Go, Go 2018

Being in the hospital does not always bring out the best in people. No, let me restate that. No one in the hospital is at their best. Given that fact and that throughout each day a myriad of different health care professionals come in and want to do something, or talk to the patient on the health care providers time line and not the patient is a recipe for disaster, at some point.

For the most part my Dad has been well behaved, but every once in a while there is a little eruption. Those that know him, know what that can be like. I don’t blame him, but I remind him that these people hold his life in their hands so tread lightly. We don’t have to make every situation a learning opportunity to make the hospital more customer focused.

Today was supposed to be an easy day for me. I went in very early because my Dad needed an ice pack for his back. Why the hospital does not have an ice pack I don’t know. My Mom was supposed to come and do a two hour lunch shift so I could get a break, but it was raining. My minister Chris and cousin Peter came for a nice distraction. Thankfully Russ came at 3:30 so I could go at 4:00.

Between the eruption and no food for me all day I was a little tired. I stopped and picked up dry cleaning and came home to begin ornament removal from the tree. I got half done and only broke one ornament. I consider that success.

It dawned on me that this is the last day of 2018, really a shitty year and one I am glad to see go. Tonight I pray that 2019 is an improvement. I also pray that my mother shows up tomorrow so I can finish un-decorating. I hope that everyone reading this has a safe New Year’s Eve and a healthy and productive new year. Lord knows we deserve it.

Changing Everything in the Hospital Room

Slowly, day-by-day, we are making improvements to my father’s tiny hospital room. It started with a king sized down pillow. Then better toilet paper, real Kleenex and food from the outside. No hospital gowns for Ed. He has discovered that a t-shirt and shorts with pockets that can hold his heart monitor work best for day and sleeping. Of course his own socks, entertainment systems, coffee from Starbucks, towels and bath mats from my house and condiments. Today took the cake with a new memory foam gel mattress topper and a special case that holds it on like a fitted sheet.

All these improvements and it still is a pain in the butt to have to live there. But the best improvement of all is when people he likes come to visit. My cousin Sarah, who is tops on his list came today from Raleigh and spent a good few hours. It is the best way to while away the time between naps.

Last night my father finally got a doctors’s order he likes- no one is to enter his room between midnight and six am unless he calls! That doesn’t mean he is able to sleep, but at least no one is waking him if he is asleep!

So with all these creature comforts filling up his tiny room I was able to go to see Mary Poppins Returns tonight with Carter. It was the perfect escape from my hospital redecorator/case manager/nutrition specialist/ entertaining daughter role at the hospital. I can see the progress. Six days down and four more until the procedure when we hope for everything to be on the way up from there.

I am running out of space to add anything to his room so I hope he stops thinking of improvements. Of course I also have the every other day home laundry service to put away, but so much better to be in clean clothes everyday. I am thinking I could sell these memory foam things in the hallways along with all my other improvements. I have told him that he has to live with the bordered Wall paper they have in his room.

Two Halves of Our Day

I have been looking forward to this day for years. It was the celebration of Megan and Max’s wedding. My mother came down to be with Dad so Russ, Carter and I could go to the party.

It was a lovely brunch where we had lots of time to catch up with the beautiful Megan. We were lucky enough to get to sit with Max’s brother Oli and his girl friend Charlie who came from London for the party. The Ketch Family are our favorites so we were honored to be included in the party of family and friends.

After brunch I went to Duke to relieve my Mom of duty and I hung out with Dad. Russ came over too. Being stuck in his small room is starting to make my Dad a little nuts. We asked if we could take him in a wheel chair to the outdoor courtyard. This of course needed to be approved by “the doctor.” Having to get permission from “the doctor” also made my father nuts. I can’t blame him, he is not in prison, but they just want to make sure nothing will go wrong.

Thankfully they gave “permission.” I am not sure what would have happened if they hadn’t. My Dad got a phone call from Cousin Harry right as we were getting the wheel chair, so for most of the outdoor visit Dad was talking on the phone so Russ just did laps with him around the court yard. Russ is the real hero here!

My Dad is up to having phone calls and a visitor or two since he still has four days of waiting for the operation.

The Boredom Of Waiting

My Dad has always had a very short attention span if he is not doing something he loves. So waiting for his operation is not something he is good at, especially since he has to stay in the hospital. The good news is he was feeling better today than yesterday. He finally was allowed to shower. He got dressed and hung out in his room.

Thankfully my sweet cousin Leigh came for a visit and delivered my father’s computer to him. She was an excellent distraction since my father adores her so much. Russ came by and got my father a Starbucks treat.

The highlight of the day was when my father’s favorite Doctor of all time, Dr. Crawford came to see him. They laughed and talked and it brightened his spirits greatly.

After Leigh departed Russ and I took my father on his first walk outside his room. One lap of the heart unit and back to his room. It was a good thing.

I brought my father some head phones which made watching Foyle’s War on his computer much easier. I left him, clean, watching his show and with a good plan for sleep tonight.

My friend Melanie sent me a message about how she kept her husband entertained in the hospital for a month this year. It was great advice, so I am going to me getting some newspapers for my Dad. It might have to be the Sunday papers because my Mom is coming tomorrow to do a shift so Russ, Carter and I can go to a brunch to celebrate the marriage of Carter’s long babysitter Megan.

Love ideas for someone who doesn’t like games and is not too mobile.

Duke Day Three and A Plan

I arrived at My Dad’s hospital room before eight this morning since this was going to be a big day of tests. He was just finishing his Cheerios and announced to me that he did not sleep the night before. Not the news I wanted because no one is happy when they haven’t slept. Despite that pronouncement my Dad was his nicest self all day.

He had an echo first thing. He loves the transport guys at Duke and asks them all kinds of outrageous questions. Like today he asked the young man with an intricate hair style that was very tall if he had a sunroof because my Dad worried his hair might not fit in his car.

After the echo his Physical and Occupational Therapists came to see him. This was the highlight of the day. He loved them. I had met his physical therapist the day before and in her interview about him she asked if he lived in a mobile home because it said that on some report about him. I quickly corrected that so as to save her from what he might say if she mentioned it to him. She would have no idea my father’s lifetime campaign against mobile homes.

After therapy my Mom showed up for a nice visit. Unfortunately she had to witness my Dad getting two different IV’s inserted and it pained her so to watch him get tortured. He then went off with two transport guys to get another big test. Carter got to see him before he left as she brought lunch for me, and her grandparents. After eating her lunch my Mom went home since she can’t drive in the dark. She did a great job to get to the hospital on her own and get home.

When transport retuned my Dad a new doctor came in. He looked at Carter who was still there and said, “Don’t I know you?” Carter used to babysit for his kids and sit for his dog. After they got that out of the way, he told my Dad that the tests went well and gave them all the information they needed to proceed with the operation they think will solve his issues. One interesting thing this latest test found is that my Dad had a undetected heart attack sometime in the last five years and one major artery had failed and his body grew a new one around it. Just like my father!

Yeah, Yeah to the news that he can have this operation! Then the hammer fell. They won’t do it until NEXT Thursday and my Dad had to stay in the hospital until then, plus at least four days after. There are still somethings that need to improve in terms of too much fluid to make sure the operation is successful. It was a good news/bad news story, but when I said to my Dad, “It’s a short term pain to fix a long term problem,” he agreed. But I am worried about keeping him entertained and trying to get him enough sleep and bring in edible healthy food for the next week.

Thank goodness I already brought him a good down pillow yesterday. Tomorrow my assignment as primary care giver is to bring better toilet paper, bar soap, lotion and dark roast hot coffee. I am praying the PT and OT ladies come back early and get him up and walking round.

He was wiped out by six PM tonight so I remade his bed with clean sheets and tidied up his room and got him all snuggled down and he fell asleep. Sadly after he fell asleep his favorite resident came by as I was walking down the hall. He wanted to go say goodbye to my Dad because he was changing services. I am going to hate to break the news to my Dad that Crosby is gone. I am praying that the new resident is just as good. We have at least ten more days in this room and that is a long time for my Dad.

Child As Parent

There is a closeness you get when you take care of a parent in the hospital. It is different than any previous stage in your relationship. Somehow it is the switching roles, where you are more the parent and they are more the baby. In my case it is a baby with attitude and a sailor’s vocabulary. Spending hour upon hour in a small room together with constant visitors of varying healthcare jobs is an experience like no other.

Today was a good day. I arrived at the hospital around 8:00 to find my father had actually slept, which was a godsend after almost two months without a good night’s sleep and had eaten breakfast, also a rare occurrence in the same time period. My sister Janet said he hadn’t eaten much at all for the four days she was taking care of him.

Some visits with health care people go better than others. I am there as the interpreter, referee, memory keeper, coach, phycologist and cheerleader. I knew things were looking up when Kevin, a transport tech came to my Dad’s room to wheel him away for a test. My Dad took one look at Kevin and asked, “Do you have a band?” You never know what my Dad is thinking.

We got my father settled in this new high tech wheel chair and as Kevin pushed him down the hall I heard my father’s loud, low voice say, “Kevin, how long have you been doing this?” This is the sentence that he says first to anyone new he meets for his whole life. I knew he was more himself in that moment.

Hospital food is not something that anyone likes, especially someone who hasn’t felt like eating their own good food. I discussed with Dad’s nurse, Micheal, if my Dad could have a lunch we brought him and he agreed to it. Hope Valley Diner sometimes has egg salad as a special and it is my father’s favorite. So Russ called them and asked them to make it especially for him, which they did once they heard it was for him in the hospital.

Carter delivered the lunch of egg salad on rye to her grandfather and stayed to watch him eat practically two sandwiches. He may still have a lot wrong with him, but the eating was a good sign.

Russ texted me a message just after four this afternoon, which I read to my Dad. “Dow just gained 1000+ points on the news that Ed is now up to eating egg sandwiches…”. My father roared his big laugh. Happy about both the food and the market.

As I was giving the evening instructions to Micheal the nurse for him to pass on to the night team I said, “I really need to go home and rest and will be back first thing in the morning.” Micheal said, “We need you to rest so you can be here.” There is no place else for me to be.

Thanks for all the kind messages of support and prayers. I appreciate all of you even if I don’t have time to respond.

The Christmas Jinx

Two years ago I was sick as a dog on a Christmas. Russ and Carter went to the Chinese restaurant for Christmas dinner alone and declared it the worst Christmas ever, except for the food.

Last year we came home from Germany to celebrate Christmas alone because my whole family went to Florida and had an absolutely terrible time. It was a toss up as to who had the worst Christmas, but Carter declares it was another horrible Christmas.

Due to these two in a row failures for Christmas the only thing Carter wanted for Christmas was to have our whole family together for the holiday. It was looking good. My sisters we coming with their significant others and my parents. Carter planned the menu and baked a killer, but very complicated cake.

Then last week my father who has been really sick told my sister Margaret that she and her boy friend couldn’t come for Christmas because he did not feel up to it. So Carter’s Christmas wish started to unravel, but my sister Janet and Sophie we’re still coming with my parents.

But my father’s condition really started to deteriorate. So it was just going to be Janet, Sophie and my Mom. Last night in the middle of the Christmas Eve service I got a text on my watch, my Dad was doing too badly to be left alone so we were to come to the farm for Christmas. Still together, just not at our house. I packed up the dinner and the cake and all the gifts.

Half way to the farm we got the call that my Dad had to go to the hospital. The volunteer paramedics, all 13 of them in five different trucks, arrived at the farm just as we were getting there. So Janet, who had been up all night taking care of my Dad, and I went off to the Danville Hospital with him.

After a few hours of excellent care by people who had to work on Christmas, my father’s Dr. Lawrence Crawford called from his Christmas skiing vacation and said they got him a bed at Duke and another ambulance was going to move him.

So I left one hospital for another where I spent the last hours of Christmas getting him settled and hopefully able to sleep. I came home to see Russ and Carter for the last few minutes of Christmas. Definitely not the one Carter was wishing for.

I declare this is the actual worst christmas for us. Those others pale in comparison. So tonight as I am home to rest a few hours before going back to Duke as the primary family caregiver and one who is keeping him in the hospital. I am giving thanks for all the kind health care professionals who are helping my Dad. I mostly pray that he follows orders and is able to sleep since he has not had a decent night’s sleep in two months of sickness.

I am thankful for Russ and Carter who keep everything else together for me. And my dear sisters who have been sharing this care with me. I pray that everyone had a better Christmas than us because no one needs this on any day, especially Christmas.

Christmas Flexibility

I am not going to report on all the bad things going on since it is Christmas Eve, but I do request prayers. Not everything is bad though and I am doing my best to salvage Christmas, but the best visual representation of our Christmas is the state of our Gingerbread house.

In good Christmas Eve news we had our annual dinner with our Durham “family” the Toms. Thankfully that dinner went off without a hitch. We Sous vied a tenderloin and I am not sure I can ever cook it another way again. It only took two mostly non-supervised hours. We tested doing it in a different pot yesterday and discovered that today’s thinner bottom pot was not as good at keeping one temperature. Thankfully Russ and I adjusted and it all came out perfectly. I look forward to trying some tougher cuts of meat for longer cooking times and see what I come up with.

After dinner the Toms and us Langes went to church for the beautiful candle light service. With all that is going on in our world and the bigger world the comfort of the familiar Christmas story and the good news of Jesus’ birth was just the right note. The choir and the Brass ensemble brought joy to my heart. And having 90+ year old Davis Bingham sing a solo brought a tear to my eye. I just adore him.

After church the big bonus was getting to see our dearest Megan Ketch who is home with her new husband, Max! Megan has been a big part of our family since she was 18 and Carter was two. Megan introduced Max to Carter as her “first baby.” It is hard to believe that Carter is older than Megan was when she first became Carter’s nanny.

After church Russ, Carter and I opened the presents we got for each other because our Christmas Day plans have changed and we won’t have time in the morning. The good news is we have had a wonderful Christmas Eve and we are keeping our spirits up for the coming days.

We hope that Santa comes to your house and not with coals and switches. May the joy of the season bring you comfort and happiness.

Extra Expertise In The Kitchen

For years I did all the cooking for big holiday meals. Not that I minded. I love to entertain and don’t see making a special meal as a chore, but a gift to my friends and family. Carter did not help me when she was younger and I worried that she was not soaking in any culinary training.

Then about her senior year she started to cook to prepare for her semester in Berlin where she did not have a meal plan, but a kitchen. She discovered how much cooking was in her blood. She did well in Berlin and also found that friends like to hang with you if you make good meals together.

Thankfully she and her roommate Olivia got an apartment in the housing lottery this year so she did not have to be on any meal plan and continued her cooking training. She would text me photos of her meals complete with green vegetables which was a good sign for a college student.

Since we are hosting both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Carter volunteered to help with the cooking and now that I am know she is an accomplished cook I am confident to leave her to figure out her own dishes.

Today she made the cake portion of her Christmas Birthday cake from the very complicated Milk Bar cookbook. She set up her mis en place which was way more organized than I ever am when I bake. Afterward she even washed her equipment in an organized fashion.

After making she Sous vied our lamb chops we had for dinner as practice for the tenderloin we will Sous vie tomorrow night. Russ was just happy someone was using the Sous vie machine he bought me for Christmas five years ago and have only used twice. I have to say the lamb chops were perfect. I can’t wait to see how the tenderloin turns out.

So it is wonderful to have a partner in the kitchen. I am not sure I am ever getting out of cooking everything since I am not sure how long the cooking attention span will last, but so far, a little help is nice.

Love My Neighbors

One of our neighbors had a nice get together tonight just for our section of the street. They are our longest term neighbors, having lived in their house 29 years and we are the next longest having been here 25 years. For most of the time we have lived here we were not only “the new kids on the block,” but the kids. Everyone else was at least ten to forty years older than us and had lived here for ten to thirty years longer than us. We just never were going to catch-up.

Year after year everyone stayed right where they were. Once in a while one person might depart this earth, but they were not moving under any other circumstances. Then, practically overnight our street completely changed.

We got new neighbors. We got young neighbors. We got some neighbors our age. We got fun neighbors and generous neighbors. It has been great.

Except there is that one neighbor who shall remain nameless. The one who doesn’t know how to blow leaves. Instead of blowing his leaves into a pile in the back of his hose, he blows all his leaves off his property onto his neighbor’s property and even across the street to the front yards of other’s neighbors.

That’s not bad to only have one of those kinds of neighbors when all the rest are so good. So thanks to Peggy and John for hosting us tonight. I love living near people I like. Merry Christmas everyone, even the bad leaf blower.

The Shortest Day of The Year

If this day weren’t four days before Christmas it would be the worst day of the year. With the fewest hours of daylight it is hard to remain upbeat. Those Early Christians who picked this time of year to celebrate the birth of Jesus knew what they were doing. “Let’s take the most depressing time of the year and bring in a lot of sparkle and celebration.” Of course this is only true in the Northern hemisphere. In the south Christmas is more like an embarrassment of riches.

I will refrain from writing about the political reasons why this was a bad day because it just won’t change the news and it’s almost Christmas and I want to forget about it. Instead I will concentrate on the good things.

Like the clock man who came to our house today to check out Russ’ clock and get it started for us. I would like to revel in the fact that a two hundred year old technology can still hold its own in our house today. Granted it is not going to play me the headlines like Alexa, but thank god I don’t have one more thing giving me the headlines. It also chimes to remind me that time is passing so make good use of it.

Then I went to play bridge at the urging of my wonderful partner who says I am a mere few points away from some bridge award for newbies. She wants me to get a few more points before the end of the year. Easier said than done when I have to play against a bunch of life masters. I played Monday and got points and today I had my best day ever and came in fourth out of 34 pairs. It may not do anything for our retirement account, but from a personal satisfaction point of view it was a high.

Also while we were playing bridge a huge beautiful rainbow appeared right outside the window I was looking out. Certainly a bonus on the day when we have such a small chance of sunlight. It may be the shortest day, but I feel like I made the most of it. And now the good news is everyday from now until June we get more light everyday. Things will be on the way up for a while!

Carter Wants To Work For You

Carter has been so bored with break. She is not used to having free time. Day before yesterday she told me she had a conference call. “A conference call?” She is doing some research for a non-profit in NYC that her godmother is involved with. When she got off the call I asked her what it was. She said it was volunteer work and she was thrilled to do it since she does not have enough to do.

Since she is this bored in a week it started to make her nervous about the summer. She has plans for a study abroad on the second half of the summer and a volunteer internship in mental health that is just a few hours a week. So now she is looking for work the rest of the time. She will be here at the end of April through mid July.

She is great with kids, a fabulous cooks and has a giant safe car to drive people. She can do office work, whatever you might need. If you have work, or know of someone who is looking for a short term worker let me know and I will put you in touch with Carter.

I am not looking for a job for her, just putting the word out for her so she can figure it out. I am surprised that she even asked me if I knew anyone who needed a worker. When I suggested I could publicize her through this blog I was a little surprised she even let me. I am just glad that she knows that it is better to be crazy busy than have nothing at all.

Where Did I Hide Those Presents?

Back in the day of “big believing” I had to be a good hider of presents. I was a snooper as a child and was devastated upon finding certain presents so I vowed to be a good hider as a parent. In order not to have any difficult conversations with a young Carter I used to tell her, “don’t believe, don’t receive.” I wanted the magic to last as long as possible.

When American girl was the present of choice I used to have boxes sent to my friend Sally’s house. It is hard to hide those distinctive giant boxes. But as a Carter got older I just hid things at home.

I like to buy Christmas presents all year long since I refuse to go shopping in December. It is nice to spread out the paying for Christmas, but it has two distinct draw backs. First, I forget how much I have bought for each person and often discover that I have bought everything for one person and nothing for another. Second, I forget where I have hidden everything.

Forgetting is something I totally understand now, but was shocked about as a child. My mother once stumbled upon a huge tea set in the garage in August she had bought me two years earlier. She just let me have it for no occasion when she found it, but I was appalled that she had forgotten about it for almost two years. Hell, now I can forget about something for a decade. Today, while I was getting boxes out to wrap things in I found a pair of earrings I was given two or three years ago that got left in the box I saved to recycle.

So now I need a map and a gift check list so I can make sure I give all the gifts I bought. My only caveat is I never forget a gift I made for someone. Maybe if I just made all my gifts none of this would be a problem. Perhaps it’s time for me to learn to knit.

Friend Christmas

One of the best things about friends is that we can celebrate almost anything with each other. It’s not just Birthdays, but friends are extra good at not letting one pass by. If your child has a good win, your close friends will celebrate that, if you overcome a difficult family situation, your friends will celebrate that too. Christmas is no exception.

Today, two of my dear friends, Christy and Mary Lloyd and I had our friend Christmas. We decided to forego a different celebration that included too many people who make me cranky to do our own thing. At this point in life I no longer put up with people I just don’t really love and as for people who I really don’t like, well don’t get me started on them.

Since Carter is home she got included in the friend Christmas, which goes to show what good friends Mary Lloyd and Christy are. We went to the Carolina Inn where Christmas is celebrated in every corner. Sadly the gingerbread houses were not part of their decor this year. The only good part about that is I did not feel the desire to try and create and huge Gingerbread extravaganza after seeing one that professionals made.

To prove we are good friends, we all showed up in various forms of black and white, three of us in hounds tooth! It was just nice to have a good lunch, enjoy each other’s company and exchange gifts. It is the low key part of Christmas where no one is fighting, everyone is appreciative and there is no baggage from Christmases past. Friend Christmas could really be enough for me!

To my other friends around the world, I wish I could have friend Christmas with you too. I hope you have someone nearby who you can do a low key celebration with, without drama or tears!

Another Fabulous Day on Wall Street

Stupid tariffs, potential government shut down over a wall, blaming the fed for what’s wrong with the American economy, no one with a brain will work for this guy and the stock market, the stock market, the stock market. When are people going to admit that electing someone without experience, or a brain, was not the best idea. Granted many of the people who voted him in don’t have any stocks, but they also might have worked at Chevy. His line that he is making people rich can’t be spewed anymore and his lack of smarts is going to be costing us all for a long time to come.

To all the republicans who have brains, your standing on the sidelines letting him get away with this mess is squarely at your feet. Your fear of not standing up to this idiot because of how he might call you out won’t make a bit of difference. You have let this country get in this mess and now we have a ridiculous deficit with no way out.

Electing a man who has declared bankruptcy multiple times and letting him hold the purse strings is the definition of idiotic. Who is surprised?

Russ’ Birthday, Christmas and Maybe Even Father’s Day

All our marriage Russ has wanted a tall case clock. It never seemed to be a priority when we had tuition or mortgage payments. We would look at clocks in museums and discuss what features he liked. I have to say that most of them were not to my taste.

My grandparents had a tall case clock in their hallway at the farm. I can remember my grandfather winding it, but I was forbidden from touching it. I did like the chime that rang on the hour, but the face was not that pretty.

Old Clocks, like all antiques, have been coming down in prices as young people shun old things and things in general. This fall when I was in Maine my friend Warren took me to see a clock that had not met the minimum at an auction a dealer friend of his ran. The family who was selling it had paid a huge amount for it years ago, but now would be happy to get a fifth of what they paid.

So I decided it was time to give Russ the clock he always wanted. I like this Scottish Tall case clock with a face painted with famous Scottish authors. The case was particularly nice and the works had been maintained by a clock man in Camden.

From the time I saw the clock in September it took until now to get it since it had to be delivered. Russ and I set it up in the dining room where it would never get any direct sun on it. I called a local clock man to come and put the pendulum and weights on it and check that it is OK. He had to cancel his first appointment, so now we are waiting until Friday.

Hopefully it will all be in good working order as it was when I saw it in Maine. I realize that having this clock is another thing to take care of since it needs winding at exact weekly intervals. This job will fall to Russ, since it is his clock. I just don’t want time to stand still in our house, so I will keep an eye on it too.

It’s nice to preserve something analog in our digital world, especially something that has been around for so long, kind of like me and Russ.

Working Both Sides Of My Brain

I love solving puzzles. Word puzzles, math, logic and jig saw puzzles. Part of me feels guilty like working a puzzle is a frivolous activity. I usually limit my jig-saw activity to a couple of times a year.

This year my Needlepoint group gave me a New Yorker dog cover puzzle. I held off about a week before the temptation got to me and I broke open the box. I had to wait until after Mah Jongg since I use the same table for both activities. This also meant that I could not drag out working on this puzzle since I will need my table again on Wednesday for Mah Jongg.

So today between needlepointing the place cards I auctioned off at Garden Club I worked on my dog puzzle. Did I do anything else productive today? No. No laundry, no cooking, no cleaning. Oh, I wrapped ONE Christmas present.

Then in my guilt I looked up if there are any benefits to working a puzzle. I was thrilled to learn that there are many studies that show working a puzzle works both sides of your brain unlike other activities. It makes you have a longer life span, lessens the changes of getting Alzheimer’s, memory loss, dementia and other old age problems.

So today I was not wasting time, I was lengthening my life and exercising. I feel younger and smarter already. Tomorrow, I will tackle the hardest parts, the all white and green bits. I will practically be a teenager by the time I finish this puzzle.

“That’s Exactly What I Needed”

Today was the annual “Holiday Bridge.” I went for years, but during my bridge playing hiatus I stopped. Now that I am fully back to bridge I thought it would be fun to go and play with many old friends I don’t see as much.

Holiday Bridge is not duplicate, which is all I play these days. Duplicate is a different animal because you are playing against the whole room with the same hands. It is about how much better you and your partner can do versus all the other pairs. It takes the luck out of it because it is not about what cards you have, but what you do with them. If you are a non-bridge player this makes no sense, but just read on.

Today was what is called Party Bridge. Deal the cards and play. Not the same skill level, but still fun. One of my friends I played against was my original bridge teacher from 18 years ago, Helen. As her partner bid Helen up and then laid down her cards as dummy, Helen would exclaim, “That’s exactly what I needed.” It was an excellent intimidation thing to say. Of course, as Helen’s partner put down her cards I would look at the board and think, “I have exactly what I need to stop Helen.”

After I moved tables away from Helen I could still overhear her saying her signature phrase at least two more times. Then the rest of us started saying it. It worked! Just telling the opponents that I have what I need to make my bid was scary enough to have them make a mistake or two.

Now, I didn’t win the whole Holiday bridge, but I did do well enough for the cards I was dealt. At the end of the play we have a gift exchange and we pick in the order of how well you did at bridge. I was squarely in the middle. But I felt like I had won in the knowledge department. I will be saying Helen’s signature phrase more often not just at bridge, but at anything competitive.

Twelve Day Count Down

We have an extra week in the Christmas season this year since Thanksgiving was so early. That meant my house was decorated and ready to go leaving me plenty of time to do all the other Christmas stuff.

I had my Needlepoint Christmas lunch and my Garden Club Christmas Lunch and Auction. Those take up ten days on their own. Now that they are successfully in the rear view mirror it’s time to think about the big event. Suddenly I feel like a I am behind on Christmas.

Even though I think I have all the presents I am going to give I had not wrapped a single one until today. I have had these presents for ages. I could have done this in October, but somehow the wrapping waits until the last minute.

So I wrapped the presents that had to be mailed and got them off to day, but I am already tired of wrapping. I like my presents to look good, but take little joy in wrapping. Then it dawned on me, Carter Lange is the answer for all the presents that are not for her.

She is a great wrapper and now she is available for hire if you need wrapping help. Just send me a message and I’ll connect you. She is a very useful elf.

Now to menu planning for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. These twelve days go fast for us adults and slow as can be for little ones.

The Joy of A Twenty Year Old

Carter came home last night from college. She brought a huge suitcase of things she wanted to leave at home that she didn’t need in her small dorm apartment. She said living in a small space has made her look at belongings differently. She realizes there are only certain things she needs and having a non-cluttered space brings more joy than the stuff.

This morning she woke up and began cleaning out her room including her closets. This practically brought a tear to my eye. When I got home from college I am certain I slept for the first two or three days and did nothing productive at all.

Right now Carter has three large trash bags of clothes to donate and an untold amount of trash that has gone to the bin. This industriousness is a most welcome surprise.

When she took a break from cleaning she went to the grocery for me and now she is cooking us dinner. We are not talking some unhealthy college dinner, but lemon chicken and broccoli. I know Russ is sad he is missing her first dinner home since he is in LA, but he is not missing broccoli. So having it tonight was a great plan on Carter’s part.

On the difference of having a twenty year old come home. It makes my heart happy. I can really get used to having a live-in maid and cook. Do you think I am getting ahead of myself?

A Very Good Day

So as not to bury the lead, I am happy to say that my Dad is on the mend. He proved every doctor wrong and his numbers are great. Thank you for all your prayers and good wishes. One Doctor who can’t explain how he healed says it was an act of God. All I can say is “yeah, God.”

In other good things that happened today, we held our Garden Club Christmas Auction and lunch. There had been lots of discussion about whether is should take place with the bad weather, but considering it is a neighborhood garden club I couldn’t see a reason for it not to happen. We pushed back the start time by an hour so the black ice could melt. Everyone was a good sport about going around in stocking feet and leaving their boots at the front door.

Starting late meant that everyone was hungry as the auction was taking place so it went fast, but not at the expense of people bidding high. Given the number of items we had I think it was a record for most spent per item. Even better there were no dogs in this auction so I did not have to come up with creative things to say about things. Not like the year we had an old turtleneck that smelled of smoke.

We had a full house with members and their guests who bid wildly. My co-hostesses, Lucy, Theky, Carolyn and Kay were a dream team. They worked the kitchen while I auctioned and the second the last item was bid on the dining room was open. A special shout out to Al, Lucy’s husband, who shoveled my walkway after the second snow. And to Kathi, who stayed until the bitter end with the hostesses and cleaned the whole thing up.

After a little rest I was off to downtown to ABC-11 where I appeared on TV for the food Bank Food Drive. The goal was to get those phones ringing with donors and we did. The Anchor Amber and I wore crazy holiday headbands until all the phones were ringing. Thanks to all the donors it only took a minute.

Then I was off to the airport to pick up Carter. Talk about icing on the cake. While I was waiting for her Michelle Berrey walked out of security and it was fun to catch up with her. She took a photo of Carter and me together, but I have been forbidden on posting a post exams travel photo.

Even without the photo you can imagine how happy I was to have her home. All in all, I must say, it was a very good day.

Thai Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squashes are a $1.99 at Trader Joe’s, any size, a $1.99. That is a deal I can’t resist. Since Sunday was a snow day I decided to make soup with my deal squash I had sitting on the counter. I usually make a curried butternut squash soup, but I wanted something different, so I went with Thai flavors. It was good on Sunday, but after sitting in the fridge for a day it was fantastic.

2 large yellow onions chopped

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 inches of fresh ginger grated on the micro plane

1/2 t. Red pepper flakes

1 T. Oil

1 quart of stock, I used turkey because I am still using it up from Thanksgiving

1/2 cup of flaked coconut

3 T. Powdered peanut, or peanut butter

1 T. Sriracha

3 T. Lime juice

Put the oil in a stock pot and add the onions. Cook on medium high for three minutes stirring every so often. Add the squash, garlic, ginger, a little salt and red pepper flakes and stir cooking for two minutes. Add the stock and then add enough water to come to the top of the vegetables. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the squash is tender.

Remove from the heat and purée using a stick blender or in a blender. Then add everything else and blend again to chop up the coconut.

Taste for salt.

Russ Honorary Hope Valley Garden Club Member Today

Today has been a big snow day here in Hope Valley. We awoke to eight inches of snow on the cars. Thankfully as the precipitation continued through the day we kept our power. By afternoon the snow had turned to rain and right now it is 33° and holding.

Tuesday is my Garden Club Christmas Auction and lunch held at my house this year. I have been getting ready for the last few days so from my point of view we are having it. Russ jumped in today to help with some critical tasks.

First, he shoveled the walkways so that any solar power we get from the sun can work on keeping them ice free. It was still raining as he shoveled so he gets extra points for doing that job in the pouring rain.

Second, he is juicing the limes for me since I am making Chili lime glazed salmon for lunch. It was a recipe I developed for a long ago Garden Club Christmas and it was a hit, so we are reprieving it. With my allergy to citrus the only way I can make it is if Russ touches the limes for me. He multi-tasked with texting a co-worker, while listening to a podcast, while juicing the limes.

Third, he cut the slots in the birch rounds I needed for my auction item. This involved finding which of the many power tools his father has given him over the years and setting up a jig to do it right. I am thankful for those craftsman tools at times like this.

Every member of the club has to bring an item to auction. Homemade stuff goes well. Some people bake or cook so the hungrier the crowd is the more they pay for a chocolate pie. The longer the auction takes the faster they bid on a bourbon cake. My item this year is up to 12 personalized place cards that I will needlepoint for the winner with the names of their family members. The winner gets to pick the font, color and if they want sparkle or matte. It is the perfect gift for a difficult mother-in-law. They can be used at every gathering and you will forever get credit for the perfect place cards.

Thanks to Russ for doing so much work today. Sadly he has to go to the airport at four in the morning so I am praying for safe travels for him. Of course he would never be home during the Garden Club Auction, but just for this one day I hope he can be an honorary member.

Thanks to You Friends

It has been a crazy week here. My dad’s been sick and with fingers crossed is on the mend. I’ve had this chest congestion that just won’t go away and now it seems like everyone I know also has it. Carter is having exams and had 2 in-class and one take-home on her birthday which really stinks. And now we are waiting for snow-ma-getan here tonight. This is not what I am looking for.

At least last night I had a lovely surprise from my sweet friend Stacey. We had a party to go to up at the club and Stacey, who has a beautiful flower business called Fig Tree Designs, made flower cuffs for all the ladies at our table. It was just a great surprise to sit down and be handed a corsage box with the darling blue flower cuff.

She had no idea how much that little treat made my night after the week I have had. Friends make such a huge difference in our lives. Like this morning when my Dad’s nebulizer was not working Mary Lloyd ran her’s over to me so I could take it to him at the farm. Thankfully he got a new one at the local pharmacy so her trip was for naught, but she acted like it was not a problem just the same.

Thanks to my friends who keep me sane and listen to my stories about the drama going on around me. Friends who laugh with me at the crazy because only friends would believe how crazy things are. You friends know who you are and I appreciate each and everyone of you.

One Score For Carter

Twenty years seems like a long time. How could Carter be twenty years old today? It seems like yesterday that Russ was on the payphone at Durham Regional with my mother trying to explain what an epidural is while I was being wheeled down the hall naked to the operating room so we could meet Carter. It certainly is a day that will live in infamy as far as my scaring those visitors to labor and delivery. In terms of getting to meet Carter it is a day of honor in our family.

Carter came out the way she was going to be. Lots of medical fuss, but healthy and wonderful in actuality. It has been a joy to be Carter’s mother, most of the time.

From the time she first discovered she loved horses more than humans.

Or that breaking, spraining or twisting something was going to be a regular thing.

To the joy of being on a team, and realizing your most important job was to be the team psychologist.

Your love of discovering the world on your own took you many places and to a new understanding of self.

And best of all in your twenty years you have learned what you can do for yourself, but still come home to us once in a while.

Happy birthday Carter. We love you more every year. Shay is waiting for you.

Godspeed President George H.W. Bush

As I watched the Houston funeral for President George H.W. Bush all I could think about was my friend Doro, his daughter. I first got to know Doro when she married Bobby Koch. Bobby’s older brother Danny was one of my favorite people and he was married to my dear friend Trisha who was one of my bridesmaids. When I lived in DC I spent lots of time with them and was lucky to get to meet Presidents and Mrs. Bush.

Listening to each eulogy I recognized so many of the wonderful traits that the President has in Doro. She is kind, polite, and humble. If she can help, she does and without fan fare. She so embodies the “be a good person” spirit her father did.

I remember when Carter was a little girl and we were visiting the Koch’s. She was swimming with Trisha’s and Doro’s younger kids. At one point Carter jumped off the diving board and landed right on Max, one of President Bush’s grandsons. Russ was worried that a secret service agent might jump out of the shrubs and take Carter away, but there was none of that. No secret service. Just regular kids and Doro said that Max could hold his own.

When Danny Koch got cancer Tricia told me how the President and Mrs. Bush helped him get into treatment at MD Anderson in Texas. He spent years being treated there before succumbing to it, but all that time The President and First Lady would host his family, or take their kids to baseball games and visit Danny in the hospital which always made the staff take extra good care of him. They treated the Koch family like their own family, even though they were Doro’s in-laws. Kindness and generosity of spirit were their hallmarks.

So the country is a sadder place without 41. He was just a stand up guy, but thankfully I know that his way of treating everyone like they were the most important person in the room is carried on by Doro. So Godspeed Mr. President. Wish we had more like you.

Comforting Cheese Soup

I made this soup for my Needlepoint Christmas and got requests for the recipe. Here it is before I forget what I put in it.

1 large yellow onion chopped

5 carrots peeled and chopped

3 stalks of celery chopped

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 T. Butter

3 T. Flour

1 1/2 quarts of stock, I used turkey because I had it

1 bay leaves

2 cups half and half

1 lb of shredded fontina cheese

2 T. Sherry

1 t. Worcheshire

1 good squirt of shiracha

Salt and pepper

Put the onions, carrots, celery and good pinch of salt in a stockpot with the butter on a medium low heat and cook about seven minutes until tender, not brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the flour and stir to cook the flour for a minute. Add the bay leaves and the stock and bring to a simmer and cover and cook for twenty minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and purée the contents of the pot. You can do the recipe in advance to this point. If you want to save it to serve later, refrigerate this liquid, then reheat on medium to start the second half.

With warm stock/vegetable purée add half and half and continue warming it on medium heat. Once the soup has gotten hot, but never boiling, add about two ounces of cheese and stir waiting for the cheese to melt. You will continue to do this until all the cheese has been incorporated and melted. Add the sherry, Worcestershire sauce and a small squirt of Sriracha. Taste to see if you want it spicer and add salt and pepper as needed.

Thank You

Thank you for all the kind words and well wishes for my father. There is nothing I can update you on right now, but appreciate continued prayers for him. Just know that your messages have been wonderful and I am praying to give good news soon. I have amassed a lifetime of stories just in the last 24 hours, but none that I can share right now. I appreciate all you faithful followers, but I am unable to write more about this today.

Usually My Favorite Day

I wait all year for Needlepoint Christmas. My stitching table advisors gather once a year and exchange ornaments we made for one friend whose name we drew in January. It is so fun to see what special things we make for each other.

I make a special lunch and everyone comes and is appreciative of my Christmas decorations. Since these are my stitching advisors they make a big deal over my Needlepoint garlands which makes me happy. Only other stitchers really understand what goes into making all those ornaments.

This year I was serving an English High tea for lunch, which might be sacrilege, but tea is my favorite meal and I just can’t make people wait to eat it at four in the afternoon. As I was making my scones this morning I noticed two texts and a missed phone call from my mother. She had my father at Duke because he is very sick. He had been all weekend, but refused to go to the Danville hospital.

His Duke doctor wanted to admit him to the hospital but there were no beds. My house was the next best thing since the doctor did not want him far from the hospital. So in the middle of my lunch my dad moved in. My mom went to fill his prescriptions, but could not find a nebulizer machine. Thank god for good friends. Christy took my mom to the medical device store and got her fixed up. After my Mom got everything she went home, leaving me to run this hospital.

Four other great friends, Nancy, Ann, Deanna and Elizabeth washed all the dishes and silver by hand since we had used the good stuff and cleaned the kitchen. It was not the long Needlepoint lunch we usually have, but everyone was so nice.

I turned into Nurse Ratchet and my father wished he was back at Duke as I made him do his nebulizer treatment until the last drop of medicine was gone. He doesn’t want to bother me, but he is very uncomfortable and keeps moving about trying to find a place to settle. His moving around makes me nervous. So far he has slept in two different beds.

I gave him my Christmas bell so he could ring for me, but he hasn’t used it. I am making him stay up until his next treatment and he is not happy about that. He asked if he could watch the news. That was a great idea to keep him occupied and in one place. The only problem is I did not know which channel Fox News was, and was hoping to never know it. It is quite hard to find a channel guide when you don’t have one.

My Dad had not eaten much and I know he will not get better if get gets too weak so I have been giving him sugary drinks and soup made with homemade turkey stock. If anything will make him better it is that. I am hoping he will be able to sleep tonight so he can heal and the medicine can do its job.

This has not been my favorite Needlepoint Christmas Day ever. Thanks to my friends for muddling through and helping me and my family out. Thanks to Kate for taking pictures before it all fell apart.

A Boy, His Train and His Dog

Russ has always loved trains. He introduced me to G-scale trains before we got married. They are big and also are called garden trains because they can be set up outside in your garden. When we first got married we got this train set thinking we would create a garden train. Life and deer got in the way. Now it just gets set up around the Christmas tree.

Shay was disinterested in the train while Russ was putting the track together. She ignored the whole thing while he attached the cars together on the track. Once he turned the dial and the engine started to pull forward Shay was mad. She did not like her daddy paying attention to that train. She could see the glee in his eye and she was clearly jealous.

Russ tried to get her to come closer and she backed away and bowed down in a posture ready to fight the mighty train. She wanted nothing to do with the chugging contraption or for him to continue loving it. She certainly understands what Russ loves and can’t stand the competition.

Homemade Clotted Cream

For anyone who loves English High Tea you almost certainly have had clotted cream or Devonshire cream with your scones, but did you ever have any idea what it was? If you guessed cream you are right, but how did does it get “clotted?”

It starts with heavy cream and it ends with heavy cream. That’s it. If you whip heavy cream you get whipped cream. If you over whip it you get butter. So whipping is not how you get clotted cream. What’s left in your culinary bag of tricks? You bake the cream! Yes, but very slowly. You have to start with NON ultra pasteurized heavy cream. For you local folks you can use Maple View Farms.

When I first tried this I thought I had failed because I did not make my layer of cream thick enough because I used too big a pan. But it turned out to work anyway. I tried again using a glass pie plate and that worked better.

2 cups heavy cream

1 glass pie plate or ceramic dish

Preheat the oven to 180°.

Pour the cream in the dish. It should be about 1 inch high.

Place in the oven and set the timer for 10 hours.

Take it out of the oven and peel off the skin on the top and discard it. Let the cream cool for an hour and then cover it and refrigerate it for at least 12 hours. The liquid will separate. Scrape the solids out and separate it from the liquid. You can use the leftover liquid to bake with, or just discard it. Mix the solids to smooth it out and there you have clotted cream.