Exactly Half The Year Done

Today at midnight the year will be half way over. If I still wrote checks I bet I would still be writing 2017 on them. In some ways the days are slow, and I blame politicians for that, but the year is flying by in other ways. As far as getting major life long projects done, read clean out the attic, I have not made one ounce of progress on that, but on smaller things, like cleaning out my old shirts, I have made leaps and bounds.

I started a bullet journal two weeks ago and it has been very helpful to keep me on important tasks, especially if they are not particularly fun. Since I like to cross things off the list I just go ahead and do them. This doing work rather than fun things is really eating into my game playing, needlepoint and quilting. I am not sure how I feel about being productive.

The good benefit of the bullet journal that I do like is my tracking good habits. I have lost some weight because of tracking eating, drinking water and taking steps. It has a good outcome, but it also is not adding to my fun life.

With exactly one half of the year left I am trying to balance being productive, being healthy and having fun. It seems like more jobs and not fun tasks pop up and can’t be ignored, than fun. So I think I can justify scheduling more fun because the s#$& stuff is going to happen anyway and can’t be ignored.

If I ignore what is happening in politics the first half of the year has been better than average. I hope the second half can be way better on all fronts. If only that would come true if I just wrote it in my journal.

Me and Ron Popeil

I have always liked to sell stuff. It started when I was five and went to morning kindergarten. We lived on a street in New Canaan that dead ended into the elementary school. I noticed that many kids walked right by our house on their way home so I set up a lemonade and cookie stand. I had practically captive customers who almost all could get their hands on a nickel or two. Lemonade for two cents and a cookie for three. I got hooked on selling things right then.

Of course I came from salesman stock in my father. He had sold Vick’s vapor rub and was salesman of the year by the time I was opening up my stand. Then it turned out my mother was quite a good sales woman. When I got a little older she sold Doncaster in our house.

I went on to sell jawbreakers in third grade, Girl Scout cookies in Forth grade, Burbee seeds in fifth grade and Avon after that. My father made me do test marketing on certain products Avon was trying, Since by then he worked for them. I can tell you that kids should not sell hair color or panty hose door to door. In college I sold Electrolux vacuums and cable TV.

It was no wonder I had no problem getting a sales job during a recession when I graduated from college. I had been breed for it, or had I just been born into it?

Tonight while I was watching Jeopardy I paid very close attention to a category named, “born salesmen.” The $1,000 answer was about a Ronco salesman born on May 3. Of course the answer was Ron Popeil, great hawker of things like the veg-o-mastic. What really got my attention was he and I are born on the same day. Maybe my genetics are not all to blame for my “sales” gene, perhaps it is in the stars.

No Service Dogs on Retractable Leashes

My friend Nancy and I find many of the same things funny, odd or just plain wrong, but how we react to them is usually different. See, Nancy is much nicer than I am. The story she told me the other day is a perfect example.

Nancy was at our local Trader Joe’s where she saw a well bodied twenty something couple in the store with their small brown labradoodle dog on a retractable leash. Before she went on with another breath of the story I was suspicious since “service” dogs are only allowed to be in public on retractable leashes if the disability of their human required them to be able to go farther than an arms length. And comfort support animals do not qualify for retractable leashes inside public buildings.

Nancy said that the young couple paid little attention to their dog and while they were stopped talking to another person in the store Nancy witnessed the dog pull a long lead out of its leash and go over and lick a whole row of French bread loaves that were displayed in a basket on the floor. The owners never even noticed and moved on with their shopping while Nancy stood dumb founded.

Nancy quickly told a clerk, who was on his or her way out the door and said, “I’ll get to that in a minute.” Concerned that the clerk would forget about the doggy saliva loaves, Nancy went up to the counter where the Trader Joe’s, excuse the expression, big dogs, stood. She alerted them of the situation using the word “disgusting” with extra syllables for emphasis and not just one, but two clerks ran to the bread basket to retrieve the soiled product, much to Nancy’s relief.

Now I am a proponent of dogs. I think dogs should be allowed in many more places than they are now. I believe that service dogs greatly improve the lives of people who need them. I just don’t like when people take advantage of the program. Here is where I would have acted differently than Nancy, and why she is nicer than me.

If I had witnessed the dog even stepping away from the owners, the second the animal put out a tongue towards the bread I would have said in my naturally loud and attention grabbing voice, “Your dog is licking the bread!!! Why aren’t you paying attention to your Dog?” And pointing dramatically, I would say, “All those loaves!! Your dog licked ALL of them.”

Nancy was concerned about other people not buying dog licked bread. I would be concerned about making sure those people never took their eye off their dog in public again. And by the way, if there are two of you going to the store, one can stay outside with the dog on the retractable leash and one can shop!

Antipasti, the Perfect Summer Lunch

Yesterday I was prepping antipasti for my Mah Jongg lunch today and the HVCA guy who was working at my house asked if I was a television cook. I wasn’t talking out loud while I was preparing so I asked him why he thought that. “I’ve never seen anyone cook so much food so fast except on TV, plus it smells delicious.” I don’t know what kind of TV he has that has smell-o-vision, but he got me on the cooking quantities.

Every week I try and make a different lunch for my Mah Jongg group. It has to be very healthy and yummy. Since it had been so hot I decided a nice cold Antipasto platter with a side of homegrown arugula salad with Parmesan and balsamic would make a good choice this week.

I got my cast iron grill pan out and grilled, eggplant, zucchini, red onions and portobello mushrooms. I didn’t use any oil, just salt and pepper. I roasted red peppers on top of the gas burners and oven roasted a dozen tomatoes. Of course I made lots of extra because these things can go with any summer meal

To make my antipasti platter I put the vegetables down and added tiny fresh mozzarella balls, a red wine soaked salami and some prosciutto. I chiffonade some fresh basil from the garden and served olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the side. My favorite part of lunch in Italy was the antipasto table. Who needs pasta when you have a plethora of yummy vegetables? Bravissimo, if I do say so myself.

Don’t Accept the First, Second or Third Offer

As if you aren’t tired enough of reading about my refrigerator saga, you should push through and read this one because it contains lots of useful negotiating information that might serve you well in the future. After my new free replacement fridge was delivered yesterday I noticed that it had a dent in the door the size of a walnut. Russ also noticed that the doors were not aligned. So I called customer service this morning to discuss it with them.

I got Carol on the line. I explained the situation and she offered me 130,000 shop your way points (that is a $130 towards something at Sears). I politely declined that offer. She came back with 240,000 points. I told her that I was not so happy with Sears right now so now offer of more Sears stuff was going to work for me. She asked me how much the fridge cost and I told her $2,600. She put me on hold a while and came back with $340 in money. Now we we getting some where.

I told her that I would rather have my door not have a dent in it. She asked for my sales receipt number, put me on hold and came back with $910, which was 35% of the cost of the machine. She had finally gotten my attention. Of course I could have demanded a new refrigerator, and they could take this one back and sell it at a scratch and dent sale of 35% off, but that would have been a lot of work for both me and Sears. I was saving them the cost of a delivery. I decided to take the money.

Then came the problem of my not having used a credit card to make the purchase. Carol never quite grasped the idea that I had not paid the $2,600. It took me a while to get her to understand she had to take my credit card info in order to credit me the money. Once we got that cleared up I also requested they send someone to fix the alignment of the doors. She agreed to that.

I had been on the phone with her for 35 minutes, but I wanted to make sure I recorded her telling me the final deal we agreed on, so I told her I was going to record her and we repeated the outcome of $910 credit on my card in 7-10 and a service guy to come in 7-10 Days to fix the door. Keep your fingers crossed I do not have to use this recording to make sure it all gets done.

The lesson for you is never accept their first, second or third offer. I was calm and polite, but kept saying the offers were not good enough. Who know if I could have gotten more than $910.00, but since it was a free refrigerator I felt like I shouldn’t push my luck. I consider it a pain a suffering payment for this 49 Day problem.


A new free refrigerator to replace the two year old one that Sears could not fix in 47 Days was almost too good to be true. We got approved to replace the same model, free delivery, tax and haul away of the old machine. It arrived today and the three men delivering it moved the old one out and brought the new one in.

After I took the plastic off the front surface, there it was a dent! Really!??!??!!! The delivery guys told me I can call customer service tomorrow to discuss resolution. Customer service is not going to be happy about me calling again.

I am not happy about the dimple, but it appears the refrigerator is working so it is better than the old one. Oh the joys of appliances in the Twenty first century. If you own a twenty year old refrigerator and it works, keep it, baby it and do everything you can to keep it working because an old working refrigerator is better than any new one.

Out of the Dark & Back to Camp

When Carter got hit on the head Tuesday night it was surly a concussion. Since we got the call at ten at night I had to hold back on my mama bear instincts to drive right out to the mountain and get her right then. So I did what the parent of an “adult” should do and waited until the morning. I waited until 7:45 to text her, but what I got back was a hurting girl who needed to come home, see the doctor and follow the well memorized concussion protocol we know too well.

In the last three years I have not driven to Cheerio once because Carter takes herself. It was such a familiar drive I had made for the seven previous years. My favorite part being the look at the thermometer, in the car, at the bottom of the mountain and it’s dropping ten degrees by the time we reach Camp at the top.

Carter was glad to see me and I kept the car as dark and quiet as I could all the way home. She stayed in her cave like room for four days, only leaving the house for the doctors. Thankfully she improved and felt that she could return to Camp today in time for staff Sunday lunch for which we were invited. I knew she was ready when she texted me this morning and asked if we could leave even earlier at 8:00 AM.

When we pulled into her lodge, Millis, where she lives as a staff member she was greeted by all. “Hi, Friends,” she said. They asked if she was OK and filled her in on what she missed. We went to lunch and her dear friend Morgan, who she has been a camper, CIT, Junior and Senior counselor with came up gave us all hugs. I knew that Carter was back home.

Morgan joined us on the deck to eat lunch since Shay was with us and not allowed to eat in the dining hall. It was a perfect camp day, cool with blue skies and clouds that looked like far off mountain ranges.

After lunch she looked at us and said, “It’s time for me to work.” So Russ, Shay and I walked back to Millis alone and drove off without seeing her again. The SUVs and Minivans of families waiting to drop off their girls for the 4-g session already lined the Camp road. It was still two hours before Camp opened for them. I could see girls greeting their old camp friends outside the cars and remembered back to when that was us. That familiar pit in my stomach as I leave Camp without her came over me. I really shouldn’t be too sad since we are going back for the Forth of July celebration, probably the last time I will drive to Camp, as long as Carter protects her head.

Yes, We Have No Bananas…Just Bread

Russ is mainly a healthy eater. What’s not healthy he eats in total moderation. He is perfectly happy having a banana as his snack. I gave up eating bananas years ago when I started weight watchers. Back then apples and strawberries had zero points, but bananas had two. No way was I using points on a fruit, when I could have a skinny cow ice cream sandwich for two points. You know how f#@$edup that point system was. I think now bananas are zero points but a skinny cow is like 6, as it should be. Anyway… I have never gotten back on bananas.

So Russ will buy himself bananas not knowing that I might have bought him the same fruit. He will dutifully eat one a day, but sometimes he can’t get to them all before they turn a particularly ugly dark brown. When that happens he throws them in the bottom freezer drawer and not in any particular place.

When the freezer failed last week I had to clean it out. I came upon at least 14 thawing very ripe bananas. I knew why Russ had saved them, he wanted me to make him banana bread. My homemade fruit and nut breads, like zucchini, or banana or zucchini banana bread are Russ’ favorite late night snack. Not a big serving, just a small skinny slice, remember all things in moderation.

So when I came upon this trove of bananas I knew what I had to do. I peeled them and placed what was left of the flesh in a bowl and put it in the refrigerator that was still working. Today I made eight loaves of banana bread in different varieties. I made straight banana, banana and zucchini, banana and walnut and banana, walnut and chocolate chip.

Russ looked at the silver wrapped loaves and declared it was seven months worth. Now I just need a freezer to put them in. I followed the lesson learned from cleaning out the freezer and labeled everything and dated them. This way when Russ pulls one out and eats it he can identify which flavor he likes best and not always be asking me what he is eating. One thing I know for sure is it will have banana in it.

Sears Fridge Saga- Persistence Wins

45 Days from the time that my two year old refrigerator broke I finally get some satisfaction with an e-mail telling me I have a $2,600 credit to go buy an new refrigerator. Persistence and constant elevation of who I was speaking with at Sears paid off, but not without my having to make 67 phone calls, two social media posts, stay home three days for three techs to visit and not only not fix the original problem, but create an additional problem.

The protection service reps tried to offer me a mini fridge, a rental of a bigger fridge, then paying for a third party service provider who I would have to find, schedule and pay for and then submit my receipts for reimbursement. I refused all these ridiculous offers. When I paid for a master protection plan that promised “no hassles” and “no out of pocket money” I was going to make them stick to it. No one disagreed that what I had endured was a hassle.

Here is how I got a new refrigerator. When the third tech broke the freezer two days ago and I called back to tell Sears and ask when a new tech would come I was told JULY 20. That was so outrageous that I asked for a supervisor. She offered me all the same mini fridges, etc. I told her no way. She said that was all she could do, but it wasn’t. I told her they should replace my Refrigerator because it would be faster. She said, “now that you have asked for that I think I can do it. I will put a request in for approval. You will hear in 48 hours.”

32 hours later I got an email approving me to get a new $2,600 refrigerator, but I can’t get cash back if I get a cheaper one. I drove right to Sears and a very nice man helped me and gave me the good news that the delivery, haul away and tax were all paid for on top of the $2,600. Also my master protection plan transferred to my new fridge.

I picked one out and supposedly it will come Monday. Amazingly I somehow got $3 cash back which the associate says happens sometimes even though the machine I picked out cost $2,599,99. I guess that was for my pain and suffering.

Lessons Learned

After 42 days with a broken refrigerator you are very hopeful that the third tech can fix it and not make it worse. So much for hope. I am in the fight of my life with Sears right now and I don’t want to jinx what I am currently working on, so this story will continue on another day.

Since now my freezer is broken I had to completely clean it out this morning. It is not the first time I have cleaned out the freezer on this two year old appliance, but you would think that I had been storing specimens from the ice age by the looks of things. One would think that by my age I would have learned how to label ANYTHING that went in the freezer, let alone label everything, but no.

So my lessons for today are quite simple. Don’t buy anything from Sears. If you have a child who shouldn’t go to college, they could make a fortune as an appliance repair man if they are only half decent, and this is the big one, label everything in the freezer with a date, especially if it is wrapped in foil. Clear plastic containers are no better for food identification once something has been frozen. At least now that it is empty I won’t have to find uses for all the crusts I cut off tea sandwiches for funerals. Although I might have to make some more funeral sandwiches for Sears.

Healing Darkness

The kind of text I hate to get Russ and I got late last night. “I just got hit in the head in basketball.” Another concussion for Carter. It was too late to go up to Camp last night. I texted her this morning. Still bad so I jumped in the car and went out to Camp and picked her up.

We are well versed in the concussion protocol, but I still took her to the doctor to make sure that it is nothing worse. She is wearing her sunglasses to help her brain. Thankfully a dark room, low sounds, no screens should help my poor baby heal. The good thing is I am home to take care of her and I get a few unexpected days with her.

No matter how old your children are they are still your babies. I just want to fix things and take care of her. With a concussion she still wants to be taken care of. Just means I cancel all the mundane things I had to do and go into full time Mommy role. The hardest part is letting her be alone and not talk to her even though she is right here.

No Human Rights Here

Today the US pulled out of the U.N. Human Rights Council. Seems like exactly the right thing to do when we are violating the human rights of children. But, of course, that is not why we pulled out. Nikki Halley said, “We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.” I wonder if she has no access to news up at the U.N.?

Perhaps she could not face going to the meetings when the news is full of the stories of children being separated from their parents as they are seeking asylum. Granted, not everyone who try’s to come to the U.S. is eventually admitted, but taking children from their parents can cause permanent psychological damage. It is not just a lack of compassion, but not good policy to traumatize children as well as their parents.

If in fifteen years we are fighting a war on terror from our southern border I bet that it can be tied to this ridiculous policy of taking children from their parents. We are creating more reasons for people to hate us. At least our current government is not being hypocritical and staying in a human rights committee. We clearly don’t have any.

Jumping On The Analogue Bandwagon

A couple of months ago Carter asked me if I kept a bullet journal. Not only did I not keep one, but I had never even heard of such a thing. Since then I have noticed the old fashioned notebook/calendar/planners everywhere.

I am a long term digital calendar devotee, but I notice that my digital notes and lists do not always work for me. I forget what I title things, or which app I use to file them in. I know there are electronic easy ways to fix this, but I have decided to give the old fashion notebook based bullet journal a go.

I love the idea of not just using it as a calendar and list keeping tracker, but also a place for inspirations, tracking all things from steps to water to weight and habits. When I searched on Pinterest I found an overwhelming trove of inspiration. I also like the idea that this journal is a creative outlet where I can change how I journal weekly or even daily.

I am trying my best to get back on track as far as healthy living goes so I find the bullet journal is the perfect way to keep myself accountable. I always feel better when I make a list and check it off as I complete each task. That is exactly what this thing is about, but Rather than throwing the list away, I have a record.

Some of my lists I am going to be keeping are TV shows to watch, books to read, Christmas gifts to make or buy, “when was the last time…”, places to visit, recipes to try, home projects to do. Oh the list of lists can go on forever.


When I was a kid I loved board games, well actually there has never been a day in my lifethat I did not like board games. For years and years my very favorite game was Masterpiece. It was an art auction game. Now it wasn’t my top game because I always won, in fact it was a game that involved more luck than I usually like in a game. It was beloved by me because it used art as the centerpiece of the action. More specifically it was art from the collection of the Chicago Art Institute.

When we planed this trip to Chicago I volunteered to make the father’s day brunch reservations. It sounds like it was the right thing to do, since it is father’s day, but of course I had an ulterior motive. I made it at the good restaurant at the Chicago Art Institute. It was no hardship for the fathers, Russ and Logan, since it is a very fine restaurant, but it did mean that I had a good chance of spending the day at the museum.

A couple of things were in my favor, it was 95° with 75% humidity in Chicago so there is no better place to be than a climate controlled world class art institution, second, Russ is becoming quite the art aficionado, and third, the Toms still had shopping to do and Russ would much rather be in a museum than in a store any day.

The Chicago Art Institute has quite the collection of fine art and decorative items and it is huge. It is well laid out by nationality of the artist and time period, but I wish they would put all the Masterpiece game pieces in one gallery. Russ and I wandered through about a third of the museum both before and after lunch and I was able to spot at least five of my favorite painting from the game. The one I always loved the most was the Paris Street; Rainy Day. It the game masterpiece all the paintings were reproduced on small cards so you had no sense of scale of the painting. When I studied art history I learned that the Rainy Day painting was large, but seeing the huge work in person made me love it anymore.

In an different art coincidence Russ and I walked into the American wing, and there on the wall was Grant Wood’s American Gothic. I had just seen it last week in NYC at the Whitney with my friend Suzanne. We knew that show in NYC was closing last Sunday, but I had no idea it would be returned to Chicago so quickly. So two visits with American Gothic is a week seems lucky to me.

I know it is father’s day and I would be remiss if I did not wish my father a happy day. He always encouraged my love of art and never complained when I told him I was going to an art major. He figured that it didn’t matter what I majored in as long as I went into sales and made money. Sorry Dad, I gave up making money, but I still love art.

Thanks to Russ the father to my baby. Not only did he give up his day for this trip he spent it at an art museum with me. I really need to have another father’s day for him where he chooses the activities.

Hot Time In The City

When we picked a time to come to Chicago we thought June would be cooler here than North Carolina. We were wrong. It was a sweltering 93°degrees today with 67 % humidity. Not the makings of a good tourist day, but fun was had nonetheless less.

First go back to last night, our whole reason for coming to the Windy City was to eat at “city mouse.” It did not disappoint. We were warmly greeted and the hostess inquired who in our group was the city mouse. Logan was then treated with the reverence he deserved. Our server, who could have been Drew Barrymore’s twin, brought us a complimentary appetizer due to Logan’s celebrity status. From there we went on to enjoy a lovely meal that included quite a lot of cheese.

To help counteract our dinner we decided to walk back to our hotel since it was just over a mile. It all would have been fine if I didn’t miss the incline in one section of the sidewalk and do a full on ugly fall. In some kind of miraculous move I did not rip my pants or really cut myself up. A road rash palm and some bruises were all I really had.

After a good night’s sleep I was still ambulatory so Russ and I set out to get our steps and visit some museums while Lynn and Logan went in the opposite direction and shopped. It was insufferable outside so after a visit to Millennial Park we went to the the old chicago Public Library to look at the building and then of to a very cool new museum of the American Writer.

We met up with Lynn and Logan at Eatly for lunch and then braved the sun, heat and humidity and did the architectural boat tour. A lot has changed along the river in ten years since the last time I took that tour. The worst part is the new giant Trump building with his name in giant letters across the side. It is so not Chicago. No other buildings are branded in such a gaudy way.

We all needed showers and rest after our time in the sun. We rallied in time to go to Boku for a very memorable meal, but it was still too hot at ten at night to walk the three miles back to the hotel so we took a questionable Uber. Tomorrow we are off to the Chicago Art Institute since the heat is predicted to be a record breaking 95°. Where is the Windy City?

A and B Teams

Years ago my friend Lynn and I went on a trip with some other friends and our daughters. This was when I discovered Lynn is a B team traveler. It should not come as a surprise to me as an A team traveler that I would be needed for reservations, directions, instructions, guidance and all things trip leaderish. Lynn is much more easy going than I am and is happy to go with the flow on a trip. I on the other hand am, well, on the other hand.

Today Russ and I are going away with Lynn and her husband Logan and are flying Southwest. True to our A and B team designations, Russ and I were boarders A 1-2 and Lynn and Logan were B 45-46. We just like perpetrating the stereo types.

The reason we are going on this trip is really for Logan. Years ago when Logan was up at the farm with Russ and our friend Roman skeet shooting it quickly became apparent that Roman was at one time a sharp shooter in the Ukrainian army, but Logan was more like the quartermaster. From his disinterest in shooting Russ nick named him City Mouse.

When Russ read about a new restaurant in Chicago called City Mouse he quickly said we had to go there with Logan and so Lynn got to come along, even though she could care less about eating.

Please pray that Russ and I do a good job as the A team because nothing can happen to the four of us since we can’t leave Carter and Ellis to fend for themselves. Although Carter can always be Ellis’ A team. She has been well trained.

Pharaoh, Bring Me Some Farro

The first time I ate farro was when I had to cook it in a “Chopped” like dinner where guest brought the ingredients for a dinner they bought at an auction. They wanted to stump me, but as I reminded them, they we eating what they brought so if they wanted to eat tarantulas I was happy to cook them.

Despite not even having heard of Farro, which they brought In a plain white bag so I had no hints on how to cook it, I loved it. That night I “risottoed” It, which turned out to be a fine way to cook it. Since then I have learned it is much simpler to cook than risotto and that it can be cooked in advance and used in many dishes, from cold salad, to hot sweet morning oatmeal like dishes.

This recipe is how to cook farro and a cold vegetable medley mixed with farro.

To make basic farro:

1 cup farro

3 cups of water

1 t. Salt

Rinse the farro before cooking. Place grain, water and salt in a pot with a lid. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer covered for 30 minutes. Drain the farro when done. Now it is ready to be used when it is cooled, but it can be eaten at any temp.

1 eggplant diced in 1/2 inch cubes

3 zucchini diced in 1/2 inch cubes

1 red pepper diced

1 large sweet onion diced

1 pint of cherry tomatoes halved

6 big basil leaves- chiffonade

6 big mint leaves -chiffonade

Heat up a big fry pan to very hot and spray with Pam. Add the eggplant and salt and pepper and cook it stirring only a few times for five minutes. Put in a bowl.

Reheat the fry pan and do the same thing with the zucchini. When done add it to the eggplant

Reheat the fry pan and do the same thing with the onions and peppers. Add to other vets when done.

Let the veg cool. Add the cooled cooked farro, cherry tomatoes and herbs. Taste for seasoning.

I used this mixture with some mozzarella cubes and a splash of balsamic vinegar as my dinner. The farro is very satisfying. Tonight I will put a piece of grilled salmon on top and omit the cheese.

I’m In Trouble Homemade Cocktail Sauce

I have created a monster of my own making. I made homemade cocktail sauce with oven roasted tomatoes and now I can’t keep enough of it in the house for Russ. First you have to know that Russ comes from a serious cocktail sauce loving family. They put it on their thanksgiving turkey. I am not saying it is the answer to a dry turkey, but…

Russ is also a lover of the spiciest food you can make. You know when you go to a Chinese restaurant where they can make things as spicy as you want, Russ always has to convince the waiter that he wants things “Chinese hot,” not Caucasian hot. They usually don’t believe him.

So I made this cocktail sauce for the intern dinner and it was good, but the longer it sat in the fridge with the flavors marrying the better it got. Now Russ is asking that I have it as a staple in various stages of aging. What have I gone and done? Only make this if you are willing to commit to it for the long haul.

Roasted Tomato Cocktail Sauce

Eight nice sized ripe tomatoes

1/3 cup of grated horseradish

1 shallot minced

Juice and zest of one lemon

1/4 cup of V-8

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 300°. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and spray with Pam. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and place then cut side up on the tray. Sprinkle with salt and Pepper. Roast in oven for 2 hours. Then flip the tomatoes over onto one of the cut sides and continue roasting for another 45 minuets. Take out of the oven and let cool.

Place the tomatoes in a bowl and break them up with a spoon. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Taste for salt and pepper. Let chill for at least two hours, but more time the better it will get.

Great on seafood, or a very dry thanksgiving turkey.

My Black and White Phase

All through the cold of the winter I was quilting with bright and happy colors. Now that summer is here I seemed to have turned to black and white. I don’t understand this reversal of color palates to the seasons, but I am loving working in black and white.

I also needed to take a break from the large format quilting, having made three oversized king quilts as my last colorful projects. I have turned my attention to placemats. They give me lots of room for creativity and I can finish the whole project myself.

I need to work on some Christmas presents, but before I turn to that I am making a series of alphabet placemats. As I make letters for each person I got to thinking about what if there is a guest for dinner. I don’t think I can make a whole extra set of 26 letters to have just so the guest can have their initial. So I made a “?” so anyone can use it. I hope that the guest is not offended by a question mark. I hope they see it as cheeky because that is how it is meant.

I am not sure when I am going to move out of the black and white phase. I am fighting the color scheme for one of my Christmas gifts because I don’t want to work in brown, which is the color that would best fit the receiver. I know gifts are supposed to be about the person you are giving them too, but when you make a gift you have to spend a good amount of time looking at it. I don’t think I can spend two weeks looking at brown.

If I ever go through a brown phase, call the doctor, something is wrong with me. For now I am going to love my black and white phase.

Getting There or Back is Not the Thing

I love to go places, but I don’t always like the “traveling” part of getting there. There is nothing glamorous or exotic about it, not like when I was a kid. Going on a plane was the best part of any trip back in the go-go sixties, especially to a child. But now even kids hate planes.

Yesterday Russ and I had an 8:30 PM flight home. Around 6:30 we did get a notification that the flight was delayed an hour and fifteen minutes later it went to 9:45. Hey, at least we were notified while we were still at Suzanne’s so we could eat a little dinner and watch a little more Ozark.

We went to the airport and when we got to the Delta club the nice guy checking us in told us that they hadn’t updated us with the whole story. The plane was delayed coming from DC, and that was what our first message was about, but they hadn’t bother to let us know that the crew was coming from Chicago and they were delayed another hour and a half. In the end we didn’t take off until 11:45. That’s way past my bedtime.

Russ is good at sleeping anywhere so he was out on the plane. I didn’t want to take a nap at midnight because I might never have woken up to get off the plane. So I looked out the window at the lightening for two hours. I watched us circling waiting for a break in the weather to get our plane down and thankfully we got one, even though it was not optimal. That pilot tried his best to put down our sideways swaying bird, but it took a couple of hard bangs to get it to stay on the ground. It was not pretty, but I was thankful just to be in North Carolina even if it was close to two in the morning.

There just isn’t an answer I can afford to make travel easier. The traffic on the roads makes driving tough. Airlines are no fun. I don’t go enough places that are accessible by boat and I can’t afford a private jet. A tour bus with a driver, like rock stars have, seems ideal, too bad I can’t sing. I refuse to just stay home so I might have to take up drinking again to put up with the getting any place.

Not Enough Time With These People

My NYC art plan for today was to go to the Met, but then Suzanne texted me at 4:01 AM, because that’s when middle aged women wake up, “It’s the Puerto Rican day parade today. Check the route because it is going to make things difficult.” Thankfully I did not wake up at 4:01 to read that message, but when I did wake up and read it I knew I had to change my plans.

The Met was out since it was the ending point of the parade. Getting across town was also going to be difficult if we didn’t do it before 11:00. So all our plans changed and thankfully Suzanne, and the boys were up for the new plan.

Susanne’s, sons, Jack and Oliver are my honorary children and I am their aunt/crazy friend. They like to do a lot of the same things I do, especially play games and they are good players. Ever since they were little I would play at my normal competitive level with them so they consider quite a badge of honor to beat me. So given the chance to try they take it.

We started by going to brunch. Jack, at first thought he might not go and just chill since he has a serious internship at Bloomberg this summer and needs to rest for work, but then he decided more time with me and Russ the better. It was a sweet move.

After brunch we went back to the house and played four hours of bridge. Since Russ does not play he was a very good sport and he entertained himself, he couldn’t even walk that much since it was raining.

Jack got worn out from the brunch/bridge combo so Suzanne and I moved to watching one of her Netflix shows she is hooked on, Ozark. As our flight home kept getting pushed back we watched more and more. Sadly Russ and I left without finishing the episode we were watching only to be told at the Delta club that the flight has been pushed back even more.

Sometimes not knowing what might screw up your day in advance means you end up doing something so much more fun. There is nothing I like more than time with the Worden/Farley’s and they are so generous with their time, feeding us and supplying lifetime of stories and laughs.

The really good egg award goes to Russ for hanging out while I did things I love. Thankfully this is the absolute end of my birthday celebrations. Think, he only has ten and half months until he has to do it again.

Good Wood Saves the Day

Russ and I almost bombed out in the art department today, but Suzanne came to the rescue. We started our day sitting in the window of an Israeli restaurant having breakfast and watching the early morning dog walkers and faithful on their way to services. Of course those are two different groups, the dogs were not going to services.

My favorite thing I saw at breakfast was the couple at the table in the corner, he with his big ass headphones on watching something on his supersized iPad sitting on the table easel style and her, with her big ass iPad sitting on the table easel style watching something different. It is one thing to both be looking at your phones at the table, but watching whole shows is a new low in the lack of interaction. They weren’t eating and and they were there before we got there and we left before they did.

After our breakfast Russ and I took a good walk in Central Park. After many number of steps I took a break and sat on “Amy and Betty’s” bench, who apparently were very committed to each other according to the plaque. I watched what I thought was a father teaching his 8 year old son how to throw and catch a baseball. The “father” would really wind up and throw the ball hard for a few throws, then would lob up high balls, all of which the kid was able to catch, even if the hard ones smarted a little. Suddenly the throwing was over and the pair went over to a mother with a stroller and another child. She handed the “father “ something and he waved goodbye to the kid and walked off. Apparently he was a baseball tutor. Not something I see in Durham. So much for the tender father son moment.

We continued our walk all the way down Central Park West to Columbus Circle. Both Suzanne and my sister Janet had suggested I would like the Museum of Art and Design. They have rotating exhibits and since this is an Art and Design kind of weekend I thought it would be a hit. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I am not sure I have ever been to a museum where I honestly did not like one thing I saw in four floors of exhibits. Talk about a dud.

Iced tea was my only remedy to this poor art situation so we stopped in at the bar of the Landmarc in the Time Warner building and chilled out with extra lemon. The bartender had to ask me if when I wanted extra lemon in my tea if that was code for vodka. Sadly it was not.

By this point in my walking day I needed a shower so we walked back and got clean before I took the subway downtown to meet Suzanne and her friend Chris at the Whitney to see the Grant Wood Exhibit. It made up for my need for good art today. Way beyond just American Gothic the exhibit had quite a huge gathering of Wood’s works. My favorite was the one of George Washington cutting down the Cherry tree and being admonished by his father. Wood used the face of Washington on the dollar bill but put him on a young boy’s body. The whole thing was very cheeky, especially the way George seems to be blaming the axe and not appearing to be remorseful.

While I was looking at good art Russ walked all the way downtown and met us at the Whitney where the four of us enjoyed a lovely dinner outside. No humidity and the perfect 75 degrees. It was so nice that we decided to walk the entire length of the high line to get us further uptown and home. My walking total for the day was 9.25 Miles so with American Gothic, Russ and good friends I count it a very good day.

Belated Birthday Celebration

When Russ can’t think of anything to give me for my birthday he makes a certificate for a trip. There is nothing I like better than a trip. Who needs more stuff? I want memories. So this birthday trip is a double duty, a birthday trip to NYC and one where I get to see my best college friend Suzanne and four fifths of her family. Good job Russ.

We got into the city and after some fine sushi for lunch Russ and I went to MoMA. Art and vacation are a favorite combination of mine, but the other art patrons are what really make going to MoMA fun. I could have spent all my time looking at the people looking at the art. Some of the outfits were high art themselves.

After a tea break and good use of the subway we cleaned up and went down to the lower East Side to meet Suzanne and Steve for dinner. There can almost never be a dinner long enough for all the topics we had to cover, after children and families we finally got to Trump and other idiots. Since that conversation is so much longer than a dinner we went back to Steve and Suzanne’s house.

The fur babies, Chance and Esme, greeted us at the door and I got to get real hugs from Jack and Oliver who make me feel like one of the lollipop boys in the wizard of Oz they are so tall now. If only Carter and Grace were with us we would be complete.

Since we had tired of All things Trump, and let’s face it, haven’t we all, we changed the subject to TV shows. We spent a good hour discussing our favorite binge worthy shows, and thankfully Steve took notes. Now I have a whole summer’s worth of quilting and needlepointing shows to keep me company while I work.

What a fun way to belated celebrate my birthday. Tomorrow, more art, walking and Suzanne.

Beep, Beep, Beep

For the last few days my house has been surrounded by men working at different houses using machines that beep when they go in reverse. Beep, Beep, Beep fills my head. It seems to get louder. It definitely gets more annoying.

I understand that the beeping was an added feature to help protect people from getting run over by a backing machine. My question is how is the backing more dangerous that going forward? Yes, it is the drivers responsibility not to run someone over, going forward of backward. Now we have sensors that can alert drivers if they are about to hit something. Can’t we require those and do away with the beeping?

See the beeping might bring on a worse problem. One where I purposely run into the beeping machine just to silence it. Or why don’t we do away with reverse on these vehicles all together. Just go in circles rather than going back and forth.

Based on the constant beeping I feel like these guys working near me are doing nothing but going in reverse. Are they deaf?

Strawberry Perfection

For our dinner party Monday I made a mixed berry cobbler. I used blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. I had bought the strawberries at the farmers market, so they couldn’t be more local.

Given how much rain we have gotten I was not sure the strawberries were going to be good. You never want berries that were picked after any rain. They need the sunshine to give them the sweetness and not let them be mushy.

As I washed and sliced the berries I noticed that they were red all the way through. Not like those supermarket berries that get shipped hundreds of miles, red on the outside, white on the inside. That is a recipe for no taste. The red is the flavor.

It is not going to be that rainy this week so it is the perfect time to buy local strawberries while they still last. Look for the reddest darkest berries you can find for strawberry perfection. It will make you swear off long distance berries forever.

Try eating your strawberries with balsamic vinegar and black pepper. Up next week, local tomatoes.

Miss America,10 Eagles and the Over Dresser

Oh, so many things got my attention today. Gretchen Carlson saying that the Miss America Pageant is doing away with swim suit and evening wear. I can hear pageant coaches and sequence sewers across the south wailing as they run to the unemployment office to file for benefits.

This certainly has to be the nail in the pageant coffin. I doubt that average, even slightly homely women who are bright enough to nail the interview portion of the contest are going to line up to be judged by the group of D list celebrities who chose the winner. It would be great if only women stand-up comics entered so at least it would be a good show.

As far as I know the president who once owned the pageant has not weighed in. I wonder where he is going to troll now for his next wife? Instead of crying over the loss of swim suit contests he was busy disinviting the Philadelphia Eagles to the White House. Apparently only about ten members were going to show up and that number is easy to count in a photo so there would be no way he could say it was the largest crowd of football players to come see a President.

Instead he had the ceremony of him and the military band while paid staffers made up the crowd of onlookers. Talk about the worst kind of government waste. Paying workers to be an audience for the President is the definition of a swamp.

And now in local news, I went to lunch with my friends Mary Lloyd and Christy to celebrate Christy’s birthday. It was a perfect day to sit on the terrace of the Wadu. The bonus was it is restaurant week so we had a three course meal for $15. We all could only eat half our lunch and we took the other half home.

That’s not the news, but what happened while we were at lunch was. For years my friend P. would ask me if I knew who the lady who always over dresses and eats all the samples at the grocery store is. I was never sure who she was talking about, but then this woman came out on the terrace with a lot of rhinestones on and I knew at once she was the one P. has inquired about. I don’t know who she is, but at least I can put a face with the mystery. I think the restaurant week special is practically like getting free samples.

Anyway, to tie this whole thing together, the overdresser is probably sad at the loss of the evening wear competition because she is hardly ever out in public in anything but evening wear. Sometimes the world moves on without you.

Surprising Daddy

Last night, while Russ was asleep next to me and I was watching Steph Curry rain down his record breaking threes, I got a text from Carter at camp.

“Is the intern dinner tomorrow night?”


“Is there room at the table for me?”


“I have 24 hours off and at didn’t really say good bye to you all. Can I come home for the night.”

“Of course. Do you want to surprise Daddy?”

“Yes. And can I bring my laundry.”

“Of course.”

He didn’t notice her car in the driveway when he pulled into the garage tonight. He is so used to it being there. But it was a nice surprise.

So I got a bonus visit from Carter today. Just three loads of laundry. Working in the barn is a smelly job. She had a little rest and joined us for the intern dinner. It was a nice group of young people, all from UNC, who were interesting and polite and I am sure exhausted from their first day at work. It is a lot of being on for them. Carter always enjoys meeting the interns and the ones who get hired on for real jobs and come back year after year to the intern dinner.

Sadly she has to get up early and drive back to Camp, but it was a nice surprise to have her home for a few hours. I’m not sure if we will get a proper goodbye tomorrow but this is all a bonus anyway.

Superior Guest

Tomorrow is Russ’ company annual intern dinner at our house. It is one of my favorite opportunities to entertain because I enjoy meeting the summer interns, who always impress me. It is my goal to make them feel welcomed, valued and important, because great interns often turn into superior team members.

Over the last week I have been designing a menu, shopping, cooking everything from scratch, including the cinnamon ice cream to top the berry crisp. I have pickled shrimp and roasted tomatoes to make homemade cocktail sauce. There are three tomatoes pies and two giant tenderloins. The watermelon is chilling for the watermelon and avocado salad. Everything is set.

Along with the interns, the rest of the team members who will be in Durham are invited. This year we have a special treat with one team member from San Francisco bringing her four year old daughter to dinner. I wish I had not thrown out all our old phone books for her to sit on at the table. I am sure a couple of big pillows will work.

As I was out shopping for food yesterday Russ texted me that a beautiful flower arrangement had been deliver to me. Such a big surprise from Mark Schweitzer, a senior member from DC. Included was a nice note thanking me for hosting the dinner and looking forward to being at our house on Monday.

It is one thing to bring a small hostess gift when you come for dinner, it is another thing to send flowers in advance and it is way over the top in the manners department to think about sending flowers three days in advance so that they will be at their peak on the day of the party. Also coming three days early means I don’t have to think about flowers on the day of the party.

Flowers of this magnitude are something you might do if someone were hosting a birthday party for you, but this is a work party. I am going to have to take lessons from Mark on how to be a superior guest. I hope that my dinner lives up to his flowers.

Put Herself to Bed

Shay turned seven two weeks ago. She has only ever lived here in our house, except for vacations when she lives with her friend Mary. For almost all these seven years Shay can be found right beside one of us. Her first choice is Russ, except if he is on that terrible treadmill, Carter and I are a distant runner up pair. If Russ is not home she certainly will snuggle with one of us and not complain, anything is better than being alone.

After all these seven years we think Shay has finally gotten comfortable enough at home that she can chose to be alone. Tonight she was given her dinner before Russ and I sat down at the counter to eat ours. Half way through our meal Russ asked if Shay was on her bed in the kitchen. Since he can’t see her bed from his seat at the bar I looked down and announced she was not there. Russ looked behind him to see if she were waiting patiently for a treat from his plate and she was not there.

“I guess she put herself to bed,” he announced.

Sure enough, I went upstairs after dinner and found her passed out In the middle of our bed, with no idea if either of us was going to come up and join her. I don’t think she was so exhausted that she needed to fall over asleep at seven PM. Perhaps she has finally settled in and realized this is her house and she is safe and sound here. Seven years, that’s a long time to feel at home. I guess we can’t ever move, she won’t live long enough to get comfortable.

Got My Sewing Room Back

Don’t get me wrong, I loved having Carter home for a few weeks, but I did miss my sewing room. I felt like since I took over the larger of the two rooms she came to think of as hers when she went to college I would kind of let her use it when she was home. That meant no sewing for me and only a little bit of ironing. Not that I missed the ironing, just meant it all backed up.

Carter left last Sunday morning so by Sunday afternoon I could’ve get back in “my” sewing room fast enough. I started binge watching the last season of Billions, did all my baskets of ironing and of course made a quilted product.

My last giant quilt required me to pay my long arm quilter a small fortune so I vowed to work on some projects/gifts that I quilted myself. I am interested in improving the “quilting” portion of being a quilter, but I don’t want to buy a new machine to do it.

So I decided to make a table runner because it would be a workable size to quilt. Since it is a gift I wanted it to be as perfect as possible. I was making up the design as I went along and it wasn’t until I had connected the three large squares I made that I came up with a plan for quilting that seemed to be something I could handle.

In the end I was very happy with the finished product, but I only quilted straight lines. Now I need to move on to making some placemats and try some more adventurous quilting. So much to learn.