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.