Not a Normal Night’s sleep

I am not a sleep walker. I don’t think I talk much in my sleep. Last night I had some crazy dream and in it I was doing something with fabric, that much I remember. I woke up and one of my really good embroidered pillow cases was totally off a pillow and it was torn in half all the way around the outside edges.

I had a vague recollection of doing this in my sleep, but have no idea what I could have been dreaming I was doing that involved ripping fabric. I guess I should be thankful that I did not dream I was filleting a fish or cutting my hair, but still I had to be fairly violent to rip the pillowcase all the way around every seam.

At this point I am a little afraid to go to sleep and see what happens tonight. If I could choose I guess I wish I would go walk on the treadmill in my sleep, or vacuum. I don’t want to destroy anything else in my sleep.

Summer’s Bounty

When I left home Monday morning there was no rain in the forecast for the whole week. This meant I had to depend on Russ to not only harvest the garden at least once while I was gone, but to water twice. He did an excellent job of keeping things alive. He did harvest, but told me when I got home I had a lot to do.

This morning, as the hottest day of the year was just beginning to pre-heat I went out to take stock of the garden. Being away from my garden for four days is a little nerve inducing. I was greeted by an abundance of Japanese eggplants ready to cut. The yield today was eight nice fruits. Enough to make into a freezable meal or two.

I cut some of the ever present birds eye peppers and jalapeños. Picked two quarts of pole beans. And started in on the tomatoes. This was my largest day of tomato harvest for big tomatoes. I picked at least 20, Roma’s, Rutger’s, Campari’s, along with a pint of Cherry and grapes. These tomatoes will keep me busy this weekend.

I got my first two mini butternut squash. I look forward to seeing how they cook up. I picked some left-to-long okra because Russ did not know you have to cut it everyday.

The only thing I think might be spent are the cucumbers. The plants are not as robust and there are just a few small fruits growing. I can hardly complain as I have harvested easily over 100 cucumbers from my four plants.

One bit of information that is never on a plant tag or seed packet is how long a plant will produce. They all tell you how long it takes a seed to germinate and how long until production of the first fruit, but nowhere does it tell you how long the plant will live. Of course that variable is dependent on so many things, but some where I would like to know the average. Am I able to get the most out of the plant or has it lived it’s useful life and it’s time for me to pull it up?

Every fall I hear stories of people who have tomatoes on the vine well into October and have been getting fruit for four months. I don’t think my cucumbers are long for this world, but I am hopeful for my tomatoes.

I am praying for some rain because this heat is mighty hard on everything, especially me as I water. It has been an excellent year in the new garden. I have been well pleased with it’s bounty. I have not taken a photo of every basket I harvested, or anything I just picked and handed off to a friend, but here are some photos of my baskets as I have picked.

Why We All Need More Mah Jongg

Today was the culmination of four days of Mah Jongg classes down at the beach. First, I have to thank my friend Kate who hosted me. I just couldn’t go and teach classes without a great place to stay. Staying there is a dream. My friend Reba has had me so many times and now Kate has done it twice. What generous friends they are.

As my last two beginner classes wrapped up today I got the best compliment I have ever gotten from a student, “Besides teaching Mah Jongg are you also a stand-up comic some where?” Mah Jongg is fun and I try and make learning it as fun as possible. It is hard to learn at first so making light of things makes it easier.

The other thing that happened today, that has never happened in 24 years of teaching Mah Jongg, is a group of four of my students, who sat together at one table, gave me a tip. It wasn’t a tip like, “Buy Apple stock,” but actual cash. I tried to give it back and they stuck it in my purse and insisted. They had already paid for the class, tips were unnecessary, but those students for sure will all get A’s on their report cards.

As I drove home after classes ended I realized one thing that was most positive about teaching for four days, not one person mentioned, politics, the state of the world, Covid or anything else that is unpleasant and tiresome. No one disagreed or fought, it was all cordial and fun.

It was interesting that I sat next to a duplicate bridge director while I had lunch yesterday. He told me his goal was to be feared by the players he was directing. I thought that was a terrible goal. Games should be fun. Now I know many nice bridge directors, so I am not commenting on bridge as a whole, but I do think Mah Jongg is a kinder game. At least the students I have are kind. I feel like if we just played more Mah Jongg the world would be a happier place.

I forgot to take photos of the afternoon class, but here are the ladies in the morning group. Great job to all the new players. I wish you many Jokers.

Time to Put the Hammer Down

I hope you didn’t throw your masks away. Looks like the Delta variant along with the selfish people who chose not to be vaccinated we are going to have to go back to wearing masks inside. If only every person who was eligible had gotten a vaccine as soon as they could we might have starved Covid of hosts, but all those science deniers prevented that from happening.

Tomorrow the federal government is going to announce that all civilian government workers will have to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. New York and California are doing the same thing for state workers.

Google is requiring the same thing for their employees. Thanks Google for doing the right thing. Hopefully all other companies will follow suit. OSHA said weeks ago that companies could require employees to get vaccinations. It’s time that companies protect us from the unvaccinated.

Facebook, Netflix, BlackRock, Morgan Stanley, Saks Fifth Avenue, the Washington Post, ascension Health and Lyft are all requiring employees to be vaccinated. I am going to support as many companies who are doing that as possible.

On the other hand some states are banning mask mandates. What a ridiculous way to govern. They have no idea how bad Covid could get. Why would you say we are not going to help prevent our own citizens from dying, ever. So I am not going to support any of these states; Florida, Montana, Arizona, North Dakota, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee and South Carolina. Considering that Florida and Arkansas have the worst numbers of cases by population you would think they might want to do SOMETHING to curb Covid, like masks and requiring vaccines.

God Loves Teachers and We Should Too

Today was my second day of teaching Mah Jongg. Yesterday I drove three hours, taught six hours and ate lunch with my students. Today I taught six hours, but had lunch with my friend Reba, which was a chance to rest. This is just two days of work in a row and I am exhausted.

Part of it is that I had ten students yesterday and today 22 different student so I had to spend extra brain power just remembering all their names. Today’s two classes were also both beginner classes so I have to do a lot of talking as well as reading all their faces to judge their level of understanding. Not that I don’t love doing it, but it does make me appreciate what real teachers do day in and day out.

Even though I am teaching the same material to both the morning and afternoon classes I am constantly adjusting and readjusting how I try and convey the information based on how well people are taking it in. I am only able to do this because we are doing it in person.

I think about all the teachers who were trying to teach over zoom this year. How in the world can you tell if people are learning when you can hardly see them. Carter told me about the class she is taking this summer at college. She is one of three in-person students and the 12 online students don’t often have their cameras on. It has to be frustrating for her professor. I am happy that Carter makes the effort to spend her work lunch hour going to campus to take the class in person, if for no other reason to show respect for the professor.

Here’s to all the teachers of all kinds who impart knowledge in all their creative ways. You deserve so much more than you get. I am in awe of you. Now I have to go to bed early so I can get up and do it all again.

Mah Jongg Last Beach Hurrah

I’m back at the beach teaching four more days of Mah Jongg as my last group of classes for the summer. Originally I was supposed to teach a beginner class Tuesday, Wednesday and a Thursday morning and a strategy class Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. But when they told me we had more than a whole class of beginners on the wait list we moved the strategy class to all day today and added whole new beginner class.

This meant I had to get up this morning at five and drive down to start teaching at 9:30. I was very thankful that the strategy students could handle an all day class. Normally I don’t like to keep the same students in class more than three hours because I think it is information over load, but these ladies did great today.

After class I came to my friend Kate’s house where I am staying this week. Kate is a fantastic hostess. She provides everything a guest might want, but my very favorite thing is her guest room bedside clock with plugs on the front of it. There is nothing better than not having to crawl on the floor to plug in my chargers.

The next best thing Kate provides is a sweet dog to sit with me when we watch TV. Lucy, her fourteen year old lab jumped up to snuggle with me while I wrote this blog, but she was very coy when I went to take her photo.

Kate and I went to my favorite Beaufort Grocery for dinner. True to all things North Carolina I saw someone I know. Sitting at the table next to us was my friend Debbie Aiken who served on the Food Bank Board with me. North Carolina is a small world full of really nice people.

Thanks to all you wonderful Mah Jongg players and Kate who make my spending a week at the beach the most fun work anyone can do.

Tomato Compote

Tomorrow I’m back to the beach to teach my third week of Mah Jongg. I am teach four full days and so I will be leaving Russ in charge of the garden. Please pray for rain this week because he does not have time to hand water the garden the way I like it.

This morning I watered and I did a big harvest. It is ideal to pick everyday, but I can only get Russ to harvest one day while I’m gone. I did my best to search for all the cucumbers because nothing gets out of hand like a hidden cuke.

The tomatoes have been super producing. I gave a bunch to my Mom, but still had a big bowl of cherries so I made this tomato compote from the New York Times. It is made in a slow cooker, but the recipe gave no information about cooking it with the top on or off.

So I put all the ingredients, tomatoes, thyme, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, honey, salt and pepper in the crock pot and cooked it on low with the top on for six hours. It cooked down, but there was still lot of liquid. So I am going to continue to cook it overnight with the top off on low.

Russ and I enjoyed some of it on a grilled piece of rosemary sourdough, topped with ricotta and the compote on top. It was very tasty. The best part is it will keep in a jar in the fridge for a few weeks, thus lengthening the life of the tomatoes.

We Think We’re Young

Tonight our friends Lane and Jon came over to Durham with two of their dogs and we met up at Ponysaurus Brewing. We were easily the oldest ones there sitting at the outdoor picnic tables surrounded by young people, many with babies.

Our Babies, Shay, Petunia and Rosie were just as cute as the human babies and oh so popular with the under two feet crowd.

We had a fun night drinking beer, although I had kombucha which I really liked. We had pizza and then walked up the road to Two Rosters for ice cream where more children admired and petted our dogs. We were the oldest people there too.

It helps you stay young if you hang out where young people are. We watched as one good mother of an eight year old tell him not to kick a ball near two year olds. Made my heart feel happy that their are good disciplinarians out there.

Downtown Durham was hopping with young people. Makes my heart happy to live in such a vibrant place.

Fiction Sport Vs. Real Sport

Ted Lasso is back…oh yeah and so are the Olympics.

I feel guilty about feeling so underwhelmed about the start of the Olympics while feeling so excited about the return of my favorite coach, Ted Lasso.

My guilt has not been relieved by watching the opening ceremony, of course it is still airing as I write, but the lack of a full audience in the giant stadium and the low key Japanese style in the first half of the opening is not building hype in me.

I feel sorry for all the athletes who have trained most of their lives for their Olympic moment, only to go through it without the presence of their families. Families who also sacrificed for their athlete, not getting to make the once in a lifetime trip.

I do like the cool wooden Olympic Rings made from wood grown from tree seeds brought to the 1964 Olympics by teams from all over the world. The rings feel more Scandinavian than Japanese but have lots of symbolic meaning.

I am sure I will eventually fall into Olympic excitement as the sports begin.

On the other hand I can hardly stand it that I have to wait until every Friday to watch my beloved Ted Lasso. It is by far the best TV Apple TV produced, or any network for that matter. The positivity of Ted is something I hope continues this season because I can really use more of Ted’s wisdom.

So welcome to sports High Season. Let the games begin.

Relative Hilarity

I wonder if there has ever been an academic study that shows that people who are related find the same things funny. I have spent the last two days laughing with my cousin Mary over all the same things.

Our morning started earnestly as Mary came out in my garden and helped me do the daily harvest. We packed some things up to take to my parents and promptly left them on the counter and drove up to my parents new house, down the street from the farm. My mother greeted us with distress as she could not get her TV or Netflix working. While Mary visited with my father, I fixed my mother’s TV, gaining many “best daughter points.”

My mother left to go to play bridge and Mary and I took my father out to lunch at a new restaurant in Danville. Having Mary around my parents put everyone on good behavior. We pulled into the restaurant and despite the very full parking lot I got the number 1 parking spot. This is not an usual occurrence, which Carter is always furious about my never ending luck when it comes to parking.

After lunch my Dad needed us to stop at his new pharmacy. Since his walking isn’t great Mary got out of the car and helped him into the store, which has an old fashioned lunch counter in the pharmacy. As my Dad conversed with the lady there Mary looked around.

We went back to my parents and Mary found four painting’s of my mother’s she wanted to buy so I sold them to her, getting me even more, “best daughter points.” We packed up the car said goodbye to my Dad and made a stop to visit my Aunt Janie Leigh. After those hours visiting we meandered our way home.

Once all the old folk visiting was done Mary asked me if I knew what the “Beaver Bots” were. Not wanting to suggest it was some mechanical sex toy I confessed I had not idea what she was talking about. She went on to say she saw a schedule for the “Beaver bots” in the pharmacy a few hours before, but had not idea what that was.

Not knowing exactly I told her to Google beaver bots, Danville because now I was really curious what it was that would be advertised in a pharmacy. Turns out is was not Beaver at all, but the Otter Bots, a new minor league baseball team. In Mary’s defense Beavers and otters could be confused.

We got ourselves into hysterics about how anyone could come up with such a crazy name, be it Beaver or otter connected with bots.

We told Russ about this at dinner tonight and Beaver bots quickly morphed into Beaver butts and Beavers and Butts and then we had devolved into thirteen year old boys and fart jokes. If someone not related came into the conversation half way through I am sure they would not find the same things funny that we did. I would just love to know if humor is genetic.

It has been so much fun to have Mary here and our laughter filled visit will sadly end tomorrow morning. Just in time for me to take my mother for eye surgery. Don’t I already have enough “best daughter points?”

Best Cousin Visit

It only took 27 years to get my cousin Mary to visit us in Durham. Today is the day that she finally arrived. It’s not that we haven’t seen each other regularly through the years. In fact I have seen Mary, a second cousin, ten times more than I have seen my first cousins on the other side of my family, just not at my house.

So when Mary FaceTimed me at my mother’s estate sale we hatched up this plan that I would bring her loot to my house and she would have to come pick it up.

She arrived this afternoon with gifts for us and Shay since Mary is an excellent dog Mom. Then we sat down to catch up on all the family news. As dinner time approached my cousin Leigh and her husband Peter arrived so we had an actual mini Michie family reunion. Sorry to other close by cousins.

It was great to all be together. Leigh had missed Mary’s mother’s memorial service so we had to make up for that.

We told stories, and laughed and voted who had the most outrageous story. Mary said I won, but it’s not a contest you want to win.

Russ’ introversion kicked in and he went to bed and Mary and I stayed up talking after Leigh and Peter went home. Tomorrow we go up to visit my parents since they could not make it to the memorial service either.

At least we will have plenty of car time to tell more stories that hopefully make us laugh more than cry. It’s just great to have her her, finally.

Rejection of Uniformity

I think I was in all girls boarding school in the seventies the first time I heard the acronym NOKD. It stood for, “Not our kind, darling,” best said with a Long Island lock jaw. I was wholly offended because I am certain I was more NOKD than I was TK, (their kind).

For the record, I think I heard the phrase from an Alumna, not a classmate. For the most part people, and certainly all my friends were a friendly welcoming bunch. Somehow all having to wear the same plaid indestructible sports kilt day after day was a great equalizer. But hearing someone say out loud that she was not interested in being with people who were not just like her sounded dull and overtly snobbish.

Overtly snobbish is something I try and shun despite being brought up a WASP in the rich white enclave of Fairfield County, Connecticut. There was nothing to be learned from only knowing people just like myself. Nothing exotic about white bread.

So today when I was having lunch with a friend and she complained about a relative who moved to a gated community so they could live a life with PLU (People Like Us) I was immediately brought back forty five years. PLU is the cleaned up, but no less offensive way of saying NOKD.

How sad an existence it is to discount whole swaths of humanity as not being worthy to know. How boring a world it is to not expand your knowledge of all kinds of communities, people and cultures.

I don’t live in the most diverse neighborhood, but to counter that I try to get to know many different kinds of people. Even as a child, I would search out the person who was “not from here.” I am not saying I don’t love people who are a lot like me, just that I also like “the other.” Fear of “the other” is a great divider. Getting to know people different from yourself makes you realize we are all more alike and we can learn from each other.

So like my friend at lunch, I am not interested in just PLU, quite the opposite. Unclench that lock jaw and talk to someone not in your group. You may make a new friend and discover that a different kind is just as good.

Grooming Matchmaker Needed

For the most part I like to let people manage their own relationships. There is hardly any upside for me to be involved, but there is one that requires my constant intervention and it is no win for me; that between my dog and her groomer.

My dog is very picky about who does her hair and where it gets done. Clearly she can be deemed a prima Donna in this area. She has had at least dozen different hair dresser relationships. Most fraught with issues.

When Shay first came into our family I would take her to a groomer that had a store. Being left for the day with a room full of yapping dogs was not good for Shays nerves. Getting the actual grooming was not the issue, but the noise, oh the noise. Shay would request a martini upon arrival home.

We tried many different store fronts, driving Shay all over central North Carolina. Then I learned of an at home groomer who came to our house. This was ideal for the princess. We had to change out the shower head in one bathroom so there was a hand wand, and had to find a good spot for the groomer to set up her table, but after trying different places we found the right one and it was a relationship that worked. Sadly, that come-to-me groomer decided to sell real estate so Shay lost her best groomer.

Once Shay had a taste of at home beauty care that was all she wanted. No going back to those noisy store fronts. The pandemic hit and Carter came home and did some home grooming, but it was not the best thing for their relationship.

I was back in the hunt for a new beautician for the pup. We found a different mobile groomer who came with a truck. Shay only had to leave the house for the driveway and that was acceptable to her. It was pricy, but everyone was happy.

Then one day the groomer did not show up at the appointed time. Apparently he had left one company and was going to another with no notice to me. We waited for him to give us a new appointment in his new truck. All good, Shay actually had her to best haircuts ever in that new truck.

I thought I had finally found a relationship for Shay with her hairdresser that made everyone smile. Then I got a call from the owner of the new truck (not Shay’s actually guy) telling me the truck was in for six weeks of repair. Ugh! Are you kidding? You can’t tell a girl who gets her hair done every six weeks and is due for her next do, that she will have to wait at least another six weeks. What’s a girl to do?

So now I am back in the market for a new person to provide Shay with her day of beauty. Ideally a mobile or at home person is best, but I may have to settle for a store front in a pinch. I am really looking for a labradoodle grooming match maker.

If you have suggestions please send them our way. Shay is not happy with me cutting things off of her and is in need of a summer refresh. I am happy to be the driver, but want to be out of the groomer/dog relationship after that.

Don’t be a Denier

There are so many science deniers these days. It used to be that only people of small religious orders did not believe in things like medicine, putting their life in the hands of god. I on the other hand, put my health in the hands of doctors who God made.

I understand that not everyone understands medicine so rather than expanding their minds they just close down, but what about science when it comes to weather? I feel like even the least educated can see how weather has changed over the years.

As a child growing up in Connecticut we did not have air conditioning in our house or our cars. I can’t think of any friends who had air conditioning so it was not just those of us who lived in drafty barns. Summer would come and we had our windows opened with screens in them. If it got particularly hot we had box fans, but for the most part it never got so hot that we could not function.

In the worst part of August we would leave relatively cool New England and make a two day drive to South Carolina for our beach vacation with no air conditioning. I take that back, we had air conditioning in the Holiday Inn’s we stayed at on the drive down one night and the drive back. Even in Pawleys Island August we just had fans and the ocean breeze. If the middle of the day had a land breeze we might go in to Georgetown to go to the movies, but most of the time it was bearable.

That was fifty years ago. Today I do not think I could survive a Pawleys Island summer without air conditioning, even with a good ocean breeze.

My cousin who is a Astro physicist told us 30 years ago not to move anywhere west of the Mississippi because there would not be enough water. She predicted serious droughts. This morning on CBS Sunday morning there was a scientist talking about the 22 year drought that is happening in the west. My brilliant cousin was right, but even knowing it then, no one listened enough to change quickly enough.

We can’t do anything about what we did not do yesterday. We can only do better today and tomorrow and everyday after that. It is time to pay attention to scientists. They don’t have a reason to lie, in fact most scientists I know are almost incapable to lie.

We can’t air condition ourselves out of climate change. We have to embrace all the little things we can do to reduce global warming as well as all the big things, which starts with embracing science and electing people who care about not just next week or next year, but fifty years and two hundred years from now.

In my lifetime I have seen everything get warmer, longer. My life has not been that long so far. If I can measure in a part of a life imagine how bad it will get over multiple generations. Don’t be a denier.

Garden Lessons

This morning I did a big harvest as my tomatoes are ripening on the vine. Since I have so many I let them stay on the vine until they are really red. This is providing us with the sweetest and most fragrant fruits. You know that real tomato smell is something you can’t get except when you just pick a really ripe tomato.

Today’s basket is deep with veggie

All the meals around hear have been tomato centric. Yesterday I made gazpacho and tomato pie. Also BLT for lunch and Russ put cherry tomatoes in his eggs this morning. I did make some okra for dinner tonight to go with our leftovers from last night. It is so easy to be a vegetarian when you have a prolific garden, except for that perfect candied bacon on the BLT. So not quite a vegetarian.

I pulled out my zucchini and yellow squash plants this morning. I had gotten a boring worm in the stems. Apparently my organic ways had not worked. I replanted a few zucchini and am doing my best to keep the worms off the stems. We shall see how this round does. I did get plenty of zucchini, but only a few rounds of yellow squash.

The last zucchini and flowers

My lettuce is bolting, but since there is nothing else for me to plant in its place until next month I am just keeping it. The peppers are prolific as well as the cucumber.

Okra flower

I am very happy I put the fence in a foot an a half from the back wall because I am able to walk along the back of the fence and pick all the things that are growing over the fence. The very best plant I have is a cherry tomato plant I bought at the farmers market for $1.50 at the end of March. So far I have had at least 15 pounds of tomatoes from it and there are at least 200 tiny tomatoes still on it.

The tomatoes growing over the fence on the backside

Pole beans have been good, except on the front where the vines grew outside the fence and the deer came and ate them. I need to buy some more Parmesan Cheese because the basil needs to be turned into pesto. I have already made a few quarts that I have frozen into smaller portions, but there is always more basil.

I am most thankful for my beautiful zinnias. They have been a huge attraction to bees who have done a great job pollinating everything. I leave the seed heads long after the flowers are spent, rather than dead heading them because the bees adore those spent flowers. Anything we can do for bees we should all do.

I should have weighed my harvest everyday, but didn’t think of that idea until today. Most of the time I take photos of my basket. Today’s was especially beautiful.

This basket was two days ago

Nothing Sweeter Than a Kitten

My friend Kristen is a life long animal lover. She comes by genetically as her mother has been saving animals Kristen’s whole life. I remember a story she told me once about a hurt fawn who her mother kept in their house until it was safe.

Kristen is mostly known for her love of Chihuahuas. Presently they make up ten of her dozen dogs that live in their own special room she built in her house. During Covid one of the animal rescue organizations that Kristen helps asked her if she would foster a pregnant mother cat. In a weak moment Kristen agreed and took in the single mother and helped birth a family of kittens, a first for Kristen.

Due to her superior cat midwifery, less than a month later, the shelter asked if she would take in another knocked up mother cat. Now a pro, she brought another littler into the world.

Kristen turned a sun porch on her guest house into a chattery and the kittens and mothers have been living in the lap of luxury. This also separated the dogs and cats into their own houses. One by one,some of the kittens and one of the mothers have been adopted. Currently Kristen has three black kittens, Okra, Gravy and Biscuit, born on April 11 available for adoption.

There are two darling Grey kittens, Eclair and Eggplant, born on May 11 still looking for forever homes, as well as their Momma the 8 month old Elsa.

If you have been thinking about getting a pet please consider adopting one of these sweet kittens. They have had all their shots and are fully socialized. You can contact Kristen Teer if you know her, or me if you don’t and I will out you in touch with her. Or you can go to the animal rescue site for

There is nothing better than the love of a sweet animal. It fills that place in your heart you did not know needs filling.

Hope For North Carolina

Tonight Russ and I went across the street to our neighbor’s Mark and Mary Eileen’s house to meet Chief Justice Cheri Beasley who is running for US Senator to fill the seat of retiring Richard Burr. Beasley joined Mark’s Law firm of McGuire Woods after being a two-term Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court.

Cheri Beasley in the center, with Mark Anderson, Shannon Tucker and myself

This Senate race is one of the most important races in the midterm elections. Eyes are on North Carolina. Watching the current members of Congress I think it is high time we add people with brains and experience. Talking with Beasley tonight it was clear she has both, although her experience is with the law and not politics, which I see as a huge bonus.

Beasley has only recently decided to run so it is important to let North Carolinians know that she is a candidate for the Democratic Party in the primary in March. She and I talked about the work of the Food Bank as she and her husband have been long time supporters. She is clearly a bright and skillful orator, as well as being thoughtful in responses to questions about issues that she thinks are important to all North Carolinians.

As we have seen in the last five years, elections are important. We can’t be spectators in democracy. It is up to all of us to educate ourselves about the people we chose to represent us in all halls of government, from school boards, city halls, state legislatures and US Congress.

I am very impressed with Cheri Beasley. I invite you to learn more about her too. We can’t wait until March to leave the decision on who the candidates will be to a few people who come out to primaries.

Yesterday it was reported that Fitch, the people who rate governments for bond ratings announced that the US government AAA rating had a down grade warning and the reason given was the reduction in good governance of our government. Literally, legislatures who are dishonest are going to cost us more money when we issue bonds. A bond rating organization is officially telling us our break down of democracy has to be accounted for.

Now is the time to ensure that we elect people with great integrity and a firm grip on the constitution. Cheri Beasley has that experience to help ensure that good governance is the norm as well as representing the needs of all a North Carolinians in Washington.

Liberty May Give You Death

I am so tired of states where really stupid politicians are doing really stupid things. This week in Tennessee, the head of public health in the state, Michelle Fiscus was forced out of her job by the Republican lawmakers there because she was letting young people in the state know their rights about their health care and vaccines, a law that was passed 34 years ago.

These law makers took her informing teenagers of their rights as a step to far to offer young people vaccines and not only did they dismiss their own public health Dr., but they cut all funding for outreach about all childhood vaccines, like the regular MMR vaccines kids must have to go to school. These politicians, who are not health care providers themselves are making Important public health issues into political issues when they have nothing to do with politics.

The idea that giving people information is something that should be outlawed and is going backwards hundreds of years. Vaccinations have saved more lives than we can ever know. There is no reason to let measles, mumps and rubella to get a strong hold among our children ever again. Without vaccines polio would still be a common thing. Thanks to Dr. Salk and all the people who took the Vaccine sixty years ago it has practically been wiped out.

Cases of Covid are rapidly rising in States where the populations are far under vaccinated, Like Tennessee at 38%. That is a ridiculous number. Republican politicians should be begging their constituents to get vaccinated because right now the people who are dying are the unvaccinated, who happen to be their voters. Why would you want to kill your own people?

I happen to be related to Patrick Henry, who is famous for writing, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Well, liberty to not get a vaccine may give you death. Don’t be a fool and think, “I’m not letting any government tell me what to do.” Sure, stand on that right to die prematurely. In Tennessee, your politicians don’t even care to have actual Doctors give you information that might save your life. What fools, you are sheep being led to slaughter. You can have all the liberty you want in the afterlife.

I Just Remembered How Much I Like Making New Friends

There was one thing that Covid stole from us, the ability to make new friends in person. Now I feel blessed with lots of wonderful old friends. During the pandemic one of the highlights for me was a deepening friendship with some college friends. Two I really didn’t know that well in college, but we have had regular zooms that never would have happened if it weren’t for the pandemic.

The last two days I have had the fun of teaching MahJongg at the Coral Bay Club. It is my fourth or fifth year teaching at the beach, the second time this summer. This week’s class is strategy so I have many students from previous years beginner’s classes. It is fun to see people I have taught still playing and loving the game. It is even more fun to get to know new friends.

I am so thankful for my friend Kate who is hosting me. I have hardly seen her in the last 18 months. Tonight we went to dinner with her best friend at the beach Lynn. There is nothing I like more than meeting the friends of my friends. I feel like if I like you and you like them then I will like them too.

I can hardly think of a friend of my friend’s who I don’t like. It’s kind of like a friend stamp of approval.

The last two days spending time with new people and old friends alike reminded me how much fun it is to make new friends. Old friends are still the best and thanks goodness for them, but you really can’t have too many friends so meeting new ones is just a bonus.

Spreading the Mah Jongg Love

I’m back at the beach today for more Mah Jongg classes. A cute group of women from my last beginner class had me come and do a private lesson with them today. They had just learn last month and had played a couple times already so I was thrilled with their progress. Learning to play Mah Jongg can turn into full blown love of the game, but you have to keep at it in the beginning. These ladies have caught the bug.

Excellent students, Elizabeth, Laura, Barbara and Kara

Tomorrow I am teaching two groups of Mah Jongg strategy which is an upper level course. There will be fairly new players along with more experienced players. The trick is to teach it in a way that both groups will get the most out of it. I am so excited that so many people want to take their Mah Jongg to the next level.

One of the nicest things about coming to the beach to teach Mah Jongg is the friends who generously let me stay with them while I am here. It is the only way I can make this work.

Nice view from Kate’s porch

This trip my friend Kate is hosting me at her house 12 Paws. Her two labs, Lucy and Salty greeted me as soon as I came in. It is dog heaven here at 12 Paws.

I am ever thankful that Kate is such a generous hostess. I will have to get a good night’s sleep to be ready for tomorrow’s class.

Limited Reservations Means Life’s Back

In an attempt to relearn how to be social we asked our friends Sara and Dave if they would like to go out to dinner tonight. We asked a whole day in advance which seemed so far in danced compared to how we have been living. Thankfully they were as free as we were so Russ went to make a reservation.

34 hours in advance for a Sunday night dinner and our only option was 5:15 or 8:00 PM. That sounds like prepandemic reservations to me. I consulted Sara and we agreed we were more on the blue hair schedule than the hipster and took the 5:15.

With such an early reservation it meant we only needed two meals today so by 5:15 we were actually hungry. We were eating on the terrace and many other tables were already occupied at 5:15 and by people much younger than us. So much for our blue hair designation.

We had a yummy and leisurely meal, swapping stories of broken down cars through our lives. After a good three hour meal we went back to Sara and Dave’s where we were invited to sit in the living room to continue our story telling. The pandemic has made us decide to use the good rooms in our houses since there is no reason to save them anymore.

It was a most glorious and normal evening of fun with friends. Something we have gotten out of practice with and am happy to do again. We are going to do this again, but now we know we have to plan more than one day in advance if we want to eat at a normal time.

Four Homegrown Items in Every Meal

There is a rule in our hose during high garden output season; except for breakfast, you have to eat a minimum of four items from the garden at each meal. Without this requirement some lovingly grown vegetables might go to waste.

Some meals are easier than others to ensure four different vegetables make it. Last night I made a base of grits, with some crumbled goat cheese top with a melange of vegetables; okra, green beans, cherry tomatoes, red pepper from the garden and an onion and a handful of corn not home grown. (Russ actually added a bird’s eye pepper to his so he had a bonus vegetable.) It was delicious and a great way to eat okra since I don’t have enough plants to make a whole okra dish.

For lunch I had a BLT, the reason to grow tomatoes. I don’t grow wheat and therefore can never count bread as home grown, even if it was homemade. I don’t raise pigs because they would just be a pets. I don’t have an avocado tree ( yes a BLT is better with Avocado). But My big tomatoes are finally ripening so there is that most important part of the sandwich from the garden, I still needed three more garden items to get to four. The answer was two types of lettuce, both red leaf and green leaf and a leaf of basil gets me to four.

Tonight, being Saturday, we had lobster rolls again like we did last Saturday. No that is not a rule, just that I got lobster tails on sale and why not. The only home grown item in the lobster rolls were chives. The chives were certainly needed for the lobster roll, but not to get me to four vegetables. We had my favorite summer Greek salad, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, basil (all from the garden) with avocado, feta and balsamic vinegar. So the total tonight was five items.

Russ is a good sport about eating some of the many refrigerator pickles I have made with the abundance of cucumbers. Just eating some of those pickles gets you four items because I also put homegrown dill, coriander and bird’s eye pepper in them.

Thank goodness I grow so many herbs because that really helps get me over the finish line on my four item rule. I think I may have to make some soups or else Russ is going to tire of that Greek salad.

This is Going to Take a While

Summer is a great time to work on a quilt. When it’s too hot outside to garden and friends are away on vacations I steal away in my sweat shop. Despite it’s moniker, the sweat shop is the coolest room in the house since it is on the lowest level in the shade of the pine forest. I have great lighting and a big TV so spending time there day or night is a pleasure.

I have been wanting to make a scrap quilt that doesn’t actually look like it is made from scraps. I have many tiny pieces of fabric from the many projects of the last few years. So I decided to make these small three inch squares with a star design. It is a slow process that involves lots of cutting and ironing.

Since I am making a king sized quilt I estimated how many of these little squares I will need at 180. 180 three inch squares would hardly make a crib quilt, but I am going to put them together with lots of larger white squares. On most days I make only about five squares. So far I have about forty. At this rate it will take over a month just to do the squares with color, given that I have some planned days away from home teaching Mah Jongg.

I guess I need to set a goal to get this top done before I go to Maine so I can have it quilted while I’m gone. I am going to have to up my daily output by fifty percent. Being such a task master I am going to order myself to spend more time in the sweat shop. Frugality in wanting to use my scraps is exhausting, but satisfying.

Back to Lipstick?

To me, one of the joys of the last 18 months has been the lack of makeup. With masks donned there has only been a need for mascara, nothing else since it would just get wiped on the inside of the mask. I have not missed lipstick one bit.

As a fully vaccinated person I have embraced not wearing my mask in public. I like being able to smile at people, but today I realized how colorless my naked lips are. I searched my pocket book for some remedy to this and only came up with floss, a nail file and a chapstick.

Buying lipstick is not a favorite task of mine. The thought of all those previous customers touching even the tube is more than a little gross. Spraying alcohol on the actual lipstick does not give me comfort. Just swiping the color across the back of my hand never seems to give me a good idea how it will look on my lips.

When I was a little girl my father worked at Avon, the door-to-door cosmetic company. Avon used to make tiny lipstick samples in little white one inch tubes. My father would bring bags of samples home and I would have a heyday putting lipstick on dolls.

Oh how I wish companies would make those kind of samples now. I wouldn’t even mind paying for them, just so I could try out colors at home. It has been so long since I have even been in a real store, other than the grocery, and I am not interested in going back.

Maybe I should just keep permanently wearing a mask. It solves the pale lip problem and hides all sorts of chins. Even colored lips doesn’t do that.

I’m Sick and Tired of the Unvaccinated

Today I learned of four people I know who are all unrelated who have not gotten the vaccine. One claims an unknown medical condition, but the others have no excuse other than they don’t believe in them.

Since the beginning of the year when it was apparent that the US was going to have enough vaccine for the whole country there were skeptics. The line was to be nice to them and let them come around in their own good time. At first, when it was hard to get a shot I was fine with the anti-vaxers holding back. Let them see how we all do with the shot.

Then the lines slowed down and the people who did not want to get vaccinated dug in their heels. Before the Delta variant had taken hold the numbers of Covid cases was going down thanks to the roughly half of the country who got vaccinated.

There were very few side affects of the vaccine and the big news was the only people getting Covid and dying from it were the unvaccinated. The real life data is overwhelming that the vaccine is safe and keeps you alive. That should be enough to convince the skeptics. It is not.

Now cases are going up, especially in areas of the country when the number of vaccinated are well below 50% of eligible people. Lottery’s to win millions of dollars were started to convince people. Governors, especially Republican Governors begged their citizens to get the vaccine . It is falling on deaf ears.

I am tired of having to be nice to people who are playing Russian Roulette with the health of the country. Not getting the vaccine give the virus the opportunity to mutate and grow stronger. Your hesitancy is nothing but selfish. Yes, there are a small group of adults who can’t get the vaccine and unless you are one of them you should, because they can’t. There are also all the children under 12 for whom the vaccine is not approved yet. You should get the vaccine for them.

I am not a health care worker, but if I were, I would be sick and tired of taking care of people who get Covid because they couldn’t be bothered to get the vaccine. Especially the ones who still deny Covid even when they are dying of it.

Mostly, you should get the vaccine for yourself and your loved ones who will miss you if you die or get very sick and have to be cared for. At this point you are nothing but selfish if you don’t get the vaccine and I am tired of being nice to you while you think about it.

Covid is not a political issue. It is a public health issue. Stop reading conspiracy theories. You are being duped. No one will feel sorry for you if you get sick because you didn’t get the vaccine. The data is fairly strong, the people dying of it are the unvaccinated and the numbers are going up thanks to the Delta variant and we still don’t know what this new Lambda variant is going to do. Whatever worry you have about the vaccine should be a lot less than the worry about Covid. Over 600,000 real Americans are DEAD. I bet most of them would take the vaccine if they had the chance, but they didn’t. You do have the chance. Do it.

Tomatoes At Last

For years I tired to grow tomatoes in my garden. I could get the plants to grow, produce a tomato or two then the plant would suddenly fail and die. I tired year after year. I had my soil tested, I tried different varieties. Nothing worked. In my heart I thought it was something in my soil, but never could figure it out. Last year I bought a potted tomato plant and kept it on our patio and it succeeded.

This year I tired again, but now with new raised beds full of a raised bed soil mix. It was all new. My tomato plants have grown huge. I have hundreds of tomatoes on each vine and they have finally started ripening. Today I even had my first BLT for lunch.

Growing tomatoes is really the whole reason for my new fenced in vegetable garden. My friend Kathi gave me two tomatoes from her fenced in garden from her mountain house last year. They were so delicious I knew I had to figure out how I could grow tomatoes.

I have tried six different varieties and can hardly wait to see which ones I like best. For now I am just thrilled to have produced some vine ripened tomatoes.

What to Watch

As a vegetable gardener on a tiny scope, I have always had great respect for farmers. When wildlife eat my unfenced vegetables I am only out a few dollars worth. Those vegetables were only going to be consumed by my family, they were not my income. When we go days without rain, I can hand water, but I think about farmers who are at the mercy of the weather.

This long weekend Russ and I binge watched Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon. It is an amazing eight episode show staring the bombastic, right-wing Jeremy Clarkson of car show Top Gear and car journalism fame. Jeremy has long been unapologetic about burning lots of fossil fuels driving ridiculously expensive cars at high speeds across the world.

Despite his great difference in politics from me I find him to be entertaining. The education he gets trying to farm his 1,000 acre cotswold farm himself is transformational. Not to miss a chance to capitalize on his ignorance, he pairs up with Amazon Prime to share his first year of farming with the world. It is the number one show on Amazon in the UK and worthy of that rating.

I highly recommend watching Clarkson’s Farm if for no other reason than to get a real appreciation for how hard farming is. A real treat is also the introduction of Kaleb, the 21 year old farm hand who saves Jeremy all season.

Russ and I were very interested in how much Clarkson was paid by Amazon and as of yet have not been able to suss that out. We also could not figure out if the supporting farm workers were also paid for appearing in the show. We think they must have been given that Kaleb showed up with a new car half was through the show, to the pleasure of Clarkson.

Of course after binging this season I am waiting on pins and needles for season two. We will see if Jeremy gets to be a better farmer along with having a better grasp that climate change is real, softening his right-wing ways just a bit.

My Childhhod Fourth of July

When I was a kid, the Fourth of July was the biggest party of the year. I grew up in the small town of Wilton, Connecticut. Our town had a parade from the town graveyard to the center of our village, as it was quaintly called. Once in a while I marched in the parade as a Girl Scout, but that was not what made the fourth big in my eyes.

The real party was held at our tiny club, The Wilton Riding Club. The riding club, or “the club” as we all called it was a bucolic swim and tennis club, which also had horse back riding as a side activity. The club had a barn where parties were held with an attached snack bar. In the world of clubs it was less than a junior varsity place, but one we loved.

Growing up every kid knew every family who belonged to the club. It was a small group. We had a day camp and a swim team so all the kids spent all day everyday at the club. We ran wild as our parents literally dropped us off before eight in the morning and reluctantly picked us up sometime after four or five.

As a little kid, less than nine or ten a parent might hire an older kid, like an eleven year old to keep an eye on you during the day, between camp and swim team, but once you hit double digits most parents let us run wild all summer. Sometimes parents were around, playing tennis or eating lunch at the snack bar, but mostly the club was kid heaven.

A photo of the riding club today looks exactly the same as it did in 1970

The Fourth of July was the only day of the summer when kids and grown up alike were all at the club. The day started with an intra club swim meet with fun additions to the normal fare like family team relays and a greased pig contest. That was when a Crisco covered watermelon was thrown into the pool and people vied to try and get it out of the pool, thus claiming ownership and the title. There was also a tennis tournament, but kids were not part of that activity as the serious players whacked balls across those red clay courts.

As evening approached people changed into red, white and blue preppy clothes and we had a big picnic on the lawn in front of the party barn. Wilton was a dry town then, which meant the club could not sell liquor, so members brought their own bottles and left them on the bar with their name written on the label

The Fourth of July was one of the only events where members of all ages would gather together. My father named the “old” people the “porch members”, because they only sat on the porch of the barn and drank and talked. I laugh now because I am the age that the porch members were then and as a kid I thought they were ancient.

One of the highlights of the Fourth of July were the family games, egg toss, three legged race and the like. I felt like I was at a distinct advantage because I had a young Athletic father and we did well in those games.

As the evening went on, fried chicken and potato salad was put out for dinner and the kids were relegated to eating on the lawn so the adults could sit at tables on the porch and in the barn. I think many porch members never ate, as drinking was the main sport they engaged in.

As darkness engulfed the club and the fireflies made themselves known the exhaustion of the day took kids out one by one. It was a big long day of family fun. It was the kind of scene that inspired Ralph Lauren ads for years and he certainly never came to the riding club.

As we celebrate a quiet Fourth of July here today, better than last year’s lock down, it will never be anything close to the fourth’s of my childhood. I can close my eyes and see the Hurdman, Clough, MacClea, Lawson, Heeks, Shipman, Hesse, Conrad, Vartabedian, Martin, Perry, Cowie, McLean, Colina families and so many others all dressed up on the lawn at the club year after year. It was one big happy family, it was a happy birthday to America for us kids. One I will always cherish.

An Excuse for Lobster

Sometimes I make something for dinner that I have been so looking forward to that I forget to take a photo. Then after everyone has eaten it and I need to write a blog I’m like, “Shit, I wish I took a photo of dinner.”

Tonight we had our friends the Blanks for dinner. It was out pre-July 4th celebration. As we have not traveled or gone to a restaurant in so long I decided I was going to go all out on our dinner tonight.

All out when you have a garden is not exactly the right description. Every meal we eat these days must include at least three things from the garden. I made some pole beans in a shallot dressing with a couple of our first cherry tomatoes. Marinated cucumbers, nothing exciting, just the crunch and the sour of the vinegar to be the foil to homemade potato chips. So far nothing sounds like it is that special, but it all was in service to the star, Homemade lobster rolls.

I have been craving a lobster roll and since our trip to Maine is still six weeks off I broke down and made our own. I bought lobster tails and cooked and picked them myself. Adding a lot of lemon juice, a touch of Mayo and some chives from the garden and a tiny amount of finely chopped celery for a bit of crunch. There were no split top rolls to be found, but I did pan toast Hawaiian hot dog rolls with butter just like in Maine.

It takes a lot of lobster to make a roll, but it was totally worth it. Shay was sad we did not share with her and thus this sad photo of no dog lobster rolls face.

Thanks to the Blanks for coming all the way over for Raliegh and giving me the excuse to make something decadent. When the rest of the meal comes from the garden it seems justifiable to have lobster.

Happy fourth everyone. Fly your flag tomorrow, no matter what party you are. No one party owns the flag and we all can celebrate our Independence. Never forget democracy is not a given and we must work to ensure it flourishes.

Time to Be Social

Today was the first day since the pandemic where I had two social engagements in one day. I am marking this day on the calendar as the day things really go back to normal. I first had lunch with my friend Jeanne. We became friends 12 or thirteen years ago. Then she and her husband moved to Alexandria about six years ago. I would see her a couple times a year while she was gone, but never enough. Then they moved back, March 2020. They might as well have lived in Alexandria since we never saw each other during lockdown.

Now we are trying to get back in the swing of things and had lunch out today. It felt like old times. We didn’t do anything serious, just lunch and gab. The way it used to be.

Then tonight we went for cocktails at our friends the Howell’s. The Howell parents, who were some of our best old Durham friends, who moved to Atlanta years ago, were in town visiting their son Elliott and his family. It was like a real old fashioned Friday night cocktails with other old friends from the neighborhood. There is never enough time with Roz and Earl so thank goodness we are all vaccinated and could be together.

Roz is in the Hood

Two social events events in one day and we have another tomorrow and it is still not yet the holiday. It’s like that Prince song, “I’m gonna party like it’s 1999.”

I have no guilt about having so much fun because I have been nothing but productive for 16 months and now I am perfectly fine just letting go. I’m not sure how many parties Russ can take before he says it’s time to stop, but so far he is all in. Now that’s something.

When in Doubt, go with Ottolenghi

Julie and Julia was a successful book and movie about a woman who cooked through 500 of Julia Child’s recipes from the Art of a mastering French Cooking in a year. Yes, Julia Child was iconic, but I could not imagine eating through nothing but French food for a year. Now two weeks of eating French food in France is one thing, but the world has discovered that everyplace on earth has good food.

If ever I was limited to only cook from the books of one chef I would chose Yotam Ottolenghi in a heart beat. In my humble opinion the Israeli born British chef is the most exciting food writer of our time.

This morning I worked in the garden and after the harvest I asked Russ what he wanted for dinner that used eggplant? He turned to his iPad and in a flash had pulled up a recipe of Ottolenghi’s from the New York Times Cooking section called Chemoula Eggplant with Bulgar and Yogurt. I looked at it and told Russ that was the winner as it used plenty of things that I had in the garden and all the rest I had on hand.

Now Yotam’s recipes almost always involve a lot of ingredients, but I have a well stocked pantry and like his flavor profiles, using lots of cumin, coriander, fresh mint and lemons.

I did substitute a half a Burrata ball for the yogurt because we needed to use that up, but other than that I followed the recipe fairly closely. Russ declared it was a huge hit. Of course, I can take no credit for inventing it, just growing the food and following the recipe.

In a similar fashion to Julie and Julia I have cooked at least half the recipes from Yotam’s book Plenty More. That is practically unheard of for me because I tend to read cook books for educational inspiration and hardly ever follow a recipe directly. I have pared my cook books down to under 350 from a high of over 500, but most of them I may have only cooked one or two things from.

So pick a seasonal ingredient you like and do a search on that word and Ottolenghi. I guarantee if he has a recipe using that ingredient you will love how the dish turns out. I am yet to be anything but wowed.