So Glad We Live Here

This morning I was getting ready to host Mah Jongg and a few minutes before the game regularly starts there was a ring at my door bell. The Mah Jongg ladies don’t ring the door bell, they usually just come on in. I peered my head out from the kitchen to see who it was and I caught my plumber John leaving me a big bag of home grown okra.

I don’t know about where you live, but this is the only place I have ever lived where first,

I know my plumber and electrician by first name and they always come within a day of my calling them. Second, these guys stop by with gifts of food from their garden.

Then my friends showed up to play. One friend was talking about how she went to visit her sister and the only thing the women talked about were the brands of things people were wearing. Not here. You can show up in just bout anything and the only thing people will say is, “It is so good to see you.” No one cares what you a wearing.

Then another friend showed up to play and she had a bad reaction to a cortisone shot yesterday and was swollen. We were sorry for her discomfort, but no one cares if your hair is not done, you have a black eye or you haven’t put make up in weeks. We are happy to have you come play and enjoy the fellowship.

Then I stopped by the Harris Teeter and there were two elderly ladies trying to get from the handicapped parking space across the driving lanes into the store. There was a big sign truck parked right in front of the store blocking one of the two driving lanes. The old ladies could not see around the truck to see if there was on coming traffic. Two teenage boys came out of the store and saw what was going on and went out into the driving lane and stopped all the traffic so the old ladies could make it into the store safely.

It’s a good day in Durham and I think I will stay.

Novice Yes, But No Push Over

After a great day at bridge last Friday my partner asked me if I wanted to try a different game today that I had never played in before. Flush from our big 62% win (62 % is like an A in duplicate) I agreed to try this new game.

We arrived at the bridge center to discover that we were in a three table round with very good players so we had to play something called a Howell movement where you play every other pair in the room. After three round we moved to the fourth round and an opponent questioned us if we were sitting in the right seats. We were sitting in the seats were instructed to go to, but my very accommodating partner said it was fine and we would switch seats.

The rude opponent, whom had never seen me before decided I was fair game to bully. She might have known I was a novice player, but she did not know that I was no shrinking violet and not bulliable. She turned on me and said something rude. At first I apologized to her and then she continued and that is when I gave it right back to her. You can get away with one comment, but the hammer comes down on the second.

Some game players use this type of tactic to gain the upper hand psychologically. This intimidation doesn’t work on me. My partner and I had an excellent round against this bully and went on to win the whole game, getting another 62%! The best part is this supposed expert we played against, who felt like she knew so much more than us and couldn’t say anything in a nice way, came in last.

Nothing makes me happier than when the rude person does not benefit from their poor behavior. I hope she learned her lesson with us and doesn’t try and cross me again. I’ve got her number.

I’m Running Out Of Things to Clean

July here is boring. I don’t usually spend July at home. Normally I am on the road visiting friends or off somewhere other than here. This year I did my road trip in April so I could paint my kitchen in July. Since I was chopping at the bit to do that job I got it finished by July 14 leaving me the rest of the month with a fairly free calendar.

I have continued to use the month in the home improvement spirit which I started. After de- cluttering, cleaning and organizing the kitchen I moved on to the storage room. That did not take as long as I thought and I got that done. Then I did the linen closet, my bedroom, the gift closet. Today I deep cleaned the tile in my shower. It’s actually worse than that, I studied Pinterest to find the best homemade shower glass cleaner as well as the best homemade grout cleaner and made them.

Don’t get me wrong there are still places, (uuuhum, the attic) that could use attention. I don’t think Russ would mind if I reorganized his tools. But, quite frankly, I spent two weeks in the garage painting the kitchen cabinets and I am not thrilled about going back in the garage.

I have lived my whole life with a really big list of to-do’s. It was a reason to jump out of bed in the morning, so many things on the list. I worried if I watched an episode of hoarders that I was not making enough headway on clearing stuff out and I could suddenly have my house full of things in plastic bags piling up to the ceiling.

Now I have made significant progress. My list is so much shorter. I am worried that I am not going to have enough purpose without a long list. Don’t get me wrong, I still have things to do, like build a new fellowship hall at church, and play bridge and Mah Jongg, but I don’t get to check those things off a list. There is not that satisfaction of looking at an old envelope with a bunch of things all crossed through.

The highlight of my day today is that my plumbers came and installed a new disposal and cleaned out a sputtering shower head where a washer had given up the ghost. I probably could have done both those things myself, if I had known it was a washer, but I like my plumbers and Russ told me it was a valve problem. Thank goodness he was wrong.

I should be glad that things are in the right place, nice and neat. I have gone through a box of disposable rubber gloves this month as proof of my work, as if I need proof. I am just a little worried that if I ever actually finish that attic what I am going to do. Of course, that probably won’t ever actually happen, I can keep mopping the kitchen floor instead.

Processed Food

Now that my kitchen has been completely cleaned up and out and reorganized I am committing myself to running it more like I did when I had a catering business just out of college. I was poorer and smarter. Like working in a restaurant, when you cater you don’t waste anything. Regular humans are terrible about wasting food, sometimes because they don’t know what is food. Those cilantro stems actually have more flavor than the leaves, but I digress.

One habit I am trying to get back into is that of processing food at the right time. Processed food you say? You don’t eat processed food? Processing just mean preparing. For instance, if I bring a cantaloupe home from the farmers market and it is the perfect ripeness, which I can tell from the lovely smell it is emanating, then I should not just put that whole melon right in the fridge. Instead, I should cut it open, pull out the seeds and cut it into chunks and place it in a Tupperware. That is processing.

It is much easier to eat some melon if it is already cut up and ready to go. If I open the refrigerator, looking for a snack an encounter the beautiful melon ready to eat I am more likely to chose that than something less healthy.

If fruits and veg are not ripe, the way to processes them is to put them in a bowl close at hand on the counter so I can check on them everyday. When I feel the time is right I need to either eat them, serve them to others or put them in the fridge to slow down the ripening process.

Today I found one cup of buttermilk left in the quart bottle I bought for another recipe. Buttermilk stays good for a long time, but not forever. So I decided to bake a loaf of buttermilk bread to use up the leftover. Once the buttermilk has been processed into bread I can be frozen if we don’t eat it all up tonight. See, in this case process meant cooked.

So don’t look your nose down at processed foods as long as you are the one doing the processing. Think in terms of prolonging the shelf life of your food or not wasting it. With just two of us in the house it is easy to have more in the fridge and pantry than we can eat. Thinking in terms of making all meals with at least half of the ingredients I already have on hand is the best way to use up my surplus. It also makes for more interesting meals. So pull out a can from your shelf and find a way to use it in your next meal. Just don’t be afraid of processing food.

Introducing The Durham Farmers Market

You know you are getting old when your highlight of your weekend is a breakfast date with friends. At bridge yesterday Deanna mentioned she was thinking of going to the Raliegh Farmers market Saturday morning. I convinced to come to the Durham Market instead since it has more interesting offerings and was so much closer to her Chapel Hill home. So we made a double date of it and our husbands came along.

It was great fun to show our friends the market they had never been to. It was a cool morning for July and plenty of people are out of town, making the market less crowded than usual. As I pointed out who had good melons, or tomatoes I made sure to introduce Deanna to mushroom lady so she could try our favorite lion mushrooms that taste like lobster when sautéd in butter.

One stand had squash blossoms so I bought four of to make for us for dinner. I also picked up three spicy red pepper to make a sauce for the stuffed squash blossoms. After we had made the complete circle of vendors and run into friends along the way we took Deanna and John to Grub for breakfast which we enjoyed on the roof under the canopy.

A morning outing with friends is just our speed these days. This left us with most of a day at home to do just as we pleased.

Since we ate a big breakfast we skipped lunch and made an early supper. I stuffed the squash blossoms with ricotta, Parmesan, egg and nutmeg. I dredged them in flour then egg then a coating of flour, panko and salt and pepper and sautéed them.

The red peppers from the farmers market I roasted over the flames of the stove, then peeled and seeded. I added 12 oz. jar of drained roasted red peppers to the spicy ones I made myself to the bowl of the cuisine art, along with the juice of a lemon, a couple glugs of olive oil, and two handfuls of almonds I pre-toasted in a dry frying pan. I whirled the whole thing up and added salt and pepper to taste. That is all you need to do to make a red pepper sauce.

I smeared the sauce in a soup bowl, added two squash blossoms and dolloped a bit more of the thick red sauce on top. It was the perfect farmer’s market dinner after a fun day.

Happy Dance Day

Excuse me, while I do a little happy dance. Two good things happened in our family today. Carter texted me that she got a big promotion at her University Job. She is a Coordinator for the Explore Program, which is the place that I decided majors go at her school. She has been a mentor and a TA and getting the coordinator job is something she really wanted so I am very happy for her.

My news is less momentous, but very exciting for me and news my mother will appreciate. My bridge partner Deanna and I came in first in our section at bridge today. I know it does not sound like much but I am by far the most novice player in the room of 56 players. We were second in the whole room, beaten by a couple who are a retired bridge teacher and both life masters.

We also got 3.2 points each today. To put this in perspective I have 17 points total. I was playing against people who have thousands of points. It’s big for me. Of course I win no money, just pride. I also didn’t make any major mistakes, just a few minor ones.

Bridge is a life’s work and one I don’t work at half as much as the people I play against. I am lucky if I play twice a month and I play against people who play many times a week and go to tournaments and play morning, noon and night for five days in a row. For me, my goal is just not to embarrass myself or Deanna who generously plays with me when she is sought after by better players. getting anything over 50% on any of these roles is huge. For me to get over 50% in all of them has never happened before.

Sorry for the celebration. These things just don’t happen that often. I had to do a little happy dance.

Summer Heat in London

Twenty four or five years ago when I first went to work in London they had a summer heat wave like they had never had before, they said. We spent a summer in the nineties in a country not prepared for that. Our temporary first office was in a building next to St. Paul’s cathedral. Although it was a new building it had no air conditioning. We called that space the newspaper office because we only had one giant room with all our desks pushed up against each other like the Washington Post in the movie “All the president’s men.” The only place to find a cool spot was to go into the cathedral. I sometimes brought my very early version of a lap top, my mac book, and would sit in the pews and work.

I was lucky because my job involved me visiting sites of our client all around the UK. I was sure that escaping London would be better. One of my first trips was to Bristol, England. Bristol is a lovely seaport town, even though the sea is the river Avon that eventually leads out to the River Severn that goes to the Atlantic. All that water had to have a better breeze that London.

I took the Great Western Train out one late afternoon and rolled my little suitcase to a Hilton Hotel. I was certain that a name brand hotel like Hilton would have air conditioning. I was wrong. My tiny room was hotter than my london digs. I called down to the front desk to see if they had any fans. “The weather is not ever like this,” was their excuse for the unbearable room. “Well, it’s like this now, go buy some fans.” I never stayed there again. Thankfully I found the Swallow hotel which was better at climate control.

The next summer the same heat wave came and the Brits were just as unprepared. Thankfully we had moved our office to a new air conditioned building so we spent many hours working just to avoid the heat.

Carter is in London now. She is staying in a lovely student housing building in a South Kensington and for that I cannot feel sorry for her. Except that it has been crazy hot in London, reaching almost 100° today. She has no air conditioning in her apartment, nor in her classroom. She brilliantly bought a fan soon after she arrived from a store with a thirty day money back return policy. She will return the fan just before the thirty days are up. The shop will have no trouble selling it since it is so bloody hot.

The Brits Carter has talked to about the weather say, “This never happens here.” Well, if a Lange is in London it will happen. I spent four summers working there and it was hot for almost all of them. This one has been crazy hot for Carter. When are the air conditioning sales people going to wake London up and make some sales. Global warming has been happening for a while and it is not going away. At least London is not as hot as Paris.

Let Us Focus On Russian Interference

The Mueller testimony was painful to watch. I had played Mah Jongg this morning and taped the testimony. After my friends left I tried to watch it. Mueller sometimes appeared off his feet a bit. After watching a while it seemed that the huge room made it hard for him to know who was talking. On TV we had a split screen and could see the congressperson who was talking, but they did not make it easy for Muller. They should have had some light that would glow in front of the speaker so he could look at them and focus on the questions.

As is the way in our country today the questions were divided to either exonerate the President or condemn him. There was one major thing that both sides could agree on which was largely overlooked, that the Russians did interfere in our election. This was, is and will be the most important issue.

The question of Trump’s involvement with encouraging the Russians seems fairly straight forward. I don’t think he did that, but rather benefited from the Russian’s fear or dislike of Clinton. I think Trump wants to believe and for us to believe that he was elected fair and square so he doesn’t want to question the results or what part the Russians played too closely.

Did he do things that were wrong in regards to obstruction. Probably, but more out of ignorance of the law, or arrogance of the office. He thinks being President is more like being king, so “off with their heads” is more his mode of operandi.

It is time for legislators to ensure fairness in our elections, in every way. They should fear that the Russians can also sweep them out of office too. The Russians won our election, not that they put Trump there, but that they have us taking our eye off the ball by having us fighting each other. Please try and all be Americans and not Republicans and Democrats. Focus on the real enemy.

Bettered my Klutz Average

To say I am a klutz is being unkind to klutzes everywhere. I am way along the klutz spectrum. July has been my month of dirty jobs. Carter flew off to London and I have basically been in my house cleaning, painting, reorganizing, hauling, building anything and everything I can get my hands on. With two half day exceptions I have worn rubber gloves all day, everyday because what I have been doing is too disgusting not too.

Today is day 23 of my 8-5 dirty job life and is the first day I have had a work place accident. That is really a good average for me. Unfortunately, it was one that hurt like hell.

The job was defrosting and cleaning the garage freezer. This is a job I hate! It should be done twice as often as I do it, so putting it off is par for the course for me. The reason I hate it is that the freezer malfunctions all the time and ice builds up in the bottom of the freezer. This requires a chisel and a hair dryer to remove.

While I was getting out one of Russ’ many 1 million foot orange extension cords a WorkMate, work bench fell over on my foot. The thing weighs at least 30 pounds and I screamed so loud it made Shay cry two floors away.

At first I was just worried about a broken bone, but realized I had avoided that disaster. I went in the house, took double the amount of Aleve and put my foot up with an ice bag. Thankfully I stalled any major swelling. After half an hour of rest the supervisor in me told the worker bee in me to get back to work.

I was able to finish the freezer and I think I figured out how to capture the water that drips inside the freezer before it hits the bottom and creates an iceberg that could be used to combat global warming.

My foot was not so bad that I couldn’t spend three more hours going up and down the ladder so I finished cleaning out the glass cabinets. I officially have enough dinner plates to feed more friends and their significant others than I ever will have.

Shay kept making me take breaks to protect her during the many thunderstorms we had today. I was happy to accommodate and put my foot up. All in all I think going 23 days, up and down many ladders without more accidents is a record for me in the klutz department. I think I need to go do some sewing room work the next few days and take a break from rubber gloves. Thank goodness my foot accident was not my sewing machine foot.

Come For A Drink

In my continuing job of redoing the kitchen I started cleaning out the glass fronted cabinets I did not paint. These hold my “good China and crystal” and some serving pieces. Since I did not encase the cabinets in plastic while I worked on the other side of the kitchen some dust migrated into the glass cabinets.

It was time to remove everything from those cabinets, access if I am keeping it and wash everything I want to keep. That was too big a job for one day, especially since I washed all the glasses by hand. So I got five shelves out of twelve done today and was wiped out. I will do the rest tomorrow.

Between reorganizing all our wine and liquor in the storage area and washing all these glasses I determined that I need to have more people over for drinks to use it all. If you are in the area and want a drink drop me a line. I may open a speakeasy.

Heat Related Cleaning

With a heat index way north of 100° today we opted to just stay home all day. Feeling a little guilty about missing church I did my own penance to make up for it, I cleaned something out. The attic remains the number one thing on my cleaning it list, but you can bet I was not going up there. If it is 100° outside it is 130° in the attic.

Instead I chose the second biggest thing on my clean out list, the storage room. The storage room in the back of my house is where the backside HVAC/furnace is and since it is half underground it is nice and cool. This is the place I store all my party equipment and large seasonal cooking items. Over the years many things have been put in the storage room which should have been given away then.

Today was the day to move them, reorganize and clean everything. It was quite satisfying and checked one more thing off the clean out list. Amazingly, it is still quite long. I looked at my glass front cabinets in the kitchen and realized I need to clean them out, but decided cleaning one major thing in a day is enough. Maybe tomorrow, it will still be hot then too.

Fish Tacos

Wednesday I served fish tacos for Logan’s birthday. I batter fried the cod fish and it was the most successful I have ever been at making the fish so I want to document it before I forget how I made it. The batter would be good for anything you want to fry, chicken strips, onion rings, shrimp. It was perfect for cod.

In the past I have not been happy with the crunch of the batter, or the lightness, or the outside would get cooked before the inside. I have tried different combinations of things and I finally hit on the right one.

1 1/2 pounds of cod fish

To make the batter

Mix the dry ingredients

1 c. Flour

1 c. Panko bread crumbs

1 1/2 t. Baking powder

1t. Garlic powder

1 t. Cumin

1 t. Chili powder

1 t. Onion salt

Sprinkle cayenne pepper

Few grinds of the pepper grinder

1 egg beaten

1 beer

Cod fish cut in inch strips and dried off with paper towel

Oil to go up 1 inch in small Dutch oven

Put the oil in the pot and cover it and heat on medium high heat for at least five minutes. Use a thermometer to check the temp. You are looking for 375°. If it gets too high, take the lid off and turn it down.

Mix the beer and the egg together and pour the mixture into the dry ingredients.

Get a cookie sheet of it and put a wire rack on it and turn the oven on to 275°. You will put the fished fish on the rack in the oven after you fry each piece.

Put one piece of fish in the batter and use a fork to lift it out and put directly into the hot oil. I fried only one piece of fish at a time so the oil kept its temp. Cook on one side until golden brown and then flip over and cook the other side. It will be about three minutes per side. Using a strainer, pick the fish out of the pot and place on the rack in the oven, sprinkle with a little kosher salt.

Repeat until all the fish is done

Serve the fish in corn tortillas with any of the following

Cabbage slaw

Spiced Mexican crema- I made mine with Greek yogurt, Mayo, chili powder and lime juice, since I didn’t have sour cream

Cotija- Mexican cheese crumbled

Pico de gallo


Lime wedges

The left over fish reheated beautifully in the toaster oven the next day. The outside was still light and crunchy.

Painting Again

After 14 days straight of painting my cabinets so many people said to me, “I bet you are never going to pick up a paint brush again.”

Well, it took less than four days for me to feel the need to paint again. So yesterday I picked up that brush and roller and got to work.

See, I had only painted my cabinets and not the walls or soffits. They were a wheat color which I loved with my pine cabinets and hated with the white. The lower walls are going to be tiled as all back splash so I have been less bothered by the old color knowing the new blue tile will come in a couple of months. Yes, I am picking a tile that has to be made so I must wait. The soffit is another story. That wheat color was all I could see when I looked at the fresh white cabinets.

So I painted a coat yesterday and another coat this morning. It may need another, but I am going to let this one fully dry before I make that decision. Russ might like it to be a different color, but I like the one color look to make the cabinets look taller. We will vote again after the tile is done.

It wasn’t so much space to paint, so the time commitment was not much, but cutting by hand up by the wood trim so far above my head was hard and reaching over the refrigerator to paint a steady straight line was not the easiest. For now, I am happier. It wasn’t so painful to paint again. I am looking around at what else needs touching up. As long as it is not a whole room of cabinets.

Mexican Corn Salad For Ellis

On July Fourth we ate some fantastic corn salad that Chef Paris made. That got our mouths watering for all things corn. Russ then bought corn for Mexican street corn. We actually never ate Mexican street corn in Mexico because we try and not eat anything on the street in Mexico. We happily watched Rick Bayless do it and tried it at his restaurant in Chicago, about as far from Mexico as you can get, but boy is it good. So when I was making up food for Logan’s birthday I settled on a Mexican street corn salad with a twist from chef Paris of adding fruit. Ellis loved it and wants to make it for her new roommates back at UGA. So here is the recipe before I forget.

Six ears of corn or two bags of Trader Joe’s roasted corn

Two nectarines diced

1/2 red onion thinly sliced

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 T. Sugar

Big bunch of cilantro leaves chopped

1 c. Greek yogurt

1/3 c. Mayonnaise

1/2 c. Diced Colina Mexican cheese

2 t. Chili powder

2 T. Lime juice

Put the onions, vinegar and sugar in a small jar and bake it up and put in the refrigerator for about an hour. You are making a quick pickled red onion. You can do this is advance as they are good a day or two later.

If you are using fresh ears of corn, get grill going to a medium heat. Pull back the husk of the corn, leaving the leaves attached to the cob and pull off all the corn silks. Put the husk leaves back up in their original place and run the whole ear, husk and all under cold water. After you have prepped all the corn place on medium grill in the husk, close lid and grill on one side for five minutes. Turn the corn a quarter turn and grill another five minutes. Continue doing until you have grilled all sides of each ear. The kernels should get a little black.

Let the corn cool in the charred husk. When cool enough to handle pull the blackened husk off the corn and then cut the kernels off the cob into a bowl. If this was too, much work for you buy the Trader Joe’s fire roasted corn kernels In The freezer section and warm them up in the microwave. Let them cool.

Drain the onions from the vinegar and add them to the corn along with the nectarines.

In a smaller separate bowl mix together the yogurt, mayo,cheese, chili powder and lime juice. Pour it over the corn mixture and stir. Add cilantro. Enjoy!

“Arguably the Best Wednesday Ever”

Those were the words uttered by Logan Toms as he, Lynn and Ellis left our house tonight. Today is Logan’s birthday. It also happens to be the day that the first of many moving vans came to their house to take some of their possessions to storage. The Toms are moving out of their house, which they sold, to a rental while their new house is being built across the golf course from us.

The best support I could be was to have them for dinner to celebrate Logan. Logan is not just a wonderful friend, but easily one of my favorite people to cook for. He is an adventurous and appreciative eater. He savors every bite and peppers me with questions about ingredients, cooking methods and inspirations for dishes I make.

Russ suggested I make fish taco for Logan’s birthday and it was the perfect choice. I decided to go Baja style tonight which meant frying the fish. I think the batter I made was my best effort ever and the fish was good and not at all greasy. I will post this recipe sometime later this week because I don’t want to forget it. Along with the fish we had fresh corn tortillas slaw, homemade Pico, spiced crema, cortina cheese, cilantro and fresh lime wedges. As side dishes I made spiced black beans, a yummy corn salad and the pickled squash I just put up.

Ellis loves the corn salad best so I also have to post that recipe because I certainly will forget it by next week. After dinner I taught Ellis how to made homemade crispy taco shells. She is getting ready to move off campus when she goes back to college and needs more dishes in her cooking repertoire.

Logan loved his raspberry birthday cake even with the terrible singing by Lynn, Russ and myself. Ellis declined to sing. Shay listened well.

All in all, it was a fun, fun night, a yummy dinner and a great celebration with sweet friends. We can hardly wait until they live mere steps away from us. I hope Logan knows I don’t cook dinner like this every night.

Cooking is Easier Than Painting

The entire two weeks the kitchen was out of commission I did not cook a thing. I missed being able to create something new. Now that the cabinets are done and everything is so clean I was able to do some big time cooking today.

I made a birthday cake for my friend Logan whose big day is tomorrow and will have dinner here with his family, as they are moving out of their house. I also made some quick pickled yellow squash. I may not have a garden this year, as an gave up fighting the deer, but the farmers market has beautiful stuff. Russ and I had some pickled squash at Acme and Russ liked it so much I promised him I would make it. Couldn’t be easier and no canning involved.

Pickled Yellow Squash

4 small yellow squash, washed and cut into thin rounds

1 sweet onion cut into very think slivers

1 red pepper diced into 1/4” squares

1/4 cup of kosher salt

2 cups apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 t, ground mustard

Put the vegetables in a big bowl and sprinkle all the salt on them. Add ten ice cubes and enough cold water to just over the vegetable and set aside for 30 minutes.

When the time is up pour the vegetables in a colander and rinse with cold water. Pack them into two jars. After five minutes Drain off any liquid still in the jar.

Put the vinegar, sugar and mustard in a small sauce pan and heat up, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, take off the heat and let cool for five minutes. Pour over the vegetables in the jars. Top up with more vinegar if needed to bring liquid to the top of vegetables. Cover and place in the refrigerator. Can be eaten in a few hours and will keep in the fridge for three weeks.

Painting Was Easy

Now that my painting is over I am on the big search for the most important part of my kitchen, the back splash. All my most discerning friends have been chiming in with advice. Kelly suggested painted glass like she had in Vienna. Suzanne spent the better part of the day going through old house Beautifuls and sending me links to showrooms and tile manufacturers. I combed Pinterest and other internet sights.

Then I went to two tile showrooms. One in Durham and a better one in Raleigh. The Durham one did not have anything that spoke to me, but since I went there first I took three sample home and I was right, they didn’t speak to me more at home.

Since I had a Food Bank meeting in Raleigh I went to a tile show room I used when I redid my bathroom years ago. They happen to be on the same street as the old Food Bank headquarters and that was the only way I knew about them. When I walked in the door I was certain they were going to have something I loved.

I found the porcelain version of a cement tile I was considering. Online it looked like something I wanted. When I saw it in person it was wrong. Flat and dull. Not the sparkle I need in my flat white space. I looked around and saw somethings I liked, then I round the corner and found some things I loved. Textured, shinny, good colors.

My time was running short so I told the nice woman running the showroom I would call and make an appointment with a designer. This is getting serious now.

As luck wold have it my plumbers made a visit at my house today. They had okra and tomatoes for me. I asked them who was their favorite tile guy. Plumbers and tile go together. They gave me his name. I am going to call him to and discuss this small job with him before I go back and make a commitment to tile. I want to get all the right trims,boarders, corners and the such.

I am so thankful for all the advice and work on my friends part. Tile is something you r ally need to see in person. One step closer…

The Blank Canvas Completed

Exactly two weeks! That is how long it took me to do away with my knotty pine kitchen cabinets and turn them in to my blank canvas. It all started because I hated my pulls almost more than I hated my cabinets. After years of looking I finally found a pull I didn’t mind with my stainless counters.

Now my kitchen is white, at least the cabinets. The floor is black and white tile. The walls, what little of there there is is a wheat color and that is going to change. Now that I have a blank canvas I get to find the right back splash which will be like the jewelry of this outfit. Once that is determined I will paint the little bit of wall that if left above the cabinets.

For now it is all clean white. Rehanging the doors took me all afternoon. I have a few dings to touch up and some sanding of where doors meet, but it all has to wait for a little more curing of the paint. I am happy with the cabinets, but am anxious to find the tile because I need color.

What I really need is a rest and to do a bunch of laundry. Since my paining was going on in the same space as my laundry I didn’t wash anything not wanting to add humidity to the already humid conditions.

In a kind of juxtaposition of finishing my kitchen, today was our farewell for our fellowship hall at church. We are tearing down the over 50 year old building to make way for a new and improved one. The congregation was invited to go write on the walls of building to pay tribute and say goodbye. I wrote in the kitchen, the place I spent the most time in the fellowship hall.

Hopefully in a year I will be able to cook in a greatly I proved church kitchen. I should know, I got to help design it as chair of the building committee. For now I am going to have to be satisfied with my brighter home kitchen. I will be, as soon as I finish it.

I tossed and turned all night with bad dreams of my streaky kitchen cabinet doors. I had sprayed them with the fourth coat of paint two days ago and they were drying in stripes of shinny and dull. That part was not in the dream, but in real life. I awoke early, just to get out of these horrible dreams and studied the Internet about possible remedies. Still in my night gown I went down to the garage and tried the magic eraser tip. It did nothing.

About this time Russ woke up and questioned me on what I was doing in the garage in my night gown. “I’m going to have to do another coat of paint, but I am going to roll it.” I got dressed and went back to Ace Hardware and purchased a new roller cover that was made for smooth surfaces. I was not about to let this project beat me.

It only took me a little more than an hour to roll the fronts of all the doors. At last I finally had achieved the look I wanted. Now more drying!

I retreated to the kitchen where I was just finishing up with the last few boxes of kitchen ware that needed to be sorted and put away. Finally all the kitchen items I am keeping were in a cabinet or a drawer and were neatly organized.

I turned to the dining room that had acted as my storage area and cleaned it, and I cleaned the kitchen. Finally everything was in its place, except for the doors. With everything in the cabinets in plain sight I gave Russ a tour of where things go from now on. I need to take photos inside the drawers so he has a reference.

Even though they appear dry I am giving the doors one more day to cure before reinstalling the hardware and rehanging them. Then voila! Now I need to clean out the storage room and go donate all the stuff I don’t want. Of course I haven even started on the back splash. Maybe Monday. This is what happens when you pull that thread.

So Close

Russ has been a really good sports about my destroying the kitchen. I have not cooked or even bought any food for the last two weeks. As I dismantled the whole kitchen I also took over the dining room to store everything so two rooms were out of commission. Then there was my unavailability. When I wasn’t working, I was sleeping and I was gross from dust of sanding something, I feel like I have sanded everything multiple times.

Today was the first day I only sanded brass hinges and not big cabinet doors. I made great progress putting most everything away. I have one big box of kitchen utensils I have to work on in the morning. Since I am claiming one drawer for knives and doing away with my big knife block I am losing that drawer which used to hold utensils. Now I will be down to two.

I should have no trouble weeding out spoons I never use and putting grill utensils down closer to the grill. It was easy to dispose of cookie sheets I have had since college and a spring form pan who had lost her spring. Why do I need two rolling pins? So far I have not seen a tandem rolling competition I want to enter.

I declared to Russ this morning that I thought I would be able to cook tomorrow. With that announcement Russ asked if he could take me out to dinner tonight to celebrate. I needed a good reason to get clean. So off to Acme we went to have the tomato plate. We stretched our dinner out over two hours which was the most time we have talked to each other since Carter left for London.

The best part of having this project completed will be that I will feed Russ and eat meals with him. Hooray for that.

No End In Sight

Three days ago I proclaimed the end was in sight. I never should have said that. I totally jinxed myself. Yesterday I looked at the cabinet doors that I had been letting cure in the garage and I decided they needed a third coat of paint, that is really the fourth coat if you count the primer. So I donned my disgusting painting clothes one more time and I sanded, vacuumed, tacked and sprayed all the doors one more time. The only good news is the previous three coats were dry. That took me all morning. I just looked at them five hours after finishing and they are still wet. I guess I am going to have to give them three days to cure.

My original time line of this job taking two weeks is coming true. I have only finished 1/4 of the hardware so I will need every bit of those three days to get that done. I might have moved faster on it if I would commit more than one card board box to use as my spray box, but honestly prepping the hardware for spray painting is my least favorite job of all the horrible jobs I am doing. Spreading it out is the only way I can endure it.

No worries that my kitchen has no no doors or drawers. After a morning of painting I finally got to work putting somethings back in the cabinets. I had throughly cleaning the insides of the boxes yesterday.

A big part of redoing the kitchen is my desire to reorganize my kitchen. Most everything has stayed in the place I first put things 25 years ago, when it was not as much stuff. Twenty-five years of collecting kitchen wares really added to an already professionally outfitted kitchen.

I want to only put things in the kitchen that actually get used regularly and the specialty stuff can move down to the storage space. Doing that weeding has still not been done. Instead today I reorganized all my spices and vinegars. That could have been a two week job in itself. Both have new homes that I hope will make seeing them easier. I also moved where I keep storage containers.

I put my daily dishes away in the same place they have always been since it is closest to the dishwasher. By then my back went into revolt so now I am in recovery on my bed. I figure I can rally in an hour and get back to work. My short term goal is for the doors to get dry enough that I can take my spray tent down and move a car back in the garage. I also need to clean my garage so I can get to my laundry station. Maybe this job will take three weeks. I have just thought of all the cleaning around the house that is needed after my neglect during the painting phase. Oh lord, what in the world made me think the end was in sight?

Sip and See All the Cuteness

I know I am of grandmother age when my younger friends become grandmothers, but I am not there yet. Perhaps because I am still paying college tuition, or that I didn’t make my mother a grandmother until I was 37. It is just going to be a while, or maybe never for me. Carter will do what she wants to do and I will just go along for the ride.

My friend Shelayne, mother of five grown children, who is younger than me, is a grand mother three times over. Tonight she had a little sip and see to meet her two newest grandsons. Her twin daughters Michelle and Natalie, both had boys just moths apart. It was the perfect thing for twins to do.

Tonight we met Cousins Perry and Seth, who are two lucky boys. They will most certainly grow up with a lot of love around them, especially from their beautiful grandmother Shelayne. The boys could not look more different even though their mothers look so much the same. Perry takes after his Cuban father’s side with a head full of dark hair and Seth looks like a bald Sutton, even though his father is Cuban also. Oh yeah, did I mention that the twins both married Cuban men.

The babies couldn’t have been cutter or better behaved with a gaggle of women holding them. Shelayne was not outdone by her daughter’s and had a new toy poodle puppy named Jasper who is only seven weeks old. I say they are a full house of cuteness over there at The Sutton’s. And grandmother Gigi is in heaven.

The Right Gift

Normally I look down upon surprise appliances as a birthday gift. Fine, if you ask for a vacuum, to be given one, as long as it is better than the one you might buy for yourself. For my birthday this year I asked for nothing, as this is my year of not consuming. Russ and Carter thought otherwise and surprised me with a Nest video door bell. It is an appliance of the sort, and one I did not ask for, but have been terrifically happy with it.

Besides giving me the doorbell, the best gift was that Russ and Carter installed it. If it weren’t for that gift, it probably would still be in the box. I once had a terrible man as a boss of mine. He had an automatic garage door opener on his side of the garage, but his wife had to open her garage door manually. When I went to their house for a dinner and discovered this I gave him hell. Later he told me he had given his wife a garage door opener for Christmas.

Around May that year I had to go back to their house for another company dinner. I asked his wife how her garage door opener was. She said it had not been installed yet. I asked my weasel of a boss what the story was on that and he said, “I am giving her the installation for her birthday in August.” I told her she should leave him.

Thankfully Russ is nothing like that old boss of mine. Today I especially appreciated my Nest. While I was in my hazmat suit spraying paint on my kitchen cabinet doors the doorbell rang. I was able to look at my Nest camera and see it was a solicitor who I didn’t want to talk with. I was able to tell the person that I was on a conference call and they left my front porch.

After working for eight hours a day for the last nine days I am hitting the wall of physical exhaustion. After working and getting cleaned up I had a church meeting and came home and flopped on my bed. The doorbell rang. I looked at the nest and it was the same solicitor from this morning. I just lay on the bed, too tired to move or even respond via audio. Watching the camera on my phone I saw she eventually went away. Nest saved that poor woman from what I might say to her.

Sometimes an appliance is just what you need. I am happy Russ and Carter don’t always follow the rules.

The Painting End is In Sight

I feel like my painting days are almost done. Today I sprayed the fronts of the doors and did one last touch up coat on the cabinets all before my friend Hannah showed up with lunch. Tomorrow will be my final coat on the front of the doors and then I go to work on the hardware. I am reusing the hinges, which have to to cleaned and sprayed and putting new pulls on the doors. I want the doors and drawers to cure for a few more days so the paint gets hard enough that I won’t mess it up when I reinstall them.

Now I am turning my attention to cleaning the insides of the cabinets and reorganizing all my stuff. It is amazing how much I store in my kitchen. What I am realizing is most of it does not get used that often. Because I would like a less cluttered look I am going to weed out all the speciality items and move them to my storage room. That means I have to clean that out and reorganize it. I’m just pulling that thread, fix one thing and then you have to fix all things.

I have also started my search for the right back splash. Since I really, really cook I need a tough back splash. I looked at some today and decided they were too precious. No marble that can’t stand up to having tomatoes splashed on it. I am open to suggestions.

I see that once the painting is done is just the beginning to all my future work. Right now I am looking forward to just being able to clean the house and do the laundry. Russ will probably be happy to get to put his car back in the garage. Right now I have to search for the perfect spice storage system. Maybe this project will be done by September.

Best Support System

Since everyday is the same for me I did not take into account that Russ would have a four day weekend with the Fourth of July holiday. Russ works all the time, so he never hardly has any weekend. Four days of not having to go into the office does not mean he is not working. That being said, my plan of redoing the kitchen over his four days off was probably not the best for him.

True to form, he has not complained one bit. In fact he turned into my best support system, not to do any painting, but to feed me and shop for me so I could keep my head down and keep working.

Everyday he makes my breakfast, the only meal we can possibly rustle up in the destroyed kitchen. I do clean it every night because I can’t stand to go to bed with a dirty kitchen, even if you can’t use it as a kitchen. This is helpful since Russ gets up at five in the morning and makes his own breakfast. He wouldn’t notice if the kitchen were dirty and I wouldn’t want to kill him with paint dust.

As a meal time approaches he asks what I would want. Apparently painting makes me not care a wit about what I am going to eat. Unfortunately it doesn’t make not want to eat, just that what I eat as sustenances keeps me working. So we have had grocery store sushi and sandwiches and salads. Nothing exciting, but I welcome his effort.

Today Russ provided a totally new and wonderful lunch. He had read about a Zambian restaurant that opened in the Oak Wood shopping center. We love African food of all types and when he asked me if I wanted Peri-peri chicken, I said of course. The place is called Zwelis and our chicken, vegetables and rice were fantastic. I will definitely be going back, or sending Russ back to try this place again. He said they had a papaya and avocado salad on the menu. Sounds like the perfect, “I’m only three days away from finishing the kitchen” food for dinner.

I know Russ will be glad when this job is done so I can go back to cooking. What I haven’t told him yet is the next project is the back splash in the kitchen. I haven’t even started to find the right tiles and it won’t tear up the whole kitchen, but it might take it out of commision another day.

I’m So Dirty

I could never be a pioneer woman. Going days in the dust and dirt without any running hot water would kill me. I need a good long shower everyday that I get dirty and I have been very dirty for the last week. Today, I was definitely my dirtiest, so dirty that I was able to rub my dirty skin off me.

The great kitchen cabinet painting project is going on day seven tomorrow. So far I have emptied the kitchen, taken all the doors off and removed all the hardware, cleaned every surface with Kurd Kutter, sanded every surface, vacuumed every surface, filled every unneeded hole, crack, dent or diver with wood filler, taped everything I didn’t want painted, sanded again, vacuumed, wiped with a tack cloth, spot primed all knots, sanded again, vacuumed, tacked, taken all the doors to the garage, primed the cabinets in the kitchen, primed the back of the doors, primed the front of the doors, sanded everything, vacuumed everything, tacked everything, and today I finally began painting.

I bought a spray gun and a painting tent. The tent came with instructions that said it took five minutes to set up. After thirty minutes I called Russ and he spent twenty minutes but got it set up for me. I am thankful I have it.

I got into my hazmat suit and sprayed the inside of the doors and the front of the drawers today with their first coat. The drying rack Russ and Carter built me is working great. That took half a day. While they were drying I sanded the cabinets and tacked them and then I brush painted the small parts and corners and rolled the big parts.

After all that I felt as if I was covered in a thick layer of grime. I had taken my hazmat suit off to paint the cabinets since it was a brush job and I didn’t want the flapping of my hazmat suit to get in the way. What I realize now is I should have worn my hazmat suit while I sanded because that is what made me the dirtiest, like a pioneer women driving a covered wagon across a dusty prairie dirty.

Thank goodness I have a shower. Just clean enough to sleep and then I get up and do it all again tomorrow. It will be like ground hog day because I have to spray the second coat on the back of the doors and drawers and then do the second coat on the cabinets. At least I think I have crossed the halfway mark. Only maybe six more days of being this dirty. Much less time than crossing America by wagon.

Deer, Deer, Everywhere

I have given up planting flowers and other deer dinner items in my yard. The deer population in my neighborhood has exploded. It used to be that a deer might have one foal a year, maybe two. In the past couple of year it seems as if there are foals year round, meaning mothers are birthing two to three times in any given year.

In the last few weeks I have seen a mother and a new baby in my yard a couple of times a day. The baby is as cute as she can be, but I am not looking forward to more and more deer. I thought it was strange that I was seeing the foal out the front window of my house and then out the back window at virtually the same time. Then yesterday while I was looking out my bathroom window I discovered the answer to my question, TRIPLETS.

The mother was standing up nursing two foals while the third stood aside about six feet away, no room at the dairy bar for her. Yes, those babies are cute, but are you kidding me three more deer at a time!!

I got to thinking about the mother. First of all, do deer know they are pregnant? If she did realize it after one baby came out did she realize there were others yet to be born? I can only imagine her surprise when the third one made its way into the world.

I can’t imagine I will ever have another flower at my house. If this mother has three at a time, three times a year we will be over run by next year.

Pie on the Fourth of July

For the last four days I have been mainly alone, working away as a painting contractor. Today I spent my eight hour shift in the dehumidified garage priming 37 drawers and doors. My only break was baking my peach pie for the fabulous Fourth of July party and pie contest we were going to at the Teer Farm.

I planned ahead for this party and made my pie five days ago and put the unbaked pie in the freezer so I only had to bake it today. I think the pie did better being baked directly from frozen, but I didn’t win the contest.

After priming and sanding all day I was an exhausted mess. I took a very satisfying shower and was so looking forward to leaving my house and seeing friends. Russ had a wonderful day being alone and although parties aren’t his favorite, he gladly went to Kristin and Paris’ because they throw one hell of a good party. Tonight’s did not disappoint. Russ loved the fried chicken, but I have to say the corn, peach and blueberry salad was my favorite.

After all the guests had eaten platter sized plates of ribs, chicken, green bean and potato salad along with the corn salad we gathered at the pie shed. Many guests had brought homemade pies and a few entered store bought in the “purchased category.” Kristin asked me to be the “celebrity” judge to determine the winner of the most creative pie. I am not sure how I qualified as a “celebrity,” but I took my job seriously. The top three winners were chosen by guest votes.

Kristin had a box of 3,000 tasting spoons and everyone circled the thirty foot table taking small spoonfuls of pie with a clean spoon at every pie. Each guest had six tickets to place in jars of their favorite pies. I had to chose multiple “most creatives” in case my number one choice won an audience favorite. No one could win twice because they were getting one of Kristin’s original trophies which are works of art like no other.

This year a child won with a summer berry pie. Angie Duty came in second with a chocolate pie and Amanda Ballew came in third for a salted Carmel apple pie. Cindy West won most creative with something called a calypso pie. Pie on the the Fourth of July is as good as it gets. Thanks to Kristin and Paris for getting me out of my house for a night of pure fun.

Nice Job Durham

My dad called me the other day to alert me to something he had read in the news, Durham, NC was ranked fourth by Wallet Hub in their survey of best run cities in America. Fourth out of 150! I asked my Dad what was last and he told me Washington, DC. Since I lived in Washington for ten years and made the decision to leave and come to Durham I am glad I moved in the right direction.

I went to Wallet Hub’s story about this study to see what the criteria were to judge the validity of the study. Wallet Hub wanted to judge the effectiveness of leadership in cities and I agree that is important. They determined six key categories: 1) Financial Stability, 2) Education, 3) Health, 4) Safety, 5) Economy and 6) Infrastructure & Pollution. They came up with 37 metrics and weighted each one. The things with the most weight were the Moody’s Credit rating of a city, the infant mortality rate and the average life expectancy. Lowest in the weighting categories were things like transit and access to the internet. Those are still important, just not as much as how long you live and if your city might go bankrupt.

Since the number one and three best run cities were in Idaho and the number two was in Utah I am unlikely to every move to those places, so I will just have to be satisfied with being number four. Considering we are a much more diverse city than Nampa, Boise or Provo I think speaks volumes for our city leaders. It is much easier to run a city when all the people are homogeneous. Running a city well when you a population that is 40% white, 38 % black, 13% Latino and 5% Asian, 4% others as Durham is harder. But that diversity is also one of the best things abut Durham.

When we first moved here one thing I noticed right away was the friendliness of natives to people who were not born here. That welcoming attitude has served Durham well.

So congratulations to Durham City Leaders past and present. It is nice to be recognized on a national level for doing what all citizen want their government to do, run things well, be efficient with our money and keep your heads down and work hard.

It’s All About the Prep

Yesterday I left Carter at the airport and was home by nine to start the “great kitchen painting project.” After months of study, watching You Tube videos, reading blogs, looking at Pinterest and buying supplies I started the clean out of the kitchen.

I am just painting the outside cabinets and the inside and outside of the doors. Experts differed on whether I needed to remove everything from the cabinets to do this project. I decided to err on the side of caution and remove every little thing. I figure it all will get very dusty and this gives me an opportunity to weed things out and perhaps change where things are stored.

It is amazing how much a kitchen can hold. I moved almost everything to the dining room which is a bigger than the kitchen and it overwhelmed the room. I can really pack a cabinet to the max.

In the last two days I have unloaded the kitchen, taken seven drawers and 27 cabinet doors off the boxes, removing all the hardware, cleaned every surface to be painted with a special treatment and begun the sanding process. I labeled all the doors and placed the hardware for each door in it’s own ziplock bag. Since I am changing the brass hardware to brushed nickel I have to boil the hardware in vinegar for 30 minutes and then scrape off all the junk. Since I have to keep the individual hardware with each door I could only do one door’s worth at a time. I am only half way through the hardware cleaning.

Working eight hours each day at this physical job is introducing me to muscles I did not know I have and have not exercised in years. I will sleep well tonight. I figure I have at least one more day of prep before a single drop of paint can me used.

After reading all that I have on the subject I am trying to do the most thorough job on prep since it is the key to longevity of my paint. At least I have been able to do all my work in the air conditioning. I am not looking forward to hot garage painting.

Off To London

I knew I was in trouble the first time I took Carter to London when she was 13. She immediately fell in love with the city, so much so I took her back the next year. She asked to go back every year after that, but I convinced her there were lots of other places to visit besides London.

She comes by this Anglophileness naturally as London is my parents favorite place and I have lived there two different times in my life for a total of seven years. My last time I was pregnant with Carter and she feels a little robbed that we didn’t stay there when she was born.

It was no surprise that she lobbied us to go on a Northeastern summer program in London. The London program in her major didn’t work out since she had already taken the classes they were offering so she chose the next best thing, an engineering program. She is not majoring or minoring in engineering, but they are studying the scientific revolution in London, something both Russ and I thought sounded very interesting. Oh, to be in college again.

Since all her classmates are flying out of Boston Carter wanted to go with them. Not wanting to risk possible summer afternoon flight delays she took a late morning flight to Boston and is hanging out at Logan until her night flight. She asked me to drive her to the airport this morning, but just to drop her off at the curb. No need for me to come in to hug her goodbye.

After all the international flying she has done alone I know she doesn’t need me, but it is always nice to have those last few minutes with her.

So Shay I dropped her off and came home and got to work on our July house project. Something mundane to keep me very occupied while she is off learning interesting stuff.