March Sadness

When the brackets came out for March Madness it looked like there was a very good chance for an all ACC final four. I filled out a bracket for our church charity and had Duke, UNC, Virginia and Florida State in the final four. Well my bracket is busted because only Virginia has made it into the final. Despite UNC, and Duke also being ranked number one in their regions they were taken down by lower ranking teams. I foolishly discounted number one Gonzaga just because they were not in the ACC.

I watched many hours of basketball in the last few weeks and the one thing I feel never gets enough discussion from commentators is that these players are kids. Yes, most look like grown men and have been trained to be eloquent speakers in media training 101, but they are still college students.

The brains of young men are still developing well into their 25th year. The pressure and hype of these games has got to get to them. And remember these are games. The players are not robots. Just because they have been an 81% free throw shooter during the regular season in no way guarantees they are going to make one particularly important game deciding shot for all the marbles.

The thing about March Madness is 67 teams are going to be disappointed and only one will not. That also means that 67 team’s fans, families, schools, coaches and anyone who bet on them are also going to be experience the losses. Perhaps we should rename March Madness to March Sadness.

The only bright spot is that as humans we learn more from our losses than wins, if you decide to examine yourself. Maybe March could be considered personal growth month for basketball players and not the month they didn’t win the big dance.

Shay Likes Bars

It was a lovely warm day. Russ and I replaced five shrubs while Shay ran around the house checking for critters and jumping in and out of the long grasses. Apparently she knew it is a Saturday and was celebrating.

Since it was such a nice day we decided to take the Morris Minor out for a drive with Shay. The car needed gas so we stopped and filled up. We drove through the dry cleaners and picked up shirts. Our options on where to go with Shay were limited so we decided to stop at the Barley Labs, the dog and beer bar. We had never been there, but thought what the heck, bars are not usually where we hang, but this one was for dogs.

Being as it was three in the afternoon the place was fairly empty. There was one dog and owner sitting outside and one two human couple sitting inside at the bar talking to the bar keep. Shay trotted right in as if she was accustomed to going into to stores regularly. After sniffing the perimeter Shay greeted the humans and allowed them to love on her as if she were Norm from Cheers.

I took a seat at a table and Russ ordered a beer. Shay accepted the barley biscuit and came and sat with me. The place had a big table of games and puzzles and Russ suggested he might play one with me. BIG RED LETTER DAY! Russ rarely plays games with me.

We played Quidler and another woman came in and met a man with a dog who just had come in. It was apparent they were on a first date. Good place to come on a first date. Shay watched Russ and I play the game while I eavesdropped on the first date couple and his dog looked at Shay.

All in all Shay liked the bar. She got lots of attention from both humans and dogs. She was asked to be photographed sitting at the bar and she posed proudly. I am sure Shay would like to go and visit other bars. We will have to research her options. I’m just glad I don’t have to go on first dates.

Jicama Chips!

When Carter and I were in the DR we watched a movie that had one of my favorite lines of all time. A man was quizzed about his favorite vegetable and his answer was “table side guacamole.” For some reason this just tickled me. Unfortunately, it also got me craving guacamole.

There was no Mexican food at our resort any where to be found. I came home and have tried to satisfy that Mexican food craving with a Mexican salad this week at Mah Jongg, but that did not quite scratch that “table side guacamole” itch.

Not wanting to have a big batch of tortilla chips around I bought a jicama today. After peeling it and cutting it in half I cut it into thin chips. I made a fresh batch of guacamole, which technically should be called “counter side guacamole.” I served it on the jicama chips and it was perfect. The jicama is crisp but not sweet making it even better than a chip.

I can totally see why “table side guacamole” would be a favorite, but I am not sure I can qualify it as a vegetable on its own, but once you add the jicama, then it qualifies.

Where is Spring?

I am cold. I am tired of being cold. My fingers are still white on the ends from being so cold. My feet slightly numb still need socks. It is almost April and in North Carolina we should be warm. This is not Maine, or Vermont where cold doesn’t really leave until late May. At least today we had sun, but it only looked like it should be warmer, but it wasn’t.

My early daffodils have come and gone and my late ones are about to bloom, but the lack of warmth has slowed them down. It is too cold for me to even do garden prep, let alone plant some things. Shay snuggles close to me in bed, too cold to stretch out alone.

In less than a month I will be taking my road trip North to collect Carter and visit friends. I expect it to be cold there, but not here. Come on spring. I would like to enjoy a little bit of my favorite season, but I think I am going to miss it. One thing I am not going to miss is this never ending winter. I am tired of being cold!

Really Regular Mah Jongg

Twenty five years ago, when we first came to Durham, I was taken in to a Mah Jong group by some women who would become my very good friends. I was working full time, but always knew that when I was in town on our regular Mah Jongg day I would have a place and people to play with. I got to the point that I would plan all my work travel around Mah Jongg day, flying in from London the night before game day and out to Mexico, Canada or even back to London the day after.

Life is much easier now that I just have Mah Jongg and no work travel, but I keep up the regular game and still to this day play with my friend Judy who was one of the originals who took me in.

The best thing about such a long regular game is that my friend Jan, from the group twenty five years ago, knows when Mah Jongg is. Even though she moved to Texas nine years ago, she still plans her travels back to Durham around Mah Jongg day, like I used to.

Jan arrived here yesterday. I picked her up at the airport and brought her home so she was here ready to play bright and early today. We had a good group today playing what we thought was the last time with the 2018 card.

After a morning of playing and lunch I went to the mailbox to see if the new 2019 card arrived. Sadly it was one of the days that our local post office neglected sorting any first class mail, which is a regular occurrence. The only thing in the box were a couple of catalogs and no new Mah Jongg cards!

Jan will be here tomorrow and we decided we could do a back-to-back Mah Jongg and have one more day with the old card. It may not be our regular day, but since she flew in for Mah Jongg we need to take advantage of having Jan here. Two days in a row of Mah Jongg is really not a hardship.

Do You Want To See Vivian Howard In Person?

Vivian Howard is as much fun in person as she is on TV. This is a photo from the first time we met when she came and headlined the Chef’s Feast for the Food Bank three years ago. She wanted to see what driving a fork lift would be like. Thankfully she did not have the keys.

This year’s Chef Feast is on a Thursday April 18 at Fearrington barn. The evening starts at 5:00 with cocktails and dinner will be prepared by Vivian, the renowned Fearrington Chef, Colin Bedford and pastry chef Andrew Ullom, formally with Ashley Christensen’s pastry chef. Chef Paris has volunteered to help in the kitchen this year so I know things will run smoothly.

There are a limited number of tickets available at $225 a person. All the proceeds go to the Food Bank since everything is donated. I will be the auctioneer again this year and am hoping to see many friendly faces out in the audience. It is a fun and yummy night.

If you want to come here is the link to buy tickets. I will make sure you sit with people you will enjoy. Thanks for your support of our Food Bank which cares for so many people in 34 countries in North Carolina.

Kathi’s Needlepoint Birthday

Today is my friend Kathi’s birthday. She started needlepointing this year and has taken to it in a big way. Since she is someone who likes to drive in head first in an activity she created a stitching group of a few expert Needlepoint friends and we gather at her house to stitch. This is her best way of getting Needlepoint lessons on a regular basis and ours to catch up.

For Kathi’s birthday we had a stitching session. She says she would rather Needlepoint than go out to lunch. No wonder she is so thin. I would never turn down a birthday lunch. Then again I would stitch and eat.

Our stitching group could not let a birthday go uncelebrated, Needlepoint or not. I made a lemon pound cake and the others brought gifts on a theme. You might have though they would be Needlepoint themed, but they were flower themed, another passion.

Kathi learned three new stitches, had cake and lots of good conversation. A good birthday as far as I can tell. I love when I get to celebrate someone else’s birthday doing things I love too. Then again, I don’t really need an excuse to do what I like to do. It’s what I do all day.

Russ’ Choice

There are not enough dinners in a year for all the recipes that Russ finds online and asks, “Can you make this?” It is such a stupid question. If you give me a recipe certainly I can make it. I don’t always want to make some of his requests, but sometimes they interest me and are healthy enough. I shouldn’t complain because if I give in he almost always does the shopping and that is the part I hate the most.

This morning he showed me a New York Times Hot and Sour Soup with Dumplings recipe. It calls for premade dumplings, which Russ gets at the Asian Market so I gave in. I knew it was a quick recipe that I could make while watching basketball.

One of the ingredients was 2 T. of minced ginger. I told Russ not to buy ginger since I had plenty. Recently I found frozen minced garlic at Trader Joe’s. It comes frozen in one teaspoon cubes that you just pop out of the package. Grating ginger is not really hard, especially if you store the hand of ginger in the freezer, but having it all done is not something I am going to complain about.

I have to give this recipe choice to Russ. The soup was good, healthy and quick. It was much better than any take out version we have around here. I really should listen to Russ more, he is almost always right.

March Madness Grooming Advice

It’s March Madness around here. That means I am watching TV and Russ is doing something important. In many ways I wish he would watch it with me. Not all the games, really just the halftime commentary. Russ has no need for the basketball wisdom being shared by the old players, he is already good at basketball. What I want him to absorb is the grooming tips.

Today Clark Kellogg was talking about Charles Barkley missing some desk time because he was getting a pedicure. Charles owned it. He said how much he liked getting the professional grooming, although he drew the line at getting his eye brows done today.

African American men are way ahead of Russ in grooming. I see many of them at my manicurist getting pedicures. I have mentioned this to Russ. No one would like a pedicure more than Russ, but he is yet to step foot in a salon. If only he would watch basketball commentary with me he would learn that it is perfectly acceptable to not only have nice nails, but to have someone else do them. I don’t expect him to learn to do his own nails, hell I don’t do mine, but it is a treat to have someone else do them. Sir Charles says so.

Jackson Browne Still Has It

If there was a sound track of my first year of boarding school it would definitely be Jackson Browne’s album The Pretender. I must have listened to “Here come those tears again” at least ten thousand times along with all the other songs on the album. The next year “Running on Empty” replaced The Pretender, but Jackson Browne remained my contestant companion.

Russ texted me yesterday that he had been given 7th row tickets for Jackson Browne tonight I was thrilled. It was an incredibly intimate show. Browne, at least 25 guitars, a guy named Alex who played the slide guitars and two back up singers who came from a gospel choir Browne works with in LA.

At 71, he still can sing. He sometimes forgets the words, but not the music. Tonight he was awaiting the news of the arrival of his first grandchild, so he gets a pass on forgetting a couple words as he had something bigger on his mind. But he sounded great. Not all performers keep their voices, but Browne has.

He sang a lot of songs I did not know, but liked nonetheless. He did play the Pretender, Running on Empty and Baby Blues. I still love those songs that kept me sane those high school years. I still love Jackson Browne.

Art in Bloom

At 5:58PM yesterday Spring officially made its debut. You couldn’t tell it here in Durham. We usually have had lots of spring like days by the time it really is spring, but not this year. Cold, rainy, grey definitely winter like. This morning spring was still not here, at least outside, but just down the road in Raliegh at the NC Art Museum spring was busting out all over. The annual Art In Bloom show where floral designers are invited to create an arrangement that is inspired by an assigned work of art was opening.

Thanks to my friend Morgan Moylan, who is one of the designers, I got to go to the show this morning before the regular public opening. Her gorgeous work is number four in the exhibit. The show is held in the west wing of the museum where 51 different floral works of art are interspersed amongst the museum’s collection.


Stacey Burkert, another friend and fellow garden club member, also had a spectacular piece in the show. Her’s is number 17.

My words can only detract from the beauty of the flowers so I will just post as many photos as I can. Sadly if you don’t already have a ticket you won’t be able to attend as it is sold out. Just plan ahead for next year.

Really Strong Sleep

Sleeping used to be something I was really good at. I was practically Olympic. In my family there was a wide range of sleepers. My mother and sister Margaret were not good sleepers, despite needing lots of it. They had trouble going to sleep, they needed perfect conditions and they had trouble staying asleep. My father was good at falling asleep and was able to survive on very little sleep. My sister Janet was a sleep traveler, meaning that when she woke up in the middle of the night, she would wander the house dragging her sleeping bag eventually making a nest at the foot of my parent’s bed on the floor.

I was the model sleeper. I didn’t have much trouble falling asleep, almost anywhere, and I could easily sleep through the night and long into the day, especially as a teenager. My good sleeping abilities served me well as I grew and had to travel for work and change time zones often.

As my life got less hectic you would think that I would have fewer things that might interrupt my sleep, but then came hormonal changes. Some people have hot flashes, some lose their mind, I lost my perfect sleep attendance ribbon.

Things were worse a few years ago and seem to be improving now, but every once in a while I have a bad night. About five years ago I discovered Aleve PM. It seemed to help me sleep on those night that’s that my mind would not turn off. It was just the right amount of sleep aid and I probably had some hurting body part that liked the pain reliever.

The other day I was at Costco and was looking to replace my Aleve PM. I saw this Kirkland brand sleep aid and thought I might try it since I don’t really need the pain relief, just the sleep aid. Night before last I had a bad night. Between my super sonic hearing that could hear Click and Clack laughing through Russ’ earbuds as he slept with Car Talk on an endless loop and probably some late day caffeine I hardly slept a wink. I desperately wanted last night to be a solid full night’s sleep so I took one of these Kirkland pills.

I passed out at 9:30 and had a hard time pulling myself out of bed by 8:30 this morning with a huge sleep hangover. Wow, these things work too well. I think if I am going to take them again I am going to try and cut one in half. I just want a good seven hours, not eleven.

Stopping all caffeine by 2:00 pm should do the trick so I could go drugless, but sometimes my iced tea addiction is just too strong.

Glasses Sadness

Glasses Sadness
— Read on

Glasses Sadness

It was a rude awakening when my perfect vision went and I needed reading glasses. At first I had strength 1.0 and one pair was enough. I could still squint, or hold my arm way out if I didn’t have my glasses near by. Then soon I needed a stronger pair and no longer was my arm long enough.

So I got two pairs of the next one, one for my bedside and one for my purse. Not a year later I needed even stronger glasses to needlepoint and I needed them in the sun room and the kitchen. Finally I broke down and got old lady glasses chains and I wear my reading glasses around my neck like a necklace so I am never without them.

In all those reiteration of buying various reading glasses I tried many brands and styles. I had dollar store, fancy eye bobs, peepers and Warby Parker. I came to like half rims the best and eventually settled on one style. The last time I bought them I got two pairs at once, but for the life of me I don’t know from where.

Today my last pair lost a lens and I am having to go back and wear one of my old pairs that don’t feel right on my face. I wish I had made a note of where my favorite glasses came from. I have searched the internet and have not found them. It really stinks to be so dependent on something so fragile.

Intermittent Fasting Report

In January I started Intermittent Fasting to see if that might help me lose some of the pounds I had found in the last two years. Since I officially finished menopause I had found it harder than ever to send the scales in the right direction and easier than ever to have the smallest thing make me gain weight.

I have been a professional weight gainer and loser over the years. Sadly in the last two years all the regular ways that helped me shed pounds no longer worked. It was depressing, which does not help me stick to a plan. My attitude in the past was any solid weight loss plan, stuck to, works. Not so when you get old!

I had read something’s about intermittent fasting, which means you only eat eight consecutive hours a day and fast the other 16. Supposedly it puts yours body in a fat burning mode for a few hours. Since I was tired of all the other plans that were not working I decided to give this a try.

I am happy to report I have lost a little more than twenty pounds doing this. I don’t eat whatever I want in those eight hours, but I also don’t deny any food categories. Basically I eat two regular healthy meals, and sometimes have a very small snack in between.

I did not do this program when I went on vacation and I gained a couple of pounds eating crappy food. As soon as I got home I went back to the fasting plan and immediately dropped what I gained and lost some more.

So far the rate of loss has remained consistent, which is a big improvement over anything else I have done in the last two years. I feel great, never really hungry. Of course the excitement of getting on the scale in the morning helps keep me on track.

As I am eating healthy food in a balanced way, vegetables, protein, fat, fruit, not much sugar, but still eating grains I don’t think there is any downside to keeping at it. The hardest part is sometimes I have to eat dinner before Russ gets home because my eating window is closing. This is more about him working long hours than anything else, but he is a good egg about eating alone.

I would like to lose another twenty pounds by June and will report then if I am successful. If I am I will have to endorse this as one of the easiest ways to lose weight, at least for a post menopausal woman, which I think we can all agree is the worst category to be in if you want to lose weight.

Sewing Church

Today was an all church day, but most of it was spent at home. Yes, Russ and I went to church. After the massacre in New Zealand it was very much needed. Our youth pastor Alex preached on the need to love one another as the only way forward. I did feel like he was preaching to the choir, but agreed with his message.

I knew that I was going to be returning to a Church this evening to attend a session meeting to talk about our new fellowship hall building project which I am leading. While the new building is very important I wanted to do something demonstrative to love the world during the rest of the day.

The perfect opportunity presented itself with the need to make some dresses for the children in Haiti our mission team will be visiting to in a couple weeks. So I took home a few dress kits and spent my afternoon in the sweat shop sewing them up. I delivered them to the woman leading the dress making project Helen at the meeting tonight and she said, “You just took these home today.”

Loving each other, all the people, is not something that can wait. Sewing a few dresses may be small, but having my hands doing something productive helps me. If only I could sew people into loving each other.

Dear Evan Hansen And Private Jets

We went to see Dear Evan Hansen at the DPAC tonight. It was well done, and Russ stayed awake, which is practically a ringing endorsement. Since the themes of teenage suicide, loneliness and parent child disconnectedness are too heavy for me to write about I would like to focus on our playbill, or more particularly one ad in our playbill, the one for Causey Aviation.

Perhaps you have not heard about the Triangle’s premier Jet management and a charter company, that is unless you are a DPAC patron. I have no idea how much a full page ad in the playbill costs, but as I looked around the theatre I was not sure exactly how many people there are in need of Jet management.

Granted we sit in the middle of the theatre. Maybe no one in Row S is chartering many private flights. The president club members who sit in the first twelve rows maybe need and can afford Causey Aviation. I just don’t think anyone in the balcony is flipping through the magazine and happens upon the ad and says, “I was looking for a private Jet and didn’t know who to call.”

Out of interest and with plenty of intermission time to kill I went to the Causey web site and was disappointed to learn that I had to request a quote to get any idea how much these things cost. If you have to ask… as the old saying goes. So I dig deeper into the web and found ball park costs or chartering jets. Yeah, it is as expensive as I thought. Of course if you have to go from one small to place to another small place it might be the easiest way, but even that logic did not sell me on the need for a full page ad in the DPCA playbill.

I got to thinking about how expensive the season tickets have gotten for the DPAC and maybe the plane people are right that this ad might be reaching their best audience, but it is still a stretch for me. Let me know if you, 1. Go to the DPAC, 2. Look at the playbill, 3. Saw the plane ad, 4. Are interested in chartering a Jet, 5. Have called Causey 6. Do you already own your own jet?

Just want to know.

Alt Right Is Just Wrong

The sickness of white nationalism reached the previously bucolic land of Christchurch. I was lucky enough to have a non-profit leader from Christchurch in my small group at Harvard. I remember him talking about the issues they had in New Zealand and at the time they seemed surmountable. Never would I have guessed that the ugliness of white supremacy would touch them in the sweet country where sheep out number people.

The out pouring of love from around the world hardly seems like enough for this tragic event, but the words of our own President are like a slap in the face. If you missed it, Terry Moran of ABC asked the President in the Oval Office, “Do you see white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?”

Trump’s response was, “I don’t really, I think it is a small group of people… babble, babble, babble.” First saying there are fine people on both side when talking about Charlottesville and now this. Add his comments about the Trump Bikers who support him and “could get very bad if they were provoked into getting tough.”

This support for violence and violent people is anti-American. Yes, I am sure he counts on White nationalists as a voting block, but really, who else are they going to vote for? Not calling out people who incite violence as a way of making their points is unpresidential, unAmerican and anti-humane. Come on Republicans, do you really want this to be the message of your party?

Bribery Parenting

This whole college admissions scandal is no surprise. Rich parents have been doing things for their kids forever. Yes, it was unfair for people who should have gotten into those schools and didn’t because someone cheated. I hope those people who didn’t get in went on to other good schools and are probably just as successful, but that is no excuse.

The people I feel really terrible for are the kids whose parents did this “for” them, sometimes without their knowledge. Now those kids are learning that their parents had no confidence in their abilities. I wonder how many of those parents would have done this if they would have had to look their kids in the eye before paying the bribe and say, “I don’t think you are good enough to get into UCLA, or USC, or YouNameIItSchool, so I will pay someone off to make sure you get in, before we even know if you could have gotten in on your own merit.”

I think that the worse thing you can do is push your child to go someplace they might have trouble succeeding. Now that is not to say that if you get in off the wait list you are not qualified. I believe many kids who get rejected from wonderful schools could also flourish there, but when admissions is making up a class they might have already had too many flute players who also are interested in a Chemistry. Building a class is a big puzzle for admissions, but bribery is not the way most of them go about doing it.

I sent Carter this text yesterday, with the spelling mistake and all. She laughed, knowing I was too cheep to pay for her to get into college. I was already paying for college and that was enough. At least she knows that everything she accomplishes is due to her own hard work. That is the skill you want to develop in your kid. The other skill these bribery parents stole from their children is that of resilience. Not getting into your “dream” college has great benefits too. Learning that you can be happy many places is a much more useful tool.

I hope this case is a lesson for parents of all stages of parenting. Stop doing everything and let your kids stand on their own two feet, wherever those feet take them.

No Qualifiers for Friends

Sometimes you meet someone and they introduce their friend to you as, “This is my work friend.” I have a friend who sometimes introduces me as, “my student.” There have certainly been many times that I have said someone is “my Mah Jongg friend” or “bridge friend.” In actuality I don’t mean to ever qualify my friends. The best way to introduce someone is just by saying, “this is my friend.” It does not matter how we met, or how we spend our time together, just that we are friends.

There is a wonderful place downtown called Reality Ministries. They are a kind of club house or gathering place for people of differing abilities. Everyone there is called a friend, whether you are a volunteer or a person who goes there for companionship. There is no need to distinguish who anyone is because everyone is just a friend.

If I want to further describe how I know someone or what it is about them that I like I can do that, but it is not necessary in the first sentence I say. Qualifying someone as a certain “kind” of friend lessens them as a friend. In other words, if I say someone is my “bridge friend,” it implies that they might not be my friend if I were not playing bridge with them.

I am trying to remove labels from my friendships. If you are my friend you get all the rights and responsibilities that comes with it. That does not mean that all my friends have to play bridge or Mah Jongg, just that if you do I will probably spend more time with you.

So here’s to my friends, regardless of how we met, or what we do together. Life is just better with you as my friend.

Arugula Shortage

Yesterday I stopped at Trader Joe’s to stock up on my staples, most importantly arugula. Trader Joe’s has been my arugula dealer of choice for years. They have wild and regular and it normally retails for $1.99- $2.49 for a big bag.

Standing in front of the bagged greens coolers I scanned back and forth for my very important arugula. There were three kinds of kale- baby, Nero and regular. Romaine, recently the cause of many a salmonella outbreak was in full force. Baby spinach, mixed greens, but no arugula in sight.

I shuffled bags looking to see if the stocking clerk had covered it up. Nothing! No arugula is just as bad as no milk or no eggs. It’s not like celeriac, or smoked trout, which you could do without.

When the cashier asked me if I found everything I told him of the missing greens. He told me that store had been limited to two cases a day. Sacrilege.

Russ bought me some arugula at Harris Teeter. I went to use it today and it was rotten even thought it had five days left on the expiration. Something is definitely going on in the arugula world.

I searched the internet and found that perhaps the cold weather has affected the crops, but no big exposes existed on the mystery. I can’t go too long without it. Tomorrow I am going to have to plant some seeds in my garden and pray that we don’t get a freeze before I can get a home grown crop. It takes a couple of weeks to grow a harvestable patch. Hopefully by my planting it, Trader Joe’s will begin stocking it again at its normal twenty case a day level.

Since I didn’t grow up in a communist country, I am used to a constant and stable food supply system. I guess I shouldn’t think that we are immune to shortages, this might be Russian collusion.

Basque Garlic Soup

I found a recipe for Basque Garlic Soup and thought it sounded interesting. My friend Deanna had given me a jar of roast garlic Better than Bouillon concentrate and I thought it would be perfect addition to this soup. The soup is kind of like a french/spainish egg drop soup. It easy to make and you probably already have all the ingredients, save the roasted garlic concentrate.

Six inches of French bread

2 T. Olive oil

20 cloves of garlic minced

1 1/2 T. Smoked Paprika

1 T. Roasted garlic Better than Bouillon

3 cans chicken stock

2.T. Sherry vinegar

1/2 t. Salt

3 cups of boiling water

3 eggs well beaten.

Preheat oven to 450°. Cut french bread into cubes, Place on cookie sheet on oven and toast for 15 minutes until dark brown.

Put olive oil in stockpot and turn on medium high. Add toasted bread to pot and stir, cooking for five more minutes until brad starts to char a little. Add the minced garlic. Cook another minute. Add the smoked paprika and cook 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, garlic concentrate and water. Bring to a boil. Add vinegar and salt and reduce to simmer for ten minutes. Right before you are ready to serve drizzle the eggs in a slow stream into the pot of hot soup. Remove from heat and serve.

Too Old For Too Much Sun

For years I have tried to stay out of the sun and not get burned. As a child I often was burned by the sun. As I learned about the damage I had most certainly done to myself I wanted to protect my skin as best it could.

This past week Carter and it went on a sunning vacation. We didn’t have much else to do. For the first few days I did my best to be coved in sunscreen and limit my exposure. By the last two days I think I got a little lax. I was reading a great book and had the perfect set up with a pool float where I could be cool in the water. I didn’t get burned, but I definitely got more sun than I have had in years.

Despite my excessive use of lotions today the itchy skin of too much sun started. I would get a twitch on my back and I would squirm in chair to try and relieve it. Then I would contort my arm to reach around my back trying to reach that elusive spot between my shoulder blades.

Sadly adding sun to a body that is already naturally moisture deprived means that I have no natural relief for too much sun. I can feel the dry snake-like skin starting to take over.

I hope I have learned my lesson about a sun vacation. I don’t need that much rest. I don’t need that much sun and I definitely need more mind stimulation. I hope that I can overcome the itch phase fairly quickly, but never forget it.

Fun Game

Nothing is better than coming home from vacation to a happy husband and dog, just in time to go to the UNC- Duke basketball game with our friends the Toms! There is no bigger rivalry in any sport than UNC- Duke basketball and watching them in person is a thrill.

Tonight was senior night and it was so nice that UNC still had three seniors to honor, especially walk-on Luke Maye. I like following players as they grow in basketball. It is no fun to have a player for just a year ant d then have them go off to the big league. I don’t care about professional basketball, but I love college.

Tonight’s game was a great win for UNC and it was no surprise that every seat in the place was full. We got thee early enough that I was able to see many friends. It was the place to be. Thanks to Logan and Lynn for providing us with the best of hospitality. It is a great re-entry.

Good Bye Vacation

Neither Carter nor I had ever been to Punta Cana before. My sister Janet, the extravagant vacation traveler told me that we wold not want to leave our resort. I always listen to Janet.

We stayed at a place called the Majestic Mirage. It was the newest in the Mirage Complex of three hotels having only been built two years ago. The complex was beautiful. It was all suites and we had a big living room we didn’t use and a big bedroom with two queen sized beds. The best part of our room was that we were on the first floor and had our own king sized Bali bed, chaise lounge and swim up pool just outside our door. To gild the Lilly we also had an outside jacuzzi, table and chairs and a loveseat. Our swim-up pool was a long lazyPool for just seven rooms. We were practically the only people who used it.

The ocean was just five rooms down the outdoor corridor. We also had a club between us and the ocean that served food and drinks twenty four hours a day. The resort was seven building of adults only and two for families. The other two Mirage resorts next to us were much more family oriented with water slide and kids clubs. So we had only old people and college students.

Apparently the resort had something like 560 rooms and over a thousand staff. They were kind, but sometimes a little too familiar. Carter got asked out by many waiters right in front of me. You never were at a loss for someone to wait on you. They cleaned, swept, pruned, cut grass constantly. From inside the resort the island looked pristine. This was a fairyland.

We got picked up by our transport company this afternoon and driven to Punta Cana Airport. As soon as we were off the mirage property there was nothing but trash all over the sides of the road. Bottles, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, cans filled every inch of space. It was as if no trash had ever been taken away ever.

There was no landscaping of any kind on the thirty minute drive to the airport. The only businesses that looked clean and neat were gas stations. The tragedy of trash made a poor country look even poorer. Ironically I did see a trash truck. In all the third world places I have gone I have hardly seen a place as trashed up along major tourist routes. It broke my heart.

Although we had a nice vacation I never want to go back to the Dominican Republic. The food is poor, and the litter is overwhelming. Carter and I decided that Mexico is such a better vacation.

Just As I Get Used to Vacation…

I love to travel, but I am not really good at vacations. Travel is about going, doing, seeing, visiting. Vacation is about not doing. This trip with Carter has been a vacation. We have come to a resort on an island I had no interest in exploring. It has been about resting, swimming, sunning, and for me reading. Thankfully my friend Christy gave me three books and I am half way though the third one and still have tomorrow.

Carter and I have played cards, eaten, told stories, complained about neighbors who are loud in our pool the one time someone else used it, spa’d, and laughed. We have not gone anywhere. We hardly talked to anyone else. We just had fun together.

Just as I have gotten used to not doing much it is time to go home. Today, when the sun left our pool I took a walk around the resort because I needed exercise. As I passed through one area a girl called out to me to come join Bingo, so I did. There were about fifteen people playing with tiny little slips of paper with numbers on them and a tooth pick to poke a hole in a number if it gets called. I played only one of the three games because I won the first one and was then kicked out of playing. My prize was a cd of Dominican music made by the hotel. As I was leaving the game I gave my prize to a mother and adult daughter team who were crushed that I had beaten them. They were thrilled. This was the most human interaction I had with someone other than Carter all day.

It has been a fun vacation, but I am ready to go back to my life that has more doing in it. It helps that I don’t have to go back to some job I find boring, but to Russ and Shay Shay. I will miss spending so much quality time with Carter. It is a treat to have this time and she really needed a vacation, not a trip. Next one will be a trip!

Tattooed Skin Cancer

I know I am old, grew up in a white upper middle class family and have had lots of advantages in my life, but those things alone do not explain why I appear to be the only person concerned with the possibility of skin cancer who is also without the need for a tattoo. The resort where Carter and I are staying is not inexpensive. It is not St. Barth’s fancy, this is still the Dominican Republic, but it is not Myrtle Beach.

Since we have been here I have remained in the very big minority of staying in my born race color wise and being tattoo free. On the tanning front I am surprised in this day and age at the lengths and depths people will go to get to change colors to practically black. The couple who were in the room next to us, who share our swim out steps were so nice. I met the wife first, a lovely Indian psychologist from Nova Scotia. Being from India, is was no surprise that she had a nice tan, although she spent most of her time lying in the shade of her Bali bed. Her husband floated on a raft in the bright sunlight and was three of four shades closer to black than she was.

It came as quite a surprise to me when he spoke to me on the way to dinner that I discovered he was not also Indian, but Canadian with bright blue eyes. He had worked hard on this vacation to disguise his true nationality. On their last day he even commented to me that no one was going to recognize him at home.

He is much more in the majority of the other guests here. The people on the beach are Olympic tanners. Coming out early, using no sunscreen and staying out until the sun’s rays can no longer penetrate their leathery skin.

But for most, the tan is just blurring out the many tattoos they have. Men and women, young and old alike. I have seen more back calf tattoos than plain calves. I am not sure the point of having tattoos in places you can’t see, but others can.

When I was younger my friend Bob was the only person I knew with a tattoo. USMC on his Bicep. He said it was a drunk night while he was in the Marines and he regretted it badly. But now tattoos are art, some of them. I have seen plenty that look like they belong on a black velvet canvas. I am yet to see one on this vacation that really was attractive. I can tell you the burning of tattooed skin is not a good look. I know I am in the minority in every way here and I just don’t see that changing.

Miss My Cooking

I have never been one for all inclusive vacations because as a non-drinker I have no chance of getting my money’s worth. But this vacation was planned with not much advanced notice so I relaxed my standard and succumbed to the all inclusive situation since it appears that is the way in the DR.

Not worrying about the value for money means I am not subjecting myself to poor quality liquor and a possible bad hangover. Since I am not drinking I am totally sober when I am eating. This is not the plan at all inclusive resorts. Meals are only so-so which wouldn’t matter if one were drunk.

The hardest part is trying to eat healthy. I am unsure if the proteins are poor because of the quality that is available on the island, or the quality the resort is willing to buy. Perhaps it is both. I have to say that after three days I am yet to eat anything I would mind eating again. That is mind, not even like.

As for Carter she says is it better than what she has available at college so she is happy enough with it. At least we love our suite and swimming pool right outside our room and the weather is perfect.

The problem with being a good cook is that I hardly ever eat something out that I like as much as mine at home. Same is true for vacation.

Spa Equals Vacation

I have no memory of the first time I had a massage, but I was old enough that I had to pay for it myself. I had to have been close to 30. It was a good thing I had waited so long to have my first massage because I would probably be broke today if I had gotten hooked much younger. Thankfully I learned that I could not afford to get hooked on regular massages. I decided early on that unless a I needed a massage for injury I should try and only have one on vacation.

My big mistake is that I introduced Carter to massages much to young, as well as paid for them. I am a terrible mother. I might have set her up for a life of destitute, but with a good back.

What the hell, since I am already a bad mother I just let the spoiling continue. Since we are on a mother daughter trip we had to have massages. Carter also asked for a hair cut since she rarely has time in Boston. So a nice day was had by us today. We spent the morning swimming in the clear turquoise blue water of the ocean then the afternoon having our bodies rubbed with oil.

I finished first and was like a wet rag, by the time Carter came out I was just recovering my ability to speak. Carter went off for her haircut and I passed out on a Bali bed under a huge thatched roof with the sound of rushing water fountains around me. It was the perfect day.

Sorry Russ

Russ is home with Shay, sending photos of her looking for us around the house while Carter and I are in Punta Cana. I think I am feeling guilty. Since we did not get Christmas because of my Dad’s illness I promised Carter we would make up for it. That meant using the Amex points Russ had built up and he didn’t even get to come.

So Carter and I are doing things we hope Russ would not like to do with us. We talked to strangers and made friends. We played cards. Carter took a jacuzzi. Ok, that’s all we did that Russ would not like. Yeah, and he would like the jacuzzi.

I don’t want him to know about our swim up room with a Bali bed where we read our books all morning and floated in our own little swimming river. We also walked all over the three properties that make up our hotel complex and we found a bull sculpture that looks like it belongs in Durham. We are not going to the Latin show tonight or the disco and he would like definitely like not going to either of them.

So Russ, we appreciate your giving us your points and letting us go on this trip. Carter is totally enjoying the warm weather and the chill time. Looks like I am going to have to make this up to Russ. I wonder when I ever will catch up from owing people for missing Christmas.

Hooray for Vacation

I didn’t sleep well last night worrying about Carter making it on spring break. I also had a seven AM flight and damn that is early. So I was up all night having crazy dreams, falling asleep for fifteen minute intervals and reawakening. Russ, bless him, is not going on this trip so he can work and he took me to the airport at 5:15.

Being on flights full of spring beaker college students really makes me feel old. Watching the JMU football players drinking JD shots at 10 in the morning turned my stomach, especially with turbulence. Listening to the girls’ discussions about which disco on which night made me happy that I never have to go to a disco with a crowd of girls again.

Eventually I landed and got through a long immigration line. Found my pre-arranged transport, had a long discussion with them about why Carter was not with me and the need for her to have her own transport later and finally was taken to our hotel.

Coming to a vacation hotel alone is not that fun. Our room is cool. We have a swim up room with a jacuzzi and a Bali bed right outside our room. All that being said I was alone, waiting for Carter to arrive.

By this point in the late afternoon I needed iced tea. We are staying at an all inclusive resort. Every where I turned was a bar, but finding tea was proving difficult. I certainly got my steps as I wandered the property and found the coffee shop. Ah, Ha, they must have tea. Inside there were a two couples sitting at the bar like counter. I took a seat at the end of the bar and waited for some service. A nice young girl asked what I wanted. It took about six tries before we got something close to iced tea. English is not well spoken here. Of course, I have no Spanish.

The couple sitting closest to me started talking to me. They are a nice couple from Denver named Theresa and Phil. Two hours of conversation and one iced tea was the perfect way to while away the time until Carter landed.

Thankfully she not only got in, just seven hours later than originally planned, she found her transport and made it to the hotel all on her own. I was waiting at the front for her and the adventure begins!

Yet Again

I don’t want to jinx anything, but I will say that if Carter is flying alone someplace her flight is going to be canceled. It has happened three out of the last three times she has flown. That is 100%. It is not just delayed, but canceled. It is hard to believe that it has happened to her again.

While she and I were on the phone this afternoon she gets a message saying her flight was canceled and the airline had not automatically booked her on another flight. So while I was on the phone with her on our land line I simultaneously called Amex on my cell phone and after a good hour we got her booked on another flight. We still don’t know what the cause of the cancellation is for the first flight. They are expecting this big storm in Boston tomorrow, but they had no issue putting her on a later flight.

Please, please say a prayer that that flight goes. It seems like Carter deserves some good flying karma. Thankfully I am driving up to Boston in April to bring her home at the end of the semester. Yeah, driving up I-95 is no treat, but at least we will not be at the mercy of the airlines.

I don’t usually care about being very rich, but boy would I like to have my own jet and all the money for pilots and fuel to be able to go where and when I want. It looks like that is never going to happen, and if I did get enough money to be able to do that I never would spend it on such a luxury, but just for my daughter, once I would like an easy flying situation.