I got a call today from a friend who is a board chair of a local organization. He called me to talk about new board members. I asked him some questions about his organization and it’s leadership. Between that call and watching last night’s debate I really got to thinking about how I judge leadership.

To me it is fairly simple. A good leader starts by being a good listener, rather than the one who talks the most. This is always something I struggle with, but with age I am getting better at it. Asking questions, being curious, and soliciting experts advice and following it comes next.

The best leaders are rarely the “smartest” one in the room. The last thing you want is a Leder who thinks they are the smartest. There is no “smartest.” There are experts in different areas and attracting them to work with you is what a good leader needs.

Gaining consensus is a skill I would rate highly in a good leader. No one person can have everything their way and expect to have a following very long, or be followed by anyone who matters. Leaders who have no real friends are suspect.

Leaders should never be bullies or have hidden agendas. So honesty is highly prized in good leaders. Lastly, humility is a trait I value in a good leader. Everything should not be about them, but rather the mission of the organization.

These are traits I have admired in great leaders I have known, worked for and with. When I hold this mirror up to the debate last night there is no question who I would chose as our next leader. Policies were hardly discussed so the only thing we had to compare was potential leadership skills. A poor leader can ruin the smallest organization and a huge organization demands good leadership. I can’t think of an organization any bigger than the US government. It’s time we opted for someone with the skills to lead it.

“Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover”

Russ and I got more dressed up today than we have in the last seven months. Not that dressed up, but nice enough to go to Raliegh to sign our new wills. It was the first time we have left the house together and gone farther than the Harris Teeter together since we went to the mountains with Carter in early July.

Russ still had lots of work to do so we didn’t go any place more exciting than the lawyers and I took him home so he could continue his Zoom day. As I was dressed and clean I decided I would go over to Lowe’s and get a few things I needed to finish the wall.

This morning I started the second to the last course of blocks. In all my study I learned that I should adhere the last two courses with construction adhesive. I had bought two big tubes at the onset and today was my first day working with it. Once I figured out how to pierce the inner seal I was all set with the oversized caulking gun. I laid about half a course of 20 blocks and used a whole tube of adhesive. I calculated I needed two more tubes to finish the project.

I went into the Lowe’s, where I am now a regular, but I was more dressed up than the usual Lowe’s shopper and I had a fancy pocketbook with me. After grabbing a cart I headed directly to the adhesive aisle that I am very familiar with. Standing in front of the array of caulking tubes were two older African American men. I stood respectfully far enough away from them for social distancing and waited. After a little bit one of the men asked if I wanted to get something. I thanked him and said, “Yes, I know exactly what I need,” as they stepped back and I grabbed the tubes of Loctite.

The older of the two men said, “Young lady, ( I liked him for that immediately), Can I ask you what you are using that for?”

“I’m building a retaining wall,” I replied.

The younger man said, “Who is building that for you?”

I proudly announced to them, “I am building it.” I took my phone out of my purse and showed them a photo of the wall.

The older man looked at the photo and looked at the younger man and said, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.”

He then turned to me and asked how I learned to do it. “YouTube.”

“Well that is quite impressive. You are doing a great job and buying the right adhesive.”

Turns out they build walls too, but this felt more like a bridge.

The Price of a Hairdo

Today was my haircut day. I had skipped my last haircut as I am thinking of growing my hair a little longer. What better time to try than now when no one really sees me. Even if they do see me who cares. I am an invisible middle aged woman. Although I had canceled my last appointment with plenty of time for my hair dresser to book my slot I tipped her extra. I certainly want her to stay in business and Covid does not make it easier.

On my drive home from getting my haircut I was listening to a story of the radio about some of the expenses 45 claimed so that he could reduce his tax bill to nothing or the practically nothing amount of $750. One of the items was $70,000 a year in hair dressing costs during the Apprentice. I tried to calculate how much would have to be done to his hair to get the cost up to $70,000.

I don’t see how the hair on the left cost $70,000 a year when it looks similar to the hair on the right. Photo from the Boston Globe

Let’s say the Apprentice was a 24 week run for the year. That is the normal network run of a show, although I am not sure 45 filmed that many a year, but giving him the benefit of the doubt. That is just under $3,000 a week for hair styling. When he was filming the Apprentice he was not “on camera” that much so he shouldn’t have needed to have camera ready hair everyday. As I look back at pictures of him from the show, vs. his hair now it is fairly similar.

So it begs the question, who is doing his hair now? The cost of personal grooming is not something a President can charge the tax payers, at least it hasn’t been for every other President. So if his hair is the same now as it was then was he always doing his own hair? Yes, he still needed haircuts, like all of us. He may do some coloring, because depending on his orange tone skin the hair made need to change. I am just not getting how he could spend $70,000 on that hair.

Based on my double tipping of today I calculate I spend $1,000 a year on hair dressing. I can not even imagine how I would have enough time in a year to spend $70,000, even at NYC prices. And that is just the hair question on his taxes, imagine how many there questionable things there are.

The Best Helper

There was no more beautiful music to my ears than an e-mail from the wonderful Kim Garcia asking me if I needed a teenage boy to come work with me on my wall. I jumped at the chance to have the hard working and so polite Brandon come and help me for a few hours today.

I got up early and did two hours before it was time for YouTube church. It was extra hard work because I was figuring out the connection of the new wall to my old railroad tie wall. Happily, I figured out the answer to my dilemma and made a good connection. I was soaking wet from those hours of work so I showered just so I could watch church clean. It seemed wrong not to.

After going and getting our flu shots with Russ, I was back out at the wall. Brandon arrived right on time and did not complain one bit about having to move 150 twenty-one pound blocks from the driveway to a pallet closer to the wall or directly to me as I was building. He was doing the hardest work, but did not break a sweat, carrying two or three blocks at a time. I, on the other hand, was drenched in the first half an hour, but was so pleased with the amount we got done today.

Thanks to Brandon’s hard work I can easily build the last three courses I think I need. I guess I really should say, thanks to Kim for thinking of Brandon coming to help me. He was an incredible worker, who even when I offered him breaks did not take them. I see the end in sight for this project. I still have a lot of back filling to do, but that is just good exercise. It is a lot easier to build the wall as it gets higher because I am not bending over to do it.

Tomorrow, it’s time to order some fill dirt. Oh, the excitement is almost overwhelming.

The Pimento Cheese Search is On

After discovering the situation with Palmetto cheese I told Russ I would supply him with homemade. And thus the search for the perfect recipe began. I emailed my Aunt Janie Leigh who always made a great cheese. She quickly got back to me with the ingredients, but no amounts, as pimento cheese is a lot like all southern cooking, a feel.

She told me she used Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar, miracle whip, our cousin Lorie’s 14 day pickle juice from the the jar, confectionary sugar and pimentos. Since I am not a lucky recipient of any of Lorie’s 14 day pickles I was going to have to improvise.

Then my cousin Mary weighed in with her mother Flo’s recipe. Since they are my real Palmetto Cousins and I have eaten that Pimento Cheese many a time while rocking on their porch at Pawleys Island I thought her recipe was worth trying. It starts with a pound of Cabot Seriously sharp white cheddar that is grated and let sit until it softened up. Then a tiny jar of pimentos and the liquid in the jar, 1/2 t. Of dry mustard and a teaspoon of spicey brown mustard like Guldens, enough mayonnaise to get it to hold together and some cayenne pepper to taste.

Now those are two totally different tastes in one family. The thing they have in common are the sharpest cheddar cheese you can get. I agree with this. In my opinion Palmetto cheese never used a high enough quality cheese to start.

So with this information at hand I went about making my first test. Russ went to the Teeter for a jar of pimentos and they were totally sold out. I went to fresh market and they did not have exactly the right peppers either. I bought a jar of small Spanish peppers that were roasted and I chopped them in the cuisineart. I also used our favorite English sharp cheddar, called Costal from England. Since the British invented Cheddar, hell it’s named after the town, I always go with their cheese if I have a choice. But in defense of the American ones the southerner use, it was all Southern cooks of the fifties had available to them from their local Piggly Wiggly.

I did not have miracle whip, but know it to be sweet to start so I went with the confectionery sugar route. I did use Duke’s Mayo. Russ likes Jalapeño in his cheese so I minced up a large seeded fresh pepper. I used a little pickle juice from a jar I had in the fridge. I put a little dry mustard in mixed the whole thing up breaking any cheese shreds that might have still existed.

It tastes good, but the heat from the jalapeño had not permeated the cheese yet. I think that letting it marry for a day or two might do the trick. I had a little under a quart when I was done. Russ will go through that in a week and a half and then I might tweak the next recipe based on his feed back. I think a little onion juice might also be good, but since it was not in either of my two most southern family cooks recipes I was not going to veer off right from the start.

The one thing I know is making it myself is much more expensive than the Costco price, but hopefully the higher quality English cheese will make it worth it.

Great Pimento Cheese Debacle

I knew something was wrong when I could not find Palmento Cheese at Costco today. About everything three weeks I make a Costco run for Shay’s rotisserie chicken and Pimento cheese and peanuts for Russ. Those are on the “always” list, unlike the every three months toilet paper, or once a year laundry pods.

Russ is addicted to the jalapeño pimento cheese, which is half price at Costco, but not as good as my Aunt Janie’s homemade. Due to the ease of availability at Costco I just buy that for Russ.

A few weeks ago Russ alerted me to a news story about the owner of Palmento Cheese, who also happens to be the mayor of Pawley’s Island, in which he made a comment about the Black Lives Matter movement. When you have a business that sells something to the general public you are better off not to make any statement which might be considered racist. In the small world of Pawley’s Island you might not realize exactly how racist you sound.

Well Costco took offense and decided to stop carrying the popular cheese. That is making some people mad, but hey, Costco can also take a stand. I had a feeling in my bones that the missing cheese spread might be due to this controversy when the normally full, prime, end cap display of cheese was no where to be found today.

Now I am going to have to make the cheese for Russ myself. First I have to get the recipe from my Aunt. The only problem with this scenario, is her’s is so much better than the Palmetto that I am now forever going to have to make it for Russ, even after Costco finds a new supply.

Day Road Trip Reunion

Today was such a big day I forgot to get a photo. I must have been excited about my impending outing today because I woke up at 3:30 and up was up for the day. Since I actually had a little lunch trip planned I went out before eight and did some wall work. I mostly unloaded 32 50 pound bags of gravel and shoveled dirt. Nothing exciting, but doing a little bit of it everyday is the only way to tackle this project.

After cleaning up and putting on real clothes I have not worn in six months I went to pick up Lynn. Since we consider ourselves a pod we felt safe to drive in the same car to Greensboro. This is the furthest I have been from home since my 36 hour trip to and from Boston in July.

We went to meet our old friend Leigh who moved from Atlanta to Charlotte. We wanted to meet for lunch in the middle, but there is nothing in the exact middle so Lynn and I got the shorter drive.

Leigh has recently gotten engaged and since I was her most vocal friend about getting rid of her first rotten husband I wanted to see her new situation happiness in person. She was very happy and I am thrilled for her.

We had a lovely socially distant lunch at the Green Valley Grill where the tables were very far apart and the servers were well masked and non-bothersome. It was just a treat to get to have a girls lunch out and a good catch up.

It is so nice when a friend finally gets the relationship she deserves after suffering with a fool for so long. Leigh showed us pictures and he looks fantastic and she seemed very content. Hooray for love.

The drive was fun, the lunch was yummy, the reunion was sweet. A great day and now I am exhausted. At least it might rain all day tomorrow so I will be forced to read my book and not shovel, carry or build.

Slow Covid NC

Yesterday Dr. Mandy Cohen, the North Carolina secretary of health and human services announced a new app to help with tracing for Covid. It is called Slow Covid NC. You down load it for free onto your phone from the App Store. As long as you have your blue tooth enabled the app keeps track of all the phones you come into close proximity to that also have the app running.

If someone tests positive for Covid they are given a PIN number which they enter into the app. Then the app will notify anyone who was in close proximity in a period of time that you might have been exposed. If you are notified you can get tested for Covid and find out if you have it. They don’t tell you who the person was, or exactly where you were near the person because the app does not keep track of places, just some random Bluetooth token. This way your privacy is protected.

This app helps us slow Covid by alerting people who might be a-systematic from unknowingly spreading the virus. It may save the lives of people you love and live with.

The only way this works is if a majority of us get the app. The North Carolina version of the app also works with other states versions of the same technology. So if you go to Virginia they are running a similar program and you will be covered there too.

Please consider downloading this app on your phone. If you live in another state search to see if your state has a Covid tracing app. The more of us who use technology for contact tracing the faster we can get back to normal. Of course having the app does not protect you from getting Covid so you still need to wear your mask, wash your hands and stay at least six feet apart from people.

Spread the word about the App. Get everyone in your house to download it. Help slow the spread of Covid!

More Than Six Million

Despite my bruised ribs I rallied today to work on my wall. One day off seemed like more than enough time and the weather is so perfect to work outside I just had to see if I could do it.

Russ had carried blocks down to the wall for me so I got to working on the next two courses. I was able to do that without too much pain, but realized that the wall was getting tall and I needed to do some back filling. Back filling is the least exciting part of the job. It involves me shoveling dirt from my existing garden into the space I have created with the new wall. Think grave digger rather than gardener.

The expanse of the extension means I will have to shovel at least four cubic yards of dirt and then refill that same amount in my old garden. I could just build the whole wall and have the fill delivered and only shovel once, but I fear the wall might fall over if I don’t back fill as I go along. So I am going for safety, even if it means double work.

After three hours of hard labor I called it a day. I am not trying to kill myself and since I am the only person I have to satisfy I can go easy.

The nice thing about working in this perfect temperature is that I am not soaking wet from my own sweat when I come inside so I don’t have to strip off my clothes at the washer and dryer. I came in today and went in my office and just as I was sitting down my house phone rang. For some unknown reason I answered it. A young woman, real life person, said she was calling about my property at my address. Curious about what she want I said, “Yes,” she could continue. She said she had buyers that would like to buy my house for cash. I told her “six million dollars and don’t call me back for a penny less,” and I hung up.

I went upstairs and Russ called to me from his bunny office and congratulated me on the amount of work I had done. I told him then about the six million dollars and he said, “that’s not enough. Shay likes it here.” And foolishly I had thought for a minute he was really valuing my wall building.

Special Nap Day

Thanks to all my friends with good wishes for fast healing and advice for my bruised ribs. Thankfully I took enough pain killers last night to have a good night’s sleep after much icing of my ribs. I awoke and knew that I had to take the whole day off from manual labor, which made me a little bit crazy.

My mother came in the middle of the day to pick up her needlepoint pillow that I had finished for her and a box of pocket books Carter wasn’t able to sell. She thought she would take me out to lunch, but never told me that. I had lunch for her here because we don’t go out to lunch during a pandemic. I think she might have forgotten that I have the same pandemic here that she does up at the farm.

After mom left I went to the sunroom to read my new book club book and Shay came to snuggle with me. Between the warmth of the sun, the pain killers, and Shay I promptly fell asleep and napped for two hours. This is unheard of. I was a little annoyed by the dings of text messages coming through my phone, but I ignored them. I think I need a nap button on my phone. Not that I am planning on taking up napping. I will just use it while injured where napping is imperative to speed healing.

I am hoping that tomorrow I will feel up to resuming my manual labor job because I have a lot to do and the weather is perfect and my calendar is open. I can’t possibly take two naps in the same week, especially since I don’t have that nap button.

Just Walking Is Dangerous

Things are moving along. Four courses are done and three are back filled. This means I might be about a third done, in height, but hopefully about two thirds done in time as the prep and foundation work take the longest.

Today Russ volunteered to help lift blocks and fifty pound bags of stone for me. It was a huge help in the retaining wall project. He is fast so he was able to carry down block and place it in front of my wall and leave me to stack and level them. I spent almost four hours working on the wall today because of the forty minutes Russ put in. Four hours was probably too long for my body to do, but as I was feeling OK I just kept at it.

After my many hours I went in the garage to replace the tools and take off my garden shoes. I went in the house in my socks on my way to take a shower. It was a mistake not to take my socks off at the washer and dryer, not because they were so dirty, but because my floors are slippery when I am just wearing socks.

Before I could get all the way upstairs Carter called. I only get one call a week on Sundays, so I gave up on going to shower so I could catch up with her. On my way into the sunroom, because it is the best place to sit for a long phone call, I slipped on the slanted vestibule. I fell sideways into Shays toy basket, and slammed my side into the arm of the love seat. I threw my huge glass of tea all over the carpet, dropped my phone and lay screaming on the floor. Poor Carter, she had no idea what was going on, but knew it was not good.

Russ ran into the sun room and my big concern was for him to clean up the tea. I lay on the floor awhile assessing the damage and decided I had not broken or punctured anything.

As if I was not already sore enough from building the wall, now I am going to be bruised on my side. I called Carter back and at least got my weekly call in with her. Shay is not happy about the destruction I did to her toy basket, but I am thankful it probably slowed down my fall. At least I did not throw my big tea glass at a window and break that. I have learned the “don’t just wear socks” lesson big time.

Covid Friendly Exercise Opportunity

Have you missed going to exercise class? Is working out with your friends something you crave? Have I got an opportunity for you. It’s an easy 20 pound weight lifting and outdoor walking class, no mask required as you will social distance.

I have completed the very tedious and difficult part of building my wall, the base and leveled row and have completed two courses of the blocks. Placing the blocks is not difficult for me, but getting the blocks from the pallets in the driveway down to the wall is slow to do alone.

I am looking for any exercise desiring friends who would like to come and carry blocks for any amount of time. If you normally work out for an hour, come for an hour. Or come for half and hour. It’s not difficult work and it is way more fun when we get to talk while doing it. The bonus is I will be giving food to all block carrying volunteers who work an hour. You will get a choice when you are done to take home a quart of something yummy.

I don’t work on the wall more than three hours a day because I see no reason to kill myself doing this project. I will be working Monday morning from 9-11, Tuesday Morning from 9-12, Wednesday afternoon from 2-4. If I need to I may offer Friday hours, but I am hoping I will be close to being done by then.

Example of a non-working visitor

If you want to take advantage of this free exercise class with bonus food giveaway, contact me and let me know which hour you want to come work. Due to social distancing only one person can come each hour. If you just want to come visit, feel free to do that. I can set up a guest viewing chair. No free food for viewing. The best news is the weather is lovely for this kind of work.

May The New Year Be Better

I’m not Jewish, but my big and twin Pi Phi sisters are so I feel like I am welcome in the tribe. Tonight is the start of Rosh Hashanah, the new year in the Jewish calendar, so L’shanah Tovah to all believers.

As Russ and I are going to some friends for dinner, he is Jewish, she is not, I decided to bake some challah bread to bring as my hostess gift. At this point I am so looking forward to a better new year, and to get this one over with that I am happy to jump onto any one else’s new year.

So here’s to a happy new year for us all. Never in my life have I lived through a year that was collectively so bad for the whole world. I hope that prayers said by some tonight and this weekend can help bring healing and good luck to us all, for the whole world needs it.

Not sure if I will ever be a really good baker, but I hope my gift of challah brings good luck to my friends. Happy New Year.

I wrote this before we went to Lee and Tom’s. While we were there the terrible news of the loss of RBG came over. I am not sure how much more we can take in this horrible year, but this truly takes the cake. God speed RBG. You did your best to hold on for us as long as you could.

Women of Achievement Lunch

Some Zoom’s are better than others and today’s Women of Achievement lunch zoom was almost better than the in person event. Every year for many, many years, Chapel Hill, Durham and Chatham Magazines have honored women doing great things in our communities. I was lucky enough to be an honoree due to my work for the Food Bank in 2014 and so I get invited to come to the lunch every year. The lunch gets bigger and the honorees are always interesting.

Ellen Shannon

This year the in person lunch, which normally happens in May had to be canceled, and they pivoted to this virtual event, but still gave us lunch. So I drove down to Southpoint Subaru and picked up my yummy fall chicken salad and goody bag from my magazine friends who were set up in a tent in the pouring rain. They made it easy by just making the whole thing drive through.

Once I was home I enjoyed my lunch and joined the Zoom. Ellen Shannon and Rory Gillis, the fearless women leaders ran a great show. We had two inspiring speakers. The first was Alex Zagbayou, the executive director of Student U. I first got to know Alex when she was the number two at Studentt U and I was writing a story on her. She was remarkable then as a twenty something inspiring the youth of Durham to higher Achievement, but it is no surprise that she has gone on to quadruple the impact Student U has in our community. Now she didn’t tell us any of that. She did talk about the need for self care and pacing ourselves during this time of Covid.

Rory Gillis
Alex Zagbayou

Our second speaker Esther Campi, who is a crisis communications expert who advises Health Care companies. She focused us on how to pivot in a crisis, and all of this year can be seen as a Crisis.

One theme both Alex and Esther shared in their talks were that you have to have both your head and your heart involved when you are a leader. These things are true all the time, but the heart is especially critical in 2020.

After their talks we had break out groups and that was the most fun part. We were randomly put into 2 groups and in both of mine I had friends I was happy to get to see. In my first group was one of the honorees of the day I know well, Jessica Bottesch, who along with her business partner Rhonda Williams own Empower Fitness. Congratulations to them as they are making a difference in our community.p, even as they have had to be closed for the last six months.

The part of the Zoom that made the event so fun was the chat function. I was able to have side conversations with friends that was so much easier than passing notes at the real luncheon. I know that getting to hug friends in real life is better, but since we can’t hug now, the chat was a great substitute.

So thanks to Shannon Media for producing a great event and making it feel so special. Congratulations to all the winners this year. You are in a wonderful club of diverse and smart women now. Can’t wait to see you at next year’s lunch.

Run Away Forest, Run

Dan Forest, the Republican candidate for Governor in North Carolina, uses “Run Forest Run” as his campaign slogan. Well, now we need to put the word out to Run Away from this man.

Today Forest came out with a Campaign promise to end mask mandates in North Carolina if he wins and wants to send children back to in person school without masks and no Covid fighting plan.

With all the science out there, to stand on a stage and say, “Vote for me and you won’t have to wear masks” is about the most idiotic thing I have ever heard. No where does he say a thing about how to control or end Covid. He has no plans to keep people safe, quite the opposite.

Look Forest, no one loves wearing a mask, but most of us like staying alive and healthy. The mask is what stands between us and sickness. So don’t encourage people not to wear masks.

Our current governor, Roy Cooper has done a good job at giving the people of North Carolina the scientific reasons to wear masks and social distance. We need to keep him and not have crazy politicians who don’t follow the science. Run as far away from Dan Forest as you can.

It’s Cheeper to Reform Police

The city of Louisville Kentucky reached a $12 Million settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor for her wrongful death by Police. Along with the monetary settlement the city agreed to a number of changes to police reform programs to help prevent tragedies like the killing of this innocent woman sleeping in her house.

Reforming policing programs is not only good for all communities, but it has to be a lot cheeper to reform than to pay families for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones. Twelve million dollars is the most amount of money ever paid by the city of a Louisville for a wrongful death.

There is no amount of money that can make up the loss of a child to a mother, but money is how our society makes amends. Think about where twelve million could have gone to in that city to improve life for her citizens and a young women could still be alive. It is right to encourage community policing, more social workers on the front lines and better oversight of police problems before they get into the kind of trouble that costs lives and millions.

A number of years ago I did a story for Durham Magazine about a program a former police chief started where police worked with kids in the community so help them not get off on a wrong foot. It seemed like a positive way for police to get to know kids and kids to get to be friends with police. Sadly when that chief retired so did his program. Perhaps something like that could be brought back. We need to have more Andy Taylor’s so we have fewer Breonna Taylor’s.

Goat Patrol

I was looking out my back bedroom window as I was getting dressed this morning, which only looks out on overgrown forest in my back and similar forest in my neighbor’s back yard. At first I saw a rather fat white dog on my neighbor’s side of the old fence. I looked a little harder since I had never seen a dog back there and that is when I noticed that was no dog, but a goat.

Since I was naked I didn’t want to get closer to the window and possibly scare that goat to death, I quickly threw on some clothes. I went to another window and sure enough it was not one goat but many. Shay and I went outside and saw sheep and goats all over my neighbor’s back yard.

I don’t like to walk through the overgrowth back there as it is copperhead season, but my neighbor Alivia called to me from the safety of her grassy area. She told me they had 17 goats and three sheep visiting for three days to try and eat the overgrowth. She asked me if it was OK. OK, it was great.

I am not a wonderful neighbor, as a I have not seen this sweet neighbor since she had twins in the spring. I figured not spreading any of my germs to her kids was the right thing to do. I am watching her goat patrol with great interest. If they do a good job, we may need to hire them to work on our over growth. If for no other reason than to keep my forest from growing back into her yard.

If you want to see the goats and sheep come on over to my back deck and you can get a bird’s eye view of them. With so many in a small area you will have hours of fun.

Completing A Friend’s Quilt

Last week a friend of mine from Church, Carol, called and asked me if I could help her with a quilt project. She had bought a bunch of material while on a trip to Africa years ago with her husband. She hand stitched the material into Dresden Plate quilt blocks. That little project took years. That is where the potential quilt stopped. I think she told me it was over three years ago.

Now she wanted to finish the quilt, but had run out of steam. She emailed me photos of her squares and since they were so gorgeous I knew they just had to be finished into a quilt, otherwise all that hard work and good memories of her trip would be lost.

I went over to her house to collect her work. The blocks were even more beautiful in person. Carol told me she wanted them to make a queen sized quilt. I counted her blocks and told her she was short at least another whole row. There was no way she could handle making more blocks.

Carol suggested a border out of the fabric she had used for the the Dresden Plates, as she still had plenty. As a I looked at it I told her I thought a border of that type would take away from her completed squares and suggested sashing the squares (that is framing each square) with a unifying fabric that did not compete with the African fabrics. She loved my idea and left all the decisions in my hands.

I found a material I thought complimented her squares and bought enough to make the sashing and the backing. As she had sewn the squares together I had to take them apart and add the new fabric. Thankfully I was able to turn her squares into a queen sized quilt and have the proportions look right.

I finished making her quilt top today and will take it to Tina my long arm quilter tomorrow for her to quilt it. I can’t wait to talk to Tina about ideas on how to quilt this beautiful quilt that honors the hard work of hand sewn Dresden Plates.

I hope Carol likes it as much as it do. I am not used to working on other people’s projects, but this one is so special.

Come Together on 9/11

Every year on this sad day I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the news about the first plane to fly into tower I. I was at church having just attended a coffee for mother’s of new students at the Westminster Pre-school. Carter was in her froggy class with the other two and a half year olds.

I walked out of the main door of the mission center and my a pastor, Haywood Holderness told me about the plane. The first thing out of my mouth was, “That Osama Bin Laden.” I don’t know exactly why I said that. Hayward was concerned about his niece who worked at the World Trade Center. Turned out she was not there that day.

I went from the coffee over to Amy Russell’s house for Garden club. Rather than have the meeting we watched her big screen TV in horror as the news was showing what was going on live. I am thankful that most of the tape of people jumping out the buildings is not shown again. Watching the second plane hit tower II was the confirmation we all needed that the world had changed.

Russ was in Northern, VA running a company called Neustar and had people working with him who saw the plane go into the Pentagon. I couldn’t get through to him on a phone and he couldn’t get home for days as he had flown up to work.

Now in the span of twenty years we have had 9/11 and Covid. We were not prepared for either of them and they both will forever be seared into our psyche. The difference between the two besides one being man made and one being nature made is how we reacted as a nation. After 9/11 we came together to all be one America. Covid has divided us into two Americas. Both had enemies. Both had to be fought. Both had casualties. Both changed the world and made us have to stay home.

On this sad day as we remember those who lost their lives in 9/11 let’s also remember those we have lost due to a Covid, who so far are almost 100 times as many we lost in 9/11. Both groups did nothing to deserve to die, both were innocent. Let’s stop having Covid divide us. Let us be selfless in our fight against the enemy. When we come together as Americans we can win.

Pintrest Envy

If all the world was like Pintrest everything would be perfect and beautiful. Ever since my friend Stephanie introduced me to Pintrest years ago I have been hooked. At first it was just great to use as an organization tool for saving internet things I had found elsewhere.

Then as I would start a new hobby, it would become my go to place to learn. My quilting obsession probably would not have taken off without Pintrest. But that was me having an idea and going to Pintrest to look for the answer.

During Covid Pintrest has turned into my inspiration and boy I have spent hours being inspired. I can go down a Pintrest hole for hours. I may not be really interested in what all the secret Netflix codes were for foreign countries, but now I have them in case I want them.

Lately I have been studying gardens, raised beds, garden walls, fenced in gardens, all things having to do with gardens. Boy do I feel inferior. There are forty days worth of beautiful garden related postings on Pintrest and I have clicked on many of them. Is my own garden wall done? Not even close. I am still digging out the footing. But I do know that my wall is not going to be Pintrest worthy.

I am wondering if there is a self help group for those who are addicted to Pintrest? I need an intervention because I already have more things pinned for me to do, make or try than I have years of life left.

Tomorrow I promise I am going to dig more and pin less.

Happy Birthday to My Virgo Girls

Today is my sister Margaret’s birthday and a week ago it was my sister Janet’s birthday. As a Taurus birthday myself, I was lucky that I got along with Virgo’s since I was surrounded. Having three girls in a family meant that someone was not getting along with someone else, but I do appreciate my sisters so much now. Happy birthday to both of them.

Turns out I have a lot of Virgo girls friends. My dear baby Chick, Lynn has her birthday on Saturday and my friend Karen has her’s next week. More reasons to celebrate great friends.

I always thought it was hard to have your birthday right at the beginning of September when you were a kid. You got a new class at school and that meant inviting people you might not know so well to your birthday parties. But here is the thing that all my Virgo girls have in common, they like most people and probably didn’t mind inviting the whole class, even perfect strangers, to their birthday.

I, on the other hand, with a May birthday had the opposite issue. I had a whole school year to get to know and dislike a segment of my class so I knew who I did and did not want to invite to my birthday and never could be dissuaded. I wonder if I would have been different if I had a September birthday? Probably not.

So happy birthday to all you Virgo girls, named and unnamed. Sorry this isn’t the year to have a party of any sort, but hopefully next year. You can invite anyone you want, even if you hardly know them.

Dreaming on Zillow

One of the favorite activities Carter and I can do long distance is look at real estate on Zillow together. Since Carter is back in Boston she has been spending her free time riding a bike. She can go down different streets and decide which ones might be good places to live in the future.

Sometimes when I can’t sleep I scroll through listings on Zillow. Boston real estate has been crazy the last few years, but Covid has changed the landscape. I have never seen so many things for rent for so long. Obviously many young people have moved out of the city as their jobs went virtual. With so many young adults going back to their parents house to save money the inventory of rentals is going up and the prices are going down.

Last year renters had to pay a rental fee of one months rent to a broker. Today most listings have no fee. Many units that have been on the market a few months have dropped their prices by ten to twenty percent. The big rental start date in Boston is Sept. 1 and now that it has come and gone it will be interesting to see what happens to prices.

Boston can not be any different than other big metro areas like NYC and San Francisco. I am wondering what will happen to the sale prices and how long the slide down will go and when the bottom will hit?

This is definitely going to be something I keep my eye on if not just because it is fun to do with Carter, but eventually she will graduate and need to find a new place to live. I am hoping the timing will be right for her.

It reminds me so much of how she and I used to walk through Sears and look at new washers and dryers when she was five years old. One evening when Russ was away on a business trip and Carter and I had gone to the mall for dinner we walked back through the very empty Sears appliance department. A bored salesman asked us as we lingered in front of a pair of cherry red washers and dryers if he could help us. Carter looked at him and said, “No, we are just dreaming.”

Zillow is our new Sears.

No More Hot Spots

Poor Shay has suffered this summer. Not with quarantine, no she loves having her Daddy home all day everyday. She has had terrible hot spots. The excessive heat and humidity had caused her skin to be irritated and thus she would bite at herself trying to relieve her pain. Her skin would bleed and it was so bad that she would not want to take walks.

She had been on pills and sprays to try and bring her relief. After months of those with no complete cure we took her back to the her vet to see what else could possibly help her.

The vet told us there were two more things we could try, a shot and a shampoo, instead of the pills and the sprays. Of course we went right to the new treatments. The only bad thing about the shampoo is that we have to wet her down, lather her up and wait fifteen minutes before rinsing. Nothing was too much trouble to try and bring her relief.

The shot seemed to do so much good. It was the first night she slept through the night with no biting. Today we did the shampoo and although she did not understand why she had to hang out in the bathtub so long she seemed very happy afterward.

Amazingly her hot spots have all disappeared in two days. The red, hairless places she had created are gone. Even her hair is grown back to the degree that I don’t see where she had been biting.

I wish I knew about this shot before. It is supposed to last four to eight weeks and hopefully the cooler weather will also help. Today she happily took a long walk with a Russ just like she always did before the hot spots. I will have to give her a bath every four days for two weeks, but that is easy compared to watching her suffer.

If your dog ever gets hot spots ask for the shot right away. It may cost a little more, but it is a miracle.

Tomato Gratin and Summer Shrimp Salad In Basil Dressing

Two good dishes I made for dinner last night that are worth memorializing in the blog so I can remember how I made them.

The first, Tomato Gratin is inspired by the Cook’s illustrated recipe of the same name. Cook’s has a pay wall, but if you want to go right to the source you can look there. I changed mine up a little and am not giving you every detail about skillets and types of tomatoes. I did make the base of this recipe a day in advance, but did not bake it. I think it makes it so much better if it can soak up all the juices. Because of making in advance before I went to bake it I did feel like it needed a bit more liquid around the edges so I drizzled a little spicy V-8 around the sides before baking and it was yummy. Tastes much better than it looks.

6 T. Olive oil

1 large french baguette – cubbed into 1/2 inch cubes

4 cloves of garlic- chopped

4 large ripe good tomatoes- chopped

3 t. Sugar

1 t. Salt

2 t. Ground black pepper

1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup spicy v-8 juice

In a big hot skillet heat 4 T. Of the olive oil and after hot add the bread, stir quickly and often and brown in the pan. Takes about five minutes. Set the bread aside.

Add the rest of the oil and the garlic and cook on medium high for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper and cook on medium high for ten minutes Stirring occasionally. Take off the heat.

Put 2/3 of the bread In The pan with the tomatoes and mix everything well together and pour into a gratin pan (or any casserole dish.)

Scatter the remaining bread on top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, but 24 would be better.

Preheat oven 375°. Drizzle the v-8 around the outside edge of the tomato bread. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven for 50 mins with foil tenting the top.

Summer Shrimp Salad with Basil Dressing

This is the kind of salad where you just throw in whatever vegetables you have with cooked shrimp. It is the dressing that makes it.

I used Grilled corn, cherry tomatoes, grilled onions, green pepper and jalapeño peppers With the shrimp.

To make the dressing put the following in a blender or cuisinart.

Juice of one lemon and peel of that lemon

3 cloves of garlic

1 Shallot

Two big handfuls of fresh, cleaned basil leaves

1/2 c. Champagne vinegar

1/2 c. Olive oil

1 T. Honey

Big pinch of salt

Lots of black pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Blend together, pour over the shrimp and veggies and let them marinate it the dressing for at least two hours.

Happy summer!

A Beautiful Night

At last if was a beautiful enough day to eat dinner outside and be comfortable. As that was the case we had our friends Dave and Sara over for a socially distant dinner. We have really missed seeing people.

I am looking forward to more cool evenings so we can have people come eat outside. There are some things I have to adjust to Covid dinners. For hors d’oeure I created little family plates of hummus, carrots and pita chips. One per family so we did not touch anything outside our own pod.

Rather than doing a buffet, as I usually would do, I just plated the whole meal in kitchen and served everyone like a restaurant. The only difference is they didn’t get to chose what they were having and they didn’t get to portion out their own things. The good thing about this is I didn’t have to put anything in serving dishes so the clean up was so much faster.

We also sat far apart at the table, Russ and I on one end our friends on the other. But we were still having dinner with friends. Conversation was excellent and the weather made it pleasant to sit outside long into the night. Shay was especially glad to see her “aunt and uncle” and was happiest when she sat on a Russ’ lap so she could be at eye level with the grown ups. I think she misses company more than any of us.

I can stand quarantine if this is what I get to do once a week. Russ will be happy because then I cook him new food. Favorite item from tonight was the tomato gratin. It was a big hit and I will post a photo of it with the recipe tomorrow. And before I forget I will write down the recipe of the shrimp and grilled corn dressing I made from the basil in the garden.

Thank you September for coming and bringing us relief from the heat and friends and something that feels normal. It was a beautiful night.

A Really Hard Lesson

Life as a college freshman is hard in a normal year, but this year it is next to impossible. At a Northeastern this week they dismissed eleven freshman for breaking the rules on gatherings without masks. These freshman were part of a program that was supposed to be held internationally. It is the same program Carter went on where she spent her first semester in Berlin.

Due to Covid travel restrictions these kids could not fulfill their dream of studying abroad. The school did the next best thing and rather than defer their admission, they created a program in a Boston, putting all the kids up at the Westin hotel for the semester. Much nicer than any college dorm. The school was very clear what the rules were. Two kids to a room and no visitors in your rooms. When out of your room wear masks and social distance.

Sadly these kids do what eighteen year olds will do and eleven of them gathered in one bed room without their masks on. They got caught and now are being sent home for the semester, losing their tuition.

I am happy I am not one of those parents getting that call saying my kid is kicked out of school before it even begins. Northeastern has set up a huge testing program, testing all people at school three times in the first five days at school and then every three days after that. So far out of 36,000 test, 17 students, 2 faculty and one contract worker have tested positive. The quick quarantining of those people and the people who came in contact with them is the only way to keep the school open.

Dismissing people who break the rules sends a loud message that the school is serious. I can’t imagine how hard this is all going to be for kids to learn to follow the rules, but it will be a lot easier than facing your parents after getting kicked out and losing your tuition.

This is what it takes to have the privilege of going to college. We have to prevent spread and keep everyone healthy. Other colleges could take note and be as strict. It’s not fun, but it’s a Pandemic.

Death By Unmasking

There used to be a time in the south when people were civil, at least at first. Those days are gone and I blame 45. Before his, “I come first and damn you” attitude became the norm people looked out for each other with good intentions.

Today I had to go to Costco. For the most part Costco has been good about enforcing correct mask wearing. That being said, sometimes a person’s mask slides down a bit and they don’t even notice, especially if they are weighing the decision to buy a very expensive Dyson vacuum or getting a Roomba.

As I was coming around the corner at the salmon case I noticed a very old and large woman dressed in her best pajama bottoms and stained T-shirt with her mask slipped down. As she approached me, leaning on her cart as if it was all that kept her from the floor I said in my most helpful voice, “I think your mask has slipped.” I honestly was worried about this woman traversing the Costco without being fully masked because she looked as if she could not withstand any infection, let alone Covid.

She let out a stream of words that no southern lady should ever hear, let alone say. Suddenly her very large husband in an amazingly even more stained T-shirt and his mask around his neck said to me, “We don’t have to wear Damn masks. Is your name Karen?” Despite my hairdo he clearly does not understand that Karen’s are anti-Vaxers.

A Costco employee was standing right near them and did not want a fight to break out, but I could not help myself when I said, “You may be OK killing yourself, but it is incredibly selfish to put this man’s life in danger because you won’t wear your mask correctly and act like it is your right.”

Ignorant selfish people. When did being stupid become a badge of pride? We are in a war against this virus. During World War II people went to great lengths to follow the rules for the good of the country. Why is now different? Because of the lack of leadership from the top?

Keeping this man President means that the idiots will just get more and more emboldened to do stupid things. They are the drunk drivers of our time who kill the innocent people they hit, but don’t die in the crash themselves.

This dirty clothed couple doesn’t deter me from reminding people about their masks. On the way out of the store a very cute old couple holding hands crossing the parking lot were not wearing their masks. I looked at them and smiled, even though they couldn’t see it behind my mask and said, “Don’t for get your masks.” The old man stopped and said, “Thanks, I hate when it get all the way to the store and have to go back to the car, you saved me some steps.” He and his wife turned around and walked back to their car. They were worth saving.

I’ve Been Management Too Long

I am clearly meant to work inside the house and not outside. Today I volunteered for the food Distribution that our church helps with at Iglesia Presbiteriana Emanuel. With kids back in school we lost the bulk of our young strong volunteers so now that means that old folks needs to do the jobs. These are not jobs made for old folks. I had what I was told was the hottest job on this day with 105° heat index. I stood in Roxboro rd; a busy four lane street and I flagged people out of one of the lanes that we closed in front of the church so that the cars full of people who need food can pull into the church driveway.

Cherrie, one of our pastors had brought a big blue and white beach umbrella for me to use as shade, but I turned it into my prop to get attention of drivers barreling up Roxboro road. I danced with that umbrella waving cars to merge from two lanes into one. You can imagine I was not very popular with that crowd.

It did not matter because right behind me I also waved cars of people needing help getting food onward to the area where other volunteers placed boxes of fresh vegetables, eggs, milk and fruit into their trunks. The people waiting for food had been lined up for hours. Another volunteered had given out 300 numbers to the cars, but the line far exceeded the numbering system. These people always gave me a smile and a wave, very appreciative of the work we were doing.

My friend Raynor had the car waving job at the other end of the street from me. Her job was in the shade, but when the actual temperature is 93° shade makes little difference. For almost two hours I directed traffic. As the second hour was about to close I started to feel the effects of standing in the sun dancing with the umbrella. I knew it would be very bad if I fell over in the street since no one would be there to wave the cars away from running over me. I signaled to Raynor and I went over to the curb and lay down in the shade.

Raynor, valiantly took over my job without a complaint. Cherrie brought me a cold wash cloth and water. It was heaven sent. Carter called me. Apparently I butt dialed her in the throws of me going down, it scared her to death. She called Russ. They both called me and demanded I stop doing this job. Eventually I was able to get up and go man Raynor’s original spot.

After we had gotten through the first 300 cars I went to the parking lot and helped bag butternut squash. The line kept coming for hours past the allotted time for pantry to run. I wasn’t able to stay the whole time. I clearly did not have the stamina for four hours in the sweltering heat.

I think I am going to have to change how I volunteer for this mission. I’m just so used to being management that I have lost the skill for being labor.

An Open Letter to my Republican Friends

Dear Friend,

As a daughter of staunch republicans I fully understand that you have probably been a republican as long as you can remember. Being loyal to your party is at your core. You may believe in smaller government. Fiscal responsibility might be one of the tenants of your beliefs. A strong America is attractive to you as is smart immigration regulation. Nothing is wrong with any of these things. I believe in some of these things too.

But what does the party of Donald Trump actually stand for this year? There was no party platform at the RNC. There was no public discussion of what Republicans want to accomplish in the next four years. Instead it was a bowing to the cult leader that Trump has created. I fear there is no real Republican Party left, just the party of Trump.

We are now a country that is more divided than we have been since the Civil war. Trump, since his inaugural address, has made it clear that he is only the President for the people who voted for him. This is something we have never seen in our country before.

The slippery slope I fear the most is if he is re-elected he no longer has any incentive to even make his own voters happy. He will have no use for any of the electorate and can do whatever he wants. You might have liked some of what he has done this term, but there is no guarantee you will be happy with the next because he has convinced the party not to create a platform.

If you have been in the least bit unhappy with the handling of Covid-19, or racial issues please consider who has been leading us through this. When the President points to protestors and says we need law and order to fix that, just remember this is happening while he is in charge. If he had any idea how to fix these things he could be doing it now.

There are two fairly well accepted sayings. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. The republicans have given Trump absolute power. Only the voters can change that. And if we want to improve our standing as far as Covid is concerned we need to do something different.

Many prominent republicans have stood up already and said they are voting for Biden because they do not believe Trump is the right person for the job. They have not said they are leaving the Republican Party. I feel like it is to the contrary, I think they are trying to save the Republican Party. All I am asking you is to please consider joining those republicans and not support this man who has not told you his plans for the next four years. I am hopeful that we can ward off the fire of a civil war Trump has been stoking. I want us to try and relearn how to compromise and all be Americans who care about each other.

One last thing. If you are a Republican who is at all embarrassed by what Trump has caused you to apologize for, you don’t have to tell anyone that you voted for Biden. In 2016 it was one thing to vote for him, but in 2020 it is a very different story. You may think you know what you are getting, but it can get worse.