My Internet is Out

I got home from teaching Mah Jongg late tonight and Russ informed me that out internet had been out for three hours.

So I whiled away my time talking to Carter on our old fashioned land line. The internet has not come back so I can’t post a real blog.

This small note will have to suffice for tonight. Please come back and read something more interesting and entertaining tomorrow. As long as the internet is back.

Trying for the Lost Kitchen

There is an elusive restaurant in Freedom, Maine called the Lost Kitchen. It’s owned by a woman named Erin a French, a self taught chef who is regaled by the cooking community. The tiny 40 seat restaurant is probably the hardest reservation in get in America.

The restaurant is only open a few months in the summer. They only take reservations via post card. Yes, post card. Apparently anywhere from 25,000 to 75,000 post cards. It is a lottery system. You send your post card in and hope it gets pulled from the hat. This year the restaurant is asking you to donate to a Maine a farmer Charity to get a code for your post card. I personally find that a brilliant idea. With all the people with plenty of money trying to do anything they can to get a seat at this place, why not ask for a donation. Most people are not going to get picked, but sending $20 to help a Maine farmer will be good for the farmer community and not a hardship to any of those people willing to travel to Freedom for dinner.

Since we will be in Maine a month this year I decided it was time to send a postcard and see if we get picked. The website tells potential patrons you can send homemade or store bought postcards. I went the homemade way. I made a quilted post card because I am hoping that some curious hand that is drawing the winners will feel the fabric with pinked edges and want to pull it from the hat to see what they were feeling.

I appliquéd the word eat on a piece of fabric. Then I sewed two pieces of paper to the other side. As I was sewing the paper on I felt like my post card was not quite stiff enough to withstand the postal system. So before I closed up the fourth side I wanted to insert something a little stiffer. I looked in the drawers of my sewing desk and found a deck of cards.

A card would make the perfect inset. One card was too small, and two fit perfectly. Since I want the cards to fill the whole cavity I sewed them together and slid them between the fabric and the paper. Zigzagging the last seam I had created a little post card with exactly the right weight and feel of a regular post card.

I’m off to bring it to the post office. I want to make sure it is accepted and has the right postage. The Lost Kitchen closes post card acceptance on April 18. They say if you send two cards you are disqualified. I am not sure how they figure that out, but I am not taking any chances and will just send one.

If I’d Known…

Sometime around Christmas I was scheduling New Card Analysis classes for my Mah Jongg students for this week. It made sense to me to offer people advice on who to read and play the new card as soon as it was available. Students signed up in droves and I have five classes of 25 people filled.

There was a little sweating waiting to get my new card. I needed to analyze it and write a lesson plan. To do it well I needed to play the new card as much as possible myself. Thank goodness my cards came last Wednesday and I had four full days to tell my husband that I needed to play Mah Jongg for work.

Today I had my first two classes, back to back three hour lecture classes. I stood up most of the time talking to my Mah Jongg friends. By the sixth hour I was feeling that constant standing and talking so I asked to sit down. Then I just lectured from a chair. I was exhausted by the time it was all over.

I drove home and now trying to rest up to be able to stay awake for the final in the NCAA Final game with UNC and Kansas. If I had realized four months ago that UNC would be playing tonight I might have not planned such a hard day. All I want to do is go to sleep, but I’m not going to do that.

Thankfully tomorrow I only teach one night class. I can make I can easily stand up for three hours talking. It is no where as hard as playing basketball.

Pew Disorder

In olden days there sometimes were churches that had pews that were in boxes with doors on the aisle ends. The box pews, as they were called, served a couple of purposes. First, they were warmer than bench pews where the cold could sweep through the whole church. Families sat together in their box and could bring hot stones in a box to act as a little furnace in their family box.

Some churches had families pay to have their box and thus would know their seat would be available to them, no matter what time they arrived at church. I am unsure where poorer people sat in churches with paid boxes, but it certainly could not be as desirable as the pew box.

I am a church creature of habit. We don’t have pew boxes in our sanctuary, but for 23 years Russ and I, and sometimes Carter have been sitting in the same place every Sunday, the second row on the right hand side, closest to the window. I like this place for many reasons.

First, I am distracted by people in church who are not paying attention. (This is rich since I needlepoint in my pew) If I had rows of people in front of me I might be watching them and not listening to the sermon.

Second, I am a terrible singer, but like to sing out nonetheless. In the second row we usually don’t have anyone directly in front of us, so I am not singing badly into someone’s ear. I am close enough to the choir to use their good singing as cover for my bad.

Third, I am a laugh out loud sermon listener. So when I laugh it gives the not used to laughing at church people behind me a chance to laugh and it ripples back through the congregation.

Forth, I have excellent hearing and I don’t like to be distracted by people near me making noise. In the sound row there are rarely any noisy people that close to God.

For years the second row was our place. Some years we shared it with a family of six and it was a little tight, but we liked them. Sadly their family broke apart and so we were alone in our row.

A few years ago our church had our pews refinished. When they removed them they decided to make handicapped seating in our row and the one in front. That meant they shortened our pew leaving a space for a wheel chair on the outside. Ours was not the only place this happened and most of the wheel chair congregants choose the back row, rather than the front. So we retained our place.

The shortening of our pew meant that the pew behind us was longer and thus the seat on the end had an infinite about of leg room, as long as someone in a wheelchair wasn’t parked in front.

During Covid the Covid committee decided that people should sit in every other or every third pew and little braided ropes were placed across the end of pews that were forbidden. Russ and I moved back to the third pew where Russ enjoyed the leg room. He called it the “Exit row seating” like on a plane.

Now that Covid is calm people are allowed to sit where they want. Russ is happy in the third row so that is where we are for now. I, with my supersonic hearing can hear people behind us talking all through church and I find it annoying. I can’t imagine that the preachers don’t notice. It’s not like school where the teacher would stop the lesson and ask the offending talkers if they had something to share with the class.

I like the idea of having a paid pew box, we are almost guaranteed to have our seats when we come in. You have to get to church fairly early if you want the back row, but the front is almost always available. I am not sure if Russ will ever want to go back to the second row, unless he is in a wheel chair, but that better not happen. So for now I will endure the noise made by others whom I am now sitting closer to. I wonder if It would look strange if I sat in the front row and Russ sat in the third row?

Center of the College Basketball Universe

According to my governor I live in the center of the center of the college basketball universe – practically equal distance from Duke and UNC. The waiting for tonight’s HUMUNGOUS game is like waiting for Santa when you are five years old. There is nothing else that seems to matter around here. This is clearly the most important basketball game ever played.

Of course everyone I know will be watching it. Most are doing so in the privacy of their own homes so they can wear all their superstitious items, swear and scream as much as they want and replay things during commercials so they can be the judge of calls made by refs.

The number of houses divided is huge here. People who went to UNC and work at Duke or visa versa. Or parents went to one school and children went to the other. Spouses who went to the two different schools. Or worse, people who went to both schools.

What I am worried about is the fact that half of all my local friends and neighbors are going to be devastated tomorrow while the other half will be elated/nervous about the final game.

For now I am praying for good sportsmanship, fair calls, great coaching, no injuries, and fans who treat each other like they would like to be treated.

Good luck to all. This is a game for the history books and I feel like our governor was correct. This is the center of the college basketball universe.

Canine Game Show

After dinner Shay herded us into the sunroom so we could witness her squeaker removal Olympics. As she lay splayed on the floor, atop her dead blue dog, with one mummy toy under her chin, she wrapped her paws around her small lobster and systematically unstitched a seam. After creating a small opening in less than ten seconds she nosed her way around the stuffing inside and with just her incisors she delicately withdrew the squeaker, not disturbing one flounce of fluff.

With surgical precision she pulled the small stopper tube from the bulbous round of the plastic noise maker and paid them side-by-side before attacking the stuffing, pulling it all out of the red lobster until it was noting but a flat shell, picked clean of it’s meat.

While witnessing this activity over and over again, Russ and I got the idea for a dog game show of toy destruction. It could have different contests: Most precise seam ripping, fastest squeaker removal, cleanest fluff removal, best limb removal and best total destruction of stuffed animals.

Dogs could enter in weight categories like wrestling or in breed competitions. Grooming would not come into play and mutts would be encouraged to enter in all fields.

Shay could not be host of this show as she shows no interest in other dogs. She has no talent in dog small talk. This does make her an excellent potential champion because she is never distracted by other dogs. Friendly dogs would be at a disadvantage because they might want to play with the other contestants rather than concentrating on stuffed animal annihilation.

For more social dogs perhaps there could be team toy destruction or tug-of-war contests. Animal dentists may have to be on hand for type A dogs who refuse to lose at any cost.

For the productive dogs there could also be a contest of best layout of corpse animals. Shay does have a way of displaying her kills. Does it sound like it is too dark a show? I think it could command a following.

Need Some Warming

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

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

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

Thanks to the Mah Jongg Class Organizers

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

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

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

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

Mah Jongg Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 2022 and may the Jokers be with you.

Entertaining Communication of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The letter goes on…

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

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

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

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

Signed by five women.

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

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

The Heart Break of the Rainbow Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

Oscars, Smhoscars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If Someone Else Makes It

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful Southern Ladies

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

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

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

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

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

Trader Joe’s Mash Up

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

Brussels Sprout, Gnocchi dinner

20 Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and sliced into thirds

Big bunch of kale, cleaned and chopped

Splash of olive oil

1 bag of mushroom medley from TJ’s

1 bag of Cauliflower gnocchi from TJ’s

Handful of Quattro formaggicheese from TJ’s

Sprinkle of garlic powder

Sprinkle of Unami Mushroom spice from TJ’

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

Overly Optimistic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Want me to Write the Recipe Down?

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

“Send me the recipe.”

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

Curried red lentil and vegetable stew

2 large yellow onions chopped

4 cloves garlic minced

2 T. Grated ginger

1 T. Olive oil

1 cup red lentils

6 cups broth, (veggie or chicken)

4 T. Red curry paste (Thai)

2 T. Turmeric

2 T. Cumin

1 T. Smoked paprika

2 T. Tomato paste

Half a head of cauliflower broken into florets

1 red pepper chopped

2 cups butternut squash, chopped

1 can coconut milk

2 cups of sugar snap peas

2 cups mushrooms, sautéed

Juice of 2 limes

2 T. Peanut butter

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

Taste for salt and pepper.

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

A Well Trained Dog

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

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

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

A Perfect Day to Hand Sew

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Packing Lunch

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Complaining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death or Taxes

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

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

Did we instal an alternative fuel device this year?

Did we have a foreign debt forgiven?

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

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

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

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

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

Mah Jongg Mouse

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

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

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

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

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

Daylight Savings Mess

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

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

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

Cake for $190…$200…$210…

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 Eggs…

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

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

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

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

Poor Yard Guys

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

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

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

The Corporate Slapping

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

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

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

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

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

Shay’s Crush

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

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

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

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

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

This Cake Can Be Yours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zillow No More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olden Times Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Will Always Be K’s Town

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

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

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

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

It’s a Habit

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

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

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

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

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


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

No Spring Break for Oligarchs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Day, Another Country Club Basement

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

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

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

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

Awaiting Shay’s Groomer Acceptance

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

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

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

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

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

Go Right to the Top

I am a discerning consumer. I like to get things my way and when I don’t, I usually educate the people in charge why it would be better if they satisfied me as a customer. I don’t raise my voice, or speak down to anyone. It’s all about making friends.

Today Lynn, Elizabeth and I went to the WaDu for lunch. We having been going there for lunch for at least 25 years. It is dependable and predictable and almost always good. There were very few patrons today so we had extra good attention from our excellent waiter, Daniel. After he discussed the special with us, and a side bar about the best soup he ever ate, that happened to be a watermelon gazpacho toped with lobster at the Saint James (I made a mental note to make that this summer in Maine), we asked for biscuits.

The biscuits have been the star of the bread basket at the WaDu for as long as any of us could remember. Daniel gave us the bad news that they are no longer making the biscuits and have a bar bread he said was better. I hate to say that he was wrong about it being better, but he was. He told us about the loss of the pastry chef back at the beginning of Covid so we commiserated with him about that, but he said a new one was coming and pointed out the Food and Beverage manager who was walking towards us.

Never one to be shy I flagged him down. A tall bald man who was happy to spend some time talking with us. We registered our sadness about the loss of the biscuits. He kindly took note. As we were making progress with him talking about the return of Sunday Brunch and afternoon tea later this month I decided to bring up a long held complaint of mine.

“While we have you, I have one more issue, the graduation week menu.” See the WaDu greatly reduces the offerings the week of Duke’s graduation due to the crowds. “My birthday happens to fall during that week and when my friends and I come to celebrate it I can’t get the chopped salad, which is all I ever want for my birthday.”

Now I am used to being mansplained too, but this wonderful gentleman did not do that. Instead he asked me what the exact date of my birthday was. He promised me that he personally would give me a chopped salad on my birthday and gave me his card. Now, there was a very good chance that I was already planning on being there on my birthday. He did not need to sell the table to me. And being graduation week they will be busy anyway. So this kind offer to provide me with my favorite lunch on a day that historically it has been denied to me is a joyous sound.

It really pays to speak to the right person in a kind way. It is even better to have that person go above and beyond to satisfy a customer. So friends who usually come to lunch with me that day, block lunch out that day. We will be at the WaDu, not that it is a new plan.

I Support Ukraine

For most of my young life Russia was a common enemy for many Americans. I was taught that democracies were a better system than communism and that Russia and the other communist countries in the world did not want more democratic countries. Although I was still an infant during the Cuban missed crisis, I knew the story my mother told me of her saying goodbye to my father thinking it could be the last time she spoke with him. Thankfully that was not the case.

When the Soviet Union broke up and the Berlin Wall fell things began to change. Without the giant Soviet block looming as a threat to America we lost our common enemy. I feel like that was the beginning of when Americans began to turn on each other. Yes, we have always had Republicans and Democrats, who did not agree about certain policies, but one thing we used to agree on was the need to protect America and the constitution.

When Putin first invaded Ukrainian I naively thought this is a no brainer that it is something that would bring all Americans together. How could we not feel universal condemnation for a dictator who, unprovoked, invades his peaceful neighbor.

I was shocked, not shocked when Trump praised Putin, as if this is a game played by kids in the sandlot. Then this weekend I read news about a far far right political conference where the attendees were chanting, “Putin, Putin.” The idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend has over taken any logic.

Putin is no friend to America and our way of life, no matter what way of life you live here. Putin succeeding does not change the things these far right people hate about America.

I have no idea how we ever get back to working for the common good of America, let alone the world. I hope that these American Putin supporters are a tiny faction.

As for Ukraine, I pray they can withstand this horrific invasion and push Putin out. I hope that Russia pays a heavy price for allowing Putin to become this kind of dictator. We don’t need other countries to feel like this is a successful way to treat their neighbors. I support Ukraine and hope we can come together for them.

Moving On

All three Langes had things happen that show us moving up or on. The most exciting was that Carter received her diploma in the mail at her apartment in Boston. She technically graduated in December, but will not walk until the May ceremonies. Apparently all students are mailed their diplomas since it would be virtually impossible to give students the right one at graduation.

The second thing that happened is that Shay made her triumphant return to work as the CMG puppy. Russ and I went into his new office space today to unpack his office. Shay found her favorite toy rat and flying monkey and had to hold back from removing them from the shelves they were placed on. Certainly they are going to have to be relocated as Shay can’t be counted on to have any will power near then, especially the flying monkey, whose hands Shay removed in an earlier encounter.

The completion of the build out of the new office might mean Russ goes back to work there, but I know he will still spend plenty of time in his little rabbit office at home. The real question will be, “Where will Shay be working?”

The third thing that happened today is I returned to Charity Auctioneering after a two year pandemic auction free time. The last auction I worked was this same one, the Big Wesley Barbecue and Auction. Two years ago, just as Covid was starting to come into focus in the US I worked this auction. Now, two years later they were back. The format was slightly different and people have forgotten some of their auction bidding skills, but they are such a lovely group of people I love helping them.

Perhaps a corner has been turned here.

Hooray for Shelayne!

Amy Daubert, Shelayne and me

My best looking, youngest grandmother-of-six, friend, Shelayne finally turned sixty, despite looking more like 30. As a true and dear friend to so many it was only appropriate that a wonderful party was thrown in her honor. Thankfully Covid has calmed down enough that we were able to gather to celebrate her in style.

As I wrote in a note to Shelayne, the best thing we got out of serving on the Durham Academy board together was each other. I had never met Shelayne before that. Her five children were way older than my one so we did not cross paths at school. She lives in Chapel Hill and plays tennis so no over lap there. But once we did meet we found lots of common interests and friends.

I am so thankful that Shelayne always took an interest in my work at the Food Bank and eventually was asked to join the board after serving on a Food Bank Committee. As a former board member, I feel better about the place knowing that she is there. Now she has started a new private high school in Durham, Christo Rey and is doing good for a whole new group of people.

Thanks to the wonderful hostesses who threw a great party. It was great to see so many friends I have not seen in so long. it was a lovely night to be together.

Hooray for Shelayne and all the good she does for the people she loves and people who will never even know who she is. She is truly one of the most beautiful people that I know, on the inside and out.

“If I just Live Long Enough”

I dream big and I don’t give up. In my lifetime I have had the pleasure to work on many non-profit projects and boards. In doing those things I have often had big dreams, which some people thought were just that. My response when met with skepticism is not to give up, but I say, “I am certain I will see these things happen, If I just live long enough.” Today was the perfect example of that.

I had the pleasure to go to the ground breaking of the Food Bank’s new Wilmington Branch as a member of the Capital Campaign’s Executive Team. This was a dream I first dreamt about 12 years ago, the first time I went to visit the Food Bank branch in Wilmington. The building, which was old when it became a Food Bank, in the 1980’s, was probably barley adequate then. When I saw it with it’s hand painted sign, and no clear front entrance I said, “We need to do better.”

Me with Branch Director, Beth Gaglione, in front of the current Building, April, 2016

In April of 2016, as part of my role as board chair I visited the Branch again and promised the branch Director Beth Gaglione, that one day she would have the space she needed. The coolers in the old building were more like those ice dispensers in parking lots in the 1960’s. There is no space for volunteers to sort food, except between pallets of other food. Don’t get me started about the parking lot and where trucks had to load and unload food.

Beth, today at the ground breaking

So today’s event, of breaking ground to build a new 45,000 Square foot, purpose built building, with a teaching kitchen as well as plenty of space for volunteers and real walk in coolers and freezers, and out door space for vegetable gardens ( also my long term dream for all the branches) has been a long time coming.

The Food Bank, Kristin McPeters the staff person and especially the Wilmington Committee did an outstanding job raising a record amount of money, during a pandemic. This will be the largest building project outside of the triangle the Food Bank has undertaken and is so much more than my original dream. Thanks to all the dedicated and compassionate people, especially Peter Werbicki, the President. Peter is retiring this year after 25 years at the Food Bank. I have worked with him for 22 and enjoyed every minute. Making this dream a reality is the last jewel in his huge crown of many accomplishments, but he would never wear a crown, despite being British.

Peter Werbicki, President, CEO of the Food Bank

I can’t wait for the ribbon cutting on the new facility once it is built and getting a new updated photo with Beth the branch director in front of a real front door with a professional sign above it.

Russ’ New Office

My day-off turned into a half day-off. Russ’ office at American Tobacco got moved thanks to GSK wanting a big ass amount of space. Turns out Russ’ office was right in the middle of the space they wanted so the landlords asked Russ if he could move to a new space. We spent a lot of time looking at options and finally agreed on one which they then had to up-fit. Six months later the up-fit is finally done. It is a nice space in the FHI building and Russ overlooks the grassy park area outside DPAC.

Russ is yet to go to the new office as it is not unpacked and ready to go, but I was needed today to help do art placement and furniture. It is amazing how much stuff a business accumulates over the years. Turns out they have way too many file cabinets, which are totally unnecessary now that everything is virtual.

It is going to take a little while for the office manager to get everything done, but it is not all up to her. Russ and I need to go in and unpack his office this weekend. I moved some very heavy boxes around In there today. Who knows what kind of stuff he has squirreled away.

The Smell of Spring

I don’t always know what the date is, but given that today is the very famous 2/22/22 I was alerted to the actual date by the news. February usually means winter. Sometimes March still means winter too. As I got out of my car tonight at 9:30 after teaching, I took a deep breath and got a chest full of spring.

I am not sure what happened today. Yes, it was a warm day, but something must have bloomed. I didn’t recognize it was an actual scent. The night air was heavy with humidity, a little like that feeling after an early evening rain in the summer. Nothing in my yard was any greener, although the daffodils are up. The Lady banks rose is still in deep slumber, the grass is still dormant.

Despite no visual evidence, the aroma of the changing seasons was evident. Now the change is not always a straight line. We could still back right up into the sterile smell of winter, but for a moment as I lingered in the gravel driveway I was a little hopeful. A new beginning is near. Good thing I mapped out my crop rotation for the garden yesterday. Perhaps my body knew the change was coming before my nose caught on.

Despite the hint, I won’t be planting yet, but I can dream. There is nothing better than sleeping amongst sweet smelling things and spring is my favorite thing.

Where Is My Pandemic Productiveness?

In a few weeks we will officially have our pandemic 2 year anniversary. Granted we are through with the quarantined period, but we are not back to normal yet. As I look back on my photos in those early 2020 days I recognize how productive I was in the early days. Everyday I worked on quilts and needlepoints. I cleaned out things that had been wanting for years. Dust rarely settled for more than 36 hours. I ran two different vacuums at the same time, thanks to one being a robot. I studied, planed and built my enclosed vegetable garden, including the sixty foot retaining wall by hand.

Where has that person gone? Since I have been teaching Mah Jongg at my current pace I find that I am failing at other duties. Russ has taken to doing laundry just so he has some clean underpants. My office still has Christmas wrapping in a huge pile along with shopping bags full of gifts yet to be given.

It’s not that I am teaching eight hours a day. Today I taught just one class, but yet got nothing done, except paying some bills. I miss my old Pandemic self. I miss making a big list of projects and diligently checking them off. I don’t even have a list right now. I’m too lazy to make one.

The only good thing about my post pandemic slump is that I rarely go to the grocery store so Russ and I are eating through the freezer and the pantry. It’s amazing how good that chicken filo pie is months later. In my laziness I have hardly cooked a soup all winter, normally a staple in our house.

Now I’m not looking to go back into lock down, but it’s not like I have the excuse that my social calendar is keeping me so busy. I just want to be productive enough that I don’t feel guilty if I play a game of Catan on my iPad.

We Should Have Stayed Home

Russ and I got our final shingles shots yesterday. Our wonderful pharmacist, Darius, warned us that we might not feel well afterwards. Yesterday we were fine, with the exception of a sore arm for me. This morning was not the same story. Both Russ and I had flu like symptoms so we laid low today.

We had a reservation for dinner tonight. We realized we had not been out to dinner since September. All day Russ kept asking me if we should cancel. “Let’s see how we feel.” So we went. We probably should have stayed home and not because we didn’t feel well.

We had a very nice, but incompetent waitress. She took forever to come and take our order, despite having time to just meander around the back of the bar. She took our order and when she brought Russ his drink, it was in a can, that was opened and Russ immediately spilled it. Not her fault, but we alerted her that we needed the table cleaned up and a good ten minutes later she dropped some napkins off for us to clean it up.

When our food came, she left us the plates, but no silverware. I asked for some and again she did the wandering around routine. It was at least three minutes (in a very tiny place) and we watched her the whole time, not getting us silver. I finally flagged down the other server who gave us forks in ten seconds.

After we finished she dropped off the bill. The restaurant had one of those QR codes so we could pay online ourselves , which we did. We were still sitting there talking ten minutes later and she came over and said, “Did I forget to pickup your check?” At that point it didn’t matter to us since we had done it ourselves, but it was just another example of her attention to detail.

The food was not great, the service was terrible and the ambiance was not existent. I know we don’t feel great, but this made me feel worse. No wonder we only eat at home.

Landscape Designers?

I have to apologize for the losses in the stock market in 2022. It is all my fault. I got very comfortable about the gains of the last year so I gave Russ a Christmas present of doing a major renovation to our house. The money was going to come from our stocks. That was a sure fire way to ensure that all the money I was willing to spend would disappear.

My original gift was a room. Then it became a room and a screened in porch. Then it changed to a new garage with a room above it and the conversion of our current garage into a room. Then the new garage turned into a three car garage with a whole apartment above it. Now that is a house. I called contractors and pulled out plans that we had. I scoured Pintrest. I got bids. It was too much. We didn’t need any of that.

We scaled back our thinking. Now it involves cleaning out our current garage. That is free. Now want to do some landscaping with the addition of an outdoor kitchen, so some hard scraping. So I am starting at the beginning again. Looking for contractors, landscape designers, more Pintrest for inspiration. This might end up being 2023’s Christmas gift.

Right now I am interested in any recommendations for local landscaper designers because I want to start there. Who have you used? Who should we stay away from? Please message me before the stock market goes down even further and I will be left with just cleaning out the garage.

My Acknowledgments are Way Behind

In the last few weeks there have been a lot of lost loved ones of friends of our. One family unexpectedly lost their beloved son. Another good friend lost her darling husband whom we adored. Another friend lost her father, who we knew and loved and we missed the visitation. As well as an additional friend who lost her father. A close friend unexpectedly lost her mother. Then our sweet friends lost their Labrador Retriever who was a big member of their family and the community with a loyal Instagram following.

It feels like these losses are coming closer together than usual. I am behind on appropriately expressing my condolences and checking in on friends. I am hoping that everyone else can keep your loved ones safe and sound. I need to catch up on chicken making and letter writing and if another friend has a loss I may never catch up.

On a positive note, our friends whose child was diagnosed with cancer this summer has officially beat it’s butt and is cancer free now. So there is a need for a serious celebration and recognition of seven really hard months being behind them. Can I get a parade started?

For now, I feel like I am an inadequate friend. Please know if you are having one of life’s major events I am acknowledging it in my mind and will certainly let you know how much I love you and are thinking about you very soon.

Living For the Weekend

For the last few years I have been like Lady Grantham, “Weekend, what’s a weekend?” Mondays and Saturdays were the same. With no child at home going to school and a very self sufficient husband, everyday was all about fun for me. Well, maybe during the pandemic it wasn’t all about fun, but those days were really all alike.

Now that I am teaching seven or eight 3 hour classes a week I am exhausted by the time Friday rolls around. It’s like being twenty-eight years old when I used to come home from a long work week on Fridays and go to bed at nine o’clock.

I am not complaining. I love all my students. In fact it is so sad when one class ends and I say good bye to them. Tonight’s class was a wild one. This was their final and when they walked me to my car, carrying all my equipment, they gave me hugs and told me they would see me again soon.

Teaching is the most rewarding thing I do. I love figuring out all the different ways people learn and try to tell students the same information in many different ways until I see that spark of understanding. But it is exhausting by the end of the week. Thankfully I only teach one class on Fridays. Come the evening I will be ready for bed early, but I probably won’t beat Russ there because no matter how hard I work he will always work three times more than I do and not complain. Just living for the weekend.

NO Fly List, Yes Please

Recently the president of Delta asked to government to help create a National “No Fly List,” for unruly passengers and I am all for it. Yes, Delta can create its own list of passengers who they will no longer allow to fly on their planes, but there is nothing stopping that bad acting person from turning around and flying on a different airline.

I read that there were 6,500 people in the last year who were unruly and 4,200 of them were fighting about having to put the mask on. If mask mandates get lifted for people flying that would still mean that there could be 2,300 unruly people who need to be banned. Flight attendants have taken the brunt of abuse and need to not have to be subjected to proven problem flyers.

From my life of flying I can say that as time goes on passengers get less and less courteous and more and more rude. I am not sure that the tide is ever going to turn on this situation. The best we can do is not allow people to be double or triple offenders. Once you have punched a flight attendant or ignored requests to take your seat and buckle up, but instead are heading to the cockpit, your time on planes has come to an end.

Airlines have to keep all the crew and passengers’ lives safe and have a fairly good track record doing it. The rules about flying are fairly clear. You don’t get to decide you don’t want to wear a seat belt because if the plane hit turbulence you could fly up in the air and come down on top of someone else. I have been a plane that dropped 10,000 feet shortly after takeoff and it’s not pretty.

Someone made the argument that many of the unruly flyers are drunk. If you are so afraid of flying that you have to drink five scotches in the airport before you get on the plane, then you need to drive. I have been on too many flights coming home from some island and the passengers were making the most of their all-inclusive resort before getting to the airport. There is nothing worse than flying with a bunch of drunks who are mad they have to go home. Maybe we need a rule that you need to not be drunk to even get on the plane. Then we probably don’t need the NO Fly List.

I wouldn’t mind going back to the days when people dressed up to get on the plane and acted like ladies and gentlemen. I really don’t love boarding behind the girl who is making sure the whole plane gets a good look at her new tramp stamp, with her white girl braids and sun burned scalp screaming at her boyfriend. Then they fight with each other as if she caught him with her best friend in their trailer when she got home from work. Please try and act like you have all your important teeth when you fly, even if you don’t.

As for people flying who should be in an institution, if only Ronald Reagan hadn’t closed them all, if you are on all the right meds flying can be safe for you. Please don’t chose the day you are flying to not take your meds. If you forgo them and then do something bad on the plane, it is not excuse that you forgot to take them.

Maybe we need signs on the way to the airport, “Took your meds?” “If you are too drunk to drive you are too drunk to Fly, even if you are just a passenger.”

The American public who has proven that they don’t care enough about your fellow citizens to wear a mask then they probably don’t care about the safety of fellow flyers. So it’s time to regulate the selfish off the planes.