Creamed Spinach

I got a bunch of requests for my creamed spinach after they saw Russ eating it in a photo two days ago.

My father was a big fan of creamed spinach. I started making it the way he did and then spiced it up as the years went on. This is a very flavorful, but not spicy hot version. It’s not healthy, but it’s damn good

2 T. Butter

1 sweet onion – minced

3 cloves of garlic- minced

1 large bag of frozen chopped spinach – thawed, water squeezed out

1 cup half and half

1 brick of cream cheese – cut into eight hunks

1 t. Garlic powder

2 t. Onion powder

1 t. Grated nutmeg

1 t. White pepper

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Salt to taste

In a large skillet melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook on medium meat until the onion is just translucent. Add the half and half and heat.

Add the spinach and the cream cheese. On medium heat cook until the cream cheese is well incorporated into the spinach.

Add the spices. Then the Parmesan. Stir until hot and taste for salt.


Christmas Can Start, Carter is Home

Thanks to flexible work from home rules, Carter was able to come home today for Christmas. She still has to work some this week, but I am happy to have her here so it feels like Christmas.

Shay was especially glad to see her. I had stopped opening Shay’s advent calendars since she rejected most of the surprises so Carter did a big opening with Shay. Amazingly Shay liked most things that Carter gave her. It must be that special Carter touch, or perhaps the enthusiasm Carter sold thing to her.

“Look Shay, gingerbread pretzels!” Shay gladly ate them out of Carter’s hand. Not that way when I tried.

Shay still did not like the balls Carter bounced at her. She has never been very good at fetch and even worse at bringing it back to you.

The crinkly sounding gingerbread man was a hit. Perhaps the gingerbread theme was all she was looking for.

Maybe Shay just did not think it was Christmas until her girl came home. I concur.


Wrapping and Cooking

As I predicted, today was a day of lots of wrapping. Sadly I did not get it all done, but made a giant bite of the wrapping cookie. I found presents I had forgotten about. Made bows that he to be attached to presents with greening pins and used tags I bought three years ago that I hadn’t gotten around to using because they were “too nice.”

What kept me going in my wrapping den was the audio book I am listening to for my tiny book club. We picked Demon Copperhead and I am addicted. I usually listen while I am driving to Mah Jongg classes, but this book has me hooked. Yesterday I did my nails so I could have n excuse to sit and listen while my nails dried. Three hours of wrapping went by in a blink as I listened to Demon talk about his Foster parents. I highly recommend this book!

By late afternoon I had to move on to my other job today, making food for friends who will be coming home from out of town from a funeral for her father. I couldn’t make “somebody died?” fried chicken until tomorrow, but I did make creamed spinach, sea salt brownies and homemade ranch dressing. I filled two giant containers with spinach and had enough leftover for us for dinner. Russ really liked the creamed spinach and did a good job cleaning the ramekin.

I feel better about being ready for Christmas. Carter comes home tomorrow for ten days so it is going to be a real celebration. I wish I could still take her to see Santa. She always wants to know which list she is on. I think I know.


It’s All About the Wrapping Now

I have not taken inventory of my gifts. It is possible I have way too many gifts for one person and not enough for another. I can’t be sure until I start wrapping. I actually already started wrapping, but I sliced my pointer finger on my dominant hand so I took a break to let that little cut heal.

With my parties finished I can begin to put presents around the tree so they are out of my office. I used one whole roll of paper wrapping the gift I bought for everybody. I pray they like it since I am giving seven of them. Even though I got the paper on those gifts they have no bows or tags. I think I know what I will be doing tomorrow.

I want to get this done in one day so I have a little time to fill in the empty spaces, like coming up with something to give my husband.

This is the part of Christmas that makes me crazy, the shopping. I hate shopping and I especially hate shopping when other people are shopping. The way deliveries are going these days I don’t dare order anything in fear it won’t arrive. I want to get everything done and wrapped well before the big cooking has to start.


MTHFR

This is not the license plate form of Mother Fucker, but when I first saw MTHFR that is what I thought. At my Doctor’s today I found out I have MTHFR, which is a genetic mutation that means I don’t process Folic Acid.

Folic Acid is the man made form of folate. I am all good with naturally occurring folate, just not the man made version. The first thing that sprung to my mind is “I took a ton of folic acid in my child rearing years.” Having a high level of folate helps prevent spina bifida in babies.

To help prevent these birth defects the FDA regulated flour, requiring it to be enriched with folic acid. It helped with birth defects, but no one considered it hurt people with MTHFR.

Apparently something like 30-40% of people have MTHFR and most don’t know it. It’s not hard to find out, but you need your Doctor to request a blood test for it. The list of things that could be signs of MTHER is so long from Anaemia, Eczema, anxiety, poor memory, stomach pains, headaches to depression. I am lucky I don’t have most of the symptoms now of what having folic acid can do, but now I do need to try and keep it out of my system.

All enriched foods have folic acids, breads, pastas, enriched rice, cereals. It’s a lot. Thankfully most organic versions of those foods do not as well as most gluten free foods.

I took to my cabinets to look at labels. Thankfully Trader Joe’s has many Folic Acid free foods, but going out to eat is going to be fun.

I write this because I have never had one person say MTHFR out loud to me, or even in a whisper. If 30-40% of people have this genetic mutation they probably don’t know it. I can think of many people who have anxiety or stomach issues. Never has anyone said they needed to stay away from folic acid. Lots of people have turned gluten free and started feeling better. It might not be the lack of gluten that is making them feel better, but actually the lack of folic acid in gluten free foods.

As I learn more about this I will share any enlightening information. If you have MTHFR and want to share anything with me I would love to know it.


Chinese Chicken Salad

A few people from yesterday’s auction want the recipe from the auction lunch yesterday. If I don’t write down what I do when I do it I forget, so here it goes.

The salad is any combination of vegetables, but We used, Savoy cabbage and red cabbage, cut into ribbons, diced cucumber and red pepper, bean sprouts and red onion, shredded chicken , peanuts and wonton strips.

Here is the dressing

Three inch knob of fresh ginger, grated or seven cubes of frozen ginger

Six cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup of rice wine vinegar

3/4 cup of dark sesame oil

1/4 cup of canola oil

1/4 cup of soy sauce

1/4 cup of water

1/4 cup of honey

1 T. Crushed red pepper

1/4 cup of white and black sesame seeds

A bunch of black pepper

1/4 cup of peanut butter

Mix it well and let it sit for at least a few hours to have the flavors marry. Mix agin before you serve.


Auction Success

My favorite activity our Garden club does is our Christmas Auction. It almost is one of my favorite things I do all year. For years Pat Joklik was the auctioneer. She was fantastic. Then she asked me if I would do it because she said she didn’t know everyone’s names as more young members were being admitted. I hated that Pat felt that way, but I gladly took over. You know I like nothing more than a captive audience and a chance to pat them from their money for a good cause. I think this was my 20th year as the auctioneer.

Today was a rollicking event. We had about sixty people, many of whom were well loved guests. The garden club members brought fabulous items to auction. It started late last night when George Littlewood showed up at our house with the largest, most beautiful white pot filled with five fabulous orchids. It was so big and heavy I had to have Russ get out of bed, get dressed and help George carry it in. The requirement of each garden club member is to bring something worth at least $25 to be auctioned. This arrangement was the item of Page Littlewood and Leslie Kirkland and it was way over their requirement. It sold for $500!

Carol Shepard brought her famous Bouche de Noel with beautiful meringue mushrooms. It went for $300! As did Holley Broughton’s Happy New Year wreath! Laura Virkler’s homemade jams and Anna Whalen’s Bolognese went for $300 each and my Turkey Curry in a red pot was just under that.

The bidding was fast and furious. People were generous and competitive. It made for a very fun auction.

I could never host this event and be the auctioneer all at the same time if I didn’t have the best group of Co-hostesses, Christy Barnes, Carolyn Sloate, Kay Peters and Leslie Brame manned the kitchen the whole day! When I say the whole day I mean from nine to three. They baked the Christmas tree cheese stuffed rolls I prepared, dressed the Chinese chicken salad, served the cranberry trifle and cleaned every fork, plate and glass! I am eternally grateful for all that they did, including the at home food prep work I assigned them.

For years one member, who I shall not name, but if you are in garden club you know who she is, has been lobbying to have wine at the auction. This year we decided to honor her request, but then she could not come to the auction. We had a case of wine, of various types. At the end of the day we assessed what was drunk. Two bottles were opened, but only half of the wine in each bottle was gone.

Our club treasurer, Missy McLeod, works all through the auction, never even eating lunch. She checks all the items in, and takes notes on all the winning bids and collects all the money in the end. After the whole thing was done she sent an email out to the club saying that we had raised $6,045 which when she collect money from the people who did not bring a auction item will be an even bigger number, surpassing our highest amount ever raised.

The member who wanted the wine wrote me a response to the big total number, “Must have been the wine!” It was not! All bidding was sober and heartfelt! Way to go Hope valley Garden club. Thanks for another great, no, even better, auction.


Auction Success

My favorite activity our Garden club does is our Christmas Auction. It almost is one of my favorite things I do all year. For years Pat Joklik was the auctioneer. She was fantastic. Then she asked me if I would do it because she said she didn’t know everyone’s names as more young members were being admitted. I hated that Pat felt that way, but I gladly took over. You know I like nothing more than a captive audience and a chance to pat them from their money for a good cause. I think this was my 20th year as the auctioneer.

Today was a rollicking event. We had about sixty people, many of whom were well loved guests. The garden club members brought fabulous items to auction. It started late last night when George Littlewood showed up at our house with the largest, most beautiful white pot filled with five fabulous orchids. It was so big and heavy I had to have Russ get out of bed, get dressed and help George carry it in. The requirement of each garden club member is to bring something worth at least $25 to be auctioned. This arrangement was the item of Page Littlewood and Leslie Kirkland and it was way over their requirement. It sold for $500!

Carol Shepard brought her famous Bouche de Noel with beautiful meringue mushrooms. It went for $300! As did Holley Broughton’s Happy New Year wreath! Laura Virkler’s homemade jams and Anna Whalen’s Bolognese went for $300 each and my Turkey Curry in a red pot was just under that.

The bidding was fast and furious. People were generous and competitive. It made for a very fun auction.

I could never host this event and be the auctioneer all at the same time if I didn’t have the best group of Co-hostesses, Christy Barnes, Carolyn Sloate, Kay Peters and Leslie Brame manned the kitchen the whole day! When I say the whole day I mean from nine to three. They baked the Christmas tree cheese stuffed rolls I prepared, dressed the Chinese chicken salad, served the cranberry trifle and cleaned every fork, plate and glass! I am eternally grateful for all that they did, including the at home food prep work I assigned them.

For years one member, who I shall not name, but if you are in garden club you know who she is, has been lobbying to have wine at the auction. This year we decided to honor her request, but then she could not come to the auction. We had a case of wine, of various types. At the end of the day we assessed what was drunk. Two bottles were opened, but only half of the wine in each bottle was gone.

Our club treasurer, Missy McLeod, works all through the auction, never even eating lunch. She checks all the items in, and takes notes on all the winning bids and collects all the money in the end. After the whole thing was done she sent an email out to the club saying that we had raised $6,045 which when she collect money from the people who did not bring a auction item will be an even bigger number, surpassing our highest amount ever raised.

The member who wanted the wine wrote me a response to the big total number, “Must have been the wine!” It was not! All bidding was sober and heartfelt! Way to go Hope valley Garden club. Thanks for another great, no, even better, auction.


Needlepoint No. 2

Separated by just a week, I had my second Needlepoint group’s Christmas exchange. It is such a highlight of my holiday. This group is smaller. We stitch together monthly and celebrate birthdays together in a big way.

Tonight we all brought appetizers and enjoyed cocktails as we exchanged the special ornaments we secretly made for each other. I was especially excited about giving mine because I free handed it by looking at the opening credits of the TV show, “My Three Sons.” There are two members of this group who each have three sons, but only one got the ornament this year. I may have to stitch another one. I wish I had made a pattern.

After the exchange and the eating we then exchange more gifts. I feel like it is the best of Christmas because each person picks out things they think we all would love that they found on their travels or something unique.

I love this group and all that we share. It is one of my favorite Christmas traditions. I came right home and hung my special ornament on my garland. Ready for the Garden club Christmas in the morning.


Preparing for the Next Party

Once my house is all decorated I might as well have lots of people over. My third party of the season is not actually my party at all. Tuesday is my Garden Club’s Christmas Auction and lunch. It is a group effort to pull this one off.

I am thankful for my friends who co-host with me. I create a menu and everyone helps prepare the lunch. Since garden club members can invite guests we get quite a crowd. This year we will be north of 60, which is not an issue as far as the lunch part of the event, but squeezing everyone into the gathering I’m for the auction is something.

Members bring things for me to auction off. Cakes and meals are popular as are homemade Christmas decorations. Years ago I had to bid quite high to get my set of flower pot soldiers. We have some incredibly talented members who make exquisite items for the auction. Not all things are homemade, but everything is fun.

I host this event every other year and have for many years. The best thing I ever did was buy 45 Christmas plates at the dollar store, back when they sold real china. They stay in a bin in the attic and only come out for this party. I add my Real Christmas china to the dollar store ones and it is just fine. I also have 80 white dessert plates that stay in the garage and only come out for parties if needed. My other most used bulk items are my 100 white linen napkins and 100 wine glasses. I have had them for at least 40 years. Having this stash is so useful. I have gotten my money’s worth out of everything, but especially the napkins.

I love setting up for a party. If you ever need to borrow anything just call.


Springing It On Russ

Late last night I looked at Russ and said, “I forgot to tell you something.”

He looked at me with that look that says, “Oh God, what could it be?”

“We have a party to go to tomorrow night.”

“What party?”

“Counter point, it’s just up at the club, you can just wear your tux.”

“What I wear is not the issue.”

Russ has loved the pandemic. No parties. No going out. Just staying home where he is happiest. But he went without complaint. He put on his old faithful tux. I tied his tie. He cleaned up great.

I pulled out some old dress, realizing I have not worn a dress in three years. Then the shoe problem came. I cleaned out my shoes earlier this year. Of course I had not worn dressy shoes in a long time so I got rid of them. I eventually found something.

We went to the party. Talked to a bunch of friends we have not seen in ages. It was lovely. We had dinner with good friends. And we left early. It was not that bad for Russ. I think next time we have to go to a party I should wait and tell him like thirty minutes before we have to walk out the door. Thinking about going to a party is the worst part for Russ, actually going is not so bad.


Chinese Auction

Christmas party number two today. Lynn and I have been having this party so many years we have lost track. We invite friends and ask them to bring a gift worth $25 and we pick, trade and steal until all the gifts are claimed. This year there’s were many favorite items with lots of stealing going on.

I had ordered a special wooded puzzle with many of special shaped pieces and it did not arrive in time, despite being ordered over four weeks ago. So last night I baked ten pecan sticky buns as my gift. It was popular, but the puzzle would have been better.

This year we had the party at Lynn’s new house. We have been waiting a long time to do it there. It is such a beautiful place and everything was so elegant. Lynn set up two tables and we served lunch on the bar of her kitchen. I made make-your-own Poké bowls, but not with raw fish. I didn’t want to kill anyone this close to Christmas. Plus I have lost enough friends this year.

Lynn made dessert which was a big hit. At the last minute she tried to get out of making dessert. Our friend Kathi had suggested that fortune cookies might be a cute dessert to go along with the theme. Lynn called me to see if it was an OK alternative. Absolutely not! Kathi ended up eating two pieces of cake and was happy we didn’t go with her idea.

Thanks to Jan and Amanda who stayed and cleaned up. The only problem with having the party at Lynn’s is I have to drag all my stuff over to her house and back again. I would say it is worth it as it is such a fun tradition.

After everyone left Lynn and I open all our hostess gifts. This year people went all out with their gifts. What sweet friends they are.

Two parties down. Now I have to get ready to host Garden club Christmas auction and Lunch at my house Tuesday. Only about 62 coming. The Christmas parties never end.


I Never Tire of Christmas

The room in our house where our Christmas tree sits is called “the gathering room.” It was named that by our architect and we found it hysterically snobbish, so in jest we continued to call it that. It is open to our breakfast room and kitchen. As our largest room it is where we gather when we have lots of people around. Now that it is just the two of us at home we tend to sit in smaller rooms, unless we are watching something that requires a big TV, like the world cup.

As the gathering room has very tall ceilings it is the place we put the Christmas tree, along with a bunch of other Christmas decorations. To be totally honest every public room in our house has a bunch of Christmas decorations.

When the tree is up in the gathering room it draws me to want to sit in there all by myself. My favorite view is from the sofa, looking through two German Christmas Carousels at the Christmas tree. I could look at the tree all day and never think, maybe I should be doing something more productive.

The tree and all the decorations have a strangely hypnotic effect on me. Perhaps it is the lights which brighten the early nights. Or the shiny sparkling ornaments that attract me like some half-witted cat.

I will never know the answer. For now I am just going to enjoy the season and not pre-morn when it will all be gone.


Happy Birthday Carter

In honor of her birthday I want to share some of the best things Carter said when she was three.


What An Entry

On this night a quarter of a century ago Russ and I could hardly sleep. I because I was two weeks over due to deliver our baby, he because he was on UK time. We were due to be at Durham Regional at 6am to check in to be induced.

We were there early. They kept us wait around and eventually got to a room. Dr. Fried came and and told me that they were going to give me drugs to induce labor and if the baby didn’t come by three they would stop, admit me, and try again the next day. I looked at him and said, “You made me wait to be induced until I was two weeks overdue. Today is the day I am having this baby.”

So they gave me the drugs and not much happened. Russ worked on his computer as I lay around. I have six different cords attached to me in all sorts of places. My hospital gown covered the front of me, but was open in the back, allowing some of the cords to get to the places they needed to be.

After a couple of hours the monitors that all those cords were attached to started blaring. Russ and I were alone in our room and a nurse and Dr. Fried ran in and told me the baby’s heart rate was going down.

“Turn over and get on your hands and knees and put your head down.” This is much easier said than done by a large heavily pregnant woman with six cords attached to all kinds of places in and in my body while on a small hospital bed, but I did it. With my hospital gown laying on the bed and me with all my glory sticking up in the air, the monitors stop blaring and apparently the baby’s heart rate went back to normal.

I was allowed to roll back over, again a Herculean feat. Dr. Fried said everything was fine, but I was not dilating enough. The labor did begin. The contractions were few and far apart. They started to get stronger so I had an epidural. Then they went to nothing. But the monitors blared again. I was already rolling over when the Nurse got in the room. By the time the Doctor was there the machine had silenced itself, but I asked how often this might happen.

Even though I was getting better at turning over with the wires wrapped all around me, I was not feeling much thanks to the epidural so I was worried I might fall right off the bed.

After the second incident Russ went to the pay phone to call my mother and explain what was going on. Back then you were not allowed to use your cell phone in the hospital. While he was gone the monitors blared again. I was alone, flipping over getting on my hands and knees, with my gown laying on the bed and the Doctor and two nurses ran in.

“We are taking you for an emergency C-section, stay in that position.” So without my husband who would have looked out for me, they rolled me out in the hall on my bed. No one thought they should throw a sheet over my naked backside. As they rolled me down the hall to the operating room a group of pregnant women and their partners came down the hall on a labor and delivery tour. I could feel the horror coming from them seeing me. Certainly not one of them wanted to come back and deliver here after seeing my naked very pregnant self out in the hall.

Once in the OR, they told me to roll off my bed and on to the even skinnier operating table. Dr. Fried asked where Russ was just as he came in the room. As soon as he was by my side they cut into me and delivered my perfect baby girl.

Her heart rate was fine. She just wanted to make a grand entrance. She gave us quite a story to tell. So tomorrow she turns 24. I remember every moment of her birth as if it were yesterday. If I had not had so much public display I might not have, but she has been worth any indignity I had to suffer. Love you Carter. I would do it all exactly the same way for you!


First Needlepoint Exchange without Ann

For eight years my group of stitching advisors has had a needlepoint Christmas ornament exchange. I was very honored to be invited to join this group of accomplished stitchers. In January we draw names and secretly make an ornament for our person. Needlepoint ornaments are works of art. Non-stitchers have no idea the time or cost that goes into making them. So creating one for another stitcher is the only way to get the level of appreciation such a gift deserves.

We were all telling stories today about how non-stitchers say things to us like, “You should sell those on Etsy, you could get like $25 for them.” We all know that they are worth ten times that but you can’t tell them that.

Last year one of the original group members, Ann Hamner, told us it was her last exchange. She had some health problems and did not want to perhaps leave someone without an ornament. We have had other people drop out of the exchange for various reasons, but losing Ann seemed very sad.

She passed away last month, so she was right in her prediction that she might not make it to this exchange. Kate Taylor and Ann always wore some kind of Red tartan clothing to the exchange every year. Ann also would wear her red wool Allbirds. Today in Ann’s honor I wore the same Red Allbirds and Kate wore her tartan vest. Kate and I knew why we did if, even if others did not.

We carried on as Ann would expect us to. We had a couple of new members to the stitching advisors. Everyone stitched beautiful and meaningful gifts for each other. It is my favorite way to kick off the holiday season.

I had drawn Kate as my person to stitch for and I made her a Mah Jongg saying I repeat to her often. She got a kick out of it. Nancy stitched for me a beautiful Nantucket basket 3-d ornament.

Somewhere I know Ann was watching enjoying the exchange as she always did.


Speak Up For Others

I am growing more and more distressed about the hate speech towards Jews and LGBTQ+ people. It’s not just speech, but also acts of violence towards these groups.

Everyone who does not agree with haters like Ye or Nick Fuentes needs to speak up against this kind of speech. You can not sit on the sidelines and say nothing, that makes you complicate.

Turning people on “the other” is nothing new. You can read it in the Bible, making some group feel less than has been around a long time. Just because it has gone on does not mean it should continue or grow as it has been lately. We had made a lot of progress in this country in the sixties through the eighties. There was most certainly hate in some people’s hearts, but they were much more likely to keep it to themselves.

Of course that one man whom I shall not name it to blame for lot of this open hostility. I don’t want to focus on him because this hostility is so much bigger than him.

I am proud to say I have many Jewish and LGBTQ+ friends. I stand with them to protect them. It is disappointing when one marginalized group throws hate towards another. Pushing others down does not raise you up.

I have heard people saying they are against Wokeness. Well I am all for people being “woke” if it means that we treat each other with dignity and fairness. You never know when your group is going to be “the other.”

For those Christians who hate on Jews, you seem to forget that Jesus was a Jew. Of course knowing your Bible is not the strong suit for people who hate anyone. Hate is one of the big things Jesus never did. Who are you to judge others? Stop the hate.

Please don’t be a bystander. Take a stand against hate. I know that loving your neighbor is the hardest commandment, but you have got to try.


What to Give Me

My sweet father-in-law is a world class gift wrapper. Consequently he likes to give real gifts. He works months in advance. Wants lists, tips, ideas. I always am on the look out for things I can tell him that might be a good gift for Russ since I know I am going to get a call asking me what Russ wants. He wants nothing, but that does not stop his father.

It is a little easier for him to come up for gifts for Russ on his own since he is intimately familiar with all power tools and their various uses. Consequently we have a world class collection of drills, sanders, saws, power screw drivers, electric levels and stud finders.

Finding a gift for me is much harder for him. A gift certificate for my Needlepoint store is a favorite gift of mine, but not his since there is very little wrapping needed for that. See it’s all about the wrapping.

Today UPS delivered a box of Christmas presents from him. Not only are the gifts in the box well wrapped, but the card board box is also and engineering feat. He cuts down a larger box folding the extra card board to make double walled protection of the gifts inside. Then everything is tightly packed so no movement can happen which might disturb a well placed bow.

When the box arrived I alerted Russ. He said we must open the box now since there was a gift I had to have now. There were two, clearly marked “OPEN NOW.” The first was a Christmas tea towel, always a welcomed item from him. The second was a beautiful silver and gold finely glittered pine cone Christmas decoration. BIG HIT! There is nothing I like more than a beautiful Christmas ornament. As you might already know about me, you can not have too many ornaments on the tree. Even though one might think I have enough ornaments I can always find a place for a new one.

Amazingly there was a slightly bare branch right next to a red pine cone of a much less fine lineage than the one my father-in-law sent. This ornament is a much better present for me than a power screw driver. I am thrilled with my early gift.


Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Yesterday I had a lovely lunch at CCC with their Assistant General Manager and the lovely Marty Peterson. Marty had been the one who originally brought me to CCC to share Mah Jongg with her friends. Her friends turned into friends of friends and eventually multitudes.

Then CCC put a halt to lessons and I was graciously invited into people’s homes. The wave of Mah Jongg could not be stopped. Apparently enough loyal followers of mine kept asking CCC to bring me back. So I got a call to come have lunch and discuss when CCC can resume classes.

Starting in January I will be back one week a month in January, February and March for Beginners and Advanced Beginners. I will also be doing a giant new card orientation class in April. If you are a member of CCC information about classes will be published soon. They are taking just members for early sign ups and if there are open spaces, non-members can sign up the week before.

I look forward to being back at CCC. For those of you who are interested in classes other places, January dates are booked, but there may be a seat at Benvenue in Rocky Mount the first week of January and Greenville CC the last week of January. If you want a class for your own group contact me about February forward. I will be at Dunes Club May 16-18, Coral Bay June 13-15, July 11-13 and August 8-10. Sadly all the spots are filled at Lyford Cay in the Bahamas.

Thanks to Marty for all her promotion of Mah Jongg. I look forward to seeing my Raliegh


Start Your Advent Calendars

Happy December first. It’s time to start your advent calendars!

As a child one of my great Aunts, not sure which one, but I would bet my Aunt Maize, my grandmother’s twin, would sent us a paper advent calendar. We would punch open the little door each day to reveal a tiny picture of things like an angel or a trumpet. There were not gifts or candy inside. We were just excited see what the picture would reveal. It always had a religious theme. In fact the big window was often behind the baby Jesus and it was usually a star.

The fanciest those advent calendars ever got was when they had a bit of sparkle on them. Of course glitter was not really a happy addition since it became a plague on the house.

Later on, well after I was grown, advent calendars became a chocolate delivery system. Why should Easter, Valentine’s Day and Halloween hog all the chocolate? Those were the advent calendars that Carter had. She was not much of a chocolate fiend so doors would often get opened late. I think I sent her an advent calendar last year that had beauty products in it and she opened all the doors as soon as she got it. So much for the anticipation of the coming Christ.

Now we have two advent calendars in our house to start today. Both are for Shay. When I asked Russ to bring them in from the garage he looked at the giant one and said, “Who needs grandchildren when you have a dog?”

Before dinner we will open both little doors and give Shay her treat. She really likes the traders Joe’s dog advent calendar’s sweet potato teats. I am certain that Jesus will be Ok with Shay being the only recipient of the advent treats. Dog is God spelled backwards after all.


Finally Learning

Christmas is my time of year. I love the decorating and the entertaining. I could do without the presents. I hate shopping. I think everyone has too much stuff. I am happy to give children things like books or experiences. I like to give people what they want and need, but most of my people don’t need anything.

When I travel I like to get Christmas presents, but then I end up having to many things for one person and none for another. Russ hardly ever gets a present.

Year after year I leave the wrapping to the last minute. I like to wrap. I love to make beautiful presents. My grandmother Mima was the best wrapper. She always had little decorations on the presents like a swag of pine or a small ornament. No one else in my family ever does anything like that. I have one unnamed relative whose wrapping is so bad I want to tell them not to bother, but it usually fits the gift. Enough said.

Today I had a free morning before I had to go to work. I decided to get a jump start on my wrapping. I hardly put a dent in what I need to wrap, but it felt good to get started. I am at least three weeks ahead of last year’s initial wrap. I consider this great progress.

One thing I decided to do was use my very best paper, boxes and ribbon I had. I even found cute tags I had been saving. What I am saving them for I have no idea. I am certain I will not not outlive all my ribbons.


Giving Day

Ten years ago some thoughtful person decided that after Black Friday and cyber Monday, days all about buying, it might good idea to give back. So Giving Tuesday was born. There are countless charities that deserve your support. If you went to Dickinson College today is a good day to remember how important your days spent there were to your personal development.

The new year brings me to my 40th reunion. I am happy to be helping with the planning and support of that exciting event. One of the goals of the class of ‘83 this year is to increase the participation of giving from our classmates. You can give today and have it count as a gift for our reunion gift. You can also make a pledge towards our reunion gift. If you want to really go big you can make a three year pledge and the whole amount counts towards our reunion gift, but you have three years to pay it off.

Today I made a three year pledge by emailing Lindsay McCauslin. She set up the pledge and added it to our reunion totals. It’s a great time to check off making that pledge and making your plans to come back to Carlisle in June. Email mccausll@dickinson.edu to make a pledge.

If you can’t make a pledge today you can make a one time gift today at https://giving tuesday.Dickinson.edu It will still count towards our reunion gift as long at you put our graduation year in the box.

I am thankful for all the friends I made at Dickinson and hope that I will see you in person soon. Happy giving Tuesday!


Vacation Dreams

I got a beautiful surprise from my friend Kar today in the mail. She visited me this summer in Maine and took some gorgeous photos. She turned them into cards. The images bring back such happy memories of a wonderful month in Maine.

I am already dreaming of going back next year. One would think that a month any where would give you plenty of time to do everything you want, but that was not the case for us in Maine. On the other hand sometimes we go someplace for the weekend and I can hardly wait to get home. Maybe that is because Shay was with us in Maine, but not usually on weekends away.

As the days get shorter I start to dream of travels for the next year. With one month already booked I am not sure how many other vacations I can get Russ to take, especially if they don’t include Shay. For now I am just going to think about Maine as I gaze at Kar’s darling cards.


Throwing Up Christmas

Three days of throwing up Christmas and I am mostly done. The tree took longer than it should have, but here are some pictures of it in progress. The lighting is poor, but you get the idea of how long it takes to completely disguise a tree. The last photo shows you a close up of what the ornaments actually look like.

This is my first Christmas with the green living room. I took it from Mexican Fiesta to full blown Christmas. It is the perfect color to scream holiday when all the decorations are out.

It seems I still have plenty of room for more needlepoint ornaments. I will have to move something round when I receive my two ornaments from my two needlepoint exchanges. I can hardly wait to give my ornaments to my people.

I love the new color of the dining room with the Christmas village. I still need a bunch of wreaths and command hooks. I never knew that the command tape would go bad, but it did.

Decorating weekend is in the books. Now I have to turn to party cooking.


And Just Like That

It was a great week with Carter home. Adult children are such a pleasure. I wish someone told me this when she was in middle school.

We had brunch this morning with her sister E and Baby chick. I think the last time they saw each other was last Christmas. There is just not enough time to catch up on everything that is going on with each other.

By the time we finished brunch and went home so Carter could finish her laundry and pack it was time o take her back to the airport to fly home to Boston. I no longer say, “When are you coming home?” Boston is her home now.

The only good thing about Thanksgiving is it is only three weeks until she comes back for Christmas. Then we will go lord knows how long before she visits again.

I will take whatever time she has to come back to our house and spend time with her puppy. For now we just say farewell. Se you at Christmas.


A Slow Start

The older I get the longer it takes me to decorate. It’s not the physical moving, but the time spent reliving where I got or made each ornament. I guess I am getting more nostalgic.

Half the garland up

Russ and Carter did their jobs in precision. They got all the boxes out of the attic. They brought the tree in and set it all up. Russ even programmed the lights to come on with a voice command.

A third of the ornaments

I on the other hand took quite a while to put up my needlepoint garland. I had to look at each ornament and figure out where I was when I stitched it. Going up and down the step ladder took a while. I eventually got that job done, then I moved on to decorating the rest of the living room.

Half of the ornaments

I have to remove all of non-Christmas decorative items, clean everything and pack them up. Then I got to putting out the Christmas ones. Decorating the mantle and setting up the Christmas village under glass took a while thanks to lots of cleaning. I have not quite finished the living room, but I was exhausted from that one room and gave up for the day.

All the needlepoint up

Carter and I watched some TV together and I just couldn’t bring myself to start on the Christmas tree. Despite the 20 hinged crates sitting right in front of the tree I was not having any of it.

I predict it will take the whole next two days to finish the decorating and I will be lucky if I can do it in that amount of time given what else I also I have to do this weekend. Thank goodness we have an extra week of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am going to need every bit of it.


The Eve of Christmas Decorating

Some of you call today Thanksgiving. Some call it the eve of Black Friday. In my world today is the eve of Christmas decorating. Yes, we gave thanks today. Carter and I cooked up a storm for a meal for four that could have served 20.

“Mom, why did you get an eighteen pound turkey?”

“Because it takes the same amount of time and work to make it and once I have done it I will have all those leftovers to make turkey dishes for your father to eat all through the holiday season, while I am busy cooking for holiday parties that he won’t be going to.”

“Why won’t he be going to them?”

“Because they are for needlepoint, or garden club or other ladies things he is not part of.”

The real reason is I don’t want to be bothered with cooking anything else for the next three days so I can throw Christmas up all over our house.

Russ and Carter consider tomorrow the worst day of the year because they have to take all the boxes out of the attic and help get the tree up. The tree is so much easier than it used to be, but that does not alleviate their disdain for the day of decorating, even though neither of them hand one ornament or wreath.

I hope you all had a gentle day of giving thanks with loved ones. No fighting, bickering or disappointment. I hope your turkey was juicy and plentiful. I hope your travels were uneventful.

For me it is a day to rest up. To prep for the sprint of making magic appear. The race of decorating the whole house in three days begins in the morning. So farewell pilgrims and turkeys. So long cornucopia and pecan pies.

Tomorrow is peppermint, sparkle and lights. Pine, festive bows and garland appear. Heralding the happy season I wait for all the year.


My family does not like to start Christmas until after Thanksgiving. I think if I were not around they might wait a very long time. I on the other hand am just waiting to finish Thanksgiving so I can get to Christmas.

A couple of weeks ago I got a call inviting us to see Harry Connick Jr.’s Christmas show last night. Thankfully they included Carter so I excitedly accepted the kind invitation.

As the DPAC was full I knew I was not the only one who thought it was never too early to start listening to Christmas music. Connick did a great job and had a very entertaining band. The most hysterical member was Harry, the sax player. He looked a little like a character from the hobbit, but he could really play.

It was a festive way to kick off the season and even get my whole family in the mood. When we left the building a snow machine was blowing flakes on us. Yeah for Christmas! We just need to eat all that Thanksgiving food we cooked today and I can start decorating.


Surprise Packages Keep Coming

My crazy sister Janet and her partner Sophie are not coming for Thanksgiving. It is Sophie’s big birthday so they are going on a nice trip. Yeah for Sophie! We wish her a happy birthday.

We are sad not to see them, but truth be told, they don’t usually come for Thanksgiving. So it came as quite a surprise when three separate boxes arrived today with gourmet treats for us. First a box of very special biscuits. I thought that was very nice.

Then a while later a box of an assortment of smoked salmon. Yum. Now we are getting fancy. And a final box of lobster Mac and cheese arrived. We have reached the highest of decadence.

Only my sister Janet would send such extravagant surprise gifts. Well actually it is just like something my father would have done, but don’t tell Janet that she is as superbly generous as he was. It was his best trait and one I am glad she got.

I am not sure when and where we are incorporating theses yummies into our holiday, but we will.

The good news is Janet and Sophie will be coming for Christmas so we can spoil them in person then. Until then, have a fun birthday celebration. We love you!


Work From Home Works For Me

Last night Russ and I stayed up late to pick Carter up at the airport. She has a flexible Work from Home job and so she has come home for the whole Thanksgiving week. It is such a treat. I had not realized that she has not been home since last Christmas.

We have see her plenty, graduation, trips to Boston, Maine, but she has not come here. With my Mom in Durham it makes it easy for Carter to spend time with her.

Today for Carter’s WFH lunch break she took my mother out to lunch. She had a great surprise there when she saw our minister Chris which was a bonus for her.

After she finished her work day she went to Costco with me. It was so helpful to have her extra hands and good eye for gifts. We laughed about our shared love of appliances. We had a simultaneous reaction to a refrigerator and burst out laughing about it.

I hope that you and yours will get to spend some quality time over this Thanksgiving week. We never know how much time we have together. I hope that the flexibility of being able to work from home does not disappear. It also helps not having to travel on peak days.


$120 for Head

Yesterday Russ got the mail as we were on our way out to do errands. As I was driving, he started to peruse the catalogs that filled our box.

“Apparently Sharper Image really likes you,” he said. “They sent you two catalogs.”

As he flipped through the pages he commented on the many useless items. The winner of then “stupidest gift” was a $120 beer dispenser. The thing that made it so ridiculous is a human must open a can of beer, put it into the machine and then put a cup under the spout, pull a lever and dispense the beer.

The copy reads, “The canned bear draft system uses ultrasonic vibrations to create a dense micro-foam that boosts the flavor of any canned bear.”

I laughed as Russ read this to me. “So this machines gives better head,” I said. “That’s all it does? You do most of the work, but it gives head.”

Russ nodded. “Well the copy writer missed the boat on this one. The headline should have been “‘Better Head, just $120.’ Men would buy them by the thousands.”

I went on, “If the headline was ‘Give yourself Better Head’ women would buy them for their significant others in droves.”

Now I wonder what is in the video.


Sweet Ann

When I picked needlepoint back up sometime a decade or more ago I was warmly welcomed into a well established group of accomplished stitchers. Many of them had been stitching their whole life and they would sit around the round table at Chapel Hill needlepoint and talk and needlepoint.

When they first invited me to stitch with them I was very intimidated by their skills and their long term friendships. One woman was incredibly helpful to make me feel at home, Ann Hamner. We shared similar feeling on politics and dogs. In those first weeks of stitching with the “stitching table advisors” she made me feel like however I was stitching was fine. “I only do basketweave,” she used to tell me as I looked at the intricate stitches of others.

Eventually I was invited to join a special group and we would stitch Christmas ornaments for each other secret Santa style. I liked having the ornament exchange as a lunch party at my house and all the stitching advisors would come and stay all day.

Ann could be counted on to show up in her red plaid turtle neck and red vest, no matter how warm a December day it ended up being. Our friend Kate often wore her vest that matched Ann’s turtle neck.

I loved hearing about Ann’s dog Splash or where her grand children were going to college as we stitched. Covid ended stitching at the round table and I missed being with Ann regularly. Then she had some heart problems, but after a long illness she recovered.

Last year she announced it was her last year in the ornament exchange. I was sad, but understood. I thought we would still have the table. But stitching at the table has not come back and I was more often than not teaching Mah Jongg.

I recently sent out the invitations for the ornament exchange, which always happens the first Monday in December. Paperless post asked me if I wanted the same guest list. I had to modify it, but what I didn’t know is that Ann would not be able to make it this year, even if we just invited her. Ann passed away this morning.

Although she was older than my mother I considered her a contemporary. She was a young spirit who was kind to everyone, human and canine. Her passing will leave a big hole in the stitching advisory.

I’m certain we will be telling lots of Ann stories at the exchange this year. I pray for all her family and friends who will miss her sweet smile. She was the best.


Ripping Through You Kale Salad

As we are about to enter the eating season I am doing my best to reverse what usually happens to me at this time of year. I know that I can’t just give in to the sweets and carbs that seem to be everywhere during the holidays. My best defense is to just say no. I have said yes too often in the last two years.

Part of cutting out the types of foods that seem to stick to my bones means I have to up the flavor profile of healthy foods. So tonight I made a kale salad topped with salmon. The ingredients I added as bombs for the tastebuds were, tart apple slices, shaved fennel, almonds, red onion, lemon and Parmesan.

I started with some dark Dino Kale and massaged it with a bit of very green olive oil. I added the other ingredients and a lot of black pepper. I let it marinate for a bit while the kale softened from its treatment. Topped with a bit of pan roasted salmon made it an almost perfect dinner.

The quality that held it back from perfection was the tendency of the kale to get stuck between all of my teeth. It takes a lot of jaw action to break down kale. So after dinner I went right to flossing. I first used a floss pick and when I broke the notoriously strong bit of floss I turned to regular hand-held floss. Five minutes of dentist worthy flossing and I still had kale between a few molars. I brushed my teeth, first with my firm tooth brush and then with my soft. Back to hand flossing and I think I got it all.

I really didn’t want any of that kale to go to waste between my teeth because I wanted it to go to work ripping right through the rest of me. It was delicious and it was good for me. I am not saying it was as good as a piece of pecan pie, but it will do.


Can’t Wait for the Holidays

Today was my last day of classes until the last day in November. I love the flexibility of my work to take off as much time around holidays as I want. I purposely only scheduled one class in December so I can fully enjoy my favorite time of year.

It seems like the holidays have snuck up on me. I have hardly bought any presents and I have not made a single one. I have some ideas, but haven’t fulfilled them. I am in search of good experiences to gift to people on my list, as opposed to more stuff.

There are four main entertaining events I am hosting and I have made a couple of lose menus. Thankfully Carter has volunteered to make the Thanksgiving menu and wants to help with the cooking. I need to clean out the freezers to make room for food for parties.

Thanksgiving is as early as it can be this year which means we have a whole week after turkey day before December first arrives and the parties begin in earnest.

Before any of the party food can be made, the big thing that must happen is decorating my house. Everything must be thoroughly cleaned and non-holiday decorative items must be put way to make room for the sparkle. I can hardly wait.

Last year there were very few parties. All of my family got Covid over the whole 12 days of Christmas. This year must be better. Wishing for a healthy holiday season, with a few parties and a lot of happiness.


Ethel Walker’s Memorial Chapel

Today was the autumn memorial Chapel at The Ethel Walker School, where I went to high school. The school had let me know that my friend Stori’s name would be read and bells would be rung for her. A link to the live stream was provided so I could watch the service.

This is the second year in a row I have been sent the link to the service since they rang the bells last year for my father as he was considered a friend of the school and included in that memorial list.

Just before the service was to begin I got a message from Stori’s sister Lilea telling me she was logged into to watch. I was happy to be able to message Lilea through the service so it felt like we were there together.

When I was a student at Walker’s I was the head of the Northfield League, which was the group who ran the bi-weekly chapel services. Seeing the familiar chapel on my screen and hearing the beautiful organ music made me feel right at home. The chapel is where I developed my love of public speaking.

There were some familiar parts of the service which have been the same since I was a student. The choir sings the same song in the same way. The student body and guests sing “For the beauty of the earth,” my favorite hymn. And the Names of the Alum’s who we had lost in the past six months are read first, then the friends of the school.

Today Stori Stockwell Cadigan was the first name on the list and the youngest alumna by 20 years. It did make me feel good that all of the others were at least 80 years old and much older than that.

One thing that was different at this Memorial Chapel from one’s in my day was the main speaker. Harrison Shure, the assistant head of school, gave the remarks about the loss of his father in 2011 when he was a teenager. The new and refreshing part was that he is a gay man who spoke openly about being gay and how he was sorry his father had passed before he had come out. He was sure his father would have been an excellent parent of a gay man giving many funny examples of what he envisioned his father would have done as an ally.

It was a pleasure to listen to Harrison speak and I felt confident that he is an excellent assistant head of school. I am even more happy that an all girls school embraces him as an important part of the community. Diversity at Walkers is very important and it is valuable to have diversity of every kind this day and age.

The chapel service was beautiful and I am thankful to have been able to watch it. Stori was a supportive alumna and friend of the school. I will miss having her beside me in the pews at reunion chapels, but know that our classmates will hold her in our hearts.


We Need a Break In Politics

I’ve enjoyed exactly one week of only one political campaign still texting and emailing me, rather than the hundreds I was getting hourly two weeks ago. Yes, Georgia still has one more run off which means I am not totally politically free from people begging.

Now the great pumpkin is ruining all the peace by making some lame announcement tonight. I am praying that he comes to some sense of reality that his consistent losing ways are only going to continue now that most republicans are blaming him for the dismal showing in the midterms. Running for office in no way is a get out of jail free card for past crimes. I think we should all blame monopoly for creating the idea that there ever could be a get out of jail free card.

I am sure I am not alone in my desire to have a few months free of political campaigning. How about a few months of actual legislative work? Biden has been diligently working with his head down actually getting laws passed. We need to keep up this pace and fix things like legal immigration, and smart gun reform.

I am hoping republicans will realize how tired people are with school shootings and that the places with the least gun control have the most shootings. I’m looking at you Texas.

Please politicians, just get to work and stop just running for office. Running is not working and we pay you to work.


Tea Bracket Needed

There is no event I like better than afternoon tea. I love the listing of many teas you get to chose from. It is often a difficult decision to chose between fruity herbals or classic black teas. I like a citrus tea but usually want some kind of caffeine.

Today I had the pleasure of going to a friends house. She offered a cup of tea as an afternoon treat. I gladly accepted. Then she guided me into her butler’s pantry where the most extensive display of teas were laid out. Easily there were fifty or more choices. I could have spent an hour reading all the descriptions. I really needed a tea bracket in the style of the NCAA basketball brackets to help me decide. A rooibos versus a classic green. Rooibos versus and Darjeeling. Darjeeling would advance.

In the end I chose an apricot tea. It was a lovely caramel color with a citrus tang. I was very happy with my choice. Thanks to my darling friend for a beautiful tea experience. She may not cook, but she can really put on a beautiful tea display. I am available every week to taste them all!


We Skipped Fall

Friday it was 70 degrees. It’s been a very hot fall. It’s been confusing about what to wear. Then last night a cold front dropped and it was 26 degrees. We woke up to a good covering of snow in the mountains. It stayed cold.

So what could we possibly do? Work a puzzle! Jan and I both love a puzzle and she has the best set of trays to sort pieces by color. If you don’t know that is how you do a puzzle you are taking too long to do it.

Rex thought we were crazy to start a 1000 piece puzzle, but we assured him it was a fairly easy one and sure enough we finished before lunch. What a fun mountain weekend. Thanks Jan and Rex, we had a great time.

Thankfully the snow had melted on the mountain road so getting down the mountain was not too hard. Now we are home where it is also freezing. We skipped having fall nd have moved right into winter.


Siamese Mah Jongg

Our day at the mountains has been all about football and Siamese Mah Jongg. It was a good day for the Tennessee Vols which was the spotlight game here. Jan and I perfected playing the two handed version of Mah Jongg.

Siamese means each player plays two hands at the same time, trading tiles between racks as you want. You only win when you get both hands. It is a very fun way to play Mah Jongg if there are only two of you. Since neither Russ nor Rex play Mah Jongg we had no choice.

If we weren’t so enthralled with foot ball we might have gone outside, but by the time the Tennessee game was over it had started raining and the temperature has dropped precipitously. Now they are forecasting snow for later tonight so we might be forced to play a lot more Mah Jongg tomorrow until we can get the cars down the mountain.

Now we are getting the puzzles out for tonight. As far as I am concerned this is a perfect weekend.


Off to Owl’s Roost

Our friends Jan and Rex invited us to come to the mountains for the weekend. There is no better place to spend the weekend than Owl’s Roost in Todd, NC. There certainly are no better hosts.

Jan encouraged me to get here as early as possible, which meant in day light hours, because the mountain road, which is the last twenty minutes of a three hour drive, was next to impossible when the road is covered in leaves. As I have been here a few times I understood why she was saying this. The “road” is pioneer like. Meaning there can be sharp drop offs on either side and heaven forbid you have another car, or worse a truck, coming at you. Even if you are driving with the mountain on your side, the gully between the mountain and the road made by rain runoff is between three and six feet deep. If you are driving on the non-mountain side the drop off is closer to 30 to 600 feet.

Tropical storm Nichole had some serious rain bands coming through North Carolina today. There was a lot of rain this morning, but the sky was blue when we left Durham. It only took until Greensboro before the rain started again. I would say there were only about 25 minutes of scary driving, when the rain was so hard that my fastest or fast wipers made no difference. Thankfully Russ and Shay were asleep in the back of the car for that part.

We got to the continental divide and I knew that the turn off for Todd was not much further. Leaving the highway, we traveled the last twenty miles on small winding country roads, which took forty five minutes. A good portion of that trip we were on the Todd railroad grade road which ran right beside the South fork of the New River. The New river is supposedly the oldest river in North America. I am not sure who is verifying the birthday’s of rivers, but that is the claim the New river makes. (I do think if it were named the new river that might mean there was an old river, but I’m not going to argue.)

The storm had caused the New river to flood over it’s banks. As we drove along looking at how far the breach of the river had gone I was getting worried that we might come to a point where the river covered the road. I had been worried about leaves covering the road and had not considered the worse water emergency. We were really out in the middle of no where so when I saw a car coming towards us I took that as a good sign that the road was not washed out ahead.

After about six miles the road finally split from the river as the river made a big bend. Now I felt like we were safe, until we came to the much smaller river that flows under the bridge to get into Jan and Rex’s neighborhood. Thankfully that creek, now more like a river had not crossed the bridge.

We made it up the mountain, I think with fewer leaves, thanks to the big rain washing them off the gravel road. We arrived safe and sound at Owl’s Roost with a few minutes of daylight to spare. Let’s hope that’s the biggest adventure of the weekend.


Favorite Maintenance Day

There are very few jobs in home maintenance that make me as happy as the day I get my windows cleaned. Getting a new roof, no. Replacing an HVAC, no. Regraveling the driveway, definitely not. But paying four tiny men to clean the inside and outside of my windows, Yes, Yes, and Yes.

If I thought I could afford it I would have my windows cleaned four times a year. Alas, that would be a huge waste, but I would be so happy.

The week after daylight saving makes perfect sense as a time to clean because I want whatever afternoon sun there is to get in and I want my windows clean for all the Holiday parties.

While those tiny men were here, they cleaned off my roof and my gutters and cleaned up all the cobwebs with dead leaves that were around the doors and windows.

I am amazed how fast they are able to clean the storm and screen windows as well as my regular windows.

Getting my windows cleaned by others is a luxury I did not know about until I was older. I owned a house in Washington DC and not once did I get my windows cleaned. There was city dirt I am sure should have removed, but I had no idea that I could hire people to do this.

Most young homeowners don’t know how much money you need to have set aside for annual home maintenance. The rule of thumb is you are going to spend between one and four percent of the value of your house on big maintenance, not things like cleaning or yard up keep.

I was lucky that when I first bought homes I did not have any major replacements that came up unexpectedly, but that was just luck. My advice now is to young people is to have a deferred maintenance fund that you contribute to annually so when you need something major replaced you don’t worry about where the money is coming from.

Cleaning your windows is not something that falls into the deffered maintenance category, but it does help you enjoy your house so much more.


Poor Tiffany Trump

Tiffany has terrible timing. She announced her engagement the day before Trump skipped the inauguration and flew out of Washington like the pouty sore loser that he is. She got the tiny dim spotlight that she has always gotten as not an OG Trump kid.

Now her wedding is at Mar-a-lago this weekend. Let’s hope they get the hurricane shutters off the building before the wedding and that no storm damage rips up the place. Of course the real hurricane is her loser, I mean lousy father who did an excellent job picking mostly candidates based on how far up his ass they stood.

Thankfully most of the country voted for normal over MAGA crazy and Trump is getting blamed for it. He is certainly going to have an axe to grind and I can only imagine the speeches he will give at this wedding. My big question is who is he going to stiff in payment for this wedding, as he is holding it at his own club he won’t be able to run out on the bill. I can’t wait to hear what the tent vendor and the band have to say after the wedding is over.

How Tif picked the weekend after the election I will never know. She probably believed the polls like everyone else, but she should have hedged her bets and not chosen a date so close to her father’s most recent big loss. It can’t possibly be the party atmosphere at Mar-a-lago. Then again, it is just Tiffany’s wedding so it’s just not that important. She is the overlooked child. At least her engagement ring is bigger than Ivanka’s


The Flower Caper

Fun garden club meeting today. Stacey Burkert had us to her workshop where we made paper white arrangements. Stacey designed a sample with sticks that will act as a fence to hold up the pesky flowers which tend to get lanky and fall over. Interestingly she told us that they get too tall if they do not have enough light. So keep your forced bulbs in a cool, but sunny spot so they don’t stretch to find the sun.

I made two arrangements so I can bring one to my mother. After finishing them I placed each arrangement in a box and set them by my purse. I started cleaning up so much of the mess we made in Stacey’s workroom. Others were still making arrangements that Karen Rabenau was going to take to the memory care home on Hope Valley road. The residents there get very excited whenever we bring them some floral decorations for their individual rooms.

After tiding up a bit I went to get my arrangements to take to the car and they were gone. I asked the half dozen people who were still there if they saw who took my flowers. None of them did. I had barley had my back turned to the bench where they sat for a minute.

I took a photo of the spot where the flowers once had stood and emailed it out to the whole garden club asking if someone had taken the wrong things home. Then I looked at the list of attendees. Subtracting the people in the room and the people who had left early I tried to figure out who it could have been. Stacey looked down the bench a ways and noticed two boxes with two different arrangements in bowls someone had brought from home along with her clippers and gloves. She recognized whose they were. Before I could even call her the mistaken thief pulled up in the driveway announcing she had mistakenly taken the wrong flowers home.

All was good and she put my flowers in my car. I called my mother to see if I could drop hers off and she is not in Durham. I hope nothing happens to her flowers until she gets back next week. They seem to be a hot commodity.


Respondez, For God’s Sake

I’m beginning to lose patience with adults who don’t open, read or respond to emails. It’s the start to the holiday season. People are sending invitations to parties and would like to know if you are coming. Not responding is nothing new for some people and you know, we know who you are. I am a member of a club where, no matter how many emails are sent, no matter how blaring the subject line is, no matter that it has colors and lights that flash, there are people who can’t be bothered to say, “yes,” or “no.” And these are people who were brought up right.

If it were up to me I would remove people from guests lists permanently if they can’t have the courtesy to respond. Now the people for whom “No, I’m not coming” is the answer I think they assume that if you don’t hear from them you know they aren’t coming. Then there are the people who never respond and have the balls to show up.

People… do the right thing. Look at your email once a day. If you see something from a real live person you know, open it. If it is an invitation, look at your calendar right that moment and respond. If you think you want to check around to see if you are going to get a better invitation for that same day, then just say “No” right up front.

No hostess wants to think you came because nothing better came along. If it is a meeting that requires and RSVP, give it. The people who are organizing the meeting need to know how many chairs to put out and how much coffee to make.

This isn’t 1950 where you would write a formal note of acceptance for an invitation. Most invitations today have an easy electronic way to respond. Just do it!


All Saints’ Sunday

Today is the day we ring a bell at church for all whom we have lost this year as their names are read aloud. At Westminster they included everyone who the church prayed for who ended up passing away, regardless if they were a member of our church or any church. The list was long. It included Queen Elizabeth II and Desmond Tutu. It also included at least 14 members of our church, which is a lot to lose in one year. I can remember years where we only lost a few church members.

My friend Stori was in the list. They are listed in the order that they passed away since last all saints’ day. The name just before Stori’s is my friend Susan Ketch’s mother who died a few days before Stori. Also included are the father of my friend Dave Pottenger and his wife Sara’s mother Mary Tatum Quinn. The was a lot of loss for the Pottenger’s in one year.

I hope that if you lost someone in the last year they were remembered today on all saints day, as you remember them everyday. You only make the list once and I would hate for your loved one not have anyone pray for them, whether you are a believer or not, we still pray for them.

On this day I also pray for all the loved ones of the deceased. We can’t pray your special people back to life, but we can pray that you have peace and know you are loved.


But Mother, I’m Hungry

I don’t know what happens between Shay and Russ while I am away working. Her normal dinner is some kibble with a few pieces of chicken. She eats the chicken and maybe one stick of kibble. Then she stands by whatever human is nearest and looks you straight in the eye and licks her lips. That is the signal that she is ready for her cheese course.

A small sprinkling of shredded cheese goes on top of the kibble. She daintily eats the cheese leaving most of the kibble, a feat that is not easy to do since the kibble and the shredded cheese are basically the same shape and size.

Back to looking at the closest human. Knitting her brows and licking her lips. Time for her second cheese course. Usually she eats that and finishes her kibble all at the same time. She knows that is her three course meal.

Tonight Russ gave her a third cheese course. What? When did this start happening. She licked up the last shed and showed us a clean bowl. I asked her if she wanted to go upstairs with me. No.

Russ asked if she wanted to go outside. No. She held her ground on her kitchen bed, sitting with her perfect straight backed posture. She started licking her lips. We held our ground. Then she gave us the sad puppy face and knit her brows. Russ gave in. Four cheese courses! I looked at her with the, “this is the last time,” face.

She lay down and gave me the, “But mother, I’m hungry,” face. I think she has been watching 101 Dalmatians.


Chicken With My Vegan Salad

I went to lunch today with my friend Jan. I had requested we go someplace with a healthy salad and we settled on the Boot, by the beer study. They had a number of nice salads and I chose the vegan because I liked the vegetables in it. I asked the server if they could add chicken to it and she said, “yes, grilled or fried?” I happily chose the grilled.

I have to say that the vegan salad was delicious with the chicken. So my version was a vegetable chicken salad. I did not miss cheese at all. The best ingredient in the salad was shiitake mushrooms that had been smoked so they resembled bacon. Chicken is much better with bacon and so the mushrooms were excellent with the chicken. I am going to have to learn how to make these mushrooms at home. Maybe a smoking gun is a good Christmas present to ask for this year.

In the scheme of what is bad for the world and what is bad for me, beef and dairy products aren’t that great, but chickens are not that hard on the planet.

Happily the server did not flinch when I asked for chicken with the vegan. I think this might be the compromise I can live with since it was so yummy.


More Mah Jongg for Less Violence

I’m home from making 24 new friends in Greenville teaching Mah Jongg. On my ride home I listened to the radio all about political violence and I got to thinking about how there is no violence in Mah Jongg. People of all political persuasions play together happily and hardly a mention ever occurs that would cause a fight.

The world needs more Mah Jongg and less violence. Guns are never welcomed at Mah Jongg. The most dangerous thing there is my pointer stick at Mah Jongg class and so far I have not hit anyone, even by mistake.

I’m tired of people thinking that a Gun or a Hammer can solve a problem. Most of those people with those are men who might never have learned to “use their words” when they were little. I think if people could play more games together they would find out how much they liked each other.

Once you like someone it is easier to come to a consensus about things. Life is about compromise, not about who can yell louder or shoot faster. Shooting should not ever come into it.

So sit down and play a game and when you are done go out and vote. It’s not over until all the ballots are counted. Don’t pay attention to polls. We can’t save democracy if we don’t participate. Then come back and play Mah Jongg.


Taking Up The Make Up Mirror Cause

On Friday I met my old roommate Nancy at a Hotel in Boston. We were there to be roommates once again before going to the service for our friend Stori. Saturday morning we both got showered and got ready. Nancy came out of the hotel bathroom complaining of no make up mirror. I complained of the font size on the tiny shampoo and conditioner bottles.

Take off your glasses and see if you can read these

Here we are, two sixty year old women unable to get read without out reading glasses on. Nancy said she is on a campaign to get hotels in supply make up mirrors in their bathrooms. My campaign is to have all toiletries to have a BIG S on the shampoo tube, a BIG C on the conditioner and a BIG L on the lotion.

I don’t know about you, but I started needing reading glasses just after I turned 40. I will be needing them the rest of my life. If I m lucky I am going to still be going to hotels until I am at least 80. That is forty years of not being able to see which tube I need to wash my hair or be able to apply mascara in a hotel.

So I am jumping on Nancy’s campaign and every time I stay at a hotel without a make up mirror I post a request and complaint on their website. I’m asking at the front desk and sending a note to the corporate headquarters.

I am adding a campaign for shampoo with a big S. If hotels put those big refillable bottle in the shower they usually have a bigger identification on them and they don’t add as much plastic waste to the landfills.

It’s time for older duets to speak up! We have dollars to spend. Join us in alerting hotels what old ladies want and next time you go to a hotel without these things speak up.


High End Take Out?

I’m out of town teaching Mah Jongg. I’m staying at the nicest hotel in this town. The hotel is very nice. I have a big room with a Desk, chair, sofa, king sized bed. The lighting is even fairly good.

The nicest restaurant in town is right beside the hotel. I ordered some roast chicken and salad for dinner. They brought it to my room in a Brown cardboard take out container placed inside a brown paper bag. All fine with me. Then I found the silverware. One of those little plastic sealed bag with a plastic fork, knife and spoon, thin tiny white napkin and salt and pepper packet.

Those ubiquitous take out silverware packets come in varying quality of silverware. This packet happened to be of the lowest quality. The fork was so small and thin it could not pierce the salad greens. The knife twisted as I tired to cut. It could not hold up to being pushed down onto the food.

Please, if you own an up scale restaurant please but the heavy duty silverware packets. The cost is less than a nickel more than the thin ones. Buying the cheep ones just lost me as a repeat customer. I had to go to the front desk of the hotel and ask for real silverware. Thankfully they had some.