The Summer We Never Had

It’s a strange year. April was the longest month in history. Everyday felt like six as we were trapped at home, fearing leaving the house. Back then I went to the store just once a week and otherwise never left the house. I was more disciplined about exercising and eating right, having not fallen into the bread baking rabbit hole that so many turned to.

May came, usually my favorite month. I fell off any healthy wagon I was on, but remained tied to the house. I did work in my garden and on quilts and needlepointing producing lots to show for the year at home. June was the same. July saw us leave the house and go to the mountains for three nights and the quick 36 hour drive to and from Boston when I returned my girl to her true home.

Since then boredom has really taken over. No summer travel as I am used to doing. I don’t even look at travel sights as they just make me sad. Too hot to work outdoors or do much exercising. No quilts in progress and just some needlepointing. I have resorted to reading a book every other day, which just makes me feel lazy, it does offer an escape to different worlds.

I am trying to pace myself since I feel like we are only at half time on this whole mess of a year. I should start making Christmas gifts, but even those don’t interest me. One constant in all these months have been all the games I have played on my iPad, Catan, Mah Jongg, Bridge and Ticket to ride. I just play against the computer except for Catan where I play against anonymous strangers who I consider to be just like computers.

I wish I had more to show for this gift of time uninterrupted. Eventually I will have some garden improvements, but the summer of constant rain has made building a wall next to impossible. I can wait, what else do I have to do? I do miss my friends and look forward to the day we can all travel again. For now I am praying that we all get a summer next year.

Tomato Love Continues

After our BLT deliciousness Russ suggested we have another tomato dinner in the theme of Pain Con tomate, which we fell in love with in Spain. This is one of the best ways to enjoy the bounty of perfect summer tomatoes.

It is so easy to make, normally made with chibatta, but we used our favorite polenta bread. No amounts needed to make this dish


Olive oil

Fresh garlic clove

Fresh ripe tomato


If you have a grill pan use that, otherwise use a fry pan.

Heat the pan up to high. I use a panni pan so I heat the heavy lid at the same time.

Drizzle olive oil on the bread and place on the hot pan, if you have a grill lid place it on top. Grill the bread until it starts to get slightly charred on the bottom and flip over and cook the other side the same way.

While the bread is cooking cut the bottom off the tomato and grate it on the big grates of a box grater. Make sure to do this into a bowl as you will get a lot of tomato liquid along with the grated flesh.

Peel the garlic clove and cut off a thin slice. Rub the cut side of the garlic all over the oiled side of the grilled bread. Sprinkle a bit of salt. Spoon some of the tomato on top and sprinkle it with a touch of salt.

Some sangria with this will make you not miss traveling so much.

I Want Old Fashioned Packaging

Back in the olden days, like five years ago, I could hold my tooth brush in one hand while still groggy from sleep and squeeze tooth paste from the tube with the other. Did not matter how awake I was, it was an easy job even as the tube got low on toothpaste, squeezing was still a one handed job.

Not today. Enter the world of stand up tooth paste tubes. Some brilliant yuckty, yuck thought we needed our toothpaste to stand up on its cap. In order to do that the cap had to be greatly enhanced. One would think that it would also make the toothpaste fall to the opening end thanks to gravity.

Unfortunately, tooth paste is happy to stick to the crimped end of the tube, no matter which way the tube is sitting. Now, only when the tube is relatively new, can I hold my tooth brush in one hand and and squeeze with the other and actually get any toothpaste on the brush. Once half the toothpaste has been used getting the rest out is a two handed job. This frustrates me to no end because when I first wake up my night time teeth make me crazy so I want to brush them before I do anything else. I am often still half asleep so lining up my tooth brush and tube for the perfect paste application is difficult. This and I am not even hungover.

The same frustration came to me when I was trying to get some mayo out of the Duke Squeeze bottle someone in this house bought. I am perfectly happy with the old fashioned jar of mayonnaise. I am not bothered by having to get a knife out to get the condiment out of the jar.

The squeeze bottle, like the tooth paste, is good if the bottle is more than half full, but once you get down the the last bits, forget trying to get it out. The worst thing is, even if you remove the stand up cap the bottle is shaped so that even with a knife or spoon you can not get the last four table spoons out of the jar.

You can’t get any of this Mayonnaise out no matter how hard you try.

It’s just four table spoons you say, but what if they are the only mayo you have in the house and you only need one table spoon? Now that’s frustrating.

Thankfully I can still buy mayo in an old fashioned jar which is reusable for so many purposes, but getting toothpaste in an old fashioned tube is next to impossible. I may have to resort to learning how to make my own tooth paste. I know it won’t have fluoride, or plaque removers or pain killers for sensitive teeth, but if I can administer it to my brush half asleep it is better than the nothing I am getting out of the tube now.

Better than Gold

Yesterday my friend Kathi gave me a tomato she grew herself in her new garden in the mountains. I had seen a photo of her perfect garden all fenced in to protect it from critters. She told me it was the anniversary present she and her husband gave themselves this year. I feel like it was a present I got.

I carefully carried home this perfect tomato. It was a deep red and smelled like my childhood. Russ saw it on the counter and asked what I was going to make with it. I told him we were having BLT’s for dinner and tonight we did.

To me there is no more perfect food than a BLT as long as all the parts are right. We used Polenta bread from Loaf bakery downtown, lightly toasted, just so it will hold up to the juiciness of the tomato. I purchased a head for fresh iceberg lettuce, which to me is a must for BLT even though it is a don’t for a salad.

I made candied Bacon, which is bacon cooked with brown sugar and lots of cracked black pepper on a rack in the oven. Duke’s mayonnaise was the condiment of choice.

I sliced that big gorgeous tomato into four fat slabs and sprinkled a bit of sea salt and more pepper on it and assembled the sandwiches. I had some watermelon salad to go along side the BLT’s but both Russ and I decided we didn’t want to dilute the yumminess of the sandwiches.

I took a bite and could hardly speak. For those of you who know me you understand how big that is. Shay stood at attention beside Russ hoping for some bits of his food to fall on the floor.

Oh the perfection of the perfect combination of tastes and textures. It’s all thanks to Kathi and her wonderful tomato. I finally had summer.

Today Was Practically Normal

I think I had my most normal day I have had since pre-pandemic. I woke up at 5:30, not because I had so much to do, but because that is when Russ got up to start working. I had some cantaloupe and cottage cheese and went out to work on prepping my new garden wall area.

Right now I am clearing brush and overgrowth in a very wet area. It is not normally so wet, but since we are double digits over in rain this year the ground has stayed perpetually soggy. This made pulling out deep vines and large clumps of unwanted plants very messy. It is easier to push the shovel in the ground, but when I pull up the clumps I also get big balls of wet earth clinging to the roots. I tried to shake off all the good dirt I could, but I mostly shook it on to me.

As it was 7:30 in the morning when I started this project I was not too sweaty, but by 9:30 I was a wet, dirty rat. Two hours of hard labor was enough for this sweltering day. I probably have one more big day of debris removal and then I can move to the next phase of this long term project.

I stripped off my dirty clothes in the garage and took a long cold shower. I put on a dress, something I have not done in five months. I was excited about my “old normal” day. Two friends came over to have a little socially distant birthday lunch. We spent a good two plus hours catching up like old times.

Then I went right from that to a socially distant needlepoint session and caught up with that group. Two friend activities in one day is so 2019.

After that I came home and caught up on email, paid some bills and picked up a take out dinner. Russ and I talked all about a new business venture during and after dinner and now to write my blog. I was productive, entertained, and satisfied with my normal day. Boy do I miss normal. I hope I can do it again next month.

National Dog?

It’s National Dog Day and Trump is probably furious about it. “How did dogs get a day during the Trump Convention?” Polling shows that dogs are way more popular than the President. Of course they are and they don’t mind taking the spot light away from the only president in recent history who does not have a dog.

How can we possibly trust a President who is afraid to be upstaged by a sweet dog? Dogs are experts at sniffing out insincerity so no wonder 45 does not want a canine truth teller around him. Of course any dog would be more lovable than the mighty orange and we all know he must be the only one adored in the room.

There is no easier place to be a dog owner than in the White House. There are an untold number of people to walk her and scooping should not be a problem when the are so many gardeners around that they have time to rip out Jackie Kennedy’s cherry trees on a whim.

Since it is National Dog day they all need to stand up and demand their rightful place with one of them being first dog. Since no dogs were willing to be part of this administration they are urging their owners to vote for Biden. Why? Because as the saying goes about the current President, “That dog can’t hunt.”

Don’t Call

People are not the only thing getting fatter during Covid. At first I thought it was my imagination, but eventually I realized my phone was getting fatter. At first I could squeeze it back into shape, like putting on a tight pair of jeans. Eventually I had to admit that my phone was too fat to survive. The battery was expanding, which is exactly what happened to my watch battery.

Since all the Apple stores are closed Russ looked on-line to see where I could get a new battery put in. Turns out both places within fifty miles of us had no appointments for the next two weeks. Other phones must be getting fatter too.

So I had to send my phone away for repair today. Probably will not be a big deal that I don’t have a phone for a while. Not like I am doing anything. I can zoom on my iPad and computer. I can take phone calls from my watch. We still have an old fashioned land line. Or I can just not talk to anyone.

I just won’t have access to every answer I want in my pocket. I don’t think I am going to carry my iPad around, like my phone. I am just going back to the 1900’s and be unconnected.

Stealing 45’s Spotlight

Oh it’s an embarrassment of riches today with the news of KellyAnne Conway leaving the White House and Jerry Falwell Jr.’s news about his wife’s seven year affair that he allegedly participated in. How can all these close friends of 45’s be stealing the spotlight from him on his day of days.

The Republican a national committee gave 45 everything he wanted by, rather than having a platform, just saying, “Whatever he says.” That was just the ego stoking 45 demands. The idea that a fifteen year old daughter of KellyAnne could change the conversation by just demanding emancipation is so rich.

Please children, call out your racist parents and announce to the world you no longer do feel safe living in a MAGA house. You have more power than you think. Of course KellyAnne’s daughter also got her father to stop working at the Lincoln project and to stop tweeting so I consider that a loss. I am just thrilled that I no longer have to look at or hear KellyAnne on TV. Four years of that voice should have been considered criminal.

And now to that “Christian hypocrite” – Jesus really needs to come back and issues credentials to those he deems worthy of calling themselves Christians. Yes, no one is perfect and forgiveness is all part of the program, but a seven year affair? Somehow that seems to fall out of the statute of forgives limitations.

My Dad told me about a kid from Danville who supposedly got kicked out of Liberty for not making his bed. I thought that was an outrageous punishment, but perhaps Becki Falwell was in it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happier without the Conways and the Falwells out of my line of sight and not taking up airspace. I just wish I was a fly on the wall when 45 found out they were using up his precious potential air time. I can hear it now, “Why the hell didn’t they do this last week on Biden’s time?”

Who from 45’s circle is going to be next to steal his spot light? We have three more days. What about a Tiffany scandal?

Schitt’s Convention

If in 2015, Dan Levy, creator of Schitt’s Creek, was writing the screen play of a farce of some unnamed political convention he wouldn’t possibly have come up with the craziness that is sure to be this week’s show. Levy is a master of the ridiculous as comedy, but even his genius might miss some of the absurd.

The first thing is no one ever thought of holding a private funeral at the White House right before the convention. The last time there was a funeral of a private citizen was 1936, for an advisor of the President. I really would like Dan Levy to write the script on that funeral.

There was a report that one of the guests at the funeral went with a group to the DC restaurant Fig and Olive. The 20 people showed up wanting to be seated together and due to the pandemic were told that was against the law. The unruly guest from NY allegedly punched a server in the nose and broke it. Come on, that kind of comedy does not just rewrite itself.

It was incredible that the President’s “best friend” brother dies right before the convention. If anything goes wrong with the convention 45 can claim he was too distraught over the loss of his brother. Now don’t just all over me, it is sad to lose a brother, but the timing, that was political gold.

Dan Levy, please put that in your file for a future show.

Next the list of speakers for the convention was released. From the looks of it the majority are still getting allowance from Daddy. I wonder if they are being graded to see if they are worthy of an increase in their weekly envelope based on how normal they can portray dear Daddy?

Even in political dynasty families, read Bushes, there are more non-family speakers in prime time than relatives. Do we really want to take the word of the kids?

The best part of the convention is that it is being produced by the “Apprentice” gang. Here is the thing about producing a reality T.V. Show…you shoot all the film and them cut and edit it to get the story you want. 45 may like how he appeared on the Apprentice because the producers could edit out all the nonsensical things to make 45 seem normal. Live TV is totally different from reality T.V. If Dan Levy were writing the script we would get to see the control room and the scramble they may have to do in order to make the lead make sense. It just is so much easier if you have the whole tape months in advance.

So welcome to the less funny version of Schitt’s Convention. I know a bunch of people who have said they are not going to watch it, not me. I can’t wait to see how this Schitt show turns out.

Sweating Like A Pig

In our “we really need to get out of the house” Covid life Russ and I took Shay on a walk in Duke Forest this morning. Being August in Durham means that the humidity is really going to get you. I was hoping we were out early enough that I was not going to sweat like a pig.

The trail was well shaded as we walked through the forest, but the inclines and the dew point did not save me from becoming drenched. Thankfully the trail was fairly empty. We only encountered a few other walkers, all of whom also were pig like from the humidity. Actually one was an actual pig, “Sugar” being walked by her nice human along with Licorice the black poodle. They made quite an interesting family.

Shay was not phased by the 200 pound Sugar or Licorice who all were very friendly with Shay. You just never know who you are going to meet in the diverse Durham we love so much.

I must say that Sugar was not sweating as much as me. I think I need to change the phrase to “sweating like a Dana,” and stop disparaging pigs.

Lime Mousse

When Russ asked me if we could have one of his star employees over for dinner with her boyfriend because she was visiting Durham I jumped at the chance. Rebecca is someone I am always happy to have as a guest and tonight was no different. We so enjoyed meeting her boyfriend Jamie who just started Grad school at Duke. We hope this means we will see more of them.

I made some chicken Shwarma and homemade Laffa bread and all the fixings. As it was all things I had made before I wanted to make up a new dessert recipe. I am not a cook who tries things out before I serve them to guests. I see guests as part of the focus group to try out new dishes.

So I made up this lime mousse like dessert. It was four ingredients, five if you count the graham cracker crumble garnish. I forgot to take a photo of it in the glasses, but instead snapped this shot of the leftover. The focus group liked it and wanted to preserve the recipe before I forget how I made it.

Lime Mousse

1 can sweetened condensed milk

3/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

Zest of four limes

1 pint of heavy whipping cream

1 cup of whipped cream cheese

Mix the condensed milk, lime juice and zest together well enough to to make it homogenized. Beat the cream with a mixer until it is whipped. Add the whipped cream cheese and whip them together. Fold into the lime mixture. Chill.

I crushed up a graham cracker and put in the bottom of a glass and spooned the mousse on top.

Bannon’s We Build The Wall Screws Republicans

And yet another Trump former cabinet or advisor member gets arrested. Today Steve Bannon was arrested for stealing from the the We Build The Wall fund, a private enterprise to build Trump’s wall. The really rich thing about this is he stole from the people who are Trump’s supporters who donated to the wall.

Trump ran on a “Drain the swamp” campaign but the piles of swamp monsters who have worked for Trump is piling up to a height that seems innumerable. There appear to be two kinds of Trump cabinet/advisors, ones who get arrested or ones who left and turned on Trump publicly.

Trump is now claiming he never liked the “We build the wall,” but his mini me, Donald Jr. gave a glowing speech in support of the group last year.

If you are an honest person I am not sure how you can stand by Trump. When is it that people will stop supporting a man who surrounds himself with criminals? What I fear is if he gets re-elected he will be unleashed to do anything he wants since he will be finished with voters. If his close advisors will steal from his own supporters no one is safe. How much of a doormat do you have to be to take this? I am outraged over this theft, what about you donors? Don’t you want to stop being screwed by your own team?

Don’t Make’m Like Mary

This is a sad day for me and the Ways and a Means Commission at church. Our clerk of the commission, Mary Pickard, is retiring from her position after 24 years. Mary has many years on me there as I have been on Ways and Means somewhere between 16-18 years. I would have to ask Mary to look at her minutes to know the exact year I joined.

Mary, besides being just a wonderful, wry, kind and witty person she is by far the best clerk of anything I have every served on in any arena. She is quick, thorough, and brilliant. Mary remembers more than everyone else in the whole room put together. Her hard work and dedication have served us all well.

Through the years as Mary has suffered losses of husbands and working a big job at Duke she never stopped doing her job as the clerk. Mary is the only constant for me on Ways and Means. She has served two long term pastors and guided our young one who had little knowledge of our complicated financial system when he started.

As new members of Ways and Means come and go she and I often have to educate people on past history as I am the next longest serving member. I always defer to her superior memory. During one period when I was asked to step in as chair a few years before my appointed time to fix a situation that had gotten out of control she was the perfect partner to calm troubled waters with.

I may have met and gotten to know Mary through Ways and Means, but now I count her as a cherished friend. I am sad that I will not see her every third Wednesday of the month and as she usually goes to early church and I go to late I don’t see her often on Sunday’s. So now I have to set up a standing get together because I value her wisdom and am thankful that I have been able to learn so much from her in these last 16, 17 or 18 years. Only Mary actually knows how many.

Happy Ways and Means Retirement to Mary Pickard. All of Westminster owes her a hug for 24 years of service.

Women’s Suffrage a Young 100

I was a child of the sixties. Woman’s liberation was in full bore when I was an adolescent. Woman fighting for equal rights is something I feel has been going on my whole life. Today is the 100th Anniversary of Womens suffrage, the right to vote. On this day 100 years ago the state of Tennessee was the last needed state to ratify the 19th amendment. It was a fight that began in1848 and took 72 years to complete.

For so many years in my life women have fought for the Equal Rights Amendment. It seems like a no brainer that men and women should be equally protected under the law. Sadly, without the ERA being ratified by enough states women still do not enjoy the same rights and protections under the constitution as men.

As I think of this I realize that neither of my Grandmothers were born with the right to vote. It just wasn’t that long ago. Even when women were given this right 100 years ago it did not mean all women. Native American, Chinese Americans and Black women in the south still couldn’t vote. So as we celebrate this anniversary we need to remember that.

Perhaps it is time to pick the ERA back up and continue the fight for its ratification. Rights are something we have to work to protect. For a start on this 100th year of some women having the right to vote it is more important than ever to exercise your right. Women need to make history and come out in numbers that have never been seen before. Our lives depend on it and the rights of our daughters and grand daughters and future women to come. The fight just goes on.

All Skirt, No Tree

Last Christmas, after a frustrating time of taking my old 15 foot tree apart, I decided it was time to retire it. It took three trips to the dump to get rid of it, but the good news was Russ and Carter did not have to wrestle the seven sections into the attic. I thought I could order a new tree for this year since Garden Club Christmas Auction would be at my house. Little did I know that this year would all get canceled.

For me Christmas is the best time of year. My house gets uber decorated and I have as many people over in the month of December as possible. Not this year.

Even without the anticipation of many Christmas Parties I did start my search for my new tree. My favorite maker of fake trees, Tree Classics, suddenly went from selling retail to only wholesale. For a moment I considered becoming a tree reseller.

Buying a giant Christmas tree online has its problems. I am all about the color, the fullness, and especially now, the ease at which it goes together and comes apart. The lighting configuration, is also a major consideration. So I search and search and am not sure I like what I am seeing. I think it is getting to be time to have a smaller, maybe 10-12 foot tree. Maybe I will build a little box to set it on so it appears taller.

All this looking at trees has me in the Christmas spirit and so I sewed myself a Christmas tree skirt. Because my old tree went right to the floor and was so full of branches I never put a skirt on it. Now with the idea of having a box to stand the tree on, I wanted to make a big giant skit that can drape of over the box, even if it doesn’t exist yet.

Now that I have finished this skirt I am wondering if I am going to have a tree at all this year. Perhaps I can do a small live tree and transplant it. I think I could even turn this skirt into a tree it is so big. So much to contemplate and so much time to do it.

A New Project

This week I did a check on all my kitchen cabinets I painted last year. I cleaned then and found a handful of tiny places I needed to touch up. Overall I have to say the paint job has held up incredibly well. Benjamin Moore Advance paint is excellent cabinet paint. I can’t believe it was a whole year ago that I took on that big job.

I got to thinking about what I am going to have to show for this year. Seems like while I am stuck at home I should do another major home improvement. I looked around and decided that I need to do some major work on my driveway vegetable garden.

I have wanted to fence it in to protect vegetables from deer and bunnies, but the garden is just a little too narrow. The original retaining wall made of rail road ties is finally falling apart after 24 years. So I am going to build a new entailing wall and add another four or five feet to the width of the garden.

I weed wacked today the upper garden and will do the lower side tomorrow to measure for the new wall

Like teaching myself to paint the kitchen cabinet, I have been reading and watching You Tubes about how to build retaining walls. It is a physically harder job than doing the kitchen, but easier overall. This is the right time to do it as my summer vegetables are done and I would like to plant a few fall ones.

Building the wall will be one thing, but putting in a six foot deer fence will be another thing. As Russ is overly busy running his business I may have to engage someone to help me with the fence. There are so many beautiful fence ideas, but I am not looking at a Martha Stewart quality. The hardest part is making the garden door that will be big enough to fit the wheel barrow in, but fit tightly enough that bunnies can’t slip under the door.

So much to study and learn. I look forward to getting out of 2020 with something tangible to point to that was a positive.

Running Out of Things to Do

I am not the only person who is looking at my quarantine house with a critical eye and cleaning things I rarely clean. Russ told me there was an article in the Wall Street Journal about how to clean your wooden chairs. Since I didn’t see it I have not taken a critical eye to all my chairs, but as boredom takes over I very well may.

I can imagine the editorial team at the Journal are looking at each other over Zoom and saying, “Please, we need story ideas.” And when the guy who normally covers small businesses says, “I’ve got a great angle on cleaning wood chairs,” the room erupts in cheers. How far we all have fallen.

Before I knew about the chair story I took to cleaning the crystal chandelier in the entry hall. I can tell when the reflection on the ceiling is fuzzy that it is time to clean it. It’s not that hard. I have to place a towel below the fixture and get the step stool out. I put a third of a cup white vinegar in a measuring cup and add about the same amount of water.

Before cleaning

The big money cleaning comes from spraying windex on the glass plate on the top and wiping it down. It is not a terribly long job, but very satisfying.

I carefully stand on the step stool and bring the cup up the the prisons so that four of them are submerged at a time. It is a good little arm workout as I hold it there for a few seconds before moving around the the next four. I let the liquid just drip to the towel on the floor carrying any dirt with it.

After cleaning. See the difference on the ceiling.

Due to lack of too much to do I promised Russ I would make him a pizza for dinner. He didn’t act too disappointed when I told him it was going to be a caramelized onion, crushed red pepper flakes, gruyere, Parmesan, goat cheese, garlic and fig Pizza. He skipped the fresh arugula but did add the balsamic vinegar drizzle. I had figs that needed to be used up and they just don’t taste too good with tomato sauce.

Now we have leftover for tomorrow so that will cut out any need for cooking. I guess I better read that WSJ article. I have at least 22 wooden chairs in this house and I am certain all of them could stand a good cleaning.

We Miss Maine

This is the first year in so many that we have not gone to Maine. I was supposed to go to my Friend Warren’s in May for a reunion with some high school friends. Of course that all got canceled. I hoped to go this summer, but even when I was as close as Boston I didn’t dare go. Maine has strict quarantining rules, especially for people from the south. So I didn’t dare steer my North Carolina car over the border. As it was I was risking being in Boston for 12 hours.

I watch the camp file video’s from Camp Medomak. There is no camp this year, but the sweet family who runs it is there. I won’t be visiting Sheppy or going to Liberty or seeing my friend Wendie. No, no Maine for me. The saddest part of a Covid. (I am lucky that I have not lost any loved ones which would be the saddest part.). It sounds like a first world problem, I know. But even minor disturbances can affect us.

Yesterday Russ got an email that there was a little house for sale in Bayside. I looked at the pictures and dreamed of a future time when we could be in Maine. I wonder if Jamie is at her house there or if her New Jersey License plate would get her arrested. Of course she could easily quarantine for two weeks at her house because isn’t getting away from everyone why you go to Maine?

Tonight to make up for the lack of our trip to Maine we got dinner from Acme who was have a Maine Statcation special. It came with the most delicious clam chowder which rivals that of Claws in Rockport. The lobsters were good, but not as good as the ones we eat in the HoJo’s room at Warren’s.

Despite the good food it made me sad not to get to travel. I am getting tired of our house and the things I have to do here. I just want to drive away somewhere, but I’m not going to do that. I’m staying home so I don’t contribute to any spread and so we can get this thing over with. Maine will be there next year and hopefully so will I.

A Needed Break From Unpleasantness

Day before yesterday I got an email from the Cary Quilting company, a place I often buy fabric to make quilts. In the email I saw they had a Facebook group called Sew and Tell. So I signed up for it. Then I posted a photo of the quilt I made for my mother. I instantly was inundated with the kindest words and positive feedback. The likes and loves came pouring in from women I did not know.

I was a little taken aback. I had forgotten what a non-political world was. The kindness and support reminded me life used to be like before we had gotten into the divisive place we are now in. People were sweet.

It was a place I wanted to return to. I am wondering how we can all become quilters who just want to share ideas and tips. Nothing about sickness or masks or campaigns. Just love.

When the news starts to get to me I am going to post another photo of another quilt just so I can get that shot of niceness. We all need a nice place to go where we can be rejuvenated and feel supported. Thanks kind quilters. I think I need to get to work on a new quilt for my psyche.

Don’t Hold Grudges

When I was a consultant I worked only for large international corporations in many different countries. There was one thing these businesses had in common that frustrated me to no end; more employees than not felt like someone or ones inside their company was their enemy. When I would ask people about their business competitors they more often than not mentioned a person who worked three offices down rather than a business around the block trying to sell the same kind of products to their customers.

I was not trained in psychology, but I would say I spent a lot of my time trying to heal people’s old wounds before I could get them to focus on the real competition. If I said it once, I said it a million times, “Your enemy is not within the walls of your business, but outside.” The most successful people I worked with were the ones who let go of or ignored slights or even outright attacks by coworkers. That ability to focus on the true enemy was the key to long term success. Even bigger wins were gained by leaders who fostered cooperation inside rather than encouraging competition with co-workers.

Last week Joe Biden was photographed with a paper in his hand with Kamala’s name on it. First thing on the paper said, “Don’t hold grudges.” That was the best advice ever. The media and 45 have tried to make a big deal about Kamala’s attack of Joe at the first debate. She was a prosecutor. It’s in her blood to fight. It was politics. While she was running against him, she wanted to win. Once she dropped out there was no reason to be mad about her. She was now on his side. She was his coworker, not his competition.

Not holding a grudge was great advice. Now work together against the competition. I think this shows good judgement from Joe who can build a team of people who can work together unlike 45 who is suspicious of everyone who works in the White House and holds grudges if someone even looks at him sideways.

I am hopeful that the Joe and Kamala team will inspire people to stop thinking the enemy is their neighbor and that we can be a kinder country again.

Pretzel Rolls For Russ

Russ, who always works incredibly hard has had a tough couple of weeks and has to do more than his share without much appreciation. Well, I know all that he does, and I appreciate his work ethic and dedication. He does not do it for fanfare, but it would be nice to get some recognition.

I always ask him If there is anything I can do to help him and usually there is nothing he would ever think to ask for. So today I decided to bake him a pan of pretzel rolls to say thank you for all that he does.

I had bought a giant bag of yeast at Costco, more yeast than I can ever use. (If you need some, come on by and I’ll give you a baggie). So with this embarrassment of yeast I got to baking. Since Russ grew up in Philly he is a big fan of soft pretzels. Not those Aunt Annies kind, but the real chewy kind that you buy at a stop light from a guy on Street Road. (Yes, in Philly that is the name of a major thoroughfare.)

I could have made him pretzels, but pretzel rolls are a little more useful and slightly lighter. I used a recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. It was very easy and used baking soda in water, rather than lye to beget the pretzel flavor. I appreciated that since I have misplaced my lye.

So happy noshing Russ Lange. You deserve a parade for all you do, but I suspect you’d rather have a simple thank you and a pretzel. You may not get all the thanks from all the people, but I can get you the pretzel.

College Football, Not A Life or Death Matter

College football, the big money maker, big ego feeder, big group gathering, tailgate inducing sport does not fit into our pandemic world. No matter how badly star quarterbacks want to play, there is no way to social distance in football, even if they promise only to throw the ball and not run it.

If singing is considered a super spreader of virus imagine what playing football would be. I don’t know any athlete who can play at even 50% of their capacity who does not need to breathe hard while doing it.

College athletes can’t be treated like NBA players and locked in a bubble. They go to classes, live in dorms, eat in cafeterias, go to parties and to practice. If you have ever looked at the sidelines of a college football games there are hundreds of people. Offensive, defensive and special teams players, coaches, trainers, equipment managers. Too many people to keep safe.

Then there is the traveling and all the interactions that entails.

Yes, these star quarterbacks want to play. They are young and feel invincible, but it should not be up to them. The experience will not be the same anyway. Playing without fans cheering or the band playing is not the same experience.

One real reason to cancel the season is so as not to encourage football watching parties and celebrations. Keeping an entire student body off the street after a big win is next to impossible. College students are not known for restraint, don’t give them more temptations than they already have to stay away from.

Yes, this year stinks for all students everywhere. Yes, people miss sports. Yes, it makes schools a lot of money. But this year is about life and death. Let’s not blow it on football.

And Now This

I am going to have to stop wondering what else can go wrong in 2020. Today we woke up in North Carolina to 5.1 magnitude earthquake. This at the end of a week that started with a hurricane and tornadoes in the state. North Carolina has not had an earthquake like this since the 1920’s. The earthquake was centered in Sparta which is the town right next to Camp Cheerio, Carter’s childhood summer home.

I slept through the quake, but I checked in on my friends in the mountains and they felt it. Kathi said it was the scariest thing she ever experienced. I am thankful everyone is safe, but am hoping this is the strongest quake we will have, but it is 2020 and … The news says there have been seven quakes in NC in the last 24 hours, but the others were just a 2 or a 3.

I am not sure how many more signs I can take that we are not taking care of the world and our fellow creatures. I don’t want to speculate on what else can go wrong.

Green Rice

One of the things I miss about having Carter home is the diversity in ideas about what to have for dinner. She often thought of things I never would have thought of. One thing she made was Arroz Verde, or green rice. The one time she made it I thought it was so satisfying that I didn’t need anything else for dinner.

Now that she is back in Boston I am back to thinking up dinner ideas. Not that Russ doesn’t send me at least three recipes a week from the New York Times, but they are often full of weird ingredients I don’t want to have hanging around.

Not the case for Green rice. It is made with all things you probably have on hand or can easily pick up.

1 1/2 c. Long grain rice

1 1/2 c. Chicken broth

1 1/2c. Milk

2 big handfuls of spinach

1 big handful of cilantro (can be all stems if you want)

1 medium onion minced

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 T. Olive oil

2 T. Butter

Put the spinach, cilantro, chicken stock and milk in a blender and blend until the veg are pulverized.

In a sauce pan out the oil and butter and melt. Add the rice and toast it until brown, stirring often. Add the onions and garlic and continue cooking for another minute, stirring.

Add the green liquid from the blender and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to just as low as it can go. Cook the rice about 20 minutes without lifting the lid. Then stir it once, recover and cook another five minutes and then turn the heat off leaving the lid on the pot for ten more minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

As this is a classic Spanish dish I have no ownership to its creation, but sometimes I like to blog about a recipe that I don’t want to get lost in my memory.

The Birthdays That Don’t Count

Today is my friend Mary Lloyd’s birthday. Having a pandemic birthday means you don’t have the normal celebrations. Every other year this day would be celebrated with a fun girls lunch or afternoon tea out, laughing and telling stories. Now it is dangerous to laugh out loud and I am trying my hardest to tell stories quietly so as not to project air out into the world.

Rather than go out I did drop by Mary Lloyd’s house with flowers, balloons and cake, but it does not feel like enough. Like so many of my friends who have had birthdays since March they are not getting the attention they deserve.

My friend Lee is famous for her August birthday Pageant. There was a big sign in her yard announcing it, but I am afraid it will be a shadow of her normal pageant.

I think that if you have a pandemic birthday this year you get to skip counting it. This means that you don’t count this year in your age. I turned 59 this year, but as I am not counting this birthday as an official birthday I will turn 59 again next year. Seems only fair that we all will lose a year of our lives to just being on hold. Why should we count it. This is kind of like an intermission year.

Sadly, the year with Covid and and election drags on extra slowly making it feel like it is double as long. All the more reason just to wipe it out as a year in our lives.

So Happy Birthday to all my August birthday friends. I still celebrate you, but next year will be a double party.

There, But By The Grace Of God

As a southerner I have often heard people say, “There, but by the grace of God, go I,” when referring to someone else’s misfortune. For the record, I believe in God. I feel that I have God’s Grace because he is a loving and generous God and that I did nothing to earn it. I also believe that we ALL have God’s Grace. Not just people who believe or act a certain way, everyone.

I wonder if the people who say “by the Grace if God,” are thinking that God actually makes a choice, spare them, don’t spare someone else. This is not what I believe. Despite having Grace, we all have luck, good and bad. We also have free will and sometimes things are our own making.

Many things that happen in our life were decided for us. Who our parents are, where we were born, when we were born, which teacher we had in first grade, all things that go into making us who we are.

Then there are the decisions we made along the way, who was your best friend, who did you marry, what job did you do, how do you chose to spend your time. Change any one of these things and your whole story changes.

So God graces you, but so much of the path you take is of your own making, both good and bad. It is up to each of to work hard to make good decisions, do right by each other, offer a helping hand. You can’t depend on grace to protect you, just like you can’t blame God when bad things happen to you. Just remember, “it’s not all about you.”

If you dodge a bullet, it probably was luck. You might not always be so lucky so look out for yourself and for others. That is probably what God would like you to do, then you are displaying grace.

Less Than Perfect

If you have ever watched YouTube cooking demo or any other social media cooking the cookware used in the video looks practically brand new. It makes me wonder how good these cooks are who have perfectly clean frying pans with no baked on splatter on the outside. If I were to film myself demonstrating a recipe you would see my very old and well loved pots and pans with all the patina that comes from decades of cooking.

Now, I am not saying my pans are not clean. The insides are sparkling, just the outsides or bottoms might show a little age. They are in no way YouTube worthy.

The inside is good

Today after I washed a medium sized non-stick frypan, that is probably a year old I noticed that the inside was perfect, but the outside looked like it should be thrown away. Well, I am not about to be that wasteful, even though I do change my nonstick frypans often. So I got out the dawn power wash and started scrubbing the pan. I sprayed the cleaner on and let it sit a while. I came back with a scouring pad and rubbed and rubbed. I did this process four times throughout the day. I barely made a dent.

The bottom after scrubbing, looks almost the same as before scrubbing

What I want to know is am I the only person whose cookware looks used or does everyone scour their pans after every use so that the outside looks as good as the inside? Or do you buy new cookware more often than once in a lifetime. I have to say that my Dansk Stock pot and sauce pans look pretty good. I considered them a major investment when I bought them in 1985. I can see that they will last me at least another thirty years. And my Le Creuset dutch ovens are equally usable despite less than perfect outsides.

The outside after scrubbing is better, not great.

Perhaps social media cooking is making me crazy. I just want to know from real people if you too have only YouTubable cookware? There is just something about perfect cookware that feels untrustworthy. Or maybe I needed to be quarantined two weeks every year for the last thirty five years just so I scrubbed my pots and pans better. It seems too late now.

Early in the quarantine I did a major cleaning of my half sheet pans. Since I have five of them that are 30 years old and still as good as the day I bought them, sans the baked on look, it took me a while to try and restore them to factory settings. I spent days and eventually gave up. Two of the five are close to being fair, the others are in the fail category.

Bread Bags

I’m looking for some silver Covid linings. I know it’s a stretch, but there have to be some good things to come out of this. One thing came to mind today, just stay with me while I try and connect this.

I am the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family. That meant that I often got to go and spend time with my grandparents alone. All my grandparents had lived through the depression and they all did little things thirty-five years later that were carry overs from living through those tough times.

My grandmother, Granettes, on my father’s side used to pack food into the empty bread bags. It made perfect sense. A plastic bag, was a plastic bag and none went to waste. I can remember her having a drawer full of them in her kitchen at the farm. If I had been visiting my grand parents and they drove me home from North Carolina to Ohio my grandmother would make cold fried chicken, and bread and butter sandwiches and put them each in different bread bags. Along the way we would pull the car over to a roadside picnic area and have lunch. She would carefully fold the bags backup and put them in the basket after we ate to reuse them again another day.

This conservation was something my parents never did. It was clearly a holdover from my grandmother living through the depression. Who knew she was green before being green was a thing.

My other grandmother, Mima, was equally frugal. One time she and I went to the mountains and stayed in a motor lodge, that’s what motels were called back then. We went to dinner at the little diner attached to the motor lodge. The waitress had brought us a basket of rolls at the start of the meal. After we finished dinner Mima told me to wrap the rolls up in the napkin in the basket and put them in my bag. I was horrified and begged her not to make me do that. She said, “They will just get thrown away if we don’t take them and that is a waste. We can eat them for breakfast.” I was hoping for pancakes I am sure, but I did as she asked and sure enough we ate cold, stale rolls for breakfast the next morning. If only we had a bread bag they might not have gotten so stale.

Here were two women who had learned to be frugal at a young age when the whole country was learning it at the same time. It lasted their whole lives. Nothing was ever to go to waste. Maybe this year of Covid and the hardship it has brought will make that kind of impact on us. Maybe people will learn that they don’t need to go shopping to be happy. Perhaps conservation and saving for a rainy day will become more common. Perhaps people will learn to live way beneath their means just in case something bad happens that they had no control over.

The depression is not something I wish on anyone, but lessons from those times can be embraced over and over again. Too bad I don’t buy bread in those kind of bags, but there is no reason not to reuse any bag, over and over.

What’s the Point?

During the Covid period I am trying everyday to do something that appears as if I am productive. As the days go on it is getting harder and harder. This weekend I dusted the whole house thoroughly and deep cleaned the kitchen, including cleaning out the refrigerator. The lack of excitement for these chores is beginning to wear on me.

With Carter gone the house stays cleaner longer giving me less and less to keep up with. As I have finished making my latest craft and I have scheduled all the zoom meetings i need to do for a Food Bank Project I am in charge of I awoke this morning with nothing on my plate.

Since the UNC students are moving in today I decided I needed to go to Trader Joe’s very early in the morning before all those potentially germ ridden college students go in and stock up. That took half an hour. Still with the whole day ahead of me I finally broke down and did a job I have been putting off through all of quarantine, I polished the silver.

This much hated job had little point to it since Russ could care less if things are shiny and bright, no one else is going to see it and it will just tarnish again before Christmas which might be the next time someone new is in my house.

I put on the rubber gloves and gathered everything to be polished. I rubbed and rubbed and worked for two straight hours as if I was a royal footman preparing for a state dinner. After putting all the shinny silver back in it’s rightful spots I felt a twinge of pain in my neck and back.

I ignored it at first and went off the the post office to mail Carter two Cookbooks my friend Carol gave me for her. While standing in a very long line, an old man in compression socks took much too long to decided which kind of stamps he wanted, I recognized that my hurt neck was making me more irritable than normal. (Actually he never did decide as I had to call out from the line for the clerk to just give him the damn “nature stamps” and be done with the indecision. The other people in the line clapped for me.)

I came home and decided that I had been productive enough and took some pain killer and lay down to heal my back and neck. What in the world was the point of polishing that silver to the degree of bodily injury? No one knows if I am productive and no one cares. Damn Yankee work ethic is going to kill me.

Awaiting the Hurricane

Last week was stifling hot. We had a couple of days of rain storms that helped keep my zinnias alive. The last few days no rain and my flowers are suffering. If a hurricane weren’t coming I should have watered them. I hate wishing that the hurricane would just hurry up and get here, but I want my flowers to live. I know that the high winds and flooding are not good for people, but there is little we can do about Mother Nature.

I am tired of Mother Nature this year, as a pandemic is under her realm, but I am more exhausted by people’s response to it. I am tired of people not taking Mother Nature seriously. It seems to me that same people who refuse to wear masks are the ones who feel safe surfing during a hurricane or refusing to follow emergency orders.

Please let this Hurricane not do too much damage, kill anyone or have people who don’t heed warning and need to be saved. Please let people not be selfish as it puts first responders in harms way if they have to rescue idiots. Hurricanes may be good for zinnias, but not so good for humans and animals.

Almost Normal

For the first time in five months I went to my closet and out on a dress. Russ and I went out to the Teer farm to have a socially distant outdoor dinner with out friends Cynthia and Dave. It felt practically normal. No I take that back, it was utterly fantastic.

Chef Paris had offered up a perfect summer picnic menu of pork, fried chicken, corn salad, slaw and green beans. I shouldn’t forget Paris’ famous pretzel rolls and lemon pie. You ordered a take out dinner and we were lucky enough to get to picnic at the farm. Cynthia saw that I had replied on Facebook to Kristin’s posting about the offering and suggested we go in on the dinner together since it was for four. What a brilliant idea!

We arrived in our masks, but when we took them off to eat I soon forgot that this was a not our normal way. It was so fun to see friends and have new conversations and catch up. The Teer Farm was fantastic as the tables were miles apart. In fact I hardly noticed anyone else was even there.

It was nice to support Paris who told us he has not worked at all. The big bonus was also getting to see Kristin. Cynthia, Kristin and I all agreed we missed going to lunch with each other the most. I do miss being a lady who lunches.

Tonight was the highlight of the month, maybe two months. There is nothing else on the calendar. I am going to have to cherish the memories of eating dinner with friends, along with the lingering taste of Paris’ rolls. I can’t see that I need to wear a dress any time soon.