Spring Cleaning, We Couldn’t Stop Ourselves

Russ and I had no plans when we woke up this morning on this long awaited beautiful day, but somehow we both fell into some serious spring cleaning. Why, when we had the opportunity to do something fun, did we chose to clean? This leads me to wonder if spring cleaning is a gene that we can’t help.

Russ washed two cars, which was practically a waste because the pollen is starting in earnest. At least Russ was outside enjoying the warm, sunny day. I did many more random chores, like cleaning the hall chandelier, and rearranging books by color.

I also changed out my breakfast room placemats with a set I made from the scraps leftover from my last quilt.

Those chores were unusual ones, but I also scrubbed our bathroom, did laundry and did some cooking for a future event. I could have done those things any day, certainly not on this beautiful day. My only explanation is that I must be hard wired to deep clean something as soon as the weather turns warm. Maybe my caveman me know that once it gets hot I won’t want to do anything.

New Mah Jongg Card At Last

Every year I wait with great anticipation for the New Mah Jongg Card to arrive. April first is the official first day that all Mah Jongg players must give up their old card and start playing the new one.

Since Ruth, the long time president of the National Mah Jongg league, passed away two years ago new family members are in charge. They wrote in the newsletter that there were changes afoot. From my first glance at the new card there is not much improvement to report. Hands changed as they always do. For the past few years winds hands have been somewhat pitiful and sadly they have kept some of the worst of them in this card.

What I do see as changes, are that dragons are used in many more hands as well as flowers and the number 8 is the most valuable number this year. None of this means a hoot to you if you are not a player. For novice players I will be having a new card orientation game on April 12 at my house. All are welcome, just let me know you want to come play and learn so I have enough tables.

This week, as my last hurrah with the old card I had two excellent hands, a quints winner followed by a singles and pairs winner, both of which I drew myself to the dismay of my table. The best one was the singles and pairs one where I had to stop the Charleston after the first round because I only needed one tile to win. Thankfully I was East so I had a tile to discard.

If you want to learn to play this most fun game, let me know. I have some other people who are interested in a beginner’s class. To the players out there, may your year be filled with jokers.

Shay Demands Her Emotional Support Human

Russ went to the office today, like normal. I went to Raleigh for two meetings, not like normal. That meant that Shay was home alone for most of the day. She and I had a good walk before I left and she had some extra chicken with her kibble.

I got home first and she did not bother to leave our bed and come see me. I called to her, nothing. I went up to our room and she stood up on the bed and wagged her tail in a somewhat tepid way. I snuggled her and rubbed her belly and she seemed happy. I asked her to come down with me so I could give her “dinner and a walk,” two words she has shown recognition for in the past. Nada. She didn’t move.

“Come on Shay, come with me.” It took gentle prodding to get her to go downstairs with me. She got food and a visit to the yard. While we were in the kitchen I heard the garage door open. So did Shay. She ran to the stop of the stairs to the garage and wiggled her butt in excitement. The door opened, she stood on her hind legs and shook her whole self as if she was doing the hokey pokey and then turned her self around.

Russ cold barley get up the stairs before Shay had launched herself into his arms.

“How can you leave me all day?” She asked him with her eyes. “I think you should be required to take me everywhere because you are my emotional support human. It is for my mental health that you are always with me.”

It makes perfect sense. If humans can need emotional support animals, why can’t animals need emotional support humans? Shay can make a good case for it.

Want a New Job?

Have you ever wanted to work at the White House? Seems like you could have a crack at it this year if you just flatter the president. Today the Veterans Affairs secretary is out and his White House doctor who said about the president after his physical, “he has great genes, he can live to be 200,” is in.

Someone with good hyperbole skills and a certain amount of blindness about his potential boss could get a job at the White House. Since he took office the following people have been fired or resigned, Sally Yates, Micheal Flynn, Angella Reid, James Comey, Mike Dubke, Walter Shaun, Sean Spicer, Michael Short, Reince Priebus, Anthony Scaramucci, Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, Tom Price, Dina Powell, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Rob Porter, Josh Rafael, Hope Hicks, Gary Cohn, John McEntee, Rex Tillerson, Andrew McCabe, H.R. McMaster, and now Shulkin. These are just the important high level people. There have to be others who go unreported. That’s 24 major advisors or secretaries.

At this rate you have a chance to be hired, especially if you ever served a Trump in any way. Like the former caddie, Dan Scavino, who is Trump’s social media assistant now. I wonder if he does most of his work at three in the morning when those Trump tweets come out.

So if you ever served Trump a cup of coffee at a Howard Johnson’s, or pressed his shirts at a local laundry, or washed his car, there is a job for you at the White House. And not some job serving coffee. Don’t worry if you are not qualified, Betsy DeVos has proven that is not an issue.

Speaking of DeVos, with all the firings, how is she still holding on? Sarah Huckabee Saunders is doing a good job keeping her job, because she has mastered keeping a straight face when she speaks. My favorite meme I saw the other day was a picture of a distressed SHS with the line, “Why don’t you look at me the way you look at Stormy? I tell lies for you.”

Oh, the revolving door at the White House. Too bad the 45 is not taking a spin in it.

One note to those Trump lovers who read this blog. Forget messaging me with your sincere rebuttals. This is comedy, something you don’t usually get.

Leek and Sweet Potato Soup

I love Trader Joe’s. It isn’t that big a store so I can spend some time looking for ingredients I think are a good buy. This past week I was pursuing the frozen vegetable aisle. Frozen vegetables can be a great savings and you often get things frozen at their peak. I don’t bother to look at the medleys, or prepare foods, although they can be yummy. I just look for the one ingredient bags.

This week I found cleaned and chopped leeks for $1.99 for about three cups. Compared to fresh leaks at $4 for the same amount, which would need to be cleaned and chopped I opted for the frozen versions. Since leeks have to be cooked there was no reason not to try the frozen one which looked pristine in the clear plastic bag.

Now came the issue of what to make with my newly found treasure? I opted for a soup and rather than making a traditional leek and potato soup I went rouge and bought sweet potatoes and a can of reduced fat coconut milk. Sweet potatoes are much healthier for you so I thought I could make a soup that would satisfy all the dietary requirements of a meal. This ended up being vegan because I was out of chicken broth and if you leave off the bacon crumbles as a garnish.

1 large yellow onion chopped

2 shallots minced

2 bags of Trader Joe’s leeks- about 6 cups

1 T. Coconut oil or butter

4 med/large sweet potatoes

1 15 oz can of reduced fat coconut milk

2 T salt

1/2 t ground sage

1 t. Thyme

2 dried red chili peppers

1 t. Ginger

Fresh ground pepper

Bacon crumbles and fried onions for garnish and few grinds of fresh nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cover a cookie sheet with foil and put washed sweet potatoes on the foil and prick with a fork. Bake the potatoes for about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool enough for you to scoop the flesh out of the skins.

In a big stock pot put the oil or melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, shallots and leeks and look for fifteen minutes. Stir every once in a while. Add the spices and about two cups of water and bring to a simmer. Add the flesh of the potatoes and cook for another ten minutes.

Add the coconut milk and purée the contents of the pot with a immersion blender. Take for spice and salt balance and add what Is needed.

Serve with garnishes of your choice. I used all of them.

For the Love of Monkeys

I blame Russ’ infatuation with monkey’s on Marcel on the TV show Friends. If he could have a monkey like a Ross Russ would. I don’t know if it is that they have such similar names and both love science, but Russ really loves monkeys.

When Carter was a wee infant Russ would do the monkey wave like Marcel, you know, holding his hand under his chin and waving. He did it very often to Carter and said, “Monkey,” and Carter would mimic back at him.

When Carter got old enough to pick out her own father’s day cards for Russ she always went with the monkey card. It was just their thing. A monkey and his daughter. So when Carter went to the Bonnaroo music Festival last June what did she come home with? No, not a real monkey, but an original print of a monkey. Who knew they sold art at music festivals?

Russ loved it. I promised I would get it framed and then I forgot. The Monkey got lost in my office until one day last month Russ found it. While she was home on spring break Carter took it to get framed and I picked it up for Russ today. The mad monkey professor is going to his office to hang behind his desk so when he is on video calls the monkey can watch over the callers. I just hope Russ won’t take to signing off of those calls with the monkey wave. It seems that it is something special just between himself and Carter.

Team Dinner Pork Carnitas

Russ invited his company teammates for dinner at our house tonight. When the date was picked we didn’t know that Duke would be playing basketball at the time of the dinner. I decided to have a taco bar for dinner so that it could keep until the game was over. In planning what to have I put on the bar I chose pork Carnitas. Although I have never eaten it anywhere else I liked what I read in various recipes.

As is the case in all my cooking, once I had read a few recipes I set them aside and went about ad-libing. I have no idea if they turned out very authentic, but then were yummy.

4 lb pork shoulder with plenty of fat (often called Boston butt) cut into 2 inch cubes

1 10 oz. bottle of mango juice

Juice and zest of an orange

Juice and zest of a lime

2 T. Ground cumin

2 T. Oregano

3 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper

Put everything in a Dutch oven and set on a medium heat and bring the liquid to a simmer. Let the pot stay uncovered on the stove for three hours. If the liquid runs out before the time is up add some water.

At the three hour point the liquid should be gone and now the pork should start to brown in the fat that has rendered from it. You need to stir it every three to four minutes so it does not stick. Cook the pork about twenty more minutes, until brown.

Serve with warmed corn tortillas, creama, marinated cabbage, cilantro and any other fixings.

The Rise of The Young, Again

When I worked with my Dad is marketing there was one phrase he said very often, “the young will eat the old.” It is not as cannibalistic as it sounds, but it basically means that youth are the deciders. You have to appeal to young people if you want to survive.

Some generations of young people are bigger deciders than other. Like the hippies of the sixties. They changed things faster than the generation before them. Why? Because they became united against establishment and the war in Vietnam that was sending young men to a non-sensical war and either killing them or sending them home hooked on drugs. It was the young people who fought the government to end the war. And the government was mostly a group of old white men.

History repeats itself over and over and now we are seeing the rise of the young again, fighting an old white man president and the old white men cronies in the NRA. Why? Because the young people are being killed in their schools.

No one should doubt the power of young people united for a good cause because they are smarter, more vigilant and less beat down than the old farts they are fighting. Trump might be the best thing that has happened to the future of this country because his “old man, I know best, lack of compassion” ways have awakened the rancor in the young people who are calling bullshit on the “thoughts and prayers” politicians who have taken the NRA’s money and sold their souls.

The young people are demanding not just a conversation about change, which the politicians have refused to even try and have, but are saying if you won’t talk about common sense gun control we will change you. I have great hope for the future of the country because young people are now mad and getting involved.

It started with the women’s march. Which was a lot of women who were rightfully mad, but not really organized for just one issue. Now the Parkland shooting was the last straw and gun control is going to drive a lot of change because the youth want to live and they are taking matters into their own hands.

Listening to these high school students speak so articulately about common sense things shows that activism is alive and can change the world. Go on, young people, you eat the old.

After the Dust Has Settled

It’s the day after the big Food Bank Chef’s Feast and while I cleaned the house today and got back to the unexciting life of not having a captive audience to talk to, I reflected on last night. I had so many interesting conversations with people who came to support the Food Bank, hear Vivian Howard and eat some damn good food. Along the way they learned a little bit about our mission and opened their hearts and checkbooks.

As I was dusting I remembered one conversation in particular. Right after I came off the stage at the end a young woman came up and said, “I just want to meet you and say thank you,” and tears started streaming down her face.

“I am sorry, I don’t mean to be crying.”

I put my hand on her shoulder and told it was alright. “Tell me your story.”

She told me that she had been a teacher and that she knew so well that many of her students were always hungry. “Thank you for telling these people about the kids. People just don’t know what it is like for them.”

I asked her name, which of course in my old age I can’t remember now, but I gave her a hug and thanked her for coming and telling me her story. The pain of being with children who, through no fault of their own, are hungry had stayed with her. She no longer is a teacher, but she has a kind of PSTD from that part of her life. She ended our talk by thanking me again and again for the work the Food Bank does.

It is humbling for me to be thanked, when I am just one of the thousands of volunteers who aid the hard working staff. It truly is the greatest honor in my life.

I got a message from the powers that be that we raised over $134,000 last night. More than just the money, it was great to spread the message about hunger and how prevalent it is in our community.

As I watched the president on TV today talking about the billions of dollars in the new budget for defense, tanks, submarines, planes and the such I was saddened that he had not word to say about how we might spend our tax dollars feeding children or any of the other things that go towards a brighter future.

I see that my work will never be done until everyone in North Carolina has a job with a living wage and can buy their own food.

Just as I am writing this some flowers arrived as a thank you for last night. They are beautiful, but please don’t send me flowers, feed the children.

My Very Favorite Kind Of Day

Some people love their Birthday, some love their vacation days, some love Christmas, but my very favorite day is one where I get to be the auctioneer for the Food Bank Chef’s Feast. Today was that day and it was just awesome.

Four fabulous Chefs, Vivian Howard, of the Chef and the Farmer, Andrew Williams of Fearrington House, Billy Cotter of Dashi and Phoebe Lawless Of Scratch all came together to made a most wonderful dinner for 270 of my nearest and dearest old and new friends at the Fearrington Barns. Jay Harris donated the beer pairings and Johnson Brothers donated the wine pairings. Everyone was very happy with the yummy food and delicious drink. Just the perfect set up for me to take the stage and part people from their money for a very good cause.

Each of the chef’s donated something for us to auction on top of donating all their talent cooking. The audience was thoughtful and attentive and did not disappointment me with lots of active bidding. Each chef experience went for between double and quadruple its value so I call that a good win.

Then audience had a break from me so that a woman from one of our partner agencies that has a food pantry could enlighten the audience about what it is like to really not know where your next meal was coming from. As soon as she was done was my time pounce to make the really big bucks for the Food Bank, the “raise the paddle” opportunity for people to just give money because they want to. It was a pure love fest. In the end we raised over 900,000 meals.

Thanks to all the people who came tonight. To those who bid and those who raised their paddle. Nothing makes me happier than offering people a chance to help their neighbor and have a lot of fun at the same time.

I have to give a big shout out to Fearrington who donated the space, all the equipment and table set ups and most importantly their staff. I also have to thank the talented and generous Food Bank Staff who made sure all the behind the scenes work ran smoothly, even though so many of them happen to be very pregnant right now. It was a very successful night and I am happy that we introduced so many new friends to the good work the Food Bank does.

What To Do About An Obsession?

The first thing I must do is admit I am powerless. The tug on me to my sewing machine is stronger than I am. Today I did leave my house and go to the gym. I also had friends over for five hours and I played Mah Jongg and fed them lunch which I made. I did a load of laundry and made the bed and cleaned the house. That is my rationalization that it is also OK that I spent the better part of the afternoon in my sweat shop making the tops for a half dozen new quilted placemats. This after I made two baskets yesterday and a pieced quilt back the day before.

I am not ignoring doing normal life things, but I feel this draw to create something new and useful everyday. I could blame this never ending cold weather since I am warm and cozy in my sweat shop. I have been rewatching the entire “Call the midwife” series during the making of this last quilt and other projects, but it that is not my reason for going down to sew.

Maybe I could just go down stairs and iron. If I really wanted to be productive in my sweat shop I could take in ironing. Russ could stop taking his shirts to the laundry and I could fill the bathtub with starch and start doing them myself.

I am a little worried that at the rate I produce things I could have the whole house covered in quilted items in a year or two. Maybe I could quilt a dog bed for Shay, or an ottoman for Russ. Seems like I need to find a new obsession. If only my knee and foot felt well enough for me to take up marathon walking. I could turn into that lady in the neighborhood who seems to walk night and day. I am yet to master sewing while walking.

Where’s Spring?

OK Mother Nature, we get it, you are clearly in charge. Obviously you are unhappy with us humans about the way we are treating you planet, so you re torturing us. Today is supposedly the first day of spring, but at 41 degrees in Durham, I hardly call that spring. With snow in the forecast for tomorrow I am practically giving up.

Of course we don’t have it as bad here as Carter does in Boston. She is due to get her fourth nor’easter. When she chose to go to Northeastern, we had no idea they had officially changed the name of the school to nor’easter. And just because it has Easter in the name does not mean it should happen on Easter.

I am sick of the cold. Shay is sick of the wet. The is very little spring in her step. Every time I open the door she just looks up at me and gives me the, “you know I don’t go out in the cold and wet” face. I’m sorry sweet puppy, if I could change the weather I would and I would do it for free.

So Mother Nature, let us know what we should do to make you happy. Stop hunting big game animals in Africa, stop drilling for oil off the coast, stop the dismantling of the EPA, stop loosening regulations on air pollution. I know exactly what you are mad at Mother Nature. Rather than punishing all of us for ignoring climate change can you just target the one who is doing all this too our earth?

Using Data Is Nothing New

Today Facebook’s stock went down 12% and the Dow went down over 300 points on the news that Cambridge Analytica might have used their user base to target posts to get them to vote for Trump. Now, I don’t like that people fall for targeted posts without first vetting their validity, but the fact that a company may have used data to target people is nothing new. There is no reason for the stock market to go down because of it.

For as long as there have been customers, businesses have been analyzing what, where, when and how they buy stuff and particularly why do they buy other guy’s stuff and not ours. Politicians are the ultimate product. They want us to buy them. There have been consultants to sell us politicians forever.

When I worked in Canada I used to analyze data about long distance phone users all the time. It seems so quaint now that we don’t pay for long distance, but back in the dark ages it used to cost lots of money to make a “long distance call.” My whole childhood every phone call my my grand parents started like this, “hurry, run get your father we are calling long distance.” Not even a “hello.” It was even worse when we lived in London and they would call from North Carolina, “GET your father.” See calling internationally practically needed a mortgage.

So in my analyzing data days, my favorite bit of detective work was “Why is the greatest international long distance traffic between Japan and Prince Edward Islands?” Prince Edward Islands, known as PEI, was the smallest Canadian Province with not much going on. Figuring out from the data alone made me wonder if there was a huge drug ring, or big time sushi grade tuna being black marketed.

When I could no longer come up with reasons for this traffic pattern, which was wildly profitable to my client, I did the old fashion kind of research. I called some of the numbers in PEI that had the most Japanese callers and asked them why? Turns out, they were mostly Bed and Breakfast establishments that were close to where the fictional Anne of Green Gables lived. See the Japanese were obsessed with Anne of Green Gables and many a honeymoon was spent on PEI.

This was not something that the data alone could tell you. In fact, in a million years I could not have guessed that. But once I knew it, I was able to use the data to help create calling plans to maximize selling phone services to PEI customers.

So please don’t sell your stock because you have the awful realization that data is being used to sell people. We all know that plenty of people got “sold” on Trump, but it is not the data’s fault. He just used it better. But like all sales schemes there is one truism, “buyer beware.”

Carolina Consolation Pork Meatballs

Russ took two boneless pork chops out of the freezer yesterday. Since I was watching basketball all afternoon and working in my sweat shop I forgot to think about cooking them. While I was screaming at the TV as the Texas A&M Aggies were killing the Tar Heels I decided to speed up the cooking time by turning the pork chops into meatballs.

My team may have been playing their worst, but at least our dinner was good.

2 nice sized boneless pork chops

1 medium onion

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

2 T. milk

1 egg

2 T. Dijon mustard

1 t. Rubbed sage

1 t. Fennel seeds- toasted

1 t. Salt

1/4 t. Red pepper flakes

Few ground grinds of the pepper grinder.

Cut the pork into inch sized chunks and put in the Cuisine-art and pulse until well chopped. Add all the other ingredients and pulse a few more times until mixed.

Form into golf ball sized meatballs. Place in medium high non-stick pan and cook on each side until browned and then turn. Once you have browned on all sides turn the heat down to low and cover the pan and continue cooking for ten more minutes.

I made a sweet and sauce sauce that we drizzled on top.


Equal parts chili sauce, Dijon mustard and grape jelly (or any jelly you have). Heated I. The microwave until the jelly is melted into the sauce.

These were a good consolation to a rather terrible basketball game.

Contradiction Weekend

It’s the start of March Madness. If you are not a college basketball devotee you might have thought that today was just St. Patrick’s day. Yes, it is both of those things. Locally if you aren’t into watching basketball or drinking green beer there were a number of things going on that were clearly planned to attract the rest of the population.

One of those things was a Quilt show at the state fair grounds. Yes, I was planning on watching basketball, but I could fit in going to the quilt show first thing in the morning before the games got started. Russ, begged off going to the show, which was very funny since I wasn’t going to ask him to go. As I drove into the fair grounds I saw a sign for a Cat Show. Certainly, those people don’t care a thing about basketball and thus, this was the perfect weekend for their show. I also saw a sign for Raleigh Comic Con, again, probably not basketball fans.

I have never been to a quilt show, but was not surprised that I ran into my best quilting friend Francis as I was going in. She is big in the quilt world and she introduced me to the Modern quilt guild, which I joined while I was there.

I spend a little time looking at the entires in the juried quilt show. It was no surprise that I was impressed with the skill, but overall most of them did not call me to because they were either too traditional or not my color palette.

What I really went to the show was to look at the vendors. I was able to test out a number of machines I wanted to try and it was a lot easier to test many different brands in one place than going from store to store. I am surprised that just in Raleigh/Cary there are five or six different sewing machine stores. How many people are quilting and how often do they buy a machine?

These things are major investments and not to be undertook lightly, at least for me. I think I have to spend a few years researching any future purchase.

Luckily the quilt show was not that big a time suck so I was able to get home and start the basketball watching, which means needlepointing too. I love March madness. I am not a one school basketball fan. I love a good Cinderella story and am happy to watch teams I have never even heard of. I knew that University Of Maryland had a Baltimore Campus, but had no idea they played any sports until they broke my bracket last night.

Although I am not celebrating St. Patrick’s day in anyway, I am enjoying in partaking in other weekend offerings. I may be a huge nerd going to a quilt show, but at least I did not also go to the cat show or comic con. Sorry feline lovers and super hero worshipers.

Spring Inspiration

I started my latest quilt in February when we were having an unusually warm winter, which I hoped was an early spring. Inspired by the warm weather and sunny days I created a spring colors quilt. Then March came and winter came roaring back. It was cold, wet and cruel. Despite the bitterness I hunkered down and was warmed by the happy colors on this quilt.

Today I finished making the top just as spring seemed to pop out all over our house. Although these photos did not inspire me in creating this quilt, I feel they have come out to celebrate it.

I am awaiting the delivery of some material I am using to make a pieced backing for the quilt, but can hardly wait to deliver it all to my longarm quilter who is my partner in designing an more intricate quilting pattern to finish this work.

Happy Spring.

Things They Should Tell You When You Take a Baby Home From The Hospital

With all the identity theft issues going on today I signed up for fraud protection for myself and tried to do the same for Carter. Doing it for myself was no problem, but I was unable to do it for Carter. When the online application was turned down by the automated system I called the phone number I was instructed to call to do it on the phone.

Six phone calls and three transfers to different departments I finally got to the bottom of the question, “Why can’t my nineteen year old daughter get fraud protection?” In order to be protected you must first have a credit rating. If you have no credit no one will protect you if you are an adult.

Here is the real rub, if you are a parent of a minor you can get your child fraud protection to protect their future credit, because stealing children’s identity is a big business for crooks, but once you turn 18 you are on your own. Why can they protect children without a credit rating, but not an 18 year old? And how many 18 year olds earn enough on their own to get a credit card or take out a loan?

While I was discussing this issue with Carter she said, “I should just buy a house.” I laughed and told her that without a credit rating she couldn’t even do that unless she went in with all cash to do it.

Carter has had a debit card for school, thinking that was the safest way to teach her about managing money and so far she has done a great job budgeting. Now I have to get her a credit card so she can get a credit rating so she can get fraud protection so she can protect her credit rating. This whole thing is crazy.

I long for the days when I got my monthly allowance check in college from my parents and I just paid cash for things and if I ran out of money I just didn’t buy anything. Life was so much easier. I just wish there was a parenting handbook they gave you at the hospital that told me this stuff.

Hobby Love

Being a hobby obsessive person is so frustrating. Not that I am frustrated by my many hobbies, just that there are not enough hours in the day to do them all. My life is jammed packed with needlepoint, Mah Jongg, bridge and most recently quilting. And I love doing all those things, but there is a huge list of other things I want to try or get back to. There are just not enough hours in the day and so many ideas swirling through my head.

This quilting obsession is bad. As soon as my Mah Jonggers left my house today I went right down to my sweat shop where I am getting close to finishing the top of my favorite and biggest quilt so far. Working in very large format makes it even more difficult because I don’t have enough room to spread it all out except on the floor of my big room.

I love my sweat shop. It is cozy, bright and comfortable, but I dream of having a room three times its size with a very tall blank design wall where I could lay out things I am designing. I don’t do this quilting for a living and can’t justify commandeering more space in my house to do it.

I know I am obsessed because I completely lose track of time while I am doing it. I first recognized this trait when I was in college. As an art major I spent a lot of time doing photography. Once I learned to develop my own photos I would spend hours locked in the dark room working. It was practically the only thing that made me forget about eating. I remember working on one project where I went in the dark room first thing in the morning, which at the time was in a small White House near the library so very few people were ever there, and being shocked that it was dark when I came out.

Today, as I was creating the border for this new quilt, I had that same experience. Since I was making this quilt up as I went along It took a lot of math to make the pieces fit together perfectly. I was lost in the processes and after four hours I looked at my watch and realized I had to stop to go to a meeting. If I weren’t such a rule follower I might have skipped the meeting and just kept working. Thank goodness one personality trait counter acts the other.

Sadly, when I actually get tired and take a break I have Pinterest and you tube to peruse to look at other people’s work that mirror my hobbies. Someday I need to get a laundry or exercise obsession.

HIPPA Like Rules Needed For White House HR

Over the years I have had the privilege to serve on on a number of HR/personnel committees for various organizations and businesses. Almost all of them, both for and non-profit alike worked on the same simple principle, the golden rule. You know the golden rule, treat others as you would like to be treated. This did not mean that if someone was not right for the job they were in, you just left them there, but you always let them go with some dignity.

If you didn’t treat people right, there could have been hell to pay, via labor laws, or really bad reputations in the hiring world.

Today’s tweet from the current holder of the White House letting Rex Tillerson know that he was being replaced seems to break every good HR practice. Yes, everyone working for the POTUS serves at his pleasure, but come on, have the decency to tell the guy directly and not publicly after he had been flying all night from Africa.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Tillerson fan. I think he will go down as one of the worst Secretary’s of State by the way he decimated the agency with many posts unfilled and cut the budget 30%. Then again, he could only do so much given the boss he had. He joined the devils team and the devil speared him.

The current POTUS says he likes the revolving door in his office, and that there are “huge” numbers of qualified people banging at the door to fill his staff positions. Not that there is any evidence that he is actually getting them to take the jobs. What he doesn’t get is that when you lack any real Human Resource rules and fire people via Tweet, you are scaring off anyone not delusional to take your open positions.

Seems like we need HIPPA like laws about some sort of privacy in hiring and firing at the White House. You got to tell the guy face to face he is being shown the door before you announce it to the world.

The guy I really pity is Tillerson’s number two guy who got fired today because he reported that Tillerson found out via Twitter. If you are going fire someone in a Tweet, don’t get mad when someone says that’s what you did. And how about that last line in the tweet, “congratulations to all.” I’m not sure Tillerson feels like being congratulated.

The rest of the country has employment laws that we have to follow, maybe the President should have to follow them too.

The Effing One-Two Punch

Today is International Napping Day, for good reason. It is the first weekday after daylight savings time. This springing backwards is twice as bad as falling forward, so they don’t really equal each other out. The mess that daylight savings time causes cannot out weigh whatever it was started for. We are no longer a majority agricultural society so we should not have to artificially move our clocks anymore. Let’s go ahead and do away with the time change.

So if the time change wasn’t bad enough today, here in Durhan North Carolina, we are having the cruelest thing of all, a March snow storm. February was unusually warm, and so far March has been equally unusually cold. I am not happy about this cold, but it is still better than the 18 inches predicted for Carter in Boston. Post spring break snow days really should not happen. Her classes for tomorrow have already been canceled. At least she can sleep in to catch up on spring forward sleep mess.

Shay is the most unhappy about the whole thing. She refuses to go out in rain or snow. She is confused by the time change and why her people are getting up too early and she is mad that she can’t tell time so she can scream at the clock that it is wrong and we all should still be in bed. In protest of both the time change and the weather she has napped all day.

Dogs have it right. Maybe all the congressional dogs can convince their owners to stop the time change. It seems like a completely non-partisan issue that might make it seems like they are actually producing legislation. I am certain they are not going to take any action on climate change even though it is fairly certain have it. I think I need a nap to get over this.

Bad Cold Timing

Last night before we were to go out for our farewell dinner I noticed that the heating ducts were putting out cold air. I checked the furnace and sure enough the heating part was not working, although the blower was. A call to the furnace company with whom we have a contract and a promise to come out last night.

That was too good to be true. We go another call saying they could come first call in the morning between 8:30 and 10:30. I’m not sure if daylight savings time had anything to do with it, but the guy showed up at 10:45. The good news was he replaced the igniter, which got us warmth, but reported new needed all five burners replaced and he didn’t have them on his truck.

This particular furnace is ten years old. Furnaces should last at least fifteen years I am told. It is amazing how the engineers were so good at designing planned obsolescence that they could have all the burners go out at exactly the time.

Growing up we had a seventy year old furnace that was like the pet Spot, in the old TV show the Munsters that lived under the steps and breathed fire. Our furnace had its own room that housed the giant iron fire box where we could see the fire through a big window. It was so big that when my parents added on to our house they did not need to add another furnace because our iron Spot had extra capacity. Of course it burned oil at an unfriendly rate, but then again it never had to be replaced or rarely fixed. It just worked and worked.

Boy do I miss Spot. I have no idea how bad replacing five burners is going to be, but it can’t be good.

Last Night Home

Carter’s break comes to an end tomorrow when she flys back to Boston. It seems like she just got home and now it’s time to do her laundry and send her back. But back is just for a little more than six weeks and then Freshman year will be in the books.

That thing about time flying is so true, except when you are at the doctor’s office, or are a four year old waiting for Christmas. It seems like yesterday that I was crying as we left Carter at the airport to fly off to Berlin for first semester.

I am ever so thankful she has her summer plans all worked out so when she gets home from school she wastes no time getting right to work. When I was in college all my mother used to talk about was, “have you gotten a summer job yet?” She was absolutely right. The worst thing about being a college student is coming home to live with your parents for the summer. You have had all the freedom of college and suddenly you have parents again who want to know where you are going and when you will be home.

Having Carter for break was the perfect amount of time. Long enough to get to catch up, but not too long to really annoy each other. We went out to dinner for her last night even though she said after we made the plans that she wanted a good home cooked meal. That will have to be her brunch before the airport. Dropping her off won’t be as sad since she will be back before my birthday.

Thankfully Russ and I have totally turned Shay into the second baby. The best thing is she won’t go to college and leave us, she will just always be the baby, as will Carter.

Food Sensing

For years and years I thought Russ’ worse sense was that of smell. He always was bringing me the bottle of milk, “Is this still good?” There was no rhyme nor reason to his asking me. Sometimes I could smell the sour milk coming from two rooms away and sometimes it was perfectly good, but he could not distinguish the difference.

“Is this still good to eat?” He would ask me holding a container of something homemade and thus had no expiration date, I could never say, “Smell it.” If that was the standard he would often be eating something that could potentially become a new antibiotic.

As his eye sight diminished Russ had to depend on me even more to more to suss out a spot of mold that had grown on something. This I understood, and as his eyes and nose, I was happy to vet his food choices from our refrigerator. I did want to keep him alive, even if he could not identify sour milk. Try as I might, he never developed the sense of touch to tell if the spring mix us too soft, or slimy and thus time to be thrown away.

So with smell, sight and touch out and hearing food has never been a reliable thing as far as spoilage is concerned, Russ needed me. Then he had his eyesight restored. I thought I might be out of the food detective business.

Apparently not. Tonight Russ held up two bags, both holding arugula and asked me if they were good. I said they both were edible and he should eat the bag from the farmers market, but to wash it first. He put some in a bowl and poured dressing on it without washing it.

“I told you to wash it first.”

“I didn’t hear that.”

I guess that when it comes to food, Russ only has one sense, taste. Since he likes things really spicy or tangy, even that is not a good indicator for edibleness.

Christmas in March

I finished my Mom’s Christmas present quilt last week and held it until Carter was home to take it to the farm for her. It was the biggest quilt I have made measuring something like 108” x 115”. My mom picked out the materials and the basic idea of the pattern.

Making such a big project has its challenges. The first being making sure it is squared up, meaning that the sides are equal. Tina, my long arm quilter who does the quilting part of the project complimented me on the squareness of the quilt. Her opinion is very important to be because first, she is a professional and second, if there is any unevenness in the quilt it shows during the quilting process.

Russ particularly liked this quilt as did both my parents, so I am happy that my belated Christmas present was met with such smiles. At this point in life, making presents is so much more meaningful than buying things that people can buy for themselves.

Thanks to Carter for making the drive to the farm with me today. We had lunch with her grandparents at a relatively new and good Thai restaurant in Danville. It is such a dying town that it is a good when something new opens and succeeds. On the way back to the farm we stopped at midtown market to get chicken salad and on our way out of the tiny market five old women, who were not together, came in the store. They were a good representation of who lives up there. I guess now that I am a quilter I would fit right in in the aging Danville.

Now that I have made my parents two king sized quilts I am going to have to come up with something new to make them for next Christmas. There is so little they need or want. I wonder if I could learn to make a car by then?

Women Rule In Black Panther

Since Carter is home and most of her friends are not she asked Russ and I if we wold go to see Black Panther with her tonight. I am not much of a comic book movie person, but I was happy to spend time with Carter.

Knowing nothing about the Marvel family of super hero’s I had no idea about the story of Black Panther so I was pleasantly surprised about the strong female characters in this story. There is a good reason why this is such a box office hit. Not only is a good African story, but it is also a fabulous feminist one as well. The smartest people in the film are the women, especially Black Panther’s little sister who is the tech genius. What a great role model for all girls.

There is certainly something for most people to love in this well done movie, except for maybe the current resident at the White House. The last line of the movie takes direct aim at him when the Black Panther, speaking at the United Nations, says “We need to build bridges, not barriers.” Made me love the movie even more.

Day of Giving, Day of Winning

Some days I wish I played the lottery, but I just don’t like leaving things up to luck. Today is the Durham Academy Day of giving. Carter was planning on going over to visit school since she is home and hasn’t been able to visit school, her friends still there and teachers all year. Kelly Ushpol, who was the treasurer for our senior class party last spring, has been holding onto the leftover money from the party waiting for an idea on how to donate it to the school.

She is absolutely brilliant at matching gifts with the recipient. So this morning she texted me first thing about having the entire class of 2017 give the money that is leftover from our party to the day of giving since it will be matched. When I told her Carter was going over and could bring it on behalf of the whole class the plan was hatched.

So if you are a member of the DA class of 2017 you gave about $9 each to DA today. You can still give more, it’s never too late. But it was so nice that Kelly thought this up.

While Carter was off visiting school I was playing bridge with my bridge mentor Deanna. Playing duplicate bridge is a competitive situation and since I am just in my infancy of learning the current way of bidding I often mutter to myself while bidding, “I wish I knew how to play this game.”

I am not sure how many tables there were today because we we broken into three sections, but it must have been something like 40. I knew that we were playing fairly well, but the thing about duplicate is you are playing the same hands of bridge as everyone else and although you might win a hand you have no idea if someone else played it better until it is all over.

At the end of four hours when everyone finished the director came in and announced who the winners were and lo and behold Deanna and I finished first in the whole thing. I got 3.50 master points. It won’t mean a thing to you if you don’t play bridge, but take my word for it, it was a big day for me. Sometimes it helps to be a novice because opponents had no idea what I meant when I bid something and I tricked them. No matter, I am very grateful that I have such a wonderful mentor, teacher and friend in Deanna. She makes playing so much fun.

The Real Oscar Gold

Last night was the Academy Awards. I have never missed watching one since I was in double digits. The Oscars do a great job at focusing the spot light on all things Hollywood. Usually I have seen most, if not all, the films nominated for the big award and have a fairly strong opinion about which one should win. That usually keeps me up to watch to the bitter end.

Not this year. If it wasn’t a British World War II film I didn’t see it. That right, I saw The Darkest Hour and Dunkirk and no other nominated film. No Post, No Billboards, I’m not calling anyone by any name, I didn’t think water had a shape, I stayed in and since I lived through the Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding real world I already knew that story.

So this year I watched for other reasons. I wanted to see if any mistakes were made, or politicians were called out, or interesting stands were taken. I bet that the POTUS was mad no one mentioned him by name. I loved what Frances McDormand did and now I know what an Inclusion rider is.

I usually watch for the In Memorium section and live for those greats we lost in the last year, but it was a light year on talent lost, which of course is actually a good thing, or maybe there just aren’t that many greats left to lose.

The one question that I took away from watching the Oscars is what the hell is Jane Fonda’s beauty treatment? I have little doubt that she has had some work done, and kudos to her doctors because she doesn’t look surprised at all. And certainly years of doing aerobics has been good for her body, which we all must admit is outstanding. The thing I want to know is how is her skin on her chest and neck so young looking? She hardly has a wrinkled or a sag and nothing about her could be described as crepe like. The photo of her taken on my TV does not do her justice since the TV is digital.

Yeah, I know the whole thing is about the movies, but if you haven’t watched them you go to how all the old broads look. Of course Helen Marin looked great too, but not like Jane. And by the way, Meryl Streep looked fabulous in that red dress. I know the Oscars are about selling more tickets to the movies, but I think the best way is to promise that Jane Fonda will give one beauty secret out at the end of every movie. I would go to the movies every week for that and I hardly give a damn what I look like.

Don’t Complain About Laughter

Since it is Academy Awards night and I have not seen most of the nominated movies, so what did I do this afternoon? I went to the movies with my best movie loving friend Lynn and Carter. What did we see? Not the Shape of Water or Three Billboards, No, we went to see Game Night.

When we walked in the theatre we joined the only other couple in the movie, my favorite way to see a movie, practically alone with a big screen. We watched through all the previews and suddenly just as the movie was about to start four men in their twenties came in and sat in the row in front of us, just off to the side of us. No worries, they didn’t sit right in front and the movie was just starting.

Now Game Night is probably not going to win any awards, but damn it was funny. And actually very well told. Maybe it could win something…

If you know me, you know I am naturally loud. Try as I might, even when I’m whispering I am loud. Then if I think something if funny I laugh, not exactly a titter, but a big belly laugh.

As the movie was progressing I was laughing. Carter was telling me who different actors were. We were having fun. Then one of the twenty something guys leaned back and asked us to keep it down. Against my normal self, I whispered an apology and said, “sure, sure, sorry, sorry.”

We went on watching, and laughing, but not talking. It wasn’t good enough for this guy so he got up in a huff and moved to the front of the theatre. Good answer. Until he came back and sat in his original seat and complained he could still hear me laughing. Lighten up Francis.

“Hey, its a funny movie, try and have a little fun,” I said. His friends gave me a big thumbs up. I guess I wasn’t bothering any of them. The guy stomped out of the theatre, probably to go tell the management that a woman was laughing in a comedy movie.

He huffed back in a little later and slumped down despondently in another seat in the front. No manager at the AMC was going to come to his aid, they don’t bother to vacuum that place but once a year, or care of the sound is not working on a movie, they certainly were not going to come tell a woman to laugh less. Laugh loud and often.

Cursed Flying

Carter’s spring break started yesterday. After only being home eight days since August she really wanted to come home and chill. She had a late bio class Friday where the prof. gave a big incentive to stay for class of five extra points on the final if you made class. Not being one to look her nose down at five extra points Carter smartly opted to stay for class.

All week I was watching the weather since Carter had a 7:30 PM Friday flight. Not having a TV, it did not register with Carter when I said I was worried about the weather. Thursday night she got notice from Delta that they were already canceling her Friday flight and rebooked her on a 7:00 AM Saturday trip from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale with a half hour connection to RDU. “Balls!” was the response from Carter.

Russ found a Jet Blue flight that was leaving at 9:00PM Friday that had its aircraft in Boston. He got her a ticket on that. She went to the airport in plenty of time and waited, and waited and then at 8:00 PM they canceled that flight. The tears came fast over the phone.

“Better to be safe on the ground in a place you have a free bed, than throwing up on a scary flight, like the people flying into Dulles,” I told her as I recounted the news stories to her. She thought the weather wasn’t that bad, and wanted the airlines to “grow a pair.” Remember she had not watched any TV about how bad this storm was.

Russ, fearing she might over sleep asked if she would text him at 5:30 AM when she got up this morning in her dorm to go back to Logan. Apparently Russ was worried enough that he woke up at 3:00AM waiting for her. He didn’t know until later that she too woke up at 3:00.

Well all things worked out. She got to Logan in plenty of time, made friends with some other Northeastern kids on the flight. Got to Ft.Lauderdale early, thanks to the winds and made her connection. Shay greeted her at the airport and we all were happy.

Now both Carter and Russ are enjoying afternoon naps. The perfect beginning to spring break. The best news is Jet Blue refunded her whole ticket.

Healing Gravy

When I started 2018 the only thing I had in my sights, after getting Carter settled in Boston, was helping my dearest friend Lynn through her medical procedure and helping Russ through his. I was dedicated to be on the bench, ready to chauffeur, cook, read, do whatever was necessary for both of them.

I found it very convenient that they scheduled their operations just a few weeks apart. Lynn went first. Since she had a procedure on her dominant arm and was going to be in a cast for six weeks I knew it was my job to cook and drive. Although she mastered driving fairly quickly, cooking was not something that interested her enough to ever conquer.

Lynn had to grow a new bone so thank goodness she listened to her cravings and ate lots of protein. This made her happy with the meals I made. She especially liked my friend chicken and gravy. We have now renamed my gravy, “bone growing gravy.”

Today I took her back to see the famous Dr. Mack Aldridge, who did this fine procedure on Lynn. Since it involved a six inch incision on her arm she was very concerned with what kind of scar she was going to be left with. I think I was there in case she needed to be carried home after seeing her scar.

True to his famous reputation when Mack removed the steri strips holding her incision together the only thing Lynn had on her arm looked like a paper cut. Even better was the new bone she grew that we got to see on her x-ray. She still has three months of recovery to get back her strength and range of motion, but I have to say it was a very successful procedure over all.

After visiting the custom splint making therapist, who I knew well from Carter’s many visits with broken bones, Lynn and I went to lunch with our friend Shelayne. She still is using her left hand for many things, like eating, until she can fully recover, but she is well on her way.

I think that my job as medical support is almost finished. Both Russ and Lynn came through with flying colors. I think the gravy had something to do with it. That is the extent of my medical helpfulness.

Cleaning Satisfaction

It has been a few months since I have been my own housekeeper and I have to say I really am not half as unhappy as I thought I might be. First, I love paying myself to clean. When I think about the annual total of paying others it is quite a lot of money. Considering the cost of my hobbies I think doing my own cleaning is the least I can do to contribute to the cost of my addictions.

The second benefit is the workout I get from cleaning. Today I decided to wax my game table in the living room. This is a job no house keeper ever did and since I was not doing the daily cleaning I seemed to let it slide. Now that I do the dusting I also am more aware when something is in need of more TLC than the lambs wool wand.

My game table gets quite a workout with Mah Jongg tiles and racks being moved across it every week. While playing on a Wednesday I noticed that the finish was a little dull so I got out my English Briwax today and did a proper application. That involves putting a thin layer of the clear paste wax on, letting it dry and then buff, buff, buffing it until it is hard and shiny.

All the while I was buffing, the robot vacuum was doing its job. I just had to make sure I was not tripping on it as it wooshed by me, sucking up dirt and dust.

After I cleaned the living room, dining room, breakfast room and playroom I went to the garage to get my gallon of simple green and string mop to clean the kitchen floor. As I was pulling the jug off the high shelf I felt a big splash of wet cleaner soak into my arm and leg. Apparently I had not fastened the cap back on tightly last time I mopped.

Of course I wasn’t in “cleaning clothes,” but was already dressed up to go out to lunch with my friends Jan and Judy. Fearing simple green in concentrate form might harm my clothes I stripped them right off and washed them immediately. I was tempted to go mop the floor in my underwear, but feared I might cause the UPS man a stroke if he delivered something right then.

Eventually the floor was done and I was redressed in clean clothes. I looked around at the sparkling glass at the front door and the dust free dining room table and immaculate floors and felt a huge amount of satisfaction. It may be a very small thing, but having a well waxed game table makes me very happy. I do worry about the next generation. I can’t imagine who is going to wax furniture properly in the future, but then again, mine hardly ever got waxed before I became my own maid.