions and continue cooking for about five minutes until they start to become clear. Add garlic and the eggplant and stir everything all around and continue cooking for five more minutes. Add the peppers and stir, cook and stir another three minutes. Add the tomatoes thyme, salt and pepper, stir and cook another three minutes. Add between a quarter and a third of a cup of water and turn the heat down and just let it simmer for ten minutes.
Fried Stuffed Squash Blossoms
Four squash blossoms with the stamen removed 

3 tablespoons soft cows milk cheese

3 tablespoons goat cheese

1 egg

 Flour for dredging 

Salt and pepper

Mix together the cheeses. You can use ricotta and Parmesan, or any combination of a tart cheese and a mild one, but not anything like Swiss or cheddar. Gently open the blossom and spoon in as much cheese as you can, while still being able to have the petals enclose the cheese.
Beat and egg in a shallow saucer. Put a few tablespoons of flour on a plate with lots of salt and pepper mixed in. Put a frypan on the stove on medium high and cover the bottom of the pan with a bit of oil. You are not deep frying, just a thin skim of oil is all you need.  
Gently roll the stuffed blossom in the flour, then the egg, then the flour again and set aside. Once you have coated all the blossoms, place them in the fry pan. Cook on one side for about two minutes until golden brown, then turn by one third and cook another minute and then the last third.
Put a pile of the eggplant mixture in a shallow bowl and top with the hot blossoms.

Found Treasures

The great reclamation is done! It spent the whole day going through all the “stuff.” Trashing what was unneeded, repurposing what I could, donating what we didn’t need. I came across a bunch of treasures that I saved for Carter. Things like all her letters she received at camp over the years and special notes and letters from friends and family.  
I tried not to read all her special things, but knew that if she saved a 14th birthday letter from her friend Ashley she would still want to have it. I am amazed at some of the things she saved, whether on purpose of just by accident because she didn’t bother to throw them away.

I now have an entire office supply store of notebooks, pads, paper, note cards and all other things office related. This is a genetic thing Carter got from me. A favorite note was one I found asking her father if she could have one of his notebooks. I can’t imagine she actually needed it, just wanted it.
One thing I found on her desk was a 13th birthday “newsletter” I created for her. Thirteen is a big rite of passage into teendom. I had a lot of advice I wanted to impart on her then and listening to your mother is not a normal 13 year old skill.

As I was rereading it today I was pleased with most of what I had imparted on her, be it a bit early for some of it. Mostly, I think it is still good advice for her upon going to college. So I texted her photos of it.  

This project is actually done. Russ was a good egg and went to the attic to get his old desk and brought it down to my new sewing room to act as my cutting table. The last thing I have to do is find homes for all of Carter’s textbooks we never passed on. I think I have some ideas, then on to sewing my next quilt. The whole reason for this project.

A Long Way From Zen

I started the room reclamation process, changing Carter’s office into my sewing room, a couple of days ago. The term “Carter’s office” is a major misnomer. It was the the room next to her tiny bedroom where we put her desk and it had all the leftover furniture from when it was Russ’ office. At first she used her desk, but then it became the repository for stuff. Then she used the closest in the office to put things and eventually the chairs became places to put clothes and it never really got better.
Since Carter was very limited in what she could take to Germany her rooms did not look like she was gone. They were basically still full. The hall outside her suite still had a mile high pile of shoes and the chairs still have sweaters from seventh grade and mis matched socks on them.  
Where was I to start in making a sewing room out of the office? I opened the double closet doors and decided that although it was full, nothing much in it had been used in years; all Carter’s eighth grade note books-full of a year’s worth of work, each with their own pencil pouch, three red roll-a-board suitcases, a dozen tiny baseball caps that would only fit small children, and the largest array of tote bags, back packs, quilted slumber party bags you could imagine.
I carefully unloaded the closet. Making the already cluttered room even worse. I lay all the bags out of the floor and texted Carter a photo asking her which ones she really wanted to keep. Thankfully she picked out less than 5% and said I could give away the rest. There must have been ten string backpacks from places she went as long as thirteen years ago.
I took all her shoes and boots that had taken over the hallway and put them in the closet in hanging shoe bags I happened to have. Progress. I unloaded the notebooks and put some novels on her shelves. Progress. But it is slow going.
I have not even attempted to tackle her desk or the three laundry baskets of clothes. No wonder I had to keep buying new laundry baskets, Carter was confiscating them rather than getting rid of old clothes.  
We have an old RCA TV in the office that I won as a prize when I was in my early twenties. It can’t get service and it must weigh fifty pounds. I can’t blame that on Carter. Russ and I discussed taking it and the five old TVs in the attic to recycling tomorrow. It is going to take me most of the weekend, but I am determined to get this job done and set up my sewing room.  
Carter was texting me tonight from Germany, so happy and loving her room and two roommates. She didn’t have to tell me this but she texted, “also, this is an “I told you so” moment for you, but having a nice room that is clean with fewer things is so calming.”
It is always nice to hear when your kid agrees with you after the fact. I hope she remembers that feeling because my cleaning out is just beginning. I am not going for just calming, but total zen.