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.


Less Than Perfect

If you have ever watched YouTube cooking demo or any other social media cooking the cookware used in the video looks practically brand new. It makes me wonder how good these cooks are who have perfectly clean frying pans with no baked on splatter on the outside. If I were to film myself demonstrating a recipe you would see my very old and well loved pots and pans with all the patina that comes from decades of cooking.

Now, I am not saying my pans are not clean. The insides are sparkling, just the outsides or bottoms might show a little age. They are in no way YouTube worthy.

The inside is good

Today after I washed a medium sized non-stick frypan, that is probably a year old I noticed that the inside was perfect, but the outside looked like it should be thrown away. Well, I am not about to be that wasteful, even though I do change my nonstick frypans often. So I got out the dawn power wash and started scrubbing the pan. I sprayed the cleaner on and let it sit a while. I came back with a scouring pad and rubbed and rubbed. I did this process four times throughout the day. I barely made a dent.

The bottom after scrubbing, looks almost the same as before scrubbing

What I want to know is am I the only person whose cookware looks used or does everyone scour their pans after every use so that the outside looks as good as the inside? Or do you buy new cookware more often than once in a lifetime. I have to say that my Dansk Stock pot and sauce pans look pretty good. I considered them a major investment when I bought them in 1985. I can see that they will last me at least another thirty years. And my Le Creuset dutch ovens are equally usable despite less than perfect outsides.

The outside after scrubbing is better, not great.

Perhaps social media cooking is making me crazy. I just want to know from real people if you too have only YouTubable cookware? There is just something about perfect cookware that feels untrustworthy. Or maybe I needed to be quarantined two weeks every year for the last thirty five years just so I scrubbed my pots and pans better. It seems too late now.

Early in the quarantine I did a major cleaning of my half sheet pans. Since I have five of them that are 30 years old and still as good as the day I bought them, sans the baked on look, it took me a while to try and restore them to factory settings. I spent days and eventually gave up. Two of the five are close to being fair, the others are in the fail category.


Bread Bags

I’m looking for some silver Covid linings. I know it’s a stretch, but there have to be some good things to come out of this. One thing came to mind today, just stay with me while I try and connect this.

I am the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family. That meant that I often got to go and spend time with my grandparents alone. All my grandparents had lived through the depression and they all did little things thirty-five years later that were carry overs from living through those tough times.

My grandmother, Granettes, on my father’s side used to pack food into the empty bread bags. It made perfect sense. A plastic bag, was a plastic bag and none went to waste. I can remember her having a drawer full of them in her kitchen at the farm. If I had been visiting my grand parents and they drove me home from North Carolina to Ohio my grandmother would make cold fried chicken, and bread and butter sandwiches and put them each in different bread bags. Along the way we would pull the car over to a roadside picnic area and have lunch. She would carefully fold the bags backup and put them in the basket after we ate to reuse them again another day.

This conservation was something my parents never did. It was clearly a holdover from my grandmother living through the depression. Who knew she was green before being green was a thing.

My other grandmother, Mima, was equally frugal. One time she and I went to the mountains and stayed in a motor lodge, that’s what motels were called back then. We went to dinner at the little diner attached to the motor lodge. The waitress had brought us a basket of rolls at the start of the meal. After we finished dinner Mima told me to wrap the rolls up in the napkin in the basket and put them in my bag. I was horrified and begged her not to make me do that. She said, “They will just get thrown away if we don’t take them and that is a waste. We can eat them for breakfast.” I was hoping for pancakes I am sure, but I did as she asked and sure enough we ate cold, stale rolls for breakfast the next morning. If only we had a bread bag they might not have gotten so stale.

Here were two women who had learned to be frugal at a young age when the whole country was learning it at the same time. It lasted their whole lives. Nothing was ever to go to waste. Maybe this year of Covid and the hardship it has brought will make that kind of impact on us. Maybe people will learn that they don’t need to go shopping to be happy. Perhaps conservation and saving for a rainy day will become more common. Perhaps people will learn to live way beneath their means just in case something bad happens that they had no control over.

The depression is not something I wish on anyone, but lessons from those times can be embraced over and over again. Too bad I don’t buy bread in those kind of bags, but there is no reason not to reuse any bag, over and over.


What’s the Point?

During the Covid period I am trying everyday to do something that appears as if I am productive. As the days go on it is getting harder and harder. This weekend I dusted the whole house thoroughly and deep cleaned the kitchen, including cleaning out the refrigerator. The lack of excitement for these chores is beginning to wear on me.

With Carter gone the house stays cleaner longer giving me less and less to keep up with. As I have finished making my latest craft and I have scheduled all the zoom meetings i need to do for a Food Bank Project I am in charge of I awoke this morning with nothing on my plate.

Since the UNC students are moving in today I decided I needed to go to Trader Joe’s very early in the morning before all those potentially germ ridden college students go in and stock up. That took half an hour. Still with the whole day ahead of me I finally broke down and did a job I have been putting off through all of quarantine, I polished the silver.

This much hated job had little point to it since Russ could care less if things are shiny and bright, no one else is going to see it and it will just tarnish again before Christmas which might be the next time someone new is in my house.

I put on the rubber gloves and gathered everything to be polished. I rubbed and rubbed and worked for two straight hours as if I was a royal footman preparing for a state dinner. After putting all the shinny silver back in it’s rightful spots I felt a twinge of pain in my neck and back.

I ignored it at first and went off the the post office to mail Carter two Cookbooks my friend Carol gave me for her. While standing in a very long line, an old man in compression socks took much too long to decided which kind of stamps he wanted, I recognized that my hurt neck was making me more irritable than normal. (Actually he never did decide as I had to call out from the line for the clerk to just give him the damn “nature stamps” and be done with the indecision. The other people in the line clapped for me.)

I came home and decided that I had been productive enough and took some pain killer and lay down to heal my back and neck. What in the world was the point of polishing that silver to the degree of bodily injury? No one knows if I am productive and no one cares. Damn Yankee work ethic is going to kill me.


Awaiting the Hurricane

Last week was stifling hot. We had a couple of days of rain storms that helped keep my zinnias alive. The last few days no rain and my flowers are suffering. If a hurricane weren’t coming I should have watered them. I hate wishing that the hurricane would just hurry up and get here, but I want my flowers to live. I know that the high winds and flooding are not good for people, but there is little we can do about Mother Nature.

I am tired of Mother Nature this year, as a pandemic is under her realm, but I am more exhausted by people’s response to it. I am tired of people not taking Mother Nature seriously. It seems to me that same people who refuse to wear masks are the ones who feel safe surfing during a hurricane or refusing to follow emergency orders.

Please let this Hurricane not do too much damage, kill anyone or have people who don’t heed warning and need to be saved. Please let people not be selfish as it puts first responders in harms way if they have to rescue idiots. Hurricanes may be good for zinnias, but not so good for humans and animals.


Almost Normal

For the first time in five months I went to my closet and out on a dress. Russ and I went out to the Teer farm to have a socially distant outdoor dinner with out friends Cynthia and Dave. It felt practically normal. No I take that back, it was utterly fantastic.

Chef Paris had offered up a perfect summer picnic menu of pork, fried chicken, corn salad, slaw and green beans. I shouldn’t forget Paris’ famous pretzel rolls and lemon pie. You ordered a take out dinner and we were lucky enough to get to picnic at the farm. Cynthia saw that I had replied on Facebook to Kristin’s posting about the offering and suggested we go in on the dinner together since it was for four. What a brilliant idea!

We arrived in our masks, but when we took them off to eat I soon forgot that this was a not our normal way. It was so fun to see friends and have new conversations and catch up. The Teer Farm was fantastic as the tables were miles apart. In fact I hardly noticed anyone else was even there.

It was nice to support Paris who told us he has not worked at all. The big bonus was also getting to see Kristin. Cynthia, Kristin and I all agreed we missed going to lunch with each other the most. I do miss being a lady who lunches.

Tonight was the highlight of the month, maybe two months. There is nothing else on the calendar. I am going to have to cherish the memories of eating dinner with friends, along with the lingering taste of Paris’ rolls. I can’t see that I need to wear a dress any time soon.


Scissor Love

Yesterday I finished the baby quilt I made for Carter’s co-worker. The photos don’t really show the colors correctly. When I first photographed it the main background color looked almost black. In fact it is a charcoal grey. I tried to color correct the photo today for my record.

This little quilt is a favorite of mine, even though I have only met the mother once for five minutes. I sent it off in the mail to Carter so she can have the fun of giving it to her. I will never see the quilt again, but I will always have the happy memories of getting to create it.

Quilting for me is just art with fabric. I have always loved fabric and paper and creating different pieces of art with them. It must have something to do with scissors. When I was a kid you would be hard pressed to find any scissors in my house and when you did they were dull or worse sticky.

Because of my PTSD over childhood scissors I am never more than an arm’s length away from scissors and usually more than one pair. I have at least 40 pairs just for paper. There are the regular paper kinds and the decorative edge ones. Small scallops and zig zag, deckled edges, you name it and I can cut it.

Then there are scissors just for fabric and once again there are straight and pinking (think zig zag). And I have embroidery scissors Including a favorite pair that was a gift jus to cut Turkey work, which means turning yarn into fur. I have folding scissors and tiny travel ones. You never knew so much about scissors did you?

I have kitchen shears, the Costco ones that come apart and can cut a penny in half and ones for cutting card board or into plastic clam shells. Hair cutting scissors and nose hair cutting. Those are two different kinds along with three different kinds of nail scissors Then there are the children’s scissors with blunt noses because I wanted to make sure Carter had her own tools and not have her use mine and possibly cut paper with fabric scissors, the biggest no-no there ever was.

These were just the scissors I could reach on my bedside table without opening any drawers or getting up from writing this blog. They probably represent ten percent of what is in house.

Now that I have finished this baby quilt I am not sure what my next Covid art outlet will be, but I can guarantee you it will probably be something that involves scissors since I already have the right tool.


Give John Lewis the Spotlight

Like a child who is stamping his foot and pouting in the corner of the room because he perceives he is not getting the attention he deserves, 45 today tweeted out the most outrageous thing he could to draw attention away from John Lewis’ funeral to which he was not invited. There in Atlanta at Ebenezer Baptist Church were three of the living Presidents, Bush, Clinton and Obama all asked to speak. President Carter would have been there as he was invited, but at his age with Covid it was not a good idea for him to attend.

So there all the revered adults were in the same place, Democrats and Republicans (at least what real republicans used to be) and 45 was purposely excluded as he can’t play nice with others. Rather than letting it be the day for John Lewis, he had to try and one up and tweet.

The childishness of this selfish, self centered man is no fun. His complaining that other people are more popular than him, ie: Dr. Fauci and Dr. Brix and his whining that the supreme court doesn’t like him when rulings don’t go his way are the acts of a spoiled child. Today the world does not revolve around you 45, no matter how much you think it should. Saying and doing more and more outrageous things to get attention does not instill confidence in the electorate.

Stop being a baby. Step back and let the adults honor a truly great man on this day. I know you worry that not that many ex-presidents will come and wish to speak at your funeral. Instead you might be lucky to have brilliant orators like Peter Navarro. Too bad Herman Cain came to your rally and died from Covid, he might have spoken at your service.

As for today, I was buoyed by the speeches of past Presidents in the hopes that they inspire a new generation of bright young people to take up the mantle of John Lewis and bring America out of the depths.


North Carolina State Fair Canceled

Agriculture Commissioner Troxler took to the airwaves to announce that he was not allowing the fair to take place this October. Despite obvious observation of Coronavirus as the reason we can’t go to the fair he failed to mention the real reason — North Carolinians have already gained all their fair food weight during quarantine.

Commissioner Troxler could have talked about the loss of fried Oreos, fried turkey legs, fried Ice cream or fried butter that people will be missing at the fair, but it was clear to him that everyone had already tried to make all those things at home when no one was watching. We may not have put corn dogs on sticks at home, but it looks like corn dogs have been consumed nonetheless.

When Troxler said he was considering the health of citizens when considering holding the fair he easily could have meant, “Everyone is already too fat. We don’t need to add to our public health problems by tempting everyone with NC Pork Council pulled pork sandwiches.”

So no caramel Apples, just eat an apple without the caramel at home. No corn on the cob soaked in butter, running down your hand as you walk mummy style among people who are missing some of their important teeth. You can buy Kettle corn at the grocery store, but sorry there is no substitute for a fair funnel cake. If you are really craving that “Only at the fair food” you can make your own Krispy Kreme burger, by buying two donuts and a cheeseburger from Cook Out. Replace the bun of the burger with the donuts and have at it. I suggest you only do this if you have not already gained all the weight you usually gain going to the fair.

For most people, the Covid 19 weight gain means we might have to cancel the fair for a couple of years. Thanks Commissioner Troxler for looking out for us.


Last Will and Wishes

With all that is going on in the world Russ and I finally got off the pot and are having an appointment to redo our wills. We have successfully raised a child to an adult so it is a little easier than it would have been if we needed to change guardianship. Now it is about our wishes. There is so much to think about when making a will and medical directives. How can we possibly set something up for every possible scenario.

I was discussing it with a Carter yesterday. As far as medical issues I told her that it boiled down to, “If I am incapacitated to the point that I would have a shitty life and If keeping me around would cause her to have a shitty life I don’t want to stick around.” Then I added, “I don’t want you to have to deal with my shit literally or figuratively.” Russ and I have not had this discussion yet.

The other thing Carter and I discussed was who could help her if she needed help. It was very eye opening whose opinions she valued. The one thing I told her was everyone I ever knew who inherited a bunch of money young ended up blowing it all and dying young themselves. Carter thought that no young person should be get a large sum of money and not have incentive to work. Thank goodness we are on the same page there.

Now I am interested in getting advice from my friends about your experiences with good and bad wills. One thing I have learned this week is don’t keep it a surprise if you include someone in your legal documents. I am going to make sure to have conversations with the people I designate to make decisions for me if I can’t make my own. So what about you? Please pass on all your wisdom. Now is the time before we see the lawyer. I don’t want to do this again.


Why Play Baseball?

I know people are wanting sports back. I know some men who finally realize they are addicted to watching sports because they have had terrible withdrawal symptoms from the lack of sports. Even I watched golf on TV Sunday just because it was a novelty to see a sport.

Golf seems like a relatively safe sport to come back, but baseball seems more problematic.

I do not understand how you can social distance while playing baseball unless everyone hits a home run. Now just days after professional baseball started back up some of it shut down because the Florida Marlins have a dozen players and coaches who have tested positive for Covid-19. Is it a surprise? Miami is a terrible hot spot of the virus.

There is no reason to try and play this game. People can’t go and watch it. Players should not be sacrificed for other’s entertainment. When is everyone going to realize that we are not getting things like baseball back until there is a vaccine.

People need to do their best to stay home. If you go out, wear the damn mask, stay away from others and don’t gather inside or out with many people. For goodness sake don’t go to a bar, a party, a church, a wedding, or a meeting. We can’t kill the virus, but please do your best not to get it. I had a Zoom today with someone who had it and is finally recovering after four weeks. He is a shadow of himself and said, “No one wants this thing.” So please, don’t play baseball, it’s just a game.


Murphy’s Law

With Russ away for a few days I am back to doing the regular house upkeeping without him. No big deal. I have lived here for 25 years with him off traveling for work more of the time than not, except this year. I obviously have gotten quite used to having him home.

Yesterday afternoon, just as I had fallen asleep for a little nap as I had only gotten four hours sleep the night before, I heard a loud sharp chirp. Did I dream that? A minute later another loud chirp. Shay, who was sleeping beside me, was up and shivering looking at me quizzically.

I went out in the hall and noticed the Nest was blinking and then chirping. Oh lord. This had happened last week when Russ was home and he took care of it by removing it and vacuuming it. I got the step stool and the vacuum and tried that trick. No luck. Shay was a nervous wreck.

The device was just beyond my reach, even on the step stool, so I jumped and was able to pull it down. The regular chirp one minute apart made me think the device needed to have it’s batteries replaced. So I went to our battery drawer and found six matching Costco batteries and put them in. I then replaced the box back on it’s holder on the ceiling.

A hour later Russ called me from DC. The Nest had sent him an email complaining that I had not put alkaline batteries into the box. Really? Now that complaining bitch. Those were new good batteries. How dare she complain to Russ.

He told me that he had just ordered the right kind of batteries and they would come Monday. “Should I jump up and take that thing down now?” Russ told me not to bother, it should be fine.

I went about my evening after I finally got Shay calmed down. I fell asleep around ten, having not had more than five minutes of sleep during my nap. CHIRP! Was I dreaming again? CHIRP. Shivering puppy licks my face. I wake up. It was midnight. That damn machine really hated those batteries. I had to get up, go get the step stool and jump up and rip it off the ceiling. Of course it had to wait until I had taken the edge off my exhaustion. Took another hour to fall back to sleep, but at least Shay had stopped shivering by then.


Quilting Outlet

Russ is in Washington so I have had time alone just to create. Carter has a co-worker who is having a baby so I have been making a quilt for her. I asked Carter what colors and she said, “Grey, pink and white.”

I am certain Carter thought I would do sweet baby colors. Instead I did bold and dark colors. I also did multi sized wonky stars. One reason I did this was to be able to work some symbols into the quilt. I recreated the Bain Capital logo in greys, and one small cross and the initials of the parent’s first namesi. The center squares of stars. Most people would not see these symbols, but I like knowing that the quilt has deeper meaning that just a blanket.

Now that I have finished the top and made the sandwich of batting and a backing with it I will start the “quilting” process and then finish with a binding on the edge. A baby quilt is my favorite thing to make. It takes days not months. I hope that Carter’s friend will use it as it is not meant to be so precious that it sits on a shelf, but instead is laid in the yard for the baby to lie on, or is dragged around the house and becomes a lovey.

For me it is a creative outlet during this lonely year. I don’t know what I would do everyday if I did not have ways to make art with fabric or fibers. When I am done with this quilt I probably should start on Christmas gifts as I don’t know of any other babies coming.


The Kind John Lewis

I’m late to the arena to post my memories of John Lewis. I am sad for our country to lose such a great and kind leader during these troubling times. I say kind from my personal interactions with him.

In the late eighties when I had a side business as a caterer in DC where I catered for Congressman Lewis. I got the job because I cook cook “southern” in a time when hauté cuisine was the thing.

I met Lewis’ AA during my one year in the junior league. She was the only African American in my small group and she and I became friends as we were very different from most of the much younger women whose only ambitions appeared to be to marry and have babies. One evening I brought some peach bars to our small group meeting and she told me her boss would love them, so I let her take the leftovers from the meeting. I did not know at the time her boss was the esteemed Congressman.

Later she called me and asked if I could cater a stand up reception for her boss. Back then Congress had a rule that they could not do sit down fundraisers and all food had to be finger food. It was then I realized I was being asked to cater for a Congressman.

In Washington there are A, B and C list congressmen. Most are C list, people no one knows or recognizes outside their home districts. Not that they might not do good work, but they were not recognizable to me. John Lewis was, even back then, an A list a congressman. I remember the first time I met him he said, “You are the famous Peach bar baker.” I could not believe he connected me to the leftovers. Thankfully that night I had made pecan bars which he loved more than the peach ones and requested them at each reception I worked for him after that.

As a caterer you are just “the help.” Hardly anyone seeks you out to spend time with you at events. Your job is to feed people good food and make sure everything runs smoothly. I could really tell the difference in people’s character by how they treated me and my staff. At jobs I did for John Lewis I often was just dropping food off and not running the party so I was not always there for the entire event. So it meant even more that he would come out of his office and thank me and tell me what he really enjoyed that I last cooked for him. If you look up the definition of kind in the dictionary his picture is next to it.

When Carter went on her seventh grade school trip to Washington DC she knew of my fondness for John Lewis. While at the Capital she spotted him and since he was walking nearby she ran over to him and shook his hand. I was so happy she had the gumption to do that. She knew my stories about working for him 25 years before and knew he would treat her with respect.

He really was a towering man when it came to treating people right. I am sorry that we did not have cameras phones back then. I never got a photo with him and I wish I had, but I will always remember him fondly.


Call Out Bullies

I don’t care what AOC’s politics are, I am just proud that she spoke up against Ted Yoho for calling her a “fucking bitch.” This is something that other over heard him say, but now he is denying saying it. Frankly, he might have thought he just said it in his head and not realized he said it out loud, but nothing excuses him from the whole incident in the capital.

Yoho, a tea party congressman from central Florida, who in 2015 mounted a campaign challenge to John Boehner for Speakership, got only two votes out of 435 according to Wikipedia. As far as I can tell he has no legislation to his name which has gotten passed. So to me his success as a congressman is questionable. No wonder he speaks profanity to an successful woman of color who is much younger than he is. It has to be so hard to be an aging white man who can’t get anything done.

Politics aside, I would bet that if this man’s grand mother was alive she would be appalled at this kind of talk, especially at work. Woman need to call men out who think they can do this and get away with it. AOC did the best thing by putting it into the Congressional record by talking about it on the house floor. This guy Yoho, who before today did not have much of a congressional record, will forever now be known as the rude, potty mouth congressman who disrespects a woman fellow congressperson.

For my daughter and other young woman in their work places I am happy that AOC is standing up against such a bully. It is what small minded people who are in a position of weakness do to strike out. It certainly does not advance him in anyway and AOC took away his power by calling him out on it.

I stand with women who have the courage to speak out to their bullies. If a man does not like the policies a woman stands for calling her names is not going to change her. It just makes him look like a small minded spoil sport. I hope his grandmother is looking down ashamed of him.


Shay Loves Quarantining

Out of everyone I know Shay is the being that loves everything about quarantining the most. She spends most of her days supervising Russ in his bunny baby room office. She has three beds in there and jumps up on his lap to see all the people during Zoom calls. I hardly see her all day since I hardly see Russ. She actually gets a little pissy if he leaves his office and comes sees me.

Rarely does she join me on any of my Zoom calls. Granted mine are not revenue generating and I think she adds monetary value to Russ’. Today I had two Zoom’s. She ignored me on one, but when it came time for my church Ways and Means call she miraculously appeared and jumped up on my lap where she stayed for most of the meeting.

Shay is a member of Ways and Means and almost never missed an in person meeting at church. She would sit in my lap with her head on the table and look at Sharon whom she loves. I guess that when she heard all her church friends on the zoom she came downstairs to join me not wanting to miss any of the action.

I think maybe we should put Shay on the stewardship committee and she can shake people down for pledges. She is thoroughly versed in all the monetary issues of the church and is too cute to say no too.


Emergency Contact

My family moved to London, the first time, when my youngest sister was eight years old. Back then, in my family, eight years old meant you were old enough to take care of yourself. Janet was allowed to skateboard and ride her bike most anyplace she wanted to go alone. She walked to school a few blocks alone or with our middle sister Margaret.

One day it occurred to my mother that Janet was often about the city alone and since she was eight she had no id of any kind. My mother told her to write down her name and address and put it in her coat. Janet wrote, “My name is Janet K. Carter. I am the one in this green jacket right now. And put her home address.”

It was good advice for not just an eight year old, but for all of us. What if something happens to you and you are alone? If you are carrying your wallet you probably have your driver’s license, but what if you are out on a walk? I don’t take my wallet on a walk, but I do take my phone.

If you have an IPhone there is a place in settings to put an emergency contact so if someone needs to get you help they know who to call. The best part is that no one has to know your password to call your emergency contact from your phone. Make sure you update your information or at the very least write a note and put it in your pocket saying who you are and who cares for you if you need help.


Leftover Make Over

With Carter back in Boston Russ are I return to eating “weird experimental recipes” I make up using orphan ingredients. Today’s ingredients to be used up, a ball of pizza dough, two old raw zucchini, a container of ricotta cheese. So I told Russ I was going to make him a pizza. He was thrilled until he came down stairs and saw the white circle. You see, to Russ the red sauce is the best part of the pizza.

Reluctantly he cut himself a small square. “This is delicious.” Whew. He had more and didn’t even think about going to the refrigerator for some red sauce.

1 ball of Trader Joe’s pizza dough, or some other form of homemade crust

1 pint of ricotta cheese

1/4 cup of grated Parmesan

1 t. Lemon juice

Sprinkling of sumac

Sprinkling of dried shallots

Sprinkling of red pepper flakes

Sprinkling of garlic powder

2 small zucchini sliced into 1/8 inch rounds

Five slices of bacon, cooked and chopped

Preheat the grill to very hot and clean the grates. Roll the pizza dough out and place on hot grill and close the lid. Cook for two-three minutes until the dough releases from the grates and flip it over on The other side and cook another two minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°. Place the cooked pizza dough on a pizza tin. Mix together the cheeses and spices and slather it on the pizza. Cover the whole thing with zucchini and place the pizza In the oven and cook until the zucchini starts to wither and the ricotta browns, about 15 minutes.

Removes from oven and sprinkle bacon all over the top.

Don’t tell people it’s pizza if you are going to get push back about the sauce issue. Instead tell them it is flat bread.


No More Driving

I was away from home 36 hours, 24 of them I spent driving. That was a slog.

Last night Carter generously volunteered that I could sleep in her bed rather than on her pull out sofa bed. I gladly took her up on that offer knowing that I needed a good night’s sleep to make the quick turn around trip alone back from Boston.

It was sad not to be able to spend anytime in New England while I was dropping Carter off. It was even sadder to drive straight home by myself. I woke up at 5:15 and was pulling away from Carter’s at 5:45. I felt OK leaving her there as everyone we saw on the street was wearing masks, even those people riding bikes and running. No wonder the state’s Covid numbers have gone way down, especially when most of the country’s are going the other direction.

I had driven the twenty year old Land Cruiser up to a Boston since Carter had a bunch of stuff to bring back. I was thrilled that the old tank made the trip without incident. The only issue was the amount of gas it took and the fact that it does not have any blue tooth capability or Sirius radio. I listened to pod casts on the return trip, but missed my traveling companion.

The traffic was bad in lots of places. I am not sure how much quarantining is going on.

The only excitement on the whole trip was around Ashland Va. I passed a couple of guys towing a Ford Country Squire station wagon. It was the exact model, except for the color, as the new car my father brought home on my fifth birthday.

About twenty minutes later when I stopped for gas, the Country Squire crew pulled into the gas station to put air in the trailer tires. I took a photo of the car and then asked the gentlemen what year it was. It was the same year as my parent’s Navy station wagon. Nick and Andrew, were the guys names and we talked about cars. They told me they had commented on my classic land cruiser when I passed them on the road. Turned out Andrew had a website called corvair wild and I told him that both my grandmother and father had covairs. It was a good social distancing break in my boring drive.

When I finally pulled in the driveway at home Shay and Russ come out of the garage to welcome me home. Well, Russ welcomed me. Shay went to the Land Cruiser to welcome Carter. She stood there for quite a while waiting for her to emerge from the car. Disappointed, she gave up and came and said hi to me. I think it is going to take a while before we are used to Carter being gone again.


Home Again, Home Again

Up at five in the morning, Carter and I pulled out of the driveway at 5:45. Three stops for gas/bathroom/food in 12 hours and we pulled up to Carter’s apartment in Boston. The drive was not as easy today as it was when I picked her up in March. That trip only took 10 and a quarter hours which was an unheard record as I was practically the only car on the road that day.

Upon entering Carter’s apartment the first thing we noticed is that a set of three hanging pots and fallen off the wall and broken all over the floor, then we noticed one of her lama painting had fallen off the wall, but not hurt. Then we went in the kitchen. Something was not right. There were fruit flies all over the fridge. Then Carter opened the freezer. Thankfully she shut it quickly.

The traffic today was not terrible except in Connecticut, but not as bad as the normal I -95 traffic. I was able to get a parking space right in front of Carter’s building as we started the unpacking.

Apparently her fridge stopped working sometime in the last four months. She called her management company and they said it would be Monday or Tuesday before they could get her a new fridge.

So Carter and I went to the True Value down the street. I got bug spray and heavy duty tape. We cleaned up all the bugs and I taped the fridge shut all the way around. The only good news is Carter had some sour dough starter she was worried might have exploded all over her kitchen and it had not.

After the initial mess we got to installing Carter’s new air conditioner. That was a job, but we did it. Now we have cool air and I am going to sleep to be up at 5:00 tomorrow to head home.


Think Outside the School Box

With all the news about schools opening or going back to online learning I am thankful that my child is old enough to control her own learning. I feel for my friends and family with younger children who are still faced with the uncertainty that the fall will bring.

I got to thinking about how the fall semester could be something exciting and different rather than the same old curriculum forced into an awkward way of learning. What if you just didn’t worry about traditional subjects and used real life as the tool for learning this year. Kids can still keep up with math and reading, just in different, practical ways.

What if you and your child learned how to do every adult thing you need to learn to survive; how to do your own tax returns, repair a dish washer, change the oil in a lawn mower and sharpen the blades, cook a soufflé, hem a pair of pants and sew on a button, read a balance sheet and evaluate stocks, research political candidates stances on issues, grow vegetables, make and can homemade strawberry preserves, create a budget and live on it, learn to code, refinish furniture, paint a room, learn how to answer the phone and carry on a conversation, interview an older person about their childhood, learn how to make change, how to put the chain back on a bicycle, how to take someone’s temperature with an old fashioned thermometer, how to do CPR, how to service a vacuum, change the air filters in the house, how to stop a leaking faucet, make a family tree with a description of each person, debone a chicken, read music, do the laundry including removing stains, read a paper map, navigate with a compass, identify trees, learn every bone and organ in the body, do calligraphy and the list goes no forever.

If your child has a passion for something they could do a deep dive into one subject and really master it. They could build a one room building, or make a documentary, write a cookbook and test every recipe or design and sew a wardrobe. With you tube there are experts out there you can teach you anything you want to know. For kids they would develop good research skills. As long as they treat the time like a job and work at whatever they do for a good portion of everyday.

Another idea to flip learning on its head for older kids would be for them to read the 100 great books. They might not have time to read and discuss all of them, so maybe read ten of the greatest books a month.

It seems like we could also harness regular TV to teach kids. Rather than having thousands of math teachers trying to do Algebra instruction over zoom, we could get a couple of the greatest to make TV programs and show it on regular broadcast TV which almost everyone has access too.

It seems like there are a lot of things educators could do differently in this different time. I know it all sounds like a lot of work, but just don’t stress and learn anything. If there is an issue that kids might be missing out on a grade specific skill they should be mastering this year just plan now on repeating that grade next year. Since everyone is in the same situation it won’t really matter. If there is one thing this year has taught us it is that life is not a race. It is OK to adjust your plan to suit the situation. I bet that kids of every age would remember and use what they learned during the pandemic for their whole life if they change up what they are learning.


Out of Character

I’m not sure what is going on at my house. Perhaps that comet in the sky is affecting my family. Before dinner Carter asked us if we wanted to play the Ticket to Ride game. This is a practically unheard of occurrence. Normally I have to beg Russ and Carter to play a game with me and usually it only happens if there is a power outage and all the batteries have been drained from every device in the house.

Not only did Carter ask, but Russ agreed to it before I had a chance to say a word. I feel like they know that I have a terminal disease that they are not telling me about and are just humoring me in my last days.

This is Carter’s last 36 hours at home until the holidays, but offering to play a game seems a little out of character. I did buy her some wine to take back to Boston, but she is 21 and has a full time job and can buy her own wine. She can’t be buttering me up to send her to Paris since no one is going to Paris this year. (Oh, what I would do to go to Paris without other Americans there, but I digress.)

I don’t know the reason, so I am just going to have to enjoy this momentary game playing event. Once Carter is gone Russ will not volunteer to do this. Carter is just trying to make me miss her even more.


Velveteen Puppy

In anticipation of losing my in-house groomer, Carter gave Shay a big time haircut. It’s hot and Shay’s coat had grown thick and was on the verge of getting mats. Since we lost our paid groomer, I bought sheers in March and Carter has taken care of all Shay’s beauty needs.

It has been wonderful, but now Carter is returning to Boston. Thankfully she cut Shay very close so I will have at least two months to learn to cut her hair myself.

I have gotten to be an expert cutting Russ’ beard with the trimmers so hopefully I can take care of Shay. Now her hair is so short her coat is like velveteen. It has to be so much cooler for her, but she looks a little bit like a character out of a Harry Potter novel. She is not complaining because we are petting her constantly with this short soft coat.

Shay does not realize how much she is going to miss Carter because she is a much better groomer than anyone else in this house. I know how much I will miss Carter.


Give Deplorables Their Own Country

Four years ago Hillary took a lot of heat for calling a group of American’s “Deplorables.” She didn’t name any names or put photos up of who they were, but we all knew they existed. The racists, homophobic, misogynistic, science haters, lovers of being uneducated. Then the deplorables got behind Trump as one of their own and took over the White House. Now I am not saying that everyone who voted for Trump is a deplorable, but do consider if you had to go on vacation with the people who voted the way you did would you have a good time?

So today my friend Eric posted a video of a woman who reportedly was from North Carolina in a restaurant recently. She was getting food to go and was not wearing a mask indoors, which is the law here now. She got called out for it by another customer inside the restaurant and went on a raging tirade saying Americans don’t wear masks. She ended her potty mouth rant with “Trump 2020.”

To me she is the exact definition of a deplorable. No concern for anyone else and screaming like she is in the right to not follow the rules and be a decent human being.

I posted on Eric’s page that this woman does not represent all of North Carolina, but I would consider starting up a fund to have her move somewhere else.

Perhaps one of the very red states who love Trump so much would want to become The country of Trump, actually it’s own country. We could help them out by moving people like this woman there and Trump could be the dictator of his own nation. It might cost us a little to do this, but I would be willing to pay to live in a deplorable free state.

Watch the woman and you decide if you would like to be in the same club as her. I don’t even want to be in the same state as her.

https://crooksandliars.com/2020/07/fast-food-covidiot-we-dont-cover-our-faces


Christmas in July

Southerners are known for pushing the limits when it comes to Christmas. The only people I know who decorate their wwwhhhooollleee houses during the holidays are southerners. Southerners often will have theme Christmas decorations that change from year to year. That is an expense I can not afford.

The most organized Christmas lovers have their shopping done in August. Gifts are wrapped in September and they are planning their holiday meals in October. Leaving November open for decorating and baking. That way every moment in December is available for celebrating.

Given some southerners love of all things Christmas it should not have come as a surprise when I got an email from Southern Living encouraging Christmas Cookie baking now. July, five full months before baby Jesus birthday.

I don’t care if you have a cryogenic freezer, it is too early to make cookies for Christmas. It is even too early to make cookie dough. I know that Southern Living is just trying to find something to write about given all the crap that is going on. They can’t write about travel or throwing a party, so the only thing left is baking. Sure, plenty of people have already baked their weight’s worth in bread in the last four months, so why not turn to cookies?

King Arthur Flour reports they sold more flour in April than they do during the baking season (Thanksgiving and Christmas, in case you live under a rock). At the rate people are baking we are not going to have any flour left come the baking season.

Don’t fall for this push for Christmas cookie production now. It just means you will eat all those cookies before we even get to Labor Day. You might want to go ahead and stock up on cookie decorations now, because I will bet you three dozen gingerbread men we are still going to be home at Christmas and you are going to be needing activities to do with kids then, like now.

If you want to get started practicing your cookie making why don’t you try and make some flower cookies. Just don’t bake something you save for five months and then give away. Unless you are trying to get rid of that friend or relative.


All I Want Is Sleep

The last few nights I have not been able to fall asleep. Usually if I have one sleepless night it is followed up by a hard sleep the next night. Not the situation for about four days in a row. I have been up until 2:30 and then awake at seven, sometimes able to fall back to sleep until 8:30, but not with any quality.

Why is this happening now? Nothing, and I mean nothing, in my world has changed. I have not started drinking more caffeine. I have no new stressors than anyone else. I haven’t gone anywhere or seen anyone or had any big extrovert events. Based on my extrovert personality with all this alone time I should sleep like a baby for 12 hours because I should be tired because I don’t have human interaction.

Have I actually turned into an introvert who is gaining energy being alone? I don’t want to take a sleeping pill but I am desperate to sleep tonight. I don’t want to try and go to bed too early in case I wake up in the middle of the night. I just want a normal night’s sleep. Is it too much to ask?


Good Home Cooks

I am so thankful for the other cooks I live with. Today I did not prepare one meal. Russ and Carter were on Asian kicks so they made chicken dumplings at lunch time and froze the majority of their output for future cravings. And then Russ used the leftover dumpling filling in fried rice for dinner.

It was so cute to see Russ and Carter sitting together at the dining room table crimping their dumplings. It is nice that we don’t have to worry about going out to satisfy a craving and who doesn’t crave dumplings?

Carter cooked up a few for us to enjoy and even made a delicious dipping sauce. No dumplings in Durham could beat them.

Russ got out his old college wok for making the fried rice. He chopped up every old bit of vegetable he thought needed using up, except zucchini, which he refused to consider. Too bad, I like it in fried rice and we certainly have plenty to use up.

I was not going to complain since I did not have to do any of the cooking, or even the cleaning. How I lucked out of that I will never know. Sadly this is our last Saturday with Carter home as I am taking back to Boston next weekend. Russ is going to have a less varied diet without Carter here. I am already sad, but have cherished this special time to have her home for so long.


Shay’s the Only One

During these last four months Russ has gone into his empty office once a week to water the plants. Sometimes Carter with go with him. Once Russ and I met our friends there and had a socially distant lunch. Mostly it is just a Russ, watering the thirsty plants.

Today Shay and I went with Russ. The campus is still empty. The man made river is turned off making the complex eerily quiet. The parking garage is sparsely filled. The building is locked and Russ is only able to get in what his card key. No one is in the lobby. There is no waiting for an elevator as no one is using them.

Russ, Shay and I get in the “magic room,” as we call the elevator and than Shay is allowed to have her leash removed. The door opens on the fourth floor and she runs around the corner to the door of CMG. She prances outside the glass door, awaiting Russ to come and unlock it for her. She scrambles inside and slides the length of the wood floor of the big giant room.

Shay is thrilled to be out and about, even if it is just alone with us. We water the plants and Shay pretends other CMG team members are there to pet her and play. It takes only minutes to complete the needed tasks and we are back in the magic room. Back in the car and off to home to stay safe and alone. A once a week outing to the old life is short.


Store Bought Best

In my eternal quest to use up the zucchini growing in my garden I am making a different zucchini dish every other day. Russ is a good egg about eating them in leftover form day after day. I made five giant loaves of zucchini bread from the two bat sized veggies and gave them away because there were already five loaves in the freezer.

Thank goodness I own a mandolin because it enables me to slice thin ribbons of flesh. I made a lasagna using the squash ribbons in place of the pasta. It was good, but not lasagna good. A better use of the ribbons was this roasted vegetable torte I made. I used yellow squash and zucchini from the garden along with potatoes, onions, cherry tomatoes, basil and goat cheese.

I knew it needed a sauce, but after slicing and roasting all those vegetables and layering them into a loaf I didn’t want to invest the time to make a homemade sauce. I thought a roasted red pepper sauce would be nice. If I had a jar of roasted peppers I could have whipped one up, but alas, no jars in the cupboard.

Instead I turned to a container of Trader Joe’s roasted red pepper and tomato soup. I heat just enough soup to coat the bottom of the dish and placed the warm torte on top. The soup, turned sauce, was the perfect addition to the vegetables. In fact it was the best part of the meal.

The icing on the cake was the container is recloseable and I put it in the fridge to be used the next day with the leftover torte. I think I could just put some sautéed zucchini in that soup and it would be good. Russ liked the soup so much he just drizzled some on top of a piece of bread and declared it a winner.

I have no guilt that a store bought soup was the star of my meal. Now I just need to find other ways to incorporate it into new dishes.


Don’t Blink

You would think with my vigilance about staying home I would have no problem keeping up with the smallest chores. I don’t have that much to do and what I do have to do is easy. So why did I not go look at the garden for two days?

We did have rain the last few days and that is all the more reason that I should have checked to see if anything needed to be picked. Today, between storms, I went out to get the mail and that is when it dawned on me that I had not harvested. I looked towards the garden and I could see a baseball bat sized zucchini peeking out from beneath the giant leaves. Shit.

I went and got my cutting shears and found many, too large, green bats. They are too big to cook into something healthy. These babies are pure bread making zucchini. At least this kind of harvest gives me a task to do tomorrow.

I think I need a check list of the boring and mundane jobs I am sick of doing just so I don’t zone out and forget to do one of them. There is no excuse for the orchids not getting watered every ten days, but when the days drag out ever so slowly and you have no reason to even know what day it is you can forget to water.

So I am going to try and keep my eyes open and not blink. If only there was something more stimulating than watching zucchini grow to do around here.


45 Doesn’t Offer You Cover

The current occupant of the White House is pushing an ever increasing racist agenda. He has never been shy about it from the start of his “birther” questioning, but as his poll numbers go down he is not trying to appeal to a broader base, but is doubling down to appeal to the racists among us. His strategy, not that I think he has strategy, is his choice. He will be judged in history for all his actions and those are not my immediate concern.

What is troubling to me is that people I know are openly displaying their own racism. I do not know if they feel emboldened by what 45 says. If they are strong supporters of his, like him, voted and will vote for him, then they feel it is OK to sound like him. To me, it is not OK.

As my previous Pastor, Haywood Holderness says, “God didn’t make no junk.” So in God’s eyes we are all good. Regardless if you were born with brown skin, yellow skin, white skin, love people of your same gender, are Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, atheist, Buddhist, Hindi, have one leg, are blind or deaf. No one chose how they came out. Holding yourself above another for the color of their skin is something they had no control over and is racist.

Very few people think of themselves as racist, or at least didn’t admit it, but now with 45 spewing hate more and more people are saying things that sound like him. I am noticing and so are others and it is disturbing.

Today a note was posted as a teaser for a news story on WRAL tonight about the Wakefield Neighborhood in Raleigh. The note was supposedly left at the home of a white woman who is married to an African American man. It is shocking how one neighbor has no trouble threatening another. You can read it here.

This open racism is not OK, but neither is the subtle racism, like saying, “all lives matter,” or “Bubba Watson should apologize.” Maybe you don’t realize how racist it makes you sound when you say things like that, because the guy you like in the White House says it.

If in your heart you aren’t racist then learn how not to sound like it. God has given you grace to grow and learn. If you are white, that was a privilege you were given by birth. Don’t act like it makes you better than anyone else. You didn’t have anything to do with it.


Safe On Home Base

If there is a thunder storm Shay needs to get to Home Base for safety. For the record, home base is my bed. It does not matter where she is when the storm starts she starts shaking and shivering. It does not matter than she is protected inside the house. It makes no difference if she is on the lowest floor, furthest from potential harm.

Shay shakes so badly until you bring her upstairs to be placed on my bed. Once there, despite the storm continuing outside, she stops shaking and shivering and is one happy puppy.

Shay won’t go there by herself. You must carry her to the home base for it to have such magical powers. I don’t have to stay there with her, but she is happier if I do. I too am happier at my home base. I wonder if I got it from Shay or if she got it from me? I guess our bed is Shay’s thunder bed. No shirt needed to help keep the anxiety away.


Crack for Squirrels

Out in front of our house today a squirrel ran from a tree in the middle of the yard to the magnolia grove. A few minutes later he ran back to the tree in the middle and got a friend. The two of them scurried over to the Magnolia. Then another joined them. Then one ran back to the middle of the yard and stood on its haunches and squealed. Soon another squirrel ran down the tree and they went over to the magnolia.

Russ looked out the window and said, “what do you think is going on outside with those squirrels.”

“They have discovered bacon,” I told him. “I poured some bacon grease in the dirt under the Magnolia.

I imagine the squirrels were saying, “Have you guys tried this dirt?” This is the best dirt ever.”

“Who knew dirt bound taste this good. We have been wasting out time gathering but when we just could be eating dirt.”

I looked at Russ and said, “I think I just threw off an entire ecosystem.”

Bacon can do that.


Non-Celebratory July 4th

Everything so far this year has been non-celebratory, so Independence Day is no different. I’ve had plenty of Fourths where I was out of the country and therefore had no celebrations. When I worked in the UK sometimes my friends there would ask me why we celebrated July 4th. It was always a little awkward to say, “It’s the day we declared Independence from you. So we are celebrating being free of England.”

I wonder if the British are going to add a celebration for the day they left the EU. Seems a little early for them to declare it was a good thing so maybe they should hold off on making it a bank holiday.

As a kid July fourth was a day at the riding club with fun swim activities, a picnic, men dressed in madras shorts and a square dance. It was a fun way to spend the day until all the old people drank too much and got inappropriate. I was the days of Mad Men.

Our little town had a parade in the morning and only once did I ever go to it because watching parades was not something my parents ever participated it. My one time was when I was a Girl Scout and our troop was in the parade. It was a little spooky because we had to gather at the big cemetery on the north side of town and march down Ridgefield Road into the village. I can’t remember if we did anything more that march. It was a small town parade with kids on bikes decorated with streamers and old men driving convertibles. Seems kind of lame now, but I was happy to actually witness the parade once.

The best Fourth of July parades I ever saw were at Pawley’s Island. People would actually make floats and decorate cars. We would sit in my cousin Mary’s driveway in beach chairs and the people in the parade would throw candy to us. Now that is a parade.

2020 is not a parade kind of year and certainly not one where anyone is throwing candy. There are no fireworks at the ball park or Boston Pops playing to fireworks on the Charles, except maybe in reruns.

I guess I am happy we are our own country and that deserves to be celebrated. Having Boris Johnson as a leader would be not improvement on our current disaster. What I really hope is that people can try and remember back to a time when we did what was right for our fellow Americans. If we all tried a little harder to do what is good for the collective rather than just ourselves we might go back to living in a country worth throwing a parade for.


Thanks Disney

Today is the one day chance to get to watch Hamilton on Disney+. Carter and I watched it this morning and now I am watching it again tonight. It has brought me great joy. So much that I forgot who was our President. I forgot about Covid ravaging the world. So this blog is very short so you can stop reading and quick buy Disney + right now and still have time to watch it. Disney thanks for taking my mind off everything! Lin Manuel Miranda is a genius.


Stupid Alert

It used to be that you couldn’t tell someone’s intelligence just by walking by them on the street. Sometimes you would look twice at the person standing next to a guy wearing an “I’m with stupid” t-shirt with an arrow pointing at them. Mostly that t-shirt says more about the wearer and not how bright the person is to have them as a friend. But just looking at a person, not hearing anything they say or witnessing anything they do, you have no idea what their IQ is.

Times have changed. Now there is a sure fire way you can tell a total idiot from six feet away. They are not wearing a mask inside the grocery store. Yesterday my cousin had an unfortunate encounter as she was going into a TJ Maxx in Raleigh, NC. Here in a North Carolina we have a statewide executive order from our Governor that mandates people wearing masks inside public places. It is the responsibility of the business to require customers to do so, which is tough, but not impossible.

Back to my cousin, these are her words of what she encountered.

I walking into a TJ Max (that’s probably the first mistake) wearing a mask. A young white couple were walking out without masks. The woman loudly and ragefully said while walking towards me and then past me, “Stupid f-ing woman, wearing a f-ing mask. What a f-ing stupid idiot!” I just walked past and shook it off but if you really stop to think about it, it will get to you. The excess of aggression and displaced rage on a total stranger because I’m wearing a piece of cloth over my face. A piece of cloth to stop more deaths, to prevent her from getting sick, and frankly, so my kids can go back to school before I go stark raving mad. God help us. Nothing but love, kindness and compassion needed at this time.

My cousin is kinder than I am. Not only was the woman just plain old trash to speak that way it clearly speaks to her lack of intelligence. Mask wearing is not political. It does not infringe on your rights. (I am really tired of that excuse.) You can breath and do normal activities while wearing it. Brilliant doctors can preform eight hours of complex surgery while standing up in a mask.

That rude and stupid woman who my cousin encountered might object to her doctor not wearing a mask while performing brain surgery on her, although I am not sure if there has ever been a successful brain transplant and that is what this woman needs.

So spread the word that not wearing a mask in public is a big flashing advertisement that you are a moron. Perhaps people would like to go back to being anonymously stupid at least if they are not standing next to someone wearing a t-shirt outing them.

As for the TJ Maxx that did not enforce the mask order, shame on you. Perhaps we need them to get a ticket everyday and then maybe they will do what Costco and Trader Joe’s does and politely ask people to put their masks on.

Everyone wants things to open back up and the only way that is going to happen fully is for there to be a vaccine and for people to take it. Until then, WEAR THE DAMN MASK, don’t be stupid.


Different Summer

Russ, Carter and I went to the mountains for a few days for what is probably our only vacation this year. We went to stay at an air B and B that we stayed at last year. It was the perfect social distancing get away. Except for one lunch on the way to the house we stayed away from all other people. Hiking on out of the way trails helped. The weather was not great so there were fewer people in the woods.

It was a lovely respite from Covid life. We did not watch TV or read the news. We did play games and sat by the fire and ate good meals. The only way it would have been better was if Shay were allowed to go with us.

This is the first summer in twenty years that I am not taking a road trip somewhere. Instead I am looking at this summer as the year I do all the chores. Usually I take summer off from chores because I am not at home. With no excuse I have to tackle the decades old list of things to fix, clean or get rid of.

Today I did something I have never done before. I mopped the garage floor. Not all of it, just the part around the washer and dryer and door way. It was rather satisfying. Not as good as a road trip, but better than cleaning out the attic.

I am happy to stay home and do my part to knock down the spread. The more we stay at home the less chance we have of getting sick or making others sick. I may not be spending money on gas to wander off and visit friends so instead I may have to buy a new mop. One for the garage and one for the house.


Zucchini Bread Pudding

And now a moment from summers past…figuring out what to do with all the zucchini coming in at once. I like zucchini. I like to grow zucchini. It’s easy and as an added bonus it appears to be the one thing the deer did not eat out of my garden. Due to stay at homing I planted som elf my garden early. I might have planted some of my zucchini too early. Then in a moment of panic I planted more a month later. The specimens planted last have had much more yield than the early plants. So the moral is don’t try and rush Mother Nature.

All that being said, I am now getting zucchini faster than I can keep up with. To top it off I don’t have an inch of space in my freezer so I need to cook it and eat it in real time. So tonight I made up a new recipe that was quite yummy, using a bit of leftover baguette and leftover caramelized onions. The dish was the perfect meal, no need for any meat.

2 zucchini about 6-8 inches. Quartered and diced into 1/2 inch cubes

Fresh thyme leaves- about 10 stems pulling the leaves off

10 inches of French bread cubes

3 eggs- beaten

1/3 cup of half and half

1/2 cup caramelized onion

1/4 cup Parmesan

1/2 cup shredded gruyere cheese

2 shakes of red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 350°

In a non-Stick fry pan on medium high heat place the zucchini in a single layer and cook for five minutes Without stirring. Sprinkle black pepper over while cooking, but not salt. At the five minute mark stir, add the thyme and cook another five minutes or until the zucchini is browned. Turn the stove off and let zucchini cool.

While the zucchini is cooking mix together the eggs, half and half, red pepper flakes in a big bowl and add the bread. Stir around so that the bread can soak up the liquid. Add the onions and cheeses.

When the zucchini is cooled add it to the bread mixture and place in a greased shallow baking dish. You can do all this part in advance and just chill the unbaked dish if you want.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown if you do it right away add about ten Minutes to the cooking if you are cooking it cold from the fridge.

Enjoy this non-Covid moment as if were any previous summer.


Fire Patience

We wanted to have an outdoor fire tonight as a diversion. Carter volunteered to start the fire, but did not realize the wood was wet and did not have any kindling. So it took a while to get it going after recycling four paper grocery bags and still it was never a roaring fire.

I have obviously done a very bad job of teaching Carter good fire skills. Growing up my sisters and I were fire experts. We had three fire places, one big enough to stand in. As our house was so old and big and drafty we used the fireplaces for heat through much of the winter.

It helped that we had hundreds of acres of old growth forest who were constantly giving up their oldest inhabitants. My father and sister Janet were constantly cutting up the fallen trees and hauling them home with the tractor.

My job was to collect kindling whenever possible and we had our weekly town newspaper the Wilton Bulletin to start the whole fire off. Everyone in our house, including my mother could start a fire anytime.

Sadly these skills are not genetic, but a learned talent. So I have failed as a mother that Carter cannot start a fire without help. It only took two hours, but eventually we had a fire that was able to toast three marshmallows. So much for survival skills. Thank goodness the microwave was invented.


My Newest Obsession

During lock down I need all the non-caloric obsessions I can find. Games are at the top of the list. Sadly the people I am locked down with really don’t like playing games with me. I can tell when Carter has reached the peak of boredom when she offers to play a game with me.

I saw something on TV about a game that has become the most popular one sold and thought I should try it. It’s called “Ticket to Ride.” Like all successful games it has multiple versions. After reading the reviews I decided that the European version might be my best bet to get my family to play with me. Also, since it is built around creating train lines I thought I could lure Russ in as he loves trains.

When the amazon boxed arrived Carter opened it and started crying. Turns out she had played this game before and it made her cry. Oh Shit, so much for something we can do together I thought.

Well, by some miracle Carter and Russ decided to play with me. The game is not really about trains at all so Russ’ level of enthusiasm was as low as possible. I made the mistake of playing hard and by chance I won. I thought that would end the family play forever.

After retiring to bed I discovered an online version. Ah ha! Now I have played this game all day. To my surprise Russ and Carter offered to play the board version again tonight. I think I should hang back if I ever want them to play with me again. What do you think the chances are of that happening?


Lunch Out

Today Russ, Carter and I went out to lunch for the first time in three months. We have been safer at home, but we had something to do and so we had to eat out. We could have done a drive through and eaten in the car, which would have been an extension of staying at home. The idea of eating in the car was unappetizing to say the least. So we found a place that had a covered patio with tables spaced far apart.

We had to wait about ten minutes for one of the few tables, but the masked hostess had told us it would be 30 minutes so the wait seemed like nothing. Once we were seated a shy masked young man came to take our order. Without a mask he might have been audible, but with a mask his soft spokeness made him hard to understand.

We ordered with our masks on and when our drinks arrived we took them off. I felt very uncomfortable being in public without my mask. I put it back on before our food came. Carter and I both got Mahi tacos and I have to say they were delicious. Perhaps it was eating something I did not cook or the freshness of the fish and radishes that made me happy, but just for a minute.

As soon as I finished eating I used my hand sanitizer and put my mask back on. I went to take a sip of my tea and realized I couldn’t do it with my mask on so I skipped it.

Despite the good company and yummy food I didn’t have any euphoria about eating at a restaurant. Instead I was wary of the people around me, even though they were far from me and we were all outdoors.

My heart breaks for restaurant owners and workers. What used to be such a source of joy and fun is now just a scary place. As much as I would love to go to lunch with my friends I don’t think that I will until there is a vaccine. Thank goodness I can cook. I can’t imagine what a terrible year it would be to only eat at home with a bad cook.

Before our current situation Russ always said that food was better at our house than anyplace else he could go. Good thing because that seems like it is going to be where we will eat for the whole year.


Karma’s A Bitch

Two news stories about people not wearing masks made me so happy. Both stories involved people who were in places where wearing a mask indoors in public was required by law. The first one was about a non-mask wearing man in Texas at a Lowe’s. A cashier asked the customer if he had a mask. The law there requires all people to have them or the store could be fined a $1,000.

The man without a mask said no, he didn’t need to wear one. Then a mask wearing customer behind him attempted to give him a business card. The non-mask wearer hit the card out of the man’s hand. Turns out that man with the business card was a judge who upheld the law about mask wearing. The guy without the mask was then charged. Karma’s a bitch. You don’t know exactly who you are assaulting when you refuse to follow the law.

The second story was from California. A woman went into Starbucks and when the barista refused to serve her because she was not wearing a mask she took a photo of him before leaving the store. She then went on to post his photo, name and location of the Starbucks to say he wouldn’t serve her since she refused to wear a mask.

This kid is a hero! The author of this post deserves the blowback she got. And who calls the cops because they can’t get coffee?

Someone who saw her Facebook post started a go fund me page to tip the Starbucks Barista for protecting us all by following the law. So far $25,000 has been donated to him. Now the woman who wouldn’t wear the mask has been bullied by people and is getting death threats therefore she is demanding some of the go fund me money. F#$& that Bitch. So glad her attempted shaming blew back on her. Wear the damn mask.

People who don’t wear masks are putting us all at risk and keeping the virus spreading. This is not a freedom or rights issue, but a public health issue. It is not a red or blue issue. It is a human issue. Be human, follow the scientific based laws and rules. Don’t act like you know better (I am talking to you anti-Vaxers.) Call people out who are not wearing masks. They deserve to be ashamed. Maybe if they can’t go into any stores or get their coffee they will break down and wear masks.


Down The Rabbit Hole

There are some tasks that seem like they are going to be quick. They appear innocent until you get into them and suddenly you find yourself going down the rabbit hole. Pulling fibers from my stash for a needlepoint project is the perfect example of that.

I started this Christmas tree canvas two days ago. I had been putting it off due the the many colors, nine different greens and ten different brown and taupes, not to mention the other colors. As I already own most colors of the rainbow in needlepoint fibers I knew I just needed to go through my fiber boxes to pull the threads. My boxes are already organized by color so how hard could it be?

I thought I had pulled the needed colors until I got to stitching these taupe acorns. Are the bodies brown, green or yellow? Depended on the light. I realized I had not pulled the correct colors and went back to my fiber boxes to find exactly what I needed.

Despite my fibers being divided into color groups I realized that my skeins could use further grooming and organizing. So I took each group of 30-40 shades of each color and made sure the skeins were neat and even and sorted them from light to dark. This task is not as easy as it sounds. I had to divide the browns into three groups, True browns, reddish browns and greenish browns then from light to dark in each tone. Then blues into true blues and aqua blues. True pinks and coral pinks, and so on.

It took me two hours to organize everything and eventually settle on the three taupes I was missing for the Christmas tree. Only during “covidtine” is this an acceptable amount of time to spend doing something this unimportant. Of course now I am very happy with my organized fiber boxes. My only issue is I think I should have made a fiber index with a sample of each color and the name so I will know what I have. Oh Goody, a project for another day.


The Black Gloves Did Me In

The worst invention are black latex disposable Gloves. Maybe not the worst invention, but the worst choice to have to wear in the 90° sun on pavement. I was volunteering to pass out boxes of food at the Iglesia Presbiteriana Emanuel church with other members from my church. The job I signed up for was to direct traffic out of the parking lot, but my job got switched to directing traffic on the Intake side. I had to hand out some flyers to each car and thus needed to wear gloves.

But let me back up. The job started with my parking four blocks away because when I arrived at the church on Roxboro road the line of cars waiting to get boxes of food already was two hundred cars long 45 minutes in advance. I found a place on a side street and donned my mask and straw hat and walked to the church. Since I was early I packed some food boxes in the cool basement of the church.

Each box had a bag of apple, a bag of pears, six onions, four sweet potatoes, four yellow squash, some cucumbers, a cantaloupe, a box of black berries and a grocery bag of other food that included rice, beans, crackers and things I could not see since they were pre-bagged. The food had mostly come from the Food Bank, but the rice and beans had come from members of my church who had Re-bagged them into family sized servings.

Packing boxes with black gloves on was not an issue since the basement of the church is air conditioned. Once it was time to go direct traffic and hand out flyers I put on an orange safety vest over my white shirt and pants. The first hour was easy. I was paired with Alex Dunk who is a superior teenager. Sometime after the first hour mark I noticed my hands were roasting inside my black gloves. I had purposely worn lose fitting, all white to reflect the 2:00 in the afternoon heat.

The people coming through the drive up line were so thankful and nice. I wonder how long some of them had been sitting in their cars waiting for the distribution to start?

As the line of cars passed the two hundred and twenty mark I started to feel like I was going to be sick. My hands had heated up so much. I told Alex I was leaving the line and he handled the last of the cars. I had to go sit in the shade and I took off the black gloves and a quarter cup of water spilled out of each glove.

My pastor Alex brought me a cold bottle of water and I sipped it and talked to him while I recovered. As the last car looking for food came through the line I had recovered enough to walk the four blocks back to my car. I took off my mask and sanitized my hands. I think that if I had white gloves on I could have made my whole shift. Next time I volunteer to do this job I will bring my own gloves from home.


Non-Touch Tool

A few months ago, at the start of the pandemic, one of my only outings was to go to the post office to mail masks to far off friends. Every time I was frustrated by the demand of the postmaster that I pick up their community stylus attached to the touch screen pad to check off the box that said I was not mailing any liquid. I would just stand there in my mask and answer the question verbally refusing to touch the unwashed pen which had been touched by every other customer of the day. It made the post office people furious, but I stood my ground and told them I was answering the question, just not touching the pen.

I am not normally a Howie Mandel level germaphobe. As a baby, I let Carter touch everything in the hopes that she built up immunities starting as young as possible. But Covid is not something I thought I could make my own immunity to without possibly getting very sick.

So I stood my ground at touching things in public places and using a napkin, paper towel or my sleeve to open doors. When the weather was colder I almost always had a sweatshirt on, which I did not mind slipping the sleeve down over my hand to protect my skin. Now that it is hot I don’t usually have a long sleeve to turn into a mitten.

I read that copper and it’s alloys are more anti-microbial than other things so it was no surprise that people have made “touch keys” out of them. When I saw an offering for two-for-one deals on these tools I decided to order them for my family. The key can be attached to other keys or just kept in your purse. I tried using it on my iPhone and it worked like my finger. I was able to open doors that have push and pull handles, but not door knobs. It also works on push type keys like at an ATM.

Evidence about the spread of Covid is showing that it might come more from droplets from the mouth or nose of the person who has it and not as much from touching surfaces. My feeling is you never know if the person before you was picking their nose right before they pushed the keys on the Grocery store key pad. So why take chances on touching a surface someone else actually just touched.

I know I will this non-touch tool. Russ’ response was , “I don’t have a Key chain.” Meaning, “I am not going to use that dumb ass thing.” As long as he is working at home, locked away in the bunny rabbit room I am fine with his shunning. Carter has been working and has not seen hers yet. Since she is going back to Boston next month I am hoping she takes to it. Giving the tool is the only thing I am able to do these days. I have no sway over making anyone use them. I am just happy that now I don’t have to have a stand-off with the people in the post office.