My Best Elves

Today is the least favorite day of the year for Russ and Carter- the day we put the Christmas tree up. Russ and Carter are the elves that take the tree parts, all seven giant bags, out of the attic and assemble the tree, all fourteen feet of it.

My job is to plug in all the lights. My job sounds easy. It is not. Our tree has over 12,000 lights on it, but not all of them work. Every year new strings of lights get added and finding the male end of the cord to plug them in is a life’s work.

I never did find all the plugs and some of the lights stopped working even after I plugged them in. So I added another seven hundred lights this year.

Russ and Carter wish that my light Hunt to fix the lights was faster because they can’t move on to the next section on the tree until I have lit the last section. They were really good eggs this year just chilling while I untangled and restrung.

I really appreciate my tree elves. I never could decorate for Christmas without their help. I know they don’t care a thing about how the house looks at Christmas, but they humor me.

Red And Green Friday

There is nothing black about our Friday here. We may not have had our annual post thanksgiving farm visit with the Toms, so instead we had lunch at the most anti-thanksgiving Thai Cafe where we laughed for two and a half hours.

I am thankful for not shopping at all year, let alone today. My year of not shopping has been a huge time and money saver as well as not not contributing to global warming due to unneeded consumption. Of course I was not contributing to the economy, but I think others in the family have made up for that.

The boon of not spending the day walking the farm is we got started on throwing up Christmas. Carter and a Russ did not make a complaining peep to me as they took everything out of the attic. We didn’t attempt to work on the tree today, but I did do all the change out of the living room from regular to Christmas.

Then we had a a lovely fire and played a few games of heads up. Such a better way to spend the day than fighting with other shoppers buying things no one needs. I hope your day was more colorful too.

Short But Yummy

After a little bit of Macy’s Day parade this morning we packed the car full of roasted root vegetables, mashed potatoes, pies, cranberry, rolls and stewed tomatoes and went to the farm. My father had not slept for two days under the stress of preparing a turkey, stuffing and creamed onions. When we revived he was just at the start of the creamed onion roux so I took over from there so he could sit down. My mother had set a beautiful table and her part was done.

Soon after I completed the onion operation our friends Lane and Jon arrived with gifts galore; An apple pie and homemade cream to be whipped, wine for my Mother and a rare pair of Northeastern book ends for Carter. Sadly their daughter Isabel just got a job in NYC and was not able to come home for Thanksgiving.

As my Dad poured double-double drinks for those who wanted a bourbon I worked away in the kitchen finishing up the reheating of all the food. Lane oohed and ahhed over my mother’s needlepoint and shared the joy of her magnifying contraption to aid in her stitching. My mother was so thrilled with it Jon immediately jumped on Amazon, found an improved model with a light and ordered it as an other gift for my mother. Lane and Jon are certain to be invited back.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving meal. Carter’s mash potatoes were such a hit that everyone wanted to know her exact recipe. It appears that years of perfecting the right cut size of the potatoes and a huge amount of salt while boiling, along with old fashioned hand mashing does the trick. Of course the rich amount of butter and cream and garlic powder don’t hurt.

After lunch we took a walk with a Shay and when we got too cold went home for pie. My Dad took at nap before Pie and it was decided that we would not stay the night. We cleaned the whole kitchen which went very fast with Lane and Jon.

After they left Russ, Carter and I made at stop at my Aunt’s house and saw all our cousins and got in a few laughs before we headed home in the dark. This means that Christmas can begin the throwing up around our house tomorrow after we have had our annual day after Thanksgiving with our friends the Toms. It was a yummy Thanksgiving with great company, one I hope was repeated at your home with your loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving!

National Day of Cooking

Tomorrow may be Thanksgiving, but today is the big cooking day for most people. It is nothing new that cooking is going on at our house, but even people I know who never cook or can’t t really cook or hate cooking are cooking today. No names mentioned here, but you know who you are.

Thankfully I had Carter home to help cook. When she turned thirteen I created a pamphlet about things I thought it was important for her to learn to prepare her for adulthood. Thirteen year old Carter did not appreciate it much then, but has come to recognize that almost everything I suggested is necessary. Top on the list was “learn to cook- it is the one thing you will do everyday.”

In typical adolescent behavior I think she purposely did not learn, but then as she was getting closer to high school graduation it dawned on her that she was not going to be eating my food. Top it off she had to cook in Berlin during her first semester of college.

Carter then discovered she liked cooking and she had been paying attention all those years in my kitchen. Today it payed off. She baked Crack pies, made mashed potatoes, and roasted root vegetables. All things that required lots of chopping I was happy not to have to do.

So for all you cooking haters I wish for you a child who likes to cook. Even though I love to cook it was especially wonderful to have the time with Carter cooking on this National day of cooking.

Tomorrow I hope she helps her grandfather in the kitchen. He may get used to having a helper named Carter.

Thanksgiving and Christmas Are Too Close Together

Whomever picked the date of Thanksgiving obviously did not have a kid in college. The idea that two of our biggest holidays are between five and four weeks apart is ludicrous. I know that Thanksgiving is based on harvest time, but harvesting what? As far as we are concerned here, the big time harvest for so many things ended in September. Perhaps some corn went into to October, but nothing much has been growing in November. Canadians have Thanksgiving in October and as usual, Canadians are right again.

Right now Russ and I are doing our best to stay awake so we can go pick Carter up at the airport at 11:00 tonight. We get her home for four days then she is back to school for two weeks before the term ends. It would have been so much better to have her home for four days in October.

For those people who are looking forward to a Turkey day of family discontent and fighting just to turn around in a month and do it all again in December I bet they would vote for more time off between family brawls. I am hoping that is not the case in our house.

I just want more regular time with Carter, short that it may be. If it weren’t for my surprise visit from her two weeks ago for my award I would really be chomping at the bit right this minute. But that was a too short fourteen hour visit where she spent more time sleeping than being with me.

I know many people are probably happy that we have Thanksgiving as a way to stave off the Christmas onslaught. If we had Thanksgiving in October I would have my house decorated for Christmas for two months instead of one. It would be a win for me, but not for all the grinch types.

Since I would rather fight to do away with day light savings time than moving Thanksgiving I am just going to have to live with the long stretches of not seeing Carter followed by two visits, bang, bang right together. At least she only has to travel from Boston. I feel for those of you who have kids out west who might be having trouble getting home for Thanksgiving or those whose child is too far away to make the trip.

The year Carter was in Berlin was not my favorite Thanksgiving. As my second favorite holiday I like it best when we are all eating too much together. Eating too much alone is just bad for you.

Literary Connections

Tonight I was watching Jeopardy, while I was eating dinner awaiting a Russ’ arrival home from NYC, I was saying the questions out loud as if I were on the show. This is nothing unusual for me. If Russ were home he would be answering out loud too.

A question came up in the NYC Literature category that started out out “Francine Nolan…”. I didn’t bother listening to the rest of the answer and blurred out, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” Suddenly I was transported back to my childhood bedroom on a summer day reading my favorite book. I had bought A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at my school book fair when I was in fifth grade. I distinctly remember the excitement of being allowed to buy a book at the fair. I don’t know what drew me to this one at first, but I do recall that I fell in love with it immediately. I read that book at least four times, never tiring of the story.

I don’t remember the last time I thought about that book before tonight. Just saying the name out loud reminded me that my other favorite book was The Giving Tree. And then suddenly the memory of the first poem I memorized in fourth grade was “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer. You know it, “I think I will never see a poem as lovely as a tree…”

This is the first time I have made the thematic connection in all my favorite literature. I am going to have to go bak and read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Thanks Jeopardy for giving me this memory.

Elf Life

Like Santa’s elves I was holed up at home all day working away in my various workshops. Yes Christmas is 30 days away, but I am working on gifts and things that are for pre-Christmas events. You would think that will all the production work I do all year, I would already have everything done, tied up in a bow, but I don’t.

My friend Carol from church asked me to make cookies for a charity Christmas party so I had to get going on those. I had to prepare the favors for another Christmas party. I decided to make sea salt Caramels. The recipe explicitly said not to try and double or triple it since it is finicky to begin with. Since I needed as least double I had to do it twice. I had not realized the amount of cooling time required, so the cutting and wrapping will have to wait until tomorrow.

I finally finished a wreath quilt I made. It is much larger than I had intended and now I am on to making a second smaller version. The thing that takes the longest is hand sewing the binding so smaller will be better.

My elf life will continue up tomorrow as I will be waiting for the dishwasher repair man to show up. At least I have plenty to do in my workshops as Christmas is coming and coming fast.

Gift for Him

After doing my matching-clean-socks chore I went to put Russ’ socks in his sock drawer. Russ is very particular about socks, mainly because with size 14 shoes, well fitting socks can be hard to find. He used to only wear a Allen Edmunds socks, an expensive and conservative choice, but they fit.

Then, a couple of years ago, Carter stumbled upon a small company called Sock Club, when looking for a Christmas gift for her hard to shop for Dad. Sock Club (which we get no money from for writing this) is a sock subscription. They make one new sock design a month and mail it out to all their subscribers. Every month it’s a surprise what the design will be and it comes with some cute story about the inspiration for that sock. The great thing is the socks are available in different sizes so Russ’ fit his giant feet.

The subscription is $12 a month and can do one month 3, 6 or 12. The best thing is to socks are great, well made and fun. The bad news is that Russ has amassed such a large collection of socks that he really needs an additional sock drawer.

If you are looking for a gift for that hard to buy for person in your life we highly recommend Sock Club. They make men’s, women’s and kids. Now it’s time for me to go back to laundry. So much easier to match Russ’ socks now that they are each unique designs.

Bitter Sweet Day

About seven years ago a young woman, Amy Beros, came to work in the Development Department of the Food Bank. She had come from a competitor of sorts, one that I did not have the best experience with. Despite having worked at this other organization she turned out to be a really good worker.

She came into the department in a junior role, supporting the VP of Development who was one of the best ones we had after a string of poor performers. I was all too aware of the struggles to find good people to work in development as I had sat on many committees when we would search for a new VP.

Amy made a good name for herself as she supported her boss and less than a year after she came to the Food Bank her boss was wooed away to his dream consulting job. This is one of the problems with good development people, they are some what rare and so they often are offered better jobs.

When Amy’s boss left we did a national search for a VP of Development. After months of interviewing and turning down people who were just not right our search firm suggested we look for a more junior person whom we could groom. That is when it dawned on us that we had a perfect junior person who we we already grooming so we promoted Amy.

It was the right move. She was able to attract and train practically a whole new department of super stars. She created programs for funding and consistently beat all her numbers. She was recognized nationally by Feeding America and asked to train other Food Banks in the Network. She was a super star.

So what happens to super stars in Development? They get stolen. Feeding America recognized that Amy would be more useful if she spent all her time teaching other a Food Banks in her ways so they made her an offer she could not refuse. It was a sad day for our Food Bank when she told Peter, our CEO of her job offer. It certainly was a feather in her cap and Feeding America is right, she can help everyone else.

So on this, her last day at our Food Bank, I say good bye to Amy Beros. She has grown from little star to bright and shining giant star. I know she will make us proud as she goes off to the mothership of a Feeding America. Amy will be missed, but she leaves behind a well oiled machine of talented people she has trained. Good luck Amy! I am very proud of you.

Shay’s Joan Rivers Imitation

Back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, I used to listen to records on my stereo. It wasn’t just music I used to listen too, but also comedy albums. There was something so wonderful about hearing George Carlin’s voice over and over again saying the seven dirty words you couldn’t say on TV.

One of my favorite comedy bits that I listened to incessantly was one that Joan Rivers did about her personal hygiene preparation before she went to visit the Gynecologist. At the time I had never been to a gynecologist, but I had no problem relating to the cleansing, perfuming, and dressing just to come in and take it all off and lie down on the table. Somehow I feel like this experience is so universal that it also applies to my dog.

For the last couple of days Shay has been licking her belly. Something was obviously bothering her. She was creating raw skin and mats that just pulled at her poor red skin. After a rough night last night I called the vets today to get her an appointment.

In my personification of my dog, I told her that she was going to visit the doctor. She gladly jumped in the car, but as we drove closer to the vets she began to shiver, suddenly realizing where we were going. I think the memory of having your temperature taken anally sticks with you.

As we got out of the car Shay started to pull towards the door, but then veered to the side as if she just decided to go potty. This part reminded me of Joan Rivers routine. Do anything possible to make sure you weigh as little as you can when you go to the doctors.

Shay knows the routine at the vet and as soon as we went into the little exam room she went and stood right on the scale and turned her head up so I could remove her leash. How did she know that could add an additional few ounces to her weight?

After weighing in at her normal steady 22 pounds she jumped up on the human bench next to me and sat with perfect posture awaiting the doctor. If only she had on a pill box hat and white gloves.

Thankfully her condition was not dire and hopefully an anti itch pill will be all she needs to give her poor skin a chance to heal without anymore licking from Shay. She pranced out of the exam room with a certain smugness that she was superior to other more listless dogs in the waiting room. Was she channeling the ghost of Joan?

Potato Leek Soup

My friend Deanna texted me Sunday asking if I would give her my potato leek soup recipe. I told her, “Of course,” as long as I wrote it down last time I made it. Forever I used to just cook and how I made something was never recorded. To me it did not matter if I ever made something the same way again. Then I started blogging and other people wanted to cook what I was making. That is when I started recording my recipes as I made them, otherwise they were lost forever.

I looked in my blog for the potato leek soup, but could not find it. So I had to recreate it so I could write it down. I served it for Mah Jongg lunch today just to kill two birds with one stone. So Deanna, this recipe is for you and you can always search for it on the blog now.

Potato Leek Soup

I like to eat this hot, but of course you can eat it cold.

3 leeks- just the white and light green parts, sliced very thin and soaked in cold water to remove grit

3 large cloves of garlic- minced

3 tablespoons of butter

4 large Yukon gold potatoes – peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks

Handful of fresh thyme stems with leaves on them tied into a bundle with kitchen string

Five cups of chicken stock

1/2 cup of heavy cream

Salt and Pepper

Put the butter in a stock pot and melt, add the leeks and garlic and cook on medium heat, stirring regularly for 5-7 minutes. The leeks should get to be very soft and wilt to about half their starting volume.

Add the potatoes, thyme bundle and the chicken stock which should cover the potatoes. Add more stock if needed. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer with lid on the pot, for about twenty minutes, until the potatoes are soft when stuck with a fork.

Remove from heat. Take the thyme bundle out and shake as many leaves off the stems as you can into the soup. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup. Add the cream and whirl a little more to incorporate it. Season with salt and pepper. It might take a lot of each depending

on how salty your stock was.

Serve with toasted bread croutons and minced chives.

Hearings Questions

I have spent the last two days watching the impeachment hearings. Now I also did a lot of quilting, cleaning and cooking while the TV was on, just so my days would not be a total bust.

I have been impressed with the career government officials who seem to be so much smarter than others in the room. It gave me some confidence that not everyone who is reasonable has left Washington or been fired. It did scare me to think about the amount of brain power and experience we are losing as these people leave.

As the hearings have been playing out I continue to have one really big question that has not been answered. How is it that Rudy Giuliani was able to have so many career government officials not say, “You hold no public office and we will not work with you?”

I don’t care if he is the President’s private attorney. He was not confirmed by congress as a representative of the United States. He should not he allowed to peddle Presidential Influence around the world.

No one has disputed the irregular channel that Rudy is part of, but why was that not the big outrage? We can’t have henchmen acting on behalf of the president.

Just the President telling people to “talk to Rudy” about foreign relations seems like it is a violation of some rule. Let’s get to the questions about what the hell Rudy has been doing!

Clean Out Your Fridge Day

Thanksgiving is ten days away. When was the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator? Even if it was just last month probably should go on and do it again in the next two days. While you are at it you should clean out your garage refrigerator too.

You really can’t cook much this far in advance so the best use of your time is making room for all the groceries you are going to need, not just for the main show Turkey meal, but for the other breakfasts, lunches and dinner that people are going to want to eat.

Don’t forget you will need room for leftovers. A turkey carcass takes up also the as much room as a whole turkey. And you should save your carcass and make stock out of it because there is nothing better than turkey stock.

Speaking of leftovers, how is your stock of rubbermaid containers? If they are already in use in your freezer you need to go on and eat up whatever you have frozen this week so you get your containers back and have room in your freezer for extra ice. Yes, with all those people around and I mean sitting around your house expecting drinks and snacks while they watch football, you are going to need more ice than your little ice maker can put out. There is nothing worse than running out of ice halfway through turkey dinner, just because you were more concerned with stuffing.

So skip whatever you had planned today or tomorrow and get to work cleaning out your fridge. And clean it too, don’t just throw stuff away. The last thing you want is some unwanted relative commenting about the sticky substance on your refrigerator shelf. Even if you try and blame it on them, you will be embarrassed.

The Crown, The Crown, The Crown is Back

After waiting months and months The Crown with the new and aged cast is back. I love that Netflix releases all the episodes at once I really don’t want to binge this season as it will make the wait for the next that much longer. Despite this desire to stretch the whole thing out I have already watched the first two episodes and have already forgotten the old cast whom I loved so much.

Olivia Coleman is a fabulous as the Queen. The step from young Clair Foy to middle aged Olivia is easy. Perhaps because dowdy to dowdy is not a stretch.

Princess a Margaret is a different story. They cast Helena Bonham Carter at age 54 to play 34 year old a princess Margaret. It is a much bigger jump from the tall thin young Vanessa Kirby who played the younger Margaret in the first two seasons to the short and stout Carter. Don’t get me wrong, Helena is a great actress and probably will be as colorful as the real Princess Margaret, but is is a giant jump from the first princess. Leave it to the Brits to cast a much older woman for a younger role. That move is good for women actresses everywhere.

I do wonder if Bonham Carter already knew how to blow smoke rings or had to learn to do that for this role. It is a skill for which she should be applauded.

One other trick the producers of the Crown did to make Bonham Carter appear to be the right one for the role is they cast a man who is older than Anthony Armstrong Jones to play her husband. He is also no where as attractive as the real Armstrong Jones, which I guess is only natural since it would be hard to find any actor who could match him.

Nonetheless, I am certain I will love every minute of this wonderful series! Long live the Crown!

Sisters Sales Team

My very prolific painter mother is over whelmed with hundreds of fabulous works of art. In an attempt to make room to paint more she decided to have an art show for three days at the farm. Three buildings on the farm are being used to display it all. That being the case she needed help manning each building. So each daughter was summoned to come work this show. Two thirds brought a significant other in addition.

Since the farm is in such a rural area there are not a lot of art buyers milling about. I did my best to entice people to make the hours drive to the farm and my friend Kathi, who has been a consistent collector, came and purchased. I am eternally grateful for her support.

It was a slow day. Thankfully my cousins and Aunt came up to visit which made it looked like there were more people. One issue is there are so many fabulous works of art, displayed in a house that is chocked full of art that it is hard to even really see it all.

I did some social media and got got some interest from far off friends who looked at the website, Unfortunately the paintings were either sold or too big, but keep looking! An order did come over on my Mom’s Etsy sight from my sorority sister Lori Goldman. She didn’t even message me, just ordered herself. Thanks Lori!

The show is open tomorrow afternoon. The address of the farm is 839 Hom-a-gen lane Providence,NC. Since it is a private road you might have trouble finding it, but it is the first driveway on the right on SHady Grove Road, off Route 86. Message me if you want better instructions.

I won’t be there tomorrow but at least one if not two of my sisters and their significant others will be selling with my Mom. No pressure. Just look if you want.

New Logo for The Food Bank

For all the years I have worked with the Food Bank we had an ugly logo with our service area in green on the taupe state of North Carolina and a UPS brown background. Our long legal name of Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina was spelled out every time.

The logo had a reason as the green part represents the 34 counties of North Carolina we service. The taupe section in the middle is serviced by the Food Bank In Fayetteville. Even with that reason the colors are dated as is the font. This has been a peeve of mine for a long time. Despite the fact that everyone calls us “The Food Bank” and if you google Food Bank in North Carolina we are what come up, there were legal entities that insisted we use our whole long name all the time.

Well alleluia, common sense has prevailed and the Food Bank has changed it’s logo and can call it’s self The Food Bank as long as the legal name is mentioned first.

So the talented designer at the Food Bank, Megan Weeks, came up with this new logo in a modern font. The center square with a circle in it looks like a plate on a table. The blue and green colors make me so happy.

The new logo was officially unveiled last night at the Evening of Appreciation, which I really appreciated. As Russ, Carter and I were leaving, the photo booth people were closing up shop. We begged them to let us get a picture and they nicely agreed. So now you can see the new logo here. It will be displayed alongside the old one for a little while so people can get used to it, so don’t throw out that new looking envelope from the Food Bank. We are the same great place turning every dollar you donate into ten meals for your hungry neighbors. Still the best investment in helping a North Carolina you can get.

A Night Full of Surprises

A few months ago I had the honor of being chosen the Hunt-Morgridge Award winner. What you haven’t heard of that? It’s kind of like the lifetime achievement award for the Food Bank. I joked I was way too young to receive this award since I had only spent the last twenty years volunteering there. Nonetheless they gave me the award.

Tonight was the Evening of Appreciation event where I was actually receiving the actual award. The event is usually an inside baseball kind of night where just the really good friends of the Food Bank come so they can be thanked for all they do. Corporate donors and individuals are recognized for their generosity. Mega volunteer organizations are called out for all they do for the Food Bank.

I had asked my parents if they would like to come and a few of my local friends. I was sad that Carter was going to be at school, but I knew I was going to see her at Thanksgiving. The Food Bank apparently sent invitations to many people I know. I figured this out when I started getting cards saying that some far off friends had made donations to the Food Bank in my honor. Thanks to you all for such a meaningful way to show me your love.

My parents came to our house to ride over to Raliegh with us. We pulled in the parking lot and as I was getting out of the car I heard my sister Margaret’s voice. She and her boyfriend Pete had driven down from Annopolis as a surprise. After we were inside the Food Bank, seeing so many old friends, I looked across the room and saw Carter coming through the door. What a fabulous surprise which made us both cry.

Then my sister Janet, who I thought was still in China, appeared with her girlfriend Sophie. My whole family was here. It made my night. Many friends came from Durham which is a true sign of love to fight rush hour traffic. It meant the world to me.

My wonderful Food Bank family said many nice things to and about me before I was able to take the stage and give my speech. In it I said that my 20 years of working for the Food Bank had been my true joy. Being honored with this award was icing on a cake I share with so many. But my work is not done at the Food Bank, never will be until we don’t have one hungry person in Central and Eastern North Carolina. Now on to the next twenty.

Returned What I Did Not Know Was Lost

I have a confession to make. I needlepoint while I am at church. Since I am not Catholic I can’t just say a Hail Mary to be absolved of this transgression. Since I am not Catholic Needlepointing at church is not a sin. Needlepointing during the service actually helps me concentrate on the words I am listening too as evidence I am still the first person to laugh when the preacher is funny.

Russ and I sit in the same place every Sunday day, the second row on the lector side at the window end. Sometimes other people join us in our row and they usually comment that they are in our seats. They are not really in our seats as we don’t own them and they always make room for us just the same.

It’s a good thing to be known for sitting in the same place. Apparently this past Sunday I left my needlepoint scissors in our pew. Someone found them today and gave them to our receptionist. She texted me with a photo of them asking if they were mine.

What a blessing since they are my best scissors. I had not noticed they were gone since I keep a couple pairs in my needlepoint bag. By the time I had noticed they were missing I would be hard pressed to remember where they might be.

I guess it’s good that people know I needlepoint at church in case I leave anything else stitching related in the sanctuary. No one else has caught on that it is OK to do that while at church. I have heard that some people knit at other churches, but knitting can make noise and needlepoint doesn’t. Children who sit near me behave while they watch mesmerized while I stitch. Perhaps I should teach some of them how to do it so they can “listen better.”

For now, I owe thanks to whomever found and returned my scissors I did not know were missing and to Barb for leaving them for me in a little envelope at her desk.

Garden Club Play House

I am corresponding secretary for Garden Club this year. It seems like a big demotion from previous jobs, but we all have to do our part. The majority of my job involves getting people to RSVP for meetings. The job is more like my first elected position I ever held which was Sargent at arms in fourth grade. For the life of me I don’t know why we needed a Sargent at arms, but it seemed like a good job for a bossy person.

Corresponding secretary communicates through email mostly, which has its pitfalls, mainly the junk algorithms. When I don’t hear from people I have resorted to texting and that seems to get a response. Before today’s meeting I was about at the end of my corresponding rope for various reasons.

Then we had our meeting. It was held at Stacey Burkert’s floral workshop behind her house. It is like one big flower play land. She taught us how to make wrist corsages. I am not in need of many corsages these days, but making them was a very fun event.

Sitting with my best friends, playing with flowers we all created beautiful works of art. Each one was unique as the maker.

All the pain of corresponding secretary disappeared during the fun of the meeting. I guess I will gladly endure my job so I can enjoy my friends. Thanks to Stacey for providing such a fun program and to our hostesses, Kathi, Karen and Pokey. It was the best way to spend a cold and rainy Tuesday.


Yesterday I got a notice that UPS was delivering a package. Since I didn’t recognize the sender I asked Russ if he had ordered something. No, not something from or for him. I forgot about it until later this afternoon my Ring Doorbell sounded off and I looked at the video and saw a huge box on my front porch.

I thought it was too big to be anthrax and had no signs of being a pipe bomb so I bought it inside and opened it up. Inside was a giant fancy wreath. I looked for a card and could not find one. I opened the plastic envelope attached to the outside of the box and there was a return label and instructions to return it, but no invoice or gift card. So this is a total mystery.

Like the cops, I am going to withhold a bit of information about this gift. If you sent it to me please let me know and to prove you sent it tell me the name of the company you sent it from. I don’t want someone to take credit for this very nice gift who didn’t actually buy it.

I look forward to thanking this mystery person for this big surprise!

Shay Puts Herself To Bed

Shay used to be a full on extrovert. If there were people visiting our house she was with them. She would snuggle up to total strangers and say, “Hey, you can let me if you want.” She made sure they always wanted to. One deep soulful look from those big brown eyes and she could melt even the most strident dog hater. As long as someone was awake in our house Shay would be to, waiting patiently to be adored.

Things have changed. Shay is getting more introverted. If there are a large number of people I out house she will visit with them for a little while, but their presence will wear her out. She is happy if you will sit quietly with her, but eventually she will leave the whole group and put herself to bed.

This was the case tonight. Some of Russ’ teammates came for dinner. Shay greeted each one at the front door, opening the glass door to let them in. She snuggled on the sofa with the girl friend of one of the youngins’ and made the rounds around the table to see if anyone didn’t want to eat all their chicken or salmon. But when dessert came around she was plum tuckered out and she voluntarily went upstairs to bed.

There were still people in our house for a good hour, but she was done. Even Russ was still up talking and washing dishes. The day that anyone beats Russ to bed after a party is a big day for he is usually the first one to crash. I can see that his ways are wearing off on to Shay.

I guess I would rather have a dog who is tired and goes to sleep after a party than one who is so keyed up from company and can’t fall asleep, like me.

Pre-Theatre Food

Tonight we went to the DPAC to see A Bronx Tale with out friends Lee and Christy. They had made dinner reservations at Nana’s, which was a lovely choice. Since I was not driving or paying I did not even bother to bring a purse with me. Big mistake.

As I was looking over the menu I was trying to figure out what was a good pre-theatre choice.

I skipped the steak or the lamb shank as those were certain to get caught in my teeth, or might cause gas. I thought I was safe in ordering chicken. I was wrong. No gas, but definitely something got stuck between my back two molars.

There is nothing worse than having a sliver of meat caught in the farthest region of your mouth. Well worse than that is having something caught and not having any floss or tooth pick to fix it. Or triple worse is you have it caught while you are at the theatre and have no way to get it out.

I wish that restaurants had symbols on their menu that showed items that don’t get stuck in your teeth. Of course they would be on things like puréed soups, or mashed potatoes, but I need to know a good protein that is safe. Maybe cheese soufflé.

If only I had brought my purse all would have been fine since I always carry floss. If only I had been wearing a big brooch that had a long pin on it. At least then I could go in the ladies room and hide while I stuck the pin in my mouth to dislodge the offending chicken that was driving me crazy. You know how hard it is to pay attention to a show while your tongue is trying to remove the unwanted chicken?

I am considering slipping a needle into the hem of my pants so that I will always have a tool with me in case I need it. You just never know when a seed, kernel, string or sliver is going to find it’s way into a place that it shouldn’t. Oh what I would have given for a needle tonight.

Party Issues

Last month Russ asked me if I would host his company team members for dinner. It’s nice that he asks me, but he already knows the answer. Of course I am happy to have his team and significant others for dinner. As I was thinking about what to make it dawned on me that I and not entertained anyone, except the weekly Mah Jonggers since before I redid my kitchen. For the record my kitchen is not done yet because my tile is taking extra long to be made. So I have kind of been holding out for that.

So now that I am having the company for dinner Sunday I got to thinking about holiday entertaining. I love to have people over, but I don’t like to have everyone I ever met all at once.

A well curated gathering is much more fun, but what to do about people who find out about it who aren’t invited. This is the age old problem.

I have one rule, “If you have NEVER had me to your house, I don’t feel bad about not having you to mine.” Of course someone has to go first and I will have people to my house whose doors I have never darkened. But if I have you two or three times and you haven’t reciprocated don’t be surprised if you aren’t invited back. It does not mean that I don’t like you, just that I might have some people who I owe who get put on the top of the list.

Another way to not be on the list is, “You had a big party and invited people you talked trash about to me.” Usually I am happy to not be invited to a party where I know the birthday person has to walk a tight rope. It is just to uncomfortable to listen to what they say to someone’s face after you have heard what they say behind their back.

No matter what, not everyone can be invited, everywhere, every time. The answer is throw some parties of your own. In the case of the party I am throwing Sunday I didn’t have to decide who got included, it was the whole office. So if you drive by my house on a Sunday and wonder, “Humph, I wasn’t invited,” don’t get your nose out of joint. It is a work party.


Tonight was the Reality Ministries dinner where my friend Lynn invited me to join her. I have been to this dinner before and once again I walked away inspired. Reality Ministries is a community of friends with and without developmental disabilities who come together to experience belonging.

I first got to know Reality years ago when I did a story on Susan McSwain, the founder, for Durham Magazine. Her grace and clarity about the need for all people to belong, be loved and accepted was like a light in the darkness. That grace has not wavered in the eleven years the center has been open.

My friend Lynn started volunteering a few years ago and I feel has found her calling in spending her time in friendship with the participants. Tonight I got to meet one of Lynn’s special friend’s Bonnie. It just happens that Bonnie’s last name is Lynn’s daughter’s name. I don’t think there are any coincidences.

I got to sit next to one of my favorite people from church, Nancye, whose son also visits Reality and served us our dinner tonight. In the last couple of years Reality has started a farm a few miles away from the downtown center. We ate some of the vegetables they grew on the farm for dinner tonight and as someone who has practically given up of growing produce due to the heart ache, I was very impressed.

Susan McSwain talked about the problem of isolation for people with developmental disabilities, but as she was describing their loneliness I felt like she could be talking about any young people today. The lack of social interaction, connection to others and friendships is something that many people face. My wish is that all people able bodied, or not, mentally capable or not can find people to connect with and have a sense of belonging. It is not easy, but look for community and join in. It is what humans need.

2020 Election is One Year Away

One year from today is Election Day and it is going to be one of the most important ones in the history of this country. Lots of air is going to be sucked out by the Presidential race and rightfully so, but there will be other important races that we need to keep an eye on also.

Tonight a Russ and I went to an event at Brad and Missy Brinegar’s house for our Governor Roy Cooper. It was a good group of civic minded people who are interested in a North Carolina being the best state we can be. Governor Cooper gave an excellent talk about the issues and his plan to continue to improve things. I was pleased with all he had to say.

When he was running for office four years ago Russ and I went to a similar gathering of a small group and then Attorney General Cooper was not as eloquent on the issues and how to solve problems as he was tonight. He was still better than the incumbent who was the creator of the “bathroom bill” which made North Carolina a joke in the world.

Cooper has had a tough time being a Democrat Governor with a Republican legislature, but he has held the line. We need this next election to flip a few more seats from red to blue, while keeping Cooper in office so we can make headway on education, climate change and healthcare.

The national election is important, but all politics is local and we can’t let our state go backwards. Thanks to Brad and Missy for opening up their beautiful home and for Michelle Berrey and Richard Smith for also hosting along with a large group of other generous people. We can’t sit back and let politics happen to us. We must work for the country we want to live in.

Shay Acts Self Sufficiently

Sometimes I wonder if Shay needs me at all. I had a busy day out of the house. First I went to meet a woman for coffee who is networking to find work in the non-profit area. Then I went to vote and met up with friends at the polls.

From there I went to lunch with my friends a Christy and Angie. It had been so long since I had seen Angie. Her daughter Liz played basketball with Carter and graduated a year ahead of Carter. She went on to be a walk-on at Carolina and has continued to be a superior person. I spent so many years sitting in the bleachers with Angie and her family who are the most supportive people. They used to cheer as loud for Carter when she made one basket as they did for Liz when she made twenty baskets in the same time period. It was wonderful to catch up with her.

From lunch I went to needlepoint where I spent time at the stitchers table with my friends I have seen so little of due to my absence. Tomorrow is Nancy McGuffin’s birthday and I was glad to get to spend time with her in pre-birthday celebration.

On my way home I called my Dad to discover he was trying to get his computers fixed. He told me he had been on the phone with Apple for more than a week without any remedy. He told one of the Apple people on the phone he was going to take three computers and one iPhone and throw them in his lake and the tech’s response was, “Don’t do that, it might kill the fish.” My dad thought the tech didn’t have the right concern for his not working equipment.

I finally got home after four. Shay did not bother to come greet me. She remained on my bed upstairs. I got to work prepping food for Mah Jongg lunch tomorrow. That was when I realized I was short one ingredient. I left the house to go back to the grocery and came home. It had been over seven hours since I had seen Shay and she had gone out. I went up to my room and she jumped up and greeted me. When I suggested she come down stairs and go out she just looked at me. Once I said the word dinner she changed her mind. I guess she does need me, but not without prompting.

Old Friends Are Better Than Vacuuming

When I woke up this morning the day I had before me was nothing exciting. I was going to exercise, clean the house, do the laundry and other mundane chores. I had no meetings, writing assignments or other commitments. I did promise Russ that I would take his shirts to the laundry and since it was daylight savings I was up and ready to go at six.

On my way out the door for my early morning errands I got a text from my friend Lane to see if I was free for lunch. This never happens that I am free on a day that she calls at the last minutes. Suddenly my boring day had a bright spot in it.

So I went about working down my newly made list of chores until it was time to meet her. We have been friends since before her 23 year old daughter was born. There have been times when we spent lots of time together and times when our lives hardly crossed paths because we were both busy with our families. What I love now is that now that we aren’t busy with our daughters we are able to go back to seeing each other more often.

The seasons of life change through the years and during some you have little time for friends who are far away or not on your track or path, but they are still your friends. But as the season changes you have the luxury to reconnect and pick right up where you were before.

I have found this with old school friends too. Even if you don’t see each other for years and years when you do get together it is as if you never were apart.

So I want to plan a few more reunions with old friends I haven’t seen in person for a while. If you feel like you are my old friend, let me know. Let’s plan. I am always up for a good road trip and would love to reconnect. Being with old friends is so much better than vacuuming.

Krispy Kreme Is Missing The Point

Today I saw a news story about a college senior, Jayson Gonzalez of Minnesota who the Krispy Kreme company is not happy with. Apparently Jayson was driving to Iowa, a 270 mile round trip, to the closest Krispy Kreme and would buy 100 dozen donut at the full price cost of a little more than $9 a dozen. Once back in the twin cities he would resell the donuts for between $17 – $20 a dozen. There has not been a Krispy Kreme store In Minneapolis for the last 11 years.

Krispy Kreme caught wind of the entrepreneurial young man and called him and told him to shut down what in essence was his donut delivery service.

Short sighted Krispy Kreme. This guy was an ambassador for your donuts. How is Jayson any different from GrubHub or Door Dash that pick food up at restaurants and deliver it to people’s homes?

Krispy Kreme, you should pay Gonzalez for his market research about the demand for donuts in the twin cities, and they were cold donuts at that. Imagine if they had “Hot Now” donuts.

The donut vendor should offer to help set this guy up with a franchise rather than calling him and telling him to stop.

Kreme claims that his reselling the donuts was a liability. I am not exactly sure how? People knew they were buying the donuts from Jayson, not directly from Krispy Kreme. Jayson paid full price for them and then he owned them. How is it not is right to sell them if he wanted. If people were willing to pay him to drive 270 miles to get the donuts I don’t see how Krispy Kreme can shut that down. Certainly the Iowa store where he was buying the donuts didn’t complain.

Come on Krispy Kreme, you missed every opportunity this kid handed you on a silver platter. You need to hire Jayson Gonzalez. Too late, you screwed this up.

Making the Most of Mundane

Oh the exciting things we do on a Saturday. Russ had a lot of work today so I took the opportunity to do some oft neglected chores. The most exciting was washing some down bed pillows. I read somewhere you are supposed to wash your pillows two or three times a year. I can say with full confidence that hasn’t happened here. Given how many different types of pillows we have I am certain that we have some that shouldn’t be washed at all. Like the bean hull pillows that Russ uses. They weigh a ton and are full of some kind of beans that shouldn’t get wet.

Given my lackadaisical care of our pillows I wanted to test wash to make sure I wasn’t going to ruin all our pillows at once. The internet instructions I read told me to wash two at a time to keep the washer balanced. So I picked two of similar size and weight and put them in the washer together. Rather than throwing in one of the soap pods I used just a tiny amount of liquid Gain. Too much soap is a real concern in the pillow washing literature.

The pillows seemed to fair well in the washer, but the true test was the dryer. I knew from my years of growing up in the north, that when you dried anything down you put a tennis ball in a sock or a clean sneaker in the dryer to help fluff everything up while tumbling.

I looked in my laundry cabinet above the washer for the tiny pair of sneakers I have just for this job. The little white Keds were Carter’s first sneakers and they are the perfect thing to put in the dryer with the pillows. Three drying cycles and the pillows are fluffy, yet I feel the feathers may be still slightly clumped together so the banging of the little sneakers in the dryer continues. I really am getting my money’s worth out of those twenty year old tenny pumps.

I can hardly wait to figure out what excitement beholds me tomorrow. Perhaps some deep cleaning of grout with an old tooth brush, or vacuuming out the refrigerator filter. I know you wish you were me.

Bad Year, Not Why You Think

This is the kind of year I hate. I am very specific about a year I will hate. I can predict it years in advance just by looking at the calendar. What is my hate based on? A November that only has four Thursdays, thus making Thanksgiving the last Thursday in the month. Top it off this Thanksgiving is very late in the month, on the 28th, as late a date as Thanksgiving can ever be because November started on a Friday. When November starts on a Thursday then there are five Thursdays in the month.

The next time we have five Thursdays in November is 2023. This year Thanksgiving weekend ends in December! I don’t care that there are fewer December shopping dates, we all need less stuff. But having fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas means that my decorating and celebrating time gets compressed.

Normally I have a needlepoint Christmas at my house the first Monday in December. It has been on everyone’s calendars for years. Only recently did I notice that the first Monday is December is the Monday after Thanksgiving. There is no way I can have Thanksgiving, get all the a Christmas out of the attic, decorate the whole house, cook all the food for lunch for 13, set a beautiful table and have people arrive at my house at 11 AM.

I had to change the plan. Since I couldn’t change the date we changed the location and are going out for Needlepoint Christmas. I hate to do that, but it can’t be helped.

I am still going to be pushed to decorate the house as it is. Carter will not be happy about having to help get the tree and 56 boxes from the attic right before she flys back to Boston, but this is what is going to have to happen since she is going back on Saturday.

If you haven’t started your Christmas panic, this is your friendly warning to get moving. Time will get short fast and before you have finished eating turkey soup you will be behind on Christmas. Next year will be slightly better, but we are going to have to hold out until 2023 for a really good year.