Tatum and Amos Get Married At Last

Our friends Sara and Dave’s oldest daughter Tatum married her sweet heart Amos today. It was a long time coming. I think they originally planned on being engaged under two years. It takes almost that long to plan a wedding these days. New Year’s Eve 2020 was the original wedding date. Then Covid intervened. Last year at this time we didn’t have vaccines. So they postponed the wedding exactly a year.

Things were looking good this summer. Tatum and Amos were going to have the wedding Tatum dreamed of up until a month ago. Then a new variant. Really? There would be no postponing. After almost three years they got married tonight.

I had the pleasure of being the “church lady” who organized the groomsmen and made sure the wedding party was in the right place at the right time. It was great to spend that special time with my friends right before the whole thing took place.

Tatum and Amos made a beautiful couple. It was a perfect wedding with a good history lesson Homily by our minister Chris that included Nazi’s, but more importantly a message about making it through hard times.

We wore our masks at the reception, which had to cut down on the bar tab for the father of the bride, but it was lovely to see the smiling eyes of all involved. This was a wedding that deserved to happen at last. Best wishes to the happy couple.


Flexibility

Covid is causing us all to modify our plans on the fly. For months I have been planning to host a post wedding breakfast for our friend’s daughter’s wedding. The bride and groom canceled their planned New Year’s Eve wedding last year and pushed it back exactly a year. Now here we are again with Covid surging just as the second date is coming around. The wedding is going to take place this year, but the breakfast the next day will not be at my house.

The original plan was to have my house still be decorated for Christmas for the party. When it became obvious that we should not have people inside without their masks I went ahead and started the defrocking of our house. In the last two days I was able to take all the decorations down and box them up. Then I replaced all the regular decorations that get put away for Christmas. The only thing left is the naked, lit tree.

Carter was supposed to fly back to Boston this afternoon. Her flight has been pushed back four hours so far. It is still questionable if she will go tonight. Perhaps she will still be around in the morning to help take the tree down. Nothing will make her madder than not being able to escape putting the tree away.

The flexibility we all have to have these days is testing everyone. After almost two years in the pandemic it would be nice to be able to make plans and know with some certainty that they are going to happen. Not now. So I have totally adjusted my expectations and find myself going more with the flow than I ever have before. I have to say the pandemic has made me much more flexible, but perhaps not exactly easy going.


Did Amy Win on Jeopardy Tonight?

Tonight might be Carter’s last night home. I say might because we have no idea if her flight back to Boston might be one that is canceled tomorrow. It has been a fun two weeks having her home. Fun is relative since the three of us were holed up together with Covid. But Carter and I played a lot of games, at her request and that was a winner for me. At least we weren’t isolated. Thankfully for Carter, fewer people, rather than more, is the way to go healthy or sick.

We got to celebrate her graduation, her getting a job and Christmas all during this time. She is so excited to go back to Boston and start her next chapter. While we were soaking up these last moments home I realized I missed Jeopardy tonight. I don’t know why I don’t DVR it, but I don’t.

I am a sucker for a winning streak on Jeopardy and get totally sucked in when there is a superior player, like Amy. When I realized I had missed it I went to the Internet to find out if she won tonight. Nowhere could I find the answer. There was plenty of press about her winning twenty games in a row, but that was yesterday’s news. So now I am going to you. If you watched Jeopardy tonight can you tell me if Amy won and if she won big again?

Given the choice between spending the last night home with Carter or watching Jeopardy, I would choose Carter every time, but I still want to know the outcome.


The YouTube Calming

We haven’t had any stress during this holiday season since there have just been the three of us locked in the house. Nevertheless Russ and Carter are now watching their favorite calming ritual, Baumgartner Restorations on YouTube. If you ever have trouble sleeping and just want a soothing voice to lull you to sleep, Baumgartner is for you.

I’m not sure who discovered it first, but both Russ and Carter came to watching this YouTube show independently. It stars a second generation art restorer in Chicago painstakingly taking the viewer through the restoration of fine art paintings. If you thought watching paint dry was slow, watching the removal of dirt off old paint equals it.

I am not portraying the show for the interesting work that it is. Learning about the hard job of reversing bad restorations or just the years of grime that art can accumulate is actually very interesting. Baumgartner himself is quite an artist. He is able to emulate all other artists styles as well as recreating their original materials as he brings old works back to life.

After watching so many hours of this show, Carter and I walk through museums and pick out which painting would be greatly improved with a visit to Baumgartner Restoration.

Russ and Carter can happily cohabitate in the big room with the giant TV droning on about the use of Belgian linen to repair rips in canvas. I bet they will sleep well tonight.


Making The Best Of It

As horrible as global warming is for the whole world today there was a benefit for me personally. While it was in the high sixty’s today, yes December 27, I was able to go out work in the garden. I was just in a shirt and pants, gathering leaves from my backyard pile to spread thickly on my raised beds. The winter kales, Swiss chard and cabbage are doing nicely with no input from me. The parsley and chives have been going non-stop, and the arugula is banquet ready.

I turned and watered the compost. Trying to keep the right balance of browns and greens if difficult, but not as difficult as keeping it all moist so it can break down. We have hardly had enough rain this fall and I just forget to water it when I don’t have anything else to water.

I did some clean up in flower beds, cutting down withered lantanas and pulling out these plants that looked like something from Dr. Seuss, that I never knew the name of. It was great to spend time working in the garden after spending so many days hiding inside with Covid.

All three of us having Omicron at the same time was not that bad a way to go. At least we got to spend our time together and not be isolated. If you are boosted and not immunocompromised then you might want to go ahead and get it over with at a time that is convenient for you. I am not sure how you are going to avoid it. So stock up your pantry, and get a good book and movie list. Or just be like Russ and continue your full on Zoom work life.

If you are not vaccinated I have no idea how Omicron will hit you, but you too are going to have a hard time avoiding it, especially if you don’t wear n95 masks, as I guess you might not.

So I am looking at this day of post personal Covid and global warming as a glass half full one for me, but I would do anything to have neither of those things going on. While I was happy to get to work in the garden I was still worrying about my daffodils in the ground, not staying cold enough. There are some things I can’t do anything about.


Christmas Gift Metaphor

In August, when we were just half way through this terrible year we went to maine for a few days of vacation. It had been two years since we had been and we needed a little happy. Little did we know that the first half of the year was the good half.

On an overcast morning we went out to walk the breakwater in Rockport, my favorite walk. It is a good two mile walk in total from the car, out the giant stone walkway to the lighthouse in the middle of the harbor. You have to pay attention to your foot placement as the breakwater stones have big crevices between them.

On this particular day the fog strolled in as we walked out. When Carter got to the light house, she looked back at the shore just under a mile back and you could not make out the lush green hills of the Samoset golf course where the breakwater begins. She took this photo of the flag pole perfectly dividing the rocks of the breakwater. On the ocean side the water is rough and choppy and on the harbor side the same water is calm. The breakwater doing exactly the job it was built in the 1880’s to do, calm the waters and protect the harbor. But the photo is much more a perfect metaphor for the year. Carter enlarged the photo and framed it for me for Christmas.

We just learned of a friend’s 26 year old son passing in a car accident last week. Nothing prepares us for the loss of a bright and full of life young person. We just don’t know which side of the breakwater we are going to be on. I hope you have more days on the harbor side to buoy you up for the ones on the ocean.


Some Assembly Required

Over the years, between my childhood and my child’s childhood Christmas Day has been spent putting together one gift or toy or another or learning how to use it. Like the the big wheel for my sister Janet, where my father asked me to leave off the noise maker. The noise maker was the very first in a 38 step process. When Janet jumped on said Big Wheel and rode the length of our big barn living room she announced, “It’s broken! It doesn’t make the noise.” My father threw me under the bus, “Your sister can fix it.” Undoing 37 steps and redoing 38 and the Big Wheel clicked along the rest of it’s life. I will never get that sound out of my head.

I have assembled puppet theaters and American Doll bedroom suites. As Carter aged I thought I was finished with the learning curve of new toys. Until today. I received a Furbo, dog camera with the ability to throw your dog a treat. Russ thought this was what I needed when we take Shay away with us so we can have an idea what she is doing when she is alone.

The product is cool looking. I took the three parts out of the box, the unit, the usb cable and the plug. The instructions in eight languages were brief…”download the Furbo app to learn how to assemble and use.” How hard can it be, three parts.”

We down loaded, eventually got the unit paired with our wifi. Carter loaded a doggie treat in it. The camera worked and the microphone to talk to your dog. Shay was very interested in the treats inside. We pushed the treat button, the unit chipped, alerting Shay of the impending treat that would fly out of it. Nothing happened after the chirp. We gave Shay the treat anyway by hand.

That’s not a sticker on Russ’ hand, but the but a screen shot of the Image from the Furbo camera, with Shay in the back awaiting a flying treat.

Russ read the FAQ’s. It told us to turn the unit upside down to see if the throwing mechanism and trap door worked that way. It did. Only problem the treat can’t get to the thrower when it’s upside down. Russ went on the help chat line. Only 17 other customers in front of us. After 30 minutes help arrived. Turns out we were missing some fourth part and the unit probably never would work anyway so we should send it back. There was something to assemble.

Oh how I wished for a noise maker that I could just reattach. There is nothing I hate more than returning things. Russ said it cost too much not to return. I’m not sure we should try this again, but it was a present and I should give it another try.

I guess your days of presents that need to be put together or learned how to use are never over. For the record, puppet theaters are the easiest things to put together.


Merry Christmas to All

A friend asked if I would post photos of my needlepoint garland. It would be way too many photos to post. So instead I made this video while trying to recite “‘‘twas the night before Christmas.” I forgot a line and stuttered while trying to say it and film at the same time, but I am a one shot kind of girl. You get to see the warts and all.

I did not in anyway capture all the needlepoint but it is enough for you to get the idea. Each little ornament a treasure, whether stitched by me or by a sweet friend. Off season they live in a waterproof box under a bed in case the house catches on fire, they are the thing that gets saved first.

I hope you have a loved one or two near you on this Christmas Eve. Our table may be small tonight, but we are holding dear in our hearts all who we wish were around it with us.


Proof Christmas is coming

Everyone in our house is feeling better! So much so Russ and Carter got out the train and set it up around the Christmas tree. If you look closely you can see Carter helping Russ. They did a more complicated layout than normal, creating a train parking area.

Carter then took a little movie at train level.

After setting up the train it was time for a special Christmas drink. Russ pulled out his team building mixology kit, which he never got to do with his team thanks to client emergencies. So Carter is getting to bartend, “announcing it was the best gift ever.” And it wasn’t even really a gift.

I hope you and yours are safe this Christmas. Embrace your inner child this year. Play some games and if you have one, set up a train.


Covid-A-Rama

The last six Christmases have not been our best. Either I was sick or my father was in the hospital or the whole world was locked down. We were really looking forward to a family Christmas this year after the loss of my Dad. Well, best laid plans…all of us got Covid. We are fairly certain that we have Omnicom because it came on so fast. There is something to be said for all having it so we did not need any special quarantining in our own house. We all were in it.

Carter is over it. Her’s was short and light. I only jokingly told her to get tested after I started to feel bad. Russ and I were on the exact same schedule, but he has improved faster than me.

I am so thankful for vaccinations and boosters because our symptoms are not bad. Carter had a sore throat, which neither Russ, not I had. I had more body aches and post nasal drips. Being tired was the common symptom.

Those of us who are still positive have stayed in except for getting tested. Russ still worked his 12-16 hour Zoom days. In an abundance of causation we have canceled our Christmas Eve and Christmas plans. We let anyone we were in contact with know were had Covid and thankfully they got tested and were negative. Thanks to those people who offered to shop for us. Thankfully we had a full kitchen and could live a long time without leaving our house.

The bright side is now we all have new immunities. As soon as I get the all clear I am going to air out our house and do a top to bottom disinfection. Today I went to get a Covid test at the Lakewood site. I pulled in and there was this really long line. I sat in it in my car and after twenty minutes I realized I was in the food pantry give-a-way line. I pulled out of that line and went around the corner to the Covid line, which thankfully was much shorter. We have used the at home tests and the PCR tests and they say the same thing. Get home tests if you can because the results are faster. Probably plenty of people are just testing at home and therefore their positive results are not getting counted in the daily Covid totals. So consider that there is so much mor Covid out their than you read online.

Here are my take always from this whole experience. Omnicom is so contagious that you won’t know someone has it fast enough to stay away from them. If you are vaccinated and boosted, what you get is not so horrible. We all still had our sense of smell. We have a pulse oximeter and our oxygen levels stayed up around 95 the whole time. The vaccines make this a totally different game. Inevitably everyone is going to get it. That also means that immune compromised people need to be protected at all costs. So wear your masks and social distance . You might not know you have it, but may still be able to give it. And if you’re one of the fools who has not gotten vaccinated, well all bets are off on you.


A Game?

Since Carter has been home she has voluntarily offered to play a few games. We did Bananagrams more than once which made me very happy. My friend Mary Lloyd dropped off a Christmas game. It is a trivial pursuit like game with questions about Christmas history, movies, books and traditions.

Carter and I sat at the dinning room table as I pulled one card after another from the box. I read the first question, “What early seventies NFL Dolphin was born on Christmas Day, 1946?” Carter looked at me and asked, how do I know what the mascot’s name is? I explained the question is asking about a football player. “How is this a Christmas question?”

I was with Carter. Neither of us came up with Larry Csonka. Of course, Carter had not even heard of him.

The next question, “What does Weolych Swait mean in Poland? Oh lord. Even though we were in Prauge at Christmas four years ago we certainly did not learn any Polish. (My friend Stuart Write pointed out that Prauge is in the Czech Republic, no no wonder I don’t know any Polish.)

“What musical composition do the choir members try to perfect in A Christmas without snow?” Was that a hallmark movie? We had no idea. Never heard of that movie.

The next two questions were multiple choice, with two answers so we had a fifty-fifty chance. We still got one wrong.

The last question was about Scrooge and we missed that one.

In all I think we got one right. Carter asked me what year this game was made? I looked at the box and it had many copywrite years, starting in 1983. I looked at her and said even in 1983 I wouldn’t know these answers. We tried another card and it got a little better. We hope that some cards are more modern, but as we work through them we certainly are learning a lot, not necessarily about Christmas. But we are so appreciative of Mary Lloyd knowing how much I love a game.


No Christmas Cards From Us Again

I love that my friends keep me on their Christmas card list year after year. Since I have been writing this blog for twelve years I have given up cards. What could I possibly write in a card that any blog reader does not already know ad nauseam? Of course we get cards from friends who have no idea that I even write a blog, so for them I feel guilty. Then there are the ones who know I have a blog, but don’t read it. It’s that ad nauseam thing again.

I love reading Christmas letters. I find most are written by husbands and many ask the question, “Is this too long?” Absolutely not, I write a version of your Christmas letter 365 days a year.

I love learning about your children and now your grandchildren and of course, your dogs. I don’t even mind the letters that brag, but I especially like the funny ones.

We need Christmas letters. We need connection. I need your new addresses, even if I’m probably never going to mail you anything ever again. I say that, but maybe one day I will send out a Christmas card again. Maybe if we have grandchildren and I have given up the blog, but the chances on those two things are slim. So for today’s blog I am posting one of my favorite cards from back in the days when Russ traveled all the time so being together for Christmas was a real treat. Just keep your cards and letters coming and never ask me if your letter is too long.


The Mis-Named Lange Tradition

Even in families where cooking is not the Olympic sport it is here there are food traditions worth continuing. In Russ’ family it is the Christmas treat they call Chess Pies. Being a child of southern roots I was familiar with chess pies, but I was quickly told by my in-laws that what I knew was not these Philadelphia chess pies.

First these pies are tiny fruit and nut pies that must be topped by a candied cherry that has a four year shelf life. As I read the recipe I was happy to sit this tradition out. Russ and Carter picked it up. Today as they were making the annual pies Russ went through the ingredient list with me to see if we had the ingredients. Walnuts, check, raisins, check (although I was mistaken), eggs, check, sugar, are you kidding, check, box of pie crust mix… are you kidding me?

I told Russ we never used a box of pie crust mix in our house. He said they needed to go buy some. I convinced him we had everything they needed for a pie crust and convinced Carter to make that from scratch, which they did.

As I sat in the living room working on my puzzle laughing about the discussion about oven temperature and the worry if the pies were done or not coming from the kitchen. Without looking at them I called out, “less is better than too much.”

Russ and Carter proudly sent their photo of the finished pies to Russ’ father, “the king of chess pies.” The word came back, “You forgot a cherry.” Of course they did not, it just sank into the pie. So tonight we will taste the lange family tradition. Not a real chess pie, but a Lange chess pie.


Do Nothing

You might think that I was the college student who just came home for Christmas by the way I spent my day. I started off like any self respecting adult and got up at a reasonable hour and showered, but from there things went down hill. I watched two Netflix Christmas movies back to back while sitting by the Christmas tree, needlepointing. One was good, A Boy Called Christmas. I blame watching this on my friend Tom Spiegel who recommended it. The second one was something that probably got rejected by the Hallmark Chanel. So bad I don’t recall the name. From there I went right into the third episode of “And just like that.” I am not sure exactly where this Sex in the City sequel is going, but after the bad Christmas movie it seemed worthy of my time, little respect that I had left.

After all that needlepointing I moved right into working on a puzzle my friend Jan lent me. I don’t need to be lent any puzzles, as I have a cabinet full of ones I am yet to work. I decided this one was fine to start because it was not so big that it would be out all of Christmas. Plus it is a cool wooden one, so I didn’t have to spend half a day sorting pieces.

I sat in the living room listening to Christmas music working the puzzle. I should have been listening to my book club book, but I only thought of after after my eyes were so crossed from doing all this small work all day.

One would think I had better things to do to get ready for Christmas. I have wrapped most of my gifts. I didn’t have any laundry to do. It is too early to start cooking for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. So why not have a total slug day? My family hung with me during different parts of my activities, if you could call them that. I guess I was in solidarity with Carter in the normal “do nothing” day after exams. The only thing is I have not had any stress I need to recover from. I don’t even know how few steps I got today because I didn’t even bother to out on my watch. I think that is a first for the whole year.

I think I can honestly say this was my least productive day of the whole year and I loved it.


Best Hostess Gift

The world stopped having parties two years ago. We got out of practice giving hostess gifts. Although I am anti-gifts for most occasions for Adults I do like to show up at someone’s house with something special for them. If someone has gone to the trouble to cook for me then I like to return the favor.

I love a homemade treat to give; vinegar or vanilla extract is nice, but that is a long planned ahead item as I like my extract to sit for at least six months. Nuts are nice, especially if they have been transformed. A baked good is very thoughtful. All those things that showed you took some time.

If it’s not a homemade item, then a special consumable, like interesting mustard, or a special tea or spice. Something someone would not splurge on themselves normally or does not know about. Then there are the things that are hard to get, like a special Kringle flavor. All good hostess gifts. They don’t have to take up space forever in your house. You don’t have to try and keep them alive and you don’t have to find a vase and arrange them right as you are trying to make your guests a drink.

All these things involve planning, purchasing, and wrapping. But the very best hostess gift that my friend Anne has taken to giving is the one I love the most, a donation to the Food Bank. She also gave our friend Lynn a donation to Reality Ministries. It is the most thoughtful because she gives to the charity that means the most to us. She can go online and make the donation so no shopping was involved. She doesn’t have to wrap anything, although she does put a note in a box telling us of the donations and then wraps the box. That part is totally unnecessary.

So next time you have to go to a friends house for dinner, skip bringing the bottle of wine they may or may not like, and make a donation to their favorite charity. I promise that it will be well received.


Home Safe

Carter is home! She was supposed to be in NYC a visiting friends, but with Covid surging, and friends getting it, she made the decision to come home for hibernation. Thanks to Suzanne who offered Carter a place to stay. Hopefully sometime in the future when all the idiots get vaccinated and we can starve the virus from willing hosts Carter will be back.

For now I’m thrilled that she is with us. Nothing better than a grown child who can do the grocery shopping and cook the dinner. She was so thrilled when I told her I would do the dishes since she cooked the dinner. Suddenly cooking and not having to clean seemed like a good deal.

The total bonus about having her home was after dinner SHE ASKED ME if I wanted to play banana grams. I almost fell out of my chair. I have spent my life begging my family to play games with me. Now she wants to play? Where was this person twenty years ago? I am really having a great Christmas now!

I am praying that this variant does not ruin Christmas. I am happy that all my people are vaccinated and boosted, but still want to keep everyone safe. Carter told me of a friend of hers who is not going home for Christmas because a cousin’s husband is not vaccinated. When this grown child asked her mother to uninvite him for Christmas her Mother said no, because she took a lot of shit for canceling Christmas last year. So now the poor girl is not going home.

It’s time to tell unvaccinated people they are not welcome anyplace. Sure it is your decision to not get the vaccine, but that does not mean we have to let you in any place with vaccinated people. We spent way too much time coddling the “undecideds.” They were decided, they had decided long ago to be contrary and not follow science. We need some scarlet letters so we know who they are. Time’s up.

Stay healthy. Merry Christmas.


Christmas Cadet Forever

I’m tired of Covid, but am still playing it somewhat safe. That being said Lynn and I had a few friends for lunch which made me feel somewhat normal. I can’t have another Christmas with a fully decorated house and no one coming by to share in the spirit. As I was taking with a friend about my love of all things Christmas I recalled how I was a Christmas Cadet at Ethel Walkers.

At boarding school there were five Christmas cadets, who spread cheer during the horrible exam-filled dark days right before leaving for Christmas break. I had a full wardrobe of red and green wide whale corduroys and turtlenecks and fairisle sweaters. I carried a red and green croquet mallet with ribbons attached and I had flashing Christmas lights I wore and plugged in during classes. It’s amazing how accommodating my teachers were.

My biggest claim to fame as a Christmas Cadet were my “count-down hours cards,” where I displayed how many hours we had left until we were released for Christmas break. I certainly should have been studying harder instead of passing out Christmas candy to my weary classmates.

Today I realized after lunch I had worn my new holiday apron through the whole thing with my Christmas green sweater and red wool sneakers. Very reminiscent of my Christmas cadet years. At least I don’t have to count anything down this year as Carter will be home tonight. I’m ready for the cheer.


Hooray for Carter

Today was officially Carter’s last day as a college student with one final exam and two papers. Although she won’t have a ceremony until May of next year, she’s done. We could not be more proud of her Northeastern Career. She packed a lot in, finishing her five year program in four and a half years. She had two study abroad programs, one in Berlin and a second in London, which thankfully she got in before the pandemic shut down all foreign study programs.

One of the strengths of Northeastern is the Co-op program where students work for six months at a real life job. Carter worked full time at Bain Capital for twenty months, including one semester where she was also going to school full time, something that only could be done because of the pandemic. Starting in her second year she worked in the Explore program on campus, which was her happy place. Explore is the program for First year students who are undecided as to what they want their major to be. Carter team taught every semester she was not on Co-op. It played on her camp counselor strengths. She loved helping first years find their path and was even happier when they applied to work in explore too because they saw how much she enjoyed it.

Thanks to Lindy Fraser at DA, Carter discovered her love for psychology and that is what she majored in at NEU. She loved being the TA in abnormal psych because she loved trying to diagnose her family. Surprisingly to her parents she also had a minor in religious studies, studying every religion, except Christianity. She was president of the Psych club and was rolled out by the Psych department when they needed a student to present to prospective students or VIPs.

She made good friends and grew in so many ways. When Carter was in lower school and the school year would come to an end she would say to me, “I don’t want to go on to the next grade. I like this one.” She said the same thing to me recently. She has loved learning for learning’s sake. She had some outstanding Professors and would take classes just because of the professor, even if the subject was not her first choice. Her intellectual curiosity expanded exponentially. The same could not be said about me when I was graduating from college, so this make me extra happy.

I know that I am a bragging mother here, but I have to document and celebrate her college career, as this blog is my memory keeping place. So great job Carter. I know you will go on to do exciting things. I don’t think this is the end of your learning or your educational experience, but for now, you get a little break before you start your new job. You could not have made your parents more proud.


Nature Where It Doesn’t Belong

Shay and I went in the sunroom yesterday to play the “catching game” where I throw Shay toys and she tries to catch them. I guess I should say that I throw Shay carcasses of toys whose squeakers and a majority of the stuffing has been removed. Seasoned cataracts Shay is fairly good at catching an avocado carcass in mid air or nose bouncing it back to me.

After tossing a baby beaver, a bottle of champagne, and an orange wedge I noticed out of the corner of my eye that some other thing bounced. Shay didn’t seem to noticed and stood at attention awaiting a dinosaur to come her way. I turned my head before throwing and saw some live animal on the window jam. I screamed a little and neither the thing, nor Shay seemed bothered. I got up from the sofa and went to inspect the live animal. It looked like some salamander or newt. I was never good at amphibian identification.

How the hell did this green thing get inside. I went to the kitchen for some Tupperware to catch it in. I was able to trap it, but when I went to move the Tupperware it was able to escape. This sucker could really jump. I trapped and lost it three times. The third time it disappeared and I was unwilling to move the heavy sofa to try and find it. So I opened a window and left the room for three hours. Shay was furious the toy throwing session was cut prematurely short.

I have no idea if the green thing found it’s was outside, or even wanted to leave the comfortable sunroom. Now I go in and scan the room before I sit down. I’m not sure how important it is to ensure it is gone. At least it is a festive color green.


Mother Nature Wins

I am so sad to watch the news of the tornados in Western Kentucky and the surrounding states. Tornados are scary anytime, but just not normal in December. The clash of warm air to cold air produces killing results.

As the poor people of Kentucky begin the grieving and cleaning up, so many others are coming to their aid. I can’t help but think about how much worse natural disasters are in the last decade than ever before. The Hurricane and tornado damage just keeps coming. Along with devastating droughts and fires.

I know there are plenty of climate change deniers out there, but I can’t help but draw a line between our worsening weather events and our warming earth. Man has certainly played a big role in the global warming. It is time that we all take seriously what we can do to slow the warming down.

We certainly can’t turn back the damage that has been done, but we must slow it down. This is not political, it is humanitarian. There is no place to hide from Mother Nature. She always wins.


Finding The Perfect Gift

With Russ away visiting his father Shay and I have been alone at home for five days. Shay has not been without Russ for this long in two years and she is continually going from room to room to find him. Shay followed me circling the house as I gathered gifts I had hidden throughout the year. Today was the perfect day to wrap.

As I wrapped the gifts I had I took stock of them. In most years I have the perfect gifts sourced well before Thanksgiving. This year I have been less than inspired. Between cleaning out all my parents homes to down size to 20% of their belongings and losing my Dad I am having trouble thinking of “stuff” people need. I lost months of being able to hand make things.

My friend Christy had given me the perfect gift this year; a pair of socks that said, “I’m not arguing, I’m explaining why I’m right.” That is the perfect gift. She said she saw them this summer and knew she had to give them to me. Why can’t I be as inspired this year?

Please, send me your ideas for gifts. I did not realize how behind the eight ball I was.


Too Warm for Christmas

Global warming is real. I used to be able to prep Christmas party food and put it in a cooler in the garage and it would keep for days. Not now. There is no nature’s fridge in sight. Today I made chicken, spinach, mushroom strudels and had a hard time making room in my freezer for the individual bundles. I also made a rum cake that needs to go into the freezer until needed and there is no way I can fit it in tonight. First job tomorrow is seeing what I can do away with to make room for the cake.

Used to be I could chill every party beverage outside before a party, but not now. It seems like investing in ice making companies is a good idea given that things will not be getting better any time soon.

For now I pray that my bulbs don’t start coming up just in time for Christmas. So much for the ugly sweater parties, it’s too hot to wear any sweater. I hope Santa has a nice red bathing suit. It looks like he’s going to need it.


Back and Forth

This fall I have spent a lot of time driving back and forth to Raleigh. The bulk of it has been to teach Mah Jongg, so it is a joy. Last night I was invited to be the surprise guest at a Mah Jongg Christmas cocktail party at CCC with many of the hundred and twenty people I have taught in the last four months. It was such fun to get to hear about how people are doing playing after their initial classes and answer questions.

I got home late last night and had to turn around and drive back to Raleigh this morning for a lunch with my Harvard 100 leader, Chuck ReCorr and two other friends to discuss non-profit board issues. As usual, Chuck made the reservation at the Capital Grille where he is such a regular that we all had, off the menu special items that Chuck recommend. I have learned over the years to just get what ever Chuck suggests because he knows best. Our timing was perfect because after lunch Santa arrived and declared that Chuck was on the good list, to which we all agreed.

Driving back and forth to Raleigh so much has given me to opportunity to listen to some great books on audible. Sometimes I arrive at my destination and I sit in the car finishing the chapter. Audible has been my godsend during this time of regular commuting. I have gotten to the point that I am very critical of the reader and their ability to do dialogue well in a voice of their opposite sex. Nonetheless, I am thankful for great books that make me not mind spending many hours in the car. January will find me spending double the time as my whole month is booked up with classes. The perfect thing to do in January, when I am unable to garden, just teach Mah Jongg, make new friends and listen to good books.


FriendChristmas

There is nothing more wonderful than girl friends. I feel totally blessed to have a small special neighborhood stitching group. We have been gathering together every month for the last few years to needlepoint together, share our expertise with each other and most importantly friendship. We can only have the number of people who fit around Kathi’s breakfast room table so we have had to remain a small tight group.

Last year we decided to do an ornament exchange like I do with my bigger needlepoint group, which has been a joy to me for so many years. With just six in my small group we also give each other gifts along with exchanging our specially made needlepoint ornaments for each other. If I ever want to know what the best of anything is I ask these friends. The gifts we exchanged last night made us all so happy because they were things we all loved, but did not know existed before we received them.

The highlight of the night was the giving of needlepoint. Each one had a personal meaning from the giver. The pressure is high to create the perfect ornament. At the end of the night we secretly picked our names for next year so I am already scheming what to stitch next.

For my non-needlepoint gift I gave everyone one of the special softest scarves my sister Janet sells at her company Youzey.com. I brought six different ones and had everyone pick numbers and they chose which one they each wanted. They chose the ones I envisioned would be perfect for each person and then they modeled them for me.

Thanks to Kathi for hosting the fun night of cocktails and yummy treats. I love our stitching group and all the fun that goes with it.


Carter’s Extra Great Day

Twenty-three years ago Carter came into this world, making her parents very happy. Russ wanted the birth announcement to read, “a day that will live in infamy.” And I wanted nothing to do with such disgrace. I am happy to report that Carter has changed what Pearl Harbor day means in our house. It is a day of celebration.

The happiness today is not just for her birthday, which would be good enough, but also that today she signed a contract for her post college job with a technology company in Boston. After spending 20 months working full time at a big finance company in Boston, while going to school she decided this summer that she wanted to pivot to something else. Why not? She’s young and curious.

Tomorrow is the last last day of classes for her undergraduate career. She graduates next week, although the ceremony will not take place until May. So she knows what she will be doing after college and is taking a month off to relax and recharge with no stress. It’s a big day for Carter and one I only could have prayed for on the day she was born.

So congratulations Carter. You make us proud everyday and we are so happy for you.


The First Monday in December

As has been the tradition for the last eight years the first Monday in December is reserved for my original needlepoint groups ornament exchange. Like the fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving and the first Monday in October is opening day for the Supreme Court, I always know what I am doing in on this day. It is one of the highlights of my year.

Last year we had Zoom needlepoint exchange, which was better than not having it, but nothing like our regular party. This year, since we have some seniors, we had the party and the lunch, but did not sit close together at the dining room table and instead ate lunch on our laps in my big Christmas room. It was the perfect answer to be together and still safe.

This year we had a special guest, Lucy Taylor, Kate’s oldest lab who came to have lunch with Shay. It made for a very festive party as we are all dog lovers.

The highlight of the festivities is the giving and receiving a special needlepoint ornament secretly stitched for a friend. There is no one more appreciative of a beautifully made work of art than a fellow stitcher. We all ooohhh and aaahhn over the darling ornaments, some with beading, other’s specially designed, all made with love for each other.

We had lunch and Needlepoint Nancy brought the dessert this year, totally lightening the load on me. It is always my favorite way to kick off the holiday season. Although there are not as many big parties this year, in fact Russ and I are purposely skipping one big one because I don’t want to risk Covid for a big party, I seem to have a lot of smaller get togethers. I count I still have five more events to throw at my house right up until New Years Day. Thank goodness everything is decorated and ready for a party. Not one will be more loved than today’s.


Queen of The Garden

Last month I picked the last of my tomatoes before the first front came and killed the plants. Many of them were still small and green. I brought them in the kitchen in a little garden basket and set them on the counter. There were probably about twenty five small fruits, most about the size of an apricot. A few were red or pink and slowly the others all turned red and smelled like a fresh summer tomato right off the vine.

Russ had some with his breakfast, as he likes to make a veggie mash up with eggs every morning. Tonight I noticed that a few had gone past their prime. Not wanting to let any of my hard work go to waste I decided to use up all the good ones for dinner tonight. We had some salmon that needed to be cooked so I figured we could have some cheese grits with a cooked tomato and pesto compote with the salmon.

While the grits were simmering in their own pot I halved the 15 small ripe tomatoes and put them in a skillet with a little olive oil and a crushed garlic clove. The pan was on a medium heat and I shook the tomatoes around while they gave way of their juices and small seeds slid out into the oil. While the tomatoes still held their shape I added two salt and peppered salmon filets to the pan next to them. The salmon barley needed two minutes and then I flipped them over. I added a frozen knob of pesto made this summer from the huge bounty of basil. It melted into the tomatoes, which by now had collapsed.

The grits had finished simmering. I slathered a shallow bowl with a spoonful of the yellow mush creating a well in the center. Scooping a heaping spoonful of the tomato and pesto jam into the center of the bowl I completed the tableau with two hunks of salmon.

The tomatoes were definitely the star of the meal. Releasing all their summer goodness long into this dark December night. Now we will have to dream of home grown tomatoes for the next six months until the soil can again gift us the queen garden.


It Hits You Suddenly

Today, while Russ was out on a walk with Shay and I was rolling up silver forks in cloth napkins, tying them with a red ribbon. The forks are for my annual Christmas Needlepoint exchange that will happen on Monday. I was listening to Christmas music with the tree fully lit, feeling the spirit of the season. One song ended and another began. At this moment I can’t even remember what the song was, just that it was one my father danced with Carter in the very room I was in, many years before.

I was so overwhelmed with the memory of them dancing I burst into tear and sobbed until I was interrupted by a text from my mother about her eyes. I was jolted from my sadness to the reality of the immediate. My mother’s texting is like a treasure hunt for meaning. Autocorrections and lack of punctuation almost always leads me to phone her and ask what she was trying to tell me. Thankfully it was not an emergency.

My tears had dried and the stab of missing my father had passed. It was a quick hit of the song breaking my heart just a little, but by the time the song had ended I could not even recall which song it was. I was left with the sadness of missing my Dad from a happier time.


Entering The Twentieth Century

My Mom came today because she had to spend five and a half hours at Duke eye center and then spend the night with us. She can’t drive after going to the eye center so she just hangs with me.

We are thankful for the Duke eye center with the best doctors who take care of her Macular Degeneration. Today she had to have a lot of scary stuff done, but she said her new doctor could not have been kinder.

The amazing thing that happened is that she figured out how to watch Netflix on her phone with the sound coming through her hearing aids. It was the best way to pass the time between procedures at Duke. She got so into the show she was watching that she continued watching at my house. Due to her dilation we couldn’t have many lights on so she sat in the dimmed room watching her show on her phone, which was better than watching on the giant TV that would be too bright.

Now if I can only teach her how to watch Netflix on her own TV at home we will really be cooking with gas, but I am not holding out hope that will happen. So perhaps she has one foot in each century, but at least she can watch in waiting rooms and that is the best thing ever.


TENS to The Rescue

We lived in London when I was pregnant with Carter. My access to pregnancy advice was therefore all British. I read articles that talked about writing a birthing plan and renting a TENS machine for the labor. When I came home to North Carolina to finish up the gestation I learned that American Women back in the nineties didn’t write birthing plans, which was a good thing for me since I had no idea where to start. I also learned that American women did not use TENS machine to relieve pain during child birth. At the time I thought, “Good, I have no idea what a TENS machine was.”

A few years after Carter was born I injured my back and went to a chiropractor who worked miracles on me. At my initial visit the first they did was attached two electrode pads to my back hooked up to a TENS Machine. AHHHH, that is when I learned the joy of the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS for short.

When Carter had her meniscus surgery, a TENS unit was part of her rehab, but that was a decade ago and I had forgotten all about TENS. Last week when I hurt my back I tried foam rolling and pain killers and it imported some what, but not completely. Then one day ai woke up and it dawned on my I might need to go back to chiropractor, but before I did I thought I should try our at home TENS.

The tiny machine, which connects with electrical pads on my back is a godsend. It definitely has improved my back. I have not yet called the chiropractor, but am going to see if I improve with just the TENS. I may not have been able to use it during labor, but I am thrilled I learned what it was. I just wish I had thought of it earlier.


When Big Brother is Good

Idea of Big Brother watching your every move is one that most people say they don’t like. Sure, no one wants their every move to be monitored. But when you want to know where your package is, Big Brother reporting that it is only six stops away, just outside your neighborhood is a great thing. I am currently watching an Amazon package get closer and closer to my house. This is the kind of technology I just love.

When I was graduating from college I was offered a job at P&G in sales. I spent a day with their top sales rep in the New England region. Rather than spending her day talking to customers and selling them things I found out that she was manually counting cases of products her customers had on hand, and manually tracking every mile she drove and manually tracking every working minute of her day by one of thirty two different tasks. I turned down the offer because I knew that I did not want to spend half my day filling out spread sheets describing how I was spending the other half of my day.

Manual big brother was tiresome and cumbersome. Automated big brother may be no less the tattletale on the worker, but to the customer it is a wonderful and it does not take time away from the workers productivity as long as they don’t have to manually track themselves.

In the time it has taken me to write this I have watched the Amazon truck with my package on it go from being seven stops away to three stops away. This means I have to wrap up this blog so I can meet the driver at the door and thank him for getting my package to me in such an efficient way.