Infrastructure Improvements Are Not Optional

In the summer of 1982 I had a summer job selling cable television door-to-door in Pittsburgh. Having never been to the city before arriving on my first day in my yellow VW Scirocco I had no idea how bad the roads and bridges were. Since my job sent me all over the city from one day to the next I depended on the kindness of my co-workers to give me to low down on what the neighborhoods were like.

Most of the time people would tell me if they were safe or if there were good places to get dinner, but one of my fellow sales people only used to tell me which bridges to avoid. At first I thought it was a traffic warning, but I came to understand that he was more concerned about a chunk of metal falling on my car from the overhead bridge suspension. Apparently most of the bridges in Pittsburgh back that were well past their useful life with few plans to replace them.

I did notice terrible potholes and dangerous curved exit ramps, but thankfully no loose bridge parts ever fell on me or my car. Sadly I did that car in myself one night going home from a company get together.

In 2007 when the Minneapolis bridge fell into the river I immediately thought of all those Pittsburgh bridges, thankful I had lived that summer. Infrastructure is something that has been an ongoing problem in our country ever since roads started.

No one ever likes to pay for up keep, but upkeep we must. I heard a story on the radio yesterday about home ownership that said that homeowners need to plan on spending between 1-3% of the value of their house on upkeep a year. I’m not talking about mowing the grass, but replacement of systems and infrastructures, like HVAC and reroofing. Sounds about right to me. This year I replaced one HVAC unit that was about 1% of the value of our house. One unit and I am already at the baseline.

So it only makes sense that the Government needs to do the same upkeep on all public works, like roads, bridges, government owned building and parks. The fact that we have not been keeping up with the upkeep must end. The good news is that infrastructure improvements are good American jobs. You can’t make a new road in West Virginia in China. And the infrastructure all over the whole country needs upgrading so that spreads out the work everywhere.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves and invest in our own safety and comfort by having the infrastructure we need. I don’t want to have to depend on the advice of local as to which bridges to avoid if I don’t want to risk having it fall in the river as I am driving over it.

Not So Happy New Mah Jongg Year

In any normal year tomorrow would be Mah Jongg Christmas, but (sigh), not this year. The new Mah Jongg card arrived today. In past years I would receive a call from an excited player asking if we were having an emergency Mah Jongg get together. The answer was always, “YES.” We dropped all pre-scheduled plans, making excuses to doctors or lawyers that we had to reschedule, just so we could all gather, new cards in hand and try and rid ourselves of our new found Mah Jongg virginity.

We would declare that this was a better card than last years, or a worse card than two years ago and try to win our first game with the new card.

People’s allegiance to favorite old hands would be transferred to the next closest hand on the new card, but if someone disliked certain tiles before they almost certainly still disliked them (ahem… 4 Dot Jan).

But the pandemic has canceled Mah Jongg Christmas, just as it canceled regular Christmas. I am certain that there are groups of Mahj players who are all fully vaccinated who will be gathering tomorrow, but not my young group. At best we are half vaccinated with the youngest still awaiting her first shot. So we will not risk getting Covid now when we are so close to full vaccination.

Online Mah Jongg will have to suffice. It’s not the celebration of the new card that I have had for the last 26 years, but this is not the normal year for anything. Nonetheless I wish all you players out there a Happy New Year for The new Mah Jongg card. Next year’s Mah Jongg Christmas is going to be a blow out.

Come On FedEx, Learn to Read

For the fourth time in a few weeks I received a very large package that did not belong to me. There is nothing more exciting than looking out my front glass door to see an unexpected package. Only then to discover it is no gift, just something Mis- delivered that belongs to my neighbor.

Usually I just walk the packages over to the neighbor’s house and leave them, but today’s box was too heavy and dirty so I texted her it was here. She had no idea I had been getting all her boxes first.

What I don’t get it how a FedEx driver can deliver to the wrong side of the street. My house is odd numbered and the the boxes go to an even number. The drivers have gotten so that they don’t even ring the bell to tell you a package is here. If they did I could get them to take their mistake to the right place.

It is not like my front door is close to the road. They would walk fewer steps from the street to my neighbor’s door. Since I can’t catch the FedEx guy in the middle of the job, maybe I need to put a sign by my walkway that says, “Are you sure that delivery is for this house?”

It is not like I can call FedEx and tell them this is happening since none of the deliveries are for me I don’t have a tracking number. I just wish the FedEx guy would learn to read.

Pandemic Silver Lining

Today, Russ and I went to church, after watching service on line, to get our palms and see our friends. I felt renewed. It was just nice to see real humans. Shay got to go and visit with Lynn and nothing makes either of them happier.

When I got home it was time for me to join a zoom celebration of my friend Paul’s mother’s life. Paul and I went to college together and I had visited his mother a couple of times in college and she had made a big impression on me. Like the first time we met when Paul and I and six other Dickinson students were taking a course on public speaking at Princeton. Paul suggested we drive up to his parent’s house unannounced and show up for lunch. Paul’s Mom did not bat and eyelash, pulled out folding chairs and set them up in their living room and made us all sandwiches. She was warm and welcoming and never said, “You should have called first.” So when I heard of her passing I wanted to attend the celebration of her life. This was easy to do since I did not have to travel to New Jersey, but just to my computer.

The family had a wonderful slide show of photos of Beverly through her long life with her husband, three sons, their spouses and children and other friends and family. The music was beautiful and the stories people told were sweet, funny and illuminating about her life. Although I did not know her well, I found myself tearing up during one of the songs. I was happy to see Paul and his wife Betsy and be able to be there for them. This never would have happened this way if it weren’t for the pandemic. I know memorials are not the same for the family when they can’t all be together, but there were over a hundred people on this zoom celebrating the best way we can these days.

After that zoom I had my pandemic book club. Another joy that has come out of the pandemic for me. I doubt I would have been asked to join this small group in other circumstances and I have loved our monthly zooms and chances to not just read interesting books, but get to know some wonderful women better. We are actually planning for a post vaccine real life get together in the future.

I know some people are chomping at the bit to get back to their old way of life. I am hoping to incorporate some of the new ways we do things into regular life. The slowing down has been a real silver lining.

Dog Science

While the storm was all around us, Shay shivered between me and Russ on the sofa. Shay does not like loud storms, especially thunder and lightening. Russ, trying to reassure her that it was going to be over soon, showed her the radar map on his IPad.

Shay could have cared less. Russ went on to tell her it was science and that we believe in science in our house. Shay was hearing none of it. Russ looked at me worried that we might have a science denying dog. How could this have happened?

Shay has never been allowed to watch FDN (Fox Dog Network). She does not subscribe to anything involving Tucker Carlson’s dog, if he has one. Who could trust anyone who does not have a dog?

Shay appears to like Dr. Fauci so we know she leans into science with a medical slant. She faithfully takes her heart worm and flea protection so Shay is not a complete science denier.

We hope we can rehabilitate her on the weather front. I think she understands climate change is real and perhaps she can spread the words to her dog pals. I suspect none of them likes Thunder unless they are the dogs of our former neighbors who created the Thunder shirt.

For now I am hoping my brown dog Shay knows that she is loved and is safe hear. I will keep at teaching her as much about science as a dog can learn. We don’t need more ignorance than we already have.

Back to Reality

I had three days of yesteryear with my friend Jan. As she was vaccinated months ago and quarantined over a week before I visited we were able to be in her house without masks. I quickly fell back into old life ways. It was wonderful.

As she lives in an area where there are no other people for miles it felt safe from the Covid big world. Today we awoke to a beautiful day, but we still got up and worked on the puzzle we started yesterday.

Shay and I said our goodbyes in the middle of the day. I stopped on the way down her mountain and collected moss for my garden. I passed streams and rivers full from the previous day’s rain.

As I headed home the first fourteen miles of the trip were on windy mountain roads. Although it was the middle of the day I did not pass another car, making the trip seem surreal. I stopped in North Wilksboro to get gas and put on my trusty double mask. Although every other pump was occupied I was the only person wearing a mask. For a moment I thought I had woken up from a bad dream where the world had been in a pandemic for the last year. Then I realized it was not a dream, I was just in a rural area full of pandemic deniers.

I was fairly certain I did not come in contact with Covid in the last few days, but I was not going to stop wearing my mask in public now. I had just had a taste of my old life and I liked it. Russ and I are due for our second shot in the next week, so it would be terrible to risk it all now.

Shay was happy to see Russ, as was I, but we are looking forward to the time when we can go back to visit Jan in the mountains and escape reality.

Perfect Mountain Day, Except For The Weather

Rainy days are not a problem for me and Jan so when we woke up in a cloud we knew that it would probably be a good day for a puzzle. Before I get to that I must report that we finally ate our pizza dinner last night at 10. The idea that it only took the pizza oven two hours to heat up was off by at least two hours. We went ahead and made the pizza at the four hour mark even though the oven could have been hotter.

It was worth the wait. Our arugula, pear, blue cheese and prosciutto pizza was great at ten and equally good for lunch today and the reheating only took fifteen minutes.

After lunch Jan got out a Liberty wooden puzzle and we started working it on the kitchen island because it had the best light. It is a very hard puzzle as the pieces are the wildest shapes. I think we will be up late working it, but thankfully we have already had dinner and can concentrate.

Jan’s dog Crocket and Shay have been very well behaved together, but they did not get any exercise today thanks to the rain all day. Tonight while we work on the puzzle the dogs are working on their raw hides. Shay is going to want to come visit more often after this raw hide.

I’m going to want to come back more often too.

Perfect Mountain Day…Almost

Sleeping is easier in the Mountains. Shay and I stayed snuggled in our comfy bed under a heavy down comforter. It is like a real vacation when you sleep in. Staying with Jan is a real vacation. When the sun came out we took the dogs out for a forest hike.

Shay was in heaven bounding over fallen logs as we went up and down the mountain. It was dog heaven. Later in the day Jan took Shay and me out on the Polaris for a tour of the area. The trees have not budded yet so we could see the mountains all around.

Tonight Jan is teaching me how she makes pizza in her pizza oven. She started a big fire inside the baking oven and is getting it heated up in preparation of putting the pizza in the oven…

So the heating of the pizza oven is taking much longer than we thought. I am going to have to post the actual pizza tomorrow. For now I am signing off as I am too hungry to keep writing.

Off to the Mountains

My darling friend Jan has finally left Texas and is living at her house in the mountains. As she was fully vaccinated ages ago and has been all alone at her house in the mountains for over a week she thought it would be safe for me to visit. She invited Russ and Shay, but only Shay was free enough to make the trip with me.

I was so excited to pullout my suitcase this morning, even though it was very dusty. For all my adult work years I had a travel job. Then when Carter came along and I wasn’t working I had the free time to travel. This last year of not traveling has been hard so I was so excited to be off to the mountains.

Shay and I got in the car in Durham after lunch and went west. Our only stop was to Drive though Sonic so I could get a diet Cherry limeade, the ultimate road drink. Jan’s new house is in Todd. She told me to call her when I was in North Wilksboro since that was the last place I would have cell coverage to give her my eta.

I did that just before I started to climb the big mountain on the outside of town. Waze said I had an hour to get to her house, but if I looked at the map it looked like it was only about nine miles. It is amazing what how long windy roads make the trip take.

Soon after heading up the mountain I realized I might have missed my opportunity to use a restroom. It was only an hour, I could wait.

After many hairpin turns up and down valleys and hills I came to the turn off for Jan’s house. There I was met with a gate with a “no trespassing” sign. A gate? Jan had not mentioned a gate. I tried to phone Jan only to discover no bars, not even that tiny little dot of a bar. I looked at the map to see if there was another way to get up to her house. Nothing.

I pulled my car over to the side of the gate road and Shay and I got out and walked around the stone pillars that held the gate. Shay took this opportunity to use the bathroom as I jumped up and down in front of the electric eyes that open the gate from the inside. Apparently I am not as big as a car, but this was not a comforting time to learn this.

I put Shay back in the car and I waited to see if any cars came by, perhaps someone else might be going in or out of her neighborhood. Not one car for fifteen minutes, not even on the main road. That being the case I decided it was safe for me to go down closer to the river and go to the bathroom.

As I squatted behind a group of trees I prayed that now not be the time for a car to come because I had waited so long to use the bathroom there would be no way for me to stop. I think the last time I did something like this was on my way to homecoming at Dickinson my first year out of college when Hugh Braithwaite and I drove up to Carlisle and stopped to go to the bathroom at an apple orchard. I got my car stuck on a fence post and I swore I would never stop to pee outside ever again.

Seeing no other solution I turned the car around and drove back the way I came looking for phone signal. Nothing for five miles. Not just no phone signal, no people, no stores, no nothing. Eventually I came to an intersection and saw a volunteer fire dept. No one was there. Then I saw a sign for a Post office. I pulled in and saw that it was open for ten more minutes.

The tiny post office had a lobby where the mailboxes were and another door to go in to see the postmistress. Another customer was standing in the six foot area by the postmistress talking to her. They talked and talked. Being Covid times I waited patiently out by the mailboxes, but in full sight of the customer talking. She eventually finished her conversation which had nothing to do with Mail or stamps and left. I came in and the postmistress had already departed the front desk. I called out to her. “Excuse me, do you know if there is pay phone anywhere?” She came back to the counter and I explained my predicament. She kindly picked up the cordless phone on the counter, cleaned it off and handed it to me.

I called Jan, who was horrified she had forgotten to tell me about the gate and the code. I drove back and got in no problem. It made for a very adventurous trip.

Getting to visit Jan at her beautiful home is well worth a slight detour and peeing outside. An added bonus is I am getting to sleep in a bedroom with an antler chandelier. I feel like I am in Beauty and the Beast as Gaston uses antlers in all his decorating. They didn’t have cell phones in Beauty in the Beast either.

Lost My Painting Arm

Last night I was having a hard time falling asleep. Nothing new about that, but the reason was new, my arm hurt. It was my right arm and I did not think it was a heart attack warning since everything else about me felt fine. Why in the world? I wondered as I tried to find a comfortable position. Then it dawned on me…my painting arm was out of shape.

After my summer of painting all my kitchen cabinets I thought that I had an invincible painting arm. Now I was feeling my frailties. I think that trying to paint the inside of the lectern shelves, with the weird angle I had to hold myself at caused me strain on my painting arm. I was definitely in the minor leagues of painters since I had only primed the lectern.

This morning I got up, arm healed and ready to go, and went back to the garage to knock out the top coats. I took a preemptive aleve and got to painting. I put the first coat on. Looked good, but definitely called for a second. I let that one dry throughly and went back for the second a few hours later. It was looking good, but I needed it to dry to judge if it was done. I came out and looked at the lectern in the afternoon sun that was streaming in the garage.

Looked like I needed one more coat on the big flat surfaces. Of course no one is ever going to look at this thing in direct sunlight, but I had the paint and my arm was holding on. One last coat on the outside. I did not see the point to add a third coat to the inside, which really very few will see.

And now it is done. I am letting it harden for the next five days before Russ and I attempt to bring this over to church. Cabinet paint really hardens up over weeks, but I think it will be good enough to move next weekend. Tonight I am taking some painkiller before I try and go to sleep. I don’t need two nights of sore-arm-no-sleep.

A Handy Husband

Being handy or good at fixing things should be a prerequisite for a husband as well as a wife. There is nothing better than having someone who can help me make my dreams real. I showed Russ a design for an expensive lectern and said, “I think we can make this and better than this expensive one.” He did not even blink.

Thanks to having every power tool known to man due to years of Christmas and birthday presents from Russ’ dad we were able to make this thing. Yesterday we finished the raw wood version which I helped make and Russ turned it over to me for finishing.

Today I sanded, primed and caulked. Tomorrow I will do at least two coats of cabinet paint. It’s starting to be better than my dreams and one tenth the price.

It has a place for the microphone holder to be attached, and a covered hole for cords to run down through the three shelves. The front wheels are regular swivel and the back are locking swivels. I think it will serve its purpose. It is all thanks to that handy husband.

It is never too late to learn to fix of make things. Thanks to YouTube there are instructions for everything. Don’t raise children who only know how to golf or play tennis, but make sure they also can build a simple box, fix a running toilet and rewire a lamp. Both boys and girls should know these things.

I probably had the skills, but not enough hands to do this myself. Getting Russ involved meant that it is perfect, square and strong. Thanks for being the handy husband.

The Smell of Spring

Oh, how I wish I had Smell-a-blog. The aroma of spring has surrounded my house. My Clematis Paniculata has encased my secret garden with a profusion of white blossoms and a scent that makes you feel like you are on a tropical island. I could sit outside and totally forget the whole last year if I just closed my eyes and took deep breaths of the citrusy floral perfume.

If only I could grab this smell in a bottle and open it up in the winter when the days are dark and dreary. For now I have to go outside on my terrace as often as the blooms are still on the vine and make as many smell memories as I can.

In the vegetable garden the scents are mostly of wet good dark earth. Last week I scattered a handful of arugula and mesclun greens seeds. They have germinated and the pair of cotyledon leaves have emerged from beneath the soil. It has been cold for the last couple of days, but not enough to hurt these babies. I expect the warming trend of the week to come to help turn the tiny buds into viable plants.

There has been a trend of eating micro greens, but that steals all the potential from the baby greens to come. Since I have plenty of beds I will just keep throwing out seeds every few weeks so that I can cut all the arugula I want regardless of size and not feel guilt that waiting a few more days might bring in a greater harvest.

For now, without any real food growing I am just going to have to drink in the aroma of the flowers. Thank goodness smells have no calories because I have binged something terrible on this clematis.

Shrimp Burger Fail

All the dark parts of the pan are shrimp burger parts stuck to the pan

In proof that even good cooks can fail I took this photo of tonight’s dinner. I was trying to make shrimp burgers no not the ones made up of fried shrimp like they have in Morehead.

I was just making it up as I went along. I pulsed one third of the raw shrimp in the Cuisineart to get a paste and I chopped the other shrimp into thirds. I probably should have quartered them, but I want real bites of shrimp in my burgers. I made bread crumbs from a King’s Hawaiian roll, but maybe I did not use enough bread crumbs. I minced two shallots and that was probably the only thing I got right.

I mixed a raw egg with a tablespoon of mayo, some lime juice, Dijon mustard and sriracha and then mixed everything up together. I did not chill the already cold mixture, which most certainly could have helped.

I heated a non-stick pan, but did not add any butter, another mistake.

I took handfuls of the mixture and patted it into lose patty shapes, but they started to fall apart soon after touching the pan.

I tried to flip the piles of shrimp and that was an epic fail. Much of the mixture stuck to the pan, but I served the shrimp mess to Russ just the same.

I put come cocktail sauce on my pile o’shrimp next to my asian Coleslaw and took a bite. DELICIOUS! It looked like a hot mess, but the flavors were perfect. The shrimp were not over cooked and the mess was nicely seasoned with the sriracha.

I had some of the mixture left over so I put it in the refrigerator and will try again tomorrow with a cold mixture, a hot pan and a little butter in it. Even if I can’t make it into a burger I know I will like it.

Late to the Schitt’s Creek Game

Carter loves Schitt’s Creek and she implored me to start watching it. I think I half watched one episode years ago and then didn’t really give it a chance. Three days ago, when I had nothing else to watch while needlepointing I started Schitt’s Creek. Thank goodness nothing else is going on in the world because I have been addicted ever since.

I am not saying that I watched TV all day. I did do laundry, cooked some stuff, cleaned some things, wrote some things, read a book, walked on the treadmill, covered the cars in case of hail, played words with friends, but all as a way of staving off my desired to watch more Schitt’s Creek.

Now that I have finished season one I know I am fully addicted and am already worried about the day I finish all the seasons. I am starting a list of non-TV things I can do so that I slow down my Creek consumption. Boy, do I ever need the Pandemic to end.

Isn’t Ireland Lovely?

My father, giving Carter and art history lesson. I can only imagine what he said.

Happy St. Patrick’s day to all, Irish or otherwise. In celebration of today I went back to look at photos of a trip my father took us on to Ireland in 2007. Carter, all happy toothed, was all of eight years old and it was her first trip to Europe, certainly giving her the bug of travel.

This was a purely adult trip with my two sisters, my parents and us, so very little was done to entertain Carter differently than the rest of us. She did a great job rolling along with us. One of my favorite artifacts from the trip is a video clip Carter made while we were riding in the car along the Bay of Bantry. There was nothing but green countryside, and rocky coast, yet Carter exclaims, “Isn’t Ireland Lovely?”

What a happy time that was, before the crash of 2008, before the Pandemic. Yes, Ireland is lovely. I look forward to the day we can travel like that again. I miss the innocence of Carter discovering the bigger world for the first time, but still love to see it with her.

With my mother in Kenmare

Shay Test Day

My mother came to spend a few hours with me today so I could wash her quilt and have lunch together. As Russ had a busy day of calls and a meeting with clients he decided he would go downtown to his empty office and make his calls before going to the clients. He also needed to water the office plants so it was a good plan for him. It was not such a good plan for Shay.

This was the first day Russ was away from Shay in 12 months. She has reveled in being his constant shadow. She has three beds in his home office and we have taken to calling her the supervisor. In the morning, Russ may be in his office as early as five AM, but Shay keeps banker’s hours. She likes to sleep in until 8:45 when she usually pops up and goes right to work by Russ’ side.

With him out of the house today she was at a loss what her role was. Who was she supposed to herd? She kept by my side all day, but she did not have any opportunity to appear on zoom calls.

After my mother went back to the farm Shay lay by my side as I needlepointed. With every little sound outside the house she perked up thinking Russ might be coming home. It was a long sad day for her, but hopefully we can do this a couple more times before she has to go cold Turkey and be without him all day. For the record, I missed him too.

Where Are The Flowers?

I love daffodils. Growing up In Connecticut, where it seemed like spring would never come, the appearance of the thousands of daffodils that dotted the woods on the hillside of our creek gave me a glimmer of hope that one day I could stop wearing my wet itchy wool mittens my grandmother knit me, that chapped the inside of my wrists.

Daffodils were also the flowers that appeared next to our garage in New Canaan when I was four after I had “planted a bunch of peat moss” the month before. Since it was our first spring in that house I told my Dad that I had planted those flowers, explaining about the peat moss episode. He never corrected me and let me believe for at least a decade that I had planted those flowers.

Every house I have ever lived in has has daffodils. In my last house in Washington, DC I had a lovely long garden between my row house and my garage. (I still can’t believe I had a house with a garage at my young age. So much upkeep.) In order not to have any grass to cut, as I knew that would be a fail, my garden was all patio and flower beds along with a big gold fish pond. In my beds I had daffodils for spring, that then got over planted with herbs and summer flowers.

Here I have daffodils. I plant some every year, but unlike the ones in Connecticut, which multiplied every year, mine disappear bit by bit. I am yet to find the underground culprits who must be eating the bulbs. This year not only are many of the bulbs just gone, but most of the plants that did come up don’t have any flowers at all. This is a most distressing situation and I am not going to suffer letting the foliage hang around until it has been fulfilled to grow again next year.

So much for feeding voles, or moles or some other rodent. I am going to have to find another way to have my favorite flowers. Just as I think I have critters controlled with my new vegetable garden this happens. Nature is daunting. It was so much easier when I was four.

Russ to the Rescue

I have spent the last few years raising money, working on plans and supervising the building of our church’s new fellowship hall. Because of Covid I basically made all the design decisions, which is quite frankly was easier than doing it by committee, which is what Presbyterians do. The last item we needed is a new rolling lectern to go with our fancy AV system.

I looked online at thousands of lecterns. They are the most over-priced things I have ever seen. I ordered one, but it was horrible so we sent it back. So I did what I always do when I can’t find what I want, I decide to make it myself. I showed Russ a design I wanted to do and asked if he would help me. It is more like I would help him and of course he said yes.

I thought it would be a weekend project. I purchased all the materials and we were ready to go yesterday morning. We got started, then Russ had to leave in the middle of the day for an appointment that took almost three hours. We got back to work and then got the call about getting vaccines, so we left for another hour. By last night we had not gotten as far as I thought we would have.

This morning we got started early, skipping watching church so we could work for church. Thanks to Russ’ perfectionism we have gotten it almost done, except for some trim and the top. We finally gave in and said we would have to finish tomorrow. That just means he will be done constructing it and I will then take over with the sanding, filling in the screw holes, priming and painting it. That will take me the rest of the week. When it is all done it will have cost me $200 in materials and will be so much nicer than those $5,000 ones made out of chip board.

I never could have done this without Russ. I just couldn’t put some ugly lectern in the beautiful building I spent five years working on.

Shot Surprise

Russ and I were working away in the garage building a lectern for church when an unknown number from Durham was ringing my cell phone. Against my normal habit of not answering my phone I did. It was Darius Russell, owner of Russell’s pharmacy wondering if we still needed a vaccine.

“Yes, we do,” I answered enthusiastically.

I turned to Russ, “We can go get vaccinated right now.” He nodded calmly and I thanked Darius and said were would be right over.

“Can you get here in half an hour, I have some for you.”

Darius and his wife, own this pharmacy over by the Durham Branch of the Food Bank in East Durham. It has been a rough neighborhood, but is improving. Two years and a half years ago they opened in an old bank. They met when they attended the high school of Science and Math and have called Durham home for the last twenty years after going away to college.

Getting our shots there was a nice experience and Darius is a friendly guy. I heard about him from our friends the Prebles who also got vaccinated there as they had been on a waiting list for leftover vaccines.

Dr. Darius Russell

We got the Moderna vaccine and Darius will call us in three weeks to schedule our follow-up second shot. Anyone can be on the list for extra vaccines, so if you are in Durham and don’t mind venturing over to East Durham call Russell’s Pharmacy at 919-908-1060. They have lots of space to sit and wait your fifteen minutes after your shot and you will be supporting a local small business. And plenty of parking behind the store.

Now we have to cancel our appointments for shots next Friday, but we don’t have to drive all the way to Greensboro, twice.

Hard to believe that we have started our shots and by my birthday we will be fully vaccinated.

Greensboro FEMA Vaccine Site Has Appointments!

My friend Deanna just alerted me that the FEMA site giving Vaccines has lots of appointments. Russ and I went on line and had no problem scheduling appoints at the drive thru at the same time next week.

They are giving 3,000 shots a day. Half inside the old Dillards and half in the parking lot of the Four Seasons Mall. It is easy to get there as it is right off 40. The shots are Pfizer first shots for the first three weeks, the second shots the next three weeks and then two weeks of Johnson and Johnson.

Here is the link to schedule an appointment – click return to home to start your appointment.

Sharpen Your Cutco Knives

Today is the official one year anniversary of the Pandemic in America. Who would have thought that when the lockdown was declared we would still be here one year later. Although Covid been worse than I ever imagined the fact that we have 3 vaccines being rolled out is a miracle thanks to those who work in science.

Sometime before the lockdown my friend Denise told me about her big job of individually wrapping her Cutco Knifes in cardboard to send them off to the factory to be sharpened. As a proud Cutco owner I thought that was a big job I needed to do too. Then the pandemic came. At first Cutco was closed since it is in NY, so no sending knives. Then with all the Pandemic cooking I was doing I just couldn’t part with even half my knives. So I just kept using them at not optimal condition.

Last week I got a Facebook notice that there was a Cutco Sharpening event this week so I signed up for an appointment. For people who are very important to me I sometimes give Cutco as a gift so I knew I might do a little shopping.

I wrapped up 28 knives in dishcloths and arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn for my allotted appointment with Cody King, a very knowledgeable Cutco expert. He was able to work magic on my 25 year old knives. A couple have to be sent back to the Factory because they are too far gone, but that lifetime Warranty is the beauty of Cutco.

One of the best things I learned is how to use an odd thin knife I never understood was for melons and pineapple. I just happen to have a pineapple I need to cut tonight so I am going to test out my newly learned knowledge.

I adore my Cutco knives, even dull they are better than any other knives, but now that they are freshly sharpened they are a dream. I did have to warn Russ to be careful since he has had cutting accidents in the past.

Since we all have been stuck at home cooking for ourselves for the whole past year I want to remind you to sharpen your knives. If you want Cody’s info contact me. Sharp knives make every pandemic easier.

Dirt Day One

At last I think today is the perfect day to start an inaugural crop in my new garden. The frustration of finishing the build of that garden just as growing season was over has finally come to an end.

It has been warm here for a few days and at last we have gone more than a week without rain. The temps should be in the seventies for a few days and then only down to the sixties as highs so it should be fine to grow some mesclun and arugula.

I used my Japanese hoe, which is a tool with a hoe side and a claw side that is about eighteen inches long. Perfect for loosening up the winter soil. I sprinkled some seeds across my rich earth in one raised bed and then gently crumbled dirt on top to just lightly cover the tiny specimens.

I didn’t want to heavily water the bed so I filled a new spray bottle with water and misted the area where I had sown the seed. It is nothing to look at today, but hopefully in five or six days we can see some tiny sprouts and then by Easter there will be edible greens growing in the raised bed.

I am going to plant these same crops again in three weeks so I have a continuing supply for lunch. If you have never tried to grow arugula you should try. It is the easiest plant and there is nothing more tasty than fresh arugula from the garden with a drop of good olive oil and good squeeze of lemon, a few big shavings of fresh Parmesan and twists from the pepper mill. Really I could live on that. Only a month to go.

Good Weather Makes Everything Better

Sometimes the littlest things can totally lift my day. It’s an extra bonus when it happens first thing. Since it’s Tuesday I had my weekly outing to Loaf to pick up our club bread. Today’s was a rye and red durham wheat. On the way downtown I drove through the dry cleaners to pick up Russ’ shirts. The nice girl who helps me was extra friendly and when she brought the shirts to the car and was hanging them in the back she said, “No charge today, you have coupons in the system.”

I love the system! I never have a coupon for anything. It may have only been $10, but it made me particularly happy.

Then I had to go to Lowe’s to pick up materials to build a rolling lecture for our new fellowship hall at church. I had ordered one online and it was deemed a “piece of junk” so we sent it back. I searched every possible lectern seller and did not find any I liked u dear $5,000. That is just crazy. So I recruited Russ to help me build one we based on a design of an expensive one we liked.

I had a really nice clerk help me load the materials on my cart and then into the Land Cruiser. I didn’t ask for help, this person just volunteered. That never happens.

Lastly I went over to church and finished putting the kitchen equipment away and made a seven page layout document to show everyone where everything belongs. One other church member has volunteered to make the labels, but now she knows what they should say and where they should go. This was a project I was happy to check off my list.

I came home and since it was in the seventies I weeded my garden in preparation for coming planting.

I am thinking that the good weather, and the coming vaccinations is making everyone a little nicer. At least it felt that way today. Tomorrow’s forecast is even better than today. Imagine what I can get done!

International Women’s Day Needs to Be Longer

Hurray, it’s International Women’s Day. A day to foster equal rights. Wait, we are still having this fight. When I was in junior high school we were fighting for equal rights. The ERA spent years trying to get ratified and you are telling me it’s still not done.

We don’t need International Women’s Day, we need International Women’s years until we have equality. Sadly I think we are are going backwards. Misogyny is more prevalent than ever. And now misogyny bleeds into white supremacy and those two best friends have been happily trotted out into our National life thanks to 45.

The pandemic has thrown a body blow to women, who have stepped back to take care of children at home, or parents at home or just because they were already in service industry jobs, which went away.

To hell with one day! Women make up more than half the population so why are we settling for one paltry day? We need to make everyday about fighting for equality. The strong men I know agree and are not afraid of powerful and smart women. Russ would love to get about another dozen strong women in his firm today.

To all the men who think women are less than you, or should serve you, just a reminder you didn’t spawn from nothing. You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for your mother’s. Trying to keep women down does not raise you up.

Thanks to all the strong women who have fought for women’s rights, but we are not close to being over. Don’t let International Women’s Day be a once a year thing. Keep the fight alive everyday.

Needlepoint Christmas is Coming

I have more than a little guilt about the number of hours I needlepointed this weekend. Then I justified it by saying, “This might be our last cold weekend.” Yes, Christmas is coming, at least in needlepoint world.

The good people that finish needlepoint, that means turning stitched canvases into the ornaments they are meant to be, are still backed up from last year. Every year the Christmas deadline to have your stitching done gets earlier and earlier. I remember the day when you could finish a canvas before Labor Day and still get it back in time to spend the Christmas season on your tree.

This year you better have your canvas’ done by June. So this weekend I pushed through on this 6×6 Santa. It is bigger than the normal ornament, but I like varying sizes. I plan on finishing the last bit or gold boarder during the Harry and Meghan interview with Oprah tonight. No guilt in needlepointing while watching royals.

Tomorrow I get started on the ornaments I have to do for my needlepoint exchange groups. The time is getting short. I know I have taxes to do and writing projects to finish, or actually start and then finish, but somehow those deadlines don’t feel as overwhelming.

Somehow Christmas is always coming at our house.

Old Enough to Be Back in Style

Russ started laughing out loud as he read something on his iPad. He turned to me and said, “We are cooler than I thought.” The barometer he was using was an recently published House Beautiful article, “10 Things From Your Grandparents’ House That Are Back In Style.” As he read me the list I laughed. We are actually the grandparents in scenario, we just don’t have a grandchild to spoil.

Here are the things they listed as now back in style:

1. Chintz

2. Floral wallpaper

3. Needlepoint

4. China Cabinets

5. Pink Tile

6. Ornate Frames

7. Decorative Plates

8. Colored Glassware

9. Quilts

10. Pintuck Pillows

For the record we only have 9 of the ten. You might think that the hardest one to come by is “Pink tile” but we have a whole full bathroom of it. It is the only original bathroom left in our house and it is in such perfect condition I have not pulled it out. You can’t beat the old craftsmen who out that bathroom in 65 years ago so I am so happy to learn that it is actually back in style.

Both an ornate frame and pink tile in one room

In just one photo of our living room you can see both decorative plates and needlepoint. Just a couple of years ago I replaced the Chintz pillows on that sofa. Perhaps I should get them out of the attic. Russ was laughing most about the needlepoint and quilts since those things have been with us for forever and are continually multiplying. The only thing we don’t have are pintuck pillows. I never liked those so there can never be a comeback.

That middle pillow is needlepoint

I always say, just wait long enough and it will come back in style.

Chapel Hill Wegmans

The rumors started when the car dealerships on 15/501 started moving, a Wegmans was coming to Chapel Hill. Or was a Wegmans’ coming? Years we waited. First the old buildings for three car dealerships with all the parking lots surrounding were torn down, then the land lay fallow. Through multiple springs and summers nothing happened. Finally last year small stakes appeared on the empty land and then a foundation, some walls and acres of parking.

Yes, Chapel Hill, it is a Wegmans. It opened last week. Everyone I know went. I heard that despite the cavernous size people were shoulder to shoulder. So I stayed away. My friend Kathi and her husband Steve, who really don’t cook, even went as if on a date, perusing the whole store for hours.

People asked me my opinion. I had none. I hadn’t gone. The advice I got was, “go early on a weekday morning to avoid the crowds.” So I did that this morning. The parking lot felt very full, but perhaps because of the circuitous route you have to take in it. The store had lots of shoppers and it seemed like an equal number of workers, but I was able to social distance from them all.

The produce section was big and full of fresh fruits and veg, but it should be since the store just opened. Russ needed chili peppers and the selections were slim on those, but the mushrooms were plentiful. I was able to get two packages of our favorite Lion mushrooms and previously I have only gotten those from the mushroom grower at the farmer’s market.

As I was looking for miso paste I was directed to the “fermented foods” refrigerator case. I have never been in a store in the US with a whole case dedicated to fermented foods. There was also a huge case of horseradish with six different types. Usually I am hunting for the only horseradish between the refrigerator canned biscuits and the individual servings of cozy brand rice pudding at the Harris Teeter. One thing I loved was a “G” scale train that ran on a track suspended from the ceiling above the fermented and fresh pasta cases.

I window shopped the large selection of vegetable based meats in the freezer since Russ loves those. Across from the vegetarian/vegan freezer cases was the gluten free aisle. It certainly did appear that if you have any special diet Wegmans has an aisle for you. On the other hand I had a hard time finding the eggs and when I did I had to wait for three other people in front of me to make their selections because the eggs were in a small glass door case. Seemed like horseradish was given more space than eggs.

I did not go down all the health and beauty aisles or the canned goods, but I wound my way over passed the cheese, deli, charcuterie sections on my way past meats/game/poultry on my way to seafood. I was there to find a good fish for dinner and I was not disappointed in the selection. I got two hunks of mahi mahi. The fish monger could not have been kinder. I am going to have to take Russ over to shop the “smoked fish” display which is its own tall refrigerator case. I skipped the bakery and just did a drive by of the Poké bowl station and all the other lunch type foods of pizza, made to order subs and the like.

The store is really perfect for people who don’t cook as it seems like you could get any meal you might want pre-made. I would like to get to spend a little time with the right glasses on going up and down the aisles just looking at what is available as inspiration for new recipes, but I think I need for the newness of the store and perhaps the whole pandemic to be over before I can do that. Wegmans will certainly give other stores a run for their money, but since nothing was very cheep, except the large container of cherry tomatoes, it is going take the top end shoppers from Whole Foods and Fresh Market. I think Food Lion shoppers will still be Food Lion shoppers and quirky Trader Joe’s devotees may stop in at Wegmans, but still love TJ’s. Bottom line, while everyone is still cooking at home most of the time due to the pandemic Wegmans will be busy.

March 4 is Grammar Day

Today is Grammar Day. I would like to dedicate this day to my cousin Mary Hayward Mundy, who is the best grammarian in my family. If I had my act together I would write my blog and send it to Mary for editing before I post it everyday. Since I limit myself to twenty minutes of writing and then straight to posting, I sometimes don’t even proof read, let alone really edit my stuff. In the world of daily blogging I subscribe to the adage “perfect is the enemy of posting.”

I digress. I am so happy that the Three Precenters did not try and over shadow Grammar Day by trying to take over the Capitol again. I think that plenty of the insurrectionists should spend this day with a Little Brown Handbook. Have you read what those Q Anons write? They might not be so confused if they used correct grammar.

I have two pet Grammar peeves. The first is newscasters and TV reporters who don’t know when to use “she” or “her”. I think that it should be the number one test news directors give applicants. Then there should be a three strikes rule, which includes he and him. They say the wrong thing three times and they’re out.

My second peeve is the correct use of “fewer” and “less”. It is a really easy rule. You say “fewer” for things you can count. For example, “I should have fewer shoes.” Each shoe is distinct and I can count them, given enough time. You use “less” for things you can’t count. “Please put less water in the batter.” You would not say, “Please put fewer water in the batter.” You could say put fewer tablespoons of water in the batter because you can count the tablespoons.” It’s not that hard, but it seems to be the one thing that I always catch when someone says it incorrectly.

As it is Grammar Day, I would love to hear what your favorite grammar mistakes are. I bet that “can” and “may” are on the top of some lists.

Open Letter to Ed Bascome at Epcon

Hey Ed, I had the pleasure of touring one of your 55+ communities. You seem to have a good niche market there as I learned that you have communities in twenty-eight states. I was looking for a friend as my husband is never leaving our current house.

The guy who was showing me the house was a real man splainer. While looking at the living room I asked him about these tiny walls that were no more than nine inches deep that came out from the longest wall in the room. Man Splainer told me they were “wing walls.”

Looking at them I could tell they were purely decorative, and not load bearing so I had a follow up question of, “Why would anyone want those wing walls.” Man Splainer did not have an answer, he wasn’t a decorator so I forgave him. I asked if someone buying a new build house could have those tiny, useless, wing walls left out.

Man Splainer practically prostrated himself at the wing wall and told me, “Under no circumstances could you get this model house without the wing walls, because Ed, the President insists they are built into this model.”

“Really? So you have to build these little walls, drywall and mud then, paint them, then lay a floor that goes around the walls, which is a lot more trouble that laying a floor along a straight wall. If someone doesn’t want them you wouldn’t just not put them in and save yourself the time and money it takes to have them?”

“No, absolutely not. Ed insists.”

Since I was having so much fun with Man Splainer I continued. “So, once someone buys this house and they own it, can they redecorate the inside anyway they want?”

“Yes, the only rules about redecorating are about the outside.”

“So, a new homeowner who might have a big, long sofa, which they may want to place against this wall, who owns those wing walls now, must pay someone to come take them out, patch the floor that was underneath them trying to match the floor that goes throughout the rest of the house, repair the wall they were attached and repaint, just so they can put their big furniture against this wall?”

Man Splainer, was so embarrassed to have to say, “Yes, that is what would have to happen.”

Ed, you are being blamed for this ridiculous policy. This entire conversation reminded me of Jack Nicholson in the movie Five Easy Pieces. Jack was in a diner, where he wanted some plain wheat toast with his omelette, instead of the roll it came with. The waitress said no substitutions. So Jack ordered a toasted Chicken salad Sandwich on wheat with his omelette, hold, the Mayo, lettuce and chicken salad, just so he could get the toast.

Ed, don’t be the waitress. Let customers hold the wing walls.

May is Just Around the Corner

On January 25 I wrote a blog called “We need vaccine manufacturing to increase. You can reread it here if you want.

In it I suggested that Biden could use the war powers act to get Merck to help manufacture vaccines. I just want to say to the White House, “Good on you for listening to me!”

Now in all seriousness, it was not that creative an idea, so I am certain many other people also suggested it, but I am just thrilled that it is actually getting done.

This means that there will be enough vaccine produced by the end of May for everyone to get vaccinated. The faster the better because we need to shut down the hosts for the vaccine to continue to live and mutate. By the way, everyone who has not had the vaccine is a host. So don’t be one. Get the vaccine.

And don’t be like Texas. Continue wearing your masks until everyone is vaccinated. Now is not the time to let your guard down. There were 5,053 Covid cases in Texas today. Let’s see what happens in the next few weeks after Governor Abbot of Texas has removed the mask mandate and allowed all business to open. It’s just a little premature. May is so close.

Waiting For Falling Food

The summer between my sophomore and Junior year I adopted my dog Beau. He was a sweet mixed terrier mutt and was eternally grateful to be saved from the shelter. I did not want a dog who begged for food from the table so I trained Beau to sit quietly while my three roommates and I ate at our dining room table.

Being a college student I certainly was not the best dog Mom I could be. Beau’s food was nothing more than kibble and he longed for whatever the humans were eating.

The nicest room in my college house was our dining room. We bought a used Victorian dining room set from the local used furniture store. We had a side board, table and four matching chairs. Dinners were about the only time all four of us might be home. We had a rotating schedule where one of us was in charge of cooking dinner for the house Monday-Thursday.

When we sat down for dinner Beau would come and sit in the dining room with us. As the dinner conversation would get underway we noticed that Beau would move around the table and stand beside the person who was laughing the hardest. We came to understand that Beau was doing this in hopes of having some food fall out of the laugher’s mouth. Begging was forbidden, but Beau was allowed to be our canine vacuum so any food that fell off the table, or out of your mouth was fair game.

I can’t remember much food falling out of anyone’s mouth, but it must have happened at least twice since the Beau could be counted on to be the laughers sidekick. That trait stayed with Beau his whole life and thus he especially liked when I had parties because that was his only chance for laughing food loss. Who says dogs are not brilliant?