The Nerve

I went to the grocery this morning to buy non ultra pasteurized heavy cream to try and make clotted cream for my needlepoint Christmas next week. It takes three days to make and I think I have already failed at it, but that is not the point of this story.

I was parked fairly close to the store and when I came out to get in my car a well dressed blond woman a few years older than me was putting her groceries in her ivory colored Lexus parked one spot closer to the store and across from me. At most, we were fifteen awards from the entrance to the store.

She looked at me as I got in my car and then rather than take her cart back to the store or to the cart corral five spaces down she maneuvered the buggy between her car and the one parked next to hers and then pushed it up against the front of my car, to leave it in the center of the two rows of cars.

I looked her in the eye in disbelief. Not only was it almost harder to get the cart between the cars than it would have been to just return it to the front of the store, but she rests against my car, one car away from resting it on hers.

I got out of my car and said in a nice way for me, “Ma’m, did you mean to put your cart up against my car, rather than returning it?” Giving her the opportunity to fein ignorance and do the right thing. She looked right at me, said nothing and turned her nose up and got in her car. It was a shocking show of rudeness I am not used to seeing around these parts. As she pulled out I saw she had North Carolina plates and I knew she had no excuse. She was not infirm, she was not that old, she was in good shape, she had no baby in the car.

It was not just entitlement. That would have been if she pushed the cart between the cars and left it in front of hers. It was downright rudeness added to entitlement to push the cart up against my car rather than returning it, which is just what everyone else at the market does.

There were no other carts left wedged in the center of the parked cars in the whole parking lot and not because employees are out there gathering them. I am happy that she is in the minority and at least she knows that I know what she looks like and if I see her again I will certainly have a nice southern talk about cart etiquette. Bitch.

Holiday Crafting

I’ve had an idea in mind’s eye for a long time of a shinny white pinecone wreath with a green satin floppy bow. So, long ago I collected pinecones of all sizes. This involved picking up giant pinecones on the side of the road in Southern Pines where the cones are the size of giant grapefruits, and walking my neighborhood picking up cones before lawnmowers crushed them. I put bags of pine cones in my garage last year to dry out fully.

Of course I looked on Pintrest to see if anyone else had already tried to create the look I was going for of completely coated high gloss pinecones made into a wreath. No one had posted anything close to my idea. White pinecones were never very white since they were either spray painted or bleached, leaving you with a whitish cone.

So I moved ahead with my plan. I bought a can of high gloss latex paint at Home Depot. I attached a wire to the end of my beautiful giant pine cones. Setting up a dipping and drying station in the drive way where I dipped my pinecones into the gallon of paint. They were so big each one barely fit in the can.

It was amazing the amount of paint a pinecone can grab onto. I tried to drain each one, but ended up collecting the dripping in foil pans to be added back to the gallon. The newly dipped pine cones were beautiful, looking exactly as I imagined them. I wired up smaller pinecones from our neighborhood and dipped them. I left my first round of cones outside overnight to dry.

To my horror when I woke up I discovered that all my full and lush pinecones had taken in the moistures from the paint and pulled their little scales up tight into a closed form. This greatly changed the look and made them about half their size. Not what I had imagined, but I persevered.

Getting the paint to dry meant setting up a drying rack in the furnace room and hanging all the pinecones in there for two weeks. I didn’t want to give up on this project so I wired the white pinecones to a form and then hot glued them into place. They are incredibly heavy with a full gallon of paint and they don’t like to stay where I wanted them, exactly. It wasn’t bad, just not what I had envisioned.

I went ahead and sewed the green silk charmeuse I had purchased to make the bow. I was happy with the way that turned out. I add the bow to the wreath and hung it up. The overall effect is good, just not spectacular as I had envisioned.

Arts and crafts is always an experimentation. Sometimes it works, but it usually takes practice. I guess that there is no way for me to achieve the look I wanted. I did take some of the large unpainted pinecones and make a simple wreath with those. I guess you shouldn’t try and improve on Mother Nature. Mothers always know best.

More Alike

Part of the confirmation class curriculum at our Presbyterian Church is to go an visit other faith communities. As a mentor I am encouraged to join in on these visits. Making time to go seems like it is going to be a chore, when it always turns out to be a joy.

This week the trip was to go to a Mosque. I thought this would be one of the most informative visits so I asked Allison, my Mentee if she would want to go. Even though she usually has tennis on Wednesday she gave it up to drive over to Cary with me. Going to Cary in rush hour is a big commitment which gave us lots of good car time.

Allison asked me what Mosque’s looked like. I told her they could be an Arabic style building or a store front in a strip mall. Turned out the one we were looking for was the store front kind. The sign was just a few letters so at first we we unsure we were at the right place, but then Allison saw a friend from her class go in.

We were warmly greeted by NS, a man from Kazakhstan who emigrated to the US just a year ago. This mosque was made up of Turkish families who formed a faith community in Cary. They opened their doors for our confirmation class tonight and at least twenty of their members, both adults and young people came out to teach us about their faith. They also told us about how much they appreciated America and liked living here and having their children here.

As the man who was giving us the lesson was speaking his young son came running in the room, his face covered with blue sharpie marks, with a mustache and horns. “his brother must have done this,” the leader said. We all got a big laugh out of that. Kids are kids.

As is the case in many faiths the basic tenets are the same, one God, be good, do right. The expression of the faith is the difference. I think our young people were taken aback by the praying five times a day and the fasting for Ramadan. Makes sitting through one hour of church once a week seem minor. After the talk about the basic tenets we has a time to ask questions.

After some thoughtful and interesting discussion they invited us to share some food with them of sweet breads and cookies they had made for us and sweet hot tea. It gave our new Muslim friends a chance to ask us questions. One woman sitting across from me asked how we teach our children the values of our religion. I told her through stories and parables. I am not sure if it was how they do it. It got me thinking about how much I use story telling in everything I do.

We invited our new friends to come visit us at our church some time soon. This was a wonderful experience to remind us that we are all much more alike. It is something that every American could benefit from during these trying times.

Cooking Gold

A couple of weeks ago I bough a big bag of peeled garlic cloves at Costco for my Red Wine Vinegar Chicken. I needed half the bag for my red wine vinegar chicken so buying the garlic is such bulk shamed me a ton of time and money. Despite using three cups of garlic in one felled swoop I still had two more cups leftover.

Peeled garlic will last about a week, but after that it starts to break down. Not wanting to waste even one clove I went ahead and roasted all of it because that would preserve it longer and there are so many uses for roasted garlic.

Once roasted the garlic become spreadable so you can put it on toast, make bruschetta out of it, add it to your tuna salad, squish some on pizza, add it to your cooked vegetables, schmeer it on cooked fish, chicken, steak or pork, throw in lamb, ostrich, buffalo or any other protein you are cooking. Basically roasted garlic is like soft gold in your fridge.

Any amount of peeled whole garlic cloves

Enough olive oil to coat it

Place it all in a shallow oven proof dish. I used a glass pie plate. Cover with foil.

Put in a 250° oven for two- three hours. The garlic will still hold its shape but be totally soft to the touch.

Let it cool and store in an airtight container. Will keep in the fridge for a month, but won’t last that long once you taste it.

Wonderfully Predictable Friends

One of the great things about friends is if you really get to know them you can predict how they will be for almost their whole life. You can tell who are the planners, or the spontaneous ones, the dreamers, the realistic types and you even know who will be unpredictable ones, which makes them predictable in their unpredictableness.

One of my friends from high school was, from the moment I met her, the most efficient person I knew. I nick named her “Miss Polcer” because she most certainly had a steno pad and pencil at the ready to take notes or do the planning for a task at hand. If there was a nice word for officious that would describe her. Is there a nice word for officious? There should be.

True to form Miss Polcer grew up to be efficient. She became a race walker and has walked in something like over 550 races. She has raised over $250,000 for breast cancer starting with the Avon walks she has done for 25 years and then when Avon gave them up last year she moved over the the Making Strides walks. Every year I wait for her request for support for her walking because I know she will be doing it. At this point it is not a prediction, but a fact.

So it came as no surprise to me that “Miss Polcer’s” Christmas card was the first to arrive for the season. I could have told you 39 years ago that it would happen this way.

The only thing I find amazing is that she beat my friend Andy as the first card of the season, because her’s has come first most every year. But Andy mails her Christmas cards at our local post office and they are not like friends, they are completely unpredictable and you never know if they re going to sort the mail or not.

So here’s to my wonderful friends who I can count on. We are not doing a card again this year, since I write this blog you already know everything about my daily existence. Now that the cards are starting, please consider this my Merry Christmas wish to you, or Happy Hanukkah, joyous Winter Solstice or Happy Kwanzaa or any other holiday you are celebrating this December. Just please continue to be my predictable friends who I can count on.

Sparkle Season

Carter flew back to Boston today, but not before working on a gingerbread house for the annual throwing up of Christmas at our house. We had a great Thanksgiving with our girl home, but nothing changes the plans of putting Christmas up at our house as soon as the Turkey is cold.

It took all of three days this year, but thankfully I am mostly done. There are still wreaths and greenery to do, but as far as anything that requires lighting or sparkle, they are complete. It is wonderful to have this extra week of Christmas to fully enjoy the decorations.

I was lucky and only broke one ornament while dressing the tree this year. I think I have about met full capacity of ornaments as you can hardly see the tree at all. If I downsize on my tree next year I will have to weed out my ornaments. Honestly I have some I don’t love the look of, but the sentimental attachment behind the story of where they all came from makes me want to keep them all.

I am especially thankful for a Russ and his many trips to the attic. He was an especially good sport when I tell him something is missing and he roots around and finds it. Since we had the big roof leak this year lots of things in the attic got moved around making it more difficult to find what I was requesting. I am still missing two Christmas rugs. I guess that the winter of 2019 needs to see me doing the big attic clean out. Lord, I probably will go up there in January and not come down until May.

After I finished putting everything away and vacuuming up the needles my friend Hannah and her Mom, Boogey, came by for a visit. Boogey has to go back to Michigan so it was wonderful for me to have a chance to see her. Honestly she was the best person to come right after decorating because she is so appreciative of it all. Hannah and I got to sit and visit while Boogey studied each Christmas vignette. It makes me happy when people come and love my Christmas as much as I do, although I think Boogey loves it more than me.

So get out your sparkle and lights and warmup the dark season with the light of Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas come over and just hang with mine. You don’t have to be a believer to enjoy the lights.

Decorating is Killing Me

I’m getting too old for the amount of Christmas decorating I do. Eleven or twelve years ago our live twelve foot tree fell over just after it was completely decorated. It was a huge disaster. I lost hundreds of ornaments and the worst part was we had to right it, undecorate it and redecorate it. After Christmas was over that year I bought a fake fourteen foot tree.

It is sturdy and it does not die before Christmas even gets here, but it is not an easy task to put it together, make sure all the lights are plugged in and working and decorate it. I do love it when it is finished, but as of right now it is only half done and I did virtually nothing else all day.

The part that is so hard is going up and down the ladder. My hamstrings needed lots of stretching before I started and now they are rebelling. At least I am almost done with any ladder work so tomorrow should go quicker.

Sadly it is also our last day with Carter home. She was a good help when it came to carrying the tree bags from the attic, but she does not enjoy the decorating. Last year we did not put up our tree since we were in Berlin and I have not heard the end of that from her. Not having a tree seemed like sacrilege to her, yet it is still my job to do. Maybe it is time for a slightly smaller easier tree…next year.

When my body could take no more up and down on the ladder and all the other rooms had been decorated I called a stop for today to prepare for one last family meal of leftovers. We made a fire in the living room. I gave Carter one of her birthday presents a week and a half early. I wanted her to make sure they were right and have her take them back to Boston for the last push through exams.

Hard to believe that Thanksgiving is officially over tomorrow. It has been wonderful to have her home. I am looking forward to a fun holiday season. Going to Germany was a change last year if only to see where Carter had been living. But Christmas is my favorite time of the year and I am happy to be back in the swing of celebrating at home, even if the decorating about kills me.

Different Black Friday

Or as long as Carter has been alive we have spent Black Friday at the farm. It was the perfect anti-black Friday place to be because lord knows there is not much shopping in Danville, Va, except if you needed a fur coat and then you went to Rippies. Our normal post Thanksgiving activities in the past were spending time with friends who came up to the farm, to take long walks, visit with my cousins and go for Mexican food for lunch where my father would tell stories.

I think my parents were relieved not to have farm guests, or cooking to do, so we stayed home today and did what regular southerners do on Black Friday, go shopping, decorate the house for Christmas and eat leftovers. Now the last thing I want to do on any day of the year is go to the Mall, certainly not on this day. If I must go, I go at ten in the morning on a Tuesday when no one will be there, but Carter had a ring she needed to return to Nordstrom and a watch that needed to get fixed and I wanted her to look at a few ideas for Christmas.

As we approached the mall I could see that there was not a parking place in sight. We drove to the upper back lot by Belk, where usually you can park in the first row and I had my usual parking luck as a car pulled out right as I turned in. Carter and I made quick haste to the watch guy and then off to the return desk at Nordstrom. Carter had ordered a ring this summer and two of the stones had fallen out. She still had the email receipt so the girl gladly refunded her money back on her card. It took less than a minute, no waiting. This was the reason I told Carter to buy the ring from Nordstrom in the first place.

We then looked at a couple of potential Christmas gifts. The nice clerk who was helping us told us that they did not stock something in the color Carter wanted, but that the manufacturer had it on their website and we should order it directly from them. I told her I was sorry not to give her the business, but she said, “It is more important for you to get exactly what you want, even if you don’t buy it here.” I have to say my dislike for shopping waned just a little bit today.

Getting out of the mall was almost harder than getting in as the number of cars looking for parking had increased. I was impressed that the mall security was out in force directing traffic. Maybe brick and mortar places have finally learned to deal with the things that make me hate them.

We went home and by this time the cold that Carter brought home from Boston was beginning to get the best of her. We canceled the rest of her afternoon plans and she went to bed for a good healing nap. That meant that I could begin the throwing up of Christmas around the house a day earlier than usual. Traditionally Thanksgiving Saturday is when I begin the decorating, but I need every possible moment this year. Russ did most of the work getting the first 25 boxes out of the attic.

Because it makes me most happy, I start with the needlepoint garlands. After putting up the greenery around the opening to the living room I discovered that one set of lights on the garland had given up the ghost. Shit! This meant a second Black Friday shopping trip to Target. Our Target had undergone a renovation and I had no idea where to find what I was looking for. Here’s a hint, extension cords are now in the same aisle as snow shovels, which is nowhere near the command hook or light bulb aisles, and far from the Christmas lights. There I just saved you twenty minutes.

I did get to go visit Carter’s sister E and Lynn, who usually wold be at the farm with us, so one regular Black Friday tradition remained a little. I skipped going to the movies with them so I cold continue working. After a good four hour nap Carter came up and talked to me while I worked. My house looks like more of a wreck as I have just started the process. Hopefully it won’t take me all weekend to finish. It was a different Black Friday than we usually have, but being together is the same and is really the only thing that matters.

Thankful for Small But Perfect

I don’t usually have anything that I can describe as small, except for the number of guests around our table today. It was just Russ, Carter, me and my parents and it was practically perfect. I made all the food except for Carter’s favorite creamed onions that my father brought.

For the last few days I have been cooking so there was not much left to do today.

I got up and took the turkey out of the brine and prepped it and made the dressing. Carter woke up and was furious that I had not left anything for her to cook, now that she is a full blown college cook. If only I had known she wanted to make the dressing I would have happily left it for her. I still had the Brussels sprouts to prep, but she was disinterested in that.

My parents arrived at 1:30 and while the many sides were heating in the oven we watched the National dog show. What a perfect non-controversial thing to do on Thanksgiving. We were pulling for the fox terrier for best in show, but the whippet took the top prize. Shay especially like watching the dog show. My mother wanted to know why the women trainers wore such ugly clothes and shoes. Maybe it made the dogs look better.

After the winner was crowned I went to work, carving the turkey, making the gravy, sautéing the sprouts. Russ helped put out the mashed potatoes, stewed tomatoes, gingered carrots, creamed onions, and dressing. Carter chopped the candy bacon for the Brussels and baked the rolls. It was a feast fit for fifty rather than five. Instead it will be breakfast lunch and dinner for every meal for the next three days.

Carter said a beautiful blessing, hoping for us to have a good rest of the year, her horizon is short so good luck to us in 2019. Then we sat down to dinner it was 2:35, just five minutes off my prediction of eating at 2:30. No fights broke out, no politics were discussed, no disappointments or disagreements, no eyes rolling, pure harmony.

After one huge plate we all were full. People helped to do the clean up and we still were too full for dessert. I cut two slices of pies for both of my parents and put them on a foil pie plate and they were out of here at 4:30, while it was still light and they could get back to the farm before it gets totally dark.

Carter went to take a nap and Russ is snoring sweetly napping with Shay snuggled up. The house is clean, the dishes done, the food put away with enough leftover for everyone to feed themselves when they feel hungry again. A practically perfect Thanksgiving.

I hope that you and yours had a good day, have something you are thankful for and did not have to sit next to the crazy relative at your meal. Happy Thanksgiving!

Midnight Airport Traffic Hell

In all my twenty-five years of living here I must have gone to the RDU airport to either fly out myself or pick someone up at least five hundred times. That makes me fairly familiar with everything about that airport. Yes, over the years it has changed. Terminals have come and gone, some slower than they should have, parking has grown and we lost a hub, but gained competition from better airlines.

One thing that has always been a positive about our little airport was the ease to get in and out of the place. Apparently I had never been to pick someone up on the the Tuesday before Thanksgiving before. Carter’s eleven PM arrival was more than an hour late last night, something we were well aware of. This meant that Russ and I had to stay up well past our bedtime, but neither of us wanted to forgo meeting Carter. She also wanted Shay Shay to come pick her up too.

We left home just before midnight for the quick trip. There were hardly any people on the road and we got there in record time. We breezed onto the airport property with little traffic until just about where you make the left hand turn into the parking deck, suddenly the night sky was lit up with a sea of red tail lights, not going anywhere. Terminal 1 had its fair share of drivers trying to pick up the, but the through lanes to get to terminal 2 were a dead stop. It was a scene out of La Guardia during a full airport renovation.

Russ and I thought there must be an accident. No, just thousands of parents trying to pick up their college students and families awaiting grandma. I could not believe that at 12:30 at night, when no one is being dropped off for departure, the airport could be gripped in such gridlock.

Carter texted us that there was a plane in her gate, so even though she had landed she wasn’t coming out soon. We told her not to meet us outside arrivals, but to come out upstairs at departures. It was a good plan because it was the arrival traffic lanes that were not going anywhere. We were stuck in the traffic for a good twenty minutes, but once we pulled off to the departures level we pulled right up to Carter standing outside. “What took you so long?”

I don’t know how we are going to be able to avoid this scenario in future years, but wow, I have rarely seen such a jam at midnight anywhere. At least she is home safe and sound with us. She got a hair cut and we went and got our nails done and now she and her father are off to see Hamilton. I have cooked the rest of the day and am ready to go to bed early. Of course that midnight airport run was worth it, but only to get Carter home for a few days. No one else qualifies for enduring that hell again.

The Waiting

I haven’t seen my girl since I left Boston in early September. Not that I haven’t had photos and face time videos, but I haven’t had my arms around her to give her a hug. Russ had father daughter weekend two weeks ago, but not me.

Shay and I have been waiting patiently all day. Cleaning the house, shopping for the turkey meal, cooking pies, just waiting for what I am thankful for.

Carter is scheduled on the last flight out of Boston tonight. I know it is always a risk to take the last flight out, but she had a late class. Now she waits at Logan for her delayed flight. I wait at home doing my best to stay awake for an after midnight pick up, but of course I won’t sleep until I see her. Shay too has been moping around all day waiting for a Carter. I know she will jump for joy when she gets to see her girl.

I hope all your family and friends make it home to you to give thanks. The waiting is hard, the time together is short. Cherish your time together.

Cleaning out the Fridge Cabbage and Apples

Making room for Thanksgiving in the fridge and the freezer is an art, one I should have started on last week or even last month. I am trying not to buy any non-thanksgiving food for a couple of days so I am forced to use what we already have. This makes for some interesting meals.

I found a smoked pork roast in the freezer. Actually I found two. They were a buy one get one free from the Nahunta Pork Center. If you have never been to the “largest pork display in America” it is worth the trip to Pikeville, NC. The nice thing about this pork roasts is they are fully cooked, having been smoked and they are sliced.

Looking at the vegetable bin I found half a head of red cabbage and an old Granny Smith apple. Looked like a good German meal to me.

I made a mustardy apple and cabbage base on which I put the lightly sautéed pork. Turned out to be a very yummy dinner that did a good job of using what was on hand.

Apple and cabbage

1/2 head of red cabbage thinly sliced

1 Granny Smith apple thinly sliced

2 slices of bacon

1 t. Caraway seeds

3 T. good dark mustard, I used Friendly Market Vidalia Onion Mustard

2 T. Sriracha

1 t. Apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper

Fry the bacon in a big fry pan to render the fat. Once cooked set aside to crumble on top of the cabbage at serving.

Add the caraway seed to the bacon fat and cook on medium heat for one minute. Add the cabbage and apples to the fry pan with the seeds and using tongs, turn the mixture over in the fat to coat it while cooking for about two minutes. Add 1/3 cup of water and 1/2 t. Salt and cook the cabbage and apples until tender, about 10-15 minutes, until the liquid is out. Add the mustard, sriracha and vinegar and mix well and continue cooking for another three minuets. Taste for salt and pepper

T-Day Prep

For as long as I can remember we have gone to the farm for Thanksgiving. My father cooks and cooks and cooks. I usually bring a few things that I can make in advance. This year my parents are coming to our house. I know that at 80 doing all that prep is a lot of work, because hell, at 57 it is a lot of work.

Yesterday I made a crack pie. If you don’t know what that is I will tell you it is the most delicious complicated pie ever from the brilliant Milk Bar in NYC. The recipe is four or five pages long, and includes ingredients I have to order from Amazon, but is so worth it. If you want it I can take pictures of my book and send it to you. Even better buy the cook book called Milk Bar.

Today I started my stewed tomatoes. They are incredibly easy, like the opposite of the pie. It is three ingredients, whole canned Italian plum tomatoes, salt and sugar. You dump the tomatoes in a stock pot and cook them on the absolute lowest heat your stove will go until they have reduced by 75%. Yeah, you have to stir them every once in a while, but other than that they are no work. At the very end you add a little sugar and a little salt to taste. They keep forever in the fridge and reheat on the stove or in the oven and are addictive. It takes about six hours to really cook a big pot down.

An unnamed In-law once served me “stewed tomatoes” one Thanksgiving. They were whole tomatoes from the can, run over a candle for two minutes. I swore that I would do my best to educate all of America on what Stewed Tomatoes really were from that travesty.

I also made homemade cranberry sauce yesterday. Only easier than the tomatoes because it is fast. Cranberries, orange juice and sugar. Cooked a few minutes until they pop and chilled.

So making pies, cranberry sauce and tomatoes is nothing new as my contribution to Thanksgiving. Now I have to think of all the things my father usually does. Yesterday I took my frozen turkey out and put it in the fridge to thaw. I like to brine my turkey for 24 hours so I need my turkey ready on Wednesday.

Fearing my fridge is too cold and my turkey will still be frozen I put it in the sink in a water bath. I just have to remember to move it back to the fridge tonight.

Mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, gingered carrots, creamed onions all can wait for closer to the day when Carter is here to cook. I know my mother will wonder why we have more than one vegetable, but we like the leftovers and Carter has turned into a great cook at college.

Today I needed Russ for the most important Thanksgiving job, cleaning the ceiling fan blades. Apparently I cook so much that the ceiling fans collect any dirt that exists in the air. Thankfully Shay was available to supervise Russ removing and replacing the blades while I washed than down with a bottle of dawn. This just leaves polishing everything and setting the table.

I think it is about time I took over this job from my Dad. I am not going to wait until I am 80 to pass it on to Carter. She is ready to do it all now if only she were home, well the cooking. The cleaning is still up to me, Russ and Shay.

Shay’s World Is Right

Russ has been away for two weeks. He has a client in LA and he was there week before last. Then over last weekend he was having father daughter weekend in Philly. Then he went from Philadelphia back to LA. I was not sure that going back to fires was a great idea, but there is no stopping Russ. He did tell his people not to come with him so he must have thought it might be a problem. Sure enough the air quality was off the scale bad all week, but thankfully the fires had gone slightly south of where he was.

Getting to LA from here has gotten somewhat easier, but getting home is still not the greatest. So Russ worked a full day yesterday and had a very late night flight to Atlanta that was only three and half hours long, not enough to get much sleep. Then a long Atlanta layover and home just before eleven in the morning with two hours sleep all night.

I was thrilled to have him home, but no where near as demonstrative in my showing him as Shay Shay was. Just jumped practically over his six foot five head when he came in the door. Two weeks without Russ is a long time for Shay. Every night she would listen for the sound of the garage door going up. If an acorn fell on the roof she would run to the top of the stairs to see if he was walking in the door. I had to endure her snuggling up against me as her consolation prize, knowing she had one eye open all night waiting for Russ.

After a shower and some lunch Russ took a good nap this afternoon and Shay was right there with him. Staring lovingly at his face with a look that said, “Are you really home, or is this a dream?”

I can only imagine her happiness when Carter comes home Tuesday. She has been away three months. Shay still goes and stands at the top of the steps to her room and listens to see if she is home. This week is going to be the highlight of her year. All her people under one roof for the first time in a while. It’s a dog life.

Christmas Planning

When Carter was five or six she wanted to have a snow princess birthday party. Living in North Carolina there is very little chance of ensuring snow in early December so Russ bought a giant inflatable snowman. It was tacky from the word go, but it was a real novelty way back then. It was an affront to my interior Christmas decorations, but six year olds don’t know that.

Every year the snowman went up, despite making me a little queasy. It was fine when we had a little child and when it was the only inflatable, but when neighbors got dozens of them ours had to go.

Today I saw one of the many annoying deer in our neighborhood. They are pretty, but ravage every garden and need to be curtailed. They fear no car, no dog, no human. This young man was happy to pose for me to take five or six photos.

Since I am in the Christmas planning stage I got an idea. Why not set up a snow dear scene? If I could get all the dear to stand still in my yard and maybe endure being covered in some glitter and wrapped in tasteful tiny white fairy lights. I would be happy to provide a little corn if they promised to stand still and pose like they were in a Saks Fifth Avenue window. Then when Christmas was over I could call someone with a truck to take the deer away to our farm where they could live free from suburban dangers.

I bet the neighborhood association would endorse this plan. Ok, maybe not the glitter and lights. A deer Christmas scene would match my inside decorations so much better than the snowman.

This year Carter might get her wish for a snow princess birthday since she is in a Boston. She sent me this photo from the first snow they had last night. No need for inflatable snowmen there.

The Baptism Gang

Thank god for Birthdays. Not for getting one year older, but for the excuse to get together with friends. When my friend Hannah went back to work full time our time to get to see each other got squeezed. We have tried very hard to have lunch every month, but some months are harder than others. Her birthday was Sunday so I organized a little lunch for today and invited two other friends, Lynn and Elizabeth.

There is a very specific reason for this actual group. Our daughters were all baptized together, sort of. Lynn’s daughter Ellis and Carter were actually baptized together at our Church, Westminster. It was a rarity that two children are baptized on the same day who are not related. If fact I have never seen it since. It was a surprise to us and it almost caused a fight in the reserved pews, but it turned out to be a very good thing. Carter and Ellis became each other’s sisters that day and have remained so ever since.

Hannah and Elizabeth’s oldest daughters were baptized one week apart at Duke chapel. They have a registry of baptisms there and it stood out to Hannah when she went to sign the registry for her daughter Campbell Elizabeth, because the name just above hers was Elizabeth Campbell. When Hannah and Elizabeth were writing the names on the kindergarten graduation certificates they figured out that it was their two daughters who had back to back baptisms with back to back names.

Our baptism friend cluster continues nineteen years on and today we celebrated Hannah. You know we don’t see each other as often as we would like now that our oldest or only children no longer go to school together. It came as no surprise to me that we were practically the only people left in the restaurant even though we started lunch at 12:15. We always have so much to discuss.

We talk a big game about having lunch next month, and I know that Hannah and I will try and get in our monthly lunch, but somehow it is hard to get the whole baptism group at the same time, let alone other friends we love. It should be easier since we are empty or almost empty nesters.

I have noticed that the people with the longest empty nests are the least reliable for regular get togethers because they travel more, or have grand children to help with, or take classes. That seems like a long ways always. I eat lunch everyday and would rather do it with a gang.

No Mayo Waldorf Salad

In the sixties Waldorf Salad was a mayonnaise laden dish that hardly qualified as a salad. Of course a “fancy” salad like that was served with other mayo slathered dishes like a Egg salad and potato salad at luncheons. I have always wondered what elevated a midday meal from just a lunch to a luncheon. My grandparents sometimes had a big mid day meal, which was called dinner and then they would follow it up with a night time supper. So confusing.

Today we had Mah Jongg. On Wednesday’s I make lunch for the Mah Jongg group, usually a salad. Since it had been so cold and rainy for the last few days I decided it was the perfect day for a hot chicken and vegetable soup. I wanted to have something on the side that was crunchy so I thought a Waldorf salad would be a nice compliment, but what to do about all that mayonnaise. And thus this recipe was born.

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

1 1/2 cups chopped apples with the peel

1 cup of red seedless grapes, halved

1/2 cup raisins

Juice of a lemon


1 cup of Greek yogurt

Zest of one lemon

1 T. Olive oil


1/2 cup of toasted walnuts

Toss all the ingredients together.

Mix the dressing well and toss with the salad. Add walnuts last so they stay crunchy.

In the Company of Makers

Today was Garden Club. I love my Garden Club. It is a group of neighborhood women who are interested in making things beautiful. Not all of us are good gardeners, but that in no way diminishes the fun we have when we are together.

Today we met at our friend Stacey’s flower workshop where she runs a business called Fig Tree Designs. Stacey is incredibly talented as a maker of many crafty things, but especially things floral related.

For our garden club program we made decorated grapevine wreaths for a local nursing home that has a large memory care unit. Stacey came up with this plan and the director was thrilled because these people often don’t have any family who bring decorations for their rooms.

Thirty-five women worked diligently creating beautiful unique creations. My friend Christy and I did what we do best and made bows for anyone who needed one. This seems to be our regular assignment, one I love doing.

Thanks to Stacey and her hostesses for a fun morning of making. You are a great inspiration to our whole club. It also helps that you have such a fun club house!

I Am A Maker

Some people are readers, some people are doers, some people are complainers. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am a self described Maker. I like to make things. Today I made eight coasters, a giant pot of soup and I worked on a Christmas ornament. Hardly a day goes by where I am not making something and I mean other than meals for my family.

At any given time I may be making a quilt, needlepoint something and creating some other arts and crafts project, usually out of paper. I am usually fairly prolific in my creating. I like to complete a project in one category before I start another project in that same category. I may have five categories going at the same time, but only one in each.

I have enough supplies to keep me making something everyday for the rest of my life without ever purchasing anything new. That is as long as I don’t come up with an idea I never thought of, then I may need to buy something. I am trying to use what I have.

Given all this producing I am embarrassed about the length of time it took me to finish this counted cross stitch sampler I just picked up at the framers today.

I think I bought the materials for this project when Carter was about three or four. I worked on it diligently for a year. They I lost it. 13 years later I found it, 98% complete. I started working on it again this summer and it took me two months to do the last 2%. Then I waited another two months to take it to the framer. I went to pick it up a month later and discovered they had made a mistake framing it. They called me three days later saying it was done. It took me a month to pick it up again. I finally brought it home.

Since it is the 16-17 year project I didn’t want to waste anytime hanging it. Since I could not find a new picture hook I took something else off the wall in the hall and replaced it with this. I want to look at it everyday and be reminded to finish what I am working on all the way through before moving on to something new.

Thank You Veterans

With Russ and Carter having father daughter weekend I am home alone with Shay-Shay. She keeps listening for the garage door to open signaling Russ is home. I hate when I come home alone and disappoint her that I am the only one here.

I was up late last night having gone to Hamilton. I couldn’t go to sleep thinking about how fabulously Lin Manuel Miranda taught me US history I had either forgotten or never learned in such complexity. As I was up late watching Pete Davidson on SNL beautifully make amends with Republican Veteran Dan Crenshaw I felt a good feeling about humanity. It was a feeling I had been missing for the last couple of years.

Then, before I could fall asleep I got a text from my friend about 45 skipping the ceremony in France due to rain. Quickly I was mad again. How is it that every other leader made the drive, but ours did not, especially on this important 100th anniversary of the end of WWI?

With Russ away I cold have slept in but I decided it was important for me not to miss church even though I was up late because I knew that we would honor all the veterans who were there. I am doing my best not to let 45 affect me emotionally and to do my part to do what I think is right, regardless of all the things he does that I feel are wrong. I can’t control him, but I can counteract him with good deeds, kind words and love.

We had at least a dozen and a half Veterans at church this morning. As is our custom, they were asked to come forward and say which branch of service they were in and when they served. I got a little choked up, as I do every year. I truly appreciate what they had done for us to live in this country. I want to say thank you to all veterans. You have done things I never could have done. I hope you feel the love from regular people. We are sending it directly and not expecting any leader to represent our appreciation to you.

Hamilton At Last

After years of waiting to see Hamilton tonight I finally saw it. Lynn went with me since Russ is in Philly having Father/daughter weekend visiting his family. I have been listening to the sound track for years, so I knew every word, but seeing it staged was so much bigger and better than my mind ever imagined.

If you can find a way to see it, do it! Definitely listen to the sound track first, unless you are a history buff and know the story well!

Bridge Toddler

For the last year I have been back to playing bridge after more than a decade off. Bridge is not a game that stands still. It evolves constantly and ten years away from Bridge means you have to relearn the whole game in a new way. Worst you have to unlearn what you do remember. I have a great mentor in my friend Deanna, who is an excellent player and teacher. Sadly she is in high demand to partner with much better players than me so we don’t get to play as much as I need to improve.

Today we played in a sectional tournament. Since she has many master points I have to play against much more accomplished players. As we were playing, Deanna would warn me about the Professional Bridge players we were going to be going up against. It is daunting to play with people who have made their living in bridge for twenty, thirty or forty years. They are the original gamers.

It was a tough morning. We hardly got any cards, mostly picking up hands with four or five of the forty points available. The couple of times one of us had an opening hand the other would have two points. That means we played defense most of the day. By the last board I was so cross eyed I trumped my partner’s winner. I heard about that. Thankfully I was not playing in the afternoon section. I pray Deanna had a better afternoon with her other partner.

So I left bridge to go meet my friend Jan and her almost three year old grandson, Gray, for a late lunch. Gray is a delightful toddler. He shared his crayons with me and offered up a bumble bee for me to color. He also was a good sport about entertaining himself so Jan and I could talk.

I decided at that minute that I am better at coloring and talking to a kid than I am at bridge. I am not sure that I am young enough to really learn all the new conventions there are in bridge, but I will keep at it since it has to be good for my brain and will keep me alive longer. Based on the number of people on walkers or oxygen at the tournament I am like a bridge toddler. Of my not coloring skills counted for anything.


I grew up in the sixties. When I was old enough to pay attention to the nightly news on TV our country was in the midst of the war in Vietnam. The news always started the same way, with a reporting of the number of soldiers killed that day. As a young person I thought the news was a report of how many people died in America day. Having no comprehension of how many people there were in America, I did not understand it was just the soldiers they were talking about. Night after night Walter Cronkite would open the news, “17 killed today,” “9 killed today,” “31 killed today.”

Then the war was over and the thankfully the news no longer opened up with those horrible words about the numbers killed that day. I remember people protesting the Vietnam war. When I was in about six or seventh grade I had a poster that was of a scarecrow made up of a machine gun body, and a soldier’s metal helmet on top as the head in the middle of a beautiful field of flowers. The caption read, “What if they held a war and no one came?”

At that young age I got the idea that regular citizens could make an impact on things the government was doing that they disagreed with. It also helped that the women’s movement was in full blown bra burning at the time.

For most of my years since junior high school the news did not open with a report of the number of people killed that day. It made watching the news a lot easier. Once in a while there would be some horrible mass shooting, often in a US Post office. It got a nickname, “going postal.” It was bad, but those shooting were few and far between.

But over the last two years it seems like the news opens with a report of the number of people killed that day in a mass shooting, like when I was a kid. The difference is the numbers killed are not in a war, but are usually innocent people senselessly killed by someone who usually doesn’t even know them.

Many citizens have cried out for smart gun control, like they did to end the Vietnam war, but ending a war on foreign soil seems to be easier than coming to grips with what is happening in America. I am tired of the news opening up with the numbers killed in mass shootings. Just in the first seven days in November there were six “mass” shootings with 18 people killed and 31 injured. There is no report on the number of people who witnessed these events and will forever be scarred, let alone the countless friends and family members of victims.

The election is over, but the war is not. So far, in 2018, there have been 307 different mass shooting incidents in America. That is about one per day. How is this acceptable? It is going to take everyone who cares to keep pressure on our elected officials to do everything to change this. Let’s end the need to open the news with reports of how many of our fellow Americans who are gunned down just living their lives. We can’t continue on the trajectory we are on. 307 incidents, think about it.

The Day After

Thank god that election is over. The commercials were about to do me in and I don’t even live in a state that had either a senate nor governor race. I can only imagine what the ads were like in Florida, loud I bet.

I think there might be a secret agenda to those horrible political ads where the politicians say terrible things about their opponents or make up stories about what will happen if we elect the wrong person. The plan is to make us all crazy over the ads so we are so thankful the election is over that we just don’t care who won as long as they stay off TV. We don’t care how they legislate, as long as they don’t run ads about it. And we don’t hold anyone accountable because we don’t want to hear from them. Just shut up.

Well I am mildly pleased with the election as I am sure everyone is if you are a glass half full type of person. The half empty crowds on both sides are completely unhappy. Regardless of the results please lord let’s pray for some sanity. I am thinking that we have a few months of quiet before the next political ads start running for the next cycle.

Now the bad news. The firms who were busy running robo calls for politicians are now free to go back to commercial work and scams. Today alone I had six calls, two from “my federal student loan” which no one in our house has ever had, one from the “technical department” of “my computer company” really does anyone fall for a call from the “technical department,” one from the sheriffs blah,blah blah, and two others that I have already put out of my head. I know it is my fault for answering my phone, but some were on my cell phone.

So now it’s back to bladder leaks and local car dealers. Thank god is all I can say.

Before The Results Come In

I got a text from a friend today, “BTW, I’m having Election Day PTSD.” She took the words right out of my mouth. I spent the day as busy as I could possibly be just so I could not think about the gravity of the day. I am not alone since the turn out of voters has been record setting.

I woke up extra early, even though I could have slept in. Oh, how I wish Day light savings time had happened earlier so that I was not waking early on this day. I would do anything to make this day fly by, but it hasn’t. Since our water refugee was here I tried to move quietly around the house.

I spent most of the day on my feet cooking and cleaning. Adam, the refugee, provided a good diversion since we had talks about his school, roommate and future jobs. By this afternoon I was exhausted from standing most of the day so I went to my sweat shop and worked on some Christmas items.

Then my friends started coming by to pick up with election night chicken. This was the best way to keep my mind off the coming news. It is Nancy’s birthday today so I got lucky and had an extra long visit with her. Shay thinks everyone comes by the house to see her and not for the chicken.

So now the polls have just closed. I don’t want to look at the news because I am not sure I can handle it. Usually I am so happy on election night just because the political ads are over. Who the winners and losers are is secondary. Not today. I am hoping that as a country we can find civility, compromise, kindness and honesty. We are all Americans. We should not be each other’s enemies. So I am cautiously hopeful in these moments before I know the answer.

No matter who wins or loses I hope we can not gloat or boast tomorrow. No matter what happens some will be thrilled and others will be crushed. We all need hugs.

No Water Refugee

The big news around here today is that the Chapel Hill water company had another water main break right in front of the water treatment plant. It meant that Chapel Hill and Carboro were on boil water restrictions and the water pressure is basically non-existent. Both towns were told to use as little water as possible, if they had any at all. This is getting to be a regular thing in Chapel Hill since they had a previous water emergency in February 2017.

I didn’t think about all my Chapel Hill friends not having water so if anyone needs a shower or a place to stay, come on over. My friend Kelly from Atlanta called me this afternoon and asked if her son Adam, a UNC student, could come and stay and have access to a bathroom with water. Of course, the answer was yes. Adam knows our house is his house.

After not having power for four days last month I feel like it is my responsibility to take in refugees. It is just a pain in the neck, as well as yucky, not to have water.

I am going to be home cooking red wine vinegar chicken tomorrow morning so if the water is still out and you want to come shower and get some food, come on over.

Russ’ You Tube Finds

Russ has a huge list of things he studies, reads, watches and listens too. His curiosity is limitless as well as his ability to listen to things in his sleep. When Russ started using the walking desk, to get in the 15,000 steps a day he gets, he expanded his You Tube viewing to watch people sailing around the world, wood workers who make their own tools and cooks of all kinds. One of his favorite You Tubers is a French self taught cook named Alex. The name of his channel is Alex French guy cooking. Russ usually keeps all this knowledge to himself since he knows I am busy making my own things and don’t have time to watch other makers.

Yesterday Russ saw Alex cook something that he wanted to eat so badly that he showed me Alex’s posting. It was for a pasta dish that neither Russ, nor I were familiar with, Cacio e Pepe. It is a three ingredient dish made with pasta, pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. The amazing thing about it is that it looks like a dish made with some kind of cream, butter or sauce, but it isn’t. The secret is using the starchy hot pasta water and mix it with the cheese to make a sauce.

Alex has two different You Tube episodes teaching you how to cook this dish. I have linked the one I used here. Alex French Guy cooking cacio e Pepe . While you are watching you might want to look at both versions.

It was incredibly easy and more delicious than any pasta I have had in a long time. Granted we try and not eat much pasta these days, but this one has less guilt since it is just pasta and cheese. I will say that toasting my peppercorns in a fry pan before crushing them in the mortar and Pestle did give them better depth of flavor. But my pepper corns were not the special ones Alex bought at his Parisian pepper store! Only the French have a pepper only store, and no wonder I love Paris.

As much as I love this guy Alex I am going to have to hold off watching him much because from the looks of his You Tube list he makes lots of fattening food. Of course he himself is thin, but he is French.

Making Christmas Takes A While

It’s November so I can officially begin to blog about Christmas decorations. I’m not putting decorations up, that must wait until after thanksgiving. I am working on making my new Christmas decoration of the year.

Yes, I make needlepoint ornaments all year. This year I also made some Christmas placemats in August, but those are a gift. I make one new big thing to decorate my house with every year. It gets harder and harder to find a place to put a new big thing.

Last year, since we were away in Germany before Christmas, I did not put up my giant tree. Instead I put my village under glass in the spot where my tree goes. I liked it there, but am going to have to move it this year since my house was designed around putting my tree in that spot. Said another way, it is the only place my 14 foot tree will fit. So finding a new home for my expanded glass village and a place for a new decoration meant I needed to keep the new decoration something small.

For the last two years I have been collecting pine cones for some kind of Christmas project. I have giant ones that I picked up off the side of the road in Southern Pines as well as medium ones from my neighborhood. Now that these pinecones have sufficiently dried In my garage for a year and a half I am ready to try my new idea. White dipped pine cone wreath.

I went to Home Depot and bought a gallon of high gloss paint. I set up a place in the driveway to hang the pinecones to dry. As I started dipping the giant pinecones I noticed that each one ate up about a tenth of a gallon of paint. I may have gotten the pinecones for free, but the paint is going to be a fortune.

I was able to dip eight pinecones before my hanging apparatus was about to give way with the weight. I decided that was enough for one day. I also realized that these things are not going to dry that quickly so I am leaving them out overnight. In order to keep the deer from running into them I parked a car behind the set up. Thankfully there are no bugs to get stuck on them.

I pray they will be dry by morning so I can dip another round. Hopefully my idea will work and not make a wreath that weighs too much to be hung. This project has a long way to go, see there is a reason I have to start in November.

Double Prebles For Me

Late in the summer I was asked if I would be a confirmand mentor for a young person at church. I agreed without knowing who I would be mentoring. Then I didn’t hear anything. Turns out the correspondence about it was all going in my junk mail. Since when does the algorithm think church stuff is junk?

I was very excited to find out late that Allison Preble is my mentee this year. Her brother Jack had been my mentee two years ago and I throughly enjoyed spending time with him.

To make up for my late start in my roll I picked Allison up at school and took her for yogurt. Seemed like it was a good day to talk since she had just learned that one of her classmates was sick and was going to missing the rest of the school year. Thankfully the prognosis is positive, but it was still good to talk about the process.

When a I returned Allison home the whole family was out in the driveway. Jack is turning 16 this weekend and his dad is taking him and two friends fly fishing for the weekend. Jack told me that if I google him the first thing that comes up is a picture from my blog at his confirmation and he says his hair was doing something funny that day.

So I am remedying that situation by posting this picture of both my confirmand mentees together, Allison and Jack Preble. I feel very honored to get to walk this walk with them.

Happy birthday to Jack. And to Allison, I hope you enjoy the process. As for their little brother Wright, I hope I am still with it enough to be your mentor too in seven or eight years.

The Winning Nun

I think this is my first selfie with a nun, a non-profit founder and a retired West Point grad.

It all makes sense when I explain I was at the Hunt -Mortgridge awards at the Food Bank Night of Appreciation. Ed Carney and Barbara Oats and I made up the team who nominated the award winner. It is an awesome job to get to consider all the generous souls who help feed hungry people in central and Eastern North Carolina and pick one to thank in this big way.

This year we chose Sister Mary Ann, a nun who runs the Tarboro Community Outreach Center, where they have a soup kitchen a homeless shelter and a food pantry. Sister Mary Ann had been on the board of the Food Bank years ago, while simultaneously running her own non-profit, which she has been running for close to thirty years.

Picking her to be the winner was much easier than getting in touch with her to let her know she was the winner. In my job as the chair of the Round Table for the Food Bank I got to call sister Mary Ann. She is one busy nun. I had to call her organization dozens of times before I was allowed to talk with her. The people who volunteer and work at the Outreach center protect her vigilantly while she is doing God’s work. Since I was an unknown to them it was unimportant to talk with me, even though I told them I only needed a couple of minutes to give sister Mary Ann some good news. You might have thought I was a Jehovah Witness, or a copier paper salesman calling.

Anyway, sister Mary Ann was a real hoot in person. She wasn’t one for making long speeches when she received the award, but she did have the whole audience pray out loud about the good of feeding people.

Going over to the Food Bank in Raleigh always makes me feel better about the world and the good people in it who take care of those who need help. Tonight was no exception. It was not political, just loving and caring. I wish everyone could get a dose of Sister Mary Ann.