Great Pimento Cheese Debacle

I knew something was wrong when I could not find Palmento Cheese at Costco today. About everything three weeks I make a Costco run for Shay’s rotisserie chicken and Pimento cheese and peanuts for Russ. Those are on the “always” list, unlike the every three months toilet paper, or once a year laundry pods.

Russ is addicted to the jalapeño pimento cheese, which is half price at Costco, but not as good as my Aunt Janie’s homemade. Due to the ease of availability at Costco I just buy that for Russ.

A few weeks ago Russ alerted me to a news story about the owner of Palmento Cheese, who also happens to be the mayor of Pawley’s Island, in which he made a comment about the Black Lives Matter movement. When you have a business that sells something to the general public you are better off not to make any statement which might be considered racist. In the small world of Pawley’s Island you might not realize exactly how racist you sound.

Well Costco took offense and decided to stop carrying the popular cheese. That is making some people mad, but hey, Costco can also take a stand. I had a feeling in my bones that the missing cheese spread might be due to this controversy when the normally full, prime, end cap display of cheese was no where to be found today.

Now I am going to have to make the cheese for Russ myself. First I have to get the recipe from my Aunt. The only problem with this scenario, is her’s is so much better than the Palmetto that I am now forever going to have to make it for Russ, even after Costco finds a new supply.

Day Road Trip Reunion

Today was such a big day I forgot to get a photo. I must have been excited about my impending outing today because I woke up at 3:30 and up was up for the day. Since I actually had a little lunch trip planned I went out before eight and did some wall work. I mostly unloaded 32 50 pound bags of gravel and shoveled dirt. Nothing exciting, but doing a little bit of it everyday is the only way to tackle this project.

After cleaning up and putting on real clothes I have not worn in six months I went to pick up Lynn. Since we consider ourselves a pod we felt safe to drive in the same car to Greensboro. This is the furthest I have been from home since my 36 hour trip to and from Boston in July.

We went to meet our old friend Leigh who moved from Atlanta to Charlotte. We wanted to meet for lunch in the middle, but there is nothing in the exact middle so Lynn and I got the shorter drive.

Leigh has recently gotten engaged and since I was her most vocal friend about getting rid of her first rotten husband I wanted to see her new situation happiness in person. She was very happy and I am thrilled for her.

We had a lovely socially distant lunch at the Green Valley Grill where the tables were very far apart and the servers were well masked and non-bothersome. It was just a treat to get to have a girls lunch out and a good catch up.

It is so nice when a friend finally gets the relationship she deserves after suffering with a fool for so long. Leigh showed us pictures and he looks fantastic and she seemed very content. Hooray for love.

The drive was fun, the lunch was yummy, the reunion was sweet. A great day and now I am exhausted. At least it might rain all day tomorrow so I will be forced to read my book and not shovel, carry or build.

Slow Covid NC

Yesterday Dr. Mandy Cohen, the North Carolina secretary of health and human services announced a new app to help with tracing for Covid. It is called Slow Covid NC. You down load it for free onto your phone from the App Store. As long as you have your blue tooth enabled the app keeps track of all the phones you come into close proximity to that also have the app running.

If someone tests positive for Covid they are given a PIN number which they enter into the app. Then the app will notify anyone who was in close proximity in a period of time that you might have been exposed. If you are notified you can get tested for Covid and find out if you have it. They don’t tell you who the person was, or exactly where you were near the person because the app does not keep track of places, just some random Bluetooth token. This way your privacy is protected.

This app helps us slow Covid by alerting people who might be a-systematic from unknowingly spreading the virus. It may save the lives of people you love and live with.

The only way this works is if a majority of us get the app. The North Carolina version of the app also works with other states versions of the same technology. So if you go to Virginia they are running a similar program and you will be covered there too.

Please consider downloading this app on your phone. If you live in another state search to see if your state has a Covid tracing app. The more of us who use technology for contact tracing the faster we can get back to normal. Of course having the app does not protect you from getting Covid so you still need to wear your mask, wash your hands and stay at least six feet apart from people.

Spread the word about the App. Get everyone in your house to download it. Help slow the spread of Covid!

More Than Six Million

Despite my bruised ribs I rallied today to work on my wall. One day off seemed like more than enough time and the weather is so perfect to work outside I just had to see if I could do it.

Russ had carried blocks down to the wall for me so I got to working on the next two courses. I was able to do that without too much pain, but realized that the wall was getting tall and I needed to do some back filling. Back filling is the least exciting part of the job. It involves me shoveling dirt from my existing garden into the space I have created with the new wall. Think grave digger rather than gardener.

The expanse of the extension means I will have to shovel at least four cubic yards of dirt and then refill that same amount in my old garden. I could just build the whole wall and have the fill delivered and only shovel once, but I fear the wall might fall over if I don’t back fill as I go along. So I am going for safety, even if it means double work.

After three hours of hard labor I called it a day. I am not trying to kill myself and since I am the only person I have to satisfy I can go easy.

The nice thing about working in this perfect temperature is that I am not soaking wet from my own sweat when I come inside so I don’t have to strip off my clothes at the washer and dryer. I came in today and went in my office and just as I was sitting down my house phone rang. For some unknown reason I answered it. A young woman, real life person, said she was calling about my property at my address. Curious about what she want I said, “Yes,” she could continue. She said she had buyers that would like to buy my house for cash. I told her “six million dollars and don’t call me back for a penny less,” and I hung up.

I went upstairs and Russ called to me from his bunny office and congratulated me on the amount of work I had done. I told him then about the six million dollars and he said, “that’s not enough. Shay likes it here.” And foolishly I had thought for a minute he was really valuing my wall building.

Special Nap Day

Thanks to all my friends with good wishes for fast healing and advice for my bruised ribs. Thankfully I took enough pain killers last night to have a good night’s sleep after much icing of my ribs. I awoke and knew that I had to take the whole day off from manual labor, which made me a little bit crazy.

My mother came in the middle of the day to pick up her needlepoint pillow that I had finished for her and a box of pocket books Carter wasn’t able to sell. She thought she would take me out to lunch, but never told me that. I had lunch for her here because we don’t go out to lunch during a pandemic. I think she might have forgotten that I have the same pandemic here that she does up at the farm.

After mom left I went to the sunroom to read my new book club book and Shay came to snuggle with me. Between the warmth of the sun, the pain killers, and Shay I promptly fell asleep and napped for two hours. This is unheard of. I was a little annoyed by the dings of text messages coming through my phone, but I ignored them. I think I need a nap button on my phone. Not that I am planning on taking up napping. I will just use it while injured where napping is imperative to speed healing.

I am hoping that tomorrow I will feel up to resuming my manual labor job because I have a lot to do and the weather is perfect and my calendar is open. I can’t possibly take two naps in the same week, especially since I don’t have that nap button.

Just Walking Is Dangerous

Things are moving along. Four courses are done and three are back filled. This means I might be about a third done, in height, but hopefully about two thirds done in time as the prep and foundation work take the longest.

Today Russ volunteered to help lift blocks and fifty pound bags of stone for me. It was a huge help in the retaining wall project. He is fast so he was able to carry down block and place it in front of my wall and leave me to stack and level them. I spent almost four hours working on the wall today because of the forty minutes Russ put in. Four hours was probably too long for my body to do, but as I was feeling OK I just kept at it.

After my many hours I went in the garage to replace the tools and take off my garden shoes. I went in the house in my socks on my way to take a shower. It was a mistake not to take my socks off at the washer and dryer, not because they were so dirty, but because my floors are slippery when I am just wearing socks.

Before I could get all the way upstairs Carter called. I only get one call a week on Sundays, so I gave up on going to shower so I could catch up with her. On my way into the sunroom, because it is the best place to sit for a long phone call, I slipped on the slanted vestibule. I fell sideways into Shays toy basket, and slammed my side into the arm of the love seat. I threw my huge glass of tea all over the carpet, dropped my phone and lay screaming on the floor. Poor Carter, she had no idea what was going on, but knew it was not good.

Russ ran into the sun room and my big concern was for him to clean up the tea. I lay on the floor awhile assessing the damage and decided I had not broken or punctured anything.

As if I was not already sore enough from building the wall, now I am going to be bruised on my side. I called Carter back and at least got my weekly call in with her. Shay is not happy about the destruction I did to her toy basket, but I am thankful it probably slowed down my fall. At least I did not throw my big tea glass at a window and break that. I have learned the “don’t just wear socks” lesson big time.

Covid Friendly Exercise Opportunity

Have you missed going to exercise class? Is working out with your friends something you crave? Have I got an opportunity for you. It’s an easy 20 pound weight lifting and outdoor walking class, no mask required as you will social distance.

I have completed the very tedious and difficult part of building my wall, the base and leveled row and have completed two courses of the blocks. Placing the blocks is not difficult for me, but getting the blocks from the pallets in the driveway down to the wall is slow to do alone.

I am looking for any exercise desiring friends who would like to come and carry blocks for any amount of time. If you normally work out for an hour, come for an hour. Or come for half and hour. It’s not difficult work and it is way more fun when we get to talk while doing it. The bonus is I will be giving food to all block carrying volunteers who work an hour. You will get a choice when you are done to take home a quart of something yummy.

I don’t work on the wall more than three hours a day because I see no reason to kill myself doing this project. I will be working Monday morning from 9-11, Tuesday Morning from 9-12, Wednesday afternoon from 2-4. If I need to I may offer Friday hours, but I am hoping I will be close to being done by then.

Example of a non-working visitor

If you want to take advantage of this free exercise class with bonus food giveaway, contact me and let me know which hour you want to come work. Due to social distancing only one person can come each hour. If you just want to come visit, feel free to do that. I can set up a guest viewing chair. No free food for viewing. The best news is the weather is lovely for this kind of work.

May The New Year Be Better

I’m not Jewish, but my big and twin Pi Phi sisters are so I feel like I am welcome in the tribe. Tonight is the start of Rosh Hashanah, the new year in the Jewish calendar, so L’shanah Tovah to all believers.

As Russ and I are going to some friends for dinner, he is Jewish, she is not, I decided to bake some challah bread to bring as my hostess gift. At this point I am so looking forward to a better new year, and to get this one over with that I am happy to jump onto any one else’s new year.

So here’s to a happy new year for us all. Never in my life have I lived through a year that was collectively so bad for the whole world. I hope that prayers said by some tonight and this weekend can help bring healing and good luck to us all, for the whole world needs it.

Not sure if I will ever be a really good baker, but I hope my gift of challah brings good luck to my friends. Happy New Year.

I wrote this before we went to Lee and Tom’s. While we were there the terrible news of the loss of RBG came over. I am not sure how much more we can take in this horrible year, but this truly takes the cake. God speed RBG. You did your best to hold on for us as long as you could.

Women of Achievement Lunch

Some Zoom’s are better than others and today’s Women of Achievement lunch zoom was almost better than the in person event. Every year for many, many years, Chapel Hill, Durham and Chatham Magazines have honored women doing great things in our communities. I was lucky enough to be an honoree due to my work for the Food Bank in 2014 and so I get invited to come to the lunch every year. The lunch gets bigger and the honorees are always interesting.

Ellen Shannon

This year the in person lunch, which normally happens in May had to be canceled, and they pivoted to this virtual event, but still gave us lunch. So I drove down to Southpoint Subaru and picked up my yummy fall chicken salad and goody bag from my magazine friends who were set up in a tent in the pouring rain. They made it easy by just making the whole thing drive through.

Once I was home I enjoyed my lunch and joined the Zoom. Ellen Shannon and Rory Gillis, the fearless women leaders ran a great show. We had two inspiring speakers. The first was Alex Zagbayou, the executive director of Student U. I first got to know Alex when she was the number two at Studentt U and I was writing a story on her. She was remarkable then as a twenty something inspiring the youth of Durham to higher Achievement, but it is no surprise that she has gone on to quadruple the impact Student U has in our community. Now she didn’t tell us any of that. She did talk about the need for self care and pacing ourselves during this time of Covid.

Rory Gillis
Alex Zagbayou

Our second speaker Esther Campi, who is a crisis communications expert who advises Health Care companies. She focused us on how to pivot in a crisis, and all of this year can be seen as a Crisis.

One theme both Alex and Esther shared in their talks were that you have to have both your head and your heart involved when you are a leader. These things are true all the time, but the heart is especially critical in 2020.

After their talks we had break out groups and that was the most fun part. We were randomly put into 2 groups and in both of mine I had friends I was happy to get to see. In my first group was one of the honorees of the day I know well, Jessica Bottesch, who along with her business partner Rhonda Williams own Empower Fitness. Congratulations to them as they are making a difference in our community.p, even as they have had to be closed for the last six months.

The part of the Zoom that made the event so fun was the chat function. I was able to have side conversations with friends that was so much easier than passing notes at the real luncheon. I know that getting to hug friends in real life is better, but since we can’t hug now, the chat was a great substitute.

So thanks to Shannon Media for producing a great event and making it feel so special. Congratulations to all the winners this year. You are in a wonderful club of diverse and smart women now. Can’t wait to see you at next year’s lunch.

Run Away Forest, Run

Dan Forest, the Republican candidate for Governor in North Carolina, uses “Run Forest Run” as his campaign slogan. Well, now we need to put the word out to Run Away from this man.

Today Forest came out with a Campaign promise to end mask mandates in North Carolina if he wins and wants to send children back to in person school without masks and no Covid fighting plan.

With all the science out there, to stand on a stage and say, “Vote for me and you won’t have to wear masks” is about the most idiotic thing I have ever heard. No where does he say a thing about how to control or end Covid. He has no plans to keep people safe, quite the opposite.

Look Forest, no one loves wearing a mask, but most of us like staying alive and healthy. The mask is what stands between us and sickness. So don’t encourage people not to wear masks.

Our current governor, Roy Cooper has done a good job at giving the people of North Carolina the scientific reasons to wear masks and social distance. We need to keep him and not have crazy politicians who don’t follow the science. Run as far away from Dan Forest as you can.

It’s Cheeper to Reform Police

The city of Louisville Kentucky reached a $12 Million settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor for her wrongful death by Police. Along with the monetary settlement the city agreed to a number of changes to police reform programs to help prevent tragedies like the killing of this innocent woman sleeping in her house.

Reforming policing programs is not only good for all communities, but it has to be a lot cheeper to reform than to pay families for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones. Twelve million dollars is the most amount of money ever paid by the city of a Louisville for a wrongful death.

There is no amount of money that can make up the loss of a child to a mother, but money is how our society makes amends. Think about where twelve million could have gone to in that city to improve life for her citizens and a young women could still be alive. It is right to encourage community policing, more social workers on the front lines and better oversight of police problems before they get into the kind of trouble that costs lives and millions.

A number of years ago I did a story for Durham Magazine about a program a former police chief started where police worked with kids in the community so help them not get off on a wrong foot. It seemed like a positive way for police to get to know kids and kids to get to be friends with police. Sadly when that chief retired so did his program. Perhaps something like that could be brought back. We need to have more Andy Taylor’s so we have fewer Breonna Taylor’s.

Goat Patrol

I was looking out my back bedroom window as I was getting dressed this morning, which only looks out on overgrown forest in my back and similar forest in my neighbor’s back yard. At first I saw a rather fat white dog on my neighbor’s side of the old fence. I looked a little harder since I had never seen a dog back there and that is when I noticed that was no dog, but a goat.

Since I was naked I didn’t want to get closer to the window and possibly scare that goat to death, I quickly threw on some clothes. I went to another window and sure enough it was not one goat but many. Shay and I went outside and saw sheep and goats all over my neighbor’s back yard.

I don’t like to walk through the overgrowth back there as it is copperhead season, but my neighbor Alivia called to me from the safety of her grassy area. She told me they had 17 goats and three sheep visiting for three days to try and eat the overgrowth. She asked me if it was OK. OK, it was great.

I am not a wonderful neighbor, as a I have not seen this sweet neighbor since she had twins in the spring. I figured not spreading any of my germs to her kids was the right thing to do. I am watching her goat patrol with great interest. If they do a good job, we may need to hire them to work on our over growth. If for no other reason than to keep my forest from growing back into her yard.

If you want to see the goats and sheep come on over to my back deck and you can get a bird’s eye view of them. With so many in a small area you will have hours of fun.

Completing A Friend’s Quilt

Last week a friend of mine from Church, Carol, called and asked me if I could help her with a quilt project. She had bought a bunch of material while on a trip to Africa years ago with her husband. She hand stitched the material into Dresden Plate quilt blocks. That little project took years. That is where the potential quilt stopped. I think she told me it was over three years ago.

Now she wanted to finish the quilt, but had run out of steam. She emailed me photos of her squares and since they were so gorgeous I knew they just had to be finished into a quilt, otherwise all that hard work and good memories of her trip would be lost.

I went over to her house to collect her work. The blocks were even more beautiful in person. Carol told me she wanted them to make a queen sized quilt. I counted her blocks and told her she was short at least another whole row. There was no way she could handle making more blocks.

Carol suggested a border out of the fabric she had used for the the Dresden Plates, as she still had plenty. As a I looked at it I told her I thought a border of that type would take away from her completed squares and suggested sashing the squares (that is framing each square) with a unifying fabric that did not compete with the African fabrics. She loved my idea and left all the decisions in my hands.

I found a material I thought complimented her squares and bought enough to make the sashing and the backing. As she had sewn the squares together I had to take them apart and add the new fabric. Thankfully I was able to turn her squares into a queen sized quilt and have the proportions look right.

I finished making her quilt top today and will take it to Tina my long arm quilter tomorrow for her to quilt it. I can’t wait to talk to Tina about ideas on how to quilt this beautiful quilt that honors the hard work of hand sewn Dresden Plates.

I hope Carol likes it as much as it do. I am not used to working on other people’s projects, but this one is so special.

Come Together on 9/11

Every year on this sad day I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the news about the first plane to fly into tower I. I was at church having just attended a coffee for mother’s of new students at the Westminster Pre-school. Carter was in her froggy class with the other two and a half year olds.

I walked out of the main door of the mission center and my a pastor, Haywood Holderness told me about the plane. The first thing out of my mouth was, “That Osama Bin Laden.” I don’t know exactly why I said that. Hayward was concerned about his niece who worked at the World Trade Center. Turned out she was not there that day.

I went from the coffee over to Amy Russell’s house for Garden club. Rather than have the meeting we watched her big screen TV in horror as the news was showing what was going on live. I am thankful that most of the tape of people jumping out the buildings is not shown again. Watching the second plane hit tower II was the confirmation we all needed that the world had changed.

Russ was in Northern, VA running a company called Neustar and had people working with him who saw the plane go into the Pentagon. I couldn’t get through to him on a phone and he couldn’t get home for days as he had flown up to work.

Now in the span of twenty years we have had 9/11 and Covid. We were not prepared for either of them and they both will forever be seared into our psyche. The difference between the two besides one being man made and one being nature made is how we reacted as a nation. After 9/11 we came together to all be one America. Covid has divided us into two Americas. Both had enemies. Both had to be fought. Both had casualties. Both changed the world and made us have to stay home.

On this sad day as we remember those who lost their lives in 9/11 let’s also remember those we have lost due to a Covid, who so far are almost 100 times as many we lost in 9/11. Both groups did nothing to deserve to die, both were innocent. Let’s stop having Covid divide us. Let us be selfless in our fight against the enemy. When we come together as Americans we can win.

Pintrest Envy

If all the world was like Pintrest everything would be perfect and beautiful. Ever since my friend Stephanie introduced me to Pintrest years ago I have been hooked. At first it was just great to use as an organization tool for saving internet things I had found elsewhere.

Then as I would start a new hobby, it would become my go to place to learn. My quilting obsession probably would not have taken off without Pintrest. But that was me having an idea and going to Pintrest to look for the answer.

During Covid Pintrest has turned into my inspiration and boy I have spent hours being inspired. I can go down a Pintrest hole for hours. I may not be really interested in what all the secret Netflix codes were for foreign countries, but now I have them in case I want them.

Lately I have been studying gardens, raised beds, garden walls, fenced in gardens, all things having to do with gardens. Boy do I feel inferior. There are forty days worth of beautiful garden related postings on Pintrest and I have clicked on many of them. Is my own garden wall done? Not even close. I am still digging out the footing. But I do know that my wall is not going to be Pintrest worthy.

I am wondering if there is a self help group for those who are addicted to Pintrest? I need an intervention because I already have more things pinned for me to do, make or try than I have years of life left.

Tomorrow I promise I am going to dig more and pin less.

Happy Birthday to My Virgo Girls

Today is my sister Margaret’s birthday and a week ago it was my sister Janet’s birthday. As a Taurus birthday myself, I was lucky that I got along with Virgo’s since I was surrounded. Having three girls in a family meant that someone was not getting along with someone else, but I do appreciate my sisters so much now. Happy birthday to both of them.

Turns out I have a lot of Virgo girls friends. My dear baby Chick, Lynn has her birthday on Saturday and my friend Karen has her’s next week. More reasons to celebrate great friends.

I always thought it was hard to have your birthday right at the beginning of September when you were a kid. You got a new class at school and that meant inviting people you might not know so well to your birthday parties. But here is the thing that all my Virgo girls have in common, they like most people and probably didn’t mind inviting the whole class, even perfect strangers, to their birthday.

I, on the other hand, with a May birthday had the opposite issue. I had a whole school year to get to know and dislike a segment of my class so I knew who I did and did not want to invite to my birthday and never could be dissuaded. I wonder if I would have been different if I had a September birthday? Probably not.

So happy birthday to all you Virgo girls, named and unnamed. Sorry this isn’t the year to have a party of any sort, but hopefully next year. You can invite anyone you want, even if you hardly know them.

Dreaming on Zillow

One of the favorite activities Carter and I can do long distance is look at real estate on Zillow together. Since Carter is back in Boston she has been spending her free time riding a bike. She can go down different streets and decide which ones might be good places to live in the future.

Sometimes when I can’t sleep I scroll through listings on Zillow. Boston real estate has been crazy the last few years, but Covid has changed the landscape. I have never seen so many things for rent for so long. Obviously many young people have moved out of the city as their jobs went virtual. With so many young adults going back to their parents house to save money the inventory of rentals is going up and the prices are going down.

Last year renters had to pay a rental fee of one months rent to a broker. Today most listings have no fee. Many units that have been on the market a few months have dropped their prices by ten to twenty percent. The big rental start date in Boston is Sept. 1 and now that it has come and gone it will be interesting to see what happens to prices.

Boston can not be any different than other big metro areas like NYC and San Francisco. I am wondering what will happen to the sale prices and how long the slide down will go and when the bottom will hit?

This is definitely going to be something I keep my eye on if not just because it is fun to do with Carter, but eventually she will graduate and need to find a new place to live. I am hoping the timing will be right for her.

It reminds me so much of how she and I used to walk through Sears and look at new washers and dryers when she was five years old. One evening when Russ was away on a business trip and Carter and I had gone to the mall for dinner we walked back through the very empty Sears appliance department. A bored salesman asked us as we lingered in front of a pair of cherry red washers and dryers if he could help us. Carter looked at him and said, “No, we are just dreaming.”

Zillow is our new Sears.

No More Hot Spots

Poor Shay has suffered this summer. Not with quarantine, no she loves having her Daddy home all day everyday. She has had terrible hot spots. The excessive heat and humidity had caused her skin to be irritated and thus she would bite at herself trying to relieve her pain. Her skin would bleed and it was so bad that she would not want to take walks.

She had been on pills and sprays to try and bring her relief. After months of those with no complete cure we took her back to the her vet to see what else could possibly help her.

The vet told us there were two more things we could try, a shot and a shampoo, instead of the pills and the sprays. Of course we went right to the new treatments. The only bad thing about the shampoo is that we have to wet her down, lather her up and wait fifteen minutes before rinsing. Nothing was too much trouble to try and bring her relief.

The shot seemed to do so much good. It was the first night she slept through the night with no biting. Today we did the shampoo and although she did not understand why she had to hang out in the bathtub so long she seemed very happy afterward.

Amazingly her hot spots have all disappeared in two days. The red, hairless places she had created are gone. Even her hair is grown back to the degree that I don’t see where she had been biting.

I wish I knew about this shot before. It is supposed to last four to eight weeks and hopefully the cooler weather will also help. Today she happily took a long walk with a Russ just like she always did before the hot spots. I will have to give her a bath every four days for two weeks, but that is easy compared to watching her suffer.

If your dog ever gets hot spots ask for the shot right away. It may cost a little more, but it is a miracle.

Tomato Gratin and Summer Shrimp Salad In Basil Dressing

Two good dishes I made for dinner last night that are worth memorializing in the blog so I can remember how I made them.

The first, Tomato Gratin is inspired by the Cook’s illustrated recipe of the same name. Cook’s has a pay wall, but if you want to go right to the source you can look there. I changed mine up a little and am not giving you every detail about skillets and types of tomatoes. I did make the base of this recipe a day in advance, but did not bake it. I think it makes it so much better if it can soak up all the juices. Because of making in advance before I went to bake it I did feel like it needed a bit more liquid around the edges so I drizzled a little spicy V-8 around the sides before baking and it was yummy. Tastes much better than it looks.

6 T. Olive oil

1 large french baguette – cubbed into 1/2 inch cubes

4 cloves of garlic- chopped

4 large ripe good tomatoes- chopped

3 t. Sugar

1 t. Salt

2 t. Ground black pepper

1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup spicy v-8 juice

In a big hot skillet heat 4 T. Of the olive oil and after hot add the bread, stir quickly and often and brown in the pan. Takes about five minutes. Set the bread aside.

Add the rest of the oil and the garlic and cook on medium high for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper and cook on medium high for ten minutes Stirring occasionally. Take off the heat.

Put 2/3 of the bread In The pan with the tomatoes and mix everything well together and pour into a gratin pan (or any casserole dish.)

Scatter the remaining bread on top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, but 24 would be better.

Preheat oven 375°. Drizzle the v-8 around the outside edge of the tomato bread. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven for 50 mins with foil tenting the top.

Summer Shrimp Salad with Basil Dressing

This is the kind of salad where you just throw in whatever vegetables you have with cooked shrimp. It is the dressing that makes it.

I used Grilled corn, cherry tomatoes, grilled onions, green pepper and jalapeño peppers With the shrimp.

To make the dressing put the following in a blender or cuisinart.

Juice of one lemon and peel of that lemon

3 cloves of garlic

1 Shallot

Two big handfuls of fresh, cleaned basil leaves

1/2 c. Champagne vinegar

1/2 c. Olive oil

1 T. Honey

Big pinch of salt

Lots of black pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Blend together, pour over the shrimp and veggies and let them marinate it the dressing for at least two hours.

Happy summer!

A Beautiful Night

At last if was a beautiful enough day to eat dinner outside and be comfortable. As that was the case we had our friends Dave and Sara over for a socially distant dinner. We have really missed seeing people.

I am looking forward to more cool evenings so we can have people come eat outside. There are some things I have to adjust to Covid dinners. For hors d’oeure I created little family plates of hummus, carrots and pita chips. One per family so we did not touch anything outside our own pod.

Rather than doing a buffet, as I usually would do, I just plated the whole meal in kitchen and served everyone like a restaurant. The only difference is they didn’t get to chose what they were having and they didn’t get to portion out their own things. The good thing about this is I didn’t have to put anything in serving dishes so the clean up was so much faster.

We also sat far apart at the table, Russ and I on one end our friends on the other. But we were still having dinner with friends. Conversation was excellent and the weather made it pleasant to sit outside long into the night. Shay was especially glad to see her “aunt and uncle” and was happiest when she sat on a Russ’ lap so she could be at eye level with the grown ups. I think she misses company more than any of us.

I can stand quarantine if this is what I get to do once a week. Russ will be happy because then I cook him new food. Favorite item from tonight was the tomato gratin. It was a big hit and I will post a photo of it with the recipe tomorrow. And before I forget I will write down the recipe of the shrimp and grilled corn dressing I made from the basil in the garden.

Thank you September for coming and bringing us relief from the heat and friends and something that feels normal. It was a beautiful night.

A Really Hard Lesson

Life as a college freshman is hard in a normal year, but this year it is next to impossible. At a Northeastern this week they dismissed eleven freshman for breaking the rules on gatherings without masks. These freshman were part of a program that was supposed to be held internationally. It is the same program Carter went on where she spent her first semester in Berlin.

Due to Covid travel restrictions these kids could not fulfill their dream of studying abroad. The school did the next best thing and rather than defer their admission, they created a program in a Boston, putting all the kids up at the Westin hotel for the semester. Much nicer than any college dorm. The school was very clear what the rules were. Two kids to a room and no visitors in your rooms. When out of your room wear masks and social distance.

Sadly these kids do what eighteen year olds will do and eleven of them gathered in one bed room without their masks on. They got caught and now are being sent home for the semester, losing their tuition.

I am happy I am not one of those parents getting that call saying my kid is kicked out of school before it even begins. Northeastern has set up a huge testing program, testing all people at school three times in the first five days at school and then every three days after that. So far out of 36,000 test, 17 students, 2 faculty and one contract worker have tested positive. The quick quarantining of those people and the people who came in contact with them is the only way to keep the school open.

Dismissing people who break the rules sends a loud message that the school is serious. I can’t imagine how hard this is all going to be for kids to learn to follow the rules, but it will be a lot easier than facing your parents after getting kicked out and losing your tuition.

This is what it takes to have the privilege of going to college. We have to prevent spread and keep everyone healthy. Other colleges could take note and be as strict. It’s not fun, but it’s a Pandemic.

Death By Unmasking

There used to be a time in the south when people were civil, at least at first. Those days are gone and I blame 45. Before his, “I come first and damn you” attitude became the norm people looked out for each other with good intentions.

Today I had to go to Costco. For the most part Costco has been good about enforcing correct mask wearing. That being said, sometimes a person’s mask slides down a bit and they don’t even notice, especially if they are weighing the decision to buy a very expensive Dyson vacuum or getting a Roomba.

As I was coming around the corner at the salmon case I noticed a very old and large woman dressed in her best pajama bottoms and stained T-shirt with her mask slipped down. As she approached me, leaning on her cart as if it was all that kept her from the floor I said in my most helpful voice, “I think your mask has slipped.” I honestly was worried about this woman traversing the Costco without being fully masked because she looked as if she could not withstand any infection, let alone Covid.

She let out a stream of words that no southern lady should ever hear, let alone say. Suddenly her very large husband in an amazingly even more stained T-shirt and his mask around his neck said to me, “We don’t have to wear Damn masks. Is your name Karen?” Despite my hairdo he clearly does not understand that Karen’s are anti-Vaxers.

A Costco employee was standing right near them and did not want a fight to break out, but I could not help myself when I said, “You may be OK killing yourself, but it is incredibly selfish to put this man’s life in danger because you won’t wear your mask correctly and act like it is your right.”

Ignorant selfish people. When did being stupid become a badge of pride? We are in a war against this virus. During World War II people went to great lengths to follow the rules for the good of the country. Why is now different? Because of the lack of leadership from the top?

Keeping this man President means that the idiots will just get more and more emboldened to do stupid things. They are the drunk drivers of our time who kill the innocent people they hit, but don’t die in the crash themselves.

This dirty clothed couple doesn’t deter me from reminding people about their masks. On the way out of the store a very cute old couple holding hands crossing the parking lot were not wearing their masks. I looked at them and smiled, even though they couldn’t see it behind my mask and said, “Don’t for get your masks.” The old man stopped and said, “Thanks, I hate when it get all the way to the store and have to go back to the car, you saved me some steps.” He and his wife turned around and walked back to their car. They were worth saving.

I’ve Been Management Too Long

I am clearly meant to work inside the house and not outside. Today I volunteered for the food Distribution that our church helps with at Iglesia Presbiteriana Emanuel. With kids back in school we lost the bulk of our young strong volunteers so now that means that old folks needs to do the jobs. These are not jobs made for old folks. I had what I was told was the hottest job on this day with 105° heat index. I stood in Roxboro rd; a busy four lane street and I flagged people out of one of the lanes that we closed in front of the church so that the cars full of people who need food can pull into the church driveway.

Cherrie, one of our pastors had brought a big blue and white beach umbrella for me to use as shade, but I turned it into my prop to get attention of drivers barreling up Roxboro road. I danced with that umbrella waving cars to merge from two lanes into one. You can imagine I was not very popular with that crowd.

It did not matter because right behind me I also waved cars of people needing help getting food onward to the area where other volunteers placed boxes of fresh vegetables, eggs, milk and fruit into their trunks. The people waiting for food had been lined up for hours. Another volunteered had given out 300 numbers to the cars, but the line far exceeded the numbering system. These people always gave me a smile and a wave, very appreciative of the work we were doing.

My friend Raynor had the car waving job at the other end of the street from me. Her job was in the shade, but when the actual temperature is 93° shade makes little difference. For almost two hours I directed traffic. As the second hour was about to close I started to feel the effects of standing in the sun dancing with the umbrella. I knew it would be very bad if I fell over in the street since no one would be there to wave the cars away from running over me. I signaled to Raynor and I went over to the curb and lay down in the shade.

Raynor, valiantly took over my job without a complaint. Cherrie brought me a cold wash cloth and water. It was heaven sent. Carter called me. Apparently I butt dialed her in the throws of me going down, it scared her to death. She called Russ. They both called me and demanded I stop doing this job. Eventually I was able to get up and go man Raynor’s original spot.

After we had gotten through the first 300 cars I went to the parking lot and helped bag butternut squash. The line kept coming for hours past the allotted time for pantry to run. I wasn’t able to stay the whole time. I clearly did not have the stamina for four hours in the sweltering heat.

I think I am going to have to change how I volunteer for this mission. I’m just so used to being management that I have lost the skill for being labor.

An Open Letter to my Republican Friends

Dear Friend,

As a daughter of staunch republicans I fully understand that you have probably been a republican as long as you can remember. Being loyal to your party is at your core. You may believe in smaller government. Fiscal responsibility might be one of the tenants of your beliefs. A strong America is attractive to you as is smart immigration regulation. Nothing is wrong with any of these things. I believe in some of these things too.

But what does the party of Donald Trump actually stand for this year? There was no party platform at the RNC. There was no public discussion of what Republicans want to accomplish in the next four years. Instead it was a bowing to the cult leader that Trump has created. I fear there is no real Republican Party left, just the party of Trump.

We are now a country that is more divided than we have been since the Civil war. Trump, since his inaugural address, has made it clear that he is only the President for the people who voted for him. This is something we have never seen in our country before.

The slippery slope I fear the most is if he is re-elected he no longer has any incentive to even make his own voters happy. He will have no use for any of the electorate and can do whatever he wants. You might have liked some of what he has done this term, but there is no guarantee you will be happy with the next because he has convinced the party not to create a platform.

If you have been in the least bit unhappy with the handling of Covid-19, or racial issues please consider who has been leading us through this. When the President points to protestors and says we need law and order to fix that, just remember this is happening while he is in charge. If he had any idea how to fix these things he could be doing it now.

There are two fairly well accepted sayings. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. The republicans have given Trump absolute power. Only the voters can change that. And if we want to improve our standing as far as Covid is concerned we need to do something different.

Many prominent republicans have stood up already and said they are voting for Biden because they do not believe Trump is the right person for the job. They have not said they are leaving the Republican Party. I feel like it is to the contrary, I think they are trying to save the Republican Party. All I am asking you is to please consider joining those republicans and not support this man who has not told you his plans for the next four years. I am hopeful that we can ward off the fire of a civil war Trump has been stoking. I want us to try and relearn how to compromise and all be Americans who care about each other.

One last thing. If you are a Republican who is at all embarrassed by what Trump has caused you to apologize for, you don’t have to tell anyone that you voted for Biden. In 2016 it was one thing to vote for him, but in 2020 it is a very different story. You may think you know what you are getting, but it can get worse.

The Summer We Never Had

It’s a strange year. April was the longest month in history. Everyday felt like six as we were trapped at home, fearing leaving the house. Back then I went to the store just once a week and otherwise never left the house. I was more disciplined about exercising and eating right, having not fallen into the bread baking rabbit hole that so many turned to.

May came, usually my favorite month. I fell off any healthy wagon I was on, but remained tied to the house. I did work in my garden and on quilts and needlepointing producing lots to show for the year at home. June was the same. July saw us leave the house and go to the mountains for three nights and the quick 36 hour drive to and from Boston when I returned my girl to her true home.

Since then boredom has really taken over. No summer travel as I am used to doing. I don’t even look at travel sights as they just make me sad. Too hot to work outdoors or do much exercising. No quilts in progress and just some needlepointing. I have resorted to reading a book every other day, which just makes me feel lazy, it does offer an escape to different worlds.

I am trying to pace myself since I feel like we are only at half time on this whole mess of a year. I should start making Christmas gifts, but even those don’t interest me. One constant in all these months have been all the games I have played on my iPad, Catan, Mah Jongg, Bridge and Ticket to ride. I just play against the computer except for Catan where I play against anonymous strangers who I consider to be just like computers.

I wish I had more to show for this gift of time uninterrupted. Eventually I will have some garden improvements, but the summer of constant rain has made building a wall next to impossible. I can wait, what else do I have to do? I do miss my friends and look forward to the day we can all travel again. For now I am praying that we all get a summer next year.

Tomato Love Continues

After our BLT deliciousness Russ suggested we have another tomato dinner in the theme of Pain Con tomate, which we fell in love with in Spain. This is one of the best ways to enjoy the bounty of perfect summer tomatoes.

It is so easy to make, normally made with chibatta, but we used our favorite polenta bread. No amounts needed to make this dish


Olive oil

Fresh garlic clove

Fresh ripe tomato


If you have a grill pan use that, otherwise use a fry pan.

Heat the pan up to high. I use a panni pan so I heat the heavy lid at the same time.

Drizzle olive oil on the bread and place on the hot pan, if you have a grill lid place it on top. Grill the bread until it starts to get slightly charred on the bottom and flip over and cook the other side the same way.

While the bread is cooking cut the bottom off the tomato and grate it on the big grates of a box grater. Make sure to do this into a bowl as you will get a lot of tomato liquid along with the grated flesh.

Peel the garlic clove and cut off a thin slice. Rub the cut side of the garlic all over the oiled side of the grilled bread. Sprinkle a bit of salt. Spoon some of the tomato on top and sprinkle it with a touch of salt.

Some sangria with this will make you not miss traveling so much.

I Want Old Fashioned Packaging

Back in the olden days, like five years ago, I could hold my tooth brush in one hand while still groggy from sleep and squeeze tooth paste from the tube with the other. Did not matter how awake I was, it was an easy job even as the tube got low on toothpaste, squeezing was still a one handed job.

Not today. Enter the world of stand up tooth paste tubes. Some brilliant yuckty, yuck thought we needed our toothpaste to stand up on its cap. In order to do that the cap had to be greatly enhanced. One would think that it would also make the toothpaste fall to the opening end thanks to gravity.

Unfortunately, tooth paste is happy to stick to the crimped end of the tube, no matter which way the tube is sitting. Now, only when the tube is relatively new, can I hold my tooth brush in one hand and and squeeze with the other and actually get any toothpaste on the brush. Once half the toothpaste has been used getting the rest out is a two handed job. This frustrates me to no end because when I first wake up my night time teeth make me crazy so I want to brush them before I do anything else. I am often still half asleep so lining up my tooth brush and tube for the perfect paste application is difficult. This and I am not even hungover.

The same frustration came to me when I was trying to get some mayo out of the Duke Squeeze bottle someone in this house bought. I am perfectly happy with the old fashioned jar of mayonnaise. I am not bothered by having to get a knife out to get the condiment out of the jar.

The squeeze bottle, like the tooth paste, is good if the bottle is more than half full, but once you get down the the last bits, forget trying to get it out. The worst thing is, even if you remove the stand up cap the bottle is shaped so that even with a knife or spoon you can not get the last four table spoons out of the jar.

You can’t get any of this Mayonnaise out no matter how hard you try.

It’s just four table spoons you say, but what if they are the only mayo you have in the house and you only need one table spoon? Now that’s frustrating.

Thankfully I can still buy mayo in an old fashioned jar which is reusable for so many purposes, but getting toothpaste in an old fashioned tube is next to impossible. I may have to resort to learning how to make my own tooth paste. I know it won’t have fluoride, or plaque removers or pain killers for sensitive teeth, but if I can administer it to my brush half asleep it is better than the nothing I am getting out of the tube now.

Better than Gold

Yesterday my friend Kathi gave me a tomato she grew herself in her new garden in the mountains. I had seen a photo of her perfect garden all fenced in to protect it from critters. She told me it was the anniversary present she and her husband gave themselves this year. I feel like it was a present I got.

I carefully carried home this perfect tomato. It was a deep red and smelled like my childhood. Russ saw it on the counter and asked what I was going to make with it. I told him we were having BLT’s for dinner and tonight we did.

To me there is no more perfect food than a BLT as long as all the parts are right. We used Polenta bread from Loaf bakery downtown, lightly toasted, just so it will hold up to the juiciness of the tomato. I purchased a head for fresh iceberg lettuce, which to me is a must for BLT even though it is a don’t for a salad.

I made candied Bacon, which is bacon cooked with brown sugar and lots of cracked black pepper on a rack in the oven. Duke’s mayonnaise was the condiment of choice.

I sliced that big gorgeous tomato into four fat slabs and sprinkled a bit of sea salt and more pepper on it and assembled the sandwiches. I had some watermelon salad to go along side the BLT’s but both Russ and I decided we didn’t want to dilute the yumminess of the sandwiches.

I took a bite and could hardly speak. For those of you who know me you understand how big that is. Shay stood at attention beside Russ hoping for some bits of his food to fall on the floor.

Oh the perfection of the perfect combination of tastes and textures. It’s all thanks to Kathi and her wonderful tomato. I finally had summer.

Today Was Practically Normal

I think I had my most normal day I have had since pre-pandemic. I woke up at 5:30, not because I had so much to do, but because that is when Russ got up to start working. I had some cantaloupe and cottage cheese and went out to work on prepping my new garden wall area.

Right now I am clearing brush and overgrowth in a very wet area. It is not normally so wet, but since we are double digits over in rain this year the ground has stayed perpetually soggy. This made pulling out deep vines and large clumps of unwanted plants very messy. It is easier to push the shovel in the ground, but when I pull up the clumps I also get big balls of wet earth clinging to the roots. I tried to shake off all the good dirt I could, but I mostly shook it on to me.

As it was 7:30 in the morning when I started this project I was not too sweaty, but by 9:30 I was a wet, dirty rat. Two hours of hard labor was enough for this sweltering day. I probably have one more big day of debris removal and then I can move to the next phase of this long term project.

I stripped off my dirty clothes in the garage and took a long cold shower. I put on a dress, something I have not done in five months. I was excited about my “old normal” day. Two friends came over to have a little socially distant birthday lunch. We spent a good two plus hours catching up like old times.

Then I went right from that to a socially distant needlepoint session and caught up with that group. Two friend activities in one day is so 2019.

After that I came home and caught up on email, paid some bills and picked up a take out dinner. Russ and I talked all about a new business venture during and after dinner and now to write my blog. I was productive, entertained, and satisfied with my normal day. Boy do I miss normal. I hope I can do it again next month.

National Dog?

It’s National Dog Day and Trump is probably furious about it. “How did dogs get a day during the Trump Convention?” Polling shows that dogs are way more popular than the President. Of course they are and they don’t mind taking the spot light away from the only president in recent history who does not have a dog.

How can we possibly trust a President who is afraid to be upstaged by a sweet dog? Dogs are experts at sniffing out insincerity so no wonder 45 does not want a canine truth teller around him. Of course any dog would be more lovable than the mighty orange and we all know he must be the only one adored in the room.

There is no easier place to be a dog owner than in the White House. There are an untold number of people to walk her and scooping should not be a problem when the are so many gardeners around that they have time to rip out Jackie Kennedy’s cherry trees on a whim.

Since it is National Dog day they all need to stand up and demand their rightful place with one of them being first dog. Since no dogs were willing to be part of this administration they are urging their owners to vote for Biden. Why? Because as the saying goes about the current President, “That dog can’t hunt.”

Don’t Call

People are not the only thing getting fatter during Covid. At first I thought it was my imagination, but eventually I realized my phone was getting fatter. At first I could squeeze it back into shape, like putting on a tight pair of jeans. Eventually I had to admit that my phone was too fat to survive. The battery was expanding, which is exactly what happened to my watch battery.

Since all the Apple stores are closed Russ looked on-line to see where I could get a new battery put in. Turns out both places within fifty miles of us had no appointments for the next two weeks. Other phones must be getting fatter too.

So I had to send my phone away for repair today. Probably will not be a big deal that I don’t have a phone for a while. Not like I am doing anything. I can zoom on my iPad and computer. I can take phone calls from my watch. We still have an old fashioned land line. Or I can just not talk to anyone.

I just won’t have access to every answer I want in my pocket. I don’t think I am going to carry my iPad around, like my phone. I am just going back to the 1900’s and be unconnected.

Stealing 45’s Spotlight

Oh it’s an embarrassment of riches today with the news of KellyAnne Conway leaving the White House and Jerry Falwell Jr.’s news about his wife’s seven year affair that he allegedly participated in. How can all these close friends of 45’s be stealing the spotlight from him on his day of days.

The Republican a national committee gave 45 everything he wanted by, rather than having a platform, just saying, “Whatever he says.” That was just the ego stoking 45 demands. The idea that a fifteen year old daughter of KellyAnne could change the conversation by just demanding emancipation is so rich.

Please children, call out your racist parents and announce to the world you no longer do feel safe living in a MAGA house. You have more power than you think. Of course KellyAnne’s daughter also got her father to stop working at the Lincoln project and to stop tweeting so I consider that a loss. I am just thrilled that I no longer have to look at or hear KellyAnne on TV. Four years of that voice should have been considered criminal.

And now to that “Christian hypocrite” – Jesus really needs to come back and issues credentials to those he deems worthy of calling themselves Christians. Yes, no one is perfect and forgiveness is all part of the program, but a seven year affair? Somehow that seems to fall out of the statute of forgives limitations.

My Dad told me about a kid from Danville who supposedly got kicked out of Liberty for not making his bed. I thought that was an outrageous punishment, but perhaps Becki Falwell was in it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happier without the Conways and the Falwells out of my line of sight and not taking up airspace. I just wish I was a fly on the wall when 45 found out they were using up his precious potential air time. I can hear it now, “Why the hell didn’t they do this last week on Biden’s time?”

Who from 45’s circle is going to be next to steal his spot light? We have three more days. What about a Tiffany scandal?

Schitt’s Convention

If in 2015, Dan Levy, creator of Schitt’s Creek, was writing the screen play of a farce of some unnamed political convention he wouldn’t possibly have come up with the craziness that is sure to be this week’s show. Levy is a master of the ridiculous as comedy, but even his genius might miss some of the absurd.

The first thing is no one ever thought of holding a private funeral at the White House right before the convention. The last time there was a funeral of a private citizen was 1936, for an advisor of the President. I really would like Dan Levy to write the script on that funeral.

There was a report that one of the guests at the funeral went with a group to the DC restaurant Fig and Olive. The 20 people showed up wanting to be seated together and due to the pandemic were told that was against the law. The unruly guest from NY allegedly punched a server in the nose and broke it. Come on, that kind of comedy does not just rewrite itself.

It was incredible that the President’s “best friend” brother dies right before the convention. If anything goes wrong with the convention 45 can claim he was too distraught over the loss of his brother. Now don’t just all over me, it is sad to lose a brother, but the timing, that was political gold.

Dan Levy, please put that in your file for a future show.

Next the list of speakers for the convention was released. From the looks of it the majority are still getting allowance from Daddy. I wonder if they are being graded to see if they are worthy of an increase in their weekly envelope based on how normal they can portray dear Daddy?

Even in political dynasty families, read Bushes, there are more non-family speakers in prime time than relatives. Do we really want to take the word of the kids?

The best part of the convention is that it is being produced by the “Apprentice” gang. Here is the thing about producing a reality T.V. Show…you shoot all the film and them cut and edit it to get the story you want. 45 may like how he appeared on the Apprentice because the producers could edit out all the nonsensical things to make 45 seem normal. Live TV is totally different from reality T.V. If Dan Levy were writing the script we would get to see the control room and the scramble they may have to do in order to make the lead make sense. It just is so much easier if you have the whole tape months in advance.

So welcome to the less funny version of Schitt’s Convention. I know a bunch of people who have said they are not going to watch it, not me. I can’t wait to see how this Schitt show turns out.

Sweating Like A Pig

In our “we really need to get out of the house” Covid life Russ and I took Shay on a walk in Duke Forest this morning. Being August in Durham means that the humidity is really going to get you. I was hoping we were out early enough that I was not going to sweat like a pig.

The trail was well shaded as we walked through the forest, but the inclines and the dew point did not save me from becoming drenched. Thankfully the trail was fairly empty. We only encountered a few other walkers, all of whom also were pig like from the humidity. Actually one was an actual pig, “Sugar” being walked by her nice human along with Licorice the black poodle. They made quite an interesting family.

Shay was not phased by the 200 pound Sugar or Licorice who all were very friendly with Shay. You just never know who you are going to meet in the diverse Durham we love so much.

I must say that Sugar was not sweating as much as me. I think I need to change the phrase to “sweating like a Dana,” and stop disparaging pigs.

Lime Mousse

When Russ asked me if we could have one of his star employees over for dinner with her boyfriend because she was visiting Durham I jumped at the chance. Rebecca is someone I am always happy to have as a guest and tonight was no different. We so enjoyed meeting her boyfriend Jamie who just started Grad school at Duke. We hope this means we will see more of them.

I made some chicken Shwarma and homemade Laffa bread and all the fixings. As it was all things I had made before I wanted to make up a new dessert recipe. I am not a cook who tries things out before I serve them to guests. I see guests as part of the focus group to try out new dishes.

So I made up this lime mousse like dessert. It was four ingredients, five if you count the graham cracker crumble garnish. I forgot to take a photo of it in the glasses, but instead snapped this shot of the leftover. The focus group liked it and wanted to preserve the recipe before I forget how I made it.

Lime Mousse

1 can sweetened condensed milk

3/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

Zest of four limes

1 pint of heavy whipping cream

1 cup of whipped cream cheese

Mix the condensed milk, lime juice and zest together well enough to to make it homogenized. Beat the cream with a mixer until it is whipped. Add the whipped cream cheese and whip them together. Fold into the lime mixture. Chill.

I crushed up a graham cracker and put in the bottom of a glass and spooned the mousse on top.

Bannon’s We Build The Wall Screws Republicans

And yet another Trump former cabinet or advisor member gets arrested. Today Steve Bannon was arrested for stealing from the the We Build The Wall fund, a private enterprise to build Trump’s wall. The really rich thing about this is he stole from the people who are Trump’s supporters who donated to the wall.

Trump ran on a “Drain the swamp” campaign but the piles of swamp monsters who have worked for Trump is piling up to a height that seems innumerable. There appear to be two kinds of Trump cabinet/advisors, ones who get arrested or ones who left and turned on Trump publicly.

Trump is now claiming he never liked the “We build the wall,” but his mini me, Donald Jr. gave a glowing speech in support of the group last year.

If you are an honest person I am not sure how you can stand by Trump. When is it that people will stop supporting a man who surrounds himself with criminals? What I fear is if he gets re-elected he will be unleashed to do anything he wants since he will be finished with voters. If his close advisors will steal from his own supporters no one is safe. How much of a doormat do you have to be to take this? I am outraged over this theft, what about you donors? Don’t you want to stop being screwed by your own team?

Don’t Make’m Like Mary

This is a sad day for me and the Ways and a Means Commission at church. Our clerk of the commission, Mary Pickard, is retiring from her position after 24 years. Mary has many years on me there as I have been on Ways and Means somewhere between 16-18 years. I would have to ask Mary to look at her minutes to know the exact year I joined.

Mary, besides being just a wonderful, wry, kind and witty person she is by far the best clerk of anything I have every served on in any arena. She is quick, thorough, and brilliant. Mary remembers more than everyone else in the whole room put together. Her hard work and dedication have served us all well.

Through the years as Mary has suffered losses of husbands and working a big job at Duke she never stopped doing her job as the clerk. Mary is the only constant for me on Ways and Means. She has served two long term pastors and guided our young one who had little knowledge of our complicated financial system when he started.

As new members of Ways and Means come and go she and I often have to educate people on past history as I am the next longest serving member. I always defer to her superior memory. During one period when I was asked to step in as chair a few years before my appointed time to fix a situation that had gotten out of control she was the perfect partner to calm troubled waters with.

I may have met and gotten to know Mary through Ways and Means, but now I count her as a cherished friend. I am sad that I will not see her every third Wednesday of the month and as she usually goes to early church and I go to late I don’t see her often on Sunday’s. So now I have to set up a standing get together because I value her wisdom and am thankful that I have been able to learn so much from her in these last 16, 17 or 18 years. Only Mary actually knows how many.

Happy Ways and Means Retirement to Mary Pickard. All of Westminster owes her a hug for 24 years of service.

Women’s Suffrage a Young 100

I was a child of the sixties. Woman’s liberation was in full bore when I was an adolescent. Woman fighting for equal rights is something I feel has been going on my whole life. Today is the 100th Anniversary of Womens suffrage, the right to vote. On this day 100 years ago the state of Tennessee was the last needed state to ratify the 19th amendment. It was a fight that began in1848 and took 72 years to complete.

For so many years in my life women have fought for the Equal Rights Amendment. It seems like a no brainer that men and women should be equally protected under the law. Sadly, without the ERA being ratified by enough states women still do not enjoy the same rights and protections under the constitution as men.

As I think of this I realize that neither of my Grandmothers were born with the right to vote. It just wasn’t that long ago. Even when women were given this right 100 years ago it did not mean all women. Native American, Chinese Americans and Black women in the south still couldn’t vote. So as we celebrate this anniversary we need to remember that.

Perhaps it is time to pick the ERA back up and continue the fight for its ratification. Rights are something we have to work to protect. For a start on this 100th year of some women having the right to vote it is more important than ever to exercise your right. Women need to make history and come out in numbers that have never been seen before. Our lives depend on it and the rights of our daughters and grand daughters and future women to come. The fight just goes on.

All Skirt, No Tree

Last Christmas, after a frustrating time of taking my old 15 foot tree apart, I decided it was time to retire it. It took three trips to the dump to get rid of it, but the good news was Russ and Carter did not have to wrestle the seven sections into the attic. I thought I could order a new tree for this year since Garden Club Christmas Auction would be at my house. Little did I know that this year would all get canceled.

For me Christmas is the best time of year. My house gets uber decorated and I have as many people over in the month of December as possible. Not this year.

Even without the anticipation of many Christmas Parties I did start my search for my new tree. My favorite maker of fake trees, Tree Classics, suddenly went from selling retail to only wholesale. For a moment I considered becoming a tree reseller.

Buying a giant Christmas tree online has its problems. I am all about the color, the fullness, and especially now, the ease at which it goes together and comes apart. The lighting configuration, is also a major consideration. So I search and search and am not sure I like what I am seeing. I think it is getting to be time to have a smaller, maybe 10-12 foot tree. Maybe I will build a little box to set it on so it appears taller.

All this looking at trees has me in the Christmas spirit and so I sewed myself a Christmas tree skirt. Because my old tree went right to the floor and was so full of branches I never put a skirt on it. Now with the idea of having a box to stand the tree on, I wanted to make a big giant skit that can drape of over the box, even if it doesn’t exist yet.

Now that I have finished this skirt I am wondering if I am going to have a tree at all this year. Perhaps I can do a small live tree and transplant it. I think I could even turn this skirt into a tree it is so big. So much to contemplate and so much time to do it.

A New Project

This week I did a check on all my kitchen cabinets I painted last year. I cleaned then and found a handful of tiny places I needed to touch up. Overall I have to say the paint job has held up incredibly well. Benjamin Moore Advance paint is excellent cabinet paint. I can’t believe it was a whole year ago that I took on that big job.

I got to thinking about what I am going to have to show for this year. Seems like while I am stuck at home I should do another major home improvement. I looked around and decided that I need to do some major work on my driveway vegetable garden.

I have wanted to fence it in to protect vegetables from deer and bunnies, but the garden is just a little too narrow. The original retaining wall made of rail road ties is finally falling apart after 24 years. So I am going to build a new entailing wall and add another four or five feet to the width of the garden.

I weed wacked today the upper garden and will do the lower side tomorrow to measure for the new wall

Like teaching myself to paint the kitchen cabinet, I have been reading and watching You Tubes about how to build retaining walls. It is a physically harder job than doing the kitchen, but easier overall. This is the right time to do it as my summer vegetables are done and I would like to plant a few fall ones.

Building the wall will be one thing, but putting in a six foot deer fence will be another thing. As Russ is overly busy running his business I may have to engage someone to help me with the fence. There are so many beautiful fence ideas, but I am not looking at a Martha Stewart quality. The hardest part is making the garden door that will be big enough to fit the wheel barrow in, but fit tightly enough that bunnies can’t slip under the door.

So much to study and learn. I look forward to getting out of 2020 with something tangible to point to that was a positive.

Running Out of Things to Do

I am not the only person who is looking at my quarantine house with a critical eye and cleaning things I rarely clean. Russ told me there was an article in the Wall Street Journal about how to clean your wooden chairs. Since I didn’t see it I have not taken a critical eye to all my chairs, but as boredom takes over I very well may.

I can imagine the editorial team at the Journal are looking at each other over Zoom and saying, “Please, we need story ideas.” And when the guy who normally covers small businesses says, “I’ve got a great angle on cleaning wood chairs,” the room erupts in cheers. How far we all have fallen.

Before I knew about the chair story I took to cleaning the crystal chandelier in the entry hall. I can tell when the reflection on the ceiling is fuzzy that it is time to clean it. It’s not that hard. I have to place a towel below the fixture and get the step stool out. I put a third of a cup white vinegar in a measuring cup and add about the same amount of water.

Before cleaning

The big money cleaning comes from spraying windex on the glass plate on the top and wiping it down. It is not a terribly long job, but very satisfying.

I carefully stand on the step stool and bring the cup up the the prisons so that four of them are submerged at a time. It is a good little arm workout as I hold it there for a few seconds before moving around the the next four. I let the liquid just drip to the towel on the floor carrying any dirt with it.

After cleaning. See the difference on the ceiling.

Due to lack of too much to do I promised Russ I would make him a pizza for dinner. He didn’t act too disappointed when I told him it was going to be a caramelized onion, crushed red pepper flakes, gruyere, Parmesan, goat cheese, garlic and fig Pizza. He skipped the fresh arugula but did add the balsamic vinegar drizzle. I had figs that needed to be used up and they just don’t taste too good with tomato sauce.

Now we have leftover for tomorrow so that will cut out any need for cooking. I guess I better read that WSJ article. I have at least 22 wooden chairs in this house and I am certain all of them could stand a good cleaning.

We Miss Maine

This is the first year in so many that we have not gone to Maine. I was supposed to go to my Friend Warren’s in May for a reunion with some high school friends. Of course that all got canceled. I hoped to go this summer, but even when I was as close as Boston I didn’t dare go. Maine has strict quarantining rules, especially for people from the south. So I didn’t dare steer my North Carolina car over the border. As it was I was risking being in Boston for 12 hours.

I watch the camp file video’s from Camp Medomak. There is no camp this year, but the sweet family who runs it is there. I won’t be visiting Sheppy or going to Liberty or seeing my friend Wendie. No, no Maine for me. The saddest part of a Covid. (I am lucky that I have not lost any loved ones which would be the saddest part.). It sounds like a first world problem, I know. But even minor disturbances can affect us.

Yesterday Russ got an email that there was a little house for sale in Bayside. I looked at the pictures and dreamed of a future time when we could be in Maine. I wonder if Jamie is at her house there or if her New Jersey License plate would get her arrested. Of course she could easily quarantine for two weeks at her house because isn’t getting away from everyone why you go to Maine?

Tonight to make up for the lack of our trip to Maine we got dinner from Acme who was have a Maine Statcation special. It came with the most delicious clam chowder which rivals that of Claws in Rockport. The lobsters were good, but not as good as the ones we eat in the HoJo’s room at Warren’s.

Despite the good food it made me sad not to get to travel. I am getting tired of our house and the things I have to do here. I just want to drive away somewhere, but I’m not going to do that. I’m staying home so I don’t contribute to any spread and so we can get this thing over with. Maine will be there next year and hopefully so will I.

A Needed Break From Unpleasantness

Day before yesterday I got an email from the Cary Quilting company, a place I often buy fabric to make quilts. In the email I saw they had a Facebook group called Sew and Tell. So I signed up for it. Then I posted a photo of the quilt I made for my mother. I instantly was inundated with the kindest words and positive feedback. The likes and loves came pouring in from women I did not know.

I was a little taken aback. I had forgotten what a non-political world was. The kindness and support reminded me life used to be like before we had gotten into the divisive place we are now in. People were sweet.

It was a place I wanted to return to. I am wondering how we can all become quilters who just want to share ideas and tips. Nothing about sickness or masks or campaigns. Just love.

When the news starts to get to me I am going to post another photo of another quilt just so I can get that shot of niceness. We all need a nice place to go where we can be rejuvenated and feel supported. Thanks kind quilters. I think I need to get to work on a new quilt for my psyche.

Don’t Hold Grudges

When I was a consultant I worked only for large international corporations in many different countries. There was one thing these businesses had in common that frustrated me to no end; more employees than not felt like someone or ones inside their company was their enemy. When I would ask people about their business competitors they more often than not mentioned a person who worked three offices down rather than a business around the block trying to sell the same kind of products to their customers.

I was not trained in psychology, but I would say I spent a lot of my time trying to heal people’s old wounds before I could get them to focus on the real competition. If I said it once, I said it a million times, “Your enemy is not within the walls of your business, but outside.” The most successful people I worked with were the ones who let go of or ignored slights or even outright attacks by coworkers. That ability to focus on the true enemy was the key to long term success. Even bigger wins were gained by leaders who fostered cooperation inside rather than encouraging competition with co-workers.

Last week Joe Biden was photographed with a paper in his hand with Kamala’s name on it. First thing on the paper said, “Don’t hold grudges.” That was the best advice ever. The media and 45 have tried to make a big deal about Kamala’s attack of Joe at the first debate. She was a prosecutor. It’s in her blood to fight. It was politics. While she was running against him, she wanted to win. Once she dropped out there was no reason to be mad about her. She was now on his side. She was his coworker, not his competition.

Not holding a grudge was great advice. Now work together against the competition. I think this shows good judgement from Joe who can build a team of people who can work together unlike 45 who is suspicious of everyone who works in the White House and holds grudges if someone even looks at him sideways.

I am hopeful that the Joe and Kamala team will inspire people to stop thinking the enemy is their neighbor and that we can be a kinder country again.

Pretzel Rolls For Russ

Russ, who always works incredibly hard has had a tough couple of weeks and has to do more than his share without much appreciation. Well, I know all that he does, and I appreciate his work ethic and dedication. He does not do it for fanfare, but it would be nice to get some recognition.

I always ask him If there is anything I can do to help him and usually there is nothing he would ever think to ask for. So today I decided to bake him a pan of pretzel rolls to say thank you for all that he does.

I had bought a giant bag of yeast at Costco, more yeast than I can ever use. (If you need some, come on by and I’ll give you a baggie). So with this embarrassment of yeast I got to baking. Since Russ grew up in Philly he is a big fan of soft pretzels. Not those Aunt Annies kind, but the real chewy kind that you buy at a stop light from a guy on Street Road. (Yes, in Philly that is the name of a major thoroughfare.)

I could have made him pretzels, but pretzel rolls are a little more useful and slightly lighter. I used a recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. It was very easy and used baking soda in water, rather than lye to beget the pretzel flavor. I appreciated that since I have misplaced my lye.

So happy noshing Russ Lange. You deserve a parade for all you do, but I suspect you’d rather have a simple thank you and a pretzel. You may not get all the thanks from all the people, but I can get you the pretzel.

College Football, Not A Life or Death Matter

College football, the big money maker, big ego feeder, big group gathering, tailgate inducing sport does not fit into our pandemic world. No matter how badly star quarterbacks want to play, there is no way to social distance in football, even if they promise only to throw the ball and not run it.

If singing is considered a super spreader of virus imagine what playing football would be. I don’t know any athlete who can play at even 50% of their capacity who does not need to breathe hard while doing it.

College athletes can’t be treated like NBA players and locked in a bubble. They go to classes, live in dorms, eat in cafeterias, go to parties and to practice. If you have ever looked at the sidelines of a college football games there are hundreds of people. Offensive, defensive and special teams players, coaches, trainers, equipment managers. Too many people to keep safe.

Then there is the traveling and all the interactions that entails.

Yes, these star quarterbacks want to play. They are young and feel invincible, but it should not be up to them. The experience will not be the same anyway. Playing without fans cheering or the band playing is not the same experience.

One real reason to cancel the season is so as not to encourage football watching parties and celebrations. Keeping an entire student body off the street after a big win is next to impossible. College students are not known for restraint, don’t give them more temptations than they already have to stay away from.

Yes, this year stinks for all students everywhere. Yes, people miss sports. Yes, it makes schools a lot of money. But this year is about life and death. Let’s not blow it on football.

And Now This

I am going to have to stop wondering what else can go wrong in 2020. Today we woke up in North Carolina to 5.1 magnitude earthquake. This at the end of a week that started with a hurricane and tornadoes in the state. North Carolina has not had an earthquake like this since the 1920’s. The earthquake was centered in Sparta which is the town right next to Camp Cheerio, Carter’s childhood summer home.

I slept through the quake, but I checked in on my friends in the mountains and they felt it. Kathi said it was the scariest thing she ever experienced. I am thankful everyone is safe, but am hoping this is the strongest quake we will have, but it is 2020 and … The news says there have been seven quakes in NC in the last 24 hours, but the others were just a 2 or a 3.

I am not sure how many more signs I can take that we are not taking care of the world and our fellow creatures. I don’t want to speculate on what else can go wrong.

Green Rice

One of the things I miss about having Carter home is the diversity in ideas about what to have for dinner. She often thought of things I never would have thought of. One thing she made was Arroz Verde, or green rice. The one time she made it I thought it was so satisfying that I didn’t need anything else for dinner.

Now that she is back in Boston I am back to thinking up dinner ideas. Not that Russ doesn’t send me at least three recipes a week from the New York Times, but they are often full of weird ingredients I don’t want to have hanging around.

Not the case for Green rice. It is made with all things you probably have on hand or can easily pick up.

1 1/2 c. Long grain rice

1 1/2 c. Chicken broth

1 1/2c. Milk

2 big handfuls of spinach

1 big handful of cilantro (can be all stems if you want)

1 medium onion minced

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 T. Olive oil

2 T. Butter

Put the spinach, cilantro, chicken stock and milk in a blender and blend until the veg are pulverized.

In a sauce pan out the oil and butter and melt. Add the rice and toast it until brown, stirring often. Add the onions and garlic and continue cooking for another minute, stirring.

Add the green liquid from the blender and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to just as low as it can go. Cook the rice about 20 minutes without lifting the lid. Then stir it once, recover and cook another five minutes and then turn the heat off leaving the lid on the pot for ten more minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

As this is a classic Spanish dish I have no ownership to its creation, but sometimes I like to blog about a recipe that I don’t want to get lost in my memory.

The Birthdays That Don’t Count

Today is my friend Mary Lloyd’s birthday. Having a pandemic birthday means you don’t have the normal celebrations. Every other year this day would be celebrated with a fun girls lunch or afternoon tea out, laughing and telling stories. Now it is dangerous to laugh out loud and I am trying my hardest to tell stories quietly so as not to project air out into the world.

Rather than go out I did drop by Mary Lloyd’s house with flowers, balloons and cake, but it does not feel like enough. Like so many of my friends who have had birthdays since March they are not getting the attention they deserve.

My friend Lee is famous for her August birthday Pageant. There was a big sign in her yard announcing it, but I am afraid it will be a shadow of her normal pageant.

I think that if you have a pandemic birthday this year you get to skip counting it. This means that you don’t count this year in your age. I turned 59 this year, but as I am not counting this birthday as an official birthday I will turn 59 again next year. Seems only fair that we all will lose a year of our lives to just being on hold. Why should we count it. This is kind of like an intermission year.

Sadly, the year with Covid and and election drags on extra slowly making it feel like it is double as long. All the more reason just to wipe it out as a year in our lives.

So Happy Birthday to all my August birthday friends. I still celebrate you, but next year will be a double party.

There, But By The Grace Of God

As a southerner I have often heard people say, “There, but by the grace of God, go I,” when referring to someone else’s misfortune. For the record, I believe in God. I feel that I have God’s Grace because he is a loving and generous God and that I did nothing to earn it. I also believe that we ALL have God’s Grace. Not just people who believe or act a certain way, everyone.

I wonder if the people who say “by the Grace if God,” are thinking that God actually makes a choice, spare them, don’t spare someone else. This is not what I believe. Despite having Grace, we all have luck, good and bad. We also have free will and sometimes things are our own making.

Many things that happen in our life were decided for us. Who our parents are, where we were born, when we were born, which teacher we had in first grade, all things that go into making us who we are.

Then there are the decisions we made along the way, who was your best friend, who did you marry, what job did you do, how do you chose to spend your time. Change any one of these things and your whole story changes.

So God graces you, but so much of the path you take is of your own making, both good and bad. It is up to each of to work hard to make good decisions, do right by each other, offer a helping hand. You can’t depend on grace to protect you, just like you can’t blame God when bad things happen to you. Just remember, “it’s not all about you.”

If you dodge a bullet, it probably was luck. You might not always be so lucky so look out for yourself and for others. That is probably what God would like you to do, then you are displaying grace.