Trick or Treat

Russ is in LA and Carter is in Boston so I decided I would take Shay to our neighborhood Halloween Parade since it happens right at our house. This parade started 18 years ago and remember so well taking Carter the first year in her stroller dressed in her dragon fly costume that I sewed for her.

That first year of the parade it was only about thirty kids and their parents. Mostly our friends the Elams and the DeBerrys who organized it. Each year the parade grew bigger. And every year I would make Carter a costume. My favorite was the year she was a garden. Then about first or second grade she put her foot down and said she wanted to be Ariel with a slinky green sequins dress and long red wig. My days as costumer were over.

So with no child to dress up and a giant parade right out my door I got Shay’s jockey costume out and put it on her. Thanks to her girlish figure it fits year after year. As we walked down our walkway I noticed many cars parked in my driveway. My friend Helen had emailed days ago asking if she could park here with her grandkids, but I noticed three cars parked behind her blocking her in.

Our neighborhood has had a big influx of new young families so this parade was going to be huge. I am certain I would not know one kid in it. Shay and I got to the street and she saw two little girls dressed up in their princess costumes. She froze. I pulled on her leash to get her to go a little further, nothing. Shay started to pull back towards the house.

Then another princess came up and asked if she could pet Shay’s costume. Interesting request, but not out of the norm for a three year old. Shay obliged, but did not want to go any closer to the throngs of firemen, dancers and multitude of princesses.

So we went home. No parade for us. So far we have had one trick or treater. I am praying for a crowd to come and take this candy, but with St. Marks, the street behind us, closed off to traffic I expect everyone is trick or treating over there and I will have bought this candy in vain. Come by if you need a chocolate fix.

No More Political Ads

It’s one week before Election Day. Day to day politics are bad, but election season is a special kind of hell. Everywhere I turn are the worst kind of ads for politicians. The ones I hate the most are the ones that say what someone’s opponent will do if they are elected. No one should be allowed to say what someone else will do. They just don’t know that.

My Election Day happened more than a week ago when Russ and voted early. Since my decisions have been cast in bubble ink I feel like I should be spared having to listen to any political ads.

I think we could greatly increase voter turn out if there were a technological way to turn off all political ads once you have voted. I am not saying you get a free pass from all advertising, but once your have checked in and voted you could get a special code that you enter into your cable box. Then when there is an ad you just get regular erectile dysfunction, or GEICO ads, just like non-election season. If you haven’t voted you still get nothing but swill from politicians talking smack. I can’t think of a better way to encourage all citizens to partake in their constitutional duty and vote.

One thing I do know is that even come a week from now when the mid terms are over, many politicians are not going to be acting any better, but at least they won’t have the money to run ads and show us how badly they are behaving.

Bridge Halloween

Today was the Halloween bridge party at duplicate today. Since my partner Deanna has missed so many Fridays playing with me she asked me to play this game with her. It was a costume bridge game, but she told me I did not have to dress up.

Since I got home late last night I had no time to think about a costume, but I hate to go to Halloween parties not dressed up. I thought for a minute what “bridge” themed costume I could whip up in a minute, then it came to me.

I pulled up a photo of our current President. I drew a red circle with a slash through it over his face. I pasted that photo to a piece of card board and cut out a number 7 and taped it to the corner. I hung this thing around my neck.

What was I? I was a seven no trump bid. The best bid in all of bridge.

Some people got it. Some people got it and loved it. If anyone was a Trump lover they didn’t say anything, but my retort was ready. It wasn’t a political statement but a bridge pun.

Sadly, this is such an “inside baseball” costume I can’t use it for any regular Halloween parties, but I do think it is a good one.

Worst Seat In The House

After a family filled two days where Russ and I spent time with all our parents and siblings on both sides as well as cousins and an Aunt and an Uncle we got to spend a little alone time together. We left Buck Hill Falls after driving around and looking at all the beautiful old “cottages.” It is so quaint to call mansions cottages. It should have been peak leaf peeping time, but we only saw one really spectacular tree.

We made our way to Philly to spend time at the art museum. Since we have gone to the Whitney, Moma, Chicago Art Institute and the Frist In Nashville in the last few months we are becoming museum connoisseurs. We had been to the Philadelphia Museum of Art plenty in the past, but as far as I am concerned you can never have enough Art.

TheWorst Seat In The House special exhibit was one on fashion. The museum has over 30,000 pieces in its fashion collection. That’s one big closet. Imagine trying to keep the moths out of all those dresses. The exhibit had some glorious dresses mostly from the 1950’s to the early 2000’s. The one constant is the mannequins were all equally skinny with pencil like legs and young boy like chests.

Russ and I made our way to the nice restaurant in the basement of the museum. We have learned that most museums run good restaurants. Even though it was 1:45 we had to wait thirty minutes for a table. While we were waiting I went to the ladies room. It had one of the best exhibits in the museum. That of three toilets in a row out in the open. One side of the ladies room had regular stalls and the other side had one stall with the three open air potties attached. Since it had a black stanchion in front of them I took it to be an exhibit. The “plein air potties” are probably the worst seats in the house. Actually the one furthest from the toilet paper is the worst.

We finally had lunch and continued on our tour of the museum. Now at the airport I am praying we don’t have any issues getting home like we did getting here. I am looking forward to being home and enjoying my own bed and Shay. It was a great weekend, but packed with lots of visiting.

Family Through and Through

It was a cold and rainy day in the Poconos, one I am thankful I didn’t miss. Russ and I woke up at his father’s house and drove up to the Mountains to join my family for the memorial service for my Aunt Susan. My mother and her sisters are very close, perhaps too close because they spend time together without any of their spouses or children. So this was a rare gathering of my first cousins on my mother’s side.

Before Russ and I got to the beautiful Buck Hills Falls, where my Uncle Hank lives and we all were staying, we made a little detour to find Russ’ family childhood summer home at Lake Naomi. It took no time to find the little cabin in the woods, which Russ says looks exactly the same, except for the color. The most amazing thing to Russ was that it still had the shutters his father made over 45 years ago. To say he does quality work is not going far enough.

We hooked up with my parents and sisters who had arrived last night. Then my Aunt Edie and two of her sons Wright and Winston and Winston’s girl friend Emily joined us to follow Hank to their little church. Five cars driving the winding roads of the Poconos in the rain trying to follow each other did not result in us all arriving together or on time. Thank goodness they don’t start funerals without the family.

There were more friends there than my Uncle had anticipated and the minister blamed him for the the lack of enough bulletins. It was definitely not a southern funeral. In the south the clergy never blame the widower for anything, especially not for guessing how many people are going to show up to remember their wife. I am not sure any of us know how many souls our spouse may have impacted. Of course since the church did not print enough bulletins they also did not have enough wafers for communion. Just a little hiccup in the day.

After the service I finally got a chance to hug Susan’s boys, Jimmy and Steven. With the exception of my cousin Billy it was the first time since my grandmother’s funeral almost 20 years ago that we had all been together.

We had the polite time with the other non-family mourners in the parish hall but the real fun happened at a dinner my Uncle and Cousin Jim gave for just the family and two of Jim’s childhood friends. Many of us got up to speak about what a kind a special person Susan was. My sister Janet worried out loud that no one was going to talk this way about her. Not something she needs to worry about. But it reminded me we need to tell each other how we feel about each other while we are still around and able to remember.

I am so happy Russ and I made this trip, despite the seven extra hours at the airport. I loved seeing my Aunt, Uncle and Cousins as well as my immediate family. I just can’t believe that Susan was not there, although I am sure she was.

We never took a photo of us all together and for that I am sorry. I hope we have a happier reason to get together again soon.

Waiting Seven Hours Is Too Much

My Aunt Susan passed away last month, but it took a little while to plan her service. My mother let my Uncle Hank know that this weekend would be the best one for us all to come so this is when he planned for us all to gather. I am not sure if it was the best weekend for him, but my mother usually decides.

Russ and I planned on flying up to Philly first thing this morning to spend the day and night with my in-laws who I don’t see often enough, and then drive to the Poconos tomorrow to be with my family.

We arrived at RDU at nine, very early for our 11:15 flight. At the appointed boarding time we went to the gate. No plane. It was at the airport since it had come in the night before, but apparently there was a problem with the landing gear. Probably it will take off at noon.

No noon. Maybe 1:00, according to the two nice pilots who were waiting at the gate with the passengers. No 1:00. Now we had to change gates because another plane needed our gate. Maybe 2:00. The plane was brought to the new gate and the pilots went down to do their inspection. No it was not fixed. Maybe 3:00.

The gate agent had someone roll the “Sorry for the very long delay” snack cart up to the gate. That made the passengers less hangrey. I called my mother to say we might not be making it to the funeral. She felt bad we had sat at the airport all day.

Finally word came that the plane was fixed. We boarded the plane and took off at 4:00. We had only sat in the airport for seven hours. If I had not gotten us there so early we probably would only have waited six hours. I consider this all my fault. Waiting seven is just too much.

Be Home For Repairs

Last month our Frontier phone line went dead. That is just normal for us these days. Since it was after the hurricane the phone company was backed up and said they would come repair it in two weeks. They came a couple of weeks later and laid a temporary line. At least we had a land line. I know we are dinosaurs with that, but our cell phones don’t always work well in our house so I like to have the back up.

When the guy came and laid the temporary line all the way around our house on top of the grass I asked him to put on our work order that I want to be home when the guys come to bury the new line. We have two conduits that run under our brick walkway so that wires can easily be run and I wanted to show the contractors where they were.

Two or three weeks went by and no one called. The 811 service that marks all the underground utilities had not come out and spray painted our yard with lots of bright colors so I was not expecting the Frontier people any time soon.

I came home today to find a truck parked in the middle of my drive way and two men with the big line digger just finishing up laying a new line right down the middle of my driveway, not where my old line was on the other side of my house.

I got out of my car and asked why they hadn’t called me or called the utility marking service. They acted like that was news to them. I had them show me where they ran the line since they knew nothing of the conduits. They had run the new line right over my gas line and just left it on top of the brick behind my grill.

That is when I noticed a gas smell. “Do you smell gas?” I asked the guy. He said “yes.” Great!!!!

I called the gas company and while I was doing that the Frontier Contractors left my property without leaving me any paperwork and they didn’t have any name on the side of their plain white truck.

The gas guy got to my house fairly quickly and found a nicked gas line that created bubbles the second he sprayed detergent on it. He was able to unhook the line and turn off my gas. It will be a day or two before he can fix it.

What the hell. What if I had not come home and seen the phone guys putting in the new line. I probably would not have gone out back of my house and smelled the gas and not known of the leak. Who knows what could have happened.

Calling Frontier to let them know of this has been a frustrating scenario. Five phone calls to different departments and transfers. There is a reason to have underground utilities marked before you dig!

My advice is tell all repair people that you giant dogs lose on your property and that they have to call you before they come and do any work. Don’t let anyone dig one shovel worth unless they have called 811 and had your property marked where not to dig. And if you think you smell gas call the gas company immediately. Trust your nose.

Why Is No One Talking About the Stock Market?

While the market was going up, up, up 45 was saying he was making everyone rich. For the record, he was not doing it and the only people benefiting were the people who had stock in the first place.

As of today, the October surprise has wiped out all the gains of the past year. Well since 45 liked to take credit for it going up let’s hold him accountable for it going down! Those tax cuts only helped big corporations for one year. After that they have to improve their bottom line all on their own. But the tariffs will hurt much more than one year.

The deficit is at an all time high! And they used to blame the deficit on Democrats spending money to help underprivileged. This deficit has been increased by helping the rich and corporations with tax cuts.

So for all you people who were putting up with Trump because it was good for your personal bottom line, how do you feel today? Your gains have been wiped out, we take children from their parents and detain them, we have a self proclaimed “nationalist” president who says that neo-Nazi “are good people too,” and a president who proudly lies multiple times a day.

Wake up and look at your 401k and then decide when enough is enough. You thought 45 would be better for you financially? Why would you trust someone who has declared bankruptcy to manage your money? The guy does not know what he is doing.

Ignorance of the Law is No Defense

Unless you are a legal scholar there is hardly a way you can know all the laws in every municipality you live in or visit. Despite that not knowing something is illegal does not get you free the hook. Some laws are easy, like the speed limit which should be posted every so often. But what about more obscure laws?

Since it is voting time there is a law that you should be aware of. In North Carolina it is illegal to post a photo of your ballot. It probably is also illegal in many other states.

Yes, those of us who are passionate about voting this year may want to share the fact you are making your voice heard. You can do that, just not with a selfie of you and your ballot, or just of your ballot without your face in it.

Wonder why? Well, taking a photo of your ballot may be used as proof of who you voted for if someone is paying you to vote for a certain candidate.

So you have been warned. Don’t take a photo of your ballot. You can take one of yourself wearing your “I voted” sticker. Encouraging people to go out and vote is the right thing to do.

Feeding the Five Thousands

Last night I was paying a bill and I got to feeling guilty about my lack of contribution to the bill paying account. Not that my husband ever says I should get back to work, but sometimes I feel like I should. Then I wonder who will be home when the painters come and who will yell at the roofers and who will water the new grass for just enough to get it wet and not wash it away.

So in my night time guilt I decided that maybe I should cook something for my friends for their dinners. I sent an email out to my regular gang that I was going to be making steak, sausage and black bean chili. A few people responded last night, but my message went out so late I did not get many takers.

With only a few quarts claimed I went ahead to Costco and bought enough meat to make 28 quarts of chili. I knew it was over kill, but I also knew it was really good chili. My wonderful neighbors who lent us electricity during our four days of power outage deserved a couple of quarts.

I grilled up the steak and ended up with two giant pots of chili. I sent a photo out to my friend list and got requests for most of the chili, but I still have about eight quarts left. If you are local and want to purchase some send me a private message. It freezes great and there is nothing better than wondering what’s for dinner and realizing you have a home cooked meal waiting for you in the freezer.

I am using some of it for my Mah Jongg lunch on Wednesday in taco salads. No one I know wants to eat a fried taco shell, but I will go to the fresh tortilla store and get some homemade corn tortillas to cook up to crumble on top of the salad with the chili. Fall is here, so it’s time for chili!

Souls to the Poles

Early voting started in North Carolina. Russ and I have never missed a chance to vote, but ever if there was a year to vote, this is it. Here in the great North State we have six amendments that need to be defeated. Our legislature, in a unprecedented power grab, are trying to pull the wool over voters eyes. I am praying that enough smart, well informed voters come out and vote.

We don’t have a lot of major offices up for grabs here, but it is still important to make your voice heard with the best power we have in a democracy, your vote.

Russ and I left church and went right downtown to the board of elections offices to vote. They have free parking. They even have curbside voting for people who can’t easily walk in the building. The place was full of voters, but the line was not long when we got there and it all moved quickly. I was happy to see the line getting longer when we walked out.

Don’t wait for Election Day. You might be sick. Make sure to have your say in how we are governed. Good governance does not happen on its own. It takes honest people and honesty and politics don’t always go together, as you might have noticed.

German Apple Cake

Russ rarely asks me to make him anything sweet. He much prefers nachos to cookies. But I can tell that fall has actually arrived because this morning Russ requested I make him an apple cake. Actually he said he was going to look for an apple cake at the farmers market because I was going to spend the morning giving a talk to the Board of Male Contraceptive Initiative.

I felt a little guilty about the idea of him buying a cake so I told him if he could wait to eat it for dinner I would make him one when I was done.

This apple cake is like a German Apple cake and thus the genetic desire Russ has to eat it. It gets better as it ages because the apples make it mor pudding like free a day or two.

Four large apples peeled and diced

1 1/2 T. cinnamon

1/4 cup of sugar

3 c. Flour

1 T. Baking powder

1 t. Salt

4 jumbo eggs

1 c. Oil, canola or vegetable

2 c. Sugar

2 T. Vanilla

1/4 c. Apple cider

Preheat the oven to 350°

Mix the diced apples, cinnamon and 1/4 c. Of sugar together in a bowl and set aside.

Put the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl mix the rest of the ingredients. Once we’ll mixed add the wet to the dry and mix.

Prepare a tube pan by grazing it and lightly dusting it with flour.

Pour half the batter in the pan. Cover with half the apples. Repeat, ending with apples on top.

Place in the center of the hot oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Take the cake out of the oven and let cool on a rack for ten minutes. Using a very thin flexible knife, like a fish boning knife, run the blade between the cake and the pan on both the outside circle and the center tube.

At exactly ten minutes out of the oven put a cake plate on top of the pan and invert the cake. As long as you prepare the pan well it should come out cleanly.


Dust Hunter

My trusted painters came back today to finish painting the ceilings that got destroyed during the hurricane. They had to replace the wall board in the upstairs hall ceiling, mud, sand, prime, re-sand and paint the. They had to repair and and sand two bathrooms, the kitchen and the downstairs hall ceilings, prime, re-sand and paint. And they had to repaint two walls.

My painters do a most excellent job, and I am happy to have my house looking like humans live here. But besides the smell there is one thing about this whole operation that most annoys me, the dust.

Great painters do a lot of sanding. First, they sand old paint that might not be adhering well. They repair with mud and that requires sanding. They prime and after it is dry they sand again. Finally they paint, no more sanding.

My most excellent painters also sweep up, but all the sweeping in the world does not get all the dust up. That is my job. So after a rousing duplicate bridge day I came home to do dust abatement. I vacuumed, and dusted and washed and dusted again. And still I look around and find more surfaces for that fine painter’s dust to hide. Even though I vacuumed and mopped all the floors, when I walked barefoot I could still feel the dust.

I figure it will take me three or four cycles of deep cleaning to get to the place that I feel dust free. But then again are you ever dust free? While the power was out Russ took to wearing a most powerful headlamp, one that I am sure was designed for miners. He noticed how much dust was just naturally floating in the air, and no painters were in sight.

Now I am no germaphob, I believe that a little dirt helps build immunities. I don’t mind that naturally occurring dust that floats around, but I just don’t want my floors to feel gritty, even if it is the finest of grit.

So if you see me wearing my lambswool duster holster style, you will understand that I am on a mission to drive dust out of my house like a sheriff riding the saloon of the drunk cowboys. I don’t consider my hurricane repairs done until the last spec of dust is outside. Until then just call me “the dust hunter.”


Today fall has finally arrived in Durham. I am happy to not be wearing my summer clothes half way through October.

With fall’s debut some major projects also got underway at our house. The grass and shrubs my father planted are thriving. With the giant rain storm of hurricane Micheal some of the grass seed washed away, but I reseeded yesterday in the hope of filling in the muddy areas. At least with all this rain I have not had to water much so my water bill will be happy. It is beginning to look so much better than the scorched earth and vine covered area I had from taking down the five trees and numerous bushes earlier in the summer. After two back to back hurricanes I am very thankful I took those trees down proactively. One neighbor down the street had a huge oak fall on their roof and crush the ridge of their roof. Poor people.

My trusty painters also showed up this morning to fix the ceilings that were destroyed in hurricane Florence and my roofing disaster. They had come and ripped a ceiling out a few weeks ago so that the joists could dry and no mold would grow. The joists dried in about three days then I just had a big hole open to the attic. I had Russ put a comforter over the hole so that all our air conditioning did not just go up in the attic.

Today was the “putting a new hall ceiling in” and scraping and patching all the other ceilings that had to be redone. Of course I had just cleaned all the rooms they worked in. Now everything is covered in a fine dust from sanding the ceilings. This is not a big trauma to put up with. Tomorrow morning they will come back and paint. I can hardly wait to have my nice clean white ceilings back.

I feel like two major house projects are well on their way. As I have been waiting for these to get done I am noticing other areas I want to work on. Now to find the money to do them. They might have to wait until a few more tuition payments are made.

James Taylor Million Meal Challenge

James Taylor grew up in Chapel Hill, his family is from New Bern, NC. New Bern has been really hard hit by Hurricane Florence. James came to the Food Bank to see how he could help apeople in need. We know from past storms that it takes years to recover from these kinds of events. For major storms we find that people who need help with food directly after a storm often are still needing help two years later. Sadly storms hurt those who have the least the most since they often don’t have the right kind, if any insurance.

James Taylor, his wife Kim and some friends are matching dollar for dollar everything thing we can raise until we get to a million meals. If you give through this campaign your donation will be matched.

If you have Carolina on your mind, please join me in donating to this campaign before October 31.

James Taylor Million Meal Challenge

Click on this link to see the video James made for this gift. What a generous North Carolinian he is.

Doing My Bit

Earlier in the year the Sandhill Branch of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC asked me to help them with their Chef’s Feast fundraiser. Of course I was happy to help. So we had many conference calls and email exchanges and I gave them my opinion all along the way. Opinions are something I am ever short on.

After doing these event kind of fundraisers for 20 or so years I have a good understanding of what works and what doesn’t. I used to be more forceful about giving advice, but recently I have lightened up in my adamance. Now I try and say, “In my experience…” and if my advice is followed, great, if not so be it.

On live auction items I am a fairly good judge about how much something will sell for, but I love being proven wrong when something goes for so much more than anticipated. Tonight we had an item I knew would sell well because it was an experience that you could not buy. It was a 90 second supermarket sweep in a Food Lion Store. You get one cart and can take anything you can put in the cart or on your person in 90 seconds, just no alcohol, tobacco or drugs. The really cool thing is Food Lion will also ring up all the items the winner sweeps and match the dollar amount and give that to the Food Bank.

Thanks to Food Lion for always being a great sponsor. Your auction item is my favorite. I was happy to help the Sandhills raise these funds. I always wish we could get more. The chef’s who made food for guests got a standing ovation and that always is a nice thing. I am certain people had a good meal and went always with a little better understanding of the work of the Food Bank.

No Power Parental Refuges

Friday when my power had been out about 18 hours I got a call from my Dad who was up at the farm.

“Do you have power?” He asked.

“No, do you?” I responded

“No, but it’s Ok your Mom is at the beach.”

Well, OK is only OK for a little while. It was not a great thing for my 80 year old father to be alone on a thousand acres, with no power, which meant no water and no computer to keep him entertained. I told him to come to my house where at least we have water. He said no, he had lots of trees to clean up.

Well yesterday my mother returned from the beach. My father had already cleaned out all his many refrigerators so that my mother could not argue about “how” spoiled things were and perhaps it wouldn’t kill them to eat that seven year old frozen fish.

When we got our power yesterday I called my parents and told them to come here. They waited until today to do it. As I was getting ready to cook dinner they got a call from the automated Duke Power system saying their power was on. Alleluia. They were here for the night and I was making dinner, but this meant my mother could go back for her Wednesday Bridge game.

While we were eating dinner both my parents phones got calls from the relative grape vine that in fact their power was not on. So Russ got on the Duke website and sure enough it shows not on. My mother yells at my father to call Duke , my father yells at my mother that he will do it. I get yelled at. I yell back, stop yelling at me. Life with two deaf 80 year old who might be slightly dehydrated. Please lord get the power back on.

The Power Is Back on Cauliflower Soup

Duke Power’s website showed we were not supposed to get the power back on until midnight Monday night. We have been surviving fine, but I felt like I needed to clean the house because despite not being able to see the dirt I could feel it. So the plan today was to go shower at Lynn’s first thing this morning, go be the lector at church and then come home and sweep and mop.

After parking the car in the driveway after church I thought I would check my email while I still had power to my phone. As I looked at my phone I was surprised that I three bars. Then an even better surprise, I had WiFi. THE POWER WAS ON!

What a wonderful surprise and a blessing. So no sweeping, but instead vacuuming. I quickly ran the battery down on the vacuum, but I mopped and did five loads of laundry.

Now that we had power I decided to cook. I was craving some soup so I made a cream of cauliflower inspired by a vegan recipe I read yesterday. I didn’t make it vegan, just added cashews for some depth of flavor.

1 sweet onion chopped

1 T. Olive oil

1 head of cauliflower

1/2 t. Thyme

2 cups of half and half

1/4 cup of cashews

Put the oil and onions in a soup pot and cook on medium high for five minutes. Add the cauliflower broken into florets and a big pinch of salt. Stir it around to coat the cauliflower with the oil. Add 1/3 of a cup of water and cover and steam for seven minutes. Add the half and half and another 1/2 cup of water and the thyme and some more salt and fresh ground pepper. Cover and simmer for 15 more minutes.

While cooking toast the cashews in a small fry pan of medium heat. Add them to the pot after the 15 minutes is up. Using a stick blender purée everything. Taste for seasoning.

See I needed the electricity so I could blend the soup!

I hope you have your power back on.

Wedding Nightmares

My friend Christina and her husband Francois own an Inn where her husband sometimes would let people have their weddings. He did all the work for setting those events up and took care of all the inevitable last minute details. Sadly, Francois passed away earlier this year, leaving Christina with the Inn to run alone. She switched from a B&B to and Air B&B, which saved her from having to cook for and serve guests alone.

But there was one event Francois had booked a year ago, a wedding this weekend. Christina liked the young couple so she kept the commitment. About a months ago, with this wedding looming she asked me if I could come out and help her with it given my wedding catering experience. I was happy to help. We were not going to be the caterers, but there is always a lot of last minute things to be handled at a wedding venue and without Francois to be the tough one Christina needed me to come and run interference or play bad cop as needed.

Well, lots was needed. First hurricane Micheal came through and blew down a huge tree right in front of the front door of the Inn. Then, like everyone in the area the Inn lost its power. So did the caterers, who said they could not make food.

Well, things got worked out. The caterers called another restaurant and had them make the food. Christina had a portable generator that was able to power enough of the Inn so the bridal party could stay in the rooms. The fallen tree was not in the way of the ceremony site or the tent so it just acted like a fence. Seemed like things were on track. Something always goes wrong at a wedding and if this was it, great.

This afternoon I drove out to Christina’s. I met the groom and groomsmen, all whose bow ties I had to tie. It was a little less than two hours before the wedding was to start and I was a little concerned the caterers were not there yet and neither was the band.

A woman from a local Inn when the band was going to be staying was wondering where the band was too. Apparently they were supposed to have gotten to the Inn, unloaded their equipment, set up and done sound check all before 3:00, when they would go back to the Inn with her and change for the wedding.

About 3:45 the band of about seven middle to old guys pulled up in their white van with a trailer of equipment. They asked where they were supposed to set up and the tent across the field was pointed out to them. One big issue, the hurricane had made things so wet that they could not use the van to pull the trailer across the field for fear of it sinking in the ground.

Christina, her friend Deb and I all volunteered to help the seven men move the equipment on dollies to the tent. They would have none of that. Then we asked one of Christina’s friends, who was at the Inn helping if he could use his truck to pull the van. The band made no attempt to help of even try to figure out how to do the job. It was apparent they would have liked to turn around and go home to South Carolina where they had come from.

The first truck did not have the right hitch, which was discovered forty-five minutes after trying to make it work. Another workman who had shown up to get the power back on tried his truck and that successfully pulled the musical equipment to the tent.

They got it unloaded just as the guests were arriving for the wedding. So the set up happened, but no sound check. Then they discovered the generator they had for the tent was not starting. Thankfully the friend came back and fixed that. Just then the power to the Inn was restored and it blew the septic tank up a little so stuff was gushing out of the ground for a few minutes. Thankfully no guests seemed to notice.

The food arrived via Honda Accord and the caterers carried the platters across the field, just behind the guests sitting waiting for the wedding to start. The ceremony took place and the bride and groom were beautiful and happy.

As the couple were getting their pictures taken and the guests were enjoying drinks and some nibbles, the seven members of the band came to us to ask where they could change their clothes. Christina showed them to the out door shower room and they balked at this. They had clothes they wanted to iron and rooms to change in.

I was about to say that if they had arrived on time they would have had a chance to change at the Inn they were staying at which was the plan, but I held back since I felt they were already inclined to walk away from this job. The head band guy then said he was going to ask the bride. Thankfully a bossy caterer put a stop to him bothering the bride with this ridiculous question and showed them to the port-a-potty tent where they changed.

When you are a wedding band you better be prepared to do some heavy lifting and bring your clothes already ironed and show up on time. These guys were not that band.

Christina got a good laugh out of the whole thing since she swears this is the last wedding she is ever having at the Inn. I was glad to be there to add some comic relief. My help was certainly not invaluable but I was able to teach the car parking people the right way to have the cars park after they had already parked three in the wrong direction.

I also ran interference when a couple pulled in in their big ass Mercedes SUV. It was a woman with way too much plastic surgery who said they were on a way to the foot ball game and she had a blog and want to take a few pictures of the Inn for her blog. As I was about to object her husband said, “She has 10,000 readers.” As if that meant they should get in the way of someone else’s wedding. I gave them ten minutes on one side of the house and it was apparent that they were using the Inn as the back drop for her personal photo shoot.

Later Christina and her friend Deb and I looked at the woman’s blog and got a big kick out of how lame it was. I will be looking for her shots of the Inn and see if she gives it any publicity after insisting on barging in.

So after what seemed like dozens of things going wrong it appeared the the very chill bride and groom had a good time. I don’t know how the band turned out because I was too exhausted to stay late into the party. This one last one Francois set up was one where he could have been used the most. I don’t think we will ever not miss Francois.

24 Hours Still No Power

When I heard the big pop behind our house yesterday and the house went dark my first thought was, “Oh shit, I need a shower.” Russ was at the office, where I told him to stay as I watched the trees bend at 45 degree angles one way and back another 45 the next. The last thing I wanted him doing was driving the convertible Smart car home in this storm. He rarely listens to me in these situations so thankfully he was very busy at work and didn’t have a chance to defy me.

I got out the large supply of flashlights and back up chargers and hung out in the relative darkness hoping the power would come back on. The storm passed through North Carolina fast, but not without dumping a huge amount of water and bringing these crazy winds. Micheal was everything Florence was not for us.

I got a very fitful sleep because I had an early morning commitment this morning. I was a member of a three person panel on how to run a good board meeting for a National Association of Corporate Director’s meeting. It started at 7:30 this morning and I was not feeling good about not having had a shower. I also had to change the outfit I had planned on wear since it needed to be ironed. Nothing like having to sit in an auditorium under the lights for half a day in front of a bunch of people you don’t know. Thankfully I kept them either engaged or laughing so no one thought, “Who the hell is this homeless person.”

After lunch at the meeting I went to a church friend’s office for a meeting and then wound my way home, praying that the power would be back on. No luck. Thankfully I had a way other than the garage door opener to get in the house. I had to make sure to bring my trusty flashlight in from using it to get out to the car in the dark this morning. As I approached the door I heard that horrible sound our alarm system makes when the back up battery has gone dead. It is a piercing noise that can’t be stopped until you unplug the battery. It took me a while to figure out how to find it and do it, but eventually I did it.

It is not too hot, nor too cold so living in the house without power is not uncomfortable, not having power to the two refrigerators is a pain. As I was contemplating what to do I noticed my next door neighbor had power. Yes, people around me have power, but we are a small pocket of few houses that don’t.

I called my neighbor and asked if we could “borrow” one extension cords worth of electricity until our power comes back on. Thank goodness for the kindness of the Martindale’s. Now my food is cooling again. I am going to wait until tomorrow before I open the door to the refrigerator and throw away what went bad. The freezers were still solid thanks to the large frozen blocks.

My Dad called me to see if we had power. At the farm they lost their power and he said he has never seen so much water there in his life. The whole soccer field my dad built a few years back was under water. I am more worried about my parents not having power since they have a well and they are old. Don’t tell them I said they are old.

So no internet, no TV, no sewing or cleaning. It’s like the olden days around here. We will go to bed when it gets dark and I will use one of the many flash lights to find my way around. Let’s pray I have a different story to tell tomorrow.

The Hurricane I Didn’t Expect

A couple of weeks ago we started getting the news about hurricane Florence coming to North Carolina. We had a week of news before hand. Everyone prepped. All the flash lights were brought out. Bags of ice were made and stored in the freezer to help keep food cold. Anything that might become a flying object was brought inside. Cars were gassed and cash was gathered.

Then Florence came, and stayed and stayed and stayed. Rain fell, but Durham was spared. Other parts of North Carolina were not so lucky. Lots of flooding happened. People will be out of their houses for a very long time. But we were fine.

Then this hurricane Michael popped up practically overnight. The pan handle of Florida was devastated from what I could tell on the news this morning. I didn’t think much more about it for us. I went to play bridge today. I could see the water pouring out the sky from the windows in the Bridge Academy, but I was more worried about making my bid.

I came home while it was still light out and it was still raining. Shay was glad to see me. I was on my bed reading my email and I thought the trees were bending over much more than in normal rain storms. Then I heard a big pop. My power went out. From what I can tell it is not out all over, my neighbors on two sides have power.

This was not the storm I was prepared for. I have very poor connectivity so I can’t look at radar. I have a very early morning tomorrow where I am supposed to be on a panel about non-profit board governance until lunch. I am praying the power comes back on because I really could use a shower and a working hair dryer. I also need to iron my outfit.

I guess I should have paid closer attention to the news and less attention to bridge.

Straw Improvement

I have always liked to drink from a straw. See, for a child of the sixties a straw meant that I was eating at a restaurant because the wasn’t such a thing as at-home straws. And eating at a restaurant was a very special occasion. Since I grew up in a “dry” town we didn’t have any real restaurants, just Orem’s Diner and a Friendly’s, neither of which we visited regularly, or in the case of Orem’s, ever. So a straw was a big deal, especially if it was a bendy straw.

As I got older straws became more common place. The invention of drive-thrus and car cup holders meant we had drinks with straws in them almost all the time, except not that much at home. Then I discovered that they sold bendy straws at the dollar store. My childhood dream fulfilled.

In the very recent past I learned that plastic disposable straws are environmental no-no’s because they end up in the ocean which eventually means they end up in fish, which means they eventually end up in us. So away with all plastic straws.

Yeah, it’s not so good for the skin around your lips to drink from straws, but what about in the car? Have you ever tied to drink from a glass while driving? You might break a tooth, or rear ended someone because your sightline is blocked.

Enter the reusable metal straw. It is a stainless steel tube with the perfect bend, you just can’t make that little sound of the lengthening and shortening a plastic bendy straw. The metal ones come with a little straw cleaning brush so you don’t have to worry if anything is growing inside your straw.

I bought a package of four straws and one cleaner from Groupon. I am just trying to do my part for the fish. Well, the best thing about these metal straws is they get cold sitting in your iced drink and as you sip from them the liquid traveling up the cold metal straw gets colder and is therefore much more refreshing! Ta-da, who would of thought?

So an environmental win that is an improvement. Now I like straws even better than when I was a kid and it doesn’t even involve going to a restaurant.

Vegetables Now Versus Vegetables Then

Russ texted me to see if I wanted to go out to dinner with one of his teammates. Since I had not actually cooked anything for dinner I said sure. Then Russ texted back that the teammate had too much work to get ready for a meeting tomorrow. “If you want to go out we can.” He texted back, thinking he had already gotten my hopes up.

I had a dinner out in Raleigh last night and was in no need to go out. “No, just come home, I am sure I can find something for us to eat.”

I pulled two frozen pieces of salmon out of the freezer that I packaged in individual portions because they thaw quickly. When Russ got home I gave him the news that I was going to cook the fish, but that was all I was going to cook fresh.

“No problem, I pull the containers out to see what we have.”

In the blink of an eye he had six different vegetable containers out on the counter. Amazingly there was no cross over of vegetables in any of them. I wondered why I bothered to make salmon.

I grew up in the 1960’s where every dinner had to contain one protein, one starch and one green vegetable. The idea of eating lots of colors had not entered the thinking. My mother was very strict about what qualified as a starch. Of course the easy ones were rice, potatoes and pasta, but corn and perhaps even carrots might get thrown in the starch category. Yeah, I agree corn is a starch, but not carrots. It was just because if she were going to let carrots qualify as the vegetable we might go a meal with no green. This was totally unacceptable.

The only caveat to the rule was spaghetti night. We ate a lot of hamburger in my childhood house. If it wasn’t an actual burger, it might be stuffed in a green pepper or made into spaghetti sauce. It would have made sense to have a green salad with spaghetti night, but salad was not a big thing in my childhood home. Perhaps because it had to be fresh and most of our vegetables were frozen.

I can only imagine what my sisters and I would have thought if my mother pulled all these vegetables out of the fridge. First of all there is only one green one amongst them and secondly we might have thought she was going to try and convince us that many of them qualified as a starch since they were not green.

Thank goodness I don’t have such strict dinner rules. I would go crazy trying to comply to the three item rule, but Russ wold be happy to have rice every night.

Where Did This Work Come From?

Perhaps it’s the never ending summer we have had, but I have been on an extended hiatus from any real work. For the last, say 20 years I have taken “summer off” from regular life. Now one might say my regular life is already “off,” but even for a person without full time employment I do even less in summer.

But just like kids going back to school, when the autumn comes I usually get more productive. No autumn and laziness sticks around. So it came as quite a shock to my system this week that suddenly I had tons of “work” to do and days that are full of obligations.

I spent the morning creating power points, and survey monkeys. Tonight I had a planning meeting in Raleigh for a panel I am going to be on Friday on Non-profit board management. Suddenly, I have real work to prepare for. I may even have to put on grown up shoes.

Meetings are scheduled, budgets need to get done, proposals need to be written. I had an organization send me an RFP for some top secret work. What do they thing I am, a working person?

I may be tired of the hot and humid weather, but I am not ready to give up my summer fun, non-guilt life of leisure. It seems like enough work for me to water the new shrubs and grass. I go out and look at the brown earth at least three times a day to make sure that everything is still moist. That is about all I really want to do. I may be retired but my retirement is exhausting.

Grandparent Technology

After the downer of the week politically we needed a night just to yucking it up so we had our old friends the Blanks over for dinner. We have been friends for for over 21 years so we have lots of background to laugh about.

We all had seen the story about it being the anniversary of a carbon paper on CBS Sunday Morning this morning, which got us talking about typing. All four of us had learned to type in either junior or senior high school and agreed it was probably the best thing we learned.

We juxtaposed it to our father’s who never learned to type until very late in life when they got computers.

Neither of my parents learned to type as young people and my Dad always had a secretary, even for years after he had retired, but now he is a fairly good typist. My mother is another story. She uses a computer, but does not capitalize or use punctuation, except she does use a comma acting as an apostrophe. I have read her emails out loud to her to show her how hard they are to understand without punctuation, but it doesn’t have any effect on her writing.

My friend Lane thought it was amazing my mom can e-mail, her mother doesn’t even do that, nor text. “But my Mom does have an Instagram account,” Lane said. I was amazed. I kind of think of emailing as required and Instagram as extra credit.

Lane went on to describe how she found out her Mom was Instagramming. “One day I got a suggestion I should follow Judyandrufus, (Rufus being her Mom’s dog). So I did.”

Lane pulled up her Mom’s Instagram account and showed me her screen without saying a word. There was a photo of what I presumed was her desk or counter with just a tiny bit of cord showing in the corner. I practically wet my pants I was laughing so hard.

“That’s not the first photo she posted, but the third. Sadly the first two are gone. The first one was also a photo of her desk with a bug on it. The second was just the desktop.”

Lane texted her daughter Isabel to ask her if she had a screen shot of the big picture. “It was a classic,” Isabel wrote back, but sadly she no longer had the screen shot.

I guess I need to be really proud of my parents for the skills they have. My mother posts real pictures she means to post, granted, sometimes they are sideways, but at least she knew she was posting them.

I started following JudyandRufus because I am certain I am going to need a good laugh in the future and the second I see that desk top I am going to get it.

Everyone Lost

At 4:07 our phones started blowing up. The vote was done. The long and bitter battle over Kavanaugh was done. The conservatives may think they have won this one, but the damage to the country is much deeper than one man on the Supreme Court. The mocking, the partisanship, the gamesmanship just to win, the drawing of a strong line down the middle of the county, pitting good people against each other, making enemies of fellow countrymen. No one won this one.

Just a moment later Russ’ phone rang and it was Carter sobbing. I feel incredibly guilty for how my generation has gotten us to where we are now. It didn’t happen over night. I am not sure how we come together as a union and people who all love America.

I do know that how things have been going so far is making us worse and not better. We do not try and lift each other up. We do not work for the collective good. We are letting singular issues rule, like a right for woman to make choices about their own bodies or gun rights, driving all other important issues to the side.

We need people who can look at the big picture and work to make America better for all, not just their “side.” I don’t know that Kavanaugh will ever be respected on the court by many in this country. We don’t need to repeat what his nomination did to us as a country again.

Many will feel euphoric over Kavanaugh’s seat, but what they can’t see yet is the damage this battle did. In my opinion everyone lost.

A Star is Born

My Dad and Bill finished my yard today. It was a Herculean effort by my 80 year old dad. I am forever in his debt. I will post photos of it when the grass comes in, but suffice it to say I am thrilled with it. I skipped bridge so that I could be here to take Dad and Bill to lunch and thank them properly. Thankfully they finished without having to be out in this crazy October heat all day for a third day.

Because my yard was done I was able to go to the movies late this afternoon. A group of six of mostly empty nest mothers gathered at the Windsong to see the remake of A Star Is Born. We all are old enough to remember the Kris Kristofferson/Barbra Streisand version and were greatly anticipating this one. The word was that Bradley Cooper had rewritten the story and done all new music with Lady Gaga and that it is his directorial debut.

Us six friends sat through at least eight previews all, except for one, for movies we agreed we wanted to see. That usually doesn’t happen for me. I am lucky if I like a third of the previews. Perhaps we are getting better than usual movies this year.

Back to A Star Is Born… Bradley Cooper was to die for. He was perfect for the role and directed himself beautifully. I think he was an improvement on Kris Kristofferson. Lady Gaga was good, but honestly not as good as Barbra. It takes guts to go up against Barbra.

The music was OK to me. It told the story, but I did not go away humming any one of the songs. I don’t feel like the one Lady Gaga wrote for the movie were as good as her early stuff.

The supporting cast was great. The big surprise to most of my group was when they ran the credits Andrew Dice Clay’s name came up and only then did we realize that was who was playing Gaga’s father.

All in all it was a great escape. Our group decided that Friday afternoon movies is something we need to continue and welcome others to join us. One bonus for our friend Anne was that she discovered that her husband had made dinner when she got home.

Now I want to watch the Judy Garland version and the Barbra one and compare them all!

Bright Outshines

Between things going on in Washington and the slap in the face from Durham Roofing/Budd Piper roofing charging me for four visits to fix one hole I needed some good news to change my mood. Luckily three things happened today that did that.

First, my Dad and Bill came back and spent all day planting the 21 shrubs. It sounds easier than it was. I have lots of roots and vines in the area of my yard we are redoing. It takes a huge amount of work to rid my yard of them. It took so long they were unable to plant the grass so they will come back again tomorrow to finish the job my Dad volunteered to do. He has no idea how much I appreciate this.

Second, I got to celebrate my friend KT’s birthday with a Thai Cafe lunch today. You know you are gabbing so much that you don’t notice when you are the only people left in the restaurant and they are turning the lights off. I always say this when I have lunch with KT, “We hardly covered half of what we need to discuss.”

Third, I opened a big envelope from the National Mah Jongg League. I was thinking it was awfully early to start getting my Mah Jongg friends to order their new cards for next year since they don’t come until the end of March. Then I found the check for The Food Bank of CENC that I “earned” by doing a big group order. This is one thing I appreciate about the NMJL.

It is a small donation, but every dollar makes a difference, especially this year with so many people affected by hurricane Florence.

If you play Mah Jongg and want to order next year’s card through me you can be assured that $2.00 from your order will go the the Food Bank. If you just order it yourself the NMJL keeps the money for themselves.

Thank goodness for the bright spots in the day.

Presidential Alert

This morning at my Mah Jongg group we got to talking about the President’s embarrassing mocking of Dr. Ford at his rally yesterday. We are a cordial group of Independents, Republicans and Democrats, but I don’t think any of us are a Fox News watchers so we are usually working off fairly balanced news. Despite our parties we seem to agree when 45 is acting badly.

The subject changed to the FEMA emergency warning test that was going to happen at 2:18 with a message from the president. I joked that even though it was a FEMA test, Trump might want only his base to get the message. To hell for anyone who does not like him.

2:18 came and went at my house. No message on my cell phone, IPad, Apple Watch or regular phone. About five minutes later I got a group text from a Mah Jongg friend who is not a Republican saying that she was waiting for carpool pickup at 2:18 and a number of people around her got the warning, but she did not.

We joked that maybe my prediction was true. Then a republican friend in the group piped in that she had gotten the text. The first friend who did not get the text, then replied that her husband got it. Guess what, he is a republican.

Another Mah Jongg friend, whose left Our game to go to a bridge game, said she got the alert on her phone and her watch but so did only about 2/3rds of the other people in the room.

There is my very unscientific results of the FEMA warning system. It sounds like it might be something like the rapture. If you are a Republican you will be saved, the rest of us are damned. I am certain this is something a good number of Trump supporters already believe.

My Dad Made Russ’ Birthday Better

Since today is Russ’ birthday I kept my calendar completely open so I could be available for anything he had time to do. Then one of his new clients needed their orientation to the Russ’ Agile Marketing program so his day was consumed by important work. I thought I was going to have a free day.

Then my father called. He and his best farm worker Bill were going to come down and work on prepping my scorched earth area of my yard for planting. Last week my Dad had one of his smaller tractors and many large implements trailered to my house so they could have them here when they had time.

My Dad volunteering to do this huge job was a godsend. The part of my yard that has to be replanted had, for the last 22 years, been full of vines and volunteer shrubs so prepping the soil meant tearing up vines and roots that had made practically permanent homes in my yard. It was not something Russ and I could do and paying someone else to do it would cost half a year’s tuition.

Bill and my Dad showed up with another big trailer with the four wheeler, fertilizer, grass seed and many more tools. They wasted no time cutting low branches on trees that were in the way of driving the tractor around. Then Bill started “raking” the earth with a big rake on the back of the tractor. My father supervised the whole effort from a bench in my yard. Bill ripped out vines and roots, for up old stumps, destroyed a sand box Russ had built with pressure treated lumber when Carter was two and moved all the mess to a compost pile in my back woods. Then he roto-tilled the whole thing. A tractor roto-tilling takes minutes compared to the hours it takes Russ with our little machine.

Lynn came by to see my Dad and thought that she wanted to drive the four wheeler around. We decided she was still a little too weak to do that and not possibly crash into something. it was just nice for Lynn to come see my Dad to break up the monotony of supervising.

After a good six hours work the soil looks great. Tomorrow twenty-one bushes Russ and I bought on Saturday will be delivered. Thursday Bill and my Dad are coming back to plant them. Thank goodness they have a giant auger to dig the holes.

They were just finishing up for the day when Russ came home. Happy Birthday! My Dad has just given him the best present ever. I am so thankful for his help, generosity and hard work. I am especially thankful for Bill.

I used to wonder why my Dad had so many tractors. Now I am just glad he brought one to my house for a little while. Thanks Dad. And happy birthday Russ!

Honor Tattoos

I get some of the craziest emails. I am sure you do too. Things for men’s Sherpa lined hoodies, or senior portraits. At first I was t sure if they were talking about getting a portrait of myself since I am on the back side on the way to being a senior citizen, but upon closer examination I saw if was for a “high school senior” portrait. I guess that if you ever had a senior they didn’t want to miss that might have another. I don’t. And as for that Sherpa thing, my husband is too hot blooded for anything fur lined.

One of my favorite emails today was from Pinterest. I am a big Pinterest time waster. I can look at quilting posts all day long. If today’s email was about quilts I might understand it, but it wasn’t. It was “14 Tattoo ideas for parents wanting to honor their kids.”

Two things Pinterest got wrong with me; Tattoos and my “Honoring” my kid. I am certain I never searched on anything about tattoos on Pinterest or anywhere. I don’t want a tattoo and never would think about getting a tattoo.

Now for the “Honoring” my child. I love my child, I adore my child and I even like my child. I don’t need to tattoo anything on my body to honor her. I gave birth to her, raised her, and pay for her school, that is how I honor her. And when did we start honoring children? I thought it was honor your mother and father?

My child is alive. I don’t need to scar my body to honor her. I have a friend who sadly lost her child much to early. I think she has a little butterfly to remember her child. That is different.

When tattoos used to be things that sailors got they often got home that said “ Mom” to honor their mother. I know people who do things to honor their grandparents who are gone, but honoring your children, well, I feel like everything we do to raise our children honors them.

Carter knows I love her, but I don’t think she expects me to get a tattoo that says her name. It just isn’t going to happen.

Lord knows what weird things are going to be in my e-mail tomorrow.