Need Some Warming

Tomorrow is April 1. I should be shopping for plants for my vegetable garden, or at least perusing the choices. Alas, it has just been too cold to even think about it. I know that around here we can still get frost until April 15. That is the date when you typically should be safe to put in seedlings. A random frost is not what I am worried about. We need some consistently warm and sunny days to warm up the soil.

Soil temperature is really what you need for summer vegetable plants to thrive. If you plant when the ground is too cold your plants will not get established in a positive way and your yield will be low. If your soil is warm and you get a freak frost you can cover your seedlings to save them and usually one cold night does not bring down the temperature of a perviously warmed earth.

Who knew I would be looking for some globe warming temperatures just so my raised beds could get to be hospitable. For now I am praying for a seven straight days of warm. Not sure it’s going to happen.

Thanks to the Mah Jongg Class Organizers

One of the joys of being a Mah Jongg teacher is making so many new friends. Last summer people I met at my summer classes asked me if I would teach classes in their home towns. Of course the answer was yes. One in particular, Marty, said, “I have a few friends at home who would like to learn?” A few friends was the understatement of the year. She has facilitated my teaching well over 250 people since September. She has worked tirelessly to share the love of Mah Jongg with so many and none of this would have happened without her. I am eternally grateful for all her hard work and kindness. She is truly the pied piper of Mah Jongg.

The place where I have been teaching has adjusted some rules and I need to find other locations in Raleigh to teach as the desire to learn does not seem to be waning. One of my beginner classes that ended last week wanted to jump right into advanced beginner. A generous member of the class Raquel volunteered a space at her home for us to have class and organized the participants. Tonight was the first night teaching in her beautiful space. It was one of the few places where I got to teach in a room with windows. It was a nice bonus.

Mah Jongg is a life long game of fun, but one of the best things about it is sharing it with new people and making new friends. I appreciate all the people who ask me to come to their towns and spread the gospel of the tiles. Lesley in Greensboro gathered so many people we had to add an extra day. Ann and Kristi in Kinston are having me back for round two. Kate and Nancy got a group going. Jan organized class for her whole neighborhood of new residents. Val and Deon are finally learning with their friends in Chapel Hill.

Just when I think everyone I have ever met has learned to play Mah Jongg more appear and want their friends to learn. Thanks for my big year of teaching more people than ever. This opportunity all started when I taught at Academy night at DA 23 years ago and really took off when Reba invited me to teach at the beach. To all my class organizers I want you to know how much I love you. I wish you many jokers.

Mah Jongg Christmas

The National Mah Jongg League did not let me down. My 30 cards I ordered in the beginning of January arrived today via priority mail! I was sweating their arrival as I have eight classes scheduled starting Monday to teach NEW CARD Orientation.

This afternoon I was sent a photo of the new card so I have already done the analysis and played the new card on Real Mah Jongg. I will wait until class to reveal my feelings about the card, but it is always an exciting day to get the new card.

For those of you local to Durham who are interested in learning how to play this game I am setting up a beginner class. I have had a number of single people wanting to learn who have patiently been awaiting a opening in a class. This class will probably be in May as I am fully booked in April.

If you are waiting for you new card keep an eye out. I know they send them out in batches according to when you placed your order. If you haven’t ordered yet you might have to wait a few weeks.

Eventually I will be selling these cards, but I need them right now for classes this week.

Happy 2022 and may the Jokers be with you.

Entertaining Communication of the Week

I am a member of a club that has statewide membership in a bigger organization. The club is a special interest club that is social and civic. It is open to all, although I would suggest it could benefit greatly from more diversity. As an officer is my club I receive regular, I might say, much too regular, communications from the state organization. It is a mostly volunteer group and so I should not complain about their lack in skills in the many areas I find lacking.

This past week I opened one of the too many, badly formatted, emails to find it to be an attached PDF from the nominating committee of said group with no introductory information.

The letter started out with a line that read, “First, let me tell you, that God gave us all talents, and all we have to do is identify them And put them to use in the ****** club.”

I am always taken a little aback when anyone says “Let me tell you…” followed up with something about God, with a capital G. Then to be TOLD that we should put them to use in the club, was not quite as inviting as I needed, but I read on.

In a meandering way these people are asking for people to volunteer to be leaders. That is a hard ask. Not everyone has the time or the desire to spend their time that way. So they need to cast a wide net to try and uncover all potential candidates.

I kept reading and got to this sentence, copied here, exactly as written:

“The nominations committee, would like for the Presidents and the Club Members to look at the members in your clubs, look for those God given talents of your members, we know we all have them, because Jesus told us in the scriptures, that we everyone were given one.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa…When did Jesus come into the equation? This is not a religious organization, let alone a Christian one. Now as an ordained Presbyterian Elder myself I recognize where there needs to be separation of church and state as well as just good English. If you want a broad range of people who are willing to volunteer let’s not immediately offend any non-Jesus types, who may make excellent leaders.

The letter goes on…

“Members that love Life and that are happy with themselves and find good in life make great leaders, we are looking for young Women, but us older women have great minds and lots of experience.”

Yes, but these old women might also have a love of the shift key for they capitalize words in weird places. Why young Women are capitalized and old are not is a mystery to me. And when did being happy with yourself have anything to do with it?

The letter goes on and on but ends on one last God note.

Blah, blah, blah “so let’s work as a team, inspired by God to find the Talents He has given to us.”

Signed by five women.

All I can say is thank god it was a PDF so no one could edit it. As desperately as I wanted to respond to this all volunteer group, who generously give their time, there was no information on how to reach any of the signees, let alone where to send nominations.

I was mostly interested in suggesting they add a communications director to the slate, but to do so I might have explain why it seems necessary.

The Heart Break of the Rainbow Bridge

Tonight my dearest friend Suzanne texted the news I was not wanting to hear from her. They lost their dog Chance. Chance had some health issues last week, but the doctors thought they were not life threatening. Sadly dogs don’t always tell doctors evertything, hoping to spare their humans.

I have an extra special place in my heart for Chance since we shared a birthday. He was a happy lab and constant companion to all the humans in their family. It may have been his time to cross the rainbow bridge, but his family was left devastated on this side.

It seems like many of my friends canine family members have crossed that bridge in the last few months, Brady and Norman to name two of my favorites. We are rarely ready to let them go.

But unlike humans we have the choice to end their suffering when there is no hope. It still breaks you, but watching your loved one suffer is so much worse. Knowing that the pain over for your dog is the gift of love you have given then them.

So to all my heart broken friends tonight, especially Suzanne, Steve, Grace, Jack and Oliver, know that Chance had the greatest life because of you. Chance was one lucky dog to have you as his humans. He will always live on in your hearts and stories.

Oscars, Smhoscars

Today I recognize a seismic shift in myself. All my life I have been a movie girl. I have loved movies since I was very little, having memorized all the Shirley Temple movies by the time I was eight. If there is ever a movie category on Jeopardy I run the column. Given the choice to see a live sporting event or a Movie at the movie theatre I would chose the movies, even if it was the super bowl that was in the running.

Today I was glued to the TV watching the incredibly unbalanced UNC/St. Peter’s elite eight match up. There was no reason to pay such close attention. The outcome seemed sealed before the first half, but It still had my rapt attention. The one thing I know is that either the school three miles away from me or the one six miles away is going to be in the final. So I am hoping for a Local winner of the final four.

After the game ended and 60 minutes came on Russ and I commented that all the segments on 60 minutes were not just reruns, but threepeats. We wondered what was going on. Then it dawned on me…the Oscars.

This is the first year in the last fifty that I have not been at all interested in what was going to happen at the Academy awards. I usually have filled out an Oscar prediction ballot. I almost always have seen most of the movies up for best picture. I certainly used to be pulling for a few actors and was despondent if they didn’t win.

Not this year. I may have seen three or four movies from the ten nominated best pictures, all on TV. I haven’t been in a movie house in two years. Although I enjoy watching movies on my own TV, it makes them not seem as special.

As for the awards show tonight I certainly don’t care what anyone is wearing. Although I am interested in seeing how the three women do as hosts. I still hold the Billy Crystal opening the year The Crying Game was nominated as the pinnacle. He did an opening song and I will never forget the line, “Those eyes, those thighs, Surprise! It’s the Crying Game.” (If you don’t remember what the movie was about, that reference is lost on you right now.). But that is how much I loved the Oscars, I could quote past shows.

Perhaps it is my age, or the shift in my viewing to binging series as a much more satisfying watching experience. Certainly my very literary book club that started during Covid has eaten into my movie time. Whatever I will not be staying up.

If Someone Else Makes It

Sometimes things just taste better because you didn’t have to do any of the work. I spent the better part of my day making soup for a sick friend. It was a little more than soup, because I also had to make Turkey meatballs that went in it, and pesto, some cubed French bread and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I delivered it and reminded my friend to not forget to add all the accompanying parts by telling her they were like the jewelry of the outfit.

When I left she said, “I hope you kept some for yourself for dinner.” I told her I had plenty for myself and we would have it tomorrow.

Tonight we were invited over to ur friends Sara and Dave’s for dinner. Sara said it made her anxious to cook for me. I reminded her that I have hardly ever eaten something I didn’t like and her dinner was delicious. One thing that made it especially good is I didn’t do any of the work for it.

Having someone else cook for you is the most generous thing that can happen to you that day. I was happy to cook for someone else and equally happy to have someone cook for me.

So many times I have had a friend say that a salad prepared by someone else tastes so much better than one they made themselves. I don’t know why a salad in particular, but I get the sentiment.

I hope my friend who got the soup enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Sara’s dinner. Dinner with friends…you can’t beat lt.

Beautiful Southern Ladies

When we first moved to Durham as Russ was entering business school we were invited to a party. The hosts were friends of a good college friend and they invited us even though they didn’t know us. At that party Russ and I met Roz and Earl Howell. We liked them immediately and invited them to our little house. Roz could not have been nicer to me, inviting me to learn Mah Jongg with her and start an investment club together. Roz was my first friend to see Carter the night she was born, breaking into the maternity ward by saying she was Carter’s Granny Roz.

Sadly, Roz and Earl, who had grown to be great friends of ours, moved to Atlanta, but we stayed in touch. A few years ago her son Elliott moved back to Durham with his wife and two girls so now Roz and Earl need to come to Durham to see their grand daughters. It is a win for me because I get to see Roz too. This is one of those weeks that Granny Roz is in Durham.

Today I was lucky enough to be included in a small bridge gathering at Margaret Rouse’s house given by Margaret and Robin Marin. If Robin is hosting lunch is going to be great. I have not been playing as much bridge these days and I was a little worried to be joining this expert group. Thankfully no scores were kept and everyone was as generous as they could be.

It was such a nice way to spend the day with women who I really like, but have not seen much, especially due to the pandemic. it was like old fashioned bridge where we got to talk to each other while we played and discuss what might have been a better bid after the hand because we weren’t playing duplicate.

After playing we sat at Margaret’s beautiful dining room table and enjoyed lunch and talked. It made me miss having Roz around all the time. It also made me miss having people over to sit around my table, for both games and lunch. I also miss spending time with people of all ages. I think I need to work on that. Seems like it’s time to have a few luncheons and get back to being southern. Thanks Margaret and Robin for reminding me how.

Trader Joe’s Mash Up

In an effort to use up things in the freezer I threw together some various items all purchased at Trader Joe’s and came up with a winning dinner. Since I will never remember exactly what I made I am going to memorialize it here. I was able to u tilize kale from my garden, Brussels I had in the fridge and everything else from TJ’s.

Brussels Sprout, Gnocchi dinner

20 Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and sliced into thirds

Big bunch of kale, cleaned and chopped

Splash of olive oil

1 bag of mushroom medley from TJ’s

1 bag of Cauliflower gnocchi from TJ’s

Handful of Quattro formaggicheese from TJ’s

Sprinkle of garlic powder

Sprinkle of Unami Mushroom spice from TJ’

In big skillet splash in some olive oil and put the Brussels sprouts in and sauté until starting to get soft. Add the chopped kale and continue cooking for three minutes. Add the bag of frozen mushrooms and cook three minutes until hot. Remove food from skillet and set aside in bowl. Put the gnocchi in the pan and add 1/4 cup of water, cover and cook six minutes stirring once or twice. At six minutes the water should be absorbed. Splash a little more olive oil on the gnocchi and cook another two minutes. Add the vegetables back in the pan, sprinkle some garlic and Mushroom spice, salt and pepper. You can serve it just like that if you want it to be vegan. If you like cheese add a handful for the Quattro formaggi. Enjoy you veggies!

Overly Optimistic?

I had a rare moment when I was getting to play Mah Jongg rather than just teaching it this morning. It was a lopsided day of playing where one friend was winning and one was not. The one who was winning said, “Well, something bad is going to happen today since I won so much.”

I responded with exactly the opposite reaction, “Seems like it will be a great day.” The ensuing conversation was about the idea that if something goes well it will be immediately followed by something bad or if things are going well they will continue.

I am a glass is really full, despite what you actually see, kind of person. I believe we make our own luck and bad things can be avoided. I guess I look at the sunny side and totally ignore the dark side.

My friend who was now expecting bad news is not a gloomy person. Maybe she is more realistic. I just don’t look for or acknowledge all the bad stuff.

If I am having a losing day at Mah Jongg I don’t think it is a precursor for other things that might go wrong. But if I am having a winning day I do think the rest of the day is going to go well.

In so many ways I think attitude has a lot to do with outcomes. Of course I have the charmed position to have been given a great education and a lot of opportunities in my life so it is easier to be optimistic if you are dealt good cards off the top. I’m just not looking for trouble.

You Want me to Write the Recipe Down?

Yesterday after at the end of our monthly Zoom my friend Suzanne told me she was off to make tofu. Although she has always been in perfect shape it was not due to a life of tofu. This is new. So as I was eating my vegan stew I had made a few days before and was still eating it I sent her a photo.

“Send me the recipe.”

You all know I don’t cook with recipes so thankfully she asked for this soon enough after I had created it to remember what I put in it. After I sent it to her I remembered the tomato paste, so Suzanne, use this version and not the one I sent you yesterday. I would have loved to add broccoli, but since Russ hates that veg I didn’t put it in. You can use any vegetables you have hanging around. You can also top it with some additional protein, like sautéed shrimp or salmon or the eternal chicken. Mix it up, it’s your food.

Curried red lentil and vegetable stew

2 large yellow onions chopped

4 cloves garlic minced

2 T. Grated ginger

1 T. Olive oil

1 cup red lentils

6 cups broth, (veggie or chicken)

4 T. Red curry paste (Thai)

2 T. Turmeric

2 T. Cumin

1 T. Smoked paprika

2 T. Tomato paste

Half a head of cauliflower broken into florets

1 red pepper chopped

2 cups butternut squash, chopped

1 can coconut milk

2 cups of sugar snap peas

2 cups mushrooms, sautéed

Juice of 2 limes

2 T. Peanut butter

Put first four ingredients in big stock pot on medium high and cook until onions wilt. Add the spices and tomato paste and cook for two minutes. Add the cauliflower, red pepper and butternut squash and broth Cook five minutes. Add red lentils, cook another five minutes. Add sugar snap peas, coconut milk and mushrooms. Cook five more minutes. Add juice and peanut butter. Cook another five minutes.

Taste for salt and pepper.

Serve with rice, mango chutney and if you want to add more protein some sautéed shrimp or salmon.

A Well Trained Dog

I will never say that we trained Shay well. She won’t shake. She never rolled over once. She does not always come when you call her. But she can read a room. She knows who needs a snuggle or a hug. She will sit beside the person who thinks they don’t like dogs and change their minds.

Today I finished my quilt and put it on our bed. Despite allowing Shay to sleep on our bed I still make quilts with lots of white. I had not finished tucking it in and it had one corner turned up, Shay jumped up and lay down on the dark backside, somehow knowing that she should stay off the white.

Shay knows how to make me happy and keep herself out of trouble. Don’t get Mom’s new white quilt dirty for at least a day.

A Perfect Day to Hand Sew

When I started work on my latest and most intricate Quilt in June I thought the busy part of my year was behind me.  I had spent months helping my parents pack and move from multiple houses, which required me to also run an estate sale.  I really wanted to work on a project that brought me peace, creativity and happiness.  The tiny stars were the most time consuming thing I have ever done, but I just plugged away.  They took me well into September to make the majority of, but I thought I was well on my way.

Then life and death got in the way.  Quilting projects are so low on the priority list.  I still kept at it as it is a good form of therapy between planning memorial services and teaching Mah Jongg.  Sometime in November I finally finished the quilt top.  I took it to my wonderful long arm quilter Tina.  My very intricate quilt with custom designed quilting was in a long line of projects she had to do.

While I waited I knocked out a Christmas present quilt for my sister and called Tina and asked if that quilt could take the place in-line of my stars quilt as it was a present.  So that pushed this quilt back even further.  Finally this week I picked it up.

I am so happy with the quilting job she did.  So today I started finishing the binding, which involves hours of hand sewing.  No better weekend than March Madness to sit and sew.

I was planning on watching basketball the whole time, but yesterday I started watching Yellowstone, which Carter had been telling me I would love. As usual, she was right, so I have been binging Yellowstone, sewing and following the basketball on my phone all at the same time. I almost lost it when Baylor tied it up with UNC and went into overtime. I didn’t dare turn the Chanel to the game in fear of jinxing UNC. Thankfully they won and I have completed about 65% of the binding. Tomorrow I should finish in three or four Yellowstones. The quilt will have taken ten months, but it is my favorite one, so I think it was worth it.

Back to Packing Lunch

Now that Russ’ new office is finished he has tried reentry. (In case you missed it eight months ago, Russ’ landlord asked him to switch spaces so that a major tenant could take all four floors of his building. Russ moved across the street, but not until the landlord did a major unfit on the space. Turns out to be a good move.)

Russ likes the new office, but misses his five second commute from our bedroom to his home office. He came home today complaining about the cost of lunch out in the real world. A Caesar salad with chicken from Press is $19, a sandwich from another place is $10, but add chips and a tip and it’s $15, even a salad from Moe’s is $14.

“I think being home with you for two years has your cheapness rub off on me. That and I like your cooking better,” Russ told me.

I think costs have gone up while he was home and he is noticing the big jump. He and I still talk about his favorite lunch place in New Jersey near the company where we met. He could get two slices of pizza and a fountain drink for two bucks. Those days are long gone.

While Russ may be spending time back in the office I am going to have to make him some lunches to take in. I thought my days of packing lunches was long gone, but if he wants them I will make them, especially if it means he is not spending $100 a week just on lunch.

Tomorrow we have to go dog bed shopping for Shay who wants to go back to the office with Russ. A new employee has a tiny dog named Anchovy and Shay needs to go in and meet her new employee as Shay is managing director of canines. I guess I will have to pack Shay’s lunch too because Russ is loath to spend $19 on himself, but happy to do it for Shay.

No Complaining

11:30 last night, as I lay tossing and turning desperate to go to sleep, Russ out for his two hour deep sleep, I heard a loud grumbling. It was a mechanical sound, like a tractor trailer idling outside my window. Worried that there was something wrong with our HVAC system so I got up to go explore. Out in the hall I flicked on the overhead light and it glowed an eerie gray green color. I heard the sound of the robot vacuum running in Russ’ nursery turned office.

Why was the vacuum running? I bent to push the off button, leaving the vacuum in place. With it off I thought the grumbling sound might subside, but it didn’t. I walked to the top of the stairs and looked down to the thermostat. The front hall lights go out automatically at different times every night. The thermostat normally lights up when you come down the stairs activated by your motion. Instead of showing me the orange glow of “heat on” mode with a temperature setting I saw a black and white picture of a wrench and hammer crossed over each other indicating something was broken.

How could the relatively new HVAC, be broken? I went down another set of stairs to the mechanical room, no sound. I flicked on that light switch, same gray green haunted-house semi-glow. That bad mechanical sound that had awoken me was not coming from inside my house. Thankfully, the scary movie feeling was starting to subside.

I opened the door to the garage and no noise was coming from there, but strangely the light on the dryer was on and I could not get it to go off. Something was off, but I couldn’t figure it out and I was just so tired and wanted to go to sleep, but the noise, that damn growling truck sound, what was it.

I walked back to my bedroom and by the time I got there the hall light was out. Who turned it off? Russ was still sound asleep. Then it dawned on me. The power was out. That sound I heard was big ass automatic generations from at least three of my neighbors.

I picked up my phone, it had not been on the charger very long and I had just a few percent change. I pulled up the Duke energy app to report a power outage. I was not the first. The app said it would be fixed by 3:45 AM. I wrapped two pillows around my head to drown out the growl and eventually fell asleep.

Shay woke me at 7:00. Still no power. Russ had gone out to pick up breakfast, not wanting to open the refrigerator. He told me Duke said it would be noon before power. He left for his new office. I went to the dentist. Both of us looked like we didn’t have power.

I got another text from Duke. 7:00PM we would get power. I stopped believing them. They were wrong again, it came back on around 5:15.

When I asked Russ about the revolt of the machines and the gray green lights he explained that one leg of the transformer had blown first so we were only getting partial power before the whole transformer went. Oh it’s so nice to have an electrical engineer as a husband, otherwise I might have thought we would have to sell the house.Thankfully now the growling is gone.

I am feeling a little guilty complaining about not having power for 18 hours when in Ukraine people are enduring unimaginable terror as well as no power, water or food. The growling of generators is nothing compared to the sounds of bombs. I am going to try and keep this little inconvenient in perspective.

Death or Taxes

I don’t know about you, but I don’t do our own taxes. We rely on a professional for that. The way taxes go these days Russ must pay state taxes in every state he works in. Some years he pays in 12 states. The same person who does our personal taxes also does Russ’ work taxes so she knows all the information about Russ she needs.

So getting together all the personal information for her to do our family taxes is my job. It is a job I hate for some reason, but have little reason for that. I have a little plastic bin in my office and anytime a bit of paper arrives in our house that might be tax related I put it in the bin. Then my only job is to organize it all and get it delivered to the accountants by March 15 along with the workbook where I answer a million questions. The answers to the questions are almost always “no.”

Did we instal an alternative fuel device this year?

Did we have a foreign debt forgiven?

Did either of us earn more than $20 in tips in any month?

Some of the questions are so complicated I don’t even understand the subject. I just answer, “no.”

For the whole month of February and half of March I have this dreaded feeling that I need to be working on the taxes. The feeling is worse than just going ahead and doing it. I am not a person who waits until a deadline to do something. I usually do everything early, except the taxes.

It is not that we often owe money, just the opposite. You would think I would do them quickly so we could get the money back, but no. Yesterday was March 15 so I sat down at my desk and did the taxes and dropped them off, right on time. Not early or late, although I know the accountants would always like them earlier.

I don’t know how I am ever going to change how I feel about doing this exercise I guess that only death will end it, so I am just going to have to live with it. Taxes are still better than death.

Mah Jongg Mouse

Tonight I was teaching at an unnamed club. For the record it is a very nice club. While the women were trying to concentrate on their tiles one screamed out. There was a mouse in the room. It was a tiny brown thing with huge big ears. The screaming scared the little thing. It ran under a door and into a kitchen.

Half the class got up to try and catch the mouse. It ran out into the main room, hugging the baseboard as it circled the room. One student grabbed a dust pan on a broom stick and a broom. We cornered the mouse. She caught it up in the dust pan, which was about 12 inches deep. Before she could get out of the room the mouse jumped out and continued its tour of the base boards.

We tried one more time, but failed. Three or four waitresses came in to try and catch the mouse, then a manager, and a second manager and an office worker. Eventually there were six club employees all in the tiny kitchen next to the ladies lounge.

Everyone gave up and we continued the lessons. A short while later we saw a mouse on the other side of the room. It had to be a second mouse. You know where there is one there are fifty.

Thankfully I am going to a totally different club tomorrow to teach. I hope no mice came with me.

Daylight Savings Mess

When is congress going to actually legislate and end daylight savings time, or standard time or whichever one is wrong and we don’t change our clocks? Springing forward is the dumbest idea ever. The mess that changing our clocks does can not be worth whatever reason we used to do it for.

Today I woke up at 4:15 AM, which was 3:15 my body’s time. I could not go back to sleep and since I had to leave for Raliegh at 7:45 I just stayed awake. Logic should have made me want to sleep later, but instead of springing forward I seemed to have spiraled into this big mess.

I taught two classes today so by the time I got home I was nothing but exhausted. Now I can hardly stay awake long enough to try and right my bloody clock. This could be a big bipartisan win if the parties would just go on and do it. The cost of unproductiveness and car accidents due to people’s sleep being impacted make it a no brainer. Changing the clocks does not change the amount of sunlight we get. You can’t make more sun, so don’t worry about what the hour says and just live with it.

Cake for $190…$200…$210…

With the exception of the tall red haired women who left the auction half way through, asking Russ on her way out, “Is that the way she is at home?” Most people who came to the Westminster cake auction appeared to have a good time. It helped that the youth did an excellent job running the worship services. Additionally there were more people back at live worship than there have been since the beginning of the pandemic. It also helped that everyone was comfortably seated in the new warm fellowship hall on this cold day.

There were more “cakes” than usual. Andy Dunk’s perennial favorite Carmelitas were perfectly portioned into three containers giving me a chance to auction them off separately, getting an ever greater amount with each successive one. I predicted to the audience that would happen. “Bid early or pay more later.” People don’t always believe me, but that was the case all day in all but one instance.

The competition was tough. When multiple families were bidding on the same item there could only be one winner. That left the unsuccessful bidders to then go all in on the next item. Thankfully it seems like most people who were bidding won something with just one or two exceptions.

The bidding really got crazy when the pastor’s kids were bidding against each other for their Grandmother’s cake. I had to keep telling them that I could not let one Tuttle child bid up another Tuttle child. In the end someone else won that cake and then gave it to them. Thank goodness because I was not about to let a PK pay $200 for a cake.

I was very happy the Simonson clan took home my cake as one of the daughters is an excellent baker herself. They paid dearly, but they are dears.

As I told the gathered faithful before we started, this was a fundraiser for a good cause and not a chance to get a pie for the price of one at Harris Teeter. The bidders bid accordingly and raised a great sum of money for the youth group summer trips. It is just a drop in the bucket as one of the trips is to Scotland, but it is good for the youth to understand that they need to raise money in many different ways.

22 Eggs…

Thank goodness no one took me up on the offer to make an additional one of these cakes for $500. This one took two days, 22 eggs, 2 pounds of butter and an untold amount of Chocolate. If I hadn’t promised to bring this cake for the Westminster youth group cake auction I would have cake is four layers of flourless chocolate cake, passion fruit glaze and chocolate ganache between each layer and three recipes of coffee buttercream and chocolate covered espresso beans for garnish.

I spent five hours in the kitchen yesterday, and got the cake mostly done. The weather was not perfect to make French Butter cream, an incredibly fussy frosting. So I made a second batch and left it in the fridge overnight. This morning I went to frost the cake and found that the second batch was a failure. So I had to make a third batch. Thankfully the first two batches were fine for a crumb coat and the third was decorative. Still this is a monster of a cake, at 18 inches long, 7 inches wide and five inches high and weighs at least six pounds.

Russ had to build a special box for us to carry it in since it would crack in half under its own weight if it was not fully supported underneath. It is safely in the fridge now, ready for transport to Church tomorrow. I can smell the deliciousness. This hint can serve at least 24 people, but the good news is it freezes perfectly because it is not a normal cake that could get dry.

I forgot how finicky butter cream is. I had many wedding cake nightmare during my catering years. I am happy not to revisit those days of being held hostage by the rain or humidity. The cold today actually helped me out and for that I am thankful. I could not possible make a forth batch of that butter cream.

Poor Yard Guys

It seems like I am reading daily about landscapers having their equipment stolen off their trucks while they are working in people’s yards. The item which most often gets reported as stolen are gas powered back pack leaf blowers. I am wondering if there is some hot black market ring for leaf blowers?

I for one hate those machines with a passion. They are so loud that you can hear one blowing half a mile away. There is a rule in our neighborhood that no one can use noise making yard machines before 8:00 AM on weekends, but plenty of people either don’t know it’s a rule or don’t care. We have an rechargeable battery powered leaf blower and the sound it makes is about a tenth of those gas ones. It also does not blow with the same power, so it takes longer.

Given the price of gas these days I am not sure why someone would want to steal one of those gas guzzlers, unless they are taking it for the gas. I am sorry for the yard guys who keep losing their equipment. I think some bike locks might be helpful or cameras on their trucks. It is incredibly bold of thieves to pull up behind a truck where the people are in the yard working and take things off the truck. With as many doorbell cameras as their are you would think they would get caught on tape.

The Corporate Slapping

Knowing exactly what the Russian people are hearing about the war is an interesting guessing game. Yes, Putin has prohibited anyone from saying or writing the world “war” and there are very few independent journalists reporting anything about Russia’s unprovoked invasion of a free country, the Russian people must know something big is going on. They may not be getting the news from official outlets, but perhaps they are figuring it out when the 850 Mac Donald’s are all closed suddenly.

What about all the employees of Starbucks, or PepsiCo which have stopped business in Russia. Don’t those people who have suddenly lost their jobs wonder why all the international companies doing business there are all stopping at the same time? Putin may be able to not have it reported in the news, but eventually citizens will put two and two together.

Uniqlo, the Japanese clothing store was remaining open saying that Russians still deserved to have clothes, but the world wide pressure got to them and now they too are closing. My thought when they said Russians still deserved clothes was, Ukrainians deserve to live their lives not being bombed! What a ridiculous statement from Uniqlo. It is indefensible. I’m never going back in one of their stores.

The world is a much smaller place than during the Cold War. Russia opened itself up to the world and the better and more desirable goods made anywhere, other than Russia and the people got addicted to them. I doubt that anyone under 50 in Russia is going to put up with not having Adidas as it closes 500 stores in the country, or any other luxury brand that Russians have come to love. Gucci and Louis Vuitton, what are you doing?

Visa and Mastercard have cut off credit cards to Russians outside Russia . These are the kinds of sanctions that can put the most pressure on Putin. Ordinary citizens having their life disrupted over a war they started is what needs to happen. I want our news media to continue to report who is still doing business with Russia and who is not. I am not going to support any business that stays in Russia. This is one way to support Ukraine and end this illegal war faster.

Shay’s Crush

Shay is not happy that the pandemic is subsiding. Yesterday Russ went to DC for a two day business trip. I taught two classes in Raleigh yesterday and two in Greensboro today. Shay did not like any of that.

My Raleigh days are shorter because I taught back to back classes with no break and the drive there and back is half as long as it is to Greensboro. Still Shay was vibrating with excitement by the time I got home. Since my Greensboro days mean I will be away from home for ten hours I got a friend for Shay today.

Elizabeth recently lost her beloved dog Norman. So she volunteered to have some Shay time if I needed it. I took her right up on it. We decided she would stop by and play with Shay and give her some dinner in the late afternoon. In the middle of my class this afternoon I got a photo text showing me how happy Shay was to have Elizabeth here. I wish Shay had taken a photo of how happy Elizabeth was to be spending time with Shay.

About an hour later I had a break in between classes and texted a thank you back to Elizabeth. She was still with Shay. What a big treat to have a human loving on her for over an hour. I told Elizabeth she deserved to have dinner from my fridge for all this.

I got home at ten tonight and Shay was happy to see me, but had that little smirk on her face, like she had snuck a friend into the house while Mom and Dad were away. I’m going to let Shay think I didn’t know about it. I think she has a little crush on Elizabeth.

This Cake Can Be Yours

Our church youth group is having a cake auction on Sunday. Various fabulous bakers in the congregation are donating different cakes. I am the auctioneer for this event and am hoping to raise a bunch of money for the youth group trips, which seem likely to happen this summer.

We have had this event in the past, but when we did many more people were showing up for the lunch that went along with the cake auction. This year, no lunch, just auction right after church. There are still plenty of people who watch church online and have not come back to the sanctuary. It is much safer now and I hope people will come.

I am donating my best cake. A deep chocolate torte with coffee buttercream. The name does not do the ganache filled cake Justice. It is a recipe from the best of gourmet 1990. I have made it since it was first published in the now long gone magazine. Every time I have made it I have had requests from the eaters to buy another. The cake can serve more than a dozen, so If I made one I had requests for 12 more. Then 144 more and so on. I never fulfilled all those requests.

When the oldest book club in Durham, the Tourist Club, turned 150, twenty years ago they requested I make this cake for their celebration. It was quite an honor. It still hear from some of the living members about how much they loved that cake.

I will be making this cake to auction off at church on Sunday. There is an opportunity for pre bids from people who will not be in attendance. If you would like to bid on the cake, just send me a message with your top bid. Your top bid may not be the final bid, because someone would have to be bidding against you. The opening bid will be $30 and it will go up in increments of ten dollars until it reaches $100 then the increments will go to $25.

If I get enough people bidding I will offer a second cake to be made on an agreeable date. So you have the chance to get a cake Sunday and/or a second cake later, but only if the bidding is high enough to warrant a second cake.

If you feel really generous, and don’t want to fool with bidding, or taking your chances on winning I would be happy to make a cake for you for a $500 donation to the youth group. It’s the sweetest donation you will ever make.

Local delivery of the cake, sorry It really doesn’t mail well.

Zillow No More

One of my favorite activities to do with Carter is look at real estate on Zillow. For the last few years, whether we were in the same room or 800 miles apart, we would look at properties together. Mostly it was apartments in Boston as the hope was she would end up staying and working there and get to move from her student apartment. For the record her student apartment was wonderful, but it is a studio and she was surrounded by nothing but students. Of course all of Boston is student filled, but the dream was to move to a less student dense neighborhood.

During the height of the pandemic rental prices dropped to ridiculous low prices as so many people left the city. It would kill us to look at these beautiful units in great neighborhoods at rock bottom prices and know it was too early for Carter to begin looking. But the study of every street and every neighborhood went on.

After Carter got her full time job she knew what her target commute was. She thought she may need to move to Brookline and live in Coolidge Corner. It is a lovely place to live with lots of options. Still some students since BC is close, but not totally students. She went one day after work to look at a unit and got an idea of the commute. Not bad, but also not right in Boston.

She loved the south end, expensive, but lovely. Back bay, narrow as it is bookended by Storrow and the bustling Newbury st. Her dream neighborhood was Beacon Hill. Very residential, but still with grocery and drug stores. Quiet and very few students. It seemed out of reach.

I zillowed every morning and evening looking for new listing to send her. She got a Realtor, who was a friend, she looked online everyday too. Last week her realtor found her a unit in Beacon hill that seemed too good to be true. Three rooms, plus an kitten and bathroom. The bath and kitchen had a lot to be desired, but three good sized other rooms was like a dream. Carter put in an application, but hers was the second one and the unit went to a double income couple. She was despondent.

Her income might not be enough for that neighborhood. She was young, which might be held against her. But she has excellent credit, and good savings from working at Bain Capital and a good rental history from her current spot. I told her not to worry.

She was coming to the realization that it was probably going to be Brookline. Then last Thursday, during my early morning Zillow looking I found a unit in a building on the most desirable street in Beacon Hill. The listing had been up less than an hour. Carter called to ask to see it. They said at 1:00 on Friday. She was so excited, but by ten in the morning Friday she got another call the unit was rented. Was this going to be the way it went? Are people renting units sight unseen? Not the way Carter wanted to go. You can’t tell enough about a building let alone the unit without seeing it. Carter shot the listing agent a nice email telling him that if he had anything else in the neighborhood to call her.

Back on Zillow for me. Then, by some miracle, the agent called Carter back. The first application had been rejected. Could she come see it at 2:30? Thankfully Carter’s job is very flexible she went to see it. She loved it. She filled out an application at four on Friday. The owners had to do back ground/credit checks on her. The agent said it was looking good, but it took until 9:00 am this morning to get the actual word she got the apartment. So much joy from Carter.

She will not move until the summer, but the good news is she does not have to move on September 1, when all of Boston moves. The peace of mind knowing she will be in Beacon Hill is great for us parents. Knowing she has an actual bedroom and a new beautiful kitchen with a dishwasher makes us all happy.

I jokingly told her I don’t know what I am going to do with all my time now that I am not Zillowing multiple times a day. But doing that really paid off because getting to a place first or second was key. Hopefully she will stay there a few years. The next Zillow search will hopefully be to buy, not rent.

Olden Times Again

Thursday or Friday Russ sent me an article about Shane Ingram, past chef/owner of Four Square, who is now the chef at the Durham Hotel. No commentary from Russ, just information that Shane was there. That information must have been ruminating with Russ since he sent me the article.

We are big fans of Shane’s. For years Four Square was one of our favorite restaurants. I can remember sitting at a table on the side porch when I came up with the idea to make Carter a Halloween costume of a vegetable garden. She was three. It was one of my best costumes.

Around 5:45 tonight Russ came in the room where I was needlepointing and said, “They have a 7:15 reservation at the Durham hotel for dinner. Do you want to go?”

Since I had been cleaning my office most of the day I told him I could, but needed to shower first, but so did he. So off we went. Downtown was very quiet tonight. I think the Duke Basketball fans, that swarmed the city, departed this morning, perhaps a little despondent.

We had a lovely table at the Durham, and just after we ordered drinks our friends Molly and Vickie stopped at our table on their way home. We invited them to sit with us and we caught up. We always say we need to have them over and then we forget. I am going to invite them this week!

After they left, we enjoyed a yummy dinner. It was nice to have Shane back. He apparently has been cooking there for a while, but just went public as the official Chef. It was a much better night out than we had a couple weeks ago. Perhaps we are beginning to see some of our old life come back, only this time I didn’t need to think up a Halloween costume.

This Will Always Be K’s Town

When a Russ decided to get his MBA at Carolina instead of Duke he was following in a long line of a Carolina Grads in my family. Both my parents graduated from UNC as did all their siblings. Despite our Chapel Hill ties, we could not find a house to buy there so we bought in Durham, which was considered enemy territory.

From the first day we arrived in Durham, 28 years ago we loved it. We also accepted the fact that this town was K’s town. It is hard not to admire Coach K. Not just in Basketball, but in his generosity to Durham. The Emily K center, which he started to support Durham kids, is a world class organization, which has changed lives of children who never may go to Cameron Indoor and watch a basketball game, let alone play in one.

Tonight’s final regular season game for Coach K and his last game coaching at Cameron is historical. It seems unlikely that there will ever be another more winning coach or one who will coach over four decades. Coach K’s legacy is firmly enshrined in Durham. This is his town and we are better because of him.

It is not just Duke that owes him, but our whole city. I am eager to see how he channels all that positive energy from basketball to new endeavors. Thanks Coach. I am happy to live in K’s town.

It’s a Habit

My mother is here for her monthly visit to the Duke eye hospital. She has to get shots in her eyes to save her sight from Macular Degeneration. Thank goodness there are medical professionals who can give shots into people’s eye balls. I certainly couldn’t watch it, let alone do it.

They dilate my mother’s eyes to such a degree that she still needs to wear sun glasses in the dark candlelit dining room eight hours after having it done. It takes a whole 24 hours for her pupils to get even close to normal. Since she can’t go home, she spends the night with us every month.

For my entire life my mother has had a sleep machine. It is a contraption that makes white noise to drown out any other sound that might possibly wake her. My father was a notorious snorer who could wake neighbors. It was understandable why she needed the sleep machine when I was little. Eventually my mother got tired of migrating to other bedrooms in the middle of the night, carrying her sleep machine so she got a second one. Then she eventually just got her own room.

When my father built his big house at the farm she had a room across from my father’s. That was not far enough to not be disturbed by the snoring, even with the sleep machine on full blast. So she moved to the furthest wing, sleep machine in tow. Then her hearing left her. When even the loudest volume on the TV was not enough she got hearing aids, which she hates. When she takes them out at night she couldn’t hear a siren blaring right beside her.

Tonight while we were eating dinner I asked her if she still uses her sleep machine. “Yes, it’s a habit,” she told me. I asked her if she could hear it with her hearing aids out.


“Why don’t you try and sleep without it, that way then you travel you won’t need to worry about bringing it.” She still wants to keep her sleep machine. You might have thought I had asked her to give up wine.

No Spring Break for Oligarchs

As Crazy Putin keeps at killing Innocent Ukrainians, the democracies of the world are doing their best to sanction Russia. It seems like it is hard to do anything to Crazy Putin that will make him change his mind, but let’s keep going after all the Oligarchs who act as Putin’s private bankers.

Seized Oligarch’s super yacht. Looks like at least 200 Ukrainians could like on that

I loved the news that one Oligarch’s super yacht was seized by the German Government, as it was in Hamburg being refitted. At 521 feet it seems like it could house a lot of Ukrainian refugees. Apparently a bunch of Oligarch yachts are on their way to the Maldives because they do not have extradition with US. I think it is poor marketing for the Maldives to be known as the place giving Russians refuge.

Then there are the private planes, big ass ones like Boeing 737’s that the Oligarchs own that have been seized. They could be used to fly refugees out of Poland to other countries will to take them in. We could handle a bunch of refugees in this country. Lord knows we need workers.

On the ABC news tonight I saw the story of a couple from Denmark who drove two cars to Poland and had a sign offering 8 Ukrainians refuge in their house in Denmark for free. They just needed to get in their cars and ride back with them.

Oligarchs own luxury apartments in all the major world cities. Ukrainian refugees should be housed in the toniest of neighborhoods, like Mayfair and the Upper East side. Let’s keep the pressure on this Oligarchs. It’s as close to Putin as we can get. Oligarchs should have no place to hide, no Spring break for them.

Another Day, Another Country Club Basement

After spending the last eight months in the ladies lounge at a fabulous country Club in one city, I am off to a new city and another ladies lounge. I am thankful that my friends who invite me to come teach find places for me to hold classes. It certainly makes it easier for me not to have to find my own locations. There just seems to be a commonality to many of the places I end up teaching. They almost all tend to be in the bowels of a club and therefore have no windows.

Maybe the lack of windows is a good thing for me, then I don’t know what time it is and get tired when the sun goes down. Today My location is an hour from home. With classes from 2-5 and 6-9 I will be gone ten hours. If I were to see that it is dark outside I might want to put my night gown on in the middle of class. It is the ladies lounge after all.

Thankfully this club has generously given me dinner during my break. Not that eating dinner at 5:30 is good for me, but it most certainly is good for my students. If I had to go ten hours without eating something I would turn into the worlds meanest teacher.

So for the rest of the month I will be in Greensboro on Wednesdays. New city, new friends. Don’t worry Raliegh, I’m still with you the other days of the week.

Awaiting Shay’s Groomer Acceptance

Getting Shay into a groomer is somewhat like Carter getting into college. Shay has had a bad spat of groomers through the pandemic. After losing two groomers in a row she went without a really good hairdo for eighteen months. Sometimes Carter or I would give her a hair cut. She went to a store front chain groomer who barley did the minimum, leaving her feet untrimmed making her slide down the stairs scaring the bejesus out of her.

Finally our vet’s groomer did her. She came back practically hairless, which made her cold in the winter weather. My friend Christy gave me a recommendation for her groomer and I texted to see if she would take Shay. Shay fulfilled the small, well behaved requirement. Next I need to submit her health records and a photo as if she were trying out for a beauty pageant. I am waiting for the interview portion. For now I am prepping Shay with Practice questions. “If you could have dinner with any three people, alive or dead who would they be?” I told her, “Three butchers” was probably not a pageant winning answer.

She did much better on the “how would you solve world peace question.” Saying that everyone on earth needed a dog was an inspired answer. Who can trust anyone who does not have a dog, especially a President without one.

I think Shay has good ACT scores (Attractive Canine thing) but did not fare as well on SAT’s (Sitting At aTtention). In the end she does not need a Vidal Sassoon level groomer. Just a reliable kind human who doesn’t pull her hair or scold her about matts.

We are keeping our fingers crossed awaiting her acceptance email. We don’t need the congratulatory T-shirt, or accepted dog visiting days. Supposedly there is a groomer for every dog, we just don’t want to go the community college route and are looking for a good liberal arts groomer.