My Durham Magazine Column

My cable and internet went out this morning. Not great timing as I was finishing polishing m sixty slide power point for the new Mah Jongg card class.

I am teaching in Raleigh tonight. Will get home around 10. Turn around at 7:45 and drive back to Raleigh. Teach three back to back classes. Get around ten tomorrow night. Go back to Raleigh at 7:45 Friday morning and teach.

So five three hour classes in a forty hour window. That leaves no time to get my internet fixed. So as I am sitting in a parking lot before I lug my stuff into an event space and I posting a photo from Durham magazine of my column. I have no band width to do anything els.

Reality Ministries Happiness

My garden club had a fabulous field trip to Reality Ministries today to visit their North St. Neighborhood and specific to see Tony’s garden at the corner house.

I first got to know Reality years ago when Beth Sholtz told me about it and suggested I do a story on it for Durham Magazine. I met Susan McSwain, the founder and was so impressed with their mission to create a community of friends where people living with disabilities are side by side with friends whose disabilities not as apparent. The day program provides a loving place for 400 people who might otherwise be lonely to have a place to come and be with friends.

One of the wonderful things that came out of Reality was an intentional neighborhood of 20 homes where over 100 people live together, people with all kinds of abilities living together. These are not normal group homes, but families made up of chosen friends.

Many of the houses have glorious gardens and we went to have a tour of one of these gardens where Tony lives and tends his fruits, vegetables and flowers. Tony grew up in Greensboro and moved to Durham when his mother passed away. My guess is he is in his seventies and without Reality I am not sure where he would live. Bonnie who also lives in the home with Tony was there and shared her gift of making tea with us all. They were a most friendly pair who were clearly loved by many.

It was an incredible visit and I was so happy that members of the garden club got to learn about the miracle of Reality Ministries and meet the sweet friends who spend their day there.

Tony is a master gardener and he showed how people of all abilities can have extraordinarily talents. His gift is gardening, and maybe also impersonating Elvis, but that is a story for another day.

Thanks to Quinn Holmquist, the community out reach director for sharing Reality with us and making us feel so welcome. If you live in or around Durham and want to visit a happy place call Quinn to schedule a visit. It will change your perspective on how wonderful it is to live in a world where everyone is valued.


When I leave home to go teach Mah Jongg it is one thing that Russ has to fend for himself, but for Shay it can seem like I am abandoning her. Tonight I went to a cute girl’s house in Raliegh. He darling puppy Bonnie took a liking to me and wanted to snuggle while I was teaching.

It is never a hardship to play with cute puppies. The only bad thing is the look of betrayal on Shay’s face as she sniffs all of me when I get home.

I try and reassure her that she is my number one dog, always, but she is not happy to know that I step out on her. No matter how much I tell her it is just for work, she is still insulted.

I wonder if Shay should become my Mah Jongg assistant then she could entertain the dogs while class is going on. The only problem with that is she would have to play with other dogs and hat is not something she likes to do. She would think she should teach Mah Jongg and Ali could play with the dogs. If I could just get her to hold the pointer stick.

Happy Easter to All

A glorious day happened to day! Christians celebrated our risen Lord.

My Mom came to church with us, but had to sit in the pew with Russ and our friend’s Jeanne and David because I was the lector and sat up front. It was a cool, but sunny start to a cloudless perfect day. Church was full with many friends. Chris gave a great sermon about going out into the world to do good. Always my favorite theme.

After church Lynn and Logan came over for Easter lunch with us. It was a feast of all that spring has to offer, peas, deviled eggs, lamb chops, with fresh mint sauce from my garden mint, new potatoes, blue cheese slaw and carrot and cheese cake bars. Nothing is more satisfying than cooking for Logan who is the most appreciative eater.

Then there was the excitement of watching the Masters and Jon Rahm’s decisive win. I was so happy that a non LIV tour player won as I am not a fan of the Saudi’s blood money in golf.

I had a lovely afternoon needlepointing while watching the golf. It was practically the perfect Easter. It only could have been made better if Carter was home. But we had a great FaceTime with her while my mom was still here.

Happy Easter to all. The Lord is Risen, he is risen indeed.

The Busiest Time

April is my crazy month ever since I started teaching New Card Mah Jongg Classes. This month I am touring the state teaching my friends all the secrets to the new Mah Jongg card. Since my giant class is Thursday I had to finish my lessons. To make teaching the new card easier this year I created a power point presentation for the class. It took forever, but at over 60 slides long it covers a lot of information.

Between working on my slides, I made my big teaching Card for the year, planted some foxgloves, lupines, lantana and creeping Jeni I bought in Georgia, set the table for Easter lunch and prepped as much of the Easter feast as I could.

After chopping the mint from my garden to make mint sauce for the lamb I finally hit the wall and called it a night.

I almost forgot to practice my lector readings. Thank goodness being lector on Easter never includes lists of difficult names.

The one thing I did not do was look for a warmer Easter Dress. I am praying it is warmer tomorrow than it is today. I might have to wear a Christmas dress if the cold and rain keeps up.

Happy Easter to all the believers.

You Just Don’t Know

On my drive home from Augusta this morning I got a text from my mother that my cousin Steve had passed away. Steve was my mother’s middle sister Susan’s youngest son. As the oldest child of the oldest child my first cousins on my mother’s side are all much younger than I am. I was a teenager when Steve came along.

Sadly Steve led a hard life. His demons were constantly present. I saw him at his mother’s memorial service five years ago and he was in a fairly good place. Then at another cousin’s wedding where we found out he was getting married too and having a baby. I was hopeful for that baby and sadly now Steve has left him and his very young wife, Amanda.

My Cousins, Jim and Steve, my Aunt Eddie and Steve’s now wife Amanda

My uncle Hank has memory issues and so my cousin Jim, Steve’s older brother, has a lot on his plate. I am just so sad for him and pray for them all. You just don’t know how much time you have. Try and not leave anyone without telling them how much they mean to you.

Near Perfect Day at the Masters

Going to the Masters with Judy, Master of the Masters was perfect. We were up early and out of the door making the fifteen minute drive to August National in time to get great parking in the B lot. The walking from the car was nice and easy. The weather was warm, but mostly overcast in the morning.

We executed our plan “par”-fectly. Our first stop was at the pro shop where the line to get in kept moving at a steady pace. I was able to purchase all the gifts I could afford, filling two bags, that I regretted when I had to carry them to the car, but I am getting ahead of myself.

The Masters thinks of everything a guest might want, including an excellent check service for all the purchases you make. I was amazed at the men who looked like their bought their wardrobe for the next ten years.

Judy had asked me what my goals for the day were and shopping was checked off, next was seeing as many players as I could and lastly seeing as much of the course as I could.

We started the morning watching a pairing that included Fred Couples as we walked the course to the stands on the green at the fourth hole. On the way there we got some breakfast and then seats at the top of the stands. It turned out to be an inspired place to see most of the players, including Tiger.

The fourth hole is not one of the famous ones, but it turned out to be a formidable hole for many players. Judy and I got to be quite the experts on the hole and predicted with precision who was going to make par and who would go over based on their tee shot. There were many potential birdies that never materialized. In fact we only saw one all day.

We took a break from four to walk the course and the only thing that was not perfect is the lack of color on the course as 90% of the azaleas were already spent. The normally gorgeous 13 hole was just a wash of green without one pink bloom.

It was a treat to see Tiger since it might be his last Masters. The most exciting player was Amateur Sam Bennet making his first Masters’ appearance. I predict great things from him. He arrived at the fourth three under par and held it together to finish the day four under. I also really liked Tom Kim. Of course seeing Spieth, Scheffler, Koepka, Rahm and Day was exciting, but Hovland was a nice surprise to me.

It was thrilling to watch these superior athletes. I am ever thankful to Judy for hosting me. I think I had the pick day of the tournament as the weather is not looking good for the weekend. It will be interesting to see how the tournament ends up.

My day at the Masters checks off a top bucket list item. Thanks, Judy. You are the best.

Yeah for Judy

Some thirty years ago I met Judy when we both worked for my Dad. She worked in the Pawley’s Island office and none of us could survive without her. Judy was one person who could put up with my father and we were in awe with how she did that.

When I retired to have Carter and my Dad more or less retired Russ hired Judy and she worked for him for 25 years. Judy was the best CFO and trusted advisor at Russ’ company, but to me she just got to be my friend since I was no longer working.

Judy retired this year and when she did she asked me if I wanted to go to the Masters with her. Judy grew up in Augusta, still has a place there and has had tickets to the Masters forever. You can imagine my answer was yes in a skinny minute.

Judy, being the most upstanding employee never could invite me to the Masters when Russ was still her boss, but the second he wasn’t…

So today is the day I drove down to Augusta. Judy arrived at her place here about the same time I did. We watched ESPN all afternoon, prepping for my day at the Masters tomorrow. We have a big plan and there is no one better to go with than a pro like Judy. She could answer every question I had, except whether I can wear my Apple Watch. No phones or cameras are allowed, but according to the website smart watches that can’t make calls or take pictures are fine.

We had a lovely dinner and watched Ted Lasso, because once you are on a sports theme you should stay on it.

I am being a terrible guest and going to bed very early. I want to have all my energy cells fully charged for our day, especially since we are going over to the course very early.

I do miss having Judy at Russ’ office as she always had the answers to any of my questions, but I really appreciate just having her as my friend, and such a generous one.

Happy Birthday to my “sister” Janet

I am lucky to have a real sister Janet and a great sorority sister Janet. Today is my Pi Phi sister Janet del Valle’s birthday. So to her I want to say a big Happy day!

Sisters are important, be they the ones you had from birth or the ones you chose. I literally chose Janet d. as my sister as I was the membership chairman when she rushed our sorority. Little did I know at the time that I was choosing a friend for life.

We have been together through not just college and those early 20’s years when we were just figuring out who we were, but through weddings, all of them, children, loss of parents, empty nests and now entering the next chapters of our lives.

I am so thankful to have a chosen sister to laugh and reminisce with. To play games and do puzzles together. To share the daily goings on albeit through text, Facebook, and wordle.

I knew from having real sisters, and my Walker’s sister gang that female friends are so important. The proof that college sisterhood endures is how many of my Pi Phi sisters are still my closest friends. It was my twin Pi Phi sister Laura’s birthday two days ago and I cherish her so much too.

So happy birthday to my other Janet. My chosen sister.

All is Right in the World

At last my Mah Jongg cards arrived. Thank goodness because it was not as much fun to play without a card this morning.

Mah Jongg Christmas, as us gentile Mah Jongg players call the day our new cards come, was not on April 1 as it should have been. I would have thought that the National Mah Jongg League could have gotten cards ordered on January 1 out in a little more timely manner, especially when they raised the price by 50%.

I must say I miss the days when Ruth was alive, god rest her soul. For those who do not know Ruth was the President of the National Mah Jongg League for many years and from the outside it appeared that she ran a tight ship.

I have spend plenty of time analyzing the new card and so far, have written 25 slides for the new card class. I figure I might have at least that many more to go. I will save my opinion of the new card for my class.

Happy playing everyone.

It’s Not About Luck

I have gotten to work on my new card curriculum for the 2023 Mah Jongg card. My friend Jan sent me a post that some person wrote about the new card. I was laughing as I read it. She wrote that Mah Jongg was 70% luck and 30% skill.

I don’t know who her teacher is, but she needs a better one, then she would know it’s not in anyway about luck. Mah Jongg is a skill that can be developed. You only say something is that much luck to make yourself feel better when you don’t win.

The one thing I say to all my students is, “You all have the same amount of luck.” It is not usually luck that makes someone win. It is maximizing your opportunities.

How do you do that? It’s making the most of the Charleston. Anyone who stops the Charleston when they don’t have at least 11 or 12 tiles for one hand is not maximizing.

As far as understanding where your opportunities are in the 2023 card, you will have to come to class to learn that. I worked for three hours today on my PowerPoint for the class and have barley scratched the surface. It’s going to be fun.

Waiting, Waiting

My new Mah Jongg cards were supposed to come today according to my USPS Informed Delivery email. So far they are not here. They did not come with my regular mail and the USPS site says they will be here by 9:00PM. I am not sure I believe them.

So I did some other things today. First we went to the farmer’s market and bought strawberries and plants. Strawberries went up in price a huge amount! Plants did too. I brought home some spinach, cilantro, dill and Lactose kale, which I planted.

Then I decided I should start my game table chair needlepoint seats. I drew out the first one on a poster board and then copied just the center onto my canvas. I want to stitch the center first and then add the rest. It’s going to take forever due to the size of the canvas and this is just one of the four.

My glasses give you an idea of the size

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. A friend showed me the new Mah Jongg Card so I started analyzing it in preparation to write my “New Card” class syllabus. This year I am doing it in PowerPoint since I have such large groups in my classes. I pray my cards come soon. It’s hard to be a Mah Jongg teacher without the cards.

I could switch to be a garden or needlepoint teacher, but that’s not as fun.

Thank You’s

Late this afternoon I looked out my front door and there were two packages on my front porch. One a big giant box and the other a big bag. I looked down into the open topped bag and saw a beautiful Japanese knife with a note tied around it. Beneath was my cake plate I had brought to my friend’s house. I picked up the knife and read the note of thanks.

The box was also a thank you. Inside were four giant ribeye pork chops, each individually wrapped as if they were gold themselves. I had never seen a chop so big, let alone four. They were from our friends who came to visit two weeks ago.

Such extravagant thank you’s. One for a cake, the other for a night’s visit. I texted my friend who returned the cake plate and said that the knife was an over the top thank you for a cake. She texted back, “Isn’t that your knife? I thought you brought it with the cake.”

I had not brought this knife. When I went to cut the cake at her house my friends and I had a terrible time finding a knife in her kitchen. She doesn’t ever cook. The knife we found came from the skinniest drawer that held four or five very random knives.

“I haven’t been in the kitchen much in the last year.” The knife was not a gift to me. She came back and picked up her bag and knife.

I am now afraid to call my friends about these pork chops. These friends don’t live here and I don’t want to ship meat out of state. I am sure they really are a thank you gift, but after the knife…

Carrot Cake Extraordinaire

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

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

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

3 cups of flour

2 1/2 cups of sugar

1 1/2 t. Salt

1 T. baking soda

1 1/2 T cinnamon

1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil

4 jumbo or 5 regular eggs

1 T. Vanilla

1 cup crushed pineapple – lightly drained

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1 1/2 cups of shredded coconut

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

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

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

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

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

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


12 Oz. Of cream cheese at room temp

8 oz. Of softened butter

4 cups of powdered sugar

2 T. Lemon juice

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

Chill the frosting for half an hour.

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

Your Child’s Life or your Gun

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

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

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

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

Intergenerational Mah Jongg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Kathi

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

What my kitchen looked like after completing the cake

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

Those birds were not on the cake

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

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

When Your Plan Bumps Into Your Calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plants, Plants and More Plants

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

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

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

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

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

The Fireworks of Lady Banks

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

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

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

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

Margaret was Right

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

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

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

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

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

All New

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Nicely Worded Letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tournament Day!

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

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

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

The winners!

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

Some of the players who stayed until the end

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

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

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

No Rest for the Wicked or the Weary or Both

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Old Friends you Love Come to Visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art in Bloom

This was a favorite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I do What I Shouldn’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Time to Write

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

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

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

The Most Difficult Question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Stuff Once in a While

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

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

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

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

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

A Slap In the Face

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

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

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

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

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

Oscars Without Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-Mah Jongg Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Wedding Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Job Because of the People

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

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

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

Working Out by Working

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

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

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

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

So here’s to working out by working.

Newest Mah Jongg Graduates

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

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

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

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

Wishing you all a lifetime of jokers.

Back to Real Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shay Reunion

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

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

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

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

Last Day and Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning Strategy Should Be Fun

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

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

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

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

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

Beginners No More

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

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

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

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

I’m A Pusher

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

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

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

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

Best Day of Work Ever

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

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

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

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

My Day Off

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

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

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

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

Travel Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appliance Baron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beginner Mah Jongg Tournament

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

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

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