Never Too Old For New Friends

At one of my recent Mah Jongg classes at the beach I had a student named Penny. Penny’s Mother-in-law had been one of my students in Kinston, and was a favorite of mine. In class Penny said she had moved from Kinston to Chapel Hill during the pandemic and had hardly met anyone. She asked if we might have lunch when we were back home.

Today we met for lunch. It was so fun to get to know her more deeply than I do in class. When I am teaching a group they get to know me better than I get to know each of them, even though I try hard. My whole life my default when I meet someone is to ask them where they are from. I think this is a habit I developed during boarding school. I love making connections between different people I know from the same place. Of course, I probably inherited this trait from my father who never met a person he didn’t first ask, “Where are you from?” Which was quickly followed up with, “How long have you been doing this.” This, being their job.

While Penny and I were having lunch, my neighbor Jay came by our table to say Hi and I introduced him to Penny. She asked him if he was related to someone and it turns out he is and that someone had been in one of my Mah Jongg classes.

I wish I kept better notes about who I have taught and could make a big Venn diagram about how they are all connected and related. Penny is looking to play Mah Jongg in Chapel Hill. I was planning on introducing her to my friend Val, who just took a class and before I could say it, Penny mentioned she had met Val and asked if I knew her. The criss-cross of connections is endless.

To all my Kinston friends, if your ears were burning today it was because I was sharing your names with Penny. I hope that Mah Jongg brings you all many new friends as it has for me. You just are never too old to make new friends.

Williams Sonoma Dish Towel Review

I got out of college in 1983. That year I bought myself a set of blue and white dishware from Conran’s. To go with it I purchased a set of two blue and white striped dish towels from Williams Sonoma. I loved blue and white and it was easy to just get things all in blue and white since they always went together.

The dish towels were nothing special, just cotton, made in China. I used them everyday and washed them every week. That means in the last 39 years I have washed these dish towels 2,028 times, give or take a few times. Not only did I use them to dry dishes and pots and pans, I would grab one to take a hot pan out of the oven, or mop up something on the floor or counter. They would wrap up plates I would be transporting to catering events and be tied around Carter’s neck while she sat in her high chair.

These dish towels have moved from my DuPont circle first apartment, to my Glover Park Condo, to my first house in Mt. Pleasant, then up to Russ’ house in NJ, lastly to our Durham house 28 years ago. They have been in my regular dish towel rotation for the last 39 years.

Today I pulled the two towels out of the dryer and noticed many new holes in them. It seems like just over 2,000 washings is all these towels had in them before the fabric just gave way.

I probably paid three dollars for the set of two, it was 1983 when I bought them after all. Since I used them somewhere north of 14,000 days the cost per day is too low to even have it make sense. So at a cost per year, they were .038¢ per towel. For those of you who are bad at math, it was under 4¢ per YEAR. I have to say as a return on investment that is very good, especially compared to shoes I bought and never wore.

My review is five stars, if you can find the 1983 version of the Williams Sonoma dish towels. Sadly I will have to retire these to the rag bin, but fear not, they will still be utilized to mop up things that are too gross for good dish towels. Despite the holes, there is still enough fabric intact to keep them around another year or two.

The Bravery of Cassidy Hutchison

I watched every minute of the January 6 hearing today. I was interested in who was going to testify since the committee so quickly called this surprise hearing. During all the last hearing there has been testimony of brave people who spoke up to tell the truth, despite almost all of them being republicans who were going against their party’s President. But Cassidy, a 26 year old women, who had only held jobs working for republicans in her adult life, seemed to be the bravest of them all.

It broke my heart that this young women, who had risen quickly through the ranks jobs that are usually overworked and under paid, appeared to feel like she was proud of the work republicans had been doing. She never appeared to have any agenda, other than doing a good job serving the administration which she believed in.

What a horrible loss of innocence she got as she witnessed, firsthand, the bad actions of the president she supported. As a nation we are lucky that she has the integrity to speak up, even when there are threats to those who do.

People in great power often overlook or ignore the support people who are constantly around them. It is no wonder that she was witness to conversations that bad actors wish she had not heard or seen, let alone testify about.

She was a believable witness today as she spoke without any of the signs of a person not telling the truth, she rarely blinked or repeated words or phrases, as liars often do. Instead she respectfully and in a measured way answered the questions she was asked.

I hope that she finds a new path and can work at a job with people of honor and integrity because she deserves that. As for the people who try and intimidate witnesses, that is a serious crime and one I hope they are prosecuted for harshly. As for the rest of the people who the committee would like really testimony from, answer the questions and tell the truth, it is the only way out of this club of killers.

Bring a Sharpie to The Shower

We were in New York this weekend staying at a lovely hotel. One of the joys of staying at a hotel is the lack of needing to carry shampoo, body wash, lotion or conditioner with you when you travel. I love trying the various products that hotels offer.

I am a big fan of the large bottles attached to the wall as opposed to the tiny disposable containers. The large ones prevent a lot of waste and usually have larger print on the bottles so even without my reading glasses in the shower I can tell which one is the Shampoo and which one is the body wash.

See, I rarely wear my reading glasses in the shower. That really is a flaw I have. I have never gotten in the habit of reading in the shower at home since I know which bottle is my shampoo and waterproof books haven’t really caught on.

Unfortunately for me this particular hotel we stayed in still went with the earth killing tiny bottles. The problems with those bottle are many. My main complaint is tiny writing on tiny bottles. Then to top it off they usually print the writing in light lavender on a slightly darker lavender bottle. The lack of font size and color contrast makes it all but impossible to figure out which bottle is the damn shampoo. There is nothing worse than putting body wash on your hair. Trust me they are not the same thing.

Not my actual bottle this weekend, but an example of what I see in the shower

You would think I would have learned to bring a sharpie in the bathroom with my glasses on and mark up all the products before getting naked. It would be so much easier if the bottle just had a big S on one side for the shampoo.

My second complaint about the tiny bottles we had this weekend was the tight flip cap. There was no way for me to open the cap, either by flipping or unscrewing. I eventually learned that if I opened the shower door I could use the edge of the glass to pry the cap open. It saved breaking a nail, which would have really infuriated me if I discovered I had opened the wrong bottle too.

So please to all you hoteliers out there, and I know a few who read me, buy large format bottles with big font sized writing on them. I know the people who make these decisions are probably young, with excellent eye sight, but have them think of what their grandmothers might need. I may never be a grandmother, but I am getting the eyesight of one.

The Best Nanny Becomes a Mommy

Back when Carter was just barely two I was taking a class at church and mentioned I was looking for a summer baby sitter. My friend Susan volunteered her daughter Megan. It turned out to be a match made in heaven. Megan was an actress heading to UNC to major in Drama. She was full of magic and playfulness and Carter, fell madly in love with her. It didn’t take long for Megan to become an important and beloved part of our family.

She was innately good with children. More Poppins than any Mary ever was. Carter and Megan could be found making puppets and putting on shows, or coloring full size drawings of themselves. Life with Megan was sparkle and glitter.

I quickly learned to give Megan and Carter free reign to spend their days together as they saw fit. With a car seat permanently installed in Megan’s turquoise Saturn they would traipse about Durham county and venture off to Chapel Hill with Carter. When Megan went to college she would continue to sit for us as well as provide a dramatic troupe of back-up baby sitters from the Drama Department.

Sometimes Carter would accompany Megan to rehearsal. One day when Carter and I were walking down Franklin St. A boy screamed out across the four lanes of traffic, “Carter, Carter!” She waved her tiny three year old hand enthusiastically back at him and said, “Hi!” I asked who that boy was, since she obviously knew this college student. “Hamlet,” she responded nonchalantly as we continued down the sidewalk.

Megan was so important to our family that we took with us to Disney world the first time Carter went. We didn’t really need a baby sitter, we just knew that Disney would be more fun for all of us if Megan came. For Russ it was a big bonus because he did not have to sit next to the two crazy ladies singing along to Hakuna Mattata at the Lion King show. Carter just thought is was normal to have your very own fairy Godmother everywhere you went.

Eventually Megan graduated, moved to New York City, got a masters at NYU and became a big time actress. Along the way she loved and cared for other children while in school and between acting gigs. She married the dreamy Max, a British actor and they moved to LA.

At last, more than twenty years after becoming our very best nanny and friend, Megan had a baby of her own. We are all ecstatic here in our house. We know first hand that her little boy is born into the most wonderful family, full of love and imagination. His pictures show a prince and we can hardly wait until the day we can meet him and whisper in his ear, “You are the luckiest boy.”

Ok, Today was my Day

Today was my day and I loved every minute of it. We started with brunch with my bonus daughter Ashley in Chelsea. I have missed Ashley as she has been living and working in New York for the last year. Carter needed a good Ashley fix too, so as soon as Carter planned this trip with Russ, behind my back, she invited Ashley to spend some time with us. One meal was not enough time to catch up on a year, but it was a good start.

After brunch we walked on the high line for a good while. Well, Russ and Carter walked and I hobbled. Three days of New York walking on a bum leg have caught up with me. I am glad to be going back to PT on Monday. I really want this leg all better before we go to Maine.

Russ left us at the high line to continue his walk of the city while Carter and I made our way to the theatre to see “Funny Girl.” What a fabulous birthday gift this was. There is nothing sweeter than your child getting you a present of a wonderful experience to do together and paying for it.

In regular Dana and Carter fashion, she sat on the aisle so she would not have to talk to anyone and I sat one seat in and made friends with the couple from Philly next to me and the mother and daughter from DC in front. We discussed favorite plays and musicals. The guy from Philly’s favorite is my least favorite, Phantom of the Opera. We still had a lovey conversation.

I was prepared for the show to not be fabulous because who can possibly beat Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif. We throughly enjoyed Beanie Feldstein and Ramon Karimloo, who played Fanny and Nick Arnstein. Jane Lynch was under utilized as Beanie’s mother, but was fun to see. Beanie’s singing got stronger throughout the musical especially belting out “Don’t rain on my parade.” Thank goodness we had to wear masks, otherwise we would have been heard singing to all the songs and those new friends I had made would have been annoyed.

After the Musical we went back to the hotel to find Russ and rest a bit. It was a hot day in NYC.

We had dinner in the west village at a yummy pizza place called Roey’s. I think it was the best meal we had. The perfect ending to a perfect day with my favorite people. What a wonderful present from Russ and Carter, getting to spend time together can’t be beat.

Today’s Bittersweet

Today was supposed to be my day. It started out well enough, with Russ going out early to get me iced tea which I require every morning, along with bagels for us all for breakfast. As we were enjoying our breakfast the horrible news came from the liars on the Supreme Court, over turning Roe. Carter burst into tears. The last six years have been so traumatic to be a young woman in this country. All those justices who sat before congress and said, under oath that “Roe was settled law,” have no integrity whatsoever.

The justice branch should be free of politics, but these Trump appointed Justices were nothing but political. It is hard to respect people who lie to get a job. Stand up for what you believe, but don’t lie. The majority of the country believes it is a woman’s right to chose, but now we have a group of liars who have dominion over us all. Be careful what you wish for, because you never know when they will come for something you thought was settled law.

Not the best way to start our day. We spent it in Brooklyn, exploring and eating at interesting places. Lunch was at a place Carter had seen in a documentary about the history of food. It is called Claro and we sat in their garden under a grape arbor. I was not hungry since I had a bagel for breakfast, but Russ and Carter had a lovely lunch.

I had this asparagus salad with puffed amaranth and sesame seeds dusted with matcha

After we went to the transport museum, which is right up our family’s alley. Where ever there is a transport museum, we go, us and all the six year olds. We walked the length of Whitman park on our way to Dumbo. Carter wanted the instagram photo of the Empire State Building in the arch of the Manhattan Borough Bridge. It is a good place to meander by the river and we hopped on the ferry and took it up to North Williamsburg. That was the very was my favorite part of the day. The cool breeze off the water as the boat sped upriver was lovely.

Wicker seats in old subway cars

Williamsburg made a great place to meander around. Russ and Carter found their favorite hot sauce store, I am not sure how they make rent with nothing but hot sauce to sell, but we helped them out there. Our last stop was the Rule of Thirds for dinner. It was good, but by that time I was so exhausted that I had a hard time enjoying it. Carter did say she had the best sashimi she has ever had.

Carter left us to go meet up with a college friend. Now, back at the hotel it is beginning to sink in on me what a horrible day in history this is for me. I worry that with the court striking down gun control laws and women’s right to chose we are just at the beginning of more bad things to come.

It’s a Hell of a Town

Russ and Carter surprised me for my birthday/anniversary with the idea of a trip to New York. Carter got me an actual present of tickets to Broadway for the two of us, so we had to take the trip. So this is the weekend.

My Dad’s old office

Russ and I flew up and Carter trained in from Boston and we met up at our hotel. This is a low key trip since I am injured, but I still walked 11,000 steps today and felt every one of them. Thankfully we have great rooms at a comfy hotel and I plan on sleeping well.

The highlight of our day was a yummy dinner at The Modern. The best thing we ate were the morel mushrooms, but Russ declared his Burnt Orange cocktail second best. It was just great to be together.

The city is bursting with pride colors and it made everything more festive. I just love having all three of us together.

The cold spring and now the heat too early, plus the lack of rain is curbing my yield in my garden. Today I picked a large yellow and two Roma red tomato’s and one okra. Sadly the okra was too big to be eaten. I hadn’t been monitoring the okra and this one just got out of hand.

If my garden is not as productive this year as last it won’t be the end of the world. I can afford to buy food and it is just the two of us at home. But my garden Is probably indicative of what farmers are going through and people who grow home gardens to have food through the year.

Yesterday’s harvest…pitiful

Gardening and farming can be heart breaking pastimes. You are at the mercy of the weather, pests and varmints. I saw one of my Mah Jongg students, Lee, at the beach and asked her how her farm is going. She reported that some thing had gotten into her husband’s cantelope and watermelon patches and taken one bite out of each fruit. Infuriating! Some stupid animal did not learn that all the bites were going to taste the same.

So pray for the farmers and the gardeners. Pray for rain and moderate temperatures. Pray that squirrels and groundhogs don’t come into your garden. Pray that bees are plentiful and pollinate everything. We are at nature’s mercy. We must take care of our planet or our planet will not be able to provide for us. Produce is not a given. It takes hard work. So thank every farmer you meet. They are our most essential workers.

Cookies Are Trouble

I have never been much of a cookie baker. Bars are more my speed. When you make a brownie or a lemon square you put the recipient in a pan, bake it and cut it up when it is done. Cookies involve portioning out each cookie, rolling each one into a ball and baking only 12 or 15 at a time one one cookie sheet. That is so slow. Not to mention the advance planning to get butter and eggs to room temperature.

Now that I am on the funeral committee at church I have been asked to make cookies. Someone else had already made plenty of brownies so it was just cookie for me. We have had a lot of funerals lately. Now the biggest funeral in our church, for our former beloved pastor Haywood, is going to happen this Saturday. This is a funeral I wish I could attend, but I will be out of town.

So the funeral committee asked me to make as many cookies as I could. Today I baked 14 dozen. That is a boatload of cookies. My friend Jan texted me asking how she could help. “COOKIES,” I said. Thankfully she responded in the affirmative.

This is not the time for me to make waves, but I am going to work on developing some bar recipes that might be acceptable in place of cookies. I know they always have plenty of brownies, although they have not had my sea salt brownies. I guess I need to come up with a snickerdoodle bar.

At least 168 cookies is a good offering. I don’t think I could make cookies for a living. It’s just too much work.

Haywood Holderness, One of My Favorites

Yesterday was a hard day for a few reasons. I only wrote about missing my Dad on the first Father’s Day since he left us, but I got a double whammy while I was sitting in Church. Our pastor Chris started the service as he normally does with some announcements. Having the announcements before the worship service usually ensures that we concentrate on the message of the sermon, not yesterday.

After the normal nuts and bolts, Chris cleared his throat and slowed down a bit. I had no idea what was coming, but knew it was something serious. When he had gathered himself he told our congregation that our Pastor Emeritus, Haywood Holderness had passed away. It should not have come as a shock, as he had been in decline for a while, but it hit me really hard. I cried through most of church, unable to get control of myself.

Haywood is the reason I am a Presbyterian. He is responsible for my involvement in the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. He supported us when Russ accidentally cut two year old Carter’s finger and we suddenly were under investigation for child abuse.

I grew up as an Episcopalian on both sides of my family. My uncle was an Episcopal priest. Russ and I got married at Grace Episcopal in Georgetown. There was no question I would die an Episcopalian. Then when we moved to Durham we visited our neighborhood Episcopal church four Sundays and no one spoke to us. I wondered if we had landed in some Yankee church. It was not welcoming at all.

Russ had grown up Presbyterian and our friends Jan and Rex were members at Westminster and invited us to go with them. From that first visit we were not just welcomed, but embraced. Haywood was a preacher I could listen to all day. We joined right away and that first year I took a Kerygma bible study with Haywood and learned more about the Bible than I had learned in my whole life. More than the Bible, I made many wonderful friends. I went on to become a Deacon and an Elder and served on Ways and Means all under Haywood.

One day after church Haywood looked at me and said, “You need to work at the Food Bank.” At that time he was the board chair. I got involved in the Durham Branch, which had been created, along with the Greenville branch under his leadership. He held a large capital campaign called the “break Bread” campaign and got the four past governors of North Carolina to be chairmen of the campaign. (It helped that they all just happened to be Presbyterians.)

It was because of Haywood that I spent five years on the Durham Council, chairing it the last two, 14 years on the board, eventually chairing it and the last five years chairing the Round table of the Food Bank. I was honored to present the Food Bank’s highest honor, The Hunt-Morgridge Award to Haywood in 2014.

The finger incident, as it is known in our house, was the scariest thing that had ever happened to us. On New Year’s Day, 2000 Russ was doing his duty and juicing lemons for me because I am allergic to touching them. I was still asleep and Carter was up helping Russ. She stood on a chair at the kitchen counter and just before Russ went to cut a lemon in half Carter put her finger on it and he cut her finger. It was a scary accident. He screamed for me to get up and we rushed Carter to the Duke ER. Being New Years day it was the lowest people on the totem pole working. Carter got two stitches in her finger as we told them how it happened. The resident did not like our “story” and that afternoon a social worker was dispatched to our house to do a surprise investigation. He told us that we would be under investigation for the next 30 days and if anything at all happened to Carter she could be taken away from us. She was two, she easily could fall down and hurt herself and we could be permanently labeled child abusers.

I called Haywood and he made some calls and vouched for us. The social worker sheepishly came back to our house and told us we were cleared. He blamed an over zealous doctor in training. I did call that resident’s attending to say that if they really thought we were child abusers they had not done their job. Carter was dressed in a turtleneck and leggings when we brought her to the hospital. They never separated her from us and they never looked at one inch of her other than the cut finger.

Haywood was a blessing during that very scary period. He told me that Duke had picked the wrong people to accuse and he made sure everyone knew it.

Haywood and his wife Mary moved to Raliegh to the nicest retirement community so they could be regular people in retirement and not pastor to Durham. It was sad for us not to have him living two streets away. I was able to see him regularly at Food Bank events, until he and Mary both moved to the continuing care wing.

The world was a better place because of Haywood. He had an excellent way of putting things into perspective. My favorite saying of his was in relation to Gay people. When the Presbyterian church was deciding if they were finally going to allow gay people to be married in the church there were a lot of small minded Churches fighting it. Haywood’s response to the question was hard to argue with. he said, “God didn’t make no junk.” Since God made gay people, just like he made everyone else, they were OK with God, so they should be OK with everyone else. Who are we to question God?

The Service for Haywood will be this Saturday at 2:00 PM. Sadly, Russ and I will be away, but if you go you can eat some of the thumb print cookies I am furiously making for the reception following the service. It will be a joyous celebration of a big life well lived.

The Two Father’s in My Life

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers I know. This is a bitter sweet day as it is my first Father’s Day without my actual father. He was never one for a big Father’s Day celebration, but he was a great father to me. He never missed an opportunity to teach me an important lesson. No one ever believed in me more than my Dad. He was also the best story teller I knew with a great sense of humor. I wish I had recorded him telling more stories.

With my Dad gone, Russ is the only father around. Since Carter is not home to celebrate him as her father everything is left to me. Well, Russ is getting cheated out of a big day. I am still crippled and he is cleaning out the dishwasher himself, even on Father’s Day. He is like my Dad in that way, good at doing chores without being asked. I can not think of a better father than Russ and I know I am lucky to have him as a partner in raising Carter.

Shay also considers him her top dog. To really make Russ happy Shay will let him take her on a very long walk. That alone is not enough so we are going to have to postpone showing him how much we appreciate him when we are all together next weekend.

I wish today I could feel nothing but happy for Russ, but the sadness of missing my Dad is putting a cloud on the day.

Honor to Serve

I am trying to take it easy to recover from my hamstring injury. Thankfully today was a low commitment day. The one thing I had to do was serve at the funeral service for Mike Rosenmarkle at church. I have now aged into serving on the funeral committee. That means I bake cookie and make sandwiches when needed. Today I was only needed to serve punch. (I didn’t make the lunch, but got quite a lot of positive comments about it.)

My other responsibility is I supply the magnolia trees from which leaves and flowers are cut for flower arrangements. Carol Walker, who is more in charge has been using my magnolia since she moved out of her house near me and no longer has a big magnolia. She used to call me and ask if she could cut magnolia, but I have since given her carté blanche to get what she needs.

I was able to witness one of her beautiful punch bowl wreaths using the magnolia, with hydrangea and sunflowers.

Serving at the funeral of a fellow church member is an honor. I loved getting to talk with Kay, Mike’s wife and her daughter. Turns out her son is going to Northeastern this fall and she knew my name from the parent group.

The loss of a loved one is a trying time and it is so nice that our church shoulders the work of a reception for the guests at the service. It gives everyone a chance to talk and see the family and share stories of their loved one with them.

I figure I will be on this committee until I can no longer serve lunch. Let’s hope that is a good twenty five more years.

Don’t Turn Your Back on the Garden

I obviously can’t harvest the garden while I am not home. So this week, while I was at the Coral By Club teaching, things in the garden just grew and grew. Thankfully the high heat did not kill everything, although some plants were not looking their best when I got home. I can’t be concerned about what I can not control, like the weather. The garden does do better now that it is fully enclosed, so I just let it do it’s thing.

As I was taking assessment I noticed one tomato plant that has failed and need to pulled out. One Zucchini plant looked battered from the big storm. I will leave it in and see if it recovers. Many cucumbers vines had grown in directions other than straight up the lines I had provided them to attach too. No problem, they can be redirected.

My favorite thing I discovered is how many cucumbers grew half inside the fence and half outside the fence. Picking them was tricky as I had to make sure they did not fall on the outside of the fence. Thankfully none of them had grown too big so that I couldn’t pull them through the wires.

Since I just made pickles with the last big batch of cucumbers I think I am going to use these to make some watermelon gazpacho. I might have over planted cucumbers so I will be looking for lots of creative ways to use them. I just can’t turn my back on the garden for long, other wise I will be inundated with monster vegetables.

So Many New Friends

I used to think that it was hard to make new friends as an adult once your children were able to drive themselves to school. Without that large cohort of mothers who were in the same situation you were in, where would you meet so many new friends? I had older friends who told me this was true for them. Making new friends in older adulthood appeared to be challenging, but since I have lived in the same place for 28 years it was not really an issue. I’ve had my friends for decades.

New people who move in the neighborhood have said, “I’ve met plenty of nice people, but most of them already have an established group of friends so I never quite feel like I am ‘in.’ I don’t have the years of history or know their children.”

Today I decided if anyone needs or wants to expand their group of friends all they need to do is learn to play Mah Jongg. Today I finished teaching two classes of 24 women how to play. They all did not know each other, but now they are making plans to play together. I also got 24 new friends.

While my students were practicing their lessons I went into the next room of the club where Mah Jongg afternoon play was going on. There were 8 tables of four, all made up of students of mine from the last few years. It made my heart so happy to be greeted so warmly by so many friends. Women of all ages, having fun together with people who were not just acquaintances they would say hi to by the pool, but real friends they got to know while playing Mah Jongg.

The bonus this year of the Mah Jongg explosion is I have made well over 500 new friends from all over the state. If you asked me ten years ago if I thought that would happen in my sixties I would have said, “absolutely not.”

Mah Jongg is really a game where friendships develop. I saw proof of this as students today at each Mah Jongg table, clapped for each other when someone they just met won, which meant they were clapping for the person who beat them. That’s a great way to be a good friend.

Hamstring- Bamstring

Last week I did something bad to my hamstring. I went to Physical Therapy and they started working on it. For the last two days I have been teaching Mah Jongg at the beach and have been up on my feet most of the day. This afternoon my hamstring was screaming at me. I went back to my friend Kate’s and put my foot up.

By the time we went out to dinner with her cute neighbor-friend Lyn I could hardly walk. Now I am icing and pray that a good night’s rest will help me recover enough to tech lol day tomorrow and drive home. Thank goodness I have PT Friday.

Thanks Kate and Lyn for helping me!

Longest Mah Jongg Day

Today is annually my longest Mah Jongg day. For the last five or six years I have taught Mah Jongg at the Coral Bay Club. They are such lovely hosts to me. I am lucky that my friend Kate let’s me come to her place on the beach and be with her while I am teaching.

Since it is only three hours from home I got up this morning at five and drove down, arriving 15 minutes before my first beginner class. I had two beginner classes, back to back today. The first day of beginner Mah Jongg is the absolute hardest one to teach. I have to impart a lot of knowledge and try and keep everyone on the same train and the same track.

People learn in so many different ways and I try and break up the lecture parts of the first day with hands-on activities to help people learn. I had one woman who came to me in the break of the first class and say, “I can’t do this. I don’t understand anything.” I asked her to stay with me at least through tomorrow. By the end of class today she was making hands.

I always start beginner Mah Jongg with the same warning. “Don’t judge if you like this game by the first day’s class. It takes three days to learn and you won’t know enough after the first class to see if you like it or not.” No matter how many different ways I say that, some people are impatient.

You can learn Mah Jongg in three days. It will still take 12 months to get good and years to become a shark. The big thing to keep in mind is if you are playing with four people three of you are going to lose and maybe four of you will lose if it is a wall game.

After having 24 students in six hours of class today, after such an early long drive, I am exhausted. Thank goodness Kate was up for dinner on the early side. We still made time to do some practice hands so she can work on her shark badge. I know I am going to sleep well tonight.

Growing is Easy, Processing is Hard

Raising vegetables is not hard once you have a well set up, enclosed, raised bed garden. With the right compost and water you can easily get things like squash and cucumbers to produce, prolifically. Once vegetables start coming, they come fast. If you don’t harvest quickly they can get too big, too fast. In the last two days I have harvested a large number of yellow squash, zucchini and cucumbers.

Just being two people at home and not home all that much I have to process the vegetables to ensure that we can enjoy them at a later date. Russ has patiently been waiting for his favorite zucchini bread, so I baked home three loaves for the freezer. Next I pickled five big cucumbers with the dill from the garden. Lastly, I made five quarts of yellow squash and onions, but still have yellow squash to cook. All this cooking and no eating, yet. Just preserving the harvest for the future.

I always forget that the growing. Garden is the easy part. The cooking is the time consuming part.

Leaving a Beloved Group

When Carter went to college I joined the parent Facebook group for Parents. It was newly started by a wonderful Mom, Fran Bee, who made sure it did not become a bitch site. No students or school employees were allowed. It was a most useful group. I learned all kinds of tips, like where to get the best dorm room insurance and how my daughter could store her belongings over the summer.

When it came time for Carter to find an off campus apartment the group supplied lots of advice about land lords to stay away from and safety tips. I would pass the gleaned information on to Carter who appreciated the information.

After a while I was the one offering advice. Oftentimes it was to new parents to tell them to trust their child and the school. Many times I explained what the Explore Program at NEU was and how much my daughter benefited from it. Sometime I would hear back from parents who took my advice, telling me that their child chose the explore program and were thriving.

I stayed in the group after Carter graduated in December so I could follow thread bout the graduation week she participated in in May. Recently I have noticed that I no longer have up-to-date information to provide to new parents and no need for information myself. This means it is time for me to leave the group.

I posted a goodbye today and was astonished at the hundreds of likes and messages of good luck. I shouldn’t have been surprised because over the years I have said similar things to parents I have gotten to know through this group.

I will miss reading about what kids are doing, especially since there is no group to move to when your child is an adult and works.

Thanks to Fran Bee, who is gone from the group now and doesn’t read my blog. She started a wonderful resource. She passed the administration on to a father, Steve, who sadly passed away while his child was in school. Then Yoon Kim took over and has been outstanding. Thanks to these parents who volunteered to be the admin for this site. It can be thankless and I appreciate all these parents did.

I have officially moved from being the payer of tuition to nothing when it comes to NEU. My daughter is the alum. So thanks for the wonderful connection to the school, Northeastern Parents Group. I loved being part of you.

Savory Zucchini Waffle

In my world I never stop dreaming up different ways to use zucchini. There is nothing more beautiful than a just picked vibrant green spear. It has a little flavor, but it takes to anything. So today I really went outside the box. I grated a medium zucchini on the large holes of the box grater. I added pepper turkey, Gruyère and mozzarella cheese, dry buttermilk pancake mix, sriracha, egg and water – Heaven. I ate mine naked, Russ put some syrup on his. It is the perfect blank crispy canvas for other things. Of course a fried chicken tender with a schemer of marmalade butter would be good. You could sauté some shrimp with green onions and a little cream and ladle it over. Or you could turn it into a Pizza with some sauce and a little bit of Parmesan.

I didn’t measure anything so all these amounts are approximations. It really depends on how watery your zucchini and cheese is.

Preheat your waffle iron

1 medium zucchini – grated

Four slices of peppered turkey, crumbled up

A handful of shredded Gruyère cheese

A handful of grated mozzarella

Mix that all up.

Sprinkle about 3/4 of a cup of dry buttermilk pancake mix on top and mix again.

Beat one egg and add 1/3 c. Of water to it. Beat again.

Mix liquid into the other ingredients. It it appears dry add a splash more of water. You want the mixture to be thick and no dry mix anywhere. It’s mostly zucchini and cheese.

Drizzle about 2 T. Of sriracha in mix and stir.

Spray waffle iron with Pam and spoon mixture into the center of each section.

Close the lid and cook about five minutes. The steam coming out will slow down.

Open the lid carefully so you don’t pull the waffle apart. I had to stick a fork inside and hold the top of the waffle down.

Serve immediately.

Waiting for Tomatoes

This morning I went to harvest the garden; Three nice yellow squash, two zucchini and the first two cucumbers. I now have a large number of yellow squash that need to be made into something. I made some zucchini three nights ago for dinner. Now Russ is doing the zucchini bread dance, waiting for me to whip up a few loaves and begin filling the freezer. I will probably start making some refrigerator pickles with the cucumbers so that everything is processed at its peak.

This all well and good, but the whole reason I built this enclosed, raised-bed garden is for tomatoes. I have seven very big plants. Most have fruit. Some have had fruit for a while, but nothing is ripe yet. I look longingly at these green globes everyday in search of a blush. Nothing.

All the while the squash keep coming. The arugula is proficient. The cucumbers look like they are going to be overwhelming. Yet no red tomatoes, not even a cherry.

See, I have to work hard to use up all the vegetables, except tomatoes. There just can’t be enough ‘maters. No matter how many I get I can always make gazpacho, or tomato soup, sauce, tomato pie or just a sandwich. I have a self-imposed short season this year as we are going to Maine for a month so the sooner the Tomatoes start the happier I will be.

Until then I will just have to survive on squash (which would be so much better if it had some tomatoes with it.)

Tonight’s Hearings

In May of my sixth grade year I watched the Watergate hearings with great interest. I had a family of many republicans so I was interested in learning what the officials had to say about the crimes that seemed apparent to this 12 year old. It seemed like an open and shut case and plenty of republicans did the right thing by condemning their own president. Nixon was told by his own people that he would not survive an impeachment and resigned. It felt like the worst thing that could happen in America. There was no foreign enemy to blame, it was Americans taking down our own country.

America went on to survive and so did the Republican Party. You would have thought that they would have learned that lesson. If you get caught doing bad things, own up, cut your losses and move on. Well, those republicans don’t seem to exist anymore, save Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.

Tonight we get to hear from the house committee to investigate January 6. I watched January 6 live on TV as it was happening. Since it was before the pandemic, it felt like it was the worst thing to happen in America since the civil war, as it was a second civil war. It does not take anyone older than a 12 year old to see the crimes happening right in front of many cameras.

The day after the riot, many republicans spoke the truth and condemned what had happened the day before. Then, something happened to them, like an alien zapped their brain and they knew nothing about the riot they lived through the day before.

I am hoping that the public hearing we are about to witness will make clear exactly what happened and exactly who is guilty for it. I really hope that for the good of our country republicans will stop acting like the storming of the capital was not the insurrection that it was. Democracy works if truth is at it’s center. We can not let democracy slip through our hands because we let politicians ignore the facts in front of them.

I hope everyone watches the hearings. It is our duty to hold anyone who tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power accountable.

It’s Garden Vegetable Cooking Season

We had a long cold spring. Due to that, my garden went in a little later than I wanted, but it’s finally starting to produce. That means I have my self imposed rule of having to eat the majority of things from the garden at each meal. I made a crustless spinach Quiche with the last of my spinach for breakfast. I had an arugula salad with basil for lunch and I made zucchini pasta for dinner.

The pasta was inspired by something I saw on TV last year. I can’t remember the show, but I did remember the dish because it used a lot of zucchini. So I made it tonight and it was simple and yummy.

Four zucchini – grated in the Cuisineart

4 T. Butter

4 big cloves of garlic -minced

Sprinkle of red pepper flakes to your taste

8 oz. Linguine

Big handful of basil- cut into ribbons

Parmesan cheese

Put the butter in a big frying pan and melt it. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the zucchini and cook, on medium high heat for at least 20 minutes. You want to render all the liquid out. Stir it often and don’t let it brown. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

Boil the pasta and take a half a cup of the pasta water and add it to the zucchini and stir it around. Add the pasta and toss well. Top with basil and Parmesan.

You could make it vegan with olive oil and that nutritional yeast in place of the butter and cheese.

A Rare Tuesday Night

Five years after we initially became empty nesters we finally figured out we can go out any night. Amazingly it was Russ who was the social secretary. He found that St. James had a reservation for a Four top tonight. He grabbed it and invited Lynn and Logan for a belated birthday dinner for me. Actually nailing the Tom’s down for dinner is not an easy task as they still communicate best in early 1900’s technology; a pony express would get their attention, followed by a telegram. Texting is questionable since they rarely reply and a phone on their person has never been answered and the voicemail box is always full. Perhaps a note left at their home on just the right door might garner a response, but not in a timely manner.

Miraculously this dinner came together and we even got a response about us picking them up so we could ride together. Lynn does not eat seafood, but Russ had already scoped out enough potential menu items for Lynn so she was happy. The real surprise of the night came in the cocktail form. Russ ordered a Bang Bang. After ordering her requisite Diet Coke Lynn thought that the cocktails coming from the bar looked interesting enough to order one so she chose a Bahama Breeze.

I have a long and sorted history of watching Lynn order cocktails, which once sipped, don’t suit her. Tonight, for the first time in our twenty-five year friendship she drank a whole cocktail to the point that the waitress asked if she wanted another. It was a big night. In fact, we had so much fun it felt like a Saturday night, and yet we suddenly realized it was just a Tuesday.

It has taken us five years of our daughters being gone from home that we realized we could go out to dinner on a weeknight and act like it is a weekend. What took us so long? Lady Grantham, on Downton Abbey said it best, “Weekend, what’s a Weekend?”

Cake Love

There is nothing sweeter than the love of a friend. OK, there is nothing sweeter than a friend who loves you enough to give you cake. No wait, there is nothing sweeter than a friend who bakes you a homemade birthday cake. Well, it is sweeter if she shells the pistachios to make the cake. Doubly sweet if the recipe calls for two cups or pistachios.

So what kind of friend do you want to be? I’ll be the one who makes you a cake, but I probably won’t shell the pistachios by hand. I may love you, but I don’t love anyone that much. I also don’t expect any of my friends to go to that much work.

What I do appreciate is being the friend of the birthday friend so I get a piece of that hand shelled pistachio cake. No work on my part, but I still love my friend and the friend who baked the cake and shelled the pistachios.

Now my fear is that the bar has been set too high. For the record I won’t be shelling any nuts. Just know I love you nuts or no nuts.

Mah Jongg For Dogs

I had the pleasure of teaching two family groups their first Mah Jongg Class tonight. One of my students from earlier in the year thought it would be a good game for them all to learn and set up three night classes at her house. Two of the classes are on Sunday’s, a night I normally don’t teach. I have to say it was a nice way to end the weekend.

The only one who was not happy about the Mah Jongg lessons was their very fluffy dog, Juno. Juno eventually had her leashed tied to one of the player’s chair. That did not stop her from trying to pull the chair over.

Juno is not the only dog I have had in Mah Jongg class. Last week I had Jewel, in class at her home. Jewel was always very excited when I would arrive for class. She would hang with me while I set up. Eventually she wanted to learn to play as can be seen from her studying my big Mah Jongg teaching card.

If only I could teach dogs to play I really could expand my universe of students. People are crazy for their dogs and spend endless amounts of money on them. I might be able to double my fee for dog lessons.

Abby and Liam

Russ and I were really honored to be invited to Abby and Liam’s wedding today. I have known Abby since she was six when her mother Deanna and I met at Jan’s bridge class. Abby has always been an incredible person, the union of Abby and Liam takes them both to another level.

We had no idea what to expect from this wedding as Abby, the professional event planner ran the whole thing. Sometimes at Bridge or Mah Jongg I would ask Deanna what the plans were and she would say she didn’t know as Abby had the whole thing under control. And she did.

Well, it was really an event all about love. So many friends and family came to celebrate these two outstanding humans as they make their partnership official. I really felt the love at this wedding. Even the goats felt it! Congratulations Abby and Liam.

Not Taking This Personally

I went downtown to join Russ and our friends Crystal and Hunter at the Bulls game tonight. Since we had two cars I got home before Russ did. I went up to our bedroom. Shay was asleep on the foot of our bed when I turned the lights on. She looked at me sweetly and did not move a muscle. No greeting, just a stare.

I gave her a little snuggle and started getting ready for bed. A few minutes after I got home Shay stood up because she heard the garage door open. She was a perfect posture attention. Looking intently into the dark hallway she waited.

Eventually I heard Russ coming up the stairs. Shay stood in position.

He did not come in our room, but walked by on the way to his bunny office across the hall. Shay held her ground.

At last he entered the bed room. Shay went straight up in the air as quivering arrow and shook all over with excitement. Russ pet her and she bowed down to him and as he went around the bed to the other side she bounced up and down paying homage to him.

I am not taking it personally that she could not even lift her head for my return.

Never Get That Harvest Just Right

It’s been horribly hot here the last few days. My spinach bolted before I could harvest it all. Now I am going to have to rip it out and replace it with something hot loving.

My squash started producing. The big rain we had on Monday did something. Not exactly sure what. I had some big fruit and a bunch of small fruit, even though they all started at the same time. I also had some that rotted from too much water too fast. I pulled those off and threw them over the fence.

I have to admit I have not been tending my garden as well as I should. It just too hot to spend much time out there. I can do about a half an hour and then I am soaking wet and have to come in and shower. It will cool down this weekend and I hope that I have not let my chores go too long.

There are green tomatoes on a few plants and some tiny starts on cucumbers. Lettuce needs to all be harvested and one patch of arugula. Gardening is work and it really makes you appreciate farmers. They never get a day off and are at the mercy of the weather. Next time you go to the farmers Market or just the produce aisle in the grocery think about how hard it was for someone to grow that food you buy and how relatively inexpensive it is for what you get. If you had to grow it all yourself you might starve, or get really tired of eating one crop.

You Try and Teach ‘Em

All of Carter’s life I have spent teaching her life skills so she was prepared to be an adult on her own. It started with cooking, and she mastered that. She learned best about cleaning from Camp Cheerio as she was always wanted to get to be honor cabin. We taught her car care skills, which now that she lives in a city where she will probably never own a car, she does not need.

Managing Finances were the big lesson. It started with learning to be a good saver from the time she first started earning babysitter money. Then getting her a credit card and teaching her about credit ratings. We are big on not spending more than you don’t have. When she was eight and we went to Chicago to the American Girl doll store she brought $17 of her own money. The first thing she saw in the store was a Christmas Sleigh with a horse and two Christmas coats for two dolls. She turned to me and said, “I really want that sleigh.” (A phrase she muttered for four days in Chicago.). I asked her how long it would take her to save up for it. She said, “At least ten years, because there will be tax.” I had taught her well about taxes.

Carter learned how to travel on her own and figure it how to get around in countries where she did not speak the language. During college she lived off campus and learned how to open utilities accounts and stay in good standing.

She started working for other people when she was ten, at her barn, and we let her manage her employee/boss relationship on her own, learning good lesson’s about it how to satisfy your employer by being a reliable worker. All these lessons in preparation for adult life.

Today she went to pick up the key to her new apartment she is moving too in her new neighborhood. After getting the keys she went to drop off a first load of things she does not want the mover to move. She tried to get into her apartment and had trouble. She called called the cute realtor and he told her to just try and turn the key harder. She did. She broke the key off in the lock.

Embarrassed she called the realtor and he came over to see if he could fix the situation. Apparently, they didn’t use the deadbolt lock where she had put the key to the mailbox. She could have opened the door with just the key to the handle.

I guess I didn’t teach her what a mailbox key looks like. At least I did teach her to be strong.

Welcome to adult life in your new apartment Carter!