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.