Carrot Cake Extraordinaire

Years ago I read about a woman’s secret to the best carrot cake was using puréed carrot baby food in her cake. I liked the idea of purée, but was a little yucked out about the baby food part of it. I went so far as to look at baby food jars in the store and was shocked at the price. To get a cup and a half of carrot purée would cost me four dollars, but I only needed 80¢ worth of carrots to get the same.

So I decided I would make my own chunky carrot purée that would be a cross between baby food and raw carrots. It made a superior cake

1 1/2 cups of mashed cooked carrots – recipe below

3 cups of flour

2 1/2 cups of sugar

1 1/2 t. Salt

1 T. baking soda

1 1/2 T cinnamon

1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil

4 jumbo or 5 regular eggs

1 T. Vanilla

1 cup crushed pineapple – lightly drained

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1 1/2 cups of shredded coconut

Take about four peeled carrots and place them in a sauce pan with 1 T. Or sugar and 1 t. Salt and enough water to cover them. Cover the pot and put on medium heat and cook gently until the carrots are soft. Drain the water and using a potato masher, smash up the carrots.

Preheat the oven to 350° and prep two 9” cake pans.

In a big bowl mix the dry ingredients. In a big measuring cup, beat the eggs and add the oil and the vanilla and then pour into the dry and mix together. It will be stiff.

Fold in the carrot mash, pineapple, coconut and pecans.

Divide between the cake pans. Place on middle rack and bake for 40-45 mins. Until the middle is not jiggly.

Set on cooling rack and then chill the cake layer for a few hours.


12 Oz. Of cream cheese at room temp

8 oz. Of softened butter

4 cups of powdered sugar

2 T. Lemon juice

In a stand mixer cream the butter add and cream cheese together. Add the powdered sugar in thirds beating between additions. Add the lemon juice and beat until combined.

Chill the frosting for half an hour.

Frost the cake. I made little carrots with marzipan and gel food coloring.

Your Child’s Life or your Gun

Today in NC our Legislators voted to override the Governor’s veto on a bill that removes the need for back ground checks for gun permits. TODAY! After what happened in Nashville yesterday. If Tennessee had back ground checks, yesterday’s shooter probably would not have been permitted to buy seven guns legally.

At this point all I have to say is we have a choice, the life of your child or the right to carry your gun. That is the choice. Are you really choosing a gun over your child? I know there are those of you who believe that by having a gun you are protecting your child, but not when they aren’t with you. Then someone else might have a gun and shoot your child.

The data proves that more children are dying by gun shots that any other reason, not cancer or car accidents or any other illness. Guns. You can’t take a baby home from the hospital without an approved car seat that has been inspected to make sure it is installed correctly, but someone can buy a gun and shoot their way into your child’s school and kill them.

Your child’s life or your gun, which one do you chose?

Intergenerational Mah Jongg

Yesterday I finished teaching a group of young women and four of their Mom’s. There is nothing better than a good intergenerational Mah Jongg group. I so cherish my friends of many ages who I have played Mah Jongg with over the last 30 years.

When the group played their last hands of the class and started to pack up the games, their class leader Jenna, who had organized their class, asked if we could get a photo. She wondered if they might be in the blog. Of course and of course. They were such a fun group who took to the game very quickly.

Tonight I had a different group of thirty something’s. They are quickly becoming addicted. As I had taught some of their mothers or mother-in-laws we discussed how great it will be at family vacations that they can all play Mah Jongg together.

Playing games together is one of the best ways to spend time together, especially with in-laws. Suddenly there are no grudges about who got cut from the wedding list due to space constraints or the slight someone felt from being told her stuffing was not needed at thanksgiving is no longer important because you have laughed and had fun together.

No one pulls a hamstring playing Mah Jongg. There is so much grace given in playing together as everyone celebrates the winner and commiserates over losing.

If you want something the whole family, including kids as young as 8, can do together, learn Mah Jongg. It will keep you all young and happy.

Happy Birthday Kathi

My lack of calendar awareness yesterday was remedied today. I knew I had a teeth cleaning first thing in the morning. I was home by 10:15 this morning and had a good four hours to complete the making of the birthday cake for my friend Kathi. It was plenty of time given that I had baked the cake last night and the layers were chilling in the fridge.

What my kitchen looked like after completing the cake

My plan was to make a carrot cake with marzipan carrots. Not that hard a job, but the hurricane of a mess that I made in the kitchen looks like a different story. I was well pleased with the final outcome, although not of the lighting of my photo.

Those birds were not on the cake

Kathi was very happy with the look of the cake when I brought it to her. She is such a visual person that how the cake looks is the most important thing. Thankfully she also liked the taste, especially of the frosting.

I was happy to celebrate her and am hoping that she has a most excellent and very healthy next year.

When Your Plan Bumps Into Your Calendar

I didn’t sleep well last night. I woke up after four hours sleep and never really went back to bed. No problem, I thought. I have an easy Sunday. I even thought, “I have an easy week.”

The plan was to watch CBS Sunday morning, go to church, needlepoint most of the day, trying to finish something on deadline and bake a cake for a friend’s birthday. If the weather permitted I might work in the garden. What a nice spring Sunday.

It all started out fine. I watched Sunday morning while needlepointing. Got dressed for church. Russ and I were the second ones in the pews besides the choir. I pulled out my needlepoint, yes I stitch at church and my pastor is fine with it. I said hello to the Wolfs. Then I looked at my watch to turn it to theatre mode which would silence and darken it. As I did that I noticed a calendar entry. Mah Jongg Class for a new group today. OH Shit!

I looked at my phone. Sure enough I had forgotten that I had scheduled a new group for four hours of lessons today and tomorrow. I also noticed that I had lessons Tuesday and Wednesday night. How had this slipped my mind. Last week when I taught I had a little thought that I had a small break before the New Mah Jongg card came out April 1. Apparently I had blanked out on the fact that I had people dying to learn Mah Jongg.

Not only did I need to be in Raliegh at 12:45 I realized that I was out of Mah Jongg Cards, because why would I need more when this card is only good for five more days.

I looked at Russ and told him I had to go. So before the prelude even started I got up and exited Church. Russ said people asked if I was sick. Yes, just in the head. I should have looked at my calendar.

Thankfully, I got all the supplies, and made it to the class and the students were none the wiser. I might have been a little short with one student, but then I turned back into the “this is the most fun game in the world teacher,” and all was fine.

The cake is in the oven now and I plan on finishing it tomorrow. So much for the needlepoint. At least I did not miss class with a group who had such difficulty finding agreeable times we are doing the whole thing in two longer sessions, rather than three. I am certain to have nightmares now about not showing up for class. I better pay better attention to my calendar a few days in advance.

Plants, Plants and More Plants

It was warm yesterday and I got the gardening bug. Russ and I got up early to go to the Durham Farmer’s market before my Mom was scheduled to come over. We didn’t get out as early as I wanted, but still pulled up just before nine. Russ and I looked over at the pavilion and there were just a few trucks just beginning to set up. Apparently the Farmer’s market is still on winter hours. Next week they open at eight, the time I am used to them opening.

With the looming deadline of my mother’s arrival Russ and I couldn’t wait until 10 so we went to Stone Bros. new location, just down Washington st. I was in the market for a few herbs, lettuces, kale and some ground cover. They had exactly what I was looking for.

The new Stone Brothers location is much bigger with more parking than the old location. They are adding a bigger nursery on the side. Inside the look was very familiar with the seed bins and old shelves.

I talked with the owner and complimented him on the new location, noting that it must had been a lot of work to make the move. He said they closed on Friday, moved everything and opened on Sunday. I am happy to have them still downtown.

The plants I got were exactly what I was looking for. The farmers market will have to wait until next week. I’ll want more plants then and the week after that and the week after that.

The Fireworks of Lady Banks

We skipped Spring today and bore full head-on into summer. It was 87° outside according to my trusty Apple Watch. The warmth compelled me to go out and sprinkle some arugula seeds in one of my raised beds. I should have done it earlier as they do fine in colder weather, but this warmth should be a good kick start to the germination.

My Lady Banks Roses are starting the spectacular show season. The yellow one above my front door is in full bloom. I photographed it too late in the day to get to really enjoy the color, but you can get an idea.

The humongous white version that acts as a canopy to our double width garage door has a spit of white blooms showing, but a bridal veils worth of tiny buds readying themselves to a full fireworks show in a day or two.

The weather says it is going to rain tomorrow. I hope it is light enough not to totally deflower the tender roses. They are such a short lived joy, but what a great show they put on.

Margaret was Right

Years ago my sister Margaret had the idea for a chicken salad restaurant. Chicken salad is well loved in our family. We like all kinds of chicken salad, regular, curried, fruit and nut. We didn’t exactly think that Margaret’s idea was viable. We were wrong.

Today I visited Chicken Salad Chick, an all chicken salad restaurant. The place was jammed. People were enjoying many different kinds of chicken salad, just as Margaret had imagined.

I had a scoop of fruit and nut chicken salad. It was good, but not as good as Margaret’s.

The place is a chain and this franchise was not brand new so clearly the community has embraced it.

I want to apologize to my sister for not supporting her idea full on years ago when she first had it.

All New

Last Friday I went to see Art in Bloom with friends. Michelle offered to drive and when we got to lunch, not wanting to possibly scratch her beautiful car, I barley opened the front door to slither out between the next car. As I did my glasses slid off my old chain around my neck and fell on the ground. I only realized this had happened when I stepped on them and broke them.

I think the average life of a pair of glasses is a year with me and my chains last about six months longer. I hate when I have to replace them because it never fails that the pair I had and loved has been discontinued.

This was the case with my Eyebob half rims. They have the frame, but not in tortoise and I am not interested in turquoise. So I went to Amazon and found both new chains and new glasses. I ordered two of each.

The chains came first and in a big improvement came with a second set of the rubber connectors for the arms of the glasses. They even made the way they are attached to the chains a lobster clip so I don’t have to get needle nose pliers to repair them.

The glasses came today and were only $14 as opposed to $95 for Eyebobs. They are a good substitute, especially for the money.

I am thankful that the internet existed before I started needed glasses. If I had to go to a store every time I broke a pair of glasses I would double the number of stores I visit in a year.

I am going to try and keep a better eye on the chains and make sure they are not getting too lose. It will be easier now that I have replacement parts.

That’s the thing about getting older. You don’t always need a whole new thing, sometimes you just need a new part.

A Nicely Worded Letter

Yesterday my friends at the Food Bank gave me a nice bouquet to thank me for creating and running a Fundraiser for them in the Mah Jongg Tournament. When Harry brought the flowers out to me as I was picking the car I thanked him and said, “Don’t do that again.”

It was such a nice gesture, but unneeded by me. I am perfectly happy with a nicely worded letter. (Which he also gave me in a card.)

I know that some people love a thank you gift. I am not someone that needs one. If we make a donation somewhere, I don’t need recognition. When NPR asks if I want the premium I always say no, but I also have never been called to say we won the trip to Paris.

When I have worked on campaigns, even as a chair, I do not want a gift acknowledging that I was part of the campaign. It often irks me when I go in the home of someone who “volunteered” to be part of campaign, but never actually did anything, and see the Simon Pierce commemorative bowl proudly displayed in their house giving the impression they had something to do with the campaign.

As I used to tell Carter when she would ask me what I wanted for Christmas, “Just write me a nicely worded letter.” I don’t want stuff, but I would always want to know how you feel.

Don’t thank me with a thing I have to think you for. Just tell me “Thanks.” I will enjoy these flowers, but they were not necessary.

Tournament Day!

Today was the big day—The first Mah Jongg Tournament to benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC.

In spite of the last minute people who were unable to make it, we had a very successful day. Thanks to all the players who came out for a fun day of play and lunch.

We played three rounds, players changing tables at each round so they got to play with different people at each round. In the end Debbie Murray was the big winner, followed by Vicki Witte and Laura Raynor. I was so proud at how well everyone played.

The winners!

None of this tournament would have been possible without my friends Christy and Deanna who came today to help me. Deanna also helped me borrow the card tables we needed for the set up.

Some of the players who stayed until the end

The Food Bank Staff, especially Kristin, Kendra and Harry who did and outstanding helping me with all the details, like setting up and organizing lunch. Speaking of lunch we had a yummy meal from Sassool.

Before lunch I gave the players a tour of the food bank on the way to lunch where Ashley the new CEO of the Food Bank gave a little talk and got to meet the players. It was a good chance to explain why the Food Bank is important to me and the community.

Since this tournament was such a success we will certainly have another one next year. We will hopefully make it bigger and better.

No Rest for the Wicked or the Weary or Both

I think I qualify for this, more weary than wicked. Usually weekends are my recovery days. This weekend was the opposite. I had that big plumbing morning yesterday. Our friends arrived in the afternoon and we had so much fun with them staying up much later than I should have.

When we all went to bed Russ was out as he was only half way into full repose. I, on the other hand, stayed up and wrote my blog, played a game of Catan online and could not turn off and go to sleep until well past one. My extrovertedness was on full speed ahead having our friends here.

I woke up at my normal early time, despite needing at least another two or three hours sleep. Russ made our family special slow eggs for all of us for breakfast. While he stirred away on those he and Doug talked business in the kitchen and Penny and I enjoyed the warmth of the sunroom, lulling us into believing it was a perfect spring day. (It looked good, but felt crazy cold.)

After breakfast Doug and Penny had to go and it was sad to see them leave. The greatest thing about having fun guests is you totally forget all the stuff you should be doing. Suddenly it hit me I had a lot of work to prepare for my Food Bank Mah Jongg Tournament tomorrow. Then I was off to Raleigh to teach Mah Jongg to a new group of young women.

As my Apple Maps was guiding me to the house I realized I was going to a house three doors away from a house I taught at this fall. I asked the hostess if she knew her neighbor. She didn’t, but when I told her she was also new Mah Jongg player she vowed to go meet her. I sometimes wonder how long it will take me to blanket the city of Oaks with Mah Jongg as I so often am teaching at multiple houses on the same street.

I got home just in time to meet my cousin Leigh for an overdue visit. After she left I hit the wall. Finally too many people caught up with me. I am crashing by 8:30 tonight.

When Old Friends you Love Come to Visit

At the beginning of the week I had my favorite plumbers at the house to fix a running toilet and a leaky kitchen faucet. My plumbers resemble the Smother’s brothers in both looks and attitudes. The shorter one, John said to me, “We are not taking on any new customers because we don’t plan on working long enough to train them.”

“I hope you consider me a well trained customer,” I replied.

“Yes, you know exactly what to call us for and what not to call us for.”

This morning I woke up early to clean the kitchen in preparation of our good friends the Soder’s to come and spend the night on the first leg of their North Carolina vacation. Russ was still in Boston and wouldn’t be home until lunch time so I had a long list of chores I had no one else to pawn off on.

As I was standing at the kitchen sink pulling out the hose that the faucet was attached to I heard a pop. Water started spraying all over the kitchen. I shut off the faucet, but not before water came pouring out from the cabinet beneath the sink. So much for washing the kitchen floor first thing.

Although I had been carefully trained not to call my plumbers on Saturday morning I felt that this was an exception. John answered my call and I apologized but explained the situation. He came right over and looked at the hose. The prognosis was not good was the gist after a long tirade about how this country is going to hell with the loss of quality.

The new hose was defective and there was no way to obtain another one until next week. “My dear college friend and his wife, who used to work with me are coming to spend the night. I need water in the kitchen.”

John went home and found the old hose he had taken off my sink on Monday. He Mcguyvered a part from the old hose which he was able to use to fix me up. He thinks he has me trained, but I have him trained.

At lunch Russ arrived home and the house was clean. By four Doug and Penny were here and dinner was prepped and we had the best time catching up, telling stories and reminiscing.

After dinner Russ did the dishes and the kitchen faucet held up fine. Thank goodness my best plumber knows that when I tell him some really good friends are coming to spend the night that is important to me and he helps me out. Of course he felt bad that the part was defective, but I don’t hold that against him. I’m just glad he answers my call at eight on a Saturday morning.

See when old friends come to visit you want to have water. When friends you adore come to visit you want water. So when old friends you love come to visit you must have water. Thanks John.

Art in Bloom

This was a favorite

I love going to Art in Bloom, the flower show at the NC Museum of Art that has flower designs inspired by different works of art for a week every spring. I have attended a few times and the anticipation is always great.

This year I went with my friends Michelle, Kathi and Christy. We made a day of it going to lunch at Bella Monica first. (Thanks to Holly for the recommendation.) As we are all Art and/or flower lovers it was a fun group to go with. I was surprised everyone had not been to see Art in Bloom before so it was a check in the bucket list.

Art in bloom assigns different works of art to be inspirations for each flower designer. Some art is harder than others. This year I felt like there were fewer spectacular arrangements, but perhaps it could have been thanks to the works of art they were given.

On the top of the stump on the right there is a small projector
And this is what it looks like from the front

There was also the theme of “film and movies” for some big works and they were more consistently hits to me. One large piece we all loved was an imagining of a film projector and a TV screen together. You can see from our picture that we were reflected back in TV screen mirror.

One of the trader’s Joe’s designers by his beautiful piece

One of the most colorful and large installations came from of all places Trader Joe’s. One of the designers was there and I had a chance to talk with him about his piece that was on the theme of music on film.

This was inspired by the wire sculpture on the right back corner
This is the other side

Another favorite of mine was a piece that was all white on one side and an explosion of color on the other. I like bold colors and greens. I was not as enamored in the black, brown and caramel colored flowers used in many pieces. Brown roses do nothing for me so I didn’t take any photos of them.

We did have fun making our own art by standing in front of a camera that reflected us as a mosaic imagine. When you were looking at it in real time it was harder to see yourself, but taking a photo of it stopped the action and you could really see each person well.

Making our own art, Christy and Kathi in a mosaic
Me and Michelle

Overall I feel like a few pieces were too literal this year as some used too many non-flower elements to represent symbols in the art. I know that making these works is a great art unto itself and perhaps I am too critical as I expect to be wowed every year. Nonetheless it was such a fun day to spend with friends.

Why I do What I Shouldn’t

Why do I alway stop and read any article about having the best smelling laundry or how to keep my house dust free when I am the most busy? In the last 36 hours I taught five 3-hour Mah Jongg classes, drove to and from Raleigh twice, three of the four legs were in rush hours, answered 67 emails and 102 texts and still have a pile of work to do to get ready for visiting guests this weekend and a Mah Jongg class on Sunday and Mah Jongg tournament I am running on Monday.

Given how tired I am and all I have to do why in the world would I ever click on Instagram? That was my first mistake. When I did click I was immediately drawn into a Real Simple story about what Martha Stewart says about leaving wet laundry in the machine over night.

Apparently I do this so I have something to write my blog about. All kidding aside, I recently learned that humans do these mindless things as a way of giving our minds a break from the real work we have to do.

It is much easier to read than it is to write. So reading someone else’s article is easier than writing my blog. But I still don’t know why I need to know about laundry right at that moment. I rarely leave laundry in the washer so it’s not like this is a pressing concern for me.

There is something inherently human about the need to not do something we know we should do. I am fairly good at making lists and doing things in order. Except for gathering and organizing our tax information. I know for months I need to do it. There is no reason not to, but somehow it is way down my priority list. (I promise I’ll start tomorrow.)

I wonder what are the things you put off? Also what are your procrastination tools? I can’t be the only one who decides to look at Pinterest for 20 minutes when I know I should go to the post office and mail that package to my sister which has been sitting here for a week. By the time I finish with Pinterest and remember the package the post office is closed.

The only good news about my scrolling is my laundry is fairly good smelling, but I still have not actually figured out how to keep my house dust free.

No Time to Write

I left home this morning at 7:45 AM and got home at 9:45 PM. Teaching three Mah Jongg classes in a day leaves me little time to think about writing anything interesting, let alone doing anything novel. So I am posting photos of my evening class who finished their lessons tonight. We had lots of happy Mah Jonggs.

I want to thank the Cute Emily Warren who organized this group of wonderful friends to come learn. I think they have a lifetime of playing ahead of them.

I must sleep now because I have to leave again at 7:45 to go back and teach tomorrow.

The Most Difficult Question

Russ and I have been married 11,281 days, give of take a leap day or two. In that time the most often asked question has been, “What do you want for dinner?” This question is usually met with a puzzling look, like the idea of what you want to eat has never been asked of you before. What the hell, I asked you this the last fifteen days in a row and I will ask you the next fifteen. It should never come as a surprise that we are going to have dinner.

In all fairness, Russ keeps and fairly extensive list of dishes he would like to eat or that he would like me to cook. I know when I ask him this question he is tempering his answer with the thought that he wants to give me option of something that I also might want, or more to the point, should eat.

If I were someone who could eat anything and become a size six, Russ would just say “Pizza,”but he nicely does not mention that word knowing full well that Pizza is a special occasion food for me.

I am happy to cook anything Russ comes up with, but I am tired of coming up with the idea and cooking it. So all I ask is give me a hint what you feel like eating. I don’t even mind making you one thing and me something else, as long as I can make enough of yours that you eat it multiple meals. (Sadly Pizza is the multiple meal best choice as it is good for breakfast lunch and dinner.)

I guess that Russ and I could have another 11,281 days left in us. What I fear is that “what do you want for dinner?” Is going to be the most difficult question for the rest of our lives.

I am considering writing down every possible dinner idea on little slips of paper and just putting them in a jar. Russ would be able to add his own ideas. At the beginning of the week I will pull out three of them and just cook whatever it says. We basically eat Chicken, Salmon or some veggie thing every day so I would be certain to have the ingredients on hand. Russ likes most everything I cook so this could end the questioning all together.

What do you want for dinner will be changed into…This is what I cooked. I think it could be a game changer.

New Stuff Once in a While

I am usually anti-accumulation. I try hard to not let stuff rule my world. I know I already have too much stuff and caring for it takes up too much time.

Sadly there are categories of stuff I have a hard time withstanding. One example is needlepoint projects. I try and keep the amount of stash down by relegating it all to one large scout bag. It is amazing how much I can pack in that bag. Thank goodness it is opened topped.

In my quest to not add more to our house I try and discourage non-consumable gifts. Do you want to give me 12 rolls of Viva paper towels? I will be devoted to you. If you show up with a seasonal pillow I will be hard pressed to find a place for it. I already have more pillows than chairs.

So when my sister sent me seven metal birds I was unsure where they were going to go. Turns out that flock of birds looks fabulous on my breakfast room table. The spring sunshine bathes them in a happy light.

Thanks Margret for your good eye and generous heart. Sometimes new stuff finds a home in my house. This means I am going to have to find something else that will have to go. Maybe a pillow.

A Slap In the Face

Until today we have had no winter to speak of, so I really should complain but… when I woke up this morning it was snowing. It wasn’t much snow, but to have the one-two punch of spring forward and snow on the same day seemed like a slap in the face.

We had a beautiful Spring all through January and February and right on time March brought us our coldest weather and a dusting of sleet and snow. I had to turn our heat back on yesterday when I have hardly used it in 2023.

Thankfully I did not succumb to the warm weather and put my vegetables in early. People had been asking me if I had done it and I said that we could still get frost until April 15 so no warm weather plants will go in before that. Secretly I was hoping to be proven wrong and just to continue the beautiful weather we had until now.

Of course this smattering of snow that collected on my windshield before church was gone by the time the benediction came. But it is still cold and rainy and dark all day. Fitting for the worse day of the year when we are robbed of an hour. Please let the government pass the law to not let us change our clocks. We are not the Almighty. We can’t give time or take it away. We are just moving it around.

I do find it fitting that on the day we think we control time, God says,”Ha,” and gives us snow. I know who really is in charge here and it ain’t us.

Oscars Without Opinion

For most of my adult life I have loved going to the movies. By the time the Oscars would come around I had seen all the nominated movies and plenty of others I thought should have been nominated. I would watch the awards and scream at the TV when movies I loved did not win and screamed when movies I did love won.

Then came the pandemic. Like all the world, I could not go to the movies. Then after a year, movie theaters reopened. I did not go. Now two years on I have still not been to a movie theater. Not that there are not movies I want to see, but the idea of sitting in a room with a bunch of other people to watch something that I could watch on my giant TV at home seems unappealing.

This year I had not watched one movie that is nominated. I realized this the other day so I watched The Banshees of Inisherin. I enjoyed it, but was not blown away. Today I had lots of house work so I decided to watch a couple more nominees. I picked ones that are free on one of the many streaming services we pay for.

The first one I watched was Elvis. It was very good, fun, but also not blown away. Tonight I am watching Women Talking. I find it to be my favorite of the three I have watched. But it is a small and intimate picture that probably shows well on a TV watched alone.

I am not sure if I am going to bother watching the Academy awards. I am sure the highlights will be enough. Then I can watch the winning movies.

If you had asked me forty years ago if I would ever stop going to the movies and loving movies and the Academy Awards I would say, “Not on your life.” This is probably one of the biggest manifestations from the Pandemic for me. It is not the worst thing.

Non-Mah Jongg Day

My friend Suzanne complained that I was teaching too much Mah Jongg and so my blog was Mah Jongg heavy. So today’s non-Mah jongg blog is dedicated to Suzanne who is probably not going to think needlepoint is any more interesting.

This was a day off for me and I did only fun things. First I went to lunch with my friend Lynn who I definitely have not seen enough of. Between my work and her Pickle ball we are on opposite trains on opposite tracks going in opposite directions. It was great to be with her in a Durham restaurant where I also ran into three other people I knew.

After lunch I was off to Chapel Hill Needlepoint for my monthly time at the stitchers table. I have a giant needlepoint project I have been thinking about doing for a while. I started planning it in earnest last month and purchased the 110 inches of canvas I need. Today I picked out my fibers and as soon as tomorrow I am going to draw my first canvas. I have the paints I need to paint it, but I might skip that step.

The project is to make seats for my four game table chairs. When I went to the upholster so he could measure the chair and make me a template I was astounded by the size. I have to stitch basically a 25 inch by 27 inch canvas.

One of my stitching table friends Lisa asked me if I was actually going to finish this project. Before I could answer Vicki declared that I would. At this point I will have to finish them because I will have such a huge investment in materials it would be a sin not to finish them.

I can’t start tonight because I still need to finish my ornament for one of my Christmas exchanges. I made the mistake of designing my own very complicated big ornament for my two exchanges. I have finished one, and have only done one sixth of the other.

This means my blog is not going to get any more interesting because when I am not teaching I am going to be stitching. Sorry Suzanne.

Best Wedding Advice

I called my college BFF Suzanne today because her beautiful daughter Grace just got engaged to Paul and I wanted to discuss the whole thing with her. Suzanne and I were each other’s Maids of Honor so we have a deep wedding history together.

I am yet to have a chance to talk with Grace directly, so I thought I would share my best wedding advice with her here. As a brides maid 17 times, a wedding caterer hundreds of times and a wedding director at church many times I have seen the best and the worst of weddings.

Two things I witnessed at weddings make up the basis of my advice. The first came from a wedding of my childhood baby sitter. The name we all called her was Kimmy, but we came to find out at the wedding her real name is Lisa. Her Fiancé Alex was also a good friend of our family as he had helped us paint our house more than one summer and he hung out with my Dad plenty.

Alex and Kimmy got married at the Congregational church in our town. The minister, Dr. Bender, had a very strong German accent. When he got to the vows, he said to Alex, “Repeat after me, ‘I take thee Lissel.’” And Alex, imitating Dr. Bender’s German accent perfectly said, “I take thee Lissel.”

The congregation broke out in laughter. Dr. Bender asked Alex to use his own accent.

The second story comes from a wedding I catered early in my catering career in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. I was staying at college over the summer since I was renovating my college house. I was hired by the parents of the bride in town who were willing to take a chance on a college student caterer. I am certain it was all about price.

The wedding was taking place in a church in town and the reception was in the fellowship hall. I had some friends helping me serve. It was a cake and punch kind of reception, with just some finger food and no alcohol. I wanted to get the timing right to put the ginger ale in the punch bowl just before the guests arrived since that was the big drink.

I went to go stand in the narthex to peek through the doors to the sanctuary to see how far along the ceremony was. Before I got to the door I heard a terrible sound of a man singing a cappella. I opened one of the doors just a bit and I saw the groom standing at the alter, singing the Lionel Richie part of the song, “Endless love.” When I thought it couldn’t get any worse the bride jumped in and she was no Diana Ross. It was without a doubt the most embarrassing thing I have witnessed and I only saw a bit of it because I had to run out on the sidewalk so no one could here me screaming in laughter.

My advice to all brides and grooms, use your own speaking voice and don’t use any singing voice. I am not worried that Grace and Paul might do either of these things, but you never know.

The Best Job Because of the People

I can’t think of a job I have ever had where I had so many happy people to deal with. Day in and day out I only have fun at work. Everyone I teach is glad to be there. They all have fun and so do I.

I wish every job was like this. I know that will never be the case. Someone I know well, when asked how work was usually says, “fine, except for the people.”

I am just the opposite. Mine is great because of the people. Thank you to all the people who make my job the best job I have ever had. I really do adore you all.

Working Out by Working

My workout for today is shoveling garden soil. I really like to be productive at the same time I am working out, like farmers everywhere do. Why just work out to work out, when you could build something, clean something, grow something and get the same amount of exercise.

I had five yards of special growing mix delivered this morning. I have made a small dent in it shoveling it into the wheelbarrow and moving it to my vegetable garden to fill my raised beds which have lost some dirt over time.

Shoveling is a good exercise. In involves squatting, lifting, turning and core work at the same time I am doing something good for my garden which will in turn do something good for me by being a place I can growth vegetables.

I know I won’t shovel that whole pile today and tomorrow, but I want to get the bulk of it done before any giant rains come. Shoveling dry dirt is so much easier than wet dirt, even though that gives a better work out. It just takes longer.

So here’s to working out by working.

Newest Mah Jongg Graduates

Sometime around Christmas I got a text from a woman in Charlotte who wanted to give her daughter Mah Jongg Lessons as a present. Little did I know she wanted to give her lessons for a whole class worth of her friends.

I got a text from her daughter after Christmas about scheduling the class. Turns out she was the daughter-in-law of another family I was teaching at that very moment. Mah Jongg is a very family friendly activity.

Tonight was the final class for this wonderful group of Raleigh friends who were lucky enough to receive the gift of the class.

Learning to play a fun game with your friends is just the start to a lifetime of enjoyable moments together. I hope I can teach these friends again.

Wishing you all a lifetime of jokers.

Back to Real Life

Some days I have to do regular-life boring stuff. After seven days in the Bahamas I have a backlog of chores that will take me more time than I will ever have.

I started the day going to church with Russ. Thanks to so many commitments I had missed church for a couple weeks. Lent is not the time to not go to church. I was happy to be back today. It was obvious I had been gone by the greetings I got from friends walking past me after communion on their way back to their seats.

After church I did some grocery shopping. I was uninspired and only bought enough to make a cabbage and rice soup for dinner that was a Melissa Clark recipe in the New York Times this morning. After eating out for every meal for eight days I was happy to eat a simple soup.

I spent the sunny afternoon hours pulling weeds in my vegetable garden. I was cleaning up the raised beds getting ready for planting time. Tomorrow I need to order more soil for my beds as they have settled.

After gardening I changed the sheets with Russ’ help. Shay refused to get off the bed as we were trying to strip the bed, so we eventually had her wrapped in all the bedding and had to lift her off wrapped up so we could remake the bed.

Shay got over being put off the bed by riding in the car with Russ as we dropped my car off to be serviced tomorrow. Oh so many exciting things happened today and somehow I still haven’t unpacked or done the laundry. Tomorrow will be just as exciting I am certain since laundry must be done, and floors need to be vacuumed and, and, and…

Shay Reunion

Russ and I have no let down from leaving a wonderful place because we got to come home to our baby Shay. Nothing is better than having her run to us and literally jump into our arms.

Shay gets to spend time with her friend Mary when we are away. Shay loves going to Mary’s. She runs to say hi to Mary when we drop her off. When we pick her up she is exhausted.

Mary does take her dogs on long walks. I don’t know if that wears Shay out. Perhaps being around other dogs for nine days exhausts her, whichever she is happy to come home and snuggle.

There is nothing better than being in your own bed with your own puppy.

Last Day and Night

Lyford Cay Club has been good to us. We had our final day of class and I adored all my students. At our farewell lunch I sat next to Vivi Brown who had been in class all five days. Somehow at lunch we got on the topic of high school and she asked me where I went and I told her and she laughed and I said, “I went to Walkers too.”

Vivi Carrera-Justiz was in the class five years below me, but we had so many of the same teachers. We shared many Mary Nel stories. What a small world. I knew there was a reason I liked her right off the bat, as she is a Walker’s girl.

After all the farewell’s Russ and I had a great walk on the beach and went swimming in the crystal blue ocean.

It was off to the Holdings for one last boat cocktail party and the fun Nebraska girls came too. We could get used to this, but sadly we have to leave tomorrow.

One last dinner at the yacht club. As we waited for the transport back to the club, I said goodbye to many of the Mah Jongg group leaving dinner. Another couple rode in our transport with us. The driver told them all about how Mah Jongg had taken over this week, (he knew I was the teacher and was waiting for me to speak up.) Turns out the man of the other couple was the bridge teacher. I finally spoke up and he quizzed me about Mah Jongg. No rivalry there.

We got back to our room and I discovered a big bag of gifts from the club. All I can say is I will be happy to come back.

Learning Strategy Should Be Fun

Today was the start of a two day strategy class for Mah Jongg. It was a giant class. We had people from the beginners class decide to come join this one so we had five people to a table at eight tables. Since we weren’t playing, just doing exercises it worked out fine.

Most students were relatively new players so as I would introduce different concepts to them you could hear the light bulbs going off in their heads. The Nebraskans would laugh, “So you were actually a fly on the wall watching us play,” they said when I described mistakes people make.

Teaching people the tricks to be better players is so fun. But teaching people how to think is the most fun.

The manager came into to class at the end today and told me they want to book me for the same time next year. The students were already trying to sign up. The Houston girls told me they are in. I love having repeat students because then they turn into friends.

I guess I know where I’ll be in March 2024. Such a hardship, but someone’s got to do it.

Beginners No More

Today ended our first three-day Beginners classes at Lyford Cay. Both the morning and afternoon classes passed with flying colors. It was so fun to have class members from the Uk, Detroit, Houston, Charlottesville, New York as well as so many North Carolinians and Bahamians, even if just by adoption.

The addiction has already taken place in many of them and all but a couple are coming to the next two-day strategy session along with twenty more people. It is going to be a very full house.

Tonight my friend Ruth E; who set this gig up, had a lovely cocktail party at her beautiful house for all the students and their spouses. I had a chance to meet the incoming crowd from many varied places as far away as Nebraska. It should be very exciting, at least for me and hopefully for them.

I am going to have to tell some different stories and jokes tomorrow since the beginners have already heard my spiel. No matter what, it will be fun because it is a game after all. Now I need to rest up.

I’m A Pusher

As far as I am concerned I am just like a drug dealer. I give people a little taste of Mah Jongg and quickly they get addicted. Once addicted they want more and more and they come back to me again and again to get their fix.

As I tell all my students, if you are going to be addicted to anything Mah Jongg is the best thing. It’s not fattening. It doesn’t impair your driving. It doesn’t cost a fortune. Rarely does it cost you your job or your relationship. It’s not embarrassing to admit you are addicted to it.

On the plus side, it builds new neural pathways. It expands your universe of friends. Did I mention it’s not fattening.

This week I have had a delightful group of new players, who in their second day are well on their way to being addicted. I am happy to say I am their pusher.

Best Day of Work Ever

About ten months ago I got a request from a North Carolina Mah Jongg player to come teach Mah Jongg in the Bahamas. The offer was too good to pass up just one hearing it. The reality of it is so much better.

Russ and I are enjoying a beautiful week in the most fabulous location, which we otherwise would have no way to visit. The people who work here are warm and kind and so much fun. The members are fantastic, interesting and fun too!

Today was my first day of classes. There was so much interest I had to teach two classes, which I never mind. The club puts on such a spread for my students it is almost obscene. Russ and I are definitely being over pampered. Tonight we had the most sumptuous dinner and we only had appetizers and it was too much.

The thing I am most addicted to here are the orchids, which are absolutely everywhere. This may be a work week for me, but if this is work I am going to make sure I am a workaholic.

My Day Off

Mah Jongg week is about to start at Lyford Cay. Today was my day off and Russ and I enjoyed the beach and the water. In the turn of events I got to bring Russ on my business trip. As one of my students said, “He’s nice arm candy.”

After fun in the sun I had a chance to make sure the room where classes are being held was set up right. Everyone here couldn’t be nicer. They had exactly what I requested. I went through all the Mah Jongg sets and made sure they were complete. We are all set for classes tomorrow.

Tonight was the welcome cocktail party for me to meet the students. It’s a who’s who of new Mah Jongg players and experienced players who will be taking strategy at the end of the week. Russ enjoyed talking with the husbands who came to the party. He particular liked the international crowd.

The first people who I met were the Houston ladies, then Miami, London, Chicago, Switzerland and all the North Carolina crowd who came all the way down here to take from me. I am honored to get to share the game. I look forward to getting to know them all.

Travel Day

Russ and I are on a little adventure. Location will eventually reveal itself. Today was our travel day. We have the most lovely hostess who made this whole trip happen. I am eternally grateful to her.

She graciously met us at the airport and toured us around before we checked in. Once settled in our accommodations I walked out our terrace door to see the crystal blue ocean. Ahh. Travel to nice places is the best.

Tonight our hostess picked us up to go enjoy cocktails on her boat. There we met her charming family members and got a tour of their fabulous boat. Then it was off to dinner at the Yacht club.

This is a good adventure. It’s going to be a very fun week.

Sorry if Your Weather is not Like North Carolina’s Today

As serious as climate change is it makes for one hell of a great day here in North Carolina in February. My mom needed a ride to Raleigh today to visit her lawyer to finalize her estate. Driving to the big city is not her idea of fun. Since I am back and forth there so often I was happy to take her.

I thought we had great luck getting a parking space right on Fayetteville st. in front of the building, but I quickly found out why there were so many open spots. The parking kiosks where you pay for your space were all offline. Mom went in to her appointment as I roamed the block looking for a kiosk that worked.

Mom’s appointment was efficient. We went over all her wishes for medical and estate documents and she signed her name over and over again. Thankfully that chore is done.

Our plans were to go to lunch and stop and spend the gift cards my sister gave us for Christmas. I drove Mom over to the Irregardless Cafe where we were able to eat lunch outdoors. Who ever heard of Al fresco in February. All the daffodils and hyacinths were in full bloom. The tulip trees were a riot of purple and white, tree buds were even evident. Please lord, don’t send us an ice storm in March and ruin all this new growth.

As we walked back to the car in the glorious sunshine Mom got a call that she needed to go back to Croasdaile to attend to something. So no shopping for us. I am so glad the call did not come before we were able to have a lovely lunch outside.

I know that more than half the country is suffering with terrible cold and snow, but we have had the easies winter ever. Now that I have written that I hope it won’t jinx us.

Appliance Baron

Yesterday, while I was in the midst of teaching nine hours of Mah Jongg classes Russ was at home letting the dishwasher repair man in the house.

Our dishwasher broke on December 24, at about 4:55pm. I ran to call the repair place before five, but they had closed, not to reopen until Dec. 27. No luck having a dishwasher through the holidays.

When the repair scheduler called me she told me our first available date was Jan 17. “Can you please text me the information?” Turned out to be the smartest thing I ever did. When the repairman did not call to confirm, and did not show up on Jan. 17 I had a paper trail. I called the scheduler up and asked where the repair man was. When she said she did not have an appointment for me on the books I was able to show her the text. The mea culpa began. The repairman was at our house on Jan. 18.

Sadly that is not the end of the story. After two hours diagnosing with many calls to Miele Professional support, he told me that I need two parts, which would take two weeks to get. “Fine,” it was still much cheaper than a new dishwasher, which I would have to waits months to get.

Two weeks meant four weeks. And they finally called to schedule the repair again. Russ said it was harder than the guy thought it should be, but that the dishwasher works now.

We have gotten so used to washing our dishes I forgot to put my glass in the dishwasher this morning and just washed it. I do admit that my glasses are not as sparkling as they are coming out of the dishwasher.

Two months to get something repaired seems to be the norm these days. I miss the days when appliances were simpler. When I could call my guy, the “Appliance DoKtor,” yes, with a K, who could fix any make or model of anything.

Now there are specialized codes, and proprietary diagnostics. Never mind that every time they say it is “the mother board” and that costs and arm and a leg. Mothers just shouldn’t break. Let’s add too it that there is real planed obsolescence in appliances these days. Long gone are the days that a refrigerator lasts 20 years and you have a forty year old one in the garage.

In my next life I am coming back as an appliance Barron. I am going to invent and make sturdy, long lasting appliances that can be fixed by the average homeowner watching YouTube and using tools they have in the garage. Until my next life I am at the mercy of the mother board makers.

Beginner Mah Jongg Tournament

I am hosting a Mah Jongg Tournament at the Food Bank on Mach 20. T is going o be a very friendly day of play focused mainly at newer or slower players. Many tournaments require the players to be able to play four games in an hour. This scares away new er players who would love to join in the fun.

If this interests you click on this link to register for the day. The $75 benefits the Food Bank. I will give an intro talk to teach you the rules. Lunch will be served. It is sure to be lots of fun.

Contact me if you have any questions. You don’t need to come with a group of four. You will get a chance to play with many different new friends.

Working In My Car

Back in the days that I sold Mail opening and extracting machines up and down the middle Atlantic and southern states I felt like I lived in my car. Some days I would have to visit a client at six in the morning because that was the time they got the trays and trays of mail they needed to open and I had to access how many machines they needed to buy to help with that task. So glamorous. Other days I would drive three hours from DC to Richmond and go see a client and then drive down to Williamsburg to see another and over to Chesapeake for another.

I did everything in my car. Ate my breakfast, wrote my proposals, put on my make up. Sometimes I took my dog Beau with me. I would sneak him into my room at the Holiday Inn since the doors opened onto the parking lot. He was such a good dog. I could leave him in the car, parked in the shade, with the windows open and no one bothered him and he just hung out. No one wanted to steal my company car or anything in it, especIally from a parking lot of a utility company that was one of my customers.

Today I feel a lot like I did back in my twenties, working out of my car. I drove over to Raleigh early in the morning to teach two classes at one club. Thankfully the club gives me lunch and I enjoyed it with two of my favorite students, Dell and Holly. At four I finished my second class and I had two and a half hours to kill before my third class of the day.

I went to Kinko’s to make copies for an upcoming class. Drove by Whole Foods where I got some chicken salad for dinner which I ate in my car listening to my book club book, “The secret history.” I paid some bills online from my car. Now I’m writing my blog in the car because I will be too exhausted by the time time I get home tonight at 10:15. I will have to go right to bed since I get up tomorrow and do it all again.

The only things that are different is I love teaching Mah Jongg so much more than selling mail opening and extracting machines and I can’t bring my dog to work with me. Still, what’s old is new again. My car is my office.

Be Prepared for Others to Let you Down

I am preparing for a class I am teaching. The organizer told me months ago that they would have the supplies needed. Today I thought to double check on them. Turns out they were not prepared and told me I need to bring some supplies.

This comes as no surprise, that is why I checked in. Nonetheless is does put me out quite a bit as this is my busiest week of the year. These people are not the only ones waiting for the last minute to request things from me.

No matter how far in advance I let people know of my unavailability, that never stops them from waiting until the last minute. Now their emergency becomes my problem.

I know that I have the ability to get people out of their predicaments, but just once I would like to say, “Sorry, you have to solve your own problems.” If only their problems did not make problems for me.

The Indignity

Shay was having some trouble with her backside. Russ and I had to bathe her last night to clean up her trouble. While doing it I discovered she had an engorged gland. A trip to the emergency vet was in her future.

Since I had a class to teach today Russ did the vet duty. Thank goodness for vets who are open on Sunday. While I was in Raliegh Russ was in the waiting room for hours. Thankfully the good folks there were able to fix Shay up.

On my way home Russ filled me in on Shay’s prognosis which involved her needing to take probiotics three times a day. The medicine is a paste which comes in a syringe that Russ said he squirted on a burger so Shay would eat it.

So on my way home I stopped and bought a pound of hamburger for Shay. I think she is going to have a very good week taking her meds. She may be happy to endure the indignity of her problem if it means she gets hamburger.

Jimmy Carter

I was in boarding school the night Jimmy Carter was elected. I can remember one particularly haughty rich girl, who was none too smart, saying, “He’s so bad, my Daddy is going to move us to Switzerland.” That did not happen, but really, the dramatics were unforgettable. What did she expect would happen, the country had lived through Nixon and the backlash was inevitable.

Jimmy Carter turned out to be not the best President. He inherited an economy that was a mess, an Iran Hostage situation which made him appear weak, and advisors of too many Georgia locals who were not skilled in national politics. Let’s not even talk of his brother Billy.

Since my last name was Carter I took a lot of ribbing about President Carter. One upperclassman in college accosted me when I got out of my car freshman year because my license plate was DCARTR. “I hope that plate stands for ‘Dump Carter.’”

What Jimmy Carter wasn’t as a President he has been as an ex-President. He is a successful diplomat and humanitarian. He has been a tireless leader and hands on worker for good. Habitat for Humanity has changed more lives and generations of families because of his involvement.

If you weren’t an adult during the Carter Presidential era you never knew that he was not always beloved. It is with great sadness that I learned he has hospice care in right now. At 98 it is no surprise, but he has lived more years post Presidency than he did pre. He has been the best example of how to gracefully have a second act. He has worked tirelessly for good and never acted entitled.

Carter, a man of so much faith, has lived putting others before himself. I hope his last days are peaceful and pain free as he moves on to rest. Thank you for all your service. Go knowing you are beloved.

The Sunshine of February

Mid February, post Valentine’s Day can be a fairly boring time. The skies are grey and the news is dull. But on this day, the seventeenth of February, one of the greatest people was born, Suzanne Worden. So what might be considered a dull day is made shinny and bright by her appearance on this earth.

I am lucky to have become friends with Suzanne over four decades ago and to have her remain my closest bosom buddy all these years. She has been by my side for so many of life’s important moments and I cherish her in so many ways.

From our daily wordle exchange, to our monthly book discussions we find many reasons to be in constant contact. We had a short pre-birthday girls trip to visit our friends Janet and those three days reminded us we need to see each other more often.

I am ever thankful that Mary and Clee Worden had that bonus fifth daughter, Suzanne on this very date. I could not imagine what my journey would have been like without her.

Happy Birthday Suzanne. You are the sunshine in the month of February.

Let’s Mobilize

Yesterday my blog was about the insanity of guns in America. It wasn’t an in-depth report, just an observation that we have legislators who openly wear AR-15 lapel pins as everyday there is a mass shooting in America. There is something about this faction of “legislators”, I refuse to call them lawmakers because they never pass any actual laws, who got these pins that really set me off.

Not one of them appears to care about people being shot, they just want to protect the gun makers right to keep selling more and more guns. AR-15’s are not used to hunt animals, they are only used to kill people.

My blog started a conversation between two of my friends, Suzanne and Jan,who don’t know each other except through me. Jan, texted me, “Why don’t we have a ‘friends of Dana’ zoom to talk about what we can do about guns.” I actually had a similar thought right before she texted me that.

Suzanne sent this to Jan and Jan said, it is going at warp speed now.

We texted back and forth and think that there are any number of good gun legislation groups we might want to learn more about. I think it is time that regular people like us have to become involved if anything is going to be done about this issue.

It is going to take the mother’s and father’s and the grandmother’s and grand father’s of America to become a force for change. We don’t know how, but not doing anything is not working so far.

If you are interested in joining forces to just learn about how we might start to move the needle on gun issues let me know. We don’t have a plan. We are not looking to start a new organization. We just want to start to learn and figure out what the options are to stop the scourge of gun violence in America.

The one thing I know is not talking about it is not working and there are way too many nuts wearing AR-15 lapel pins in congress for us to let them have the last word on it.

Just message me if you are at all concerned and want to join forces. I’ve never been one to be satisfied with just thoughts and prayers. Let’s mobilize and actually do something!

Don’t Be Like a Dog

I saw a great video on instagram today. In the forefront of the picture is a hand holding a gnawed up broken pencil and in the back ground is a dog standing there with his eyes closed. The voice of the man holding the pencil is saying, “Who chewed up my pencil? Did you chew up my pencil.” The dog just stands there, refusing to open their eyes.

The man says, “ You think if you don’t look at it it makes you less guilty?” The dog continues to stand there with his eyes closed.

I laughed so hard, but then had a terrible thought. That dog is like half of Americans. They vote for people who allow people to be chewed up by gun violence and refuse to look at the deaths. They think if we keep our eyes closed and don’t acknowledge the senseless murders then they don’t have to consider their role in the deaths.

Common sense gun reform should be at the top of all legislative agendas. Mass killings don’t happen in other civilized countries. Other countries have mental illness, yet they still don’t have more than one mass shooting everyday like we do in America. The difference is access to guns.

For god’s sake, wake up and open your eyes. Stop voting for people who wear AR-15 lapel pins in congress. No one outside of military needs those. Don’t be like a dog and think you are not guilty if you don’t open your eyes. You are more guilty for keeping your eyes shut.

Unearthing old Treasures

Our new carpenter Eric arrived today to fix some woodwork in our sunroom. He is an actual craftsman because when he looked at the job he asked me if I wanted the room repainted or just the spot that he was repairing. I told him to do the whole room and he said that was the right answer to make sure it is perfect and therefore he would take the job.

As he got to work I went off to Garden Club at Anne Eberdt’s beautiful house. After the meeting I returned home to find that Eric had removed all the sofas, rugs, chairs, tables, lamps and orchids from the room single-handedly, including an antique blanket chest which held over 300 record albums. In order to move the chest he took the albums out in the alphabetical order they were in and placed them in piles in front of my fireplace.

Many of these LP’s are from my high school and college years. Well loved and deep-grooved James Taylor and Jackson Browne’s filled the chest. I had started storing these records in the chest back in the days that I still listened to albums on my turn table. When we moved to this house the chest was needed in the sunroom and the albums stayed in it, far from my old stereo.

So I took this opportunity of the albums being out of the chest to move them to the gathering room, next to the stereo that still works perfectly forty years later thanks to my Dad always gifting the best in stereo equipment. I have vowed to listen to one album a day until I have worked my way through this collection, then start on the other 100 albums that are already up by the stereo. I will be going in alphabetical order by artist so tomorrow I will start with Laurie Anderson. I guess when I get to the artists that I have multiple albums from I will have to put them into age order and start with the oldest ones first.

Every once in a while I will report the highlights and low lights. They say that music memory is the last thing to go. I can’t wait to relive my teenage years only in music. Who knows what angst I will bring up.

Love For Everyone

When I was in school there was an organization that sold carnations to be delivered on Valentine’s Day. I don’t remember all the details, but they sold different colors for different meanings. If you bought a carnation you got to write a little note that was attached to the stem. It was an easy way to tell your friends you loved them.

If you didn’t have a sweetheart it was a nice way to not feel left on out the holiday for those in love. I can remember everyone carrying round bunches of flowers which made us all so happy.

I loved getting those flowers from my friends and if I had someone special on Valentine’s Day from him too. The thing I recall was wondering what about the people who didn’t get any flowers. Valentines is hard enough if you are uncoupled, but to also appear friendless too made the day twice as bad.

After more than 30 years of marriage I now consider Valentine’s Day a day for amateurs. I am shown act of love daily and those are what are important to me. The last thing I want on Valentine’s Day are some over priced flowers, or a dinner out at a much too busy restaurant or chocolates which will just bring me guilt.

Russ knows that putting the garbage out and bringing me my iced tea in bed is the perfect way to tell me he loves me.

Tomorrow I want to wish love not only to my sweetheart and my daughter, but to all my uncoupled friends who may feel like this day leaves them out. Love comes in many forms and I am certain we are all loved in various ways for many different reasons. Consider this blog many different colored carnations just so you know you are thought about and loved. It’s love for everyone.

Super Bowl Buffalo Cauliflower

It’s just me and Russ cheering on the Eagles at home. I wanted to make something for dinner that had the feel of Super Bowl food without doing too much. I decided to make air fryer Buffalo cauliflower. It wasn’t too crispy, but it was yummy. So yummy in fact I skipped eating anything else. That’s a win for me.

1 head of cauliflower broken into florets all the same size


1/4 cup corn starch

1/2 cup flour

2 t. Garlic powder

1/2 t. Salt

2 t. Smoked paprika

Just enough water to make a batter

1 1/2 T. Melted butter

1 T. Reds extra hot sauce

1 1/2 T. Crumbled blue cheese

Spray the rack of your air fryer with Pam. Pre heat airfryer to 450°

Make the batter in a bowl big enough to hold the cauliflower. Add just enough water to make the batter a little thinner than pancake batter.

Add the cauliflower and stir it all around until it is all coated with the batter, including inside the little limbs.

Place each floret on the rack of the air fryer with a tray underneath because some batter will fall off.

Place in air fryer for 9 mins. Make sure it doesn’t get too dark.

Meanwhile clean the bowl and put the melted butter and hot sauce in it and mix together. When the cauliflower is cooked remove from rack and place in the bowl with the butter hot sauce. Toss everything together.

Plate the cauliflower and sprinkle with blue cheese. You will never miss the chicken wings.

The Dusting Rabbit Hole

Some years ago my housekeeper told me she couldn’t lift my vacuum. She is a small woman and had lost all her helpers and was unable to get any new people thanks to an unfriendly government situation.

When I figured up how much I spent and how much we had to earn to pay her it was a no brainer that I should clean my own house. I was giving myself a $15,000 raise to do it.

I find great satisfaction in mopping my kitchen floor, but not much in dusting. There is something rewarding to see my own reflection in that gleaming floor. I should learn to look down at myself when I clean the dining room table. I probably would like it more.

The only issue I have with cleaning my own house is there are some rooms I just don’t go in that often so I forget to clean them. Yesterday I used the guest room bathroom. While hanging out in there I got a close up view of the floor. Wonder when the last time I scrubbed it? Then I threw back the shower curtain. Are those dust bunnies in the tub? How in the world can a dust bunny get in the tub.

So the excitement for the day was cleaning that bathroom. It was obvious when I turned the water on in the tub that faucet had not been used in quite a while.

I guess I need to be more systematic in my cleaning and not just think that because I mop the kitchen floor multiple times a week my house is clean. It is getting close to spring so I could consider a top to bottom cleaning of every room the right thing to do. Usually this is a “if you give a mouse a cookie” type of situation. I anticipate that I will find drawers, cabinets and closets that will need to be cleaned out along with dusting the baseboards and behind the sofas.

If you don’t hear from me for a while it’s because I have fallen down some rabbit hole of vacuuming the chimney. Well, I am making $15,000, it’s the least I can do.

Friday Like It’s 2013

A few years back I would often spend an afternoon sitting at the stitching table at Chapel Hill Needlepoint catching up with the stitching advisors, as I liked to call my needlepoint friends. Then needlepoint Nancy had to move the store because her space was being sold. She moved to a nice store front closer to downtown, but just that much further from home and harder for me to stop by just to stitch.

Then the pandemic came and we had to abandon the stitching table all together and make appointments to come shop.

Today was a throw back to the old days. I went over to the store with the plan of stitching and visiting all afternoon. I brought the fabric that is the inspiration for my next four big projects. Bought the needed canvas and spent my whole Christmas present from my mother.

It was delightful to learn what others were reading, eating and watching as we worked out canvases. It was just like the old days, but sadly without Ann.

I have missed sitting with the stitching advisors and am going to make a concerted effort to come join the table at least once a month. There are no better people to tell you the best of everything you might be looking for and even things you never thought you needed.

Today I learned of the best donuts in Durham, but I had to let that information go in one ear and out another. Thanks to Nancy for making needlepointing so fun and so welcoming. I have been to plenty of other stores where I have felt like just walking in the store was a huge intrusion.

I loved rekindling the camaraderie of the stitching table. It was just like it was in 2013 only now I am a much better stitcher.

Welcome Home

Recently I got an email from Amanda MacLaren, the editor of Durham Magazine. Was I interested in writing an installment of a new column in the magazine? It had been a while since I had done work at the magazine and I said, “Of course, I would be happy to contribute.”

Dan and Ellen Shannon, me, Amanda MacLaren, Rory Gillis
Photo Credit – John Micheal Simpson

Today I was invited to the office lunch to discuss the column. I was happy to get to catch up with Dan and Ellen Shannon, Rory Gillis as well as Amanda. They are practically the only people still at the magazine from my years there. Sadly Kevin Brown, the Creative director, who is the only other person I knew, was out sick.

It was great to catch up with the goings on. I joked with Dan that they had not fired me yet. His response was perfect Dan, “We never fired you. You still work here.”

I got to meet the current photographer, John Micheal Simpson who took a group photo of us. Dan had him take a new head shot of me for the magazine which I was not prepared for. “Please use my fifteen year old head shot the Brianna Brough took.” John Micheal took one anyway.

For now I have a short deadline to meet, nothing new in the magazine business. Meeting deadline was never my problem. I always have something to say.