Remembering an Old Friend

After Christmas, in that time when the decorations were all boxed up and ready to go the attic, Russ decided that he wanted to shift around some of the not so important items that have been up there for 25 years. His bright reasoning is that boxes of thirty five year old gourmet magazines and dark room equipment that has net been used in two life times don’t need to be in prime storage space. The Christmas decorations that come down from the attic every year should take that high rent real estate.

Russ enlisted Carter to do some of the moving things around work and once she got involved she became interested in what all this stuff was. She descended from the attic with three 8×10 black and white photos of a man she did not know. “Who is this guy?” She asked as she held out photos I had taken in college.

They were pictures of my friend Herb. I explained to her that he was one of my all time favorite people. We had gone to school in France together and he was at Dickinson Law school when I was an undergraduate. She asked me why she didn’t know him if he was such a good friend of mine. I explained that he passed away when she was not quite one from a brain tumor.

Holding these photos in my hand I realized that I should share them with Herb’s family. Herb was one of five boys and I had met his younger brother David when he came to visit Dickinson, eventually transferring there after I graduated.

I contacted David through email and I sent him copies of the photos so he could share them with his family. David told me that over the years old friends of Herb’s would sometimes call him just to talk since they missed Herb. David asked me if I would like to do that too. Of course I did. So tonight he called me.

We talked for and hour and a half about all the memories I had of Herb. He was the funniest, kindest most loyal friend and David reiterated all those things back to me. I think I am still in denial that he is gone a day let alone twenty years.

I am thankful that Carter unearthed these photos so a I could reconnect with Herb’s family and remember my great friend.

Energy Guilt Trip

I hate my “Home Energy Report.” I don’t know if you get one of these things, but I get one in the mail every month. I don’t ask for it, yet it comes, printed on paper, stamped and brought by the mail man. I don’t get a paper bill from the power company, just this.

It’s not the mailing and printing that I object too, although it is a huge waste. It is the report that my house is always Not an efficient home. Then there is this little graph with a big yellow house representing my house, the bad, big energy sucking house and next to it is a little green house, half the size as the yellow one, the good, energy efficient house. From the pictures it looks like my house uses double the power. In actuality my house use 968 kWh and the good house used 897 kWh. The real difference is only 7.6%. Not the fifty percent that the info graphic makes it look like.

Then there are the forecasted energy use areas for January. They think that 18% of my energy comes from lighting. How the hell do they know. There is not an incandescent bulb in my house. No room is lit if I am not in it. Then there is the laundry percent, coming in at a whopping 9%. I may do two loads a week. Most of Russ’s clothes go to the cleaners and I have the biggest machine ever. I can wash four beds worth of sheets at a time. There are no savings there in January since I can’t hang clothes outside.

So my favorite stupid suggestions are the “How can I save more.” The one about unplugging entertainment devices not in use” is the biggest pain in the butt I have ever heard of. Do you know how hard it is to get to the cord? On top of that a cable box has to reboot every time it plugged in. That alone takes ten minutes. I would never get to watch the beginning of a show again. The solution is to get the manufacturers to make more efficient units.

Then the idea that we use our oven less by cooking things together at the same temperature is fine for Thanksgiving, but really I don’t want to cook four days worth of food all at once. Get real.

Reducing energy consumption is the right thing to do. It is better for the planet and keeps costs down so the power company does not have to build additional power plants that emit green house gasses, but sending me this report making me feel bad is not the way.

I get no credit for having a group of friends at my house every week for a few hours playing Mah Jongg. While they are at my house, they are not at theirs using energy. I also cook food for large numbers of people which means that all those people are not cooking. It is more efficient to make a lot in one place and not a little in many places. None of those things go into my account about how efficient I am.

My house may not be that efficient due to its age and my original windows. But I am not adding to the landfill by replacing them. They all work perfectly well and as long as I am only 7 % less efficient I am not worried about it.

So listen Duke Energy, you don’t know shit about how efficient I am. Stop mailing me paper, which is very inefficient and email me your lame suggestions and out of scale infographics. I know you think you are helping, but you aren’t! I don’t need your energy guilt trip.

Double Church

There are very few Sundays when a Russ and I go to two church services on the same day. Today was one of those rare days. Since I was the lector at the 11:00 AM service we kind of had to go to that one. It was a good service, regular Westminster Sunday, but this afternoon we went back to church for a very special service, the ordination of our new youth pastor, Alex.

Alex Strayer-Brewington came to our church almost two years ago as the interim youth pastor after our beloved Taylor got called up to be a head pastor in Georgia. Taylor was big shoes to fill. Alex was just out of Duke divinity and this was a good gig to get. Alex is a Lumbee Indian, not your normal Scottish Presbyterian. He is calm, except when playing his banjo.

Alex captivated the kids and a year after he started as interim our search committee started looking for the right person for a full time youth pastor. Alex applied along with many other pastors who knew that Westminster is a great place to work. We value youth and that is why we call an ordained pastor just for them.

The search committee did its due diligence, as all good Presbyterian committees do. They investigated many candidates and after much work by many people discerned that the best person was the one already in the youth suite on Sunday nights, Alex.

The congregation was thrilled that was the conclusion. So we had the pleasure this afternoon of ordaining Alex in our own church. I am certain he is going to continue to be a kind and thoughtful minister who will inspire youth to do good in the world. Westminster is one lucky place.

New Years Resolution Mushrooms

If you made a resolution there is a fifty-fifty chance it involved eating healthier/cleaner/losing weight. It’s day 11 of the new year (which happens to be my boarding school roommate Nancy’s birthday) so chances are you have already broken your resolution. It is after all a good day to eat cake.

Since I am not with Nancy today and have no cake around I can stick to my resolution. I made these mushrooms, which even my non-resolution needing husband liked. They are very satisfying and just not that bad for you.

4 Portobello Mushroom caps

4 big handfuls of baby spinach

Pinch of nutmeg

1/2 t. Garlic powder

1/2 cup or caramelized onions

1 cup of part skim ricotta

4 T. Parmesan Cheese

Salt and Pepper

Preheat your oven to 450°.

Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Place mushroom caps on the foil, gill side up and roast in the oven for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile put a tablespoon of water in a non-stick fry pan and place on medium heat on stove. Add the spinach and cover. The spinach should wilt in about a minute. You may need to turn it over with tongs once. Once the spinach is cooked remove it from the pan and place on a chopping board. Put two or three paper towels on top of it and squeeze out the water, then chop the spinach.

Place spinach in a bowl and add nutmeg, garlic, onions, salt and pepper and stir well. Add the ricotta and stir again.

When mushroom caps are done drain any liquid out of them and then place back on cookie sheet gill side up again. Scoop one quarter of the spinach ricotta mixture onto the mushrooms and spread it out evenly. Repeat with other mushrooms. Sprinkle the Parmesan on top of the ricotta and spinach.

Put the mushrooms back in the oven and continue cooking them for about 15 minutes until the parm starts to brown.

Happy Birthday Nancy Mack Von Euler. Sorry this isn’t a cake for you.

Sad Dog

Tomorrow Carter will have been back in Boston a week. She was ready to go, but Shay was not ready to let her leave. So all week Shay has been moping about looking for Carter.

Thankfully Carter has not had as much time to miss Shay as she started her CO-OP job which she reports loving. For reasons of confidentiality I don’t want to say where she is working, but it is a big time place that I never would have been able to get a job at. Having this opportunity to work at a real job for six months in the middle of her college experience is the best way to go to college. I am so happy things have worked out this way for her.

In the mean time, Shay is home with me where not much is happening, especially when I leave her so I can meet my Food Bank Board friend Felicia for lunch. Catching up with a good friend is wonderful, I just wish Shay could join me.

She sits at home lonely, waiting for Russ to come home from Chicago. At least she will have her number one person for the weekend. I used to think Shay was the luckiest dog, but her despondency without all her people makes me sad for her.


Today I saw my friend Nancy for the first time in the new year. She asked me what my big thing for the year was. She is used to reading in my blog around the first of year some declaration of something I am trying to do that year. Last year I chose not to buy anything new that was not a consumable or a gift. I did fairly well at that resolution. I told Nancy something I was doing, but forgot the biggest thing. In an effort to try and eat cleaner and cut sugar out of my life I have given up artificial sweeteners.

For anyone really close to me you might know that I love iced tea with lots of lemon or lime and a sweet ‘n low. This is my go to drink. I adore it. I hate sweet tea and other sweeteners don’t do it for me in tea. So the giving up of sweet ‘n low has been a huge trial.

I also am trying to stay away from sugar in general. So far this calendar year I have only had a tiny bit of honey twice in a salad dressing I made. It probably was so tiny I could have left it out.

After great study about the brain’s connection that anything sweet, full calorie or zero calorie still reads as fattening has prompted me to try and break my addiction to sweet ‘n low. Friends have tried to persuade me to give it up based on the death of some lab rats, but given my dislike of rats that had no affect on me.

I have stuck to my resolution, but boy do I miss the taste of my beloved tea. The good news is I have not had any cravings for sweets and have probably cleaned out my system from the Christmas sugar overload. Now I am looking for some drink that I love as much as I used to love iced tea.

I have been drinking tea with just lime and it just makes me miss the old way. I have cucumber and ginger water for afternoons when I don’t want caffeine. It is good, but not my tea good. So I am open to suggestions for no sugar, low or no calorie drinks.

I don’t want to add a natural sugar like agave or stevia because I think it has the same brain-sugar connection. I don’t know if I ever will get over the loss of sweet ‘n low, but I am going to try. For now I still have it for guests so don’t worry if you come over for tea. Giving up buying anything new was so much easier.

Meghan and Harry Want to Move to Canada

Today, in what was apparently a surprise to the Queen, Harry and Meghan said they wanted to step back from their official duties and move, at least part time to Canada. They were giving up being supported with the royal stipend and planning on supporting themselves. Sounds like exactly what the British people want, not to pay for the royals, who do so much good for their country in nonprofit patronage and tourism. But you can’t just surprise the Queen and the Royal household shot back saying not so fast.

Harry and Meghan should be free to do as they please as long as they are not taking any money. Of course they would rather live in Canada. Most of us would rather live there too. Kind friendly people, not a huge paparazzi, no Boris Johnson. They might have considered America, but we have DJT and why would anyone chose to subject themselves to that right now.

Harry is sixth in line to the throne. Chances are next to nil that he will get called up to the majors. The Queen should actually consider Canada, part of the commonwealth, as the perfect place to keep Harry as a designated survivor. Just consider what might happen if that like church at Balmoral collapsed one Christmas Day while all the royals were there. Heaven forbid the job at monarch be picked up by Prince Andrew who is the next one in line after Harry and Archie, because he was banned from the family celebration.

The Queen is looking at this announcement all wrong. Harry might have forced her hand, by announcing the move without her permission, but she can spin this as a good thing. No one is going to stand with her if she tries to stand in their way to live a life they want.

Meghan and Harry can certainly make their own living. This isn’t like his great, great uncle David abdicating for the woman he loved and then still living off the royal payoff. Let Harry and Meghan be happy, even while the rest of Britain is miserable because they have Brexit and probably can’t move to Canada.