Do You Need Help In May?

May is almost a busier month than December if you have children. There are recitals, closing exercises, end of year performances, sports awards, graduations and end of year parties. How are you supposed to get everything done?

Well if you need help with driving little ones, picking up groceries, walking your dog or babysitting in the month of May, Carter is home on the weekdays and is ready to work. She is working the weekends at Camp Cheerio until she goes at the end of the month to get the horses at camp ready and stays for the rest of the summer.

She said to me LI need things to do on the weekdays until I go to the mountain for the whole summer.” So what better way to put the word out of her availability than through the blog. Just send me a message and I will give you her text.

Sorry if you read this and want her to work in some place other than Durham or Chapel Hill. I would like to keep her home a couple days this summer since I won’t see her from May 25- the end of August, except for our July 4th visit to Camp for one meal.

So if you want dinner made for the kiddos, or just want to go for a walk without the kids, give Carter a call

The Old Folks At Home

Years ago we were introduced to the French version of Bocce called Pétanque by our friends the Deprez. Russ and I were instantly hooked on this ball throwing game. I purchased a Pétanque set of heavy metal balls in San Francisco and brought them home in my carry on later that year. Then Russ told his father we liked this game and he gave us another set of balls for Christmas or a birthday, I can’t remember because it was like six years ago.

The Deprez have a fancy Pétanque court made out of stone dust and metal edging on their beautiful bed and breakfast property. We thought we needed to build something similar in order to play at our house. And so the sets of ball languished in the garage, pristine and untouched.

The list of outdoor improvements at our house far exceeds our budget, our time or our energy. Yesterday, after Russ leveled my garden beside the driveway he came in and announced that if we completed one outdoor project every weekend we might get through our list in three years. That was a very generous timeline.

Last weekend while cleaning out the garage Russ found both Pétanque sets. He thought about building that court and went online to read about it. To his surprise the only requirement for a court was flatness. “It can be grass, gravel or sand.” he told me. We had the perfect driveway Pétanque court all this time.

Today, while Carter was still away working at Camp Cheerio for the weekend we started playing. I was ahead by two points as Carter pulled in the driveway. “Are you all playing Bocce?” She asked in an accusatory tone.

We explained it was French and she still thought it was something for old people who lived in queens. We pointed out that the very regal Shay who was sitting on her bed at the edge of the garage watching made it fancier than a Carter thought. Carter didn’t buy that. Nevertheless Russ and I didn’t let her disdain stop us from finishing our game, where Russ won.

I see some good driveway parties in our future. Get out the folding lawn chairs and the styrofoam beer cozies, we are going to embrace being old farts.

Amba, Never Heard of Her

In the continuation of my Israeli Street Food study, something I know nothing about in person yet still want to master, I made this mango sauce called Amba. It is a sweet and sour sauce to put on Chicken shawarma or falafel. Tonight I served it with both lamb meatballs, falafel and chicken. It is spicy, but not so over whelming that you burn your mouth. It takes a little time to make, and now I wish I had made more, but it is not difficult.

2 underripe mango- peeled and diced into small cubes

2 T. Sea salt

1T. Mustard seeds

1 T. Fenugreek -ground

1T. Cumin

Dash of cayenne pepper

Juice of a lemon

1 T. Red wine vinegar

3T. Brown sugar


Toss the diced mango and the salt and put in a plastic container covered, in The fridge overnight.

The next day toast the mustard seeds in a dry fry pan for 15 seconds. Add the other spices and the mangos. Stir on medium heat. Add the other ingredients and stir

Until the sugar melts.

Keep cooking until the mangos go soft. Add a little water as needed to keep the mixture moist. It may require about 15 minutes of cooking. As the mangos soften they will get a little darker and the sauce will thicken up.

Remove from heat and cool. Place the sauce in a jar and let the flavors marry another day before eating.

It is similar to a mango chutney, but hotter.

The photo is of th elite leaders spoonful I had left after serving this for dinner. I should have photographed it before dinner.

Israeli Street Food- Lamb Meat balls

When it comes to cooking I like to learn cuisines of different cultures in what might be considered blocks. Not semesters, quarters, months, or weeks, but blocks. Blocks can be different sizes, but once I delve into studying the food of a country, region, or people I stick with it until I feel like I have mastered basics and have a good understanding of the flavor profiles. This is not always my families first choice, but Russ is a good sport.

My most recent block has been Israeli Street Food. It is a relatively specific area. Not so big, but distinct. It started with my falafel craze last month. Then I learned to make Laffa bread with homemade hummus, Israeli salad, eggplant and Tahini. Today I am trying out amba, a mango vinegar sauce and lamb meatballs.

The Amba takes a couple days so it is not ready for publication, but the lamb meatballs are done. In street food they might be cooked on a stick, but I don’t like to carry my food around so I just made balls.

2 cloves of garlic

1 large sweet onion

2 lbs. ground lamb

2 T. Coriander

2 T. Cumin

1 T. Salt

Big handful of fresh mint chopped

Big handful of flat leaf parsley chopped

Black pepper

3 T. soy sauce

Mince the garlic and finely chop the onion (I just ran in through the Cuisineart)

Mix everything else together. Form into balls and in batches so you don’t crowd the balls, brown them all over in a hot fry pan. They won’t be cooked through, but once browned remove from pan and place in an oven proof dish. Once all the balls are done cover the dish with foil and place in a 350° oven and back for 20-30 minutes depending on how big your balls are.

Stayed tuned for the amba sauce.

Freshman Year Is In The Books

At the moment of this writing Carter is in the air, heading home, having finished her exams yesterday. It is hard for me to believe that her freshman year of college is complete. So many years we spent working up to college, how did that her go so quickly?

Of course, some parts were long and slow, like her first semester in Berlin when I did not see her four months. And the weeks waiting for her and her roommate’s housing lottery number to come up so they could figure out where they were living next year. Then picking their housing and having the site crash and have to wait another four days to do it all over again. All part of growing up.

I am incredibly proud of how Carter has managed herself. Russ and I did our best to just be sounding boards and not fixers. The years of training seemed to work out. I think that if you can get through freshman year and get all your credits, not have to hire a lawyer for any reason and still be on speaking terms with your roommate is successful.

Carter did not have everything go her way. She discovered she is not as interested in how the brain works on a molecular level than she thought, but was surprised how much she enjoyed world religions. One positive from taking that class was the required visit to a zen Buddhist center where Carter learned she is actually quite good at meditating. That alone might be worth a year’s tuition.

In the real world lessons of life, she did not get every job she applied for, but in the end got a job that probably fits her best as an Explore Major (read undecided) Mentor. I appreciate the rigor in application and interviewing she had to go through. Those skills are what is most important. Even the not hearing on the Friday when she thought decisions were being announced and having to wait until Monday was good training for what it is like the rest of your life. No, if you don’t hear that day it does not mean you did not get the job, just that other things take precedent for the deciders.

Learning to manage money, time, relationships, work, all the life practicing skills that college provides have happened. Now I get to have her home. As luck would have it Russ had business in Boston and they are flying home on the same plane. But Carter did pack her own room up, meet the Storage Squad guy who took her boxes for the summer, cleaned her room and packed just the summer clothes she needs to fly home with.

Hopefully, when she returns in September she will get to enjoy some beautiful Boston weather, because she certainly hasn’t had ANY this semester. I will be happy she is going back to a familiar campus, some friends, clubs she is part of and classes she is interested in. Also going back to a university apartment with bath and kitchen for tow will be great. No more meal plan. Doing two different campuses in two countries was a lot this year. It stretched her.

So welcome home to my bug. We don’t have many days together before you leave for your true heart’s home of Camp Cheerio, for the summer. Hard work is not something you have ever shied away from. That trait serves you well. Your Dad and I are proud of you.

Other’s Sage Words

Last week one of my oldest friends forwarded me this advice on “How to be perfect.” Perfection is never something I strived for, much to my parents dismay. I have been happy and that is better than perfection in my book any day. Despite the title I did agree with most of what was written so I thought I would share it with all of you. If I were allowed to retitle it I might call it, “Stuff you know when your old, but wish you’d started following earlier.” That may be too longs title. Enjoy!

How to Be Perfect

Everything is perfect, dear friend.


Get some sleep.

Don’t give advice.

Take care of your teeth and gums.

Don’t be afraid of anything beyond your control.

Don’t be afraid, for instance, that the building will collapse as you sleep, or that someone you love will suddenly drop dead.

Eat an orange every morning.

Be friendly. It will help make you happy.

Raise your pulse rate to 120 beats per minute for 20 straight minutes four or five times a week doing anything you enjoy.

Hope for everything. Expect nothing.

Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room before you save the world. Then save the world.

Know that the desire to be perfect is probably the veiled expression of another desire—to be loved, perhaps, or not to die.

Make eye contact with a tree.

Be skeptical about all opinions, but try to see some value in each of them.

Dress in a way that pleases both you and those around you.

Do not speak quickly.

Learn something every day. (Dzien dobre!)

Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.

Don’t stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don’t Forget  what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm’s length and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass ball collection.

Be loyal.

Wear comfortable shoes.

Design your activities so that they show a pleasing balance and variety.

Be kind to old people, even when they are obnoxious. When you become old, be kind to young people. Do not throw your cane at them when they call you Grandpa. They are your grandchildren!

Live with an animal.

Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.

If you need help, ask for it.

Cultivate good posture until it becomes natural.

Plan your day so you never have to rush.

Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if you have paid them, even if they do favors you don’t want.

Do not waste money you could be giving to those who need it.

Expect society to be defective. Then weep when you find that it is far more defective than you imagined.

When you borrow something, return it in an even better condition.

As much as possible, use wooden objects instead of plastic or metal ones.

Look at that bird over there.

After dinner, wash the dishes.

Calm down.

Visit foreign countries, except those whose inhabitants have expressed a desire to kill you.

Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.

Meditate on the spiritual. Then go a little further, if you feel like it. What is out (in) there?

Sing, every once in a while.

Be on time, but if you are late do not give a detailed and lengthy excuse.

Don’t be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.

Don’t think that progress exists. It doesn’t.

Walk upstairs.

Do not practice cannibalism.

Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don’t do anything to make it impossible.

Take your phone off the hook at least twice a week.

Keep your windows clean.

Extirpate all traces of personal ambitiousness.

Don’t use the word extirpate too often.

Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not possible, go to another one.

If you feel tired, rest.

Grow something.

Do not wander through train stations muttering, “We’re all going to die!”

Count among your true friends people of various stations of life.

Appreciate simple pleasures, such as the pleasure of chewing, the pleasure of warm water running down your back, the pleasure of a cool breeze, the pleasure of falling asleep.

Do not exclaim, “Isn’t technology wonderful!”

Learn how to stretch your muscles. Stretch them every day.

Don’t be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel even older. Which is depressing.

Do one thing at a time.

If you burn your finger, put it in cold water immediately. If you bang your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for twenty minutes. You will be surprised by the curative powers of coldness and gravity.

Learn how to whistle at earsplitting volume.

Be calm in a crisis. The more critical the situation, the calmer you should be.

Enjoy sex, but don’t become obsessed with it. Except for brief periods in your adolescence, youth, middle age, and old age.

Contemplate everything’s opposite.

If you’re struck with the fear that you’ve swum out too far in the ocean, turn around and go back to the lifeboat.

Keep your childish self alive.

Answer letters promptly. Use attractive stamps, like the one with a tornado on it.

Cry every once in a while, but only when alone. Then appreciate how much better you feel. Don’t be embarrassed about feeling better.

Do not inhale smoke.

Take a deep breath.

Do not smart off to a policeman.

Do not step off the curb until you can walk all the way across the street. From the curb you can study the pedestrians who are trapped in the middle of the crazed and roaring traffic.

Be good.

Walk down different streets.


Remember beauty, which exists, and truth, which does not. Notice that the idea of truth is just as powerful as the idea of beauty.

Stay out of jail.

In later life, become a mystic.

Visit friends and acquaintances in the hospital. When you feel it is time to leave, do so.

Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.

Do not go crazy a lot. It’s a waste of time.

Read and reread great books.

Dig a hole with a shovel.

In winter, before you go to bed, humidify your bedroom.

Know that the only perfect things are a 300 game in bowling and a 27-batter, 27-out game in baseball.

Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to drink, say, “Water, please.”

Ask “Where is the loo?” but not “Where can I urinate?”

Be kind to physical objects.

Beginning at age twenty get a complete “physical” every few years from a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with.

Learn how to say “hello,” “thank you,” and “chopsticks” in Mandarin.

Belch and fart, but quietly.

Be especially cordial to foreigners.

See shadow puppet plays and imagine that you are one of the characters. Or all of them.

Take out the trash.

Love life.

Use exact change.

When there’s shooting in the street, don’t go near the window.


I know better, I do. I can’t remember to take something out of the oven at the right time without a timer. I am not 25 years old anymore. I can’t keep multiple jobs going in my head at the same time. Still, even though I aware of my actual age and limitations I still walk away from the oven without setting a timer, even though I have more timers available to me than ever. The one on the oven, the magnetic one attached to the fridge, which is portable, the timer on my phone and the easiest one of all, the one on my watch. I need to engrave “Don’t walk away until you have set the timer,” on my oven.

This afternoon I put a big pile of butternut squash on a pan in the oven, set at 400° and went upstairs. I knew it only needed twenty minutes. I had 22 minutes before a conference call to advise some people about raising money at an auction I’m auctioneering for. Did I set the timer? You know the answer.

I did not return to the kitchen before my call. I had the call which lasted 55 minutes and only once I hung up did I notice the smell. I have been trained by making similar mistakes in the past that by the time I smell what is cooking in the oven on the floor below me it is burned.

Shoot! Sure enough I incinerated the squash. So much for that being an ingredient in my Mah Jongg Salad tomorrow. Have I learned my lesson? Probably not, but writing about it might help reinforce in my mind that I need to use a timer because I clearly have sometimers. If you don’t know what sometimers is you might be under 35. It is that you forget things some of the time. Not as serious as Alzheimer’s, but frustrating nonetheless

Pre-Birthday Lunch With My Mother

My mother had her regular doctor’s appointment today in Durham so she came to take me to lunch for my birthday, two weeks early because why not kill two birds with one stone. We went around the corner to Bull St. where we got the last table between an older than me, but younger than my Mom, woman who was eating alone and a college student studying. My mom’s hearing is not the best, especially in a noisy restaurant so I am sure I was speaking to her in my normally loud voice. I was awarded best cable salesperson at selling to the elderly due to my low and loud voice.

Our conversation covered our normal litany of topics. Starting with who’s died or is sick. Since my parents are great lovers of George H.W. Bush, they had watched Barbara’s funeral in real time on TV on a Saturday. My mother reported that my father said, “It was the best thing they had seen on TV all year.” I am going to have to write a Doro Bush and tell her that.

After covering who is sick or might be sick, or should be sick, due to the way they live, our conversation turned to what my sisters and I are supposed to do with my mother when she is dead. Nothing is eminent, this or talk of something like this is perfectly normal. Many times my mother has quizzed me about what I am going to do with her…fill in the blank, when she is gone. She just wants to know that I am spending all my time worrying about her stuff.

Since I did a major clean out yesterday and followed it up today with emptying a dresser full of shirts I will never wear again, I encouraged her to do some purging. “I can’t, I don’t know where to start,” She hedged. “Just start with one drawer,” I encouraged her.

Cleaning out my stuff is bad enough but the thought of doing my mother’s is not fun. “I’ll come to the farm and help you this summer,” I offered. “But you are not going to like how hard on you I will be.” That was the end of that line of talk.

The older of the two women sitting on one side of us got up to leave and leaned in and said, “I have had the best time listening to you two. I am sorry the tables are so close, I couldn’t help but over hear.” Looking at me she said, “You are the best daughter.”

I quickly corrected her and said that my sister was the best daughter, but apologized for interrupting her lunch. She told my mother she was lucky. I must have sounded nicer than usual for someone to think that since the good daughter was not with us.

It was the perfect way to celebrate my impending birthday with my mother, planning deaths, and talking illness. Maybe she will surprise me and clean out a drawer so I won’t have to do it in ten or fifteen years.

The Cleaning Out Never Ends

Since I was away during the weekday I felt like I needed to have a productive weekend. I think the universe was also telling me this since the lead segment on CBS Sunday morning was about cleaning up cluttered spaces. I had not planned on involving Russ in my guilt related spring cleaning, but the Sunday morning segment must have gotten to him so together we spent the day cleaning out the garage.

Shay was not pleased with this activity, until Russ brought one of her beds out so she could watch us in comfort. Piled on my work table in the garage were a bunch of things I had planned on giving away a year ago, but somehow had just let stay piled on the counter. I have no idea why they just sat there, but it a lot easier to get rid of things that have already sat in the garage for a year. Included in that pile were things like out original Garmin GPS. What was I thinking was going to happen with it? Certainly no one on earth wants that, so I finally just threw it away.

Russ cleaned off my potting bench which had been unusable due to clutter for at least ten years. We tossed or recycled 20 years worth of floral baskets that came when people sent me flowers. I think a few of them were from Carter’s birth.

I swept, washed and scrubbed places in the garage that never had been cleaned before. Yet, still after a good part of the day there are plenty of places we didn’t even touch. Russ’ tools are still not right. But that is a whole weekend project in itself.

I just feel better that when my mother comes over tomorrow for lunch and to bring the clothes she wants me to take to Nearly New to donate for her she won’t say, “You need to move.” This is always her response to my messy garage. I don’t bother to mention any corresponding places at her house.

The CBS story pointed out that this clutter problem is so American because of our consumer culture. This is what I find amazing at my house, because I have cut back to trying not to buy anything other than quilting material. I know that is a sickness all it’s own. Yet, even with my not buying new things I am still working on getting rid of things I bought before I was married.

At this rate I might get everything cleaned out just in time to die at a normal age. Until then I think that the cleaning things out is keeping me alive, so I might always have that one closet until I am, ready to go.

Laffa, You Didn’t Know

When I was in Atlanta, Kelly and I ate Israeli street food for lunch one day. We both got Chicken Shawarma, which you could have in a bowl, a pita or a laffa. Neither of us knew what a Laffa was so we chose that. It was fantastic.

Laffa is a flat bread that has been grilled. I watched the food prep guy at Yalla assemble our sandwiches, which were more like Israeli burritos. First he took the big round Laffa bread and smeared it with a thin layer of hummus, then a little baba ganoush, what could be bad? Then he put a few slices of cooked eggplant, some thing they called Israelite salad, which was chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic and cilantro, with lemon juice and olive oil, added spit roasted chicken, harissa, tahini and amba, which is mango and vinegar sauce. The combination was perfect.

Tonight for dinner I was going to make salmon and I had some nice tomatoes I needed to use up. I decided to make an open faced Laffa, but with only about half as many things as they did at Yalla because it was only me and Russ. I cooked some eggplant on my cast iron panini pan. I had some hummus and I made my version of Israeli salad. I pan cooked the salmon and so all I had to do was make the Laffa. It was very easy, but took a little time because it had to rise. Russ loved it and has plans for all the leftover Laffa for breakfast, lunch and dinner tomorrow.

This recipe makes about 10 -12 inch Laffa. It would be hard to cut it down because it uses one packet of yeast. But go on and make them. They will keep in the freezer or the fridge.

7cups of bread flour plus extra for making the dough the right consistency

1 packet of rapid rise yeast

2 T. Sugar

1 T. Salt

4 T. Olive oil

3 cups of warm water

Put all the dry ingredients in the stand mixer with the dough hook. Mix it all up. Add the wet ingredients and mix on medium speed until all incorporated. If the dough is very wet add a little more flour a bit at a time while the mixer is kneading the dough. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball. It might take up to ten minutes to get it that way.

Take a clean bowl and coat the inside with olive oil. Place the ball of Dough in that new bowl and cover with plastic wrap and then a clean dish towel. Put in the microwave, but don’t turn the microwave on. Leave it there for an hour to rise. If your yeast was new it should double.

After doubling punch it down and divide the dough into ten smaller balls and let rest on a oiled sheet pan for ten minutes. Heat a griddle on the stove to high heat. I used the panini one with raised grates so that it left grill lines.

Take one of the dough balls and roll it out like a pizza and place it on the hot grill pan. Cook one one side for about two- three minutes and then flip it over and cook the other side for about one- two minutes. Repeat with all the other dough balls.

You get a thin flexible bread that is better than a pizza crust, but would make a great pizza

too. It is so much better than pita bread I can’t imagine ever eating pita again.


Good Beginning and Good Ending

There is nothing better than coming home after a week away to a wonderful surprise. I’m not talking abut Shay and Russ who ran out to the car to greet me, which was wonderful. Nor am I talking about a tax refund that came in the mail, or the quilting curved ruler than I ordered that was here, but that was not the best thing that came in the mail.

It was a small brown envelope with a little needlepoint canvas and thread and a note of thanks from my friend Downtown Lisa Brown. She was the connection with the Wesley Campus Ministry that I auctioneered for last weekend. I was happy to do that job for them and the thank you was completely over the top, but I must admit I love it.

It was the perfect home coming to a really fun week. I had three days with Kelly and Mark and loved every minute. This morning I left them and went to visit my dear friend Leigh. We originally met when her daughter Stokes and Carter were in the same Pre-K class together. Leigh had moved away from Durham about ten years go, but we still keep up. She showed me the photo of Stokes, Carter and their other best friend Campbell at their kindergarten graduation which is displayed in her family room. Three girls with those names, prompted me to call them “a friendship, not a law firm.”

Leigh and I caught up at her house and continued our visit at her favorite Jewish Deli where we enjoyed breakfast. It was too short a visit. I was just happy to see Leigh, who looks better and younger, than ever, but she still wouldn’t let me take her picture

If you take the six hour drive out of my day it would have been perfect. Even with the one lane stretch of I-85 through Spartanburg and the reduction of two lanes around Kannapolis, I would gladly make the drive again to get to spend a week with such good friends.

I am happy to be home with my snuggling puppy and happy husband. Now if Spring would just decide to come and stay everything at home will be glorious. Although, now I have quilting and needlepointing to do and they are best done in cold bad weather.

Dinners Atlanta Style

Coming to visit Mark and Kelly has been a dinner extravaganza. Last night, for the chance for me to reconnect with my old friends Roz and Earl, who I loved introducing to Mark and Kelly and tonight for the most fantastic dining experience. Russ Lange, you need to come to Atlanta with me so we can recreate both experiences with you.

Roz and Earl were out first great friends in Durham. We met them at a party at their neighbor’s house when we first moved to Durham. They were the first people we invited over for cocktails and they came and it was the start of a wonderful friendship. Then after spending seven years with them, they up and moved to Atlanta. So sad for us.

When I knew I was coming to see Kelly I told her about Roz and Earl and thought they might like each other. So we all met up at a local restaurant last night and had a lovely time. It made me miss seeing them every week in Durham, but I promised we would be better at seeing each other.

If last night was about friends tonight was about food. Mark and Kelly, who are adventurous eaters had made a difficult to get reservation at a cool concept restaurant called Gunshow. It was on the other side of Atlanta, which means that it is quite a commitment to get there in rush hour traffic. I enjoyed the Waze tour of Atlanta, liking the historic Druid Hills neighborhood the best.

After the hour and fifteen minute drive we finally arrived at the SE eatery, which had an open kitchen and hipster servers. What makes the place so different is there are guest chefs who make different dishes and they bring them around to the table and offer them to your dining group to share, if you want, in a dim sum kind of fashion. Even the bar is on a rolling cart with a roving bartender.

Having three of us was perfect because we each got to have a couple of bites of each dish. We started with grilled chicken hearts with peach, vidalias, rhubarb, mustard and coppa. Who knew I liked chicken heart so much? There was no dish we passed up, but two were our favorites, the Mushroom Pate, sourdough croutons, dill, mushroom ketchup with truffle and the most outstanding, Tandori chicken thigh, crushed peas, coconut and green chilies.

There is no reason for me to describe every dish to you because they will change tomorrow and the next day and the next. It would just be cruel to do that, instead you can drool over the photos and wonder what in the world it all is.

The only things we did not like were the desserts and the Szechuan tofu lo mein, which had the strange ability to make your mouth feel saltier and saltier long after you had stopped eating it.

My advice is don’t miss the Gunshow if you have the chance to be in Atlanta and if you meet a couple named Roz and Earl or Mark and Kelly, try and be their friends, you will enjoy them all.

Atlanta By Foot and A Surprise

I didn’t used to think of Atlanta as a walking city. It always seemed to be designed for cars and not humans. Things have changed in one part of town. Kelly took me to the Ponce City Market which used to be a huge Sears distribution building. It has been reimagined into a shopping, eating, living and working complex in such a beautiful way. There is a greenway/walking path called the beltline that run along the old railroad tracks.

Kelly and I set out from the Ponce city Market this morning and walked a few miles to the Krog Street Market. I finally felt like we had left winter. It was in the sixties when we started and in the eighties when we finished so we went through spring and got to summer all in a few hours.

At Krog we looked around at the lunch choices and settled on Israeli food. We both had a chicken Shawarma Laffa. It was like an Israeli burrito, minus the beans and rice. So good. I am going to have to figure out how to make this for Russ.

We walked back and Kelly showed me the most brilliant business, a drop in day care for dogs that is open from 4:30-9:00 at night so people can walk their dogs to the Market and go in and eat a nice dinner while their dogs play at dogcare. So smart. That is the sign that a place has turned into a walking city.

After we got oh so many steps we went to a needlepoint store called In Stitches which I had been dying to go to. Not that I need any more needlepoint, but I always like to see what they have in the way of fibers. Kelly and I walked in the little house of a store and there was the most famous of needlepoint teachers, the needlepoint god I have been dying to take a class from, Tony Minieri.

Since my dear needlepoint friend, Elizabeth Hurd, has taken many classes from him I introduced myself as a friend of hers and asked if we could get a picture together. He was a nice as could be and sends Elizabeth a hug. I explained to Kelly that for a stitcher, meeting Tony was like meeting the Beatles.

So far I am having a blast in Atlanta and i haven’t been here 24 hours yet. More fun to come.

Good South African Friends

When Carter was in 8th grade she came home from school one day and said, “We had the nicest twins, a boy and a girl, come and tour the school today. They are from South Africa.” She new that South Africa was my favorite place I had ever visited so we talked about why I liked it so much, “All the people I met there were so warm and friendly,” I tried to explain.

That summer, when I was in charge of the welcoming program for new families to the school I found out that those South African twins were admitted and their family was moving to Durham from Cincinnati. Since they were not just new to the school, but also the town I took them as out mentee family. Being the mentor family for Cait and Adam Ushpol was the best perk of being on that committee, because along with the twins came their parents, Kelly and Mark Ushpol. They held true to my feeling of all the other South Africans I had met and we became friends right away.

Russ is not usually one to get involved in the mentor/mentee relationship, but once I met Mark I knew Russ wold like him. It worked out perfectly that Carter and Cait became great friends, Kelly and I did and Mark and Russ, we all also loved Adam and their two dogs Zoe and Ella. The Ushpol’s would come to the farm for thanksgiving and were the perfect guests.

Then, just as the kids were finishing up their schooling Mark and Kelly announced they were moving to Atlanta. Like a whirlwind they moved into our lives and then they were gone. For the kids, they were all going off to different colleges so it was not that weird for them, but for me and Russ, we lost not just the kids, but Kelly and Mark too.

Adam stayed locally in NC for college so that meant we got Kelly and Mark for Parents weekend, but I promised Kelly I would come to Atlanta to visit while the kids were in school. It is hard to move to a new place when you don’t have kids in school to give you a group of people you have connections with.

With Russ having his eye operation at the beginning of the year I had to refrain from planning any travel in case I was needed to be his eyes. Once he had the miraculous operation that brought back his sight I was free to travel. I packed in as much as I could in a short couple of months. So with one week left before Carter is finished with her Freshman year I made the trip to Atlanta, to keep my promise to come and visit.

It is no hardship to come and visit Kelly and Mark. They have a beautiful house and are the most hospitable hosts. Kelly didn’t even let me help make the salad for dinner. Of course she would let me take her picture, but Mark obliged my need for a blog photo. Of course I had good snuggles from Ella. I just wish Cait and Adam, Russ and Carter were all here too. These aren’t just our South African friends, but our dear friends.

Who Are Those Kids in New Canaan?

My mom sent me this photo off me at nursery school on Halloween when I was four. I remember that slide indoors in the basement of the church preschool I went to in New Canaan, Connecticut. I have no idea who those boys are behind me. I would love to see how well the internet works and see if I can find out who they were and what the name of the church pre-school was.

The year had to be about 1965. Neither my mother nor I can remember the name of the church, but I do remember that it was on South Avenue south of Center school on the right hand side if you are driving south. I know this because I used to ride my bike by it on my weekly outings to Breslow’s on Saturday mornings. I am fairly certain it was brick, possibly a Methodist a church.

I remember wearing those brown and white saddle shoes everyday. I think that they were one of three pairs of shoes I owned. The others were blue meds and black Mary Janes for church. There seemed to be two themes of costumes, the white and pink slippery material kind like me and the boy right behind me wore, or the animal prints of the next two kids. Let’s see if anyone can figure out who and where we were.

Archie Bunker is President

When I was a kid “All in the family,” the Archie Bunker bigot driven comedy was a big show. My parents were southerners through and through so I had never met the likes of anyone like Archie Bunker. Not in pure bred Connecticut, where we lived or in the south where we vacationed visiting our relatives. Archie Bunker insulted people right to their face with the most horrific phrases, that a southerner would never had said.

Now we have a President who tweets worse than Archie Bunker, spoke. The latest in his never ending name calling is the one about Comey, “the untruthful slime ball.” When I heard that it finally dawned on me who 45 sounds like, Archie Bunker. Both loud mouth old white men who insult you to your face were born and grew up in Queens. Now as a southerner I hate to insult Queens this way, so I’ll just say, “They both were from Queens, bless their heart.”

What I think our current POTUS is missing is the southern gift of being able to insult someone with out them being exactly sure that is what you were doing.

My father has perfected that. You know he does not think much of someone when he says, “Poor thing, he’s all he’ll ever be.”

Rather than saying someone is an “untruthful slime ball,” Trump could tweet, “He ain’t got the sense God gave a cucumber.” It basically means the same thing, but is just not so harsh on the ears. It also gives a little feel of superiority that the insulter has for the insulted. That is the difference between southern insults and those of the “Queens bred.”

45 has lowered himself into the same muck he complains about from the people he insults. A southern keeps their hands clean by almost always adding the phrase, “bless their heart,” as some kind of disclaimer for the insult. “She doesn’t have the sense she was born with, bless her heart,” as opposed to Trump’s, “Crazy and very dumb.” (An actual quote about Mika Brezinski.)

So rather than go the Archie Bunker route on Trump I just say, “he’s got more dollars than sense.” My prediction is that Comey is going to prove him wrong. If we had an untruthful meter it probably wouldn’t be close between Trump and Comey. And as far a slime is concerned, well 45 should open that can of worms. If Trump were a woman the southern insult that fits him perfectly is “He’s just not Junior League Material.”

Another Satisfied Charity

In my effort to part everyone from their money for a good cause I was the auctioneer at the Wesley Campus Ministry auction in Chapel Hill tonight. I think it is good that I spread out my auctioneering to many towns so that I don’t become unwelcome in my own town.

This was my first time working this crowd and it always takes one auction to understand the dynamics and the deepness of the pockets of the guests. Since it was a campus group I had college students on one end of the spectrum and the seniors, and I don’t mean graduating people, on the other end. They couldn’t have been a nicer group of people.

The guests arrived at five and visited the food stations and the silent auction items. There was a schedule set out for the evening that would have me starting the live auction at 7:00, but around 6:00 I sensed that people had finished eating and worried that we would lose our crowd. I asked the auction chairs if I could change the plans to start the live auction right away. Everyone jumped into action and in ten minutes we were set up and ready to go.

Methodists are very attentive audience members. The bidding on the six items happened a

little slowly than I like, but then I moved into the fund-a-ministry section where I just ask people to give money for no goods. I made my impassioned plea and it moved some people. That portion of the auction went fantastically. After it was over I had a good number of older men, who told me they attend this auction every year, tell me things like, “I came planning on donating $30 and somehow you got $500 out of me.” I told them I hope it didn’t hurt too much, and they just shook my hand more enthusiastically and said, “No, thank you.”

No one ran me over in the parking lot so I think it was a successful auction. At least the chair was happy, we beat their goal by a good amount and that is what I like to do. Another satisfied charity.

Socks Or A Chicken Sandwich? Chicken Sandwich Or Socks?

Most dogs given the choice will chose a chicken sandwich – not Shay. There has never been a dog who liked socks as much as she does. When Russ comes home from work he puts his gym bag in his office. At some point during our dinner Shay will disappear upstairs and then we here her whining. That’s her tell that she has opened the bag, routed around and now is carrying two socks in her mouth searching for a place to hide them.

The fact that she is whining completely ruins the hiding. We know her hiding spots and know when to look for the socks once the whining is complete.

Tonight we were still enjoying dinner when Shay reappeared in the kitchen, whine free. Instead she stood by Russ begging for some of his chicken.

“Chicken, oh no Chicken,” Russ said as he bound upstairs.

I had no idea what he was talking about until he returned with a foil ball the size of a baseball.

“I had half a leftover chicken sandwich in my bag, but the sock stealer did not seem interested in that. She just took the socks.”

Thank goodness Shay did her whining sock stealing routine. If she didn’t Russ certainly would have had a leftover chicken sandwich in his bag all weekend.

Rothy’s Shoe Review

I am not someone who is mad at Facebook. I like that it knows me and shows me things I might be interested in. I hate shopping and to have some smart program curate things for me is just fine. I don’t have to look at them if I don’t want to and I certainly don’t have to buy them.

For months my feed has included these shoes called Rothy’s. I really liked the way they looked. Nothing is better to me than a good flat with a rubber sole. I am, after all, old enough to only care about comfort. What was so cute about these shoes is the colors and patterns and the fact that they are knit and therefore seamless and thus less likely to rub me the wrong way.

They are not really inexpensive so I didn’t just go ahead and order a pair without trying them. Then last week when I was on my Kentucky trip with my friend Jan I noticed she had two pairs. Jan is always an early adaptor. I asked if she liked them. She could have starred in an ad for them. Our other friend Mary Jo was also interested so we both tried Jan’s on. We were sold.

Since Jan was already a good customer, having bought pairs for both her daughter and daughter-in-law, she gave us good advice. The pointy ones might need to be purchased in a half size up if you have wide feet. The round toe ones run true to size. Mary Jo and I both wanted to order right then and there, but Jan said, “Wait, let me refer you and you get and I will both get $20 off.” Sold.

So my pair came today and they fit perfectly. I love the color and they are very comfortable. The cool thing is you can wash them in the washing machine. They are also vegan, if you don’t like wearing leather shoes while eating a hamburger. They weigh practically nothing and can squish down for packing.

I want to get another color, but I also want to get $20 off, so I need to refer someone who is going to buy a pair. I am happy to let you try mine on if you are local. If you have wondered about these shoes you see on Facebook, message me and I will refer you. I love mine and I am always trying to save my friends money

Will Local Strawberry Season Ever Come?

I had to go buy strawberries yesterday. My local store didn’t have any so I had to go farther afield. I found some, but they were from very far away, like Florida. I looked at my watch for the date, April 9. By now we should be getting strawberries from at least Georgia, or even Southern North Carolina. These Florida Strawberries are just flavorless.

I went to get dressed this morning. What to wear on April 10 when it’s fifty five degrees out? I am sick of my fall, winter and post winter, it’s still freezing out clothes. Those clothes are just flavorless.

I looked out at my vegetable garden area. It is just dirt and stalks of last year’s crops. No green, not even weeds. I normally would be chomping at the bit to be putting in some arugula and herbs and getting my zucchini started. Not this year. Too cold to even consider playing in the dirt, it all just lays fallow, which is the dirt word for flavorless.

It is hard to be motivated to do anything when the weather makes everything feel grey and flavorless. In a hopeful attempt to find a strawberry patch where I can pick my own sun sweetened local berries I looked up when they might come into season. The websites all said the same thing. Berries will be late this year, very, if at all. I just need a little flavor in my life.

Follow The Money

I have tried to not comment too much on politics, but sometimes it is just too overwhelming not too. So if you absolutely adore 45 don’t read any further. Fair warning!

Mueller’s raid on 45’s lawyer, Cohen has almost pushed 45 over the edge. We will see if tonight or as Russ predicts, late Friday night after the news cycles have finished for the week, if Trump fires Deputy attorney General Rod Rosenstein for not firing Mueller. Then he will appoint some puppet who will fire Mueller.

All that is just fuel on the guilt fire to me. If you have nothing to hide, then let the investigation prove your innocence.

Here is the big question I have about Cohen and the whole $130,000 payoff to Stormy Daniels, why did the guy have to take out a home equity line to get the money to do it? First, how could a “successful” NY attorney not have $130,000 at his age? And if he had to borrow the money with no intention of billing his client for it, how was he ever going to pay it back?

Now we know from 45’s own court history that he does not pay people he owes money to. So perhaps he has not paid his lawyer, but then why would the guy go into debt for a guy who does not pay him what he owes him? No one, especially a lawyer goes into debt for a client with no hope for repayment. There is something, not saying what, but something there.

We could have avoided a lot of the problems we have now if we had a law that anyone running for President had to disclose their tax returns. It seems only right that we understand what financial entanglements people have with other entities so that we might understand their motives. There is a good reason why Presidents have to put their money in blind trusts.

Presidents should not be allowed to benefit financially from their office. I am waiting for stock holders to sue the President for tweeting about Amazon and bringing the stock down. It would be one thing if the tweets were factual, but it is even more egregious when they are just not true.

Lord knows what is going to happen, but I am certain it will be unlike anything else we have seen in recent history. I predict the money trial will tell the story. It’s always about the money, unless it’s about sex and in this case it might be about both.

What Will I Do Tomorrow Night?

Tonight was the third of our Church Campaign dinners at our house in four days. My dear friend Sara and my neighbor Jean and I cooked the same food for each dinner to feed members of the congregation who came to hear about giving to redo the fellowship hall. There were a core group of 8 people who are on the campaign committee who came to each dinner and a few dozen others each night.

For the core group it was like Groundhog Day, the movie. Everyone made the same speeches, more or less, we ate the same food and drank the same drinks, but somehow we didn’t tire of it. We had different groups of random people at each night and it was lots of fun. The ages ranged from people in their thirties up to people nearing eighty. Some people were 8:30 church people and others were 11:00. It was just really nice to sit around the table and spend time together, whether you knew each other well or were just meeting for the first time.

Every night after the guests departed, the core group would help do the dishes and clean everything up. The first two nights were easy because we basically just left the bar and the tables and chairs set up ready for the next night.

Since tonight was the last night the folding chairs got put away and the wine glasses went back in their boxes. I don’t have to make pimento cheese appetizers tomorrow or a big pot of rice. I have enough left over rice from each night to open a fried rice food truck tomorrow.

I liked having my house full of friends enjoying dinner every night. It was a little like having a restaurant that only served one meal. I am not quite sure what I am going to do tomorrow night. Maybe I should just start serving dinner one night a week and let random people come and eat here. The randomness of it is the most fun. It was perfect that is is a campaign for the fellowship hall because it was just good fellowship.

Improving Store Bought Pimento Cheese

My aunt Janie Leigh makes great pimento cheese. She taught me her secret which is powdered sugar. Then the Pawleys Island Palmetto Pimento cheese came out. It was decent but not half as good as my Aunt Janie’s.

For these church dinners I am hosting the Campaign Chairman John Graham asked me if I could make some hors d’oeuvre like the blt’s he had eaten at another members house. I knew exactly what he wanted and made up a batch. Now he wants the recipe so I thought I’d share it with everyone, especially if it might get good pledges to our campaign.

Doctored Pimento Cheese

1 12 oz. container of jalapeño Palmetto pimento cheese

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 T. Powdered sugar

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

3 T. Sweet pickle relish

Mix together and try and not eat it in one setting.

Candied Bacon

Cover a cookie sheet with foil and put a cooling rack on top. Lay bacon on the rack and sprinkle it with brown sugar and a lot of freshly cracked black pepper.

Place in a 400° oven and cook about 15 minutes until done.

Cut each slice of bacon into five squares.

Bread, with crusts cut off, cut into small squares and lightly toasted. I lay all of it on a cookie sheet under the broiler for a few minutes and then flip the brad over and do the same on the other side.

Thinly cut small Campari tomatoes into four or five slices per tomato.

Small basil leaves or large ones cut into thirds.

Spread a little pimento cheese on the toast. Place a square of bacon on top, then a tomato slice and the basil leaf on top.

Pure southern happiness

Fabric Folding Obsession

While I was in the quilting Mecca of Paducah I might have purchased a few bits of quilting fabric. Not so much that I needed an extra suitcase, just as much as would fit on my carry-on. I will admit it was enough that it made my bag almost too heavy to lift into the overhead bin, but not so much that I had to unzip the expansion sides of the suitcase.

Bringing home many new random fabrics meant that I needed to reorganize my quilting fabric stash so I can look at it for inspiration of my next project. Part of reorganizing meant I had to refold each piece so they were all close to the same size.

It is a wintery cold January like day here and Russ, with a sinus headache taking a nap, I had no guilt about locking myself in my sweat shop watching a Netflix series “Escape to the Country,” folding and sorting fabric. It was like a scene out of “Romy and Michelle’s high school reunion” where they are folding scarves, but with English accents.

Now that the fabric is sorted into rainbow colors I realized I have hardly any purple and very little red, but blue is over represented, followed by pink. I am interested in doing a black and white quilt next, but with only one mostly black fabric it might be hard.

Based on how much fabric I have I need to set a “no new fabric rule” until I use up at least half of my stash. I think I am going to making quite a few placemats.

One of Three

For the last few years our church has been doing work on strategic plans that finally facilitated the need for a capital campaign to redo our oldest building, the fellowship hall. As a member of a couple of groups who worked on the plans for the last few years I am in favor of this campaign. I knew that my support meant I would be asked to help with the nuts and bolts of the campaign. Thankfully our minister asked me to host three dinners along with my good friend Sara. This was the perfect job for both of us. We could feed lots of people with our eyes closed and ask them to join us in giving a nice gift at the same time.

Tonight was the first of three dinners we are having at our house in a four day period. Nothing is easier than repeating a dinner once you have everything set up. Tonight we had a large enough crowd that we needed to have the overflow crowd on the terrace. I did my best to clean the pollen up and thankfully it was just warm enough to sit outside in the dark, where no one saw the pollen.

Shay especially liked having the church crowd here. While Chris, our preacher, was giving the pitch to the assembled faithful, Shay went from person to person offering canine comfort. After the asking was done we had a lovely meal. Sara prepared a huge platter of the most perfectly roast vegetables and I made green peppercorn chicken. My neighbor Jean brought two desserts and everyone was happy.

The next dinner is Sunday night and then again on Monday. By then the leadership team who are coming to all these dinners are going to be sick of our menu. Hopefully the other attendees enjoyed themselves enough to make a generous pledge. For the right amount of money I will cook for anyone.

Never Met A Stranger

Sadly my trip to Paducah is coming to an end. I spent four glorious days in the slightly cooler than expected atomic city with my friends Jan, Mary Jo and Deanna. When Jan invited me on this walk through her childhood trip I had no idea that I would also have the pleasure of getting to spend time with so many of her childhood friends, who were just a charming group of people.

Judy and Mary stopped most of their regular lives and ate many meals with us. I peppered them with lots of questions about the area and they were generous with their knowledge and experience. I hope they come to Durham someday so I can show them the same hospitality they showed us.

Today one of Jan’s friends, Owen Kim, who is an official volunteer Paducah city ambassador, took time from his day to give us a private historical tour of lower-town, and the Fountain Ave. area. I feel like Durham needs an ambassador program to help share the good things about our city like they do in Paducah.

Paducah is a UNESCO city for the creative arts. This is an honor shared by only a few cities in the US. The Quilt museum certainly helps with tourism. If it weren’t for these things Paducah might not have survived as a vital place to live since the two largest employers, the Union Carbide Plutonium plant and the Illinois Central railroad works are no longer in business in Paducah.

I think about Danville, Virginia, near where my family farm is, has spiraled down with the closing of Dan River Mills many years ago. There are beautiful buildings and neighborhoods there, but not a lot of vitality. If only Danville could come up with a big idea to draw visitors and business like Paducah.

The one thing that really helped Paducah is the warmth of its citizens. Everyone we met could not have been more welcoming, even if they didn’t know Jan. The one exception was a waiter we had at a very good restaurant. If he worked in Washington DC we wold not think we was so bad, because his service was just fine, but in comparison to the outstanding service and generosity we had everywhere else he stood out as lacking. I also didn’t like that he called me sweetheart in a really condescending way and interrupted a story I was telling to tell his own story that he thought related to mine. Just bring me some water sweetheart and stop eavesdropping.

Farewell Paducah. I will cherish the memories. Thanks, Jan.

When In Paducah…

Before I left on this once in a lifetime trip, my Paducah born and breed friend Lynn told me that the one place I had to visit when I was here was Starnes Barbecue. When I met up with my Paducah born and breed friend Jan, who is acting as my tour guide, she said we absolutely had to eat at Starnes Barbecue. When two people tell you there is one place to go you go there.

Today was Mary Jo’s last day here since she had to go back to Nashville for the impending birth of her daughter’s sixth child so we went to Starnes so she could also enjoy it. Jan’s good high school friend Judy met up with us and the four of us were lucky enough to nab one of the two tables available at the mostly counter seat eatery.

Before we even stepped foot in the door, the smell of the hickory smoke emanating from the institution green building was enticing. Jan tried to prepare me for what barbecue means in Western Kentucky. “It’s pork, but it’s not like North Carolina barbecue. It’s chopped, and has a vinegar and spices sauce, but it’s not like Eastern North Carolina.” I was more confused about what I was about to enjoy than I was before. It didn’t matter because the tasting was eminent.

Not moments after we slid ourselves into the tiny table a friendly young girl leaned in from the servers side of the counter and asked us what we wanted to drink. Of course Jan and I ordered tea and the server asked us if we needed Sweet ‘n Low and lemon with that. I knew right then this was my kind of place, that offers lemon and Sweet ‘n Low as the default.

The only menu was up on the wall behind Jan and within moments I had it memorized. It was not as simple as my favorite movie menu in “ My Cousin Vinnie,” but it was not far off from, “I guess I’ll have lunch.”

We all ordered the same sandwich from the choice of five, going with the pork barbecue for $2.75. We splurged and went for the potato salad for a buck which is clearly where Starnes is making their profit margin, but that tiny cup of potato salad was good. In less than the shake of a possum’s tail our server was back with a toasted sandwich wrapped in wax paper with just the right amount of pork and a smear of well chopped slaw on top. At Jan’s suggestion I added a few drops of the sauce that was in the squeeze bottle on the table.

Lynn and Jan were right as usual. Starnes barbecue was worth the trip. Jan was also correct in that it was indescribable in comparison to North Carolina barbecue. It was slightly less fatty and had a distinct smokey flavor. The sauce gave it just enough spice, but I must admit the toasted white bread made it.

We had many refills of tea and monopolized fifty percent of the tables for a good long time learning more of the salacious history of Paducah. It was better than any Shondra Rhimes script.

After such a good time, I leaned into the servers walkway and asked for the bill. Lunch for four was $18.25. A better deal could not be had east of the Mississippi. When in Paducah Starnes is a must do.

I Swanee

Things are full on Paducah today. At this writing Jan, Mary Jo and I are huddled on the first floor of our cute old fashioned downtown hotel because we are in a tornado warning right now. The weather men on the news are imploring caution, so we moved our cars under the over hang of the performing arts center to help protect them from hail. Hopefully the cops are too busy to give us tickets for this.

Before the excitement of the weather we had a very full day. It started with breakfast at the only downtown breakfast spot the Gold Rush where one of Jan’s best high school friends Judy joined us. It was at breakfast that I learned the local phrase, “I Swanee,” which roughly translated means, “I swear,” or “I declare.” I think I am going to adopt this as one of my own.

After breakfast we finally went to the Mecca of Paducah, the Quilting Museum. It did not disappoint. The quilts on display were incredible works of art, far exceeding anything I would ever dream of attempting. They were inspiring, if not overwhelming. Photos were prohibited so I can not post anything, but trust me they represented billions of hours of work.

From there we had to stop at Hancock’s of Paducah, a giant quilting fabric store. Don’t worry Russ I didn’t get much, but I am thinking about what my next project is going to be.

To add to the excitement of coming to Kentucky we decided to expand our itinerary and venture into Illinois and go to Metropolis across the Ohio River. Anyone my age or older will know that Metropolis is the home of Superman in the fifties TV show. Since Metropolis, IL is the only town named that in America they have erected a giant Superman statue and have a gift store and museum. The Superman was clearly the only good thing happening in Metropolis, but it was still worth the trip.

In the small world where Paducah is the center of the universe I have found out the following information. It’s a little convoluted, but just stay with me. We had Jan’s friend Judy in the car as we went by Lynn Tom’s childhood home, a cool modern home, which is in need of renovation. We asked Judy who lived in it since Lynn’s Dad sold it. She told us that Ron Lucus, a local decorator who had just passed away a year or so ago had.

Yesterday, after my first Paducah blog, my friend David had commented that one of his roommates in DC was from Paducah and I had known him back then. His name, was Ron Lucus, the very same who lived in my friend Lynn’s house. I Swanee, its a small world.

Paducah, Glad I Knew Ya

I don’t think I ever heard of Paducah, Kentucky before I moved to Durham. Why, as a kid who grew up in Connecticut, would I? It is a small city of 25,000 in Western Kentucky at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio rivers. Nothing about it had any intersection with my life. That was before I moved to Durham.

One of my very first and best friends in Durham, Jan McCallum grew up in Paducah. As we were becoming friends 24 years ago I learned all about her life growing up in this small southern city. Then, not long after I became friends with Jan I met my soul mate Lynn Toms and lo and behold she too was from Paducah. How could this be? Two great friends from the same small town.

I often peppered my friends with questions about growing up in Paducah. I loved the name of Lynn’s favorite restaurant, Beef Masters and Jan’s stories about the library and the summer reading contests. Then there was the National quilting museum. Yes, Paducah is the home of the only museum devoted to this terribly American handicraft.

So once I started quilting last summer Jan demanded that now was the time for me to make a pilgrimage to her home town. So we planned a trip for the first week of April because that sounded like a lovely time to visit and Jan’s friend Mary Jo could come with us.

Getting to Paducah is not easy. I looked into flying here, but two flights over nine hours did not seem the way to go. That is when Jan told me that should fly into Nashville and make the two hours drive. Perfect. Mary Jo, lives just south of Nashville and met us at the airport as Jan flew in from Texas just before I got in from Durham.

So today my introduction to Paducah finally happened live and in person. It was much colder than Kentucky should be in April, but that did not detour us from walking the whole downtown as Jan gave us the native tour.

We started at the flood wall murals where the history of Paducah is painted on the flood wall that protects the city from the rivers. From there we walked miles looking at the downtown buildings which have thankfully not been torn down. One of the best ones we went in was a costume shop that had 35 bunny costumes drying from post Easter cleanings. I’m not sure I had ever even seen a costume shop, let alone been in one. Only in Paducah.

We drove around town, seeing many of the highlights of Jan’s first 18 years. I got to see the place that had once been Lynn’s favorite, Beef Masters, which today is called Muddea’s, a soul food restaurant. Some things in small towns change slower than the rest of the world, like in Paducah they still have an answering service Business. We finished up with dinner downtown after so many laughs and good stories. Tomorrow we will begin the quilting part of this pilgrimage.

I am so glad I have had 24 years of build up before I came here. It makes all the stories I have heard from my friends come to life.

I’m Easter People

Something seems wrong about April Fool’s day and Easter being on the same day. April Fool’s is the most funny and naughty of days and Easter the most joyful. But the joy of Easter has nothing to do with tricking anyone so I had to decide what today was going to be about. Was I going to play a joke on someone or celebrate the resurrection. So I chose to go the serious route.

I am not complaining because after church I got to have a lovely Easter lunch with Russ, my Mom and the family we chose to be with, the Toms and the Ballews. It was wonderful to have Ellis and Evan home for Easter, but it made me miss Carter more. Ellis brought her roommate from college, but Carter should have been with her childhood pals. Soon enough school will be over and she will be back.

In light of my reverence for the day I am reserving the right to postpone April Fool’s pranks. So stay on your toes. You never know when I am going to pull things yet unplanned prank and on whom.

As for today, happy Easter if you are a celebrant. For my Jewish friends, chag sameach. I guess members of the tribe cold pull any April Fool’s pranks either.