Best Simple Tools

I do a lot of stitching. I needlepoint, I use a sewing machine, I hand stitch. I started when I was a little girl. At fifty-six years old I estimate that I have stitched hundreds of billions of stitches in my lifetime. I must confess that it was not until today that I ever used a thimble. Why has no one ever told me about this thing?

On Tuesday I picked up the king sized quilt I made for my mother from my long arm quilter? The only thing left to complete this project was to hand stitch the binding on the edge of the quilt. Hand stitching the 415 inches of binding is my least favorite part of making a quilt.

On my way home I stopped by a quilting store to pick up some fabric for my next project. Whole I was waiting in line to pay I saw a bucket of colorful rubber thimble on the counter. Over the last few quilts I have made I noticed that my finger got very raw and irritated trying to push the needle through the quilt sandwich of top, batting, back and binding.

So I chose a thimble that fit one of my fingers, not actually sure which finger I was supposed to wear it on. Today, after Mah Jongg, I got the quilt out to start the binding process. I dug the thimble out of the pocket in my purse. I put it on the middle finger of my dominant hand and started stitching. The thimble protected the side of my finger that I used to push the needle through the thick middle of the quilt. At first it felt a little odd, but eventually I was stitching faster and more pain free than I ever had before.

Why had no one ever told me about thimbles before. Although I watch plenty of you tube quilting videos I guess I have never watched anyone doing the final hand sewing. Now I am in love this simple old fashioned sewing tool that has been around for hundreds of years.

I guess that the old tools are still the best. I wish they made you tube videos a hundred years ago so I could go back and learn more tricks from the best tailors.

I’m A Lunch Kind Of Person

There is a general question people get asked, “Are you a morning person or a night owl?” I understand that there are those people who generally get up very early and those who stay up very late, but what about the rest of us? If you ask me that question I say “I am a lunch person.” If pushed to pick between early morning and late night I will take morning, but if you want me at my best, let’s do lunch.

Today is a perfect example. Since Russ was away I got to sleep until I naturally woke up. It was after seven. I drove to Raleigh to pick up my latest quilt from my long arm quilter (I’ll post photos after I give it to the recipient.). Then I went to meet my friend Karen for lunch. I was at my peak performance right then. Sitting, eating and talking, what I do best. I returned home, did some house keeping, sewing went to a meeting at five, came home and am going to another meeting at seven.

At the five o’clock meeting I was invited to a nine PM basketball game. Such a nice invitation, but do you know how far nine is from my peak performance time of 12:30? It is nice to be of the age that I don’t feel compelled to do things morning, noon and night. Pick two times of the day as long as one of them is noon and I’m good, but not three.

So here’s to lunch! And my friends that are happy to have it with me. I will stay your friend much longer that way.

Once A Basketball Mom, Always A Basketball Mom

When Carter played basketball at DA we used to have team dinners at our house. I love the team and the parents and have missed sitting in the bleachers with them.

A few weeks ago one of the team Moms called and asked if I would cook the food for the team year end dinner since she was not much of a cook. I gladly agreed.

Today I made butternut squash lasagnas, two with sausage and two without. I made salad dressing, and prepped the salad. I made Carter’s favorite Texas sheet cake that she always requested for team dinners. Just as I finished cooking everything I got a text from the Mom who was hosting the dinner.

“I’m stuck in Florida, and my flight is not getting in until late tonight so we are going to have to postpone the dinner. Can you just donate the food somewhere?”

I wanted to see the team so I texted back. “Let’s just have the dinner at my house.”

So we did.

The team had only one new player this year so most everyone was used to coming here. It was great to have them all back around my table. Carter FaceTimed once everyone was here. It made my heart happy to see their smiling faces. I guess once you are a basketball Mom, you always are one.

Some Dreams Never Should Come True

I’m not talking about that dream you are going to become a ballerina or a surgeon. I’m talking about those crazy dreams you have when you haven’t slept well all night.

Last night I hardly slept. I moved from my regular bed where Russ and Shay slept soundly to the guest room where my tossing and turning would not bother them. Once there I could not fall asleep despite my exhaustion. I rearranged every pillow over and over. I changed positions. I tried everything. Eventually I fell into a fitful on again and off again light sleep.

Just as I thought I was about to fall asleep at three in the morning Russ opened the guest room door and that fully woke me up. After another hour or so tossing and turning I finally fell into a crazy dream.

I dreamt my friends Lynn and Logan had a little baby and some kidnapping robbers come to a party at their house and cleaned out Lynn’s closet of a dozen designer handbags and the baby. Some unidentified friend and I went and snatched the baby back from the robbers’ car as well as one cork Prada bag. Then I woke up.

It was the worst night’s sleep and craziest dream. As if not getting any satisfying sleep wasn’t bad enough, I don’t have a satisfactory ending to the crazy dream. There are just times when I wish that I could stay asleep and rectify what is going on in crazy dreams. Waking up in the middle of a story with no meaning ruins my whole day.

I have basically been a zombie all day, but am afraid to fall asleep because in my subconscious I feel like those kidnappers are still around and I don’t know how to protect Lynn’s baby. The only thing I know is that Ellis, Lynn’s real baby was not this one because the one in the dream had black curly hair.

Please god, let me sleep well tonight and not have these crazy dreams and fitful sleep.


I had to check my watch twice to see that it really is February 24 and we were planning on eating dinner outside and it was lovely. Our friends Lane and Jon were coming over from Raleigh to have dinner with us. Russ is the keeper of the “what’s new and hip in the dining” list. There are always more places on the list than available meals we are eating out. Usually because Russ also has a “foods I want Dana to cook me” list.

Lane asked Russ to pick a dining spot. Since Jon likes casual (he just had to buy pair of nice pants to wear in NYC because the last time he bought pants they had pleats) Russ picked a Korean place that evolved from a food truck. I also think that watching all these Olympics had gotten us craving Korean.

The place is called Namu and it is in the Straw Valley Center where the Black House restaurant used to be. It is huge. It is a little like food truck met a beautiful garden and decided to stay put.

You come in and order your food at a counter and they give you a number to put on your table. There is an inside section which looks mostly like a coffee house. The real treat is the rambling gardens where there are tables throughout the property. You would never worry that there are people eavesdropping on your conversation there.

Despite the size and the ordering at a counter, the food comes amazingly quickly by one of the friendly servers. But true to food truck land it is served in little cardboard boats. Ignore the boat and just enjoy the yummy Korean. I had a spicy chicken bibimbap, which is a rice bowl with lots of veggies and delicious chicken. We had some homemade dumplings and spicy edamame for the table which was a great.

The miracle was that we spent two and half hours sitting our doors on a February night enjoying our friends with good food. I know I should hate climate change, but this one was lovely.

Lakewood Renewal

When Carter was an itty bitty we used to spend lots of time at a children’s museum called Busy Street in Lakewood. The shopping area had seen better days and thus the rent was cheep for the non-profit that was set up as a miniature town, with a fire station, restaurant, doctors office and other fun stations for toddlers. It was a sad day when Busy Street closed when Carter was about four. It was the last time I had any reason to go to Lakewood until recently.

The neighborhood is in such close proximity to Duke and downtown it seems like a no brainer that it was due for renewal. Last year Phoebe Lawless opened the Lakewood and mini Scratch bakery in the old Davis Baking building. Coco Cinnamon opened another branch of its highly popular coffee shop across the street.

The big shopping center with practically an unlimited amount of parking is now ripe for improvement. The Dollar General and the Food Lion on one end are fine tenants, but not special. At the other end of the big center is the new home of the Scrap Exchange which was priced out of downtown. It’s end of the shopping center has been renamed as the reuse arts center. The inexpensive rents attracted a small business called Freeman’s Creative a crafts supply business. It is just the kind of small business that the area needs.

A young woman opened the fabric, yarn and arts store with the idea to have classes in fabric and fiber arts. There are a group of sewing machines in the back where a fiber artist was working when I visited the store yesterday. I purchased some fabric to add to my quilting stash. I am ever hopeful that people will find these kinds of businesses early enough for them to take hold and stay in business.

If you are a knitter, quilter, seamstress or someone who wants to learn to be any of these stop by and visit the Freeman’s Creative. They have a little section of artist made crafts for sale, which make unique gifts. It takes us supporting these local businesses to help turn areas around. If this business can succeed it will attract others and you might just learn to make something cute.

Not Always Correct, But Never In Doubt

Years ago my friend Carol described herself to me this way and I knew in an instant we were kindred spirits. Being sure of myself is a trait that I have carried since grade school, that more often than not it hid what I did not know, but had people follow me when they should have known better. Another trait we share is a hearty sense of humor and the ability to laugh at ourselves.

Today a group of friends gathered to celebrate Carol’s birthday. Carol generously brought gifts for all her guests. As she handed out the small terry cloth colorful bundles we asked her what in the world they might be. Carol wasted no time demonstrating the magic hair drying towel she loved. She stood up and put it on, awkwardly trying to attach the twisted top through a loop. Voila! We all understood her cute gift, even if we thought it seemed difficult to put on after watch Carol struggle.

After a yummy lunch we agreed to all put our head wraps on for a group photo. Only Carol did not have one since she had given them all to us. Denise put hers on first and Carol said she was doing it backwards. Denise knew better. It was Carol, who had been putting it on backwards forever. Not always correct, but never in doubt. Her motto holds up.

Either way you wear it, it works and that is the great thing about old friends. None of us are perfect and we just accept each other the way we are. Carol is my friend and in that I am correct and am not in doubt. Happy Birthday!

Tiny Nest

As my friend Lynn and I were going into a meeting at church LYnn noticed this little bird’s nest. Lynn, a great animal lover is always looking out for the small creatures of the world. This little tiny nest was a work of art. Carefully woven soft needles and straw were gently, but securely placed in the branches of a little tree.

I got to thinking about how much work building that little nest was for the bird who did the work. Gathering each twig and carrying it back to the nest and placing it or weaving it together. I wish that I could have been able to spy the bird as she was doing the first few pieces. How does she get the first one to stay in place and then place the second one without knocking the first one out of the tree?

This small tiny nest must represent hours of work. It only serves for one season of egg laying and then probably does not last the elements and she must do it all again the next year. Such faith the bird must have that she has made a strong enough structure to hold her eggs. That she has placed it in a place safe enough from prying squirrels and inquisitive little hands of the children who pass by everyday on their way to pre-school.

I have no idea what kind of bird she is but I fear that she has chosen a space to close to the ground and too near the walkway to be able to nest there undisturbed. But what Can I do? I can not touch the nest and contaminate it. I cannot move it to a higher branch. I am left just to pray that she will be safe and sound on hallowed grounds.

The one thing I am certain of is that Lynn will look out for this mama bird whomever she is and all her soon to come eggs. There never was a better protector of the wildlife than Lynn, nor one that had more faith in the good of nature. I guess the mama bird might have picked a good spot after all.

It’s National Love Your Pet Day

There are days for everything now, National coloring book day, world coffee day, garlic appreciation day. Most of these kind of days are a promotion for a product. But if there was ever a day that had no agenda It’s National Love your Pet day. Sure, some dog toy manufacture might have made it up to sell more squeaky toys, but that is not the best way to love your pet; a good belly rub or ear scratch will suffice.

I have previously sung the praises of other countries lax rules about where dogs can go. Seems like it is time for us to join their ranks. I hate that dogs can’t go into restaurants unless it is on an outside terrace. My dog is probably cleaner than your shoes. Why can’t she sit on the floor under my table.

Today I had a meeting at a co-working office in RTP called The Frontier. I got there a little early and looked around for the woman I was meeting with. It w a big open office with lots of different desks, tables, sofas and gathering areas. I noticed a lot of dogs sleeping on dog beds beside their humans. There was a sign that read, “first floor dog friendly work space.” I am not sure if it was the atmosphere or the fact that the dogs got to come to work, but everyone there looked fairly happy. The dogs were very well behaved, maybe they knew it was love your pet Day.

Kind of like valentines, I don’t need one day to love my pet. I love her everyday, but I would like thee to be many more places for her to go with me. Having her around makes me a nicer person and she brings joy to all she lets pet her. I hate to see that sad face looking out at me when I leave her home.

Stitching Circle Day

There is something so comforting about sitting in a circle of friends doing needlepoint and enjoying each other’s company. My friend Kathi has just taken up needlepoint and has quickly gotten the bug. She has a very good eye and great design sense so it makes her desire to master more advanced stitches overwhelming. To help her improve she invited a few stitching friends to come and sit around her breakfast room table.

Of course there is nothing I like more than sharing my knowledge with others. It brings me great joy to see what other friends have stitched and help them learn new techniques. I was blessed to be taken in by a group of expert stitchers who have done Nd continue to do this for me. It seems that there is always more to learn and stitches to improve.

We gathered today at 10. I had a canvas that I was almost done with that I wanted to finish. We stitched until we needed food so around 1:30 we had a cup of soup and stitched some more. Suddenly it was al day 2:30 and I had to stop and renter the modern world.

It sounds so old fashioned for a group of ladies to gather with no other purpose than doing needlework, but it was so much more. It is a fellowship that is disappearing in our technological age. Don’t get me wrong, I love tech, but your iPad can’t give you a hug.

It was practically decadent to have no agenda, but so restorative. I can stitch everyday alone, and as much as I love to lay the fiber in the canvas it does not compare with the joy of teaching a friend a new stitch and watching them do it beside you. Not to mention the great conversation that takes place at the circle which is bound to stay within the circle.

There are some old fashioned things we need to nurture and keep alive not for the sake of creating more treasures but for the camaraderie. I am not sure many people think of needlepoint as a team sport, but once it is done together you find it even more satisfying and good for the soul.

Thanks Kathi for gathering this circle. I hope you got as much out of it as I did.

Mass Start Biathlon

The other day, just after the Florida shootings, I was watching The View. As the women were discussing the gun control issue, which our politicians seems to ignore, Megan McCain was defending the NRA. One of her rebuts to the group who wanted the NRA to get out of donating to politicians was, “You didn’t grow up in a place with gun culture.” McCain grew up in Arizona, where her father, John has been the senator and is the number one receiver of NRA money over his lifetime in politics. (Granted his lifetime in politics is very long.)

I got to thinking about that phrase, “gun culture” and wondering what could possibly be good about gun culture anywhere? Yes, Arizona used to be the “Wild West” where at any moment a band of outlaws might ride into town and try and shoot up a stage coach carrying innocent women folk. Oh, that was only in the movies. I could not come up with any positives about “gun culture.”

Then today, while I was watching my addiction, the Winter Olympics, I saw an event that is all about being a good shot, the Mass Start Biathlon. Athletes have to cross country ski on a difficult course and at set intervals have to stop skiing to shoot targets, both lying down and standing up. “Ah ha,” I practically said out loud. Here is a sport where coming from “gun culture” is a huge advantage. The winners are almost always the ones who shoot best.

There were 30 contestants who were chosen based on previous races won this season. 30 of them and not one was from the USA, land of more guns than any place on earth. So I am wondering what good is this “gun culture” if we are not even good at it for sport? The gun advocates all scream that having guns is a sporting thing that you just don’t understand if you are not doing it.

They are right. I just don’t understand it. I don’t think it is sport to kill a defenseless animal with a gun. Most people don’t kill food for eating. The gun and the ammo are more expensive than buying the food. Then there is self defense argument, but the statistics about toddlers killing someone in their house with a gun they find makes me more nervous than the potential for an armed robber to come into my house. Then there is target shooting. Yeah, that’s fun, but you can go to a range and do it there and leave the gun there.

If we had such a fantastic “gun culture” we should at least have one athlete in the men’s mass start biathlon. Seems like we have this gun culture thing all wrong. If it is a sport then let’s do it as a sport. Otherwise it is for killing, stop pretending it’s not.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

It’s my longest best friend Suzanne’s birthday today. She is always one who is up for fun, even though between us she was the more studious. We met in college. She was the nice, good girl and I was the bad influence. Although she didn’t really need me to have fun we definitely had lots of fun together and have continued ever since.

There is something so wonderful about having a close friend who has known you through all the phases of your life and loves you through each one. We had the crazy college years, with a close group of loving friends. After college she went to NYC and I to DC we found lots of reasons to see each other often. Mostly though parties and weekends away.

This photo was one of those weekend parties where everyone came dressed as a movie,TV star or singer. Suzanne came as Cindy Lauper. Once everyone arrived we wrote a script based on the characters assembled and filmed the movie…sadly that VHS tape has gone the way of all old technology, but perhaps it was best not to have that evidence. Thank goodness I always documented everything in photographs.

Then there was the professional work years, which meant we had more money to take better trips together. Followed by weddings and children and then trips with children. I love Suzanne’s husband Steve and kids Grace, Jack and Oliver and am thankful they are my family too. Suzanne is Carter’s godmother which comforts me to no end.

It was luck that we went to the same college, where in the same pledge class and became such good friends. I am grateful we had that start, but thrilled that we always stayed together and in constant touch long before the internet and Facebook made it easy. We share the same sense of humor and a long history of fun as well as support.

I know that we will be together with our grandchildren. So happy birthday Suzanne. I have celebrated over 38 birthdays with you and I look forward to the next 38. Hope it is a big day. I love you.

Best Time To Be Alive

This week has been full of things I love, games and Olympics! I played Mah Jongg, taught Mah Jongg then played Bridge today. And every night I have been glued to the Olympics watching people do things I could never imagine trying, but love to watch. Then of course I played plenty of games on my iPad, trying to limit myself to only one or two Catan games a day.

I could not imagine my life without games. I am thankful that I live in an age when I don’t have to spend all my time searching for food and shelter and fighting off predators. It would have been terrible to grow up in an age when there was no such thing as free time because keeping house took every waking moment. Today I have a robot vacuum to do the serious work so I am free to play a game.

Thanks to my great friend Deanna she has pulled me back into bridge and today I finally felt competent. Since she is a life master I have to play against people at her level and not mine, but then I also get to play with a life master. Despite my love of games it can still be challenging to say the least. The people we are playing against are life long bridge masters. Today was my best day, coming in second in our grouping and earning my first silver points. What a time to be alive.

Now I get to watch skating and skiing and play games while I do. Alleluia, hooray for games.

Anti-NRA PAC Needed

Today between my electrician coming to fix the circuit breaker that controls my ovens, (which was the problem, so I thankfully did not have to buy new ovens) and teaching advanced Mah Jongg to the lovely Chapel Hill Players pictured here, I was thinking about the Florida school shootings and the President’s press conference where he did not once mentioned guns or gun control.

It is clear to me that the NRA owns too many politicians. The two senators from North Carolina are two of the worst, receiving over $7,000,000 together from the NRA. I heard a clip of Trump during the campaign saying at an NRA rally, “You’ve supported me and I will support you.”

This pay for protection is clear as can be. Why do we as the electorate continue to allow one industry to determine policy. And guns are an industry. The NRA is all about their gun producing members being able to sell more guns, which is about revenue and profits.

The shooter yesterday had an AR-15 assault rifle which he bought legally. Yes, he may have some mental illness, anyone who carries out such an act probably does, but why should anyone outside of the military buy an assault rifle?

We are the only country that has such a huge issue with mass shootings of this scale. How can we force our politicians to start a conversation about how to change our current reality? One way is we create an anti-NRA PAC that donates to candidates who refuse to take money from the NRA. Money is at the core of this issue. It is hard for candidates to win against better funded opponents.

Currently there is a law before Congress that would allow people with a concealed carry permit in one state to be able to use that permit for all states despite the individual state’s actual laws. This is idiocy. It flaunts states rights.

It is time for us to make guns a more hot button issue for those of us who want gun control and not just for those who want more guns. I am not against hunting, or sport. If you want to kill a defenseless animal that is not for me to say you can’t. After my garden has been decimated by more than a few deer I understand, but I can’t be the one to actually do it. I just don’t think that allowing people less supervision when they want to buy a gun is the way to go and that is the direction things are headed all the while we have mass shootings multiple times a month.

Unfortunately this is an issue that must have government control. It is not like ending hunger. We can’t have a No Guns Bank like a Food Bank. But we can have a PAC and make gun control a plank in political campaigns that is more prominent.

Politicians who take this NRA money and refuse to even talk about gun control should be ashamed. They have the blood of the victims of these shootings on their hands.

Stacey to the Rescue

Valentine’s Day used to be easy for Russ. He would call up our favorite florist Family Garden and they would say, “We have something perfect in mind for Dana.” Russ never had to describe anything, think up what he might want or even give them a credit card. Everything was taken care of and whatever arrived, I always loved. Family Garden always knew best. Then they closed. Poor Russ, his life got a lot more stressful.

See Russ has Valentines PSTD. Our first Valentines together, before we were even married he gave me a lens for a camera that I did not like. Not that I didn’t like the lens, but the lens did not improve the functions of the camera I was already unhappy with so it felt like a terrible waste. It was a creative idea on Russ’ part, but very unromantic.

I am not a big Valentines girl. I don’t need a big gift. A sweet note is fine, but Russ feels the pressure to do more. This year the answer came in a friend and neighbor, Stacey, who is terrifically talented in so many ways, offering her flower arranging skills in bouquets. Russ jumped right on that and tonight Stacey’s daughter and husband delivered a gorgeous flower arrangement.

I Stacey how much I loved them. Each side of the arrangement is different and I wish I had an electric turning carousel to display them on. Stacey told me that Russ had asked her to use the latest quilt as the inspiration for my arrangement. It was a very sweet connection for him to make. The flowers certainly do go well with that quilt.

I hope that Stacey continues this venture because it would relieve Russ of the worry and pressure to continually overcome the camera lens gift. For the record I would have forgotten about that lens so many years ago, but Russ constantly brings it up. It is his only true gift fail.

Just having him home is Valentines gift enough.

Torn Between People and Passions

Last night I had a dinner meeting over at a neighbor’s house. I was in my quilting room working away right until the moment I needed to walk out the door. I had not noticed the time I was so involved with designing my next quilt that I did not have time to change my clothes, or even pull the stray white threads that were all over me off my sweater.

This morning I got up and went right back to my quilting room to continue the design process, but was almost late for Garden club, again with many small white threads attached to my black pants.

At both events, where my friends were all in attendance, I had a great time. I loved seeing them and there was not enough time to get to talk to everyone. The bad thing is I could hardly wait to get back home to sequester myself in my quilting cave and work on my next creation. I feel like I am quickly sliding down the extrovert scale from “most energized being with other people” to the introvert side of “gets energy being alone.”

It’s not that I want to be alone, I just want to be creating. My love of fabric and color and patterns is changing my natural personality. If only some of my friends would come over and quilt with me. Well, not exactly. I also want them to be happy to binge watch whatever series I am following while quilting.

I can’t exactly explain how this has happened. I am neglecting almost all other work in favor of quilting. Yesterday I had to force myself to clean the bathroom before I allowed myself to go to my work room. Who knew it wold take me an hour to clean. Mail piles up in my office and the laundry hamper is over flowing. Forget being an actual member of society. I am just becoming a stitching hermit. I think I need an intervention.


Last year I had a hurt shoulder so I went to physical therapy. While I was there I mentioned that my knee also hurt so I I started doing exercises for both my right shoulder and right knee. Eventually my shoulder got better so I had to stop going to physical therapy. My knee improved some, but not perfectly. I struck it up to gaining weight and aging.

Recently my left foot started hurting so I had a bad foot on one side and a bad knee on the other. Come on! This was not good for my exercising, which was not good for my weight, which was not good for my knee. Oh the vicious cycle.

I made sure I was always wearing the ugliest, but best shoes I could. I did my physical therapy exercises. My trainer took to training my upper body exclusively. You should see my biceps. But really I just wanted my knee to feel better. It really hurt going upstairs. I was not interested in any major surgery.

Last week while I was looking for lotion or tooth paste at Costco I passed by the “joint health” display. This was not an area I had ever studied at Costco. But I stopped and read a few of the bottles and boxes. Without any real medical advice I decided to try a joint health supplement. Since I was self medicating I went for the generic Kirkland brand since it was less than half price the name brand I had heard advertised on CBS Sunday morning along with all the other old people products that only are advertised during the news.

I started taking the recommended dosage. After five days I noticed that my knee was not hurting as much. On day seven it hardly hurt at all. I did not lose any weight in these seven days and I doubt that my PT finally kicked in after more than a year. I am not going to push it and try and do a very long walk until I am really certain I am actually feeling better, but I can’t imagine that my mind just made the pain go away because I am taking something. It does seem a little like a miracle.

Quilt #6 or is it #5?

While I am waiting for the king sized quilt I am making for my mother to come back from my long arm quilter Tina, I decided I would make a baby quilt to practice more difficult skills. I took a charm pack, that’s 42 five inch squares and made half square triangles with one colored fabric attached to a white one. I had no pattern in mind, but have pinned dozens of half square triangle inspirations.

After I had all the half square triangles sewn together I laid them out and decided on this pinwheel design. Once I finished the top it was obvious that it needed a good border. This was a learning quilt so I just used some yellow fabric from my stash that I had enough of to make a border and the back.

Then the real learning time began. I wanted to quilt this piece myself. I thought that by making a baby quilt I might be able to handle it on my regular sewing machine. By regular, I don’t have a sewing machine with a deep throat, that is the space between the needle and the right side of the machine. The reason this is an issue is while quilting you have to push your whole quilt through the throat while still stitching. By the time I added the border I had made the quilt a little larger than I originally planned. At 51inches square it is still a baby quilt, because it just isn’t big enough to be anything else. It’s just for a big baby.

It took me a couple of try’s. I did not do the best job of making my quilt sandwich, the pieced top, batting middle and plain backing. After quilting three long lines I realized my error and had to rip the whole thing out and remake my sandwich. Eventually I was able to do the quilting, but now have confirmation that I can’t do the quilting on my sewing machine for anything bigger than 36 inches square.

I used another fabric I had in my leftover collection to make the binding. Watching curling and speed skating on the Olympics was the best way to spend the afternoon hand finishing the binding. This is the sixth quilt I have made since August, but maybe it is really the fifth with my mother’s being sixth since it is not really finished yet.

Either way, I think I can self diagnose this as a true addiction. When I showed the quilt to Russ and told him is it was a baby quilt he asked, with some fear in his voice, who it was for. I told him it was for a yet unknown baby and he was happy to learn that no one he was close to was having a baby.

I am still interested in more half square triangle designs, so I’m off to my graph paper to work on my next quilt. Sorry I am not able to do anything else more productive, but at least I am making the most of my quilting room.

A British and American Judge

Our friends Michelle and Richard came over for supper and some Olympics watching. Since Richard is a Brit he brought an international flair to our amateur judging. We watched ice dancing in the team competition because Michelle and Richard are friends with the American siblings who skated beautifully.

As happens every Olympics we all quickly became experts on whatever event we were watching. Well, almost experts. We had some trouble figuring out if a skater was on their edges or not. One thing we did not have trouble with was deciding if we liked the outfits, make-up and jewelry. Michelle and I did not like the Russian (not that we can say they are Russian, but the athlete from Russia) ice dancer’s blue tassel earnings. Michelle described them as two extra distracting pony tails.

We felt terribly for the Japanese skater who had a wardrobe malfunction and had the top of outfit almost come off when the back broke. You don’t have to be a skating expert to recognize when your clothes go wrong.

Despite none of us ever have snowboarded before, let alone do jumps and flips we quickly become experts judges as we watched the finals. “I don’t think he stayed on the rails long enough,” Richard said confidently as he rated a Norwegian contender. It was just thrilling that the 17 yer old American Red won the event. All I can say is “Gnarly Dude.”

This is just the beginning of two weeks every other years when I become enthralled with sports I care nothing about any other time of the year.

I Want A Cable Concierge

After five days of my internet being down, six phone calls to Spectrum, two tech visits, the first one breaking more than he fixed and then reporting to the company that everything was fixed, which it was not, and finally a tech who came and listened to me when I told him exactly what was wrong my service is back and running. It was frustrating, exhausting, maddening and a bunch of other words that are not fit for polite company.

During this ordeal I came up with a business idea I am incapable of doing, but would like to hire, so I am throwing it out in the universe in the hopes that a young person will take this on and become rich.

I want a cable concierge that deals with the cable company. I want a person who checks all the internal devices, wiring, etc. and then talks to the cable company, stays at my house when the the cable person comes and makes sure everything is fixed during the first visit. Basically it is a person with the power of attorney over my cable.

I don’t ever want to have to talk to the cable company on the phone, visit the service center, meet the cable repairman, or listen to an automated call from the cable company ever again. If a DVR goes bad, my personal cable concierge will replace it. If new services are offered, my concierge will determine if they are something that I need and will order and have them installed and only once they are working will train me on how to use them.

I really wouldn’t mind my cable concierge lived on site and could manage my DVR recordings, decide what shows I might like and set everything up so I never even have to look at the program guide.

Since they are on site, maybe the cable concierge could just change the channels for me and one more little thing, make the lights from my cable box dimmer so they don’t shine in my eyes while I am trying to sleep. I don’t think this is too much to ask. Please, please, if you are young, technical and trust worthy this is the opportunity of a lifetime. I am will to pay and I am certain I know others who would hire you.


Eggs poached in a tomato sauce is a popular dish all around the Mediterranean. I like the North African version the best so I made this for Mah Jongg lunch yesterday. It is best if you make the sauce a day or more before hand so the flavors can marry, but if you do the whole thing at the last moment you won’t be disappointed.

1 large yellow onion- thinly slices

1 large red bell pepper- thinly sliced

1 T. Olive oil

1 fresh red chili pepper like a Serrano – thinly sliced

3 cloves of garlic-minced

1 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes

2 T. Smoked paprika

2 T. Cumin

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Handful of oil cured black olives

6 eggs


In a big cast iron skillet on a big heat put the olive oil and the onions, Serrano and the bell peppers. Cook on high without stirring until they start to get a little charred. Then stir a little and contain cooking until a little more charred on the other sides. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Turn the heat down to medium, add the spices and stir around and cook for another minute.

Drain the tomatoes and add them to the pan. Chop up the whole tomatoes in the pan. Cook for another 15 minutes on medium. Taste and add salt and pepper. If you are doing this in advance stop here and store the sauce.

Heat the sauce in a fry pan and once hot make little Wells in the sauce one at a time a break eggs in the wells. Once all the eggs are in, sprinkle feta cheese on the whole thing and dot with olives. Cover the pan with a lid and let the eggs cook on medium heat. Sprinkle with cilantro when whites are cooked and yellows are stilly runny.

Eye Update

Today I went with Russ to his follow-up appointment with his miracle worker Dr. Terry Kim. The first thing I watched Russ do was take the eye exam. I was sitting on a bench half as far away from the eye chart as Russ and I could barley read it, as he was knocking the “SVEGB” out of the park. We went in to see Terry and he practically fell off his chair when he read that Russ now had 20/20 vision. He now officially has better vision than me or Terry.

All the stars lined up right and this potentially dangerous situation came out better than all the experts expected. Russ now does not even need glasses, although he currently is wearing clear glass ones to protect his eye from being hit, poked or bumped.

We are so thankful for the medical team at Duke, our friends and family who prayed, sent well wishes, brought food and offered support.There is no gift anyone could have given us that was more valuable and cherished than that of good vision.

Make sure you have your eyes checked regularly. There are so many treatments that can preserve and improve your eyes. Russ says the world had never been more colorful and detailed. I am going to do everything to keep it that way for him.

NOOOOO, Not the Cable Again

Yesterday I noticed that my internet was slowwwwwwinnng ddddoooowwwwnnnn to just under a stop. I alerted my IT manager Russ and he had me run a speed test. Sure enough the download speed had gone from the 200’s to 1.4. For those of you not so good at math, that’s less than 1% what it should be.

A few months ago we had this happen and I became quite good at testing modems and routers to whittle down the possibilities of whAt the exact problem was. After I reported all my testing to manager Russ he said, “It’s in the line outside and will all the rain it probably means there is water in the line.”

“Nooooo, not Again.”

I called Spectrum. They ran all their remote tests and said I needed a technician to visit. He arrived 24 hours after I called. I told him the whole history and gave him the stats. He didn’t believe me when I told him it was the line. He spent two hours looking at stuff and replacing an amplifier only to tell me that the problem was in the line to our house and that construction would have to call me and come out and that is a 7-10 day window.

Last summer when our line was replaced it took six weeks, and four different crews, the third one, broke our water line and I thought I would kill someone. How can this line only have lasted six months?

I am now interested in other providers, but I don’t want to jump from the frying pan into the fire. If you use Google or AT&T and live in Hope Valley can you let me know. I am interested in how service is with other providers and how was your installation experience and reliability.

The third party installers that Spectrum uses are, in my humble opinion and vast experience, not good enough. Six weeks and four crews is not acceptable. The tech today said their had to be a nick in the line and that is how water gets into it and makes my service go out.

There has to be something better.

Super Bowl Scallops

Russ grew up outside Philly. He went to school in Philly. In his lifetime he has never seen the Eagles win a Super Bowl. Well, no one has ever seen the Eagles win a Super Bowl. Following the Eagles, even from afar has usually not been a happy thing to do, until this year. But even with their year of great play Russ was sure that something bad would happen, like a hail Mary in the last second that would steal Philly of a celebration. Sometimes it’s wonderful to be wrong.

Because of the gravity of the game we opted to watch it alone, in case there would be crying or worse, throwing something at the TV. This is only something you can do in your own home. Russ had bought chips and we had avocados and some sausages from the farmers market so we were prepared to have a traditionally unhealthy meal and watch the game and scream at the TV.

Then I remembered the Scallops I had bought at the farmer’s market and I said they would be better fresher. So while Philly scored their first nine points, missing the field goal, which Russ lamented might lose them the game, I whipped up this odd, but wonderful combination for dinner. Scallops on a sunchoke, Brussels sprout and ginger hash. It was the fanciest Super Bowl food I have ever made. Not only was it delicious, we did not feel bad after eating it and we felt even better when the Eagles won!

Bunch of Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes

Equal amount of Brussels sprouts

Two tablespoons of ginger/turmeric syrup which came from the durham Farmers Market

Equal amount of balsamic vinegar – a good quality thick one

A pinch of red pepper flakes



Lime juice.

Preheat the oven to 400°

Sunchokes are notoriously dirty. You need to scrub them well with a vegetable brush under running water. Even then, when you slice then in 1/2 inch chunks you may find some more dirt in the nooks and crannies. Just rinse them again.

Cut the end off the Brussels sprouts and then cut them in half.

Cover a sheet pan with foil and spray it with vegetable spray. Lay out the cut Sunchokes and Brussels sprouts in a single layer. Spray them with vegetable oil and salt everything and put in the oven to roast for 25 minutes.

When done put in a bowl with this ginger sauce, the vinegar and chili flakes. Salt and pepper.

Heat a frying pan to very high heat. Place a tablespoon of butter in the pan and place each scallops in the pan in an order you can remember so you can turn them over in the same order. Cook on one side for about two minutes, until they start to brown. Turn them over with tongs and cook the other side for a minute and a half. Squeeze lime juice, or lemon over it and serve them on top of a bed of the vegetable hash. Salt and pepper the scallops.

My Super Bowl Tradition

For the second year in a row we had a cake auction at church for the youth group today. I have been adopted by the youth group as their official auctioneer. We all know this is my favorite activity, so I happily obliged.

It was pouring down rain at church time which is never a good thing when you are hoping to get a full house for the auction. The youth brilliantly met parishioners with umbrellas as they left the sanctuary offering them a covered escort to the fellowship hall for a yummy soup and grilled cheese lunch. This bit of hospitality gained the youth a higher percentage of auction attendees than they might have gotten.

Once everyone was seated I started the auction aided by Conner Garcia as my Vanna White. Many great cooks donated beautiful baked goods. I reminded the audience that we were there to raise a lot of money for the youth mission trips so they were not to look for bargains. I was encouraging wild bidding.

It all, went great. Kids bid without parents permission, but the parents stood by jr’s bids. Families bid against each other knowingly. People bid their friends up with no hurt feelings.

In the end, everyone who wanted something yummy to eat won something. Some kind adults who beat out kids surprised the kids by giving them the cupcakes they overpaid for by outbidding them. Everyone was friendly, kind and generous.

We raised over $4,100 which is really a great thing to do in an hour. Thanks to everyone who baked, bid and won. I think I know where I’ll be next Super Bowl Sunday.

Les Miserables, the Soundtrack of My Adulthood

Some French class I took, either in high school or college I had to read Les Miserables, in French. I wish that the musical had been created before then because I really could have used it to help me know what was going on in the incredibly complicated story. Once a better French student than me explained what was going on I was hooked. It was every kind of story all in one, a love story, a tragedy, a war, a comedy, an epic.

I can’t ever remember being an adult and not knowing every word in the whole Les Mis soundtrack. I have the two disk album from the 80’s and from that I made a cassette tape. I played that tape in my car as I drove up and down the east coast selling mail opening machines. I listened to that cassette in my Walkman on Rehoboth Beach every summer I had my summer house with my Washington friends.

I saw the original Broadway show in New York. Then I passed my love of Les Mis on to my child who listened on CD and then on iPod to the musical. It was the first show I took her to in London when she was in 8th grade. We went to see the movie version together, twice. And tonight I finally saw it at the DPAC with Russ.

The French Revolution may not have anything to do with my adulthood, but when I hear any song from the show I feel like I am in my twenties again, or maybe my thirties, forties and fifties.

There are a few albums that I have listened to so many times over such a long period of my life, like Jackson Browne’s The Pretender, or James Taylor’s JT, the Beatles’ Abby Road and Let it Be or Carole King’s Tapestry that I can bring myself right back to the place I first was when I started listening to them. Les Mis was one of those albums.

The thing about music that was different back when I was young was that if you got an album you loved you listened to it over and over again. I even had a repeat function on my turn table so it would just keep replaying the same side until you stopped it. I kind of miss that looping of music to the point that it is completely ingrained in your soul.

There is nothing I like better than being able to sing every word along with an album, especially if no one else is around to hear how badly I sing. It took all my energy to not sing tonight at the show, but I did love listening to live people sing it and sing it well. I don’t see any end in sight for Les Mis in my life, except I just don’t ever want to try and read it in French again.

Practice, Practice, Practice

I have always been of the mind that I can teach myself almost anything I really want to do. The fake it ‘til you make it motto has been at the forefront of my thought. It helps that most of the things I want to learn to do don’t involve major calculus or extra human endurance. But if I wall of a sudden had a burning desire to walk across the country I am fairly certain I could do it. But so can you.

Learning to do new things has gotten so much easier with the likes of You Tube. I bet you can’t think of one thing you would like to learn that someone has not already put on You Tube, now I would not like to have someone operate on my eyes who did their training with You Tube, but, I have not looked this up, I bet there are You Tubes about how to administer Botox.

In August I decided I wanted to learn to make quilts. I had no idea exactly how to do it, It I watched two or three videos and just started trying. My first quilt was a fairly easy pattern and it turned out great. Then I made up a simple pattern for a quilt for Carter and it turned out great. But both of those quilts involved some simple squares, nothing that tricky.

I wanted to learn to work with triangles. I made a Christmas placemat and although the finished product is cute, my first attempt at triangles was not so great. You can see from this photo how the white material with green lines does not have a pointy angle. It should meet at a point with the white material with polka dots.

Today I worked on a baby quilt made of all half square triangle and I have to say I was very happy with how my points were, especially where I had eight points meeting at the same place. I didn’t have anyone teach me how to do it, it just took practice.

Now that I have mastered half square triangles I want to learn to do curved pieces. It is all in the layering on of skills. You start with the easiest thing and once you are comfortable with it you can move on. It also helped that my first attempt at triangles was a placement. If it was really terrible I could throw it away and not feel despondent that I wasted a lot of time and materials. As imperfect as it is, I still ended up using it because the overall look is not bad. I just had not mastered that skill yet.

There is a great amount of self satisfaction you get from teaching yourself a new skill. I think it is the best way to stay young, if you are always learning new things. I can hardly wait to try out circles, the hardest thing to quilt ever.

Prepare Now

Seems like I have had a lot of friends lose loved ones this year. It is inevitable. There is no way we are getting out of this alive. One thing I have learned that is common is that hardly anyone of these loved ones left their “affairs in order” to the extent that would be easy for their family.

Some thought they had their financial life in order, but even though they had tried they left many lose ends. Some had prepared their final wishes, but living up to them was sometimes hard for the family. Some had downsized their home and belongings, but moving things to storage units does not count as dealing with your belongings.

After learning from the various friends of the things that were hard for them, especially when a parent passed away, I have started amassing a big list of what I need to do.

First, have a will. Russ and I have a will we had drafted when we got married. Although we made provisions for future children we have not really updated it recently. Second, if you are asking someone to be your executor, tell them in advance so it does not come as a surprise. And if you are asking one child and not another tell them both what the plan is. Don’t make the one who is chosen to be the executor tell the one that is not that they were not chosen. Not that it is a job anyone wants.

Clean out your paperwork regularly. My father-in-law has been doing this, bless his sole, but there is no reason to save 55 years of MasterCard bills where the ink has disappeared from them. I know that we personally have every tax return and all supporting documents for thirty years in my office. There is no need for this. No one, not even the government cares about things that are more than seven years old and in most cases it is only three years. I am yet to meet anyone who liked to look lovingly at how much their grandparents paid in taxes as a way of reminiscing about them.

If you own any valuable furniture, jewelry or art let your loved ones know it is valuable. Don’t hide valuable things around your house and expect your kids to find it. Then again, what was once valuable to you may not be valuable to anyone else ever again.

One great bit of advice I learned today is for you to put the executor to your estate as a signer on your checking account while you are alive. My friend Nancy’s father passed away a few days before the end of the year and left bills she needed to pay for him. Being on his checking account makes things easier in the short run.

Talk about your funeral, memorial service or other celebrations of life while you are well and happy. Even better go on and write a draft of your obituary. It saves the grieving loved ones from one more thing to do and perhaps your legacy. You can always tell when the black sheep of the family writes the obituary and the newspaper prints some scandalous obit. It makes for great reading but you may not want your dirty laundry or family squabbles aired as the last thing printed about you.

Put together all the important stuff in one folder and tell your people where it is. If you don’t want them to read it before you go give it to a lawyer. But for goodness sake don’t mix your life insurance, titles of the cars with your high school love letters. Speaking of love letters, get rid of anything you don’t want others to know about, why are you keeping it anyway?

Personally we are way behind doing all this. When Russ went in for his operation I got to worrying, but thankfully it was premature. But as friends this year have told me, it’s not just your 94 year old mother you need to worry about. So prepare now and your family will love you even more. The last thing you want is them cursing you about your basement full of glass jars you had been saving your whole life.