Ellis Was A Beautiful Deb

Deb season has come and gone. Twenty-seven lovely girls made their debuts last night in Durham. Despite being invited, Carter turned down the invitation since all things Deb were not her scene. But thankfully the powers that be allowed Carter and her friend Cait, also an invitee who declined, to attend the ball to support their friends who were coming out.

Carter’s sister E, Ellis, was their main reason for coming. They were like her personal cheering section and Ellis did not disappoint. She looked beautiful, her curtesy was spot on and the dance she led was well timed thanks to the counting prowess of her Marshall, Alan Smith.

It may have been a smaller group of girls than usual, but they all looked darling and no mistakes, falls, trips or embarrassing events occurred, at least during the presentations. I can’t speak to what else might have gone on late into the night since I made my way home once the presentations and dances were done.

This morning sister E appeared at our house after just a few hours sleep and declared it to be the most fun night of her life. That is exactly as it should have been. Her father Logan played his part as her presenter perfectly and her mother Lynn was radiant in her navy dress and wrap.

Being a deb may be a very old fashioned custom, but for the girls who want to participate it should be a night of lots of fun. Congratulations to all our Deb friends.

Fancy Pants and Wait

What are the chances that I have two formal occasions on the same evening in downtown Durham, yet I still have to have two different outfits. The first event was the wedding reception of Justin, one of Russ’ team members and his new Columbian wife Diana.

Their reception was at the Arts Council. I thought it started at five, but I was wrong, it was four do Russ and I were late. Everyone was very kind for our mistake, but who is going to get mad at the boss?

The second event is the Debutante Ball that is being held at the Convention center right behind the Arts Center. Unfortunately the Deb ball is a long dress required event, unless you are under 12 years old.

I brought my ball clothes to Russ’ corporate apartment before the wedding so I had a place to change. Turns out we have more time than I needed to change into my long dress. So here we sit watching jeopardy waiting to change do I don’t get so wrinkly. The ball doesn’t start until 8:30 which is just too late for me these days, but since I know so many Debs this year I have to go and support them. I wish the whole thing started earlier.

Carter and her friend Cait are meeting me there so watching the presentations with will be fun. For now I am just praying that no one will fall, trip or go the wrong direction all dressed up in their fancy pants.

Cait is Here

Carter’s great friend Cait and her family moved away from Durham after graduation. Then she also went to college as far away from Carter as possible at Cal Berkeley. So after five months apart from each other, with only FaceTime, snap chat, instagram, finista, Facebook and texting to keep them together Cait arrived today for a friend reunion and good long visit. All is right in the world.

Nothing makes me happier than having Cait in our house with Carter where she belongs. I just wish her parents and twin brother were with her. True to form and her good breeding, Cait brought us perfect presents from her Holiday trip to Mexico. Russ got burning hot sauce, I got a two year’s supply of Mexican Vanilla and Carter got lipstick and Mexican Candy.

I knew Carter was excited about Cait coming to visit because she did all her prep-packing for Boston and thoroughly cleaned her room. Cait is staying until we leave to move Carter into Northeastern so there is no free time to prep for her next dorm.

Carter’s time at home may be short, but she is making the most of it by having Cait here. It makes me happy too!

I Love Your Cards

Another Christmas has come and gone, but the cards are still coming in. I have had a love affair with photo Christmas cards since I was about eight and my family started sending them. There was a wonderful photographer named Gus Mersin who lived in our town. Most everyone we knew had Mr. Merwin take their photo on Black and white and sent them out as cards. The photos were so much better than than the Kodak instamatic version cards.

I love getting friends cards, even from people who I see regularly in town. I keep the cards in a bowl in my front hallway and go through them about twice a year. Despite my love of receiving your cards I have not sent Christmas in quite a while.

When you write a daily blog about the minutia of your life, which includes pictures, what could I possibly put in a card that you don’t already know? Christmas cards are like the “best of” for the year. No one puts an unattractive photo or says, “I am quite disappointed in Billy’s progress at school this year.”

A card from me would seem odd because you have already seen and rad about all the warts, os I feel like a “best of” would seem shallow. So think of my blog as your daily drip of Christmas card, just a lot more honest.

And since I have this over exposed blog, if I see you in person there is no reason for you to waste time asking me what I have been up to, get right to the meat and tell me all about you and yours. Even if you don’t read the blog regularly, you are reading this now, os that is enough catching up for you. I would always like to know about your minutia to make me not feel ridiculous for sharing mine.

So keep those cards coming. More photos and even more Christmas letters. Don’t apologize for “the best of” stuff. If you can’t tell your friends what good things have been happening who can you tell? But it is also OK to confess to the hard stuff, sometimes you just need to tell a friend.

Spas Work

I can’t remember how old I was the first time I went to a spa, but I am guessing it was in my thirties. Carter asked for a spa day for Christmas and since she is now over 18 she qualified to go. It was probably a big mistake that I took her to the Umstead for the day.

“I loved that and can’t wait to go back.”

What have I done? On the other had it was the most fun mother daughter day we have had. It also did not hurt that I had a free facial that had been on my account since 2008 and no one had thought to mention it to me on previous visits. I also had a gift card from my mother that she had given me some years ago and I had forgotten to take it the last time time I went.

Without costing me an arm and a leg we had massages, Carter had a facial and we whirlpooled, relaxed, read, had tea, showered, lotioned and all things spa like.

We got home just in time for Carter to go have dinner and a movie with her friend Scarlett and Russ and I to go to our next door neighbors for a party with a Cajun food truck. What could be easier and more delightful than walking next door and enjoying some crawfish and friends.

A relaxing and stress free day. Just what we needed at the end of this crazy year. If only I could go to a spa to escape the real world every month, but then it just wouldn’t be as special. Once a year with Carter might be the answer.

Boxing Day Celebrations

I am so happy that Boxing Day has caught on in the US. Of course no one I know is giving the staff the day off to celebrate the holiday the day after Christmas with boxes of leftover Christmas food and their holiday bonus. Mostly because no one I know has staff.

But I do have friends who think Boxing Day is a great excuse to keep celebrating the holiday season. First Carter and I went to a lovely brunch where we got to catch up with friends. Then I came home to prepare to have our old friends the Blanks over for dinner.

We have known the Blanks since before Carter was born. Actually we have known them since before their daughter Isabelle was born and she is exactly two years older than Carter. In the early years the girls spent plenty of time together at each other’s birthdays and going to the farm together. Since they live in Raleigh, when the girls got a little older and a lot busier with their own sports, schools and activities they did not see each other as much.

Tonight was a chance to catch up and talk about when we used to have many cats and a dog and Isabelle would carry our nicest cat Chappy around when he was almost as big as she was. Carter is now too big to sit in Belle’s lap, but at least now they don’t talk baby talk.

Boxing Day has made up for our pitiful Christmas Day. Maybe I am actually the staff and my real holiday is the day after Christmas. I al still waiting for someone to give me my Christmas bonus, but the last thing I need is a box of food. I have a fridge full of leftovers and not enough days in sight to eat it all.

Best Laid Plans

A few years ago I was very sick on Christmas Day. I can’t remember exactly what happened that day I was do delirious, but after I recovered I heard from Carter and Russ that they had the best Christmas dinner at Happy China. It was festive and crowded and they saw friends who go there every year as their family traditions.

When it became clear that this year we were going to be home alone for Christmas Russ declared it was a Happy China year. We all got our heart set on Chinese. To compliment the Chinese, Russ and I went to an early afternoon movie to see The Darkest Hour while Carter took a nap. The theatre was packed, not a seat in the place. I think Christians are taking their cues from our Jewish friends who go to the movies and Chinese on Christmas.

After watching the Churchill movie I had to come home and finish up the last two episodes of The Crown to fill out my full on British Christmas. Around 6:30 Russ tried to do the online ordering from Happy China. When it wouldn’t go through he thought it was a technical problem. So he did the old fashioned thing and called the restaurant. The phone rang Nd ring and no one answered.

To the car Russ and Carter went to order in person. There was a reason the internet and phone ordering system was turned off. There were 25 people waiting in line to pick up orders and no new orders were being taken because the kitchen was backed up hours. So much for our new tradition.

Good thing I am the biggest over cook there ever was. Everyone scavenged for their own dinner of varying leftovers. I continued my British theme having leftover lamb chops. Even Shay looked despondent on her bed with her new Martini chew toy. “What has this family devolved into?” was the look she was giving us. Next year we will plan on Chinese earlier in the day.

Thankful for “Framily” (that’s friends who re more like Family)

My Christmas miracle came early when Carter announced she wanted to go to church o Christmas Eve. Not that she has ever missed church on Christmas Eve, but it was never her Christmas wish.

Since my family have all gone to Florida, as if they weren’t Episcopalians, we have our first Christmas as a small family of three. But we are not alone, our friends Lynn, Logan and Ellis, also without blood relatives are our family. So we had a Christmas Eve dinner and went to church together.

It is only appropriate since we met at church when Carter and Ellis were baptized together. They are each other’s sisters and have been apart for four months which is the longest they have ever been apart.

Tonight our minister Chris pr ached about two little four year old girls who consider themselves twins, despite not being related and also being of different races. When and older child pointed out this as evidence of their not being twins one of the little girls rebuffed him by saying, “We share the same soul.” I had to choke back a tear right then.

Tonight we had our Christmas with our soul family the Toms and am thankful everyday for friends who are more like family. The Toms are not the only “framily” we have, so to all the people out there who know I love you I want to wish you a Merry Christmas. If you ever need a place to celebrate, our door is always open and you know I have more than enough food.

I hope my family is having a good time in Florida, but not such a good time that they want to do this every year. I can’t bring myself to be without my Christmas at home and I miss and love you too.

Merry Neighborhood Christmas

Last night my jet lag finally caught up with me and I passed out at eight at night. This meant I missed a traditionally wonderful neighborhood Christmas party. There was just nothing I could do to keep my body going and I had a busy day planned for today to get ready for Christmas.

I slept until five this morning. When I awoke and discovered how early it was I made myself go back to sleep so I could try and get back on East coast time. Big mistake because in my fitful half sleep I did something to my back and woke up with a pulled muscle. So much for my busy day. I have limped around, trying to do the least taxing jobs I could do, icing my back and taking the strongest pain meds in the house. Best laid plans.

But what does it really matter? I have Russ, Carter and Shay Home. We have no other family coming for Christmas since they are testing out being in Florida for the holiday. Our friends the Toms, who have no other family either, are coming for Christmas Eve dinner and they are the easiest guests since they are more like family.

As I was upstairs washing a sweater for Carter the doorbell rang and Shay was barking a greeting to someone. I went downstairs to find our friends the Aldridges outside in their new to them antique pick up truck with their famous dog Norman in the back in his bed. They were delivering holiday cheer. Cheer indeed. This is why I love living in our neighborhood for the last 24 years.

Having good friends just drop by to wish you a Merry Christmas with their dog is the reason I don’t want to go anywhere else for the holidays. Thanks to Mack, Elizabeth, Liza and Caroline and of course Norman for bringing a smile to my face and making my back feel better.

Merry Christmas to you and all of yours. If you can’t be with family this time of year drop by your friends, they are the family you choose.

German Differences

Thankfully we all got home yesterday, all without sleeping for at least 24 hours. Carter spent four months in Germany and a Russ and I spent 9 days. Together the tree of us spent three days in Prague and I have to say I liked it better than the parts of Germany we were in. Carter definitely has some strong feelings about Berlin and they are not all positive.

I looked back on my photos I took and something struck me, everywhere we went in Germany it was grey most of the time. The three days we had in Prague were the only days we saw blue sky’s. I think that I had a little seasonal disorder. It did not help that we were there on the shortest day of the year so there was only a chance of seeing any sun from about nine in the morning until three in the afternoon.

That grey, cold, drizzle and dark is not a mood enhancer. Perhaps that is why beer is so helpful there. Russ did enjoy a different beer everyday. He declared that the Bamberg smoked beer was the best. He said it was like a cross between scotch and beer.

Today Carter went out and did some Christmas shopping. She came home and said, “I am having Culture shock. The guy at Chipolte was so nice. He asked me how my day was going and we had a whole conversation.” In Germany they were much less familiar and use a real economy of words. You can imagine I stick out like a sore thumb.

Not that people weren’t friendly, it was just different. One example was the day we walked 2 kilometers up hill to a castle that was closed. On the way up we passed a school group of kids and their teachers walking down the hill, no one thought to mention to us that it was closed and there was no need to keep walking up the hill. As we were walking down the hill with our driver there were people walking up just like we had done. I asked him if we should tell them the castle was closed so they did not have to find out the hard way we did. He looked at me with an odd look, and said, “No, we shouldn’t tell them.”

One of the places we went that I did really like was Potsdam. It was where the summer residence of the king of Prussia was and it is a lovely little city, not ruined during the time it was ruled by East Germany. Prince Frederick the great built Sanssouci Palace and it is considered a little Versailles. We saw his grave and there were potatoes left on it I. At first I thought they were stones, like on Jewish graves, but then Carter explained they are potatoes put there by Germans because Frederick brought the potato to Germany. The Germans do like their potatoes. Too bad they have to go a ruin them by making them into potato dumplings.

Next to Frederick’s grave were the graves of all his dogs. I thought that was so nice his dogs were buried with him. That was until Carter told us that he left instructions for his dogs to be buried with him. Three of them were already dead, but the remaining dogs were killed so they could be buried at the same time. Made me think a little differently about how nice they were buried together.

Overall, it was a great trip, but not a holiday. I am happy to be back in sunny, friendly Durham with all my people and dog safe and sound.

Just Get Home

After a semester in Germany and a trip with her parents Carter was more than ready to come home. To celebrate twinkle thing being over we did a major splurge last night and went to eat at Tim Raue, one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. I had made the reservation months in advance and somehow we lucked into be seated at the Krug Table, that looked into the kitchen.

Both Russ and Carter had studied the Tv show about this place. Turns out our waitress is featured in the show. The Asian fusion did not diss appoint and neither did our waitress who visibly shock with excitement when she would place our food in front of us. It was a once in a lifetime experience. The food was indescribably delicious.

The only problem with going our last night is we had very little sleep to catch our early morning flights home. Carter had a ticket from her school program and was following us a few hours later. Russ and I had a 3:30 wake up to catch the 6:30 flight to Paris.

Unfortunately while we were on our flight to Paris Carter was at the Berlin airport being informed that her 9:45 flight tNewark was not going until 4:00 and that she had no connecting flight to RDU now. “You can rent a car and ride to NC from NJ.” The airline person told her. When Carter said she was 19 and cold not rent a car, they basically told her tough luck.

Not able to contact us she made the executive decision to buy a ticket on Delta that involved three flights. It was a fortune, but all she wanted was to get home. By the time we landed in Paris she was able to each us and tell us her plan. It was a highly stressful situation for her as well as us.

She got her first flight from Berlin to Amsterdam. Russ and I got on our flight to RDU from Paris and they told us the WiFi was out. I could not hold back the tears. I had no idea where she was and if her flights were on time. Then as if my tears had worked on the technology, the WiFi started working. She was on her flight to Detroit. Unfortunately it sat on the runway for an extra hour, butting her connection of her final leg in jeopardy.

We got home, and have been texting her through the whole trip giving her instructions on how to make it through customs fast enough to make her flight. We have been awake for 23 hours waiting to see if she makes it. If she does we will have to stay up another 3 hours to get her tonight. I have never wanted to pull an all nighter more than this.

You Are Never Too Old

When you have been on a trip just a day or two too long and you are getting tired of museums, historical spots, and looking at stuff what should you do to fill your time on the last day? Go to the zoo!

This morning we just could not muster going to another good for us, mind enriching site. We had a leisurely breakfast trying to fill the time, ran an errand to replace Carter’s original Birkenstocks and had packed our bags so that we made sure they were balanced in weight. Then Carter came up with the brilliant idea to go to the Berlin Zoo, a place she had not yet visited.

Off on the S train we headed. Going to a zoo in the winter on a weekday is the way to go. The place was empty of many other visitors, but full of the most glorious animal exhibits. Russ downloaded the zoo app so we knew when everyone was going to be fed. We got to see bears of all types, from polar to pandas. Wolves, hippos, zebras, antelopes, rhino and birds.

The two houses we liked the most were the big cats and the primates. We were in time for feeding in both places. When we entered the cat house a big female lion was making a terrific noise. Carter was worried that she was in distress. No she just knew it was time for her big beef leg.

The monkeys were our favorite. We spend a good amount of time watching big families in giant habitats, swing from ropes, pick up apple pieces with their feet and play with each other. There was some other monkey business going on too, so thank goodness there were not many kids around.

Tonight we are going to dinner at a restaurant we learned about on a great TV show called The Chef’s table. It was not the best planning to go to our best meal a few hours before our flight home. Hopefully I will sleep all the way home.

What I Like Best About Germany

There is one thing that I think is the greatest about Germany. It is not the beer, I don’t care a thing about beer. It is not their cars, despite the fact that they make some great cars. It is their dogs.

Everywhere we went in Germany there were dogs. In restaurants, the grocery store, on public transport. People take their dogs everywhere they go. And they are the most well behaved dogs you have ever seen.

On the street, dogs often were not on leashes, but they followed their owners right on their heels. They never thought to depart their masters side, even if a squirrel ran out in front of them. I never heard a peep out of any of the hundreds of dogs we saw. It was as if the dogs here were told never make a sound.

When two dogs passed each other on the sidewalk there was no confrontation or even any “hey, how are you?” sniffing going on. There might have been a slight nod, in a “what up” kind of way that you would have to video tape and play back in slow motion to even recognize.

Tonight when Russ and I were riding back to our hotel on a tram a woman with a white Scottie stood in the accordion center of the two car tram. The floor where they were standing turns when the tram make a turn, but the dog was never bothered. He stood right between her feet so as passengers got on and off the tram they did not step on him, since they did not know he was down the. He was never ruffled by the crowd. He did have a leash, but it did not appear to need it.

The other thing I like in Germany is dogs are always well dressed. Rarely did I see a dog without a coat on. It has been cold, but not really freezing, yet everyone makes sure their dog is well outfitted. It makes me think that my dog needs a coat for the few very cold days we have. I did not see any dogs in boots, but then again the ground was not freezing. I do wonder if people wished their dogs feet when they got home.

Dogs get to go everywhere and are well behaved. I wish that this was something we could adopt in America. Dogs can rise to the occasion if we let them. It is the owners I am not so sure about.

Nuremberg Bamberg Potsdam

Today was a day on the move. We woke up in our little flat in Nuremberg, cooked breakfast, rented a car, packed it full and headed North. There was only one bad fight about navigating on our way to Bamberg and then the dust settled and the rest of the day was happy. Since I am the only one who can drive a manual It was my job to do the driving.

We were on our way to Potsdam via Bamberg. We stopped in the medieval town that is now really a city because it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. That does not mean that the modern world does not grow up around it, just that a bunch of buildings are protected, from what I am not quite sure.

Nuremberg Bamberg Potsdam We found parking in an underground lot which is all I worry about when leaving a car with all. Y belongings in a strange city. After wandering through the newer part of the old town, think like 1700’s – 1800’s buildings we crossed over a bridge to the older part, like 1300’s-1500’s. I discovered that Bamberg had been the seat of the Holy Roman Empire, wait, like every place we have been, Prague and Nuremberg were also seats of the Holy Roman Empire. It is kind of like the American equivalent of George Washington slept here. Anyway Bamberg was beautiful, but since it was Monday in December lots of the stuff we wanted to see was closed.

So off to Potsdam we went.

It was a supposed to be a good four hour drive, but thanks to the fine German driving there were plenty of sections of the highway without speed limits and on those I went at least a hundred and I was in the middle lane. The amazing thing about the drive is we left Bamberg where it was dry and over freezing, as we drove north just a bit we came upon miles of snow covered fields and pine forests that looked like Christmas village landscape set up. Well before Potsdam we were back in dry landscape. It was like we had gone through Narnia.

We arrived in Potsdam in the dark, but since Carter had been here in September she described how beautiful it would be in the morning. Carter approved of the hotel we were staying in, which always makes me happy as the travel agent. We walked into the center of town and went to a seafood restaurant that made us happy not to have German food. On our return walk we went a different route that took us up a huge hill at the very end. Russ reported we did 29 flights of stairs today. Still is hardly enough. I can’t wait to see what daylight brings, especially since it only lasts about six hours.

I Like Some History and Culture

Yesterday, while Russ and Carter were visiting the toy museum and I was walking back to our flat from the Christmas Market I got a phone call from my father. “It looks like from you blog you are not having any fun.” Only my father would think to call me on the other side of the world and say that.

“Why do you think that?” I ask him.

“Because you are doing all this depressing cultural stuff.”

I forgot what it is like to travel with my father. Sitting in a pub talking to the locals is the kind of culture he likes. He thinks the fact that I no longer drink means that I can never have any fun. When Russ cut way back on drinking he thought it was my fault and that maybe Russ should leave me so he could drink again. For the record, I had nothing to do with Russ cutting back.

So just for my father here are a couple of pictures of Russ enjoying the best of German Culture. That fact that one of these picture was taken in the cafe of the German National Museum might get points off with my Dad, Russ said it was a very good beer nonetheless.

Being Sunday, much is closed here, which I find very interesting for such a non-church going society. But one place that was an advantage to go see on Sunday was the Nuremberg Trial Memorial. Court room 600 in the palace of Justice, where the Nuremberg trials were held, is still a working court room so it is best to visit on a weekend when you can be sure to get to walk in the actual place where History was made.

There is an excellent exhibit upstairs from the court room where we got to listen to every detail of the 200 plus days of the trial. It was fascinating to learn how ground breaking the trial was in the area of international law.

Although my father is a well educated and interesting man, he never would have listened to the whole audio at the exhibit without at least one beer. And since food and drinks were prohibited that would rule out the whole visit.

For those of you who like a little Disney with your culture, I have noted that my favorite line from any Disney song, from Beauty and the beast, “I use antlers in all of my decorating.” Is purely German. Yes, everywhere we have gone there have been antlers, but my favorite was this antlers and dragon chandelier like object we saw in the national Museum. Apparently antlers have been part of the culture for a very long time, like back when dragons roamed the countryside. How’s that for Culture, Dad?

And We Have A Winner

Not surprisingly all the cities in Germany are very competitive about who has the best Christmas Market. Now I have hardly been on a compressive tour, but so far I have visited three different markets in Berlin and they are at the bottom of the list. The Prague Market was good, but had more food and less Christmas which is a strike against it in my book. Today I visited the Nuremberg Christmas Market and it is the bomb. No wonder people come from near and far to visit it.

Nuremberg is considered Germany’s most German city. The Market lives up to its German heritage. There are more christmas decorations the than all the other markets put together. Of course sometime there are so many that it is hard to see them.

I have tried to steer clear of buying the painted glass ones in fear that they won’t make it home in one piece. I love the whirlly ones that spin around from the heat of candles, but they are incredibly pricey. I have tried to purchase unique things I can’t find at home, which is harder and harder in our ever shrinking world.

Carter and Russ have been very good sports about my Christmas Market obsession. Today they let me wander on my own. They found the best place to wait was the Lions Club Of Nuremberg coffee house. Earlier in the day we ran into a Santa who told us about the coffee house set up in a church meeting room. The members of the lions club baked homemade cakes that they sold with the coffee or tea. It was a lovely place to get to sit and rest and hide from the Christmas Market craziness.

Carter made good friends with a retired college professor who was working the coffee house. He told us what not to miss during our visit to Nuremberg. By the time I had caught up with them Russ had enjoyed his stolen and coffee, but I was able to enjoy the rest too with some apple cake.

We are yet to have some things that apparently were invented in Nuremberg, pretzels and gingerbread, but we still have another day, although that one is designated as our day of history. More to come on that tomorrow.

We also ate our first and probably our last traditional German Lunch. Carter and I are not fans of potato dumplings, which is a potato, flour and egg concoction that is more like a ball of paste than anything resembling a potato. Mine was with Pork knuckle that I had in honor of my father who made me promise to eat one and Carter had duck. Russ had Nuremberg bratwurst which are smaller than regular brats. All fine, but heavy.

Our waiter thought something was wrong with us when we told him we were done with out half eaten plates. Just too much German food for us. Thank goodness we walked almost ten miles today because we need something to counteract the food.

Back to Germany

We awoke this morning in Prague and had a lovely breakfast at the very fancy Hotel pAris around the corner from our apartment. When we got home our driver George was waiting to take us to Nuremberg with one stop at the Karlstejn Castle on the way. The castle had been built by Czech’s best king, Charles the fourth who was the head of the Holy Roman Empire when it was centered in Bohemia. The castle was not used as a residence, but as a storage facility for all the Royal jewels that had mostly been stolen while plundering other lands.

George was a great driver and we got to Karlstejn without a problem. We had to park in the car park for tourists at the bottom of the hill and walk 2 kilometers straight up hill to get to the castle. We were practically the only people in town. Yes, it is December, but the fact that not one tourist shop, beer hall or restaurant was open should have tipped us off that something was wrong. It was a little like the town without children in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Walking up the hill was a fabulous butt workout. Russ phone told us it was equivalent to 17 flights of stairs. As we reached the top and turned the corner to get to the entrance George made a little gasp at the giant closed door. He knew that meant the place was closed.

At least the down hill was not as hard.

We arrived at our Airbnb to meet our host a darling Girl named Lui who showed us around our flat inside the wall of the old town. It was after two and we wanted lunch so she escorted us to a lovely Italian restaurant. From there we walked around and returned to the flat to unpack. While Carter napped Russ and I went out to do a little grocery shopping.

The first giant store we went in was the worst grocery store I have ever been in. The freezer and refrigerator sections were completely empty with green screens covering them and a sign in German which I was too lazy to translate. So Russ and I walked across the street to a smaller Turkish market where we could hardly find anything we wanted, unless we changed our minds and decided we wanted giant cans of goats milk. We didn’t.

So we continued back to the walled old town where there were lots of stalls set up for Christmas Markets. If we wanted sweet things, or sweet hot wine, or giant bratwurst we wold have been fine, but we didn’t. Eventually we walked far enough that we found a cheese stall. At last, cheese not in a can. We bought some. Then I discovered I had lost my debit card in all this food hunting. Thank you Morgan Stanley for putting a hold on my account so quickly.

Back at the flat I am too exhausted to go out again. My watch reports almost nine miles walked today. Feels like double that. Discovering Nuremberg will have to wait for the morning.

Parallels in History

While most everyone I care about in America was celebrating the defeat of Judge Roy Moore, the worst example of a human being this week, we are here in the Czeck Republic, learning about historical bad acting humans. Today we spent the day visiting Terezin, the Concentration Camp that is outside of Prague.

In the scope of camps, Terezin was not close to places like Auschwitz, which were extermination camps, but was a ghetto and waiting station for extermination none the less. Originally Terezin was a walled military base town, which made it easy to convert into an interment camp for Jews. The reason it was not as bad, is it was the camp the the Nazi’s used to show the International Red Cross that they were treating Jews humanly. In the world of fake news that we live in now, this was the ultimate in fake.

Terezin was a large camp where the Jews were forced to live, men in one building, women in another, boy’s in a third, girl’s in a forth and babies in a fifth. A smaller older fortress that was built in 1770 by the Czeck leader Joseph where prisoners were kept and killed was just down the road. Both places had some setups that were pure propaganda to show the Red Cross. Apparently the Red Cross officials came from Geneva during the war for a four hour visit, but were kept so busy at the big camp that they never had time to see the smaller one where the killings took place.

Regardless of what the Red Cross saw in the way of fake “humane treatment,” why did they not say, “Why do you need to intern these women, children and babies in the first place?” Let alone the old people, or handicapped people who were all Jews. The Red Cross gave the Nazis six months warning they were coming to inspect Terezin, as the example camp, they had to know what was going on. Why was it alright to gather all the Jews in the first place? They were hardly the worst enemy of the state.

Most everyone I know can find nothing redeeming in Nazis, on that we can agree, but what about the Red Cross? Being a Nazi is bad, but standing by and more or less allowing the Nazis to carry out these atrocities is the next thing in line of badness. Jews were sent to Terezin as a first stop before going on to places like Auschwitz. Anyone in the Red Cross with half a brain could ask, “With new Jews coming in all the time, where are the people going out going?”

It is imperative that as humans we keep vigilant in asking questions and not believe the propaganda that still goes on today. A strong and free press is our only defense against politicians who have less than good intentions and kind hearts.

I am thankful that Roy Moore was defeated because his ideology was closer to the Nazi’s than we should have in America. What I fear is that if it weren’t for his sexual accusations he would have easily won and then we would be going more steps backwards to something closer to the Nazis in terms of censorship, lack of personal freedoms and equality.

It is not just up to Jews to “never forget,” at any time it could be any of us who are chosen to be the ones who are persecuted.

Love Stumbling Upon

I had made a reservation for breakfast at Fred and Ginger, a restaurant in the Frank Gehry designed Dancing House building. Russ is a big Gehry fan and this was his first opportunity to eat in one. When we woke up Carter opted for sleeping in so Russ and I made the thirty minute walk to breakfast.

Outside of breakfast we had no plans. Amazingly Carter texted us before we were even done eating that she was ready to meet us. I gave her two options and she picked the Charles bridge and a big walk up hill to the Prague Castle.

The day was sunnier than we have had on the whole trip. It was glorious to see the gorgeous bohemian architecture. According to Russ’ phone we climbed the equivalent of 13 flights of stairs up to the castle complex. We arrived just as there was a changing of the guard. Carter and I had flashbacks Of Princess Diaries and Moldovia. Russ did not understand our reference.

After touring the Cathedral we stumbled upon the Lobkowicz Palace. The only private museum and cafe in the castle complex. We had lunch outside on the balcony of the cafe overlooking all of Prague. Two outdoor meals in so many days is more than I have ever eaten outdoors in winter ever, but it was perfect, especially since I had ginger tea and potato soup.

After lunch we went through the Lobkowicz collections. The story of the family who had been Czech nobility for hundreds of years, lost everything, including four castles/palaces and huge amount of art work to the Nazi’s and got it back after the war only to lose it to the communists was heart breaking. They Lobkowicz Family had left Czech and all their possessions when the communists came in, then when the Velvet Revolution took place in 1990 the family came back and found out they had one year to reclaim all that was taken from them as long as they had proof. They had to learn to speak Czech and amazingly most of all their processions were returned. Not always in good condition, but they have done a great job restoring things.

My favorite room in the palace was the smallest one decorated in a Chinese theme I thought would make a perfect Mah Jongg room. It was a fabulous museum and story.

A good day of discovery and so far eight miles of walking.

Prague Beating Berlin So Far

After not enough sleep last night Carter Russ and I had to pack. Well, most of Carter’s bags were still packed from moving out of school. In planning this trip I had to work everything around being able to leave four big suitcases in Berlin while we traveled around. There was no way we could bring Carter’s whole semesters worth of stuff with us.

After storing her belonging we jumped on a train to Prague. The countryside of east Germany south through Dresden was quite beautiful. Carter felt a bit of familiarity as long as we were in Germany. As we crossed the boarder into the Czech Republic everything changed. No more German over the loud speaker. She said it was a feeling of uneasiness to be out of Germany.

We got a taxi to our apartment in the old town section of the city. It was a nice surprise for us all since we have a big living room with 14 foot ceilings and two giant bedrooms. We wasted no time getting out to explore the old town. We walked down out street and rounded a corner and there at the end of the block was a beautiful cathedral all lit up. We went under two arches and through two cobblestoned court yards and then we were in the middle of a magical Christmas Market.

The tree was twice as big as any in Berlin. The buildings that surrounded the square looked as if Santa had designed them just for Christmas. The stalls were not as close together as they were in Berlin. There were plenty of people but not the shoulder to shoulder crowds like in Berlin.

We purchased some hot cider and perused the offerings. We had no set plans for dinner. When we walked by a big fire with ham turning on a spit, Russ knew he had come to his happy place. We decided just to get food at the market and eat it outside like all the other revelers. Carter cold not find exactly what she wanted so after Russ and I enjoyed the local meat we walked around the square to a Mexican take out place that satisfied Carter to a tee.

Back to the apartment to watch some Christmas movie on Netflix and we were happy. So far Prague is winning in the Christmas celebration feeling. We have hardly scratched the surface, but then again it is just our first few hours here. I can hardly wait to see what daylight will bring here.

The Long March

Carter had made us quite of lists of sights to see in Berlin. When she sent it to me a few weeks ago I never imagined we would get to them all, but today we knocked out the whole thing. Starting with the Berlin Wall Memorial.

The grey overcast sky’s of Berlin winter made a perfect setting to walk the deadman zone along the wall. The craziness of tearing down perfectly good buildings to put up a wall keeping people apart is nothing compared to the insanity of the SS and the Nazi’s we learned about at the Topography of Terror Museum. I have studied plenty about the Nazi’s through the years, but as an American I never thought it could happen again.

Reading the ways that Hitler and Himmler used populist ways to gain power—Cutting out a free press, oppressing the weak and making people fear “the other” along with justifying eliminating anyone who could not contribute, is sounding a little too familiar to me. Germany does an excellent job at looking at bad things that happened here with the most honesty to say, “these things must be remembered so they can not be repeated.” It can happen anywhere and that is what must be learned.

After the heaviness of so much learning in the morning Russ, Carter and I did a very long walk through some of the nicer parts of Berlin despite the cold. After we got to the point where I could no longer feel my face we stopped to have lunch and then change our tact and visit a Christmas Market. It is always a good idea to go through a Christmas Market full from a real meal so you are not tempted to eat any of the food or drinks they are selling in the stalls. We did decide that the people making Bratwursts have it best because they have a big fire to keep them warm. I was able to find a couple of Christmas ornaments so I left the market happy.

By the end of the day I had done a solid nine miles of walking, which was needed to counteract the sushi dinner. Russ pointed out that we have avoided eating one German meal since we got here. I think that will change when we go out in the country.

Magical Reunion

Four months away and the less than perfect journey to get to Carter in Berlin made our reunion that much sweeter. It was Carter’s last day of her school program so we went straight from the airport to her school to see her dorm, meet her roommates and friends and get a first hand look at how she had been living. She took us on a walking tour of her regular haunts, but then we had to leave her because she had her farewell dinner.

Russ and I checked into our hotel and walked up the street to get dinner. Carter texted us through dinner and came and joined us at our hotel for a little more time before she went back to school to finish packing and one last nights sleep.

Bright and early this morning she and her best friend Olivia moved Carter and all four of her suit cases into the hotel. Thank goodness we came to take her belongings home. Olivia and Carter took us to their favorite breakfast spot when parents are paying, Benedict. Getting to know Olivia in person was such a treat, since she became such a wonderful friend to Carter. Our time together was short because she was off to catch a train to visit her German grandmother.

Carter took over as Berlin tour guide. Four months taking a class on Berlin the 21 century city, one on the Holocaust and one on the politics of the EU made Carter not just a good guide, but an excellent lecturer at all the sites she took us to today. We started at the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Tiergarten and then had an extensive visit at the Memorial to The Murdered Jews of Europe, otherwise known as the Holocaust Memorial.

The outside of the Memorial was a sobering city block of 2000 cements blocks varying in size from two feet tall to over twelve feet tall, which you can walk between in single file. It is overwhelming to be swallowed up inside the Memorial. After walking through the maze of blocks we toured the underground museum where Carter gave us an in-depth summary of the Holocaust. I think she got her tuition’s worth in that class.

To lighten the mood after that sad tour we walked over to one of the many Christmas Markets. It was beautiful, with lights and vendors and smells of special German Christmas foods and drink. Carter and Russ sat at a bar and kept warm, while I toured the stalls. Since it is the first of the many Christmas Markets I plan to visit I did not go wild.

We U-Banned to a Turkish restaurant and had a wonderful dinner and then Carter hit the wall. Four hours of sleep her last night at school had finally caught up with her. We walked out of the restaurant to snow. The perfect magical ending to a wonderful first full day back together.

If You See This Man, Stay Far Away

If I weren’t so excited about getting to Carter I might not be in such a good mood after all that has happened trying to get to her. Our trip started yesterday with snow in Durham which certainly causes panic on the roads. We were taking a Lyft to the airport and it took three times as long it should have.

After waiting in crazy long lines, due to 1,000 Delta flight being canceled due to snow in Atlanta, we finally checked our bags. Once in the club I Facetimed with Carter, so excited that the day to get to see her was almost here. The man sitting next to me told me that the Paris flight was delayed half an hour. He had a tight connection to Lisbon and we agreed that it might be OK due to excellent tail winds. Optimism is always my default.

Then we went to the gate. Half an hour late was not even close. We loaded an hour late. Still in the window to make our connection. We pulled away from the gate, I was ever hopeful. The flight attendants made a very pointed announcement about no smoking, vaping or anything else in the bathrooms. Who doesn’t know this?

Then we sat. We sat some more. Not sure if it was de-icing or what. After a good while the pilot said there was something “little” that needed a mechanic so we pulled back to the gate. After a guy in a neon yellow vest came on an airport official appeared at the door and summoned a shady looking man outside the plane. Russ and I were sitting by the door so we had full view of this exchange.

If we were pulling back to the gate to throw this “vaper” off the plane I was going to be really mad. Well it was both the “vaper” and a mechanical issue. Three hours later we finally took off. We were certainly not making our connection.

Thankfully when we landed in Paris we found that we had been rebooked on a noon flight. Just three and a half hours late to get to see Carter. Russ and I walked the mile and a half from our arrival gate to our new departure gate and stopped at a Paul Bakery to get coffee, something we needed badly after our three hours of bumpy sleep. Oh yeah, I didn’t mention the good news. Since we were in the front of the plane we were in one of the three rows that got dinner before the service was discontinued due to turbulence. The rest of the plane never got dinner.

Anyway I am about to get to the cream of the shit crop. While we were sitting at the very crowded Paul enjoying our coffee, right after we got another announcement that our noon flight was now 12:55 a man who was trying to beat someone else to a seat on the other side of a pony wall from us leaned over me with his tray full of coffee and spilled it all over my coat, bags and me. I said every American swear word fast and loudly. The little man had no remorse, except for his lost coffee.

A very nice Paul employee came over with paper towels to help. I was wishing she had brought a stun gun with her. The little shit man just went around the wall and sat down in the seat he so badly wanted and ate his food. The whole place was silent, watching this big disaster. As I was wiping the cafe au lait from my suit case I started to laugh, not just any laugh, but my big belly laugh. Everyone looked. I looked at the little man and laughed right at him. He got a little indigent and asked what we wanted him to do. Nothing. Nothing. Just be a little more embarrassed.

Now we sit at the crazy crowded gate waiting for our next late plane. How much longer until I get to Carter?

Fastest Blog Ever Written on My Phone

Recovered half way, enough to fly without dying. The excitement of going to be with Carter is the best medicine ever.

Of course the snow today made travel on I 40 insane. Half an hour late to airport. We are having to check bags because we are bringing empty bags to Carter. So we had to wait at bag check-in. The weather has screwed up most people’s travel do the check-in agents were spending 15 minutes per passenger to reroute them. Finally checked our empty bags and got to the club where every seat was taken. Our flight has been delayed, hopefully we will still make our tight connection.

Normally this would make me all insane, but either my medicine has dulled me or my euphoria is keeping me positive. Pray we have tail winds and get to Carter safe and sound.

The Blessing Of Being Organized

Last Thursday Russ came home from a business trip sick. With our trip a week away I did everything possible to nurse him back to health from afar. He slept in the guest room, showered in the guest bath, ate alone. It was pure solitary confinement. I practically slid his tray of food through a slot in the door.

He recovered after four or five days and I thought we were out of the woods. Then two days ago my throat got sore, but not too bad. Yesterday I had a little nose issues, not too bad. This morning I woke up at three in the morning, full on sick. Really??!!??!!?!

I canceled the fun Christmas lunch I was supposed to go to. I found out late that I had a church meeting, I canceled. I took a three hour nap and have done everything possible to get better.

Thankfully outside of fun things and meetings I am ready for the trip. I am packed, have all my home support set up, the house is clean so when we return it will be welcoming, I have what few Christmas presents I have wrapped. Thank goodness I think in terms of contingency’s so that I don’t have a lot of last minute things to do, just in case. And here it is, just in case. I need to get well.

Thankfully my ears are not blocked so I shouldn’t burst an ear drum. This is not the way I wanted to spend Carter’s birthday, but I did get some quality three in the morning texting with her. Thanks for all the birthday wishes that got sent to her through my Facebook. It helps to have a little pick me up when you are away on your birthday. Now I am looking for a little pick me up.

December 7 is Carter’s Birthday

Nineteen years ago tomorrow the best thing happened to me and Russ, Carter was born. We had no idea what a fun ride it would be to be her parents but based on her arrival we should not have been surprised.

We waiting a long time for her. After seven years of marriage we finally got pregnant. She was two weeks late to be born and only free being induced did she make an appearance. Although she put up quite a fight about coming out and made sure it was a good story.

Russ and I went to the hospital at six in the morning on the day we were told they would finally induce me. We hung around the waiting room for few hours and they finally showed us to a room where they would give me the drugs that would make Carter want to come out. She wasn’t exactly ready. After a few traumatic heart rate incidents when Russ was not in the room, Dr. Fried announced that I was having an emergency c-section and they quickly rolled me down the hall of Durham Regional completely naked on my hands and knees to the operating room. I am certain that if Russ had been in the room at that moment that he would have made sure they threw a sheet over me. Thank goodness he appeared in the operating room just as they were about to cut me open to deliver sweet Carter.

She was fine and we were ecstatic. It was a crazy beginning of a great childhood. If you had asked me then if I could imagine where she would be nineteen years later I never would have said Berlin.

This is her first birthday I have ever been away from her, but it is only three days until I see her for the first time in four months. It will be like a big present to me to celebrate her birthday a few days late.

I am writing this celebration of her birthday today so that when she wakes up in Berlin in a few hours she will have it as her first birthday present. Sadly she also has an exam on her birthday and one the day after so she will have to spend the day studying as will all her Berlin friends, so no party will go on. So if you know Carter send her a birthday message so the day does not go unrecognized.

I just want her to know that she is the best daughter and I love her more than anything on earth. Being apart for four months was much harder than going down the hall of the hospital naked on my hands and knees on the gurney. It has all been worth it!

Part Time Book Keeper Needed In Durham

I am looking for a person with good book keeping/accounting skills for a 15 hour a week temporary job in Durham. The person is needed now to train with the current staff member. It is a lovely work environment. The job should be for about the next 4-5 months. Are you or do you know this person?

The person should have experience doing books, payroll, deposits all the regular money stuff. I think the hours and days are fairly flexible. Please message me if you know anyone who might be interested in picking up a little work right now.

The person would not work for or with me, but with a group of people who are kind, happy and a joy to be around. I am just helping to try and find the person.

Needlepoint Christmas

Years ago when I started needlepointing I was honored to be invited into a needlepoint Christmas exchange with a group who had been doing it for years. As the eclectic group would sit around the table stitching I would learn so much, not just about stitching, but good books they were reading or wonderful shows they were binge watching or recipes they were cooking.

When I was welcomed into their fold I offered to host the lunch where we exchange the ornaments we loving stitch for each another in secret. They were quick to accept this invitation and happily have not felt the need to move the lunch anywhere else. I love hosting this group and making something special for lunch, especially the dessert.

I know that it is not my event, that I am just a junior member, so sorry I can’t invite anyone else to be a stitching advisor. Please don’t have your feelings hurt that you aren’t invited, it is not my place to do that. That being said, sorry you don’t get to come to this lunch.

This year I had a yummy shrimp, crab and corn chowder, caramelized pear, onion, arugula and blue cheese quesadillas, deviled eggs, a delicious salad my friend Cindy brought and then dessert. I am not really a baker. Being precise in my cooking is not my style. With the very southern menu I was having I needed something equally southern. I decided on a caramel cake.

If you have never had a southern caramel cake you have not really lived, but if you have had them too often you will not live long. It is a decadent thing. I studied a lot of recipes, deciding that I liked one from a blog called Southern Boy Cooks. He made a two layer 9 inch cake. I liked many more thinner layers with a caramel cake, because it is all about the icing.

My cake pans are 8 inch so I thought I might get four layers out of his recipe. I got seven! That made for a very tall cake. With all these layers I doubled the icing. That was too much.

Carmel icing is a difficult thing to make because it can get grainy if you overcook it, but if you undercook it it won’t get thick enough to stay on the cake. Many hours of labor and I got it close.

The only thing that mattered is the stitching advisors enjoyed their lunch and their cake. I am so thankful for this multi-generational group of friends. I am also looking forward to learning how to make a birthday plaid and do beading this year. So here is to more reasons to get together. I’ll make the lunch.

Yes, I’m Nuts About Christmas Decorating

Let me qualify my title, I love decorating the inside of my house for Christmas. There may be many TV shows dedicated to those people who bedeck their houses with more lights than are needed to power Paducah, Kentucky, but that is not my affliction. I am a purely inside Christmas decorator. It is very generous of the light-my-house people to do that so we can drive by and Oohhh and ahhh, but I want to sit inside my house and look at all the Christmas.

One of the things I find most pleasurable is making something new every year to add to my indoor ornaments. I am not talking one new ornament on my tree or even a dozen new Needlepoint ornaments on my garland, more like a new Christmas village, or homemade wreath made out of silver cookie cutters or my favorite, my “happy birthday baby Jesus tree.”

I like totally original things so it involves me making something. I don’t get to count stitching new ornaments, those are just icing.

One might think I am running out of places to put Christmas stuff, but I have not yet had to resort to decorating closets or the garage. I am not so systematic that I look around the year before and say, “the sunroom could really use something.” Instead I just wait to be inspired during the year with whatever new craft I am teaching myself.

This year was a no brainer since I took up quilting. I did make four quilts since August, but I thought that I could make different Christmas placemats as a way to teach myself different skills and techniques. They are in no way perfect, but they did give me lots of chances to push my quilting skills. It was also fun to make up different patterns. I quickly learned it was hard to make them all the same size when I was just winging making up the pattern. The real reason to do this was so I could learn to actually do the quilting part rather than just making the pieced tops.

As I look around my house I see so many potential new Christmas projects, like I could learn to make slip covers and recover my furniture into a red and green theme in December, or I could take up wood working and carve a life size Santa with a chain saw. In all seriousness, I think next year I would like to make a real homemade big gingerbread house. The only problem with that is the temporary nature of baked goods. I like to make things that last year after year. Maybe I should just quilt a gingerbread house.

Some Kind of Nesting

It is going on four moths since Carter has been home. That is a long time for me not to have hugged my baby. I am going to get to see her in less than a week and I think I have gone into a nesting phase kind of like pregnant women do right before they give birth.

I have been readying the house for Carter’s return home in ways I have never done before. Earlier in the week I was in her bathroom. I looked at the grout on her floor and wondered how it had gone from once pristine white to dingy brown. I am sure it has been years since it was sparkling now it was really bugging me.

With Clorox in hand, I remedied the situation. Probably no one else is ever going to notice, but for some reason I felt like I wanted her bathroom spic and span.

With my robot vacuum I am hardly letting a bit of dust settle on the floor for more than an hour. My paintings have never been so well dusted. I am looking at rooms in my house with a magnifying glass like eye to see if something needs shining.

I cleaned the inside of the refrigerator today with engineering precision. Removing parts to be washed in the sink that I am sure were supposed to be factory sealed. I can only strike this new found cleaning bug up to trying to make home so nice for Carter, like bringing a baby home from the hospital.

Not that she requires this. Anything in our normal home mode is going to be welcome after having had to share a communal kitchen with a large group of teenagers who don’t know what dish soap is. I think the thing she is going to like best is the security of a home fridge where if she puts something in it she knows it will still be there the next day. Sharing food storage with people who have no qualms eating your food has been frustrating.

So things are getting ready for her arrival. Of course she might not notice the clean kitchen because all she wants is good Mexican Food, and by good I mean Chipotle, since Berlin is void of any Mexican. Seems like a business opportunity to me, but I don’t want her staying there any longer than needed. So come on home for the Mexican food and I will be happy.

For some reason this post was stuck in cyber space yesterday along with all my emails. It was written yesterday but posted today along with another one to keep up my everyday blogging!

More Art For Christmas

First, let me say I come from a very talented family of artists. My cousin Sarah, who lives in Raleigh, is a fabulous artist and she and a number of other artists are having a show tomorrow at one of her neighbor’s houses.

If you are looking for a unique Christmas gift for that person who has everything consider art. Sarah does not usually have shows because she works on commission so much she hardly ever has anything available for sale. So this is a rare opportunity.

The show is called the Longview Gardens Art Market at

115 N Lord Ashley Rd, Raleigh, NC 27610

Here is the rest of the info.