Two Leaders I Disagree With

Today was a big day for two men I have little respect for, Boris Johnson and 45. Brexit took effect and the U.K. left the EU today. I am not sure Johnson and the Brxiteirs really have a handle on how this is going to workout for the U.K. in the end it might end up being the Ununited kingdom as Scotland might finally say we are going to take it anymore to England and Ireland might reunify and do the same to England. That would leave England with little ‘ole Wales and that is just not much of a Kingdom.

Be careful what you wished for Johnson. You might be making yourselves less and less relevant and not have the bargaining power to play with the big boys. It all makes me so sad as I love a lot about the U.K. as I lived and worked there for years, but taking your ball and going home may mean you don’t have anyone to play with.

Then there is the Senate who is not going to do their job and have a real trial and call witnesses. The Senate has laid down for Trump further allowing his out of control power to grow.

He was not going to get removed from office through impeachment because the Republican Senators were too afraid of Trump and his bullying ways, but they should have at least heard Bolton.

Two men I have little respect for have succeeded, but just for today. Things can change.

Shay, The Fellowship Dog

Shay has had a big week at Church. See, Church is her favorite place. If we are at home and I ask her if she wants to go out she usually just looks at me and won’t budge. If I say, “Do you want to go to church?” She runs down stairs to the garage door and keeps jumping until I open the door.

This week Shay has gotten to attend a Fellowship Hall building committee meeting Monday, another meeting with Chris, our pastor and Sharon our business manager yesterday and then today a building meeting with the hardware rep and architects.

Shay’s entrance into the mission center is pure exuberance. She bounds into Sharon’s office and greets her then turns to go back to the front desk to see Barb Schmidt since they are two of her favorites. If there are any church members in the halls she will gladly stop and say hello, never refusing a snuggle or pat on the head.

Today a bible study was going on in the parlor and Shay decided to join them for a while. Saundra Atkins was particularly happy to have her there. Shay roams the main floor of the mission center going from meeting to meeting spreading joy. Thank goodness Westminster is a dog friendly church since Shay is going about without me as I am in a meeting.

She usually comes to me when she has said hello to everyone and jumps in my lap and puts her head on the conference room table. This is her main position in Ways and Means meetings. If only she could go to a church services. I think she would very much like to hear the choir and would gladly go to the front for the children’s message.

For now she is just going to have to remain a committee member and head fellowship dog and greater.

Seven Month Kitchen Re-do Done

A year ago I decided I was going to paint my seventy year old knotty pine cabinets. This under taking was not taken lightly. I thought about it for years. I Love the layout of my kitchen and especially liked my seventy year old stainless steel counters. My appliances are great so I did not want to tear my whole kitchen up.

All this being the case I decided that I was capable of painting my cabinets myself. I waited until the fewest people were going to be home and on July 1, mere moments after putting Carter on a flight to London for her summer study I was dismantling my kitchen. It took me fourteen full days to do the job.

I waited until I had finished painting before I began my search for a new back splash. I needed to see what the white looked like first. So, in the middle of July, I began my search for a new back splash. It took only a few weeks before I found a tile I loved. Hand made in California meant it was going to take a while to get it.

It took over six months. Just before Christmas my wonderful tile guy, Jim Parker called and said it was in, but he couldn’t come until this week. It was worth the wait. Jim, his brother Rudy and other workers descended on my house and today they finally finished grouting and cleaning my new tile. My kitchen is done and I have to say I am thrilled with how it turned out.

Next up the front hallway wall paper. I am going to have to spend some time thinking about this one. Seven months seems about right.

Carter’s Good Deed

It’s a rare January weeknight that Russ and I go out to dinner, but the St. James just reopened after being closed for nine months due to the gas leak explosion and we have missed her. If you are a fan of the St. James it is exactly the same so run on over for dinner.

While Russ and I were seated I got a FaceTime call from Carter so I took it. I know it’s rude to answer your phone in a restaurant, but we were in a very private corner and the noise level was loud enough that no one knew I was on the phone.

This is how the conversation started.

“Nothing is wrong, but I made my first 911 call tonight.”

Thank god I taught her well enough to start with “nothing is wrong” otherwise I would have been a wreck.

Turns out that as Carter was walking home from work she witnessed two young men in a Honda hit a parked car hard enough that it pulled their bumper off. Carter reported that they got out of their car and looked like they we going to leave a note, but decided not to and picked their bumper up and put it in the back seat, sticking out of the open window and drove off. Carter took note of their license number. I asked her if she wrote it down and she said, “I didn’t have to it was 1ABC69.” They were young men after all.

Two other people walking on the street witnessed this and Carter, being a law abiding citizen was outraged for the poor owner of the parked car, whom she does not know. She dialed 311 which is the non-emergency police number and the operator told her that she needed to hang up and call 911 like she won the crime reporting lottery.

Since this happened right in front of her building Carter went into her apartment and called 911 and reported the crime. The dispatcher took the information and told Carter to write a note and tell the owner what she saw and that Carter had reported it and the owner needed to call the police and report the hit and run also.

Carter sent me a photo of the note she left on the car. I am proud of my madam-law-and-order child. It would be easy to just ignore the whole thing as a bystander, and not consider how horrible it is going to be for the car owner when they come out and find their wrecked car.

I hope that Mr. 1ABC69 realizes how having such a stupid vanity plate got him in trouble as well as leaving the scene of an accident.

Never Forget

Today was the day my back splash I have been waiting seven months for was installed. It’s not actually done. It is all up with spacers still between the tiles. The grouting will happen Wednesday and that is when I will actually unveil the whole thing.

I hired a great tile guy who came today with his brother, his cousin and a helper named Jorge. Jorge did all the heavy lifting and toting back and forth to the trucks, mixing the mortar. The four of them worked from 8-3 to get the job done. This is one reason I decided to hire a professional rather than do it myself. After fourteen days of painting I can only imagine how long it would have taken to tile by myself. Plus, I am afraid of the tile saw.

After cleaning my office while they tiled I finally game myself a break and went to work on my giant ass puzzle. I was sitting in our big room listening to the tile guys talk while I searched for the missing piece. Jorge, who is from a Mexico, was talking about going to a soccer match. One of the old white guys asked him if his father was going to go with him. Jorge said, “No, he is too afraid.”

The white guys said, “What, that’s crazy.”

Jorge didn’t say anything else about it that I could hear and they all worked silently for a while.

I got to thinking how terrifying it must be to be in this country as a foreigner right now. Later I was watching the news about this being the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. An old Jewish couple who both survived the camp and later met and married were being interviewed. The woman talked about how they emigrated to America and the feeling they had when they saw the Statue of Liberty. She talked about how this was the greatest county.

I do believe that we have the capacity to be that same country again, but not in the Make America Great Again theme. We are a country of immigrants and we should not forget it. We are stronger when we are diverse. No one should be afraid to go to a soccer match. No one should live in the shadows.

The tile guys needed Jorge. He made their work go easier. They could concentrate on what they did best because Jorge was here.

We can never forget Auschwitz and how a duly elected official was able to wipe out 11 million innocent people while others stood by. It can happen again as long as we allow our government to put children in cages. We can never forget and keep our eyes open now. No one should be invisible.

Surprise Grout Cleaning

I can’t remember exactly when Russ and I redid our master bathroom. For years we suffered with the original 1950’s Grey tile, tub and double sinks. The sinks were big, but had no storage as they were Grey porcelain on silver metal legs. Russ wanted us to do a major bathroom renovation and increase our footprint. I thought there was a more conservative way that did not mean I had to lose my closet.

I went about designing a glass shower with no curtain and getting two smaller square bowl sinks that I put on top of a narrow wood console. The faucet came out of the wall so the sinks could be snug against the wall. These few changes made our tiny master more livable and I have been happy with it for the last fifteen or sixteen years.

In all that time we have had the original grout in the shower. It has held up great, but I am always on the search for the best cleaning product to keep the grout white. The caulking on the edge is my worst nemesis. It has yellowed and I think it is time to pull it out and redo it. My tile man who is coming tomorrow to do the kitchen does not want anything to do with the caulking.

Today in my regular cleaning of the bathroom I tried a new way to clean the caulk, which has yellowed, Oxi -Clean. Yes, the stuff I use in the laundry. I made it into a paste and put it on the caulk on the edges of the shower floor. I was trying to get that caulk a little closer to the white grout color, but that too had yellows, just not as much. After scrubbing the edges with an old tooth brush I rinsed the shower floor. To my surprise the Oxi that had been on the edges flowed over the grout on the floor and whitened the grout without any scrubbing.

I am still going to have to remove the old caulking and re-caulk, but the floor looks brand new. It was just a mistake that I stumbled upon this, but if you want to clean old grout try Oxi-Clean. And no, Oxi-clean isn’t paying me a cent for this, but they really should advertise it.

Happy Birthday Mom!

It’s my Mom’s 82nd birthday. She won’t mind my telling how old she is because she looks damn good for her age, but then again she has always looked good.

Unfortunately she is not feeling well on her big day as she has been sick all week. Please send prayers for a quick recovery. She isn’t good laying low. It means she can not do all the things that keep her the most active person her age. She can’t paint or play bridge or walk the mile long farm road which are things she does everyday if she can. It’s too cold to swim, which she does everyday when it’s warm.

She can read one of the many library books she has sitting by her bed. She can’t stand to ever buy a book when you can get it for free from the library. Since it’s Saturday she can’t watch the stock market and make some trades. But if she feels up to it she can always iron. She has a strong feeling that she was an upstairs maid in a past life for she loves to wash and iron.

I find this hysterical since she ruined a load of my clothes when I was a child and told me, “If you don’t want that to happen again you should wash your own clothes.” I did after that, but she could have just told me it was time for me to do my own laundry. I did not inherit the love of washing and ironing so she may be right about her past life. I must have been the cook in my past life.

Mom, does not like to use punctuation or capitals when emailing or texting. Except for using a comma as an apostrophe, but never as a comma. This is hilarious to me because she is such a grammar freak.

So Happy Birthday to my Mom. I used a lot of capitals there just because she wouldn’t. I also used an apostrophe as an apostrophe, just to remind her that it comes on a standard keyboard. I wish you many more years of painting, bridge, a bull market and all the best books to be in stock at the library.

Celebrity at Bridge

Friday is my normal bridge day three days out of the month. It turns out that today we had a very special guest at the Bridge Academy, the First Lady of North Carolina, Kristin Cooper. She was invited by our bridge unit 191 even though she doesn’t play bridge.

One of the members of our unit, Pearl, is well over 100 and one of the best players around. The First Lady came to meet Pearl. Since we had her as a captive, Henry, the 2018 bridge teacher of the year, gave a five minute lesson on how to play bridge. Then my partner, Deanna, who is President of the unit gave a brief talk about what our unit does and the local members of note, meaning the best players.

After all that, the First Lady said she promised to learn to play bridge. I’m not sure she really knew what she was promising. I have been playing bridge a while and after the First Lady left I played about the worst bridge I have ever played. Sometimes I wonder if I am going to progress. Of course only playing three times a month is not enough. What I really need is a game that starts early in the morning, as I play on the afternoon, which is my worst time of the day. I only hope that if I play as long as Pearl that I get to be half as good as she is.

Waiting Seven Months

Today was supposed to be the day, but it wasn’t. The day my tile guy was to come and install my tile backsplash to finish my kitchen that I started redoing on July 1.

I didn’t pick a tile out until I finished painting my kitchen. When I did, I picked one that was custom made and took 9-12 weeks to get. My tile guy placed the order with the girl who helped me. Fifteen weeks later when the tile guy called the place to ask where the tile was he found out the girl who we placed the order with quit and never put my order in. So another 12 weeks and then it was Christmas.

My tile guy called me three weeks before Christmas and said he would come after the new year. We talked last week and picked today as the day. The day I have been waiting for forever. He told me they would come at 8:00 AM. I woke up at 5:45 so excited this day was finally here.

At 6:30 I got a text that the tile guy’s father was being taken to the ER. Today was not the day. Thankfully I got another text at 1:00 that everything was fine and tomorrow is the day. Not so fast. I am not available tomorrow so Monday is the day. Please lord let it be so. Maybe Monday I will have a back splash to blog about. Today, I have nothing.

Wuhan Where?

If you have watched the news at all in the last few days you most certainly have heard about the corona virus. It’s some kind of deadly virus that experts say originated in Wuhan, China.

Have you never heard of Wuhan until this virus news? What’s the big deal with a virus from a city you have never heard of. Well, Wuhan has a population of 11 million people. To put that in perspective New York City, the largest city in the US, has 8.3 million. That means that Wuhan is a third larger than New York.

Russ spent a lot of time in Wuhan in the early nineties building a factory for a Chinese cosmetic company. Back then it was only nine million people. He used to say Wuhan is the biggest place most people have never heard of.

Today the Chinese authorities announced they are stopping all transportation in and out of Wuhan. They have suspended busses, subways, trains, ferries and planes. These are the ways most people there travel. They are asking people not to travel in or out of Wuhan. They have not stopped private cars, but most people don’t have them.

Imagine if our government tried to stop all travel in or out of New York City? Never could happen. Hopefully the medical people can figure out the source and a treatment for the corona virus. I am thankful they are taking this virus seriously, and feel for the people of Wuhan. I am certain this is not how they wanted to come to the attention of the world.

Breakfast Makeover

For years and years I ate Special K high protein cereal with some kind of fresh berries most weekdays mornings. I liked the original version of it best and was Not thrilled when Kellogg’s changed the formula about five years ago, but I still ate it.

Last year when I tried intermittent fasting I more or less stopped eating cereal since my first meal of the day was after ten in the morning. This year my push is to give up added sugar and artificial sweeteners. I have not had a sweet ‘n low in my tea in 2020 and that has been the hardest part.

In my quest for good health and since I am not ding intermittent fasting, I needed to find a new easy breakfast for mornings I don’t have time to make eggs. Although I never added sugar to my cereal I could taste the sweetness in it, even though it was billed as a healthy cereal.

As a kid I lived on Quaker hot instant apples and cinnamon oatmeal. As the kids in our house always made our own breakfast, this was the easiest hot thing to make when you are eight years old. I knew I couldn’t make that now because I am certain it has as much sugar as Special K. I decided to just have plain oatmeal.

Having seen things on Pintrest for overnight oats, meaning oats that are soaked cold overnight, no cooking needed I decided to try that. I have to say it has become my favorite go to for fast mornings. The only problem is I have to remember to make it the night before, although it is the simplest thing.

I put a half a cup of oats in a glass, add 1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt and 3/4 of a cup of skim milk. I mix it up, cover and refrigerate. In the morning I add a good dose of cinnamon and a handful of fresh berries. It is incredibly filling and I find I am not hungry for lunch until much later in the day and I don’t miss the sugar.

I think I might cook up a few apples and add cinnamon to them and see if I might relive the taste from childhood sans the sugar. Life without sugar has not been that bad.

Day of Service

It’s MLK day. Around here that means it is a day of service. Our church organized a lot of activities with our friends from the Divan center, a Turkish Muslim faith community, where we could could do things for other people. Since Russ’ office was closed (that does not mean he did not work) we volunteered to spend five and a half hours working for the greater good.

Russ and I signed up to be the people who “could be sent on any job.” That meant that we started at church and helped back “Welcome Home” baskets for homeless people that the CASA agency finds permanent homes for. We had laundry baskets and we filled them with things you might need when setting up your first home, like kitchen utensils, and dish towels, cleaning supplies, personal care items and some food. Since we just set Carter up in her apartment in Boston I know that when you have nothing and need everything it is very expensive.

We had a lot of help doing this task. I was making bows to adorn the baskets which held a large trash bag with all the items inside. Nothing like a bow to dress up a trash bag. I had the pleasure of teaching a young woman from the Divan center who is a junior in high school so we talked about her studying for the SAT’s and her interest in going into medicine. Her family had moved to the states five years ago from Turkey and she was a delightful helper and excellent bow maker.

We finished the CASA baskets in record time so Russ and I drove two of our new Turkish friends to Githens middle school where we built new picnic benches while others refurbished old broken down ones.

Russ’ large collection of power saws, cordless drills and ratchet sets came in handy. Our years of watching This Old House and general handy man knowledge was useful. Russ did feel like the loss of wood shop in schools was showing in the young people and needs to be brought back.

The bonus for me is Githens is a huge school so I got all my steps in for the day as I went to photograph other people painting walls in classrooms and fixing picnic tables in other areas.

I am certain the the other groups who went to Reality Ministries and Hope Valley Elementary were equally successful as were the people back at church who were writing letters to cancer patients, prisoners and elected officials.

Over all there were well over a hundred people who came out to work together. I enjoyed meeting our Muslim neighbors as well as our own church members. Thanks to Amy Hill and the Deacons for organizing the whole day. It felt like the best thing to do to honor Dr. King’s legacy.

Dog Body Language

Shay is a very quiet dog. She rarely barks or growls. Once in a while she will make a little purring sound to say, “I am pleased with you.” For the most part she has developed a few poses which tell us everything she wants us to know.

Her favorite pose is one where she stands on her green bed with very good posture with one foot in front of the other. Paris models could learn a thing or two from her stance. This position is almost always made after she has finished eating the chicken in her dinner bowl, but not the kibble. She stands there to say, “I would like more people chicken or cheese before I can continue to eat that god awful kibble.”

You can ask her if she wants to go out, but the answer is always the same- she stands her ground, not changing position.

Once you have adding just a little cheese and she has eaten to her satisfaction she will lie on her bed with her head on her toy snake, which is alway on her bed. Other toys travel throughout the house, but not the snake. It belongs on her green bed.

Shays other well rehearsed position is standing on the bath rug in our master bath looking out the door towards our bed. This means, “I want you to pick me up and put me on the bed because for some reason I am too tired to jump up there.” Now she jumps up on the bed all the time, but maybe after her dinner she might be feeling a little to heavy and doesn’t want to attempt to jump and fail.

She has us so well trained that when she is in these positions in the exact spot we know what she wants and give it to her. I would like to train my people as well.

I Blame Russ

I wish that I could say I was more productive today, but I fell under the spell of the new 2,000 piece puzzle Russ gave me for Christmas. He didn’t exactly give me this one puzzle, but a puzzle of the month club. I had the choice which subscription to choose from and I picked the 2,000 piece.

Two grand is really a lot of pieces. My friend Mary Lloyd showed me her family puzzle set up over Christmas where they use two tables, one for sorting pieces and the second to assemble. So I set up a similar set up today to start the sorting.

Just touching 2,000 pieces takes a long time. I didn’t do a total sort, just looking for the edge pieces, the sky, the green roof and any piece with words. I didn’t do such a great job. As I was putting the edges together I realized I must be missing at least ten to twelve edge pieces. I am not going to go on a search just for those, but I did go on to work on the sky.

I took many breaks to try and do something more productive, like walk, laundry or cook dinner, but I have to say it was mostly a puzzle day. I blame Russ since he was working all day and Shay was keeping him company. If on,y he had wanted to clean out the garbage than I might have not been so bad.

I did make a red lentil yellow curry for dinner that was very delicious. The photo is proof that I was not completely childlike today.

Butternut Squash and a Fennel Roast or Soup

One of the best things you can do with the internet is find unusual recipes. Yesterday I looked in the kitchen and noticed that I had a butternut squash and two fennel bulbs I needed to use up. I knew I could make them into soup, but I really wanted something more solid than that. I just input butternut squash and fennel in my google search and came up with a gaggle of ideas. After reading a number of them I settled on a simple one pan way to roast them together with an onion with a bunch of spices. I loved the outcome.

I forgot to take a photo so I borrowed a portion of this photo from a different recipe. Mine does not use dill weeds, but otherwise this is what it looked like.

1 butternut squash- peeled, seeded and cut i to chunks about 3/4 of an inch wide

2 fennel bulbs, – cored and cut into wedges about an inch wide on the outside

1 large sweet onion – peeled and cut into wedges like the fennel

2 T. Olive oil

1 T.Cinnamon

1 1/2 T chili powder

1 1/2 T. Cumin

1 T. Turmeric

1. T. Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 450°

Cover a half sheet pan (That’s a big cookie sheet with short sides) with foil.

Place the vegetables on it and sprinkle the oil all over it.

Mix the spices together in a small bowl and evenly distribute on the vegetables and stir it all over coating everything as evenly as you can.

Roast in oven for about 45 minutes. The vegetables should start to brown.

These can be eaten just like this and if you have leftovers you can make a yummy soup out of them by placing them in a pot with some chicken or vegetable stock. Heat and then purée with a stick blender.

Two dishes in one.

My Impeachment Watching Puzzles

I was working on my puzzle today when the Senate’s swearing in for the DJT impeachment came on the TV. I find it incredibly sad that in my adult life I will witness two impeachment trials. It shouldn’t quite be called a trial until we know if there is actually going to be evidence and witnesses.

In the Clinton impeachment the facts where not really in dispute. Clinton lied in relation to the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and then was also tried for obstruction of justice. The impeachment was to decide if that lie warranted being removed from office. One difference in Clinton’s impeachment case is his lie was about something personal and not something that affected the whole country. Yes, lying is wrong, but a majority of the Senators did not feel it warranted being removed from office after hearing a trial.

This impeachment is different because the facts of the case are not agreed upon. So it seems like the Senate “trial” is the perfect place to actually seek out the truth with evidence and witnesses, especially since the charges actually do affect the nation.

It will be interesting to see how many Senators who swore an oath today actually want to find out the truth. Because John Roberts is the judge and he is busy hearing cases at the Supreme Court in the morning the Impeachment hearing will be held in the afternoons. Senators are not allowed to have their phones or any electronic devices during the hearings and are supposed to sit quietly and listen, just like regular jurors.

I have just received my new 2000 piece puzzle Russ gave me for Christmas. I am planning on watching the hearings as much as I can while doing the puzzle during the boring parts. I am most interested in seeing which of the very old Senators fall asleep.

I don’t think for a minute 45 is going to be removed from office, even with overwhelming evidence, but I do hope the Senate actually hears the case and allows evidence. It is the way the founding fathers set up the system. Congress has already abdicated so much of its authority over to this President and that is the real crime. I hope a few of them have a spine and stand up for the constitution for which they took an oath to uphold.

My Search For a New Drink

Since I’ve given up sweeteners, both artificial and processed sugars, I have been on the hunt for a new drink, or really drinks, to replace my iced tea obsession. I got lots of suggestions from my friends. So I went out and gathered samples to try.

While I was at fresh market buying the teas I was told were good without additional sweet I walked by the cold drinks Refrigerator. Since I was thirsty at that moment I opted to buy two different flavored waters. I usually hate paying for water other than what I pay right out of the tap. I dislike the waste both on money and in packaging.

I got a cherry flavored Hint water which I drank right away. It was good. 0 calories. A little sweet and the cherry was not artificial tasting. I wasn’t bowled over. I also bought something called Shine water I brought that one home.

I made hibiscus blueberry tea from the Republic of tea. Expensive compared to my Costco size of Lipton – .33¢ a tea bag compared to .003¢ a tea bag. I liked the hibiscus, but didn’t love it. I also got some uber expensive Kushiro tea. Don’t even get me started about that one. It should come with a masseuse since it is Spa worthy. Yummy, but not sweet tooth satisfying.

I went way down market and got two flavored seltzer’s at Trader Joe’s. Good for just hydration, but still do not beat my old way of drinking iced tea.

Today I had Mah Jongg and I drank my Lipton with lime, no sweet. It’s fine, just barley fine. After a construction meeting at church I really needed a new drink I remembered the Shine water in my fridge I had bought at the Fresh Market. It was strawberry lemon flavored and had 20 calories. I could live with that.

I filled a glass with crushed ice and tried to open the bottle. Usually I am able to open any bottle, but not this one. I got out my grandmothers jar opening tool. It took a minute, I actually considered going back to the store to have them open it, and then the cap budged and gave way.

The water was a beautiful pink color so it actually looked like a cocktail. I took a sip and … TAA DAA it was nirvana. I loved it. It was just sweet enough to feel like a treat, but not like I was cheating on my husband.

Now I am going to have to try the other flavors. It is too expensive to make up the 80 Oz of liquid I drink a day, but one every other day seems like it could satisfy me when I am pining for a sweet ‘n low laced iced tea.

Remembering an Old Friend

After Christmas, in that time when the decorations were all boxed up and ready to go the attic, Russ decided that he wanted to shift around some of the not so important items that have been up there for 25 years. His bright reasoning is that boxes of thirty five year old gourmet magazines and dark room equipment that has net been used in two life times don’t need to be in prime storage space. The Christmas decorations that come down from the attic every year should take that high rent real estate.

Russ enlisted Carter to do some of the moving things around work and once she got involved she became interested in what all this stuff was. She descended from the attic with three 8×10 black and white photos of a man she did not know. “Who is this guy?” She asked as she held out photos I had taken in college.

They were pictures of my friend Herb. I explained to her that he was one of my all time favorite people. We had gone to school in France together and he was at Dickinson Law school when I was an undergraduate. She asked me why she didn’t know him if he was such a good friend of mine. I explained that he passed away when she was not quite one from a brain tumor.

Holding these photos in my hand I realized that I should share them with Herb’s family. Herb was one of five boys and I had met his younger brother David when he came to visit Dickinson, eventually transferring there after I graduated.

I contacted David through email and I sent him copies of the photos so he could share them with his family. David told me that over the years old friends of Herb’s would sometimes call him just to talk since they missed Herb. David asked me if I would like to do that too. Of course I did. So tonight he called me.

We talked for and hour and a half about all the memories I had of Herb. He was the funniest, kindest most loyal friend and David reiterated all those things back to me. I think I am still in denial that he is gone a day let alone twenty years.

I am thankful that Carter unearthed these photos so a I could reconnect with Herb’s family and remember my great friend.

Energy Guilt Trip

I hate my “Home Energy Report.” I don’t know if you get one of these things, but I get one in the mail every month. I don’t ask for it, yet it comes, printed on paper, stamped and brought by the mail man. I don’t get a paper bill from the power company, just this.

It’s not the mailing and printing that I object too, although it is a huge waste. It is the report that my house is always Not an efficient home. Then there is this little graph with a big yellow house representing my house, the bad, big energy sucking house and next to it is a little green house, half the size as the yellow one, the good, energy efficient house. From the pictures it looks like my house uses double the power. In actuality my house use 968 kWh and the good house used 897 kWh. The real difference is only 7.6%. Not the fifty percent that the info graphic makes it look like.

Then there are the forecasted energy use areas for January. They think that 18% of my energy comes from lighting. How the hell do they know. There is not an incandescent bulb in my house. No room is lit if I am not in it. Then there is the laundry percent, coming in at a whopping 9%. I may do two loads a week. Most of Russ’s clothes go to the cleaners and I have the biggest machine ever. I can wash four beds worth of sheets at a time. There are no savings there in January since I can’t hang clothes outside.

So my favorite stupid suggestions are the “How can I save more.” The one about unplugging entertainment devices not in use” is the biggest pain in the butt I have ever heard of. Do you know how hard it is to get to the cord? On top of that a cable box has to reboot every time it plugged in. That alone takes ten minutes. I would never get to watch the beginning of a show again. The solution is to get the manufacturers to make more efficient units.

Then the idea that we use our oven less by cooking things together at the same temperature is fine for Thanksgiving, but really I don’t want to cook four days worth of food all at once. Get real.

Reducing energy consumption is the right thing to do. It is better for the planet and keeps costs down so the power company does not have to build additional power plants that emit green house gasses, but sending me this report making me feel bad is not the way.

I get no credit for having a group of friends at my house every week for a few hours playing Mah Jongg. While they are at my house, they are not at theirs using energy. I also cook food for large numbers of people which means that all those people are not cooking. It is more efficient to make a lot in one place and not a little in many places. None of those things go into my account about how efficient I am.

My house may not be that efficient due to its age and my original windows. But I am not adding to the landfill by replacing them. They all work perfectly well and as long as I am only 7 % less efficient I am not worried about it.

So listen Duke Energy, you don’t know shit about how efficient I am. Stop mailing me paper, which is very inefficient and email me your lame suggestions and out of scale infographics. I know you think you are helping, but you aren’t! I don’t need your energy guilt trip.

Double Church

There are very few Sundays when a Russ and I go to two church services on the same day. Today was one of those rare days. Since I was the lector at the 11:00 AM service we kind of had to go to that one. It was a good service, regular Westminster Sunday, but this afternoon we went back to church for a very special service, the ordination of our new youth pastor, Alex.

Alex Strayer-Brewington came to our church almost two years ago as the interim youth pastor after our beloved Taylor got called up to be a head pastor in Georgia. Taylor was big shoes to fill. Alex was just out of Duke divinity and this was a good gig to get. Alex is a Lumbee Indian, not your normal Scottish Presbyterian. He is calm, except when playing his banjo.

Alex captivated the kids and a year after he started as interim our search committee started looking for the right person for a full time youth pastor. Alex applied along with many other pastors who knew that Westminster is a great place to work. We value youth and that is why we call an ordained pastor just for them.

The search committee did its due diligence, as all good Presbyterian committees do. They investigated many candidates and after much work by many people discerned that the best person was the one already in the youth suite on Sunday nights, Alex.

The congregation was thrilled that was the conclusion. So we had the pleasure this afternoon of ordaining Alex in our own church. I am certain he is going to continue to be a kind and thoughtful minister who will inspire youth to do good in the world. Westminster is one lucky place.

New Years Resolution Mushrooms

If you made a resolution there is a fifty-fifty chance it involved eating healthier/cleaner/losing weight. It’s day 11 of the new year (which happens to be my boarding school roommate Nancy’s birthday) so chances are you have already broken your resolution. It is after all a good day to eat cake.

Since I am not with Nancy today and have no cake around I can stick to my resolution. I made these mushrooms, which even my non-resolution needing husband liked. They are very satisfying and just not that bad for you.

4 Portobello Mushroom caps

4 big handfuls of baby spinach

Pinch of nutmeg

1/2 t. Garlic powder

1/2 cup or caramelized onions

1 cup of part skim ricotta

4 T. Parmesan Cheese

Salt and Pepper

Preheat your oven to 450°.

Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Place mushroom caps on the foil, gill side up and roast in the oven for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile put a tablespoon of water in a non-stick fry pan and place on medium heat on stove. Add the spinach and cover. The spinach should wilt in about a minute. You may need to turn it over with tongs once. Once the spinach is cooked remove it from the pan and place on a chopping board. Put two or three paper towels on top of it and squeeze out the water, then chop the spinach.

Place spinach in a bowl and add nutmeg, garlic, onions, salt and pepper and stir well. Add the ricotta and stir again.

When mushroom caps are done drain any liquid out of them and then place back on cookie sheet gill side up again. Scoop one quarter of the spinach ricotta mixture onto the mushrooms and spread it out evenly. Repeat with other mushrooms. Sprinkle the Parmesan on top of the ricotta and spinach.

Put the mushrooms back in the oven and continue cooking them for about 15 minutes until the parm starts to brown.

Happy Birthday Nancy Mack Von Euler. Sorry this isn’t a cake for you.

Sad Dog

Tomorrow Carter will have been back in Boston a week. She was ready to go, but Shay was not ready to let her leave. So all week Shay has been moping about looking for Carter.

Thankfully Carter has not had as much time to miss Shay as she started her CO-OP job which she reports loving. For reasons of confidentiality I don’t want to say where she is working, but it is a big time place that I never would have been able to get a job at. Having this opportunity to work at a real job for six months in the middle of her college experience is the best way to go to college. I am so happy things have worked out this way for her.

In the mean time, Shay is home with me where not much is happening, especially when I leave her so I can meet my Food Bank Board friend Felicia for lunch. Catching up with a good friend is wonderful, I just wish Shay could join me.

She sits at home lonely, waiting for Russ to come home from Chicago. At least she will have her number one person for the weekend. I used to think Shay was the luckiest dog, but her despondency without all her people makes me sad for her.


Today I saw my friend Nancy for the first time in the new year. She asked me what my big thing for the year was. She is used to reading in my blog around the first of year some declaration of something I am trying to do that year. Last year I chose not to buy anything new that was not a consumable or a gift. I did fairly well at that resolution. I told Nancy something I was doing, but forgot the biggest thing. In an effort to try and eat cleaner and cut sugar out of my life I have given up artificial sweeteners.

For anyone really close to me you might know that I love iced tea with lots of lemon or lime and a sweet ‘n low. This is my go to drink. I adore it. I hate sweet tea and other sweeteners don’t do it for me in tea. So the giving up of sweet ‘n low has been a huge trial.

I also am trying to stay away from sugar in general. So far this calendar year I have only had a tiny bit of honey twice in a salad dressing I made. It probably was so tiny I could have left it out.

After great study about the brain’s connection that anything sweet, full calorie or zero calorie still reads as fattening has prompted me to try and break my addiction to sweet ‘n low. Friends have tried to persuade me to give it up based on the death of some lab rats, but given my dislike of rats that had no affect on me.

I have stuck to my resolution, but boy do I miss the taste of my beloved tea. The good news is I have not had any cravings for sweets and have probably cleaned out my system from the Christmas sugar overload. Now I am looking for some drink that I love as much as I used to love iced tea.

I have been drinking tea with just lime and it just makes me miss the old way. I have cucumber and ginger water for afternoons when I don’t want caffeine. It is good, but not my tea good. So I am open to suggestions for no sugar, low or no calorie drinks.

I don’t want to add a natural sugar like agave or stevia because I think it has the same brain-sugar connection. I don’t know if I ever will get over the loss of sweet ‘n low, but I am going to try. For now I still have it for guests so don’t worry if you come over for tea. Giving up buying anything new was so much easier.

Meghan and Harry Want to Move to Canada

Today, in what was apparently a surprise to the Queen, Harry and Meghan said they wanted to step back from their official duties and move, at least part time to Canada. They were giving up being supported with the royal stipend and planning on supporting themselves. Sounds like exactly what the British people want, not to pay for the royals, who do so much good for their country in nonprofit patronage and tourism. But you can’t just surprise the Queen and the Royal household shot back saying not so fast.

Harry and Meghan should be free to do as they please as long as they are not taking any money. Of course they would rather live in Canada. Most of us would rather live there too. Kind friendly people, not a huge paparazzi, no Boris Johnson. They might have considered America, but we have DJT and why would anyone chose to subject themselves to that right now.

Harry is sixth in line to the throne. Chances are next to nil that he will get called up to the majors. The Queen should actually consider Canada, part of the commonwealth, as the perfect place to keep Harry as a designated survivor. Just consider what might happen if that like church at Balmoral collapsed one Christmas Day while all the royals were there. Heaven forbid the job at monarch be picked up by Prince Andrew who is the next one in line after Harry and Archie, because he was banned from the family celebration.

The Queen is looking at this announcement all wrong. Harry might have forced her hand, by announcing the move without her permission, but she can spin this as a good thing. No one is going to stand with her if she tries to stand in their way to live a life they want.

Meghan and Harry can certainly make their own living. This isn’t like his great, great uncle David abdicating for the woman he loved and then still living off the royal payoff. Let Harry and Meghan be happy, even while the rest of Britain is miserable because they have Brexit and probably can’t move to Canada.

Back at DA Basketball

After a few years away from Kirby gym I’m back tonight for the four game play against North Raleigh Christian. Not that I am sitting in the bleachers. No, I’m running the concession stand.

Things are really different from when Carter went to school here. The concession stand is a money making operation. Students can charge things like soft pretzels and drinks on their student accounts. And the line up of offerings is extensive.

I don’t think in four years in the bleachers I ever got one thing at the concession stand. First it was never open during JV games and second it was rarely open during girls games. So as my volunteer time I made it a point to come and open for all the games, not just the boys varsity game.

Since it will be a five hour unpaid shift surrounded by sugar and salt I brought my own salad to eat for dinner if I can find a time to do it. I probably could have sold some salads if I had made them.

So come on out to DA Basketball today and buy some M&M’s. I also can microwave up a mean popcorn.

In Praise of The Durham Dump

Today I had three Land Cruiser loads of stuff to go to the dump. If you didn’t know, Durham has a dump and recycling center up on East club boulevard. Usually I go to the dump on a Saturday with Russ, but today I wanted to get ahead on cleaning things out and save Russ from doing this job.

I thought I might only have two loads, but no car is as big as I think it is when packing it with stuff to move. Since I was getting rid of some large and unwieldy items they didn’t fit in the back squarely like suitcases.

I drove up to the dump with my first car load. The dump has very specific places you throw things depending on what they are. I was not familiar with the whole protocol so as I pulled in I rolled down my window and asked a guy in a yellow vest who worked there where I should put things. He directed me to back my car into a certain Bay and told me he would come over and help me as soon as he finished moving a washing machine.

He was true to his word and came right over and unloaded my whole car himself sorting my items for me. I told him I had two more loads and would be back and he said with a smile, “I’ll be here to help you whenever you come back.”

I drove home and wish I had him with me to help load the car on my end and drove back to the dump. Sue enough he came right over and unloaded my car. I told him I had only one more load today and I would be back and we repeated the dance of his doing all the work at the dump end.

I noticed in other areas of the dump everyone else was unloading their own stuff. I was not certain how I had gotten so lucky. At my last unloading I gave the guy a tip. He gave me a huge smile and a big thank you. You would have thought I had given him a bar of gold.

It may have taken three trips, but the dump solved a world of problems at my house. Russ thinks we need three dumpsters to clean out the attic. I am going to see what else I can just take to the dump myself. It was a very satisfying day.

Is Blogging Worth It?

Sometimes people ask me if they should start a blog. My answer is absolutely if you have something you want to say, and I add the caveat that you might just be saying it to yourself. I don’t know anything about making money blogging. Since I started this blog as a fundraiser for the Food Bank I purposely never put ads or affiliate links. Yes, I could have generated money that way that I gave to the Food Bank, but I wasn’t interested in a commercial venture.

After I finished the official fundraising period I just kept blogging. In May this blog will have its ninth birthday and that is a long time to keep up a daily habit. I started as a weight loss journey and I lost weight, gained weight, lost weight and gained weight and now am working on losing again. Obviously the blog does not control my weight. It does keep me honest.

Sometimes I think I write just for myself, even though I can see the hundreds and sometimes thousands of people who read posts. I appreciate the friends who have stuck with me, no matter how mundane things inevitably get. I just don’t have an exciting enough life to write something inspirational everyday.

Every once in a while things unveil themselves to me that shows me people are reading and are effected by this blog. Yesterday in the mail came two things that would not have happened without the blog. One was a card from the Food Bank notifying me that a friend had donated to the Food Bank in my honor. This fall so many of my kind and generous friends have done that in relation to my receiving an award from the Food Bank. Of course I blogged plenty about it and not to get you to send money, but really, thanks for doing that.

The second thing I got was a thank you note from a friend for no reason except that she wants to send a thank you note everyday for a year. She told me my blog on thank you notes was one of her inspirations and sent me the first one of her year. What a wonderful thing to get in the mail and I was greatly touched by it. Good luck keeping to your plan!

The third thing blog related is I got a call from a friend in Maine whose son got a concussion on January 1. She knew, from reading my blog, that Carter had more than her fair share of concussions and she wanted some advice from a mother’s point of view. I had plenty.

Sitting down to write for twenty minutes a night is not much work in the scheme of things. If I make you laugh, consider a different point of view, inform you of something or just nudge you I am happy for it. For me, this blog acts as my memory, which is invaluable to me. Thanks to all my friends and blog readers I have not met yet for inspiring me. Is it worth it? It is to me.

Leftover Fusion

Before Carter went back to Boston she wanted Indian food for dinner. So Russ left it up to her to order it and he picked it up from his way home from work. When it arrived Carter was disappointed to discover that Chicken Tikka is different from Chicken Tikka Masala, which is what she really wanted. Thankfully the Bhindi Masala was exactly what she was craving.

The Chicken Tikka was the perfect New Years resolution food since it was flavorful skinless chicken breast with onions and peppers. When Carter tasted it she was less unhappy. We ate less than half the order that night.

In a move to make the whole dinner more healthy as a leftover I cut up some of the Chicken Tikka and mixed it with the Bhindi Masala, which is an okra and tomato dish and sprinkled just a little rice with it. I heated it up and stuffed it into baked acorn squash halves. It was a yummy and healthy dinner.

Thanks Carter for ordering the wrong thing. We loved it, but miss you.

Last Night Home

Three weeks off from school is too long. Carter announced this morning that next year she is going back to Boston before New Years. I remember having that same feeling when I was in college. There was nothing exciting going on at home and you have had enough of your parents.

Some down time is nice, but after being so busy at college it is hard to be idle. Apparently Carter is hearing the same thing from her friends who are going crazy at home. Lucky for Carter she gets to go back to Boston tomorrow. She has to get settled since her job starts bright and early Monday morning.

It is a big change to go from college class schedule to a full time working life, but even bigger to go to working from this boredom time of Christmas break. She is very excited.

Russ and I will miss having her home, but Shay is the one who will really miss her. Carter is a softy when it comes to giving Shay treats. She waits on her bed and as soon as Carter has a hunk of freeze dried Chicken liver in her hand Shay makes the big jump to take it from her.

Tomorrow Shay will be back to the rationing of treats from me, but thankfully Russ will be home to spoil her too. Since I will be down to one baby I might give Shay an extra treat or two since she is all I will have at home.

The Best Gifts

This year I asked my family not to get me any presents for Christmas. My love of Christmas as a season in no way includes the need to add more “stuff” to my life. I love giving someone the perfect gift, especially if it was something I made that was heirloom quality. I know it sounds presumptions to think anything I make is heirloom, but I am not talking about loom potholders or crap like that. I also love to cook something special for someone. The people who are notoriously bad cooks often appreciate that gift the most. Experiences are also the kind of gifts I love to give.

Despite my “no gifts” rule, there were some gifts from the rogue givers, but they were well thought out and two were so superior that I was overwhelmed.

The first was a box of Downton Abbey stationary from Carter with the instructions that she and I must write each other letters every month. The act of writing a letter to someone you text everyday is such a sweet sentiment. I am going to have to really think about what important words I am going to commit to these letters. I guess all the years I told Carter to write people a heartfelt letter as a gift have finally come true for me.

The second gift was a Christmas ornament the Russ and Carter had made with a painting of our house. On the back the words “Dana makes this house a home we love” made me burst into tears and sob, which got all three of us crying. This is what happens when everyone in your family is a marketer. Apparently Russ found this artist last year, but she was already booked for last Christmas, so he had been planning this gift for over a year.

I love the ornament so much that I am not packing it up with all the other Christmas stuff. Now I have to find a place for it year round.

I realized that my desire to unclutter has made my family think really hard about what to get me, even though I was letting them off the hook from getting me anything at all. Russ and Carter are two good eggs and I am thankful that they love me so. I wish I was as good at gift giving as they are. I am really on the hot seat for next year.


OK, not good planning on my part to take a trip and not get home until New Year’s Eve. This meant that I put off taking the Christmas down until today. It was a productive if not exhausting day and I finally just gave up with the dining room still in need of being desparkled and unfestooned.

The big decision was that we retired our current Christmas tree. The number of broken branches, burnt out lights and dropped needles made me say let’s just get a new one. The good news is it means that it did not have to get bagged in its seven coffin sized bags and brought up to the attic. The bad news is I tried to remove a bunch of strands of lights I had added over the years. Our tree originally came with 1,200 lights which was a totally inadequate amount of lights. So over the years I have added at least 11,000 lights.

Retiring the tree also meant we just pushed it over on its side to take it apart. That saved Russ’ back at least.

After pulling off lights from the top four sections I gave up. Now I have four huge light tangle balls. Separating these balls will be a big job for tomorrow. I am going to have to find a new series to binge while I do that.

First I have to finish the undecorating and the cleaning that goes along with it. Despite regular dusting, Christmas creates more need for deep cleaning than any other time of year. Russ filled the shop vac with needles and I still need to vacuum the whole place again.

It’s not been the most fun way to start a new decade, but at least it was a productive one. All this work kept me from thinking about being hungry or having a no-sugar headache. Yes, the regular personal cleaning of holiday reverie began today too.

Welcome to the season of dull, dark and sparkle-less. Puritanical month has begun.