I am not boasting when I say that I am a good cook. Just ask my husband or any of my friends or dinner guests who cherish an invitation to our table. I was not born this way, it took years of loving food to get this way. One might deduce that loving the taste of food automatically makes someone a good cook, but I know plenty of foodies who have gotten that way without ever heating a pan in their own kitchens.
After all these years of cooking I have become an intuitive cook, meaning that I can just throw things together based on what I have on hand and it usually tastes good. That level of kitchen confidence comes only after years of tasting lots of different food combinations. Since I can’t teach that I try and write recipes down now because I almost never would remember how or even what I made in the past, when someone begs me for a recipe.
Not everything I make is gourmet or complicated, but I try to make everything yummy. When someone asks me for cooking advice my best and easiest thing to tell people is to buy interesting condiments and use them to spice up a simple protein like a piece of grilled chicken or fish.
I am not talking about basic mayonnaise or ketchup, but coriander sauce, mango chutney or the Myer lemon relish I used tonight on salmon. I pan cooked a piece of salmon with nothing but salt and pepper and once I plated it I dabbed a spoonful of the fragrant lemon sauce on top. It basically was a two-ingredient dish, since salt and pepper are never counted in the recipe world, but it was fabulously tasty. The best part is it took barely five minutes to make.
So my suggestion for expanding your cooking repertoire is just peruse the gourmet condiment aisle at the grocery store. Pick out something you have never tasted, read the label; it usually will have a suggested use. Try it! Most condiments don’t make it to your local store without a bunch of people tasting it and liking it, so there is little risk for you to buy it. Put it on chicken because everything goes on chicken. Suddenly you will be a gourmet cook and it only took two-ingredients.
If you discover you like that condiment you may want to learn to make it from scratch, but only if you really want to learn to be a better cook. But it is no crime to just continue to buy jars of relishes, sauces, spices, oils and other good ingredients to help add flavor to your simple foods. People will consider you a gourmet cook and you never have to tell them how you do it.
Late in the fall we got a fundraising plea from our niece and nephew to buy magazines to help their school. I may work for a magazine that you can only get in paper format, but outside of mine I really only read magazines on my I-pad. Since I can get over 300 of them through my public library I don’t usually pay for them.
I did not want to disappoint the kids so I subscribed to Cooking Light and Real Simple. Unlike most fundraising scheme these came in record time, just as the Christmas mail was piling up. I let the paper issues pile up by my bed, the reason I stopped getting real magazines, until last night when I picked up a Cooking Light issue. Given that my house is on the healthy eating kick in earnest I thought it would not hurt to get a little inspiration.
I flipped open the book, (what people in the magazine business call them) to an article about breakfast salads. I am not talking fruit salad with yogurt, but greens or bean salads that all sound perfect for lunch. Now I am a salad-aholic. I do my best pound dropping if I am eating a salad for lunch and dinner. But somehow I just can’t bring myself to eat salad greens with vinegar for breakfast.
I really like a poached egg on a salad so that when you poke the yolk in runs all over the arugula and gives me that fat mouth feel, but even that is something I want anytime of day other than breakfast.
Russ really likes a strong flavored savory breakfast such as scrambled eggs with mushrooms, onions, chorizo and Sriracha, but I think even he has drawn the line at a breakfast salad. I have a hard enough time getting Carter to eat a cereal; I can only imagine the nose turning I would get at a salad for breakfast.
The article suggested to the reader to avoid overly strong flavors, but then the first recipe included radishes, not my idea of a mild morning item. Another suggestion was, “Keep it simple- you don’t have time to fuss with a lot of prep.” Absolutely right, so why is there a salad made up of cooked farro, which takes 25 minutes on it’s own.
I know how hard it is to come up with new and interesting healthy things to eat. One of the biggest problems with most diets is people get bored on them. But even I am going to have to draw the line at breakfast salads, except for fruit salad.
Creating a magazine is hard work, so good try Cooking Light. The salad recipes you came up with for this article are beautiful and sound delicious, just for lunch or dinner. For me I am sticking with my High Protein Special K with raspberries or blackberries. It satisfies all your suggestions; it is not an overly strong flavor, it includes protein, it is simple and has good texture. The only thing it does not do is add variety to my day. That’s OK with me. It only takes me 20 seconds to prepare it and that is the big bonus in my book.
The other day someone said to me that if they had three wishes they would use one of them to get skinny and the other to have a better metabolism and the third had nothing to do with losing weight. I think that for many years in my life I had those same wishes.
I am not sure when I stopped wishing for wishes and actually making my wishes come true, but it was a long process that was not a straight line. Realizing that I was the key to succeeding at something that seemed only possible through magic was a real game changer.
I am not blessed with a fast metabolism. If I were born three hundred years ago it would be a positive because I could survive a famine, drought or long cold winter, but in today’s food everywhere culture it is a curse. What a terrible first world problem to complain about.
I am not here to pat myself on the back for losing weight. I have done it multiple times which means I have gained it back in between. What I have learned is that every time I tackled my weight and set it as a goal I was able to magically lose it, thus having one of my wishes come true. Once I had succeeded at fulfilling my own wish I realized that I could make anything happen I wanted.
Now I have never wished to have more money than I needed, since I hardly know anyone with unlimited funds who is truly happy. I never wished to be taller or to have smaller feet, things that would have to be a miracle to happen. On the other hand I have wished to help end hunger and have seen that happen more and more in our community.
I am no super power. I am just like everyone else. So I want to encourage anyone with a wish that is even slightly within your own sphere of influence to stop wishing for it and instead work for it. Attaining the goal of your wish is the most empowering thing you can do. Once you cross off that accomplishment off your list you feel the I-can-do-anything power that is already in you. That is the secret of the three wishes.
If you asked me to eat a Brussels sprout in any form thirty years ago you would have gotten a sourpuss face from me. There was never a vegetable I hate more. Many a Brussels went in the trash in my paper dinner napkin. How my taste buds have changed. Now I even like them raw. This little salad, which could be considered almost a slaw – I put some cold sliced steak on mine and it made the perfect lunch.
1 large shallot- grated on a micro plane
Zest and Juice of one lemon
1 t. Dijon Mustard
3 T. red Wine Vinegar
2 t. olive oil
2 packets of Splenda
Lots of Black Pepper and a little salt
1 Bag of shredded Brussels sprouts form Trader Joes – or a pound of whole Brussels shredded on a mandolin
½ cup. Grated Parmesan Cheese
In a large bowl mix up the shallot, lemon juice and zest, mustard, vinegar, oil and Splenda. Add the shredded sprouts and mix well. Crack a bunch of black pepper and add the Parmesan Cheese. Taste and see if any salt is needed.
Today is my friend Kristin Teer’s birthday. As she has been known to do, she threw a beautiful, and when I say beautiful I mean gorgeous, lunch, but not for herself. It was a party to celebrate her friends. Since it was not a birthday party for her we were instructed to absolutely not bring her any gifts. So I showed up empty handed, ate what I was served, more about that in a minute and left feeling totally celebrated and happy. But like the little drummer boy I felt like I needed to something and what I can do is so small, so KT this blog is for you
First I want to talk about what was the real hardship about going to a party at KT’s, it was being forced to eat the fabulous food prepared by her chef partner Paris. A perfectly composed salad with apples, candied pecans and goat cheese shared the plate with a black and white orzo topped with a delicate shrimp cake and the surprise yummy on the plate was a grilled piece of bread which I think had rosemary in it, but I was so overwhelmed with perfect tastes I can not be certain.
Thankfully that plate was small so no one thought they were overeating. That just meant that no one had any excuse not to eat at least one of the, let me actually count the ways, five different desserts. I was seated at one end of the birthday table between Morgan Moylan, the other birthday girl and Stacey Burkert. Stacey and I sing from the same choir sheet that believes it is not a birthday in Durham without coconut cake from Thai Café. Really if you are going to break your diet, it is the thing to do it for.
From where Stacey and I were sitting at lunch we were looking across the table not at our friends on the other side, but at the sideboard laden with a whole coconut cake, a large platter of French macaroons and two big plates of Tonya Petrucci’s works of art sugar cookies. I could feel my head practically explode as I thought about which dessert I would celebrate this birthday with.
Before I could make up my mind a surprise dessert was placed in front of me. Of course Paris was not just going to serve desserts made by others at the celebration of his love’s big day. A not so small glass with a layer of hot fudge on the bottom and a slightly warm and gooey espresso brownie on top and a rather large scoop of salted caramel ice cream as the crown was Paris’ entrant into the dessert Olympics. Stacey held off from accepting the ice cream having gotten her mouth set on the coconut cake. Morgan and I foolishly tasted our Paris dessert and decided to have it and the coconut cake.
The only good decision I made today was to stand up from the table before any macaroons or sugar cookies were offered. My mouth was so happy, but there is going to be a piper to pay for all this celebrating.
To distract me from running a finger through the cake plate I met Kristin’s newest rescue dog. I am not sure if that makes 7 or 8, but I am fairly certain that one of the guests, who shall remain nameless because her husband could read this, almost put that dog in her purse. She could have blamed the dog napping on the sugar high since she is also a coconut cake lover, but she withheld and left the party puppy free.
All I have to say is thanks, Krisitn Teer for all the fun you always provide. Your generosity, creativity and style should be enough, but you know I love you for your sense of humor most. I won’t blame you for what the scale will say tomorrow. The celebration was worth every calorie.
Russ had a few Costco Items on his list for me to pick up today. Things that are certainly available at the regular market, but why buy them where I pay twice as much, like salted peanuts or real bacon bits.
I do my best not to go to Costco during mealtime or when I am hungry because the temptation of food samples is so great. “It’s just one bite,” is the downfall to any diet. One bite of a taquito, a small cup of candied pecans, a scoop of cheesecake, a cracker with a teaspoon of lobster salad and a cup of “green juice” is a meal worth of calories, but of course you never count that as a meal.
The other thing I try and stay away from is the Costco snack bar. As far as I can tell there is nothing there that is healthy. The closest thing is the Chicken Caesar salad, which with the dressing, croutons and cheese is equivalent to a Big Mac. Of course I have never actually seen anyone eating the salad.
The sad people sitting in the Costco picnic table area I have to drive my cart past to get out of the store usually have one of three things in front of them, pizza, a hot dog & soda or ice cream. For the most part none of them should probably eat any of those items, ever, but I understand they are in expensive and filling.
This is the problem in America. Eating healthy food is expensive and time consuming. Costco sells plenty of good for you foods. I hardly go in there without coming home with a giant $2.99 pineapple or a big bag of haricot vert for $4.99. But both of those items have to be prepared. Hell, in the case of haricot vert you have to take French first to even know that that just means skinny green beans.
I know that Costco is not Whole Foods, but I think there is a business plan to be made for keeping their customers alive longer and adding a salad bar to the snack bar would be a step in the right direction. Maybe it’s not exactly a salad bar, but at least some lower calorie, already made, fast to eat items. A big fruit cup could go a long way to longevity of the card-carrying members. If Costco was to lengthen the life or at least the ambulatory life of the customers it already has they might increase sales year over year.
Any business knows it is cheaper to keep a customer than it is to acquire a new one. At the calorie rate Costco is serving it’s customers they appear to be doing their best to kill them off. Healthy food can be really tasty. Costco already knows this since they sell so many vegetables. Why not make then available ready to eat by the door?
Tomorrow is my great friend Lynn’s birthday so we started the celebration early. Lynn, better known as Baby Chick in our house and I have been friends for at least fifteen years. Our daughter’s are the same age and since they are both only children they consider each other sisters, and we call them Sister E and Sister C.
Lynn got her “Baby Chick” title at mother daughter weekend at Camp Seafarer one September when our girls were only about eight years old. Lynn, not one to like being cold, was worried that she was not going to get any sleep in the cabin without her electric heating pad that she sleeps on year round. We may have been sleeping in a cabin with screens, but it was still a warm fall weekend in Arapahoe, NC. To aid in her bunk nights Lynn brought a full down comforter rated Alaska winters ready.
The first morning we woke up at camp Lynn, who had slept completely covered in down, popped her blond head up with the comforter wrapped around her. Her yellow fluffy hair sticking out around her face with the white comforter still wrapped around her head made her look like a baby chick just emerging from it’s shell for the first time. Sadly this was long before we all had cameras on our phones so I do not have a picture of the birth of Baby Chick, but the picture above was from the same weekend.
One reason I think Baby Chick and I are so compatible is she and my husband are similar in their taste’s for their own birthday celebrations, small and understated with some alone time for the guests. Russ’ idea of the perfect party is for three friends to come over and bring their own magazines. They all get a drink in the kitchen and say hello, go off in their own rooms and read for an hour and then reconvene in the kitchen to get a refill on their drink and tell each other one interesting thing they read.
Lynn’s birthday was not dissimilar to something Russ would like. We started early in the morning by picking up Stephanie and Mary Eileen and going to a spa downtown, where we all got either a massage or a facial in our own little rooms, certainly thinking about how much we love Lynn, while being individually pampered.
Once we were made perfectly useless and relaxed we headed over to Brightleaf Square to eat lunch where Amanda and Hannah joined us. We had dramatic readings of ridiculous things from the Internet that tickled us all in the same way. After lunch we stopped by Thai Café to get Lynn a carry out slice of coconut cake because for all of us it is just not a birthday without a slice of coconut cake.
By the time it was all over Lynn, who had indulged her birthday self more than she ever does, was ready for a Baby Chick nap wrapped in a comforter with the heating pad set on high. The perfect start to her birthday weekend, which officially is tomorrow. So Happy Birthday dear friend. Thanks for the pampering on your behalf.
“One day I put my arm in my coat and out came my mother’s hand.” — Jean Harris
No true statement was ever made than that of ex –Madeira Headmistress, Jean Harris, when talking about the surprising things we do that remind of us our mothers.
Today was Carter’s first day of junior year at Durham Academy. The great thing about being a junior is you know your way around, are acquainted with plenty of people and are comfortable with how the first day is going to go. After school she gave me the download on the happenings of her day; all the teachers she was excited about, who was in her classes and the games that take place on the first day.
Once she finished with the good things she turned to the thing that annoyed her, thankfully it was small. “At break I went into the store to get a bottle of water,” she told me. “When I came out there was a group of tiny freshmen boys who were just standing at the pinch point by the TV screens blocking all traffic.” I could feel exactly what she was going to say before she said it. “So with flight attendant like motions I said in my regular loud voice, ‘Just keep moving’ as I waved my arms in unison in a forward direction. A group of sophomores who were sitting on the sidelines just started laughing as the freshman finally moved on.”
Carter told me how some of her friends were horrified when she retold the story to them. “But Mom, how else are they going to learn?” The apple does not fall from the tree, and I told her the following story:
Years ago while I was working in London my sister and I had to go food shopping at Selfridges on a Saturday. That is never a good thing, but this particular Saturday the store was more crowded than ever. In perfect old building design imperfection there was only one single person wide down escalator to the basement where the food hall is with a long queue snaking through the first floor.
Slowly we made it to almost our turn, but the woman in front of us was paralyzed to get on the escalator. Her foot hovered over the moving steps as they came and went with no nerve to put her foot down. At this point I had had enough so in my strong, Carter-like voice I said, “GO.” She did.
My sister was furious with me. How could I have been so rude? I considered it rude of the woman in front of me to keep the giant line held up so long and I was just doing a public service, even if the execution of it was a little course.
I pray the poor Freshman who are probably scared to death to begin with are not scared for life, but I am sure the upper classmen are appreciative of Carter’s instructive tone. It certainly was my hand coming out of her sleeve today.
After our much too fast 24 hour visit with Carter ended Russ, Shay and I made the familiar drive home from camp to the empty front half of our house and the disastrous back half crammed with all we own. In these last few hours before the floor men arrive we finished covering up the window treatments and covering the furniture with sheets.
I had a half a case of tomatoes and since I am not going to be able to use the kitchen to cook I made marinara sauce for the freezer. I must be the only person on earth who in the final moments I have left in my house for two weeks decides to slow simmer a stockpot of tomatoes. I just could not let them go to waste.
I also made two tomato pies, one for dinner and one for the freezer while doing two last loads of laundry so Russ will have all the clothes he has access to clean. See I thought he had set aside the clothes he needed for these two weeks before the movers came and put his two dressers wrapped in shrink-wrap in the middle of all the other furniture. When he asked me where his belts were and I pointed to the inaccessible chest he gave me that, “Are you kidding me?” look.
After what feels like years, but in reality is only two months of getting the house ready for this face lift of sanding and refinishing I realize that come tomorrow I will get a two-week break from working on the house. I am going to be quarantined from cleaning anything else. Even though I will have access to one part of the house it is going to be unpleasant to be here so I am doing the best thing and leaving town.
Shay has been the most upset by all this moving around. She picks up her blue stuffed dog and carries it around crying because the bed where she likes to bury her stuffed animals is gone. She wanders the empty rooms and is disturbed by the lack of the familiar. She cries and sticks close to us worrying that we might disappear too. Thank goodness she is happy to go and stay with her friend Mary where there will be a pack of dog friends to keep her mind off her loss of habitat at home.
First thing in the morning the crew will show up. I am staying home for the first day of the job because I was worried about running out of town and not being available to answer any questions they might have about the color or finish I wanted. I hope that it was not a mistake to just run away as soon as the refinishers walk in the door.
I am mostly looking forward to the mandatory break from cleaning, packing, throwing/giving stuff away and reorganizing. The only bad part is that it is just a break. As soon as the floors are done I have to undo everything and put it all back in their rightful places as well as clean every surface in the whole house, including the parts that were not refinished because I know dust will get in every nook and cranny. For now I am just going to pull a Scarlet O’Hara and “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
Smells have always evoked a strong memory for me, but as I walk through my totally empty old half of my house the echoes of my footstep bring me back to the first days we lived in this house. When we got here twenty-one years ago this month we lived many more days than we had planned without our furniture. True to their reputation our movers did not live up to their promise to get our furniture to us any where close to the promised date. Of course being furious about that did no good whatsoever. I really don’t recall that many specifics, but the house sounded so big empty.
Since we did not know a soul and had no commitments in our new town I certainly never imagined then what strong roots we would put down in Durham. We came here for Russ to go to Business school at Kennan-Flagler. The house we tried to buy in Chapel Hill did not work out and if it weren’t for our dog Beau and three cats, Stormy, Charlotte and Chappy needing a house rather than an apartment we might never have discovered the house we live in now.
We almost did not look at it because the MLS listed it as only having two bedrooms, but Russ, ever the eagle eye, noticed some strange discrepancies and stated it had to be a mistake. Of course he was right. We were looking for an “older house” and our agent kept showing up things that we just considered “used” at five years old. This was the oldest house we saw, at 50 years old. To us it was still in its infancy considering we had both grown up in places with 300 year old houses. But running out of time we decided this was the right house at the right time.
We have loved it well and hard. As the furniture was moved out of the rooms today and the rugs were pulled up I could see the places that the cats favored to let us know they did not like us leaving them home alone. In the dining room I can recognize where the old house used to end and the new portion began when we added on. With all the clothes out of my closet the only thing left are the markings of how tall Carter has been through the years.
I know this empty sound is only temporary, but it gives my stomach an uneasy feeling like I had waiting those days for the moving van to arrive with all our possessions. But unlike those first days now we know and love Durham. This is where so many of our friends are, we know our neighbors, and like most of them, Russ has a wonderful business here, we have our church and Carter’s school.
So as the floors get refinished, the marks on them that represent the living we have done here will get sanded away and be remade new again. No sooner than two weeks from now we will begin to scratch them up again making new memories. I don’t like the echoy sound of an empty house. I want everything back making this a place filled with friends and family, laughter and good story telling because this is our home empty of furniture, but full of love.
After yesterday’s eating fest at the Chef and The Farmer in Kinston, Russ, our friends Chuck and Karen and I tried to slow things down a bit, but the morning meal at our Bed and Breakfast was another wonderful extravaganza. You would think that after all that eating the last thing we would want to do was talk about or shop for more food, but that we did.
Chuck and I are scheming up a plan about entering some cooking contests at the State Fair in October. This plan means we need to do a lot of testing of recipes and creating thematic stories that go along with them. One of the contests we are considering entering is the SPAM contest. Neither of us has much history cooking with SPAM, but why should that stop us.
To help further our education of pork in general we decided to stop at the Nahunta Pork Center that was only about ten miles out of our way on the way home from Kinston today. For as many years as I have lived here I have passed by the many bill boards on the road to the beach advertising “Largest Pork Display in the World” and wanted to know what in the world a pork display was. Luckily Chuck and Karen also were interested in visiting so we all ended our virginity at the same time with a slight detour.
Nahunta, also known as the Pork King, did not disappoint. We entered the very clean and bright building at the door at one end of the skinny building that said, entrance only. Since I was sure before I even got in the building that I would buy something I grabbed a cart from outside the entrance. It was a good thing because they have the store set up in a way that you have to walk past everything they sell in single file one direction almost like being on a conveyer belt passing by every conceivable type, cut and variable pork product.
First up were the real specialty items; whole hog faces, feet, tails, tongues, etc. I’m not quite sure how many people a hog face feeds, but at .99¢ a pound it seemed fairly cheep to me and you all know I love a deal. If you did not want a whole face you could just buy a tray of ears.
Since I could see many more choices ahead I decided not to fill my cart with any of the most precious specialty items. I figured I could always send Russ back through the line if I decided I really wanted a head or two. Nothing about Nahunta was disappointing. I got bacon, country ham, smoked pork roast, fresh tenderloin and hot sausage. Brilliantly at the checkout were freezer bags and bags of ice. Just to round out the shopping I bought a 2 lb. bag of lima beans because I was looking for something to balance out all the meat.
Of course no SPAM was sold at the Pork Center but I felt like I was still inspired by the array of pork to help us on our quest for a winning SPAM recipe. It is my humble opinion that the billboards do not lie. It was the largest Pork Display on earth. I highly recommend you make a trip there yourself, but bring a whole cooler, those pig faces are fairly large.
One of the best things about having a daily blog is that it keeps my family up to date on what I am doing. This makes the calls with my father so fun because he almost always has an opinion, a story or a question about something I have written. If your calls with your parents are mostly about the weather, their health or family gossip and you would like to change the content of your conversations I suggest you start writing a blog and you no longer will have time to discuss the weather.
Today after my Dad finished telling me his opinion of Denver the topic changed to how important it is for kids to learn self confidence. He had recently been with some kids he thought needed help learning skills that would serve them well I adulthood. We both agreed that going to camp is one of the best things that can happen to a kid.
My first camp experience was a weekend type camp with my Girl Scout troop when I was probably in third or fourth grade. It was a good test for longer sleep away camp, but nothing really like summer camp. I have one big memory of Girl Scout camping at that age, it was that I could cook food for large numbers of people fast and good and that made me very popular.
There were very few safety rules because I distinctly recall cooking pounds and pounds of bacon in a huge cast iron skillet set right over an open fire all by myself. My fellow troop mates voted that I do all the cooking after that.
I was so lucky that my grade school friend Tammy Monge who was in my Girl Scout troop went to a great summer camp, Idlepines and convinced me to go too. I never forgot when I asked my parents if they would send me for the minimum amount of time, a month, that they even considered it.
The woman who owned the New Hampshire camp happen to live in our town so she came over to our house to give us the “camp pitch.” I was excited about everything she talked about, living in the cabins, swimming in the lake, going on over night canoe trips. Then I heard the cost. It seemed like more money than my parents ever had. I think I went to bed thinking that camp was something I would only dream about. But my parents said yes and that began my real independence from my parents. Camp was where I learned to be who I was and not a child of my parents.
It seems like parents today do so much for their kids that they are denying them the chance to learn what they can do for themselves. Yes, a I am not sure it is a good idea to let an eight year old cook a big pan of greasy bacon over a roaring open fire, but I survived and learned a lot of self reliance from it. It is harder and harder to find ways to let our kids practice grown up skills. I am thankful that camp still exists and is a place for them to practice.
About a month ago I brought a homemade gift I had cooked with food from my garden to a new neighbor with a note welcoming them and giving them our names and number if they needed anything. I gave it directly to the husband thinking he would share it with his wife. Now I have no idea if he did and that could be what has happened because although I have seen the wife almost daily for the last month I am yet to hear even an utterance of thanks.
One day when I was out walking Shay and she was pulling out of her driveway I thought she might roll down her window and just throw me a “thanks for the zucchini bread,” but no. I certainly did not expect a mailed thank you note, but one word, nothing.
Then today I went to write Carter a letter at camp and I pulled out a box of stationary I had not used in a while. I opened it up and to my horror there were two written and addressed thank you notes for friends I had received Christmas gifts from. I am fairly certain I had thanked them when they gave me the gifts in person, but that is still no excuse for not sending them a proper note.
Thinking a thank you does not count in anyway, writing and not mailing a thank you is the same thing. My friends have no idea that I even was thankful, which I was. Thank goodness they both continued to speak to me and not write me off for such poor manners.
With e-mail and text it is so easy to thank someone, no engraved stationary necessary. I know that I have made “thanking mistakes” in the past, but vowing to be better has not worked. I need to institute a new protocol for letting people know how much I appreciate them everyday.
I did put those Christmas thank you notes in the mail today with an apology on the back, but that hardly seems like enough. So Denise and Anna if you are reading this, expect a surprise from me sometime soon. To anyone else I have not thanked in a timely manner, please forgive me. It is easy for these things to slip by us. I’m going to try and forget about my neighbor’s non-thank you. Perhaps her husband just ate the whole thing and never shared it with her.
Sunday we went to our friend’s Lynn and Logan’s house to watch the Woman’s Final of the World Cup. Every TV was on and the guest’s full attention was on the game. And what a game it was. I am not usually a soccer fan, but the excitement of the big scores in the first few minutes of the game really drew me in and held me there.
Apparently we were not the only people watching. A record number of 22 million joined us via TV.
When the game was over and the FIFA officials came out to present all the various awards, the bronze ball and the gold glove and the like I was very disappointed in the actual “world cup.” It seemed small and underwhelming. I asked if the Men’s was the same and was told it too was diminutive for such a global honor. But that is where the parity ended.
Turns out that the American Women’s Soccer Team each earn only about $14,000 a year when their male counter parts earn over $300,000 a year to be on the team and they did not even make it to the finals. Not surprising since women’s sports have gone notoriously underpaid in most cases. It took Billie Jean King and her cohorts starting a competing tennis tournament, the Virginia Slims, to get equal pay for women in tennis.
The real crime is that the women’s world cup winning team gets 40 times less in prize money than the men’s world cup team. With 22 million people watching the final FIFA has got to be pocketing a huge payday for the Woman’s tourney and not sharing it with the stars. Seems like that is the real crime FIFA is committing. Sure Qatar is a questionable location for a men’s world cup, but could the Qatari Nation pay off FIFA as big as the profit’s from the women’s world cup? Hey, Attorney General, or Canadian equivalent why don’t you look in to that.?
Just to put this is perspective, with what the women team members are paid they would qualify to receive food assistance from a food bank agency. Really, do we think that is right?
My favorite game has now moved from the inside to become an outdoor activity. As a few of my friends gathered by the pool this afternoon we discovered we had enough people for a Mah Jongg game. Patrick came out from the bar to see if we wanted to order anything and we said a Mah Jongg game. Poof, suddenly we had a set and a table and even a couple of very casual players decided to get in the game.
Outdoor Mah Jongg in our bathing suits with a breeze at our backs was much more pleasurable than indoor, freezing air conditioning Mah Jongg. Plus the natural sunlight made needlepointing while playing Mah Jongg so much easier. There were hardly any kids so no splashing went on around us. We decided if we had extra players who had to rotate out of the game they could take a dip between playing and then stay cool while exercising at the same time.
This elevates Mah Jongg from just a game to a sport. Perhaps I could even get activity minutes on my Apple watch for playing outdoor Mah Jongg. It relieves a lot of game guilt if it becomes a sport.
So Mah Jongg players, let’s move our game poolside if the weather permits it. Also since it is summer why can’t we play more days than just Wednesday? If Mah Jongg is a sport I think I could justify playing it everyday. This also gets me to the pool, using that ridiculous club membership a little more.
So hooray for outdoor Mah Jongg. If you missed it, so sorry. Who wants to play tomorrow afternoon? I think it’s going to be a perfect day for this new Sport!
In the past six years we have not seen Carter on the fourth of July because she has been at Camp Cheerio as a camper. This year Carter has graduated from camper to CIT, that’s Counselor-In-Training to all you British readers. It is an experience she has been looking forward to probably since she was a second year camper.
The only hard part about being a CIT this year is that she had to decide between doing the Girls session or the Co-ed session, since she has been a camper at both sessions. I think that her cabin in her last co-ed session last year was such a cohesive group of friends that tipped the scales in favor of co-ed.
The anticipation rolling up to this day has been huge. There were Facebook groups for the CIT’s and group chats and lots of discussion about what to bring and if they all had T-shirts in every color of the rainbow for nighttime activities. We packed our old Land Cruiser this morning full of trunks, plastic bins of clothes, sleeping bags and pillows. We keep this old car just so we can take Carter to and from camp.
Keeping in our camp tradition we took Shay Shay with us and stopped at the tavern at Old Salem for lunch since they have outside seating that welcomes dogs. It was the only part of the day that felt at all like the 4th with a bluegrass band playing music while we dined, except when they took a break so the Declaration of Independence could be read out on the Main Street.
We arrived at camp fifteen minutes early and Carter got out of the car to greet her wonderful friends who were equally excited to be back on the mountain, “At Home,” as Carter calls it. A counselor with the ubiquitous clipboard came down the road while our cars were parked waiting for the gates to open and told us which cabin Carter was assigned to. Since she had been a camper in so many different cabins she knew immediately that she had been assigned to the cabin of the youngest campers for the first session.
After the check-in with lots of hugs for old camper friends and counselors alike we went to the parent-CIT meeting. Michaux Crocker, the camp director, gave an inspiring talk about what life was going to be like for our kids. He talked about hard work and leadership and that this experience will help kids figure out if they even like working with children. The one thing that summed it up for me was when he said, “You go from being a camper where everyone is focused on making sure you have a good time, to being the people who are making sure the campers are having a good time.” That is a big step to growing up as far as I am concerned.
After explaining what CIT life will be like, learning to look people in the eye and with a big smile say hello or ask how they are, he talked about the terrible accident that happened at the beginning of the summer. I could feel the pain that was still very close to the surface in him. Cheerio had never had an accident in 50 years of camping, but one hurt badly. Life has to go on and I feel like Carter is in the best place ever to learn about herself. It is a place with so much heart. When Michaux ended the meeting with, “give your kids a hug goodbye and head on home,” I was ready to leave Carter to get her training before the campers arrive tomorrow and for her to move up to the next rung of the ladder to adulthood.
When I was a kid my parents gave me a 10-inch Sony black and white TV for my room. I’m sure they soon regretted that because I almost never came out of my room after that. I was an unapologetic TV junkie. At that time my TV was almost always on channel 7, the New York area ABC affiliate since that was the home of the Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family. I would wake up in the morning to Good Morning America and get all the news before I was off to school.
On weekends when I went on errands with my Dad and we would talk about what was being discussed on the radio my Dad would ask me where I learned some of the stuff I knew, and the answer was always the same, “I learned it from David Hartman on Good Morning America.”
Tonight we had my needlepoint friend Mary and her husband for dinner. Mary is one of my favorite people who always has just read an interesting book or seen something new on TV that she shares with the “Stitching Advisors” as we needlepoint at the table together. She also is a dedicated reader of my blog and is kind to tell me when she has liked a post.
Every once in a while Mary would say something like, “David loved your blog last night,” and I would thank her. The Stitching Advisors may make mention of our husbands, if we have one, but they are rarely the topic of our conversation. So I just accepted Mary’s kind words from her husband with little notice.
One day while happily needlepointing with the Stitching Advisors at Chapel Hill Needlepoint someone asked Mary about a documentary her husband David was working on and then I suddenly came to realize that Mary Putnam Hartman was married to David Hartman, my idolized childhood news source.
Soon after that I had posted a blog about Carter’s photographs and Mary made sure to tell me that David, who is very interested in photography himself, really liked them and would like to meet Carter. Mary and David happened to come visit my church later that month and as I came out I saw them standing in the courtyard. I went to greet Mary and as I approached I saw David was with her. He looked at me just as I was about to introduce myself and he said, “You’re Dana Lange.” My response was, “You’re Mary Putman’s husband.” I’m not sure how often that is how he is greeted, even by someone who was as crushed as I was when he left Good Morning America.
It was lovely of the Hartman’s to come for dinner, but the really exciting part was Carter getting to hear stories about people David interviewed in real time while history was being made, like Kaddafi. David and Mary generously looked at Carter’s photographs and then he got out two books on famous photographers he brought to lend Carter and a DVD of a documentary he made with five famous photographers and a copy of the eulogy he gave at one photographer’s funeral.
I have to say that David Hartman is still as interesting and as good a storyteller as he ever was, but mostly I think he is lucky that he is married to Mary Putman. I know I was happy to have her come for dinner and bring her husband along.
If my math is correct I have worked at Durham Magazine for the last six years, every issue since number two. When I use the word work you need not think of someone who punches the clock forty hours a week. My job as the Community and Events editor, as my title is written in the mast head, is far from a real job, but more of a passion for highlighting people and non-profit agency’s that are doing good works in Durham. My monthly two-page column is hardly enough to begin to cover all the generous people who are giving their time to make our city a better place.
Although I hardly ever write about my work at the magazine in my blog because I don’t want to preempt myself I want to break that rule this time. Yesterday I went to Meals on Wheels of Durham to do a story on two wonderful women who deliver food once a week. I will let their story stand on its own when it is published in next months Durham Magazine but I would like to highlight a great need in the community that I am hoping some of you Durham Less Dana readers might be able to help with.
Meals on Wheels currently serves 340 elderly people who are home-bound a hot meal five days a week. It takes over 200 volunteer drivers to bring them their food and newspaper everyday. For a long time there has been a waiting list of over 200 people who qualify for help from Meals on Wheels, but the funding has not been available to feed them. Recently that funding has been found and in the next month they are going to be added to the client list of MOW and begin receiving the food they need to enable them to remain independent seniors living in their own homes.
This funding is great news, but it means that MOW needs to add about 50 more volunteer drivers. MOW makes it very easy to volunteer. You can do it one day a month, every other week, once a week or more. It starts at 10-10:30 in the morning. You drive your own car to pick up the ready made food that is packaged and put into to cooler or heat thermal bags on wheels. You are given a route of about 11 clients to deliver your meals to. You check in on the client, since often you might be the only person they see in person all day. The whole operation takes about an hour and a half. You can do it alone, or in pairs. If you have a group, like a department at work, or a club, you can take a route together and share the responsibility. It is an easy way to help take care of those in our community who need it the most.
I am interested in getting a group together to volunteer. Depending on how many we can get in our group will determine how often we will volunteer. The good thing about doing it in a group is you have backup. If you are really interested in doing this you can volunteer directly and get your own route, or one with a friend. If I get a lot of people who are interested we might have two groups. I just want to encourage you to help Meals on Wheels out at this critical time in their growth.
I went out with two women yesterday as they made their deliveries and it was easy, fun and very rewarding. They also followed their deliveries up with going out to lunch themselves after they were done. I know I can afford an hour and a half a couple times a month. What about you?
To learn more visit Meals on Wheels of Durham at mowdurham.org
Tonight while Carter was out to dinner with friends and Russ is in Chicago I went out with a bunch of girl friends to celebrate my friend Sara’s impending birthday. The place we went for dinner was one I have been interested in going to since it is an Asian tapas like place, but I should have looked more closely at the menu before we went. Despite my restricted diet I was not about to miss a fun night out with a great group.
The idea of tapas should be perfect for me since I can only have a small amount of what I can eat anyway, but the problem came in that none of the dishes are simple, clean food, but rather very interesting combinations that had many sauces, and starches.
One of my thinnest friends who normally loves to clear a bread basket sat across from me because she was having her insurance physical in the morning and was given a very restrictive list of what she should eat today. An Asian restaurant was not the ideal choice for her since she was not to eat salty things, like soy sauce, no carbs, like rice, no red meat, like steak or pork (don’t believe it is white meat). She asked me what I was going to eat and said she would just get the same thing.
As the rest of our friends enjoyed pork belly dumplings, and duck confit fried rice I asked the waiter to see if the chef could remake Ono Sashimi and take off all the good parts and just give us some green vegetables with our fish. He was more than happy to accommodate us. My food restricted friend said she would have the same.
When our plates of raw fish slices on little piles of vegetables arrived my friends said, “Is it fish?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Is it cooked?”
“Oh no, you don’t eat sushi?” I guess I should have checked with her about that one little bit of information. After eating a the tiny piles of shredded vegetables and two tiny bites of fish she declared she was still hungry. I guess so. We called the accommodating waiter back and found a shrimp dish that could be made into a chicken dish that fit her dietary requirements.
I guess I need to always ask the questions about seafood and eating it raw. If it were up to me I would eat good raw seafood everyday. But next time I really want to have it the way the chef originally designed it with all the sauces and the naughty bits. Two more days of this very restrictive shit, then I hear I get to add an extra piece of fruit at lunch. I really hope it can be a peach.
Any good cook or bad cook who happens to be a mother knows that the key to getting dinner on the table night after night is being able to cook a bunch of something and then transform it into a whole new meal the second night. I became very aware of this as a culinary trick my freshman year in college when my friend Lisa Mathews used to look at the cafeteria weekly menu and follow the food through the week.
“Following the food” was an important deciphering skill that helped us learn what not to eat because it had been around too long. For example the school chef might have started off on Sunday with roast chicken. Check, safe to eat. Monday might have brought hot open face Chicken sandwiches with Chicken Gravy at lunch. Still safe to eat, since the chicken was cut off the leftover roast chicken and the carcasses were used to make the gravy from just the night before. Skip a day of chicken to throw us off the leftover scent. Then on Thursday there might have been Chicken Tetrazzini for dinner. Big read flashing lights, “Wonk, Wonk, Wonk,” blaring horns. Do not eat! The chicken that was not all used up for Chicken sandwiches was then mixed with the leftover gravy, pasta and some new celery and topped with breadcrumbs made from the uneaten sandwiches.
Four days later for chicken that had been reheated twice was just too long in the repurposing leftover train. The real no-no was having the chicken and pasta soup at lunch on Friday.
Carter hates leftovers, but if I can repurpose them in such away that she does not catch on that they are the same food I can get away with it. My trick is never to publish a menu where she might learn to “follow the food.” By my sophomore year we had moved up to “Follow the food 201” because we started looking at the Sunday –Saturday menus back to back. The cooks were smart and started some new food on Thursday and if we were not looking at both menus we might have missed the fact that the Monday Taco Salad actually started with Hamburgers on Thursday — tricky.
Tonight since I am the only one home I don’t mind repurposing. I took last night’s leftover vegetable hash and put it in a fry pan to reheat, added some shredded leftover chicken breast and some a huge amount of raw angle hair cabbage and a little soy. My leftover not only tasted delicious, they changed continents, going from something Italian leaning to a purely Chinese dish. Who says I did not learn anything in college.
We wrapped up our fun trip on the Everest this morning and Carter, Ashley and I drove home. After passing Ashley back to her mother and picking up Shay Shay we came home to unpack and for me to get resettled at home. For Carter it is a quick turn around of unpacking and repacking for she is off to Philly tomorrow to meet up with Russ and go visit his family.
Carter tells me there is nothing she finds more exciting than traveling alone. I understand how grown up it makes her feel to take herself to the airport and check herself in and fly to meet Russ. Since she has done this kind of thing before she went online today to check-in and download her boarding pass. She thought it would be easy, like with Delta, but not so fast.
Russ bought her a ticket on American, but it turns out her flight is a US air flight. Since US Air and American merged in 2013 you would think someone would have already combined their customer interfaces, but no, that would be too logical.
Although Carter was able to check-in online there was no way to neither download a boarding pass to her Passbook on her phone, nor print a boarding pass at home. The best we could do was print her itinerary to get a boarding pass at the airport.
Come on American (nee US Air). Get into not just this decade, but this century. Young people are not going to consider flying on your carrier if you make dealing with you so difficult. Long gone are the days where people buy tickets only on price and are willing to be tortured because they got a really cheep ticket. Sure in the 70’s you could do that, but Carter’s generation is not that forgiving, or interested in just being cheep.
Yes, designing one system that will work with both your two legacy systems is a pain and costs big bucks, but really it is the cost of merging, so go on and get it done. At one point Carter thought she needed to download the US Air mobile App, and when she pulled it up and saw that it got one star with 99% of the reviews giving it a poor rating she just laughed. “I’ve never actually seen a company I’ve heard of get one star.” Welcome to the world of airlines.
Since Carter wants to do this whole trip on her own I hope everything goes smoothly at the airport. I am thankful that US Air and American are in the same terminal, but wait, why do we still even have the two names, what the hell was that merger about anyway?
If there was ever a theme for my Dad it would be fun, at least when it came to me. This photo is from Dayton, Ohio when I was just about three years old which would have made my Dad 26. Perhaps he was all about fun because he was practically a kid himself, so going on the swing set with me, or teaching me to swim or endlessly catching me as I jumped into the pool were not just things I liked to do, but things he liked to do. Whatever my Dad was doing was what I wanted to be doing.
I thought all Dads were fun, but my friends used to think my Dad was fun too. Although they never said it, I think in lots of ways he was more fun than their Dads. But then my Dad was also demanding. Ask anyone who ever worked for him.
Work is probably the other theme for my Dad. But I think that most of the time he thought work was fun. Work was important to my Dad and he instilled that in me early. Since he worked at Avon most of my young years he had a strong sense that women were great workers and he highly encouraged me and my sisters to be good workers.
I am thankful that I have been able to have a life balanced out between work and fun and that is due in many ways to Russ Lange who has many of the same qualities my father does when it comes to work. Fun for Russ is different than it is for my Dad, but Russ is very generous about making sure that I have fun.
So to the two fathers in my life, Ed Carter and Russ Lange I want to thank you for a really fun life that happens to be productive too. Both of you hardly get the recognition you deserve for being so generous. Father’s day has never been a big day in any house I lived in because the father was usually doing something for someone else. Your selflessness has not gone unnoticed. I love you both.
Yesterday I took Carter to get her summer hair cut and decided to get mine cut too even though my regular appointment was still two weeks away. When you have short hair it can get really out of shape if you don’t cut it often enough and for some reason it grows faster in the summer so I felt like I was already getting shaggy.
Carter, who has long straight hair, as so many girls her age does, decided it was time for a change and opted for some layers and a little shortening. It is a cute new do and she looks great. Since I am a hair moron, that being a person who can not hold a round brush and a hairdryer at the same time in two different hands without getting them tangled together I try and have simple hairdos.
My hair has been getting shorter and shorter in the last few years as I discover that the shorter it is the easier it is to do since, well, there is nothing there to actually do with it. The only problem is that it can get boring.
As I was waiting for Carter’s hair to get cut I decided that I too needed a change, but outside of getting a weave how much could I do to a short hairdo? That’s when I noticed Kris Jenner’s hair on the cover of a People magazine. Now I have never really been a Jenner/Kardashian follower, let alone lover, but the picture on the magazine of Kris’ hair was really cute.
It was similar enough to mine, but a little shorter and had the hair around the ears cut out. What the hell — I’ll try it– it’s only hair. I showed the picture to my hairdresser and she said if that is what I wanted she could do it. Now I am thinking this was a bigger decision than I was giving it, but it’s too late now.
My hair is very short. My only next option is to go full on Sigourney Weaver in Alien. I walk by a mirror and wonder why that person is so close to me, then I jump back because I realize it is me. I run my hand down the back of my head and I can feel every bump because there is no hair cushioning my head. I got out of the shower and rubbed the towel on my hair for one minute and my hair was done, OK that part was good.
I am going to have to give this hair a week or two of growing to decide if I like it. I just don’t look anything like myself. So if you are looking for me, you won’t be able to find me, unless I open my mouth and talk. I am not posting a picture so I can hide in plain site. It is kind of like going into witness protection but staying in the same place.
It’s just hair. If in two weeks I decide it was a huge mistake it will grow back, but I might have to wear a lot of hats for the months it takes to grow.
Officially I have only one really thin thing, my nails, both finger and toes. I have known this for a long time, but today the Vietnamese woman who was giving me a fairly poor manicure announced in her best English, “You have bad, thin nails.”
Just to throw her off I instantly responded, “No shit, Sherlock.” In a voice only she could hear. She had no idea what I said, like I usually have no idea what she is saying.
Sitting in the chair next to me was a little girl, probably about 8 or nine years old getting her first manicure. I’m not sure the experience was one that is going to create a woman addicted to a life long nail obsession.
While we were getting our nails done all the nail artists, that’s what Carter’s crappy volleyball coach liked to me called, carried on a loud conversation in Vietnamese with little care about the rest of us in the room. Since it is apparent to me that most of them are related to each other I see their conversation as an ongoing family fight and not one that really involves me, but the poor little girl next to me did not see it that way.
When her manicurist, oh excuse me, nail artist, looked at the little girls hands and then said something loud to her mother and they all laughed at the same time, the little girl, whose Vietnamese language skills were lacking, got a little tear in her eye. I noticed her uncomfortableness and asked her if she was OK? “Are they laughing at me?” she asked.
“Absolutely not,” I reassured her. “They are laughing about Judge Judy,” who was playing on the TV, like we needed more noisy in the room. “The one doing your nails just told her mother that if she is not nicer to her she is going to take her to Judge Judy. The mother said fine, I will win and get all your money, then the daughter said, yes, but Judge Judy will yell at you for being foolish.”
The little girl’s once teary eyes got very big and she asked me, “How do you know that?”
“I understand what they are saying, but I can’t speak it.”
That was good enough for the little girl and she settled back in her chair while the nail artist absent mindedly painted pale pink on her nails. A few minutes later her mother came up from the pedicure chair area and asked her how she liked getting her first manicure. “It was scary, but then this old lady translated for me and then I was fine.”
At least she did not describe me as the fat lady.
It has been a long time since I was a full time student, but somehow when summer comes along I still fall back into student mode. You know what student mode is…I am on vacation and don’t want to think about anything. That is not all together true, but I only want to think about what is really interesting me at this moment.
Despite the existence of the ubiquitous internet, smart phones and my own self imposed, never miss a message, even while I am in the ladies room, Apple Watch, I seem to fall into the old fashion idea that I could disappear or seem to be unavailable. I am pretending I might be on vacation and that is why I am not answering your e-mail or responding to a request for me to do something for you.
I fully subscribe to unplugging and getting away from the rat race, even if I am not really in the race. I know that the current fad is to be hyper available but I’m just not doing it. So please forgive me if I disappear, I may only be in my house. But it’s summer.
I take this opportunity to have long lazy lunches with friends I need to catch up with, or to needlepoint the day away. I suggest you too change up your routine and do a little nothing, or at least be slightly irresponsible and not return an e-mail.
No one will blame you if you take a few days off. Everyone needs to go back to the 80’s when the greatest form of technology was the answering machine. Pretend the cat stood on the on/off button and no messages could be recorded. Life seemed to go on just fine without instant responses. That’s where I am today. No instant response, of maybe no responses at all…It’s summer.
The forecast this morning was for this to be the hottest day in our area in the last three years. With that in mind Carter and I decided to go someplace that would have air conditioning and what better place than a State of North Carolina agency. Specifically we chose to spend the better part of our day at the DMV so Carter could get her “After 9” drivers license. For those of you with no idea what that is, it is the next step up drivers license that allows a person who has been driving for the last six months to drive after nine at night without a parent in the car.
The actual process of getting the license is a five minute meeting with a DMV official where you turn in a driving log that proves you have driven at least 12 hours in the last six months and have not gotten any moving violations. Proof is too strong a word, really you just write down that you did it and they take your word for it, no video is required.
When Carter and I enter our closet DMV we were met with a perfect cross section of our area, all 65 of them ahead of us, filling every available seat and leaning space against the wall. Miraculously there was no one else in line to get a number so as we approached the fine state employee I asked him how long the wait was, he looked at Carter’s paperwork and license and declared in a strong voice, “35 minutes.” Seemed suspicious, but we took our number and wiggled our way into one last leaning spot.
The numbering system is done in a way that you have no idea how far you are from being helped next. All numbers start with a letter between C and H followed by a three-digit number. Carter’s number was D566. We soon heard D451 called, but that was followed by C387.
When H251 was called an octogenarian vacated one of the valuable chairs and since I was the next oldest woman waiting the young men around me let me take the seat. This was nice since it helped my needlepointing tremendously to be able to sit.
The DMV is the great equality space. There are no fast passes, global entry or first class lines. There is no way to buy yourself to the front of the line. The state could really increase revenue if they considered such a system. I counted at least five other customers who might have paid triple at a minimum to have their transaction go faster.
Soon the 35 minutes had passed and only three other “D” tickets had been called. Estimation is obviously not on the civil service exam. We waited patiently. At one point the call to prayer was played on one man’s phone and he had to leave the building to roll out a rug and pray. In democratic turns he lost his place in line if his number was called while he was out of the building.
The one thing that really made me crazy is that when someone else’s number was called they all seemed in no hurry to get up and hustle over to their appointed desk. For gosh sakes people, move it. After an hour and forty-five minutes D566 was called. The woman who waited on Carter could not have been nicer, but the fact that the whole transaction including getting her new photo taken took less than five minutes was very frustrating. “They don’t have enough employees do they?” Carter asked as we left the building. You think?
Whoever said, “It is too hot to eat,” didn’t like eating in the first place. I wish I were one of those people because the heat we are enduring this week would be a great way to drop a few more pounds. Unfortunately for me there is something called air conditioning and I am doing my best to stay close to it.
Being too hot to eat had to come from the pre-refrigeration and air conditioning days when food would spoil quickly in the sweltering days and if you ate said food it would probably make a surprise reappearance.
I can remember when I was a kid in Connecticut we did not have air-conditioning, nobody I knew did. Not that it did not get plenty hot in the middle of the summer, but our 300-year-old-barn-turned-into-a-house had too many holes in the barn siding to keep cool air in, it also made heating it an issue, but that’s a December blog. My mother used to say it was too hot to cook. Turning on the oven in an already hot kitchen was prohibited. I don’t know why, the heat mostly stayed in the oven, but it was a great excuse not to cook dinner.
So summer suppers often consisted of vegetables from the farm stand by the club that could be sliced and served or at the most boiled on top of the stove for the minimal amount of time. We had sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, yellow squash and onions and corn on the cob. If we were lucky there might be a deviled egg or two leftover from a bridge luncheon. My mother was famous for her deviled eggs.
My absolute favorite summer bridge leftover my mother made was tomato aspic with cottage cheese and a dollop of mayonnaise on top. She put sliced olives, celery and horseradish in her aspic and it was the perfect cold food on those really hot August days. Bridge days were always welcome at our house.
Hot as it is in North Carolina in June I have not served any of these things for supper at my house. Maybe I should roll out the, “It’s too hot to cook,” excuse. I know the “It’s too hot to eat” one will fall on deaf ears.
Poor Russ. Since I am on this very restrictive diet he is stuck eating the hodge podge of food at home that he can rustle up into something that resembles a meal. I am fine eating a little piece of chicken breast and some green vegetable, but Russ really needs something better. If he were to eat what I am eating he would begin to look like some male version of Olive Oil, tall and skinny.
Friday he asked me if we could possibly go out to dinner one night this weekend. By the time I agreed all the Saturday night reservations for the places he wanted to try were gone so we settled on a Sunday date night. Makes no difference to me since everyday is the same in my life.
Carter was still away on what she called “the best weekend of her life so far.” Her friend Ashley gave her tickets for the Lana Del Ray concert in Charlotte for her birthday in December. I don’t know if Ashley’s mother knew what a big gift that was but it turned into a night at the Ritz in Charlotte. Then Carter got to take Ashley’s little sister to Camp Cheerio today for her first camp drop off. To Carter it meant she got a chance to see her girl’s session friends she was missing by choosing to be a CIT at co-ed. Tonight she got home just in time to go out to dinner with her friend Cait before she leaves for South Africa in the morning. Oh happy weekend indeed.
I got home from my friend Andrea’s Sip and Say Hello party this afternoon where I met an amazing group of interesting women just in time for my date with Russ. He had chosen the Counting House at the 21 C hotel. He asked me to look at the menu to make sure it was OK for my diet and I told him not to worry I could make it work.
After we were seated at our corner booth with a purple penguin as our mascot diner a lovely waitress came to serve us. I asked if the kitchen could make me a fish without any butter or oil with a green vegetable. Much back and forth with questions from the chef and she was sure they could make me something yummy and in the bounds of my tight requirements. I was not disappointed when she brought out my plate with kale, zucchini and snow peas atop my fish with a fume.
There is nothing better than a chef who rises to the challenge. Russ was able to have a good meal of his choosing and the perfect date it was. The moral of the story is not to let restrictive eating prevent you from living.
Over three years ago I started my current weight loss journey. It went great. I lost a hundred pounds and kept it off until about six months ago. Although I still blogged everyday about my struggles I started giving myself breaks from the vigilant program I had put myself on. I upped my exercise dramatically thinking it would allow me to eat a little more like a normal person. That plan just did not work for me. I gained a little bit each month and before I knew it I had gained almost 20 pounds.
The road of losing and gaining weight was a familiar one to me. I know each stop along the highway of eating both north and south. This time as I was headed north I did something I have not been good at in the past, I stopped myself at the first exit and changed roads. I did not want to gain back all my weight again.
Changing roads involved trying a new weight loss plan so I joined metabolic research center. I have been on their program for three weeks now and have lost fourteen pounds. It has been a very easy program to follow and I have not been hungry one day.
The key for me is to make the food I do get to eat as special as it can be. Normally I am a frugal eater, but not on this plan. Today’s lunch is a good example, I had crab, with some cold snow peas and a rainbow of cherry tomatoes with a dressing made of Walden Farms 0 Calorie Thousand Island dressing with a few capers. I’m not sure the capers are legal, but at 5 calories and no sugar they really can’t hurt.
Since I am eating small amounts the cost per serving is not as great as eating a lot of a cheaper food. The best part is that I feel like it is a big splurge to have crab salad for lunch on a weekday.
Losing weight I just put on is a lot easier than getting off pounds that I have had with me for years and years so hopefully it won’t be long to being back to where I want to be. The bottom line is there is no taking my eye off the scale. Exercise is great, but when my treadmill says I have walked off 500 calories it just is not true. In reality it probably was more like 100 calories, so eating those extra 400 everyday adds up fast.
Changing the program has also been good for my brain. It makes me have to measure and plan, something I had not done for a while. I am happy to be on my southern route, but I know that I won’t stay in this direction forever. Hopefully I am getting better at recognizing when it’s time to take a U-turn and next time it will be only after a pound or two and not 20 or 100.
As the Great Clean Out of closets continues at my house I am finding things I had long forgotten about, or can’t seem to remember ever buying or receiving. Today while cleaning out the hanging quits, vacuum, ironing, unusual sized light bulbs and odd cleaning supply closet I ran across not one, but two zip lock bags of Museum Gel, Wax and Putty. For the life of me I don’t remember buying one set, let alone two. I wonder if I had considered opening some kind of glass museum once upon a time?
I am trying to follow the rule that if I haven’t used it I don’t need it, but in the case of things I never knew I had, like the Scratch Fixer Kit for Wood, I think someday I might use it. Like I can think of one or two scratches I would like to fix, but not right now since I am in the middle of cleaning out.
Since the point of cleaning out these closets is to be able to completely empty them when the floors get refinished I am trying to find more logical places for most of the items that I am not throwing or giving away. So many of the things grouped together in these closets does not make sense, but just happened because the space was right; Like the bed linen, pocketbook and sewing closet. It all reminds me of a Far Side cartoon of a little shack with a man in the window next to a big pile of dirt – the sign above the little shack read “Fred’s Fill Dirt and Croissant Shop.”
As I moved the strange extra light bulbs, like the ones for the refrigerator and the above the bathroom mirror globes to the utility closet that holds all 67 other kinds of light bulbs I begin to worry about being able to find things that I have moved when I need them in four or five years. At my age my memory is not what it used to be. Actually, my long-term memory of what happened when I was five is just fine, but don’t ask me what I ate for lunch three days ago.
What I think I need is an app that tells me where everything I own is, and I mean precisely, which room, which closet, what shelf, which side of that shelf. Do you think there is such a thing? It would be incredibly helpful for other members of the house to be able to look up where something is kept, rather than asking me. “Why do you think I know where your sleeping bag is?” It would have been helpful when I was asked for a gold paint pen to know if I even have one.
If you know of such an app, please let me know. If no one lets me know I’m going to put a call out to all app writers to get right on making one. I can’t be the only person who needs help remembering where all my stuff is, but I need it fast before I forget where I moved everything.
The great floor re-do cleanout of all the closets has continued. So far the towel/toiletry closet is done, the linen/sewing/pocketbook one is done, with the exception of deciding which old purses to purge and today was the winter clothes and gift closet. Before today I already took 17 big bags to donate, but I have accumulated a small group of things that have more value that I have not donated yet.
The gift closet yielded even more brand new things that I don’t need or want, or let’s be honest I don’t really think my friends want. It is years of buying stuff on trips, or accumulating things I think I might want to gift, but then forgot about them. I found two brand new Eiffel Tower watches from France—I think they were from a trip ten years ago. There is stuff from China when Russ used to go there quarterly and more soap that I could use in a lifetime of rolling in mud.
I know that if someone were having a yard sale this stuff would sell fast since it is all unused. Notice I did not say new, since I know that some of it is twenty years old, but still in its original packaging. I have too much to do to have a yard sale, even though God knows I have a house worth of garage sale stuff. I just don’t have the time to clean out all the parts of my house to get all the saleable items assembled at one time.
So here is my offer. If you are having a yard sale, or are an e-bay seller, or have some other way to dispose of this good stuff, like a Dickens village Christmas house or a Sony voice recorder with tapes, please contact me. But here is the deal, you have to take both these boxes. No picking and choosing.
If you have a teenager with nothing to do this summer who would like to make some money this might be a good project for them. I just want to get rid of it and not add to the waste in the landfill. I know I could take it all to Goodwill, but frankly some of it is too breakable to just dump it in those bins.
I’m not asking anything in return, just come get it fast! Actually one rule, you are never allowed to give me any of this back as a gift, and never give me any soap!
Tonight we went to see Newsies at the Durham Performing Arts Center. It was the last show of the yearly Broadway season. Our seat mates and friends who sit behind us were too overwhelmed or just plain exhausted from school year end/summer beginning activities to make it tonight so we had all their seat. Thanks for you generosity Michelle and Mary Lloyd, you missed a great show.
Carter was thrilled to get to bring her friend Campbell and it was made all the better that they got to sit in seats away from us. The show was great, but for the teenagers the fact that the majority of the cast are attractive young men who can really dance was a huge bonus.
As we left the theatre on a high from watching them flip, tap, spin and fly through the air we had an extra spring in our step. The constant energy that these young performers exerted right through the end was exhilarating for us as spectators.
I can only imagine how many calories these boys burn during every show. How are there are enough hours to eat on days they do two shows, like Saturdays? They certainly did not lack anything during this second show so I bet the cast is out eating right now.
The girls could not stop talking about the boy’s dancing. Let it be a lessons to all the young men who might be interested in girls; learn to dance and you never will be lonely.
In the car on the way home Carter put on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, just to reinforce her love of watching a good male dancer. I wish that there were more dances for teenagers to go to. We need some kind of dance pavilion that is open every weekend like their used to be at Pawley’s Island back when my Dad was a teenager. Dancing is the best kind of fun.
Back when I was a sophomore in college my car broke down right at the toll of the George Washington Bridge to NYC on the Wednesday of Thanksgiving. I was giving a friend a ride home and she was nervous on a good day, but a car breaking down on the Jersey side of the bridge seemed like certain death to her.
As my bright yellow sirocco coasted into the tiny strip of pavement between the cement barriers and the fast traffic lane on the left I was just trying to keep my friend calm, but had no plan about what to do. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a big late model Cadillac Sedan de Ville pull up right behind me with an older gentleman behind the wheel. My friend said something like, “the headlines are going read two coeds killed on GW Bridge.”
As I looked back in my rear view mirror at the car behind me I noticed a license plate that read, ”DOG is my Co-pilot.” Of course it was backwards in my mirror and I knew it really said GOD. I told my friend everything is going to be OK and I got out of the car to speak to the man who was already approaching my car with some tools in his hand.
I have no recollection of what he did under the hood of my tiny car, but whatever it was it got us started and running smoothly all the way back to Connecticut. My friend was much less nervous since she felt that God was watching over us and had provided that man just for us. I never told her that I at first had read the plate as DOG and that thinking he was a dog person made him OK in my book.
Tonight I had to follow Russ in his Smart car to the dealer so it could get its regular service. Shay got to ride with Russ, as is her first choice. Stopped at a light I could see Shay hang her head out the window and I thought that DOG was Russ’ co-pilot. There is a reason the God spelled backwards is Dog. I did not worry a moment that we would not get Russ’ car to the dealer, because in my book Dog, or God they are one in the same.
If you were watching Good Morning America this morning you might know who Della Curry is, that is how I came to learn of the lunch lady from Aurora, Colorado who got fired for giving hungry kids free food. If you missed this segment I want to tell you why she is my hero.
Della Curry is a 35-year-old woman who was the kitchen manager of an elementary school. Lunch ladies are the unsung hero’s of America and they rarely get the respect they deserve for cooking and serving food to hundreds of kids every school day, hell anyone who just spends time in a school cafeteria deserves a special place in heaven.
At Della’s school kids had accounts for their lunches where their parents were supposed to put money in advance of them buying lunch. Della described the lunch as a hot main entrée, two vegetables a fruit and milk. Children came through the line and were given their food and then went to pay, either deducting the cost from their account or with cash they had with them. If a child’s account got overdrawn by $7.60, which was the cost of three meals, the policy was that the lunch ladies manning the cash register were supposed to take that child’s tray of food away from them, except the milk, and replace it with a cheese sandwich made up of one slice of American cheese on a hamburger bun. Here is the crazy part, by law they had to throw away the meal they took from the child for health reasons.
Della was fired for not throwing away perfectly good food, but instead letting the child eat it. She admitted she was breaking the rules, but in good conscious she would do it again that way. She said that there were plenty of kids at her school who got free or reduced price lunches, but some kids who did not qualify still had a hard time paying. To qualify for reduced price lunch a family of four has to earn less than about $44,000 a year and to get free lunch a family of four had to earn less than $31,000.
She is my hero because she was looking out for small children, who through no fault of their own, did not have the means to pay for food and did not deserved to be shamed in the lunch line and denied the same nutrition as the other children. Yes, not all cafeteria food is delicious, but if you are hungry it tastes pretty good.
I believe that the children who have a hard time paying are exactly who we should give food to, because they probably don’t have the best food at home. Not having a good lunch makes learning in the afternoon difficult, so this policy of giving a child a cheese sandwich and cup of milk is putting them at a disadvantage in the classroom and that could have cumulative and lifelong effects. A well-fed child has a much better chance at growing up to be productive and self sufficient than a child who has been shamed and denied.
Imagine your own child was switched at birth and mistakenly went home with a family of minor means, wouldn’t you want your child to have Della Curry as his or her lunch lady?
For the last two years Russ has been asking me to get the floors in the old part of our house refinished. Although I agreed they needed to be done I kept putting off calling the floor person because I knew it was going to be a nightmare for me. Since I got the driveway fixed earlier this year and it was a relatively painless operation for me I decided to move on to the floors since it was the next biggest item on Russ’ giant work on the house list.
The nice floor lady I knew from Carter’s school arrived promptly at three to much fan fair from Shay. She walked in the house with a matter-of-fact swagger that said; of course you need to get these floors redone, without her actually saying a word. She asked me what I needed done and I showed her the living and dining rooms the stairs and all the bedrooms and hallways in the old part of our house.
Shay shivered outside each room afraid of the sound as she efficiently swung out her mammoth tape measure reaching from one wall to the next with a quick flick of the wrist. As she measured our bedroom I asked the question I was dreading, “Do you refinish the closets too?” I can’t remember her exact answer, but she basically told me they were high-class refinishers so of course the closets get done. Then she opened my closet. I was unprepared to have another human look at my closet. “Everything gets removed,” she said with the tone of a nonjudgmental professional. She still needed to get the job.
Gulp. This is exactly what I was afraid of. Not just moving all out furniture, rugs and paintings, out of the main part of the house, but every item of all my packed and ultra utilized closets. It is only three bedrooms that are getting refinished, but there are seven closets. Don’t ask me to explain, but trust me I love my closets.
After she left me with a quote and potential start days of the ten days I will have to be out of my house rather than walk or needlepoint I started the giant job of cleaning out a closet. Russ called as I just finished up the worst shelf of the linen closet that held all the extra toothpaste, lotions, and Band-Aids. “Wow,” he said, “that has not been cleaned out since Megan did it.” Megan was our babysitter all through her college years and now she is a famous actress on TV in her thirties. I wish she wasn’t so successful and still lived here because I certainly could use her now.
So much for my summer of freedom. Cleaning out the closets is the first step to packing them up completely. The only good news is in my inefficiency of cleaning out that one shelf I got 2,500 steps. Maybe this could be called the refinish the floors diet.
This photo hangs in my hallway and I walk past it everyday without really looking at it. Today while I stood at my ironing board I looked up at the picture and thought about how often my sister and I were dressed alike for the big occasions, you know, Easter, Christmas and the Forth of July Picnic.
This photo was taken on my Grandparents front porch at the farm where my Aunt lives in that house and my parents just past her in a new house. I know for sure that is where we were sitting, not because I can remember that day, but because of the painted metal glider in the background where many a Grandmother drank many a bourbon.
The fact that I am wearing a hat, or bonnet to be more precise and Margaret and I were dressed in identical outfits means this was Easter and we had come to visit from Connecticut. I don’t know this for sure, but I can guess that my mother had bought these dresses at the Junior League thrift shop in Norwalk where she volunteered so she could get first crack at the barely worn Florence Eiseman outfits so many of the well-off New Canaan and Darien mothers dropped off at the shop. The Peter Pan collar was pure Florence in the mid-sixties.
It was common practice for WASPS to dress their children in matching outfits, probably to be able to tell them apart from other blond straight haired children when picking them up from the church Sunday school. Proof of this is the fact that my mother was often able to buy us matching clothes even though I am three and a half years older than Margaret. If she were buying new it would have been easy to just buy the same dress in two different sizes, but it takes real skill to find two matching ones at the Junior League Shop that fit both girls at the same time.
Well, they did not always fit so sometimes I had one on that was just too tight and Margaret was swimming in hers. My sister Janet, being five years younger than Margaret never really had to do the sister dress thing, but then again, she barely did the dress thing at all and my Mother had given up volunteering by that time.
I wish I had a picture of the matching bathing suits Marg and I had that had a daffodil made out of some starchy organza material that stuck out 3-D from our tummy’s and had a cut out in the middle of the suit that made the center of the flower. We loved the tan polka dot that cut out made on our stomachs.
I hardly see anyone dressed in sister dresses anymore, except maybe in those TV shows with families with 19 children. I guess their matching outfits are homemade from the same bolt of gingham popular with fundamentalists. Sad that they have gone that way, but maybe it is a sign that parents can differentiate one child from the next.
Carter is about to finish up her sophomore year. Today was her last day of regular classes before the drudge of exams starts. One of her favorite classes was advance photo and not because she does not have an exam in it. Last year in photo she learned the basics of dark room and Photoshop, but this year she got to delve more deeply into photo topics.
When I got home today her portfolio was sitting on the breakfast room table. One of her assignments was a group of six photos and a write up that was displayed with them in a show. She had shown me the photos, but this was the first time I read her write-up. It made me cry. Her response was, “Now you have your blog today.”
I asked her if her photo essay could be my blog and she agreed, but my phone pictures of her actual photos does not do them justice. Nonetheless, I am a proud mother so please indulge me this one time.
When I was told that this project was about identity my first idea was to take photos of the places I spent the most time at when I was younger. I decided to take these from a child’s point of view to emphasize the memories of my childhood. All of these photos show the places most important to me when I was younger and still are very important to me.
The first place (photos are left to right, top to bottom) is the Durham Academy Lower School. I have attended DA since Pre-K and I have so many wonderful memories at the lower school. The second place is Rolling Hills Stables in Chapel Hill. I am at my happiest here and I’ve ridden at Rolling Hills Stables since 3rd grade. I learned almost everything about horses and discipline at this place. The next place is Hope Valley Country Club. My mom would always play Mahjong in the Women’s Locker Room and I would sit and watch as a little child curious about how the game worked. Another place is my mom’s Toyota Land Cruiser. I am an only child so I spent a lot of time with my mom and with horses, and always going on adventures. Westminster Church is where my mom and dad attend church. I grew up in the church because my mom was part of almost all the boards there. The final place is the Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina. My mom has been on the board there since before I could remember. She was the President of the board last year. Whenever she would have meetings when I was younger I would always tag along with her. I loved it there.
Every single one of these places taught me a lot about growing up. The horse in the top right photo is named Red. He taught me discipline of controlling a 1500 pound animal as a small seven year old with grace and strength. He was the first horse I rode at Rolling Hills Stables, so it’s fitting that he should be involved in this project. During the half hour drive to the barn, my mom would answer all my questions about anything and everything in her car. Some of these photos feature my mother. She was and still is the biggest influence in my life and formed much of my identity. At the Food Bank I learned how important it is to give up your own time and money for others.
I hope these photos give you an insight to my childhood and what has helped form me into the person I am today.
Just when I think there is nothing left to write about a gift from heaven drops in my lap. Tonight I was invited to my friend Pokey’s house to look at some India Hick’s products. True to form for me at all gatherings I got tired of standing around talking so my friend Lynn volunteered to sit of the sofa with me. My neighbor Beth joined us, moving some books from the ottoman/coffee table so she could sit close enough to talk with us.
I’m not sure how long we were there before Lynn pointed out the vegetable tray right next to Beth. Since I am doing this very strict diet I had basically blocked all party food out of my brain, but I knew this one needed inspection if non-eater Lynn had something to say about it.
From afar it looked like any normal veggie tray, with carrots, peppers cucumbers, broccoli and a bowl of dip, but at closer inspection I saw why Lynn was pointing it out. There in the middle of the tray was a giant bed of iceberg lettuce. Wait. Can that be? None of us had ever seen chopped lettuce as part of a veggie tray.
Pokey, ever the consummate hostess had to have a good explanation about this dish and so I asked, “What’s up with the lettuce?” She howled and in her best laughing voice said, “I ordered a veggie tray from the club and that’s what I got.”
“Did you bring them the tray asking for a big salad?” I asked.
“I brought the tray yesterday and asked if they could make a little hollowed out red cabbage for me to put dip in with the cut veggies. Not exactly what I got.” Michelle, ever the diplomatic one said, “Perhaps they were instructed to put some decorative lettuce on the platter first and then the veggies.”
We all agreed that iceberg, as a dipping item was a risky way to get ranch dressing in your mouth without a fork. Thank goodness Pokey has such a good sense of humor. But what could she do when her husband brought it home; he had no idea that she did not order lettuce.
She could complain, but all the complaints about the food are met with the same response, “Just wait until the new chef comes on June 1.” I think he should start by reading my blog to learn what not to do.
Pokey said her kids were definitely getting that lettuce in their lunches tomorrow. The chef should have to listen to them complain too.
Well before Carter went to Durham Academy as a Pre-K student I got a Land Cruiser. It is a tank of a car, perfect for shuttling kids for field trips to the Life and Science Museum and friends to Mother Daughter Weekend at camp. We drove that car to Upstate New York and then into Canada without a passport for Carter and then were able to sneak her back in the country because she was practically invisible in the third row. When gas was almost five dollars a gallon we drove to Michigan one summer to visit the Hannans and then up to the Ferry at Mackinaw Island and back to Durham all for $700 worth of gas.
As the years went on and there were fewer field trips to drive for I parked the Land Cruiser in favor of the Smart Car that was one sixth it’s size both physically and in gas consumption. Then Russ took the Smart and got me a C-Max because it was big enough for us all to fit in, but got the same mileage as the Smart. We kept the Land Cruiser thinking is was the perfect car for Carter when she got her drivers license. My father changed that plan when he gave her a newer Jetta and the Land Cruiser sat sadly in the driveway waiting for group concert trips and hauls to the Good Will. Against Russ’ better judgment I thought we should keep this old car.
It was only fitting that the car that has made so many trips back and forth to Durham Academy be called off the bench today to take Russ and me to my final Trustee reception. For six years I have served on the board and due to good governance it is time for me to retire.
I have loved being on this board with a large number of really smart people that I would never had gotten to know in the same way if it weren’t for our service. It was not always easy but it was a place that I felt safe to ask hard questions and rarely got slapped for off the cuff remarks.
As a retiring trustee it is normal for another trustee to give a little speech about the retiree, then give them the DA Chair. I remembered that part and that is why we drove the only car we have that could hold the chair. Tonight three of us retired, Shelayne Sutton, who I got to know and love because of being trustees together, Dave Beischer, who has been a trustee for more years than Carter has been alive and is a walking DA encyclopedia and me.
Janis Tillman gave the speech about Shelayne and then Shelayne got up to give her remarks. WAIT! She had prepared remarks on paper. I forgot about this part. She thanked all the important people, especially her husband. I looked around the room. I prayed that Frank Morgan would give the remarks about me since he is probably the kindest human I know and would gloss over the bad things about me as a trustee.
After Shelayne sat down Frank did get up and spoke much too long about me and Less Dana. As I went up to the podium I told the room that they already had gotten more Dana then they needed and I confessed I had no prepared remarks, but certainly that I could talk without them. And I did, but after I sat down next to Russ I realized I had not thanked him for all he did for me that enabled me not to cook dinners on board nights, or stay up late working on committee work. I felt like the academy award winner who forgets to thank their spouse. It was all I could think about.
Then Brendan Moylan spoke about Dave Beischer and compounded my error by talking about what a saint Michelle Beischer was to be married to a twice board chair. Her husband thanked her profusely too.
So as my unthanked husband carried my heavy chair to the Land Cruiser parked at the far side of the parking lot I vowed to make it up to him. How? I don’t think offering for him to have my chair in his office is the right thing, but Russ, I just want to say here you are the best husband who finally came to a trustee reception after all these years. Sorry I did not call you out there, but you know I appreciate you and am thankful that you never made me sell the Land Cruiser because we never would have gotten this chair home without it.
No long weekend away for us since Carter has exams starting Friday. I am looking forward to the day that our life does not revolve around her school, but I am not really ready for her to leave home yet. Instead of a whole weekend we just went up to the farm for the day today so that Shay Shay could have a little freedom to run around and we could visit with my parents. Carter might have gotten more studying done in the car on the way up and back than she might have done if we just stayed home all day.
The weather was perfect for us to sit in the rag tag conglomeration of chairs outside my Dad’s office barn. I’m not sure why we sat there rather than one of the nice porches or by the pool, but perhaps it was to tend the pork butt my father had slow cooking on his office rotisserie for the 12 hours he was going to cook it. Every office needs a rotisserie doesn’t it?
Since the trip was mainly for Shay we took her on a number of adventures, but she is not shy about letting us know when she had had enough. When Russ walked her down to the bottom pond she just sat down at one point and refused to go any deeper into the farm. Once he gave her the signal to turn around and go back to the office barn her energy returned enough for her to sprint up the hill. How does she know she is at the halfway point of her energy?
After lunch Russ and I walked her up to my Aunt Janie’s house. The sun was in full height and Shay brilliantly ran between the shade of the tree shadows and then would wait for us to catch up. As soon as we walked on the road to her parallel she would walk in the shade of the grass and as soon as she stepped out into the sunny part she would sprint to the next tree shadow and wait again. She did this the whole way up and back. Shay does not have the best eyesight so I wonder if she can tell the temperature difference in the grass using her feet?
Even a few hours at the farm are like a vacation away. So we may have to stay home for studying most of the weekend, we got a nice bit of rejuvenation, relaxation and dog play. I hope your Memorial Day Weekend is just as fun, but maybe a little more exciting.
My Apple watch arrived this week. After waiting so many weeks it figures it came on my busiest week when Russ was in Portland. Since he is my IT department I was lost and did not have the time to sit down with my computer and watch what feels like hundreds of videos on every aspect of this new machine.
I have two main interests in getting the Apple watch, one as a replacement for my fitbit and two as my new wallet with Apple pay. Out of the box I was able to set up the fitness tracker without the aid of my IEEE husband. For all you non-geeks IEEE stands for Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, don’t ask me was the difference is between an Electrical and Electronic Engineer.
After picking my sex from a list of three, yes other is one of the choices in Apple watch, and telling my truthful weight and real age I was thrilled that my watch did not comment. There are three goals in the activity tracker; move, exercise and stand. I am still a little confused about what the difference is between move and exercise, but I guess more tracking for me is better than less.
I was asked to set my goals for these three activities. The default setting for exercise was 30 minutes a day, since I had no idea what this thing considered exercising I just left it that way. The stand goal was to get up for at least one minute in every hour. Seemed small to me, so I kept it. The move goal was measured in burning more calories than you do just at rest. The goal was 350, that’s like a piece of good smelly cheese so I upped it to 1200.
The activity tracker also counts my steps and since I come from the fitbit world that is the number I am most familiar with. Before I was going to give up my fitbit I wanted to make sure my watch counted in a similar way. Not that I know my fitbit is right, but if one device thinks I am walking 3,000 steps and one thinks 5,000 I know something is wrong.
I am happy to report that my watch and fitbit were fairly similar in my steps counted so I am going to try and just wear the watch for a while. The one thing I find interesting is the stand monitor. I could have been standing up for four hours straight and then go to a meeting where the polite thing to do was to sit and in 55 minutes get a buzz on my wrist with a message telling me it is time to stand up for a minute. The damn thing does not care how long I stood up before, just that I need to stand up for at least one minute every hour for 12 hours a day.
“Oy vey”, my wrist would buzz, “Get your ass out of your chair.” It was like the Jewish Grandmother I never had. “What good is standing for one minute?” I want to whine at it. “Don’t ask, just do it. It’s good for you.” My Jewish Grandmother watch tells me.
For the record I never reached a move goal of 1200 calories. What was I thinking? I lowered it to 750 today and that is a good stretchable goal and also is a good meal’s
worth of calories. If I get anymore whining from my watch I’ll report back, I wonder what it’s going to say when I try and use it to buy something expensive. “Your Uncle Morty could get that for you wholesale.”
For the last three years I have never taken any ads or sponsorship for my blog. Yes, there may be one ad at the end of each daily blog that is put on by my blog hosting service, but that is the price I pay for a free service. I have had offers to get paid for my blog, but the pay never seemed to be worth my freedom. I like to write about whatever the hell happens to me each day and if I want to complain about the service I get from some establishment I don’t want to worry if they are an advertiser of mine or not. I certainly don’t endorse anyone for money so if you read a good comment about someplace on this blog you can be assured they did not give me anything to write about them.
But this week I actually made some money because of this blog. Last week I wrote, a little tongue in cheek, that I should open my house for a private dinner for a Duke graduate and their rich parents. My friend and neighbor Mary Eileen read this and asked me if I would cook graduation dinner for her daughter Lily’s DA graduation.
I was happy to do this for her, especially since I only had to go across the street to deliver it.
I am not looking to get back in to catering as a rule. Making dinner for Mary Eileen was fun especially since she gave me carte blanche to make whatever I wanted. I hope that her mother liked the DA Green and White soup and could not tell it had asparagus in it. The bonus for Russ was that I made extra for him to have for dinner.
The second pay off came about because I wrote about a contractor using my water and my annoyance with being surrounded by contractors. I went to the mailbox three days after that blog came out and there was a check for $75 from the offending contractor with a note thanking me for using my water. I could have been bowled over with a feather. I am fairly certain that if I had not complained in my blog I never would have gotten that check. Not that $75 is much money, but it was just the principle.
So now I am going to put it out in the universe that I would like to write about a trip to Europe. I am talking about a luxury trip, not some busman’s holiday. If someone is looking for a competent blogger to do some honest review of them send me a note. Maybe I also need to review a new car, what else can I write about…? Hmm.
There is one thing that is true about my Dad and that is no matter how little money he has he will always be rich and generous. This is not always the case for someone who grew up at the edge of the depression in not the wealthiest of circumstances. On our trip to revisit the places of his childhood I learned a lot more about how my Dad got to be this way.
When I was a child I knew my father’s father as a smart, thrifty man who loved to invest in the stock market and was revered as an upstanding citizen. As my Dad drove me around Winston-Salem yesterday we passed by the beautiful art deco Reynolds building. “There used to be a stock broker’s office in the mezzanine and Grandad would go in and sit and watch the ticker tape,” my Dad explained to me.
I can remember that even when his hearing was going and his eye sight was practically gone my Grandad could somehow miraculously hear Wall Street Week in Review on TV and read the mice type on the stock pages of the news paper. Investing was his passion and something he was good at. As much as that was a strong memory of my Grandad it was juxtaposed with his extreme thriftiness. He kept a log of everything he owned that used a battery and tracked how long he used each battery and what kind of life he got out of them- this included car, tractor, flashlight even hearing aid batteries – everything.
On our tour we went by the first house my Dad lived in where his parent’s rented the upstairs of a nice house in a fine neighborhood. Then we drove out to Lockland Ave. to see the first house my Grand parents bought. I had been there once as a four or five year old, but have not seen it in fifty years. My Dad explained that it had been a one-bedroom house that his father added another one onto before they moved in. My Dad had then dug out the basement to make another room when he was ten.
From what we could see from the street not much had been done to improve it in the last 50 years. The only thing that was possibly better was there was a newer house across the street that replaced the legendary two greyhound busses put together with the middle cut out making in essence the first mobile home.
I would not call the house a dump until my father told me about the street it was on. He said that even though the houses on the street ended just a little ways past his house, the road, which was a two-lane fine cement road continued about another mile along. A cement paved street was very unusual especially when my Dad showed me which streets had been nothing but oiled dirt roads. The reason Lockland Ave was that way is that it was the route that every garbage truck in the city had to take to the incinerator and dump. As if that was not bad enough my Dad said that the sewage treatment plant was also down that way.
My Grandmother had grown up in a fine house in Charlottesville designed by Thomas Jefferson where her father was the President of the Bank of Charlottesville. I am sure her father never came to see this house on Lockland Ave. My Dad said his mother always said that Grandad only got away with living in that house because he had sons and not daughters. The bottom line is that my Grandad was good at turning his stock money into more money and thought a house was not his best investment. I think that growing up in that house really spurred my father on to work hard and be successful and not live like that. I am so glad my Dad had daughters.
We drove around the rest of Winston Salem with my Dad showing me, literally the other side of the tracks and where his fancy friends lived. He said Winston was really a town of the poor and the rich, very little middle class back then. Leaving Winston to be a bigger fish in a bigger pond was what my father was meant to do, but the hard work he did, starting with his morning and afternoon paper routes, working in the RJ Reynolds factory in the summer and Gestner Machinery Company were good foundation to never have to live in a place where every garbage truck in town drives past your house.
My Dad, Ed Carter is seventy-seven today. He does not look it since for as long as I can remember he has looked the same. I think that is a benefit of losing your hair in twenties. I ran across a picture my Uncle Wilson had taken of my Dad talking to my sister and me while we were eating breakfast in our house in Wilton, CT. From the clues in the picture I guess that it was taken in about 1969 or 70, which would make me about nine years old and my Dad about thirty-two.
Here are the things in the picture that have been constants in my life. If we are having a special breakfast, which pancakes certainly were, it was my father who spoiled us by making them. Rather than make some for himself he would rather sit and talk with us while we ate. Probably my mother was allowed to sleep. He was waiting to feed others who would be coming along later and then only eat after he was done working. The one thing that has always been a constant in my life is if my father was not at work he was doing something with his kids.
Now what he was doing with us was not always of our choosing, like cutting the grass or raking leaves, but he rarely did anything that was purely for him. He never played golf or played cards or spent time with only adults, until we were adults. What is typical in this picture is it looks like he is interested in us. He always has been and we knew it.
It does not sound unusual nowadays since parents are so over involved in their children’s lives, but back in the 60’s and 70’s my Dad was different from many other Dads. He constantly was teaching us things that were important for us to know, maybe not that day, but for sometime in the future. So many sentences started with, “I need to tell you this before I die…” and the following might be very important or not so significant, like “check your oil every time you fill up your gas tank because if it gets too low you will burn up your engine,” or “always look people in the eye when you speak to them.”
The car thing felt unimportant to a ten year old. Today our cars give us a warning light if you forget to check your oil, but many people don’t know how to have a face-to-face conversation with an adult. My Dad had no idea how the world would change, but he was going to make sure that he told us all the important stuff before we were grown up.
It was not just him telling us things, but about being genuinely interested in what we thought. Of course as an adolescent it was horrible when you did not really want to tell your Dad what you were thinking about and he hated when you answered his inquiry with an “I don’t know.” The best part about my Dad is that he never gave up being interested in us and eventually when I outgrew the “I don’t know stage” he was still there not holding it against me.
I knew he was a special Dad because all my friends loved him and appreciated the attention he gave them. Fun has always been a big priority to him and making sure that everyone around him was having fun was something he worked at. If you asked him what he wanted to do for fun it was almost always turned around to be something fun for you. That unselfishness is his greatest hallmark and something that is truly rare.
On this birthday I count my lucky stars that he is my Dad and he is still here to tell me the important things, but mostly I love just having fun with him. When Carter says to me in an annoyed voice, “Is this going to turn into a lesson?” I know that I somehow don’t have the same touch my Dad had of imparting wisdom. I hope that she grows up and likes spending time with me as much as I still like spending time with my Dad. It is a really fine line you walk, as a parent to raise great, successful, happy children and still be fun. If there is anything I need to learn from my father before he goes, it’s that.
Ok, let’s get it right out at the beginning, there is one similarity I totally have with my girl dog, we are both bitches. There I said it before you did. And that is where our likenesses end.
Tonight I came home from an event downtown and since Russ and I arrived in two cars I got home well before he did since he had to walk back to his office to retrieve his brief case. Carter is in Raleigh at her friend Lily’s play so I was the only human Shay had to greet. Because I was not Russ she had not rushed to the top of the stairs and stood on her hind legs shaking in excitement like she does when he comes home. Instead she waited for me to get all the way to my bedroom where she was laying on my bed before she lifted her head and gave me the “Wha’sup” nod.
Despite the lackluster greeting I sat down on the bed next to her and gave her a snuggle. That’s when she rolled over on her back with her four legs spayed in the air and gave me the “Rub my belly” look. I know that my rubbing her belly is the thing she loves most in the world, besides Russ. Russ’ mere existence is better to Shay than my rubbing her belly, but it is a close second.
I don’t think she is unusual in her love of having her belly rubbed. I stopped by my friend Christy’s house today to bring her some pink sparkle needlepoint thread. Her female King Charles Cavalier Spaniel Lucy jumped up on the sofa next to me and rolled over on her back in the rub-my-belly position just like Shay. Lucy was happy to stay next to me as long as I was rubbing her stomach.
This must be a purely canine gene trait because I can not imagine anything worse than having someone rub my stomach, not just rub it, even touch it. Even if I were young, and had totally flat and fit abs I cannot imagine wanting anyone to touch it, let alone rub it.
Since a female dog’s belly is not rubbed during the creation of puppies I don’t think there is any pleasure of that nature, so what is it? Why do our dogs love to get their belly’s rubbed so much? I am not going to venture further into that question instead just be happy that my happiness is not dependent on getting my belly rubbed. Quite the opposite – thank goodness no one is attempting to touch my belly!
Yesterday I got a phone call out of the blue from a man who I had not heard from for at least ten years. He and his then wife used to do some work around my house. They were a young couple from the country who were very honest, hard working, but not always reliable. They had two young boys and I tried to help them as much as I could, but after giving them many breaks I finally had to tell them I no longer had work for them after one too many let downs.
I had not seen them or thought about them until oddly about two weeks ago I ran across their names in my contact list and I wondered what had ever happened to them. Funny how sometimes I find my self-thinking about someone and suddenly they appear in my life.
I don’t usually answer my home phone anymore, but for some reason when it rang yesterday afternoon I picked it up without looking at the number calling. It was the man, who I will call S. His voice was immediately recognizable to me, but a little weaker. He apologized for calling telling me that he was at a very bad place in his life and just did not know who else to call.
I knew it had to be true that things were very bad for him, because I had been a very tough employer, never missing an opportunity to give him a lesson on how to be a better employee. He explained that his wife had left him three years ago, and he was now homeless and was looking for work.
I honestly did not have any work for him to do since my current yardmen were out in the garden at that very moment and my house was perfectly clean. But I kept talking with him. I asked him how long he had been homeless, if he had a car or a phone and if he had gone to the Durham Rescue Mission? He said he had recently been attacked and was stabbed 17 times. I told him I had not work for him, but I would give him some money.
While I waited for him to arrive with a friend who would give him a ride I asked Carter if she remembered him and his wife since they had worked here from the time she was born until she was about six. She had no memory of them, but got a worried look on her face. I told her there was nothing to be afraid of. I was not letting him in the house, but would talk with him in the driveway. I tried to explain to her that it had to be very bad after all these years for him to call me and I just could not ignore his true need. I also knew that if I got a chance to see him face-to-face I could encourage him to go and get help.
He was not a drinker or a drug addict, just someone who tried to take the easy way out. That almost always catches up with a person. When S. arrived I was out in the driveway. He got out of the car and shook my hand. The woman with him also got out and introduced herself to me and shook my hand, then got back in the car. He was thin and I could see the cuts from the stabbing. I talked frankly with S about where his life was going.
I had written the phone number of the Rescue Mission down on a piece of paper, which I took out of my pocket. I gave it to him and said that I was not a plan on how to turn his life around and that he needed to get help from people who were professionals at this. Inside the car, the woman was nodding her head in agreement. S said that he never forgot my talking squarely to him and told me about a time I told him, “Never do something in the daytime, that will cause you not to be able to sleep at night.” I don’t remember saying that, but it sounds like me.
He said he was ready to go get help. I reached in my pocket and gave him the cash I had on hand. I told him that he did not have to pay me back, but he had to go get help. He thanked me and told me he would eat that night. I told him to get something healthy. He got in the car and they waived as they drove off.
I came in the house and I called down to Carter that he had come and gone. She came upstairs sobbing. “I was afraid,” she said. I told her that he was not scary and it felt like the right thing to do. We talked for a while and I laughed when she told me she had been huddling in her room with her toy musket from Bennett farms texting with her Daddy who told her, “Your Mom has got this, don’t worry.”
I reminded Carter that people are mostly good and if we treat everyone with dignity bad things usually don’t happen. I want my child to learn to be smart and not put herself in harms way, but still have compassion and learn to pay it forward. These are hard lessons to teach. I did ask her what she was planning on doing with her toy musket.
If someone were to speak to me in almost every foreign language I doubt I would understand anything they say. Now I did take French and go to school in France, but that was back when I drank. I know that my French was much better after a glass of wine, but after three glasses no one understood me in any language.
I am a little better at reading foreign languages as long as they are a Latin based alphabet. I am not saying I could read literature, but if you give me a menu I can usually figure out what the food is. This is not based on my knowledge of many languages, but more on my total immersion in food.
Today I was shopping at the local Asian market, Li Ming where I was the only gringo in the place. I was looking for a certain type of vinegar and since most of the labels are in characters I can not tell are Chinese or Korean I had to use my in depth knowledge of food to figure out, without actually opening the bottles.
One problem I have when shopping at Li Ming is that they do their merchandising based on the manufacture and not the item. This means that if you are looking for Hoisin Sauce it appears on ten or twelve different shelves all over the store. So when trying to find lemongrass vinegar I could not just stand in the vinegar section and compare one bottle to the next. I had to roam the store just figure out if their were any vinegars made by each manufacture and then see if I could find a picture of a lemongrass stalk on the bottle.
Despite my menu reading talent I was unable to learn to read Korean today. I finally broke down and asked a woman wearing rubber gloves who worked in the store. Her command of English was about as good as my Mandarin. A smile and a head shaking was all I got. Then I went to see the fishmonger in the store, figuring he had to interact with customers so maybe he could speak English. Yes, on a little English, no on knowing where anything was, he was the fish guy.
Finally I did what I always do when I can’t find a prepared food item I am looking for I decided to make it myself. I bought rice vinegar and some fresh lemon grass and brought it home to steep. One of the skills in speaking food is being able to figure out a work around when all else fails you. Too bad Carter gave up taking Chinese two years ago, not that I think she ever learned the character for lemongrass or vinegar, but maybe she could have talked to the lady in the rubber gloves for me.
Happy Mother’s Day! It sounds like a kind thing to say on this day that is dedicated to Mothers, but is it? I feel lucky that I still have a mother who is healthy and young as well as having a daughter that makes me a happy mother, but on this day I am thinking that it is a sad day for some.
I am at the age where many of my friends have lost their mothers or are spending time taking care of sick mothers. So to those of you who are sitting by their bedsides or are grieving this first mother’s day without your Mother I want to send out special hugs to you. It is hard to celebrate your own motherhood, when you are feeling the loss of the woman who nurtured and loved you all of your life.
Then there are the friends and family members who lost their mothers long ago. Russ’ cousin Jeremy, whose own mother passed away when he was just a little boy put a message on Facebook early this morning that just read, “Call your mother.” To many is might have sounded like a reminder, but to me it was especially sad since I knew that he and his two brothers, Mike and Jonathan have gone so many years without a mother. Russ and his siblings lost their mother over twenty-two years ago so until I became a mother this was not really a holiday in our house either, more a day to remember.
The group of people who are most on my mind on this day are the many friends who have lost a child. I have too many contemporaries who fall into this group and to all of you please know that I am sending you double extra special hugs. I hate when the press called Princess Charlotte “The spare.” To all the mother’s who lost a child I know that even if they have other children they never considered any of them “a spare.” You will always be a mother and never stop missing a child who left us too early. I hope that if nothing else you know I am thinking of you on this day and sending you lots of love.
Then there are the people who desperately wanted to be mothers and for one reason or another are not. I hope this day is not hard for you. Or to mothers who are estranged from their children, I am sorry. Days of celebration should not be days of torture for some, but sometimes they are.
Whatever this day means to you I hope that you can get through it the best way possible. To my own mother I want her to know that I love her and that she made me the mother I am. I feel extraordinarily lucky and don’t discount any day I get on earth with both my mother and my daughter.
Today a group of wonderful friends took me out to celebrate my birthday. Considering how my actual birthday went with my poor sick husband and daughter I was really looking forward to this lunch. It was a beautiful day and one of the perks of a May birthday is you can enjoy a party outdoors so we picked out favorite ladies who lunch spot with a good terrace.
After we were seated for a few minutes perusing the menu deciding between the Chopped Salad and the Jumbo Lump Blue Crab Salad a head restaurant guy came by and apologized for giving us the wrong menu. Our menu of many salad choices was replaced with a much-abbreviated list of a few salads, one of which was a surf and turf wedge at $31. What?!$%$#$ Who pays $31 for a lunch salad?
The bait and switch was explained to us that it was Duke Graduation weekend and even though the actual graduation day is not until Sunday they change the menu four days in advance so that people don’t see one menu one day and want something off that same menu the next day when they come back. Wait, wait, wait, we saw one menu and picked what we wanted and in a matter of moments it was ripped from our hands.
When our actual waitress came to take our orders she told us she thought she might be able to get us the chopped salad off the old menu. So we ordered seven of them. The same head restaurant guy came outside ten minutes later to give us the bad news that the kitchen had not prepped for that salad and we could not have it. BOO HOO. Outside of the $31 salad the others were a very poor representation of what was possible in the salad world, but we settled on one anyway.
Half way through the meal the same head guy sent us champagne as an apology. Classy move, but as a non-drinker it did nothing for me. Of course the birthday celebration was all about being with good friends, but I am going to whine about the graduation menu anyway. It just is not my year for my birthday to go without a bump. I know it sounds spoiled and selfish to complain at all, but I only ask for one day and now I have to shut up and wait another year for that one day and who knows how many one days I have left.
Thanks to my friends who tried hard to make everything perfect. I’m not standing here stamping my foot, holding my breath, being a brat about you, but really, how hard is it to get a chopped salad? I’ll go back to pretending to be gracious tomorrow, but then again you know me, I am never gracious!
In the world of food “sprialized” is a hot commodity. If you have no idea what I am talking about it is the fashionable way to cut things like zucchini or carrots into ribbons or spaghetti shapes. The idea of cutting vegetables into ribbons got hot when the Atkins diet came back since people wanted to find “pasta” replacements. Amazingly the brain can almost be fooled into thinking you are eating pasta if you cut a squash into long thin strips and cover it with sauce. The shapes and sizes you cut food into actually does have an effect on how it tastes in your mouth.
Knowing that I have a large number of squash plants in my garden I decided I needed to see if I like “Spiralized” food. I did not want to invest in another large gadget so when I saw this small hand spiral cutter I thought I would give it a go. The long and the short of it is I liked the way the ribboned food tasted in the salad I made, but the gadget I got leaves a lot to be desired.
First it is dangerous because the very sharp blades are fairly exposed. Second, I could only spiral about ¾ of any given vegetable because when it got too short I could not turn it in the contraption without cutting myself. Third, I had no control over the size of the ribbons and some were too thin. All that being said the salad I made using the gadget was delicious and I could tell a difference in the taste between the zucchini I “Spiraled” and the bits I cut up with a knife. The bottom line I might want to invest in a real spiral machine.
Asian Spiral Salad
5 packets of Splenda
¼ cup of Mirin
¼ cup of fish sauce
¼ cup of line juice
1 tiny hot green pepper diced as small as possible
3 Zucchini – Spiral Cut
1 Carrot- Spiral cut
1 bag of angel hair cabbage
1 avocado cubed
2 ears of corn- cooked and cut off the cob
1 giant handful of cilantro chopped
3 cooked chicken thighs chopped
¼ c. of slated peanuts- chopped
Mix it all together and it is a mighty fine meal.