Wednesday, November 1, 2017

You Knew I'd Show Up...Eventually

November! Finally! And it feels like November! Has your autumn been strange? Mine sure has.  August and September were dreamy and cool, and then all of the sudden it shot into the 80s and stayed there! The fuck?! It was so fucking gross! The leaves all started to blush early and then many of them fried on the branches in that bullshit heat.  Though with the other weather phenomena lately, I guess it’s horribly unbecoming of me to complain about shit being ugly in Ohio.  That was the worst of it. Was your area in the path of some apocalyptic weather system this summer-fall?
I got a tiny taste of coastal life with hurricanes shortly after Labor Day with Irma.  I haven’t bought my Hilton Head place yet which I had been a little frustrated with leading up to hurricane season.  Once it arrived, I was glad!  The hurricanes haven’t changed my mind though.  I just need to go turn some tricks for people with a fetish for maladjusted rude fat men (it’s a niche market) and get it done.  Anyway, the plan was to stop in Atlanta to see my brother (he had moved to Atlanta, but he just moved back), and then head to Hilton Head.  Before I left Columbus, the forecast looked unfavorable and by the time I arrived in Atlanta it was obviously not going to happen.  The South Carolina coast wasn’t even expecting anything “bad”, just maybe 3-7 feet of storm surge.  Listen, I was not about to put myself in the situation to potentially need rescuing with my dog and my Le Creusets because my dumb ass wanted to walk the beach (though I did reeeeeeeeeeally want to be there leading up to the storm to photograph the waves!).  So knowing the fucking disaster that is Atlanta and their idiot motorists and miserable traffic, I left Atlanta about 4AM the Friday before the storm.  How incredibly eerie to be casually driving back to Ohio among all Floridians.  There were no lane changes or speed fluctuations, just disturbingly judicious driving almost in a drone-like trance.  You see cars crammed with people and possessions and pets, clearly distilled to the essentials.  Obviously for so many this is a familiar sight but I hadn’t ever experienced it. 
Not my photo! A buoy that washed ashore in Hilton Head during Irma
 beautiful shot courtesy @that_lowcountry_life
What could be a long story, I’ll make short.  (edited to add, Ha! Short. Sorry!) What a weird fall.  Now I don’t want anyone talking about this on my Instagram, this is a blog only type of deal, but I literally fell into another relationship and it could not be going better.  You know I’m a Taurus and my ability to romanticize knows no bounds, so I’ll be careful and not say anymore.  On the other hand, my goodness, does it take time! I am simply short on time these days.  It’s an adjustment I’m happy to calibrate but I need to strike a balance as I’ve been robbing time from sleep and that’s not good! Even with missing a week for a would-be vacation, September was one of the busiest months I’ve ever had workwise. Well of course I did what I always do and charged through thinking I’ll sleep when it’s all over! Well by the time my last wedding of the season rolled around, I had been going on 3-4 hours of sleep a night for like four weeks.  The last wedding was October 7, on Sunday October 8 I woke up and thought nooooooooooo! Of course, I was sick.  I keep doing this! Push too hard, burn out, get sick.  Oh? And among all this, my uncle died.  Now the truth is I was simply not close with him.  Never any issues, we had a nice rapport, but we just didn’t have that connection.  But this was my dad’s oldest brother and my dad absolutely adores him.  It was a complete shock as he had just turned 67 and was in incredible shape, a marathon runner and triathalon person—I don’t know what the fuck they’re called, triathletes? Anyway, it just knocked the wind out of my poor dad as I could see he had that terrible feeling of robbed time.  My uncle was to retire at the end of the year and planned to travel extensively and my dad was excited to do some of that with him.  So while I was not personally as heartbroken over this loss (and I hope that doesn’t sound as bad as it does to me, do you know what I mean?), I could feel these sort of agonizing vibrations of loss around me.  Luckily I was finally better the week of his Ohio funeral and was able to pull it together and host dinner for 50 (short of 50, no idea how many would come so I was prepared for 75).  The temptation is to think that people don’t care if you cook or host in your house, but the truth is many of them do.  There is a soul and a feeling of legacy that is irreplaceable to me.  The funny thing is the older I get, the more people I lose, the more I believe in the sense of duty of family.  I knew nothing could matter more to my dad right now than if I help him send his brother off the way he wanted.  He doesn’t have the time to do things this way, but he can count on me to do it.  I thought of my cousin’s children who have just lost their grandpa, schlepping to Ohio and wanted it to be nice for them, I thought of how my grandma, the indomitable Virginia, would have opened her doors and fed everyone somehow with only like two hours of work, and then my beloved Aunt Patti, who shared none of her mother’s practicality and all of my artistry and Martha Stewart fantasy, and all I can say is I so intensely felt them.  I almost felt selfish as everyone was at the church service and I was alone in my kitchen getting ready having this world-bending moment of connection and intuition.  For me, these meals the cornerstones of family life. 




After the meal when everyone was sort of milling around, talking with my cousins I realized they think of me the way I thought of my aunt and grandma.  I have no clue where the silver will go when I’m no longer using it, but hopefully there will be another link in that chain. It feels good to hold the spot. 
So? Thanksgiving! Oh my god I am so glad for Thanksgiving.  I am so glad for November.  Things are slow right now, there is a bitterly cold rain falling, and the upside of our mostly shitty October is that there are still beautiful leaves to admire.  I am glad to exhale, breathe in the beauty, and enjoy planning Thanksgiving with all of you. 
A Halloween tradition started by Michelle, still in practice now. Chili on Halloween! 


It will be a little different this year as I have pledged to myself I will not allow myself to work past 11PM, no matter what kind of groove I’m in or how much it may throw off my schedule.  The important thing is that I do it.  Of course, my aim is still lasered perfection as always (though never achieved, because remember! I am not a perfectionist because perfectionists never get anything done because nothing is ever perfect!), but my first priority will be maintaining a normal sleep schedule.  Things change, hurricanes come, people die, you fall in love, and you eat too many mashed potatoes and drink too much wine.  Sounds more or less like Thanksgiving. 

As always, this only works if you participate.  You can argue with me, point out the obvious holes in my logic, whatever you want.  But mainly I want to know about you.  I want to know what you do for Thanksgiving (or Christmas if you’re Australian!), how have things changed for you from last year? How many turkeys? How many people? How many bottles of wine per person? Who can’t be seated next to each other? Tell me! You know you don’t even need to sign into anything to comment here.  

Monday, August 21, 2017

Do you give a fuck about the eclipse?


The physical eclipse doesn’t really excite me much, but then again I am in Ohio.  We are expecting something like 70% totality which is of course not totality.  But it’s okay, I’m glad for a good word like totality to have a boost in the vernacular.  God knows I deal in totality.  Or at least I usually do.  I'm having some bouts of indecision whiplash which is most unlike me.  Of course, the last thing we really need more of right now is totality, but that’s a fight waiting to happen I guess. 
What does intrigue me incredibly is the astrological nature of this eclipse.  But I am in a huge rush and need to just get this cookie recipe posted and hopefully talk about all this later.  I’m very sorry that this is a repost of an old recipe.  I am going to refer to it on Instagram today and wanted it in a convenient spot. 


After a long and busy summer, my boat totes were looking like shit.  So Friday was their laundry day.  Barbie
enjoyed supervising their drying and refused to move. So now they're freshly laundered with some freshly washed dog hair attached.  


To make a long thought short, I’d love a discussion on all of this.  Whether you give a damn about astrology or not, we can all enjoy an excuse for changes we’d like to make—big, small, or gigantic.  I should know better but—you know President Donald Trump’s rising sign is Leo and this is a double Leo eclipse.  So it’s actually an opportunity for him to change his relationship with the world and how the world perceives him.  Which is interesting given that, in my opinion, one of his most sinister and unwise cohorts is recently out.  Perhaps I am woefully optimistic, but I wonder if he could seize the chance and make a U-turn.  What do you think?  Remember, I accept moderated anonymous comments.  So anything goes…just as long as it’s not vicious. 
A prime example of my eclipse-related indecision vertigo: I made these with one very strong intention, shipped them, then had made a 180 emotional reversal of course by the time they arrived 30 hours later.

Dark and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/4cups (2.5 sticks) butter, melted
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons diastatic malt powder
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon bourbon whiskey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoon salt-plus another tablespoon or so for topping
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
8 oz dark chocolate
4 oz white chocolate

1. Add flour, vegetable oil, and diastatic malt powder to melted butter.  Lightly mix until combined, being mindful to keep mixing to a minimum.  Let sit about 20 minutes. 

2. Chop chocolates into large chunks.  Put chopped chocolate into freezer.

3.  Mix sugars, eggs, whiskey, salt, and vanilla into the flour and butter mixture.  Once just combined, add chocolate and delicately mix in.  Some of the chunks will break, but keep mixing to a minimum both to minimize chocolate breakage and to maintain the soft texture of the cookies. 

4. Line sheet tray with parchment.  Using a 2" ice cream scoop, scoop cookie dough onto sheet trays.  Because they will freeze on this sheet, the dough balls can be crowded on.  Avoid temptation to pat or handle dough balls in any way, unless uneven shards break out of the circular perimeter, those may be patted back in to maintain the shape. 

5. Sprinkle each dough ball with about 3/4 pinch kosher salt. 

6. Freeze uncovered 4-12 hours. 

7. Preheat oven to 400F. 

8. Quickly place dough balls onto ungreased nonstick sheet tray.  The cookies will be about 2x the size of the dough so allow for expansion.  I only bake one sheet at a time as to keep oven humidity down. Quickly get cookies into oven and bake 9 minutes.  Put remaining dough back into freezer.  Start watching closely through closed oven door at about 7 minutes.  You will see the bottom and perimeter browning but middle should still look uncooked (though the middle will temp about 160).  In my oven, they are perfect after nine minutes exactly. 

9.  Remove and repeat.  Allow to cool on baking sheet.  If you try to remove them from baking sheet while still hot, they will likely break.  Interestingly, they taste very best about 24 hours after baking.  Though they are very good an hour or two after bake. 

 
The Christmas adaptation is here 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Perfect Day?


Should you ever ask my mother, the problem-solving and solution-obsessed Aries (Aries rules the head, therefore dilemmas swirl like hurricanes in their heads until they are conquered), for guidance with a problem, she would eventually challenge you to one of her favorite exercises.  To describe—in vivid and obscene detail—your perfect day.  My mother is painfully and excruciatingly detailed.  That energetic gold-green punctuated by chalky white speckling Granny Smith (named for Maria Ann Smith, hybridized in Australia in 1868) didn’t fall far from the tree with me.  So perhaps that is why it’s so effective.  But basically, you map out a day—when you’ll wake up, how long you’ll stay in bed before rising, etc—no detail is too small. 

Do you suppose this buck knows his crown puts him at risk? Uneasy lies the head...
What this never fails to do is remind you that there is no greater luxury than time.  As you go through your dream day, you don’t say I wake up and check my Rolex for the time and hop into my Range Rover for some bourgeois coffee.  It’s all about time.  And as you say things about what you might do in this dreamy, perfect day, you more or less realize they’re easy things.  Universal things.  Some of us love to spend time in the garden first thing in the morning, or commune a bit with nature and our dog.  These things are about having and making time more than they are about anything else.  My perfect day often includes an early rise, my normal coffee and f-e-t-c-h routine with Barbie, and then shopping for ingredients.  A day that is free needs structure for me.  Cooking is obviously how I prefer to create this. 
At this magical time of year, when everything is so abundant and fresh and you can taste summer in thousands of ways, nothing is more inspiring than the farmers market.  What could be the repulsive piecemeal perfume of sticky peaches--and torn corn silk--and pungent onions too fragile to have the dirt brushed off them--all somehow blends beautifully with the overnotes of fresh tomato.  On my dream days, it’s this time of year. 
Much to my delight, my friend Elizabeth of Frontier Farm needed some help at last week's farmers market. I helped her in
the first busy hour of the market.  I think working an hour at a farmers market now qualifies me as a gentleman farmer, right?



It’s been a very busy, wonderful summer.  I just haven’t had the time for a Saturday like this yet.  So with last Saturday completely untouched, I decided to officially close my schedule for the day and take it off.  This is hard to do when self-employed, but important from time to time.  It was kind of the light at the end of the tunnel for what I expected to be a rough week as my little relationship burned out. And it kind of was.  Not bad, but you know there’s always lots of feelings to sort through.  Especially for me because I am so fucking sensitive.  So as I spent the week luxuriating in the melodramatic decadence of heartache, I delighted in thinking of Saturday. I am full-bore on my real estate classes and almost finished here in Ohio.  I have a very promising prospect in Hilton Head that would involve three properties for one family.  So I’ll be deep in classes and testing over the next two or three months and am very excited.  Well by Friday, I was seeing my own absurdity.  That’s always a good mile marker to reach, in my opinion.  When you can look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re full of shit.  Things are more or less back to normal. 

Then I went out to get the mail.  I was expecting one package but there were two.  Shiiiiiit.  This usually means two nights ago I was typing in my Amazon password with one eye closed and wine mouth.  What could it be?! Except I knew that wasn’t it cause I didn’t have time to drink the week before (I know, tragedy).  It is rare to get a truly unexpected present.  About this time last year, I ordered a gravy boat on eBay.  The next day the seller sent me a refund and said actually it had chipped so she didn’t want to send it.  She relisted it discounted, but I just moved on in my search.  So I come in and kind of nervously open the box to find that gravy boat and a note.  What a pleasant surprise.  This set the tone for the rest of my weekend.  I had a fabulous time.  


So, tell me, what's your perfect day? 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Pyrite and Pie



Oh my god, finally something normal! And time to do it.  This is a lot of new for an old Taurus like me.  How are things?  Things are pretty good.  If one can’t have both, I’m glad things are good professionally. I officially ended my long-held dating embargo. Well god only knows what light was shining on me in June because the floodgays opened and I met not one or two, but several great guys where I saw quite a bit of potential.  But there was really one who stood out when I met him.  This guy was the personification of The List, you know like in Practical Magic.  I thought it’d be so easy, I thought he was so much like me, I was into it.  I’ve been told this is a problem but I really am done dating my opposite.  I’ve done it too many times and am too good at being rigid to be challenged on every fucking thing.  You wanna change soap?! Okay, let’s get a divorce.  You want to go to your mom’s house on Thanksgiving? I’m going to fake my own death.   You put fork tines down in the dishwasher instead of up?  I told you, this is my kitchen you are not even allowed in here.  Is it too much to ask that I find someone who just does everything I say and never disagrees with me?! Wellll, the more I got to know him the more I realized, he was in fact not exactly like me.  We agreed on the big things and nothing else.  But I still really liked him.  Okay, maybe I’ll budge on this and that, I can tweak A and B, etc. 

And I have to say, I was feeling pretty happy to accommodate.  I suppose this speaks to the chemical nature of love.  But then something in the energy changed.  I have been asked quite a lot What changed? And the answer is I don’t really know.  I have a few ideas, but chasing leads like that can get messy quickly.  But something did.  Well a week of that was too much for me.  I asked, got a vague answer, asked again, got a different vague answer.  As we all know, once a seed of doubt has been sown, it grows quickly and chokes out things that belong in its place.  So I sweetly but directly ended it.  Ten years ago, I would have thrived on the intrigue of finding out all the sordid details but the SAJ of today does not care for those.  My mantra let go or be dragged was once again of importance.  I asked myself all the times I was glad to have listened to my intuition and all the times I wish I hadn’t.  One list was much, much longer than the other.  Just as well, this is not the time for distractions for either of us anyway. 
The big news is that I don’t regret it.  I mean, I kiiinda regret it, but not immensely.  It was kind of a revelation that I could meet someone, like him, and see a path for the whole thing.  I’d say three steps forward, one step back.  I still feel I came out ahead from where I was, which considering the pace of 2017 for other people, is pretty damn good. 
If only I could learn to write about the thing I set out to write about.  Clearly this was all headed to a discussion on key lime pie.  As we know thanks to FF, we are most definitely in the season of Leo.  This also means the season of key lime pie.  My lifelong best friend is also a Leonine attorney like FF and throughout the years I have made her key lime pies on her birthday more years than not. 
Key lime pie is special to me because it is the first thing I ever mastered from scratch.  For a fat ten year old with a lot of feelings, this was quite the boon.  Looking back, I am less impressed because it’s really fucking easy.  Oh well.  Easy is good, especially for summer desserts.  Issue #1, do I use key limes? Fuuuuuck no.  By the time they make it to Ohio—if they ever make it to Ohio--they are petrified ghosts of fruit and completely useless.  Some people like to be annoying and scoff that it’s not key lime pie if it’s made with regular lime juice.  Okay, then don’t fucking eat it.  I really want it for breakfast tomorrow anyway, asshole.  Issue #2, yes I just use canned condensed milk.  Now I’ve moved away from evaporated milk in my pumpkin pies, so I’m tempted to try alternatives in key lime.  But it’s so easy and so beloved just like this, I think this is one time where my Taurian love for nostalgia and tradition must trump my Taurian pursuit for the absolute best ingredients.  Mix it in, get the embarrassing cans out of the kitchen and into the recycling and think about something else. 

Swamp Rose Mallow, an astonishingly beautiful wildflower in the Hibiscus family



Do those serving pieces in the raspberries look familiar?! They are from Ellie's shop! But I didn't buy them!
Dani did! I jokingly told her she stole them from me because I had planned to buy them.
A little while later she incredibly kindly said she was tidying up her drawers and looked at them and wanted me to have them. I tried to persuade her to keep them but she was resolute! I love them sooo much! Thanks again, Dani! 

Key Lime Pie
Adapted from an ancient Emeril Lagasse recipe that aired on Emeril Live!

Preheat oven to 350F, convection if you have it
CRUST
3 sleeves (1 whole box) honey graham crackers, ground
2 sticks butter, melted
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon whiskey optional
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine and press into greased pie plate. This crust does not bake at all before filled. Make a nice thick crust, we don’t skimp here.  You might have a little left over that you just can’t fit in—about 1/3 cup.  Much more than that is incorrect and you need to have a drink and let your hair down and try again. 

FILLING
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 large eggs

Mix and pour into pie crust. Bake about 15-20 minutes at 350, convection if you have the option. You want a slight wiggle but for the top to remain smooth. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate at least four hours, I prefer overnight. 

I go back and forth on if I like any topping with it.  Some days we are in the mood to gild lilies and some days we are not.  When I do, I like a lime whipped cream.  It’s more lime-y than sweet. 

LIME WHIPPED CREAM
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest
Dash salt

Whip cream and sugar together in chilled mixing bowl until almost set.  Then add lime juice, zest, and salt and finish whipping.



Monday, July 17, 2017

Red Sky in Morning

Generally, I try to make a point of not starting posts with lengthy explanations about just where the fuck I’ve been.  I suppose this time is a little different because it’s relevant beyond just curiosity.  As I mentioned in one of my very long posts, there is no part of me that runs towards change.  I don’t necessarily run from change either.  I tend to just dig my heels in, fight it, and shelter in place.  Much like the idiot who refuses to sell to the city in cases of eminent domain.  Sure, you might win your case but you live in a highway median now.  Grit serves us well, belligerence shoots us in the foot. 
One of my favorite Barbie photos ever. 
Remember how I was giving up carbs...
The sunrise on the vernal equinox was absolutely unreal.  It had been weeks since we'd had anything other than grey skies and it broke for about 15 minutes to reveal this otherworldly show.
So you can imagine my shock when I started feeling the urge of change before it started calling me.  While I started my business amid personal chaos, personal chaos does get sorted out with a steady hand and a corkscrew.  Things that used to make your blood boil now barely merit an eye roll and there is comfort in the minutiae.  Though it can be murky realizing that not feeling plagued doesn’t exactly mean you’re thriving. Recovery of any kind--addiction, heartache, financial exhaustion, grief—must be taken one day at a time to reach success.  But how long?  The only people with a RECOVERED stamp to press to paper are the IRS.  There is no clinical assessment of how healed a broken heart may or may not be.  So at some point, it’s up to you.  No surprise as a well-cushioned Taurus, I moved a little slow.  Somewhere in the last year, the propellers began to rotate here and there.  Kicking up mire and that sat previously undisturbed.  And in these cycles of clouding and clearing, I made more room.  More room for options, permissions, and allowances.  Forgiving people in earnest, not based in declaration or pomp.  Apologizing to others in sincerity, not hinging on manipulation or motive.  If I could term this time, it would be that everything was placed under review.  The mental equivalent of Janet’s favorite hobby: removing everything from your house, cleaning it, and scrutinizing each piece as it comes back in or is officially divorced from your life.  I learned things like I need a lot more white shorts and a lot fewer celebrity memoirs.  Not exactly enlightenment but I’m on the road. 



Pileated Woodpecker
This is challenging because you come face to face with the unrealized pieces of past and current dreams.  It’s confrontational and dusty, both mentally and physically.  Hopefully through this, your gaze is widened.  And where you lived in the myopic cycle of surviving the recovery, you can reset the course from decisions and plans you made while treading water.  The hardest part is accepting that failures along the way do not need to be final, they are allowed to just be knots in the wood. 
I came into the new year with a sense of restlessness and unease.  I needed to think.  And since I’m slow it took a while.  Like, I feel like for about five months my free time was spent with a vacant stare and radio silence.  Maybe I just got fat enough that I was in hibernation and didn’t know.   Regardless, it was good.  While my mind at work is a one way tunnel, my mind at rest is more like a summer treeline at dusk.  Between the squirrels boning, birds chirping, and lightning bugs twinkling, it’s hard to focus.  But as everything in my head boiled, steamed, and distilled, I began to get a vision for a new direction. Or another direction, I suppose.
  

So first things first, I am still going to do hair and have my salon.  I still love doing hair, I love my clients, and I think they love me. In addition to hair, I’m moving into real estate.  I’ve always thought about real estate, as it’s a natural fit with my talents (if we can call them that) and interests.  God knows I have an eye for detail and can work a list.  But it wasn’t until I braided in a Hilton Head connection that it made perfect sense.  As many of you have sensed, a part of me belongs down here.  Yet, not all of me.  If rain and wind-whipped October days amid the decadence of decay were no longer a part of my life, I don’t think any amount of dappled golden light dripping in through Spanish Moss could spackle the hole left in the absence of deciduous magic.  If you’re familiar with HHI, you know that it really could be OHHIO as the amount of Ohioans there practically makes it the Midwest.  So my working plan is to provide kind of concierge service, connecting with people in Ohio and then also working with them down in South Carolina.   I’m currently working on my Ohio license and will then also become licensed in South Carolina. 
I wanna live two places.  Can you do that? Have you done that?  This is where having a blog comes soo in handy.  So many of you are smart and experienced and willing to share.  Please share your thoughts about living two places at once.  Have you done it? How’d it go? Was it for work or pleasure? Have you owned a vacation rental?  Horror stories? Tell me, tell me, tell me.  If you are or hear of someone interested in Lowcountry real estate, thiiiiink of me.  My cell is 614-314-8099. Put me in your phone just in case! It’s written on most mens bathroom walls anyway. It’s 2017 and we all know privacy is dead.  Speaking of which, you may throw rocks at me and call me a hypocrite.  I am now on Instagram in official capacity.  Follow me! Or don’t, it’s fine.  I probably will actually post a photo of myself there though so if you’d like to grab a seat for the horror, it’ll be there. 


Gorgeous Red Headed Woodpecker

An Indigo Bunting! I hadn't ever seen one before.
So the plan at this point in time, is to buy a place down there as kind of an office, place to stay, place for Barbie, and maybe I’ll offset the expense by renting it in season.  I need to get my fucks in a row before I do that, but I’m hoping sooner than later.  I’m sorry to say this will all happen more slowly than rapidly.  It’s not really my nature to share things like this as they unfold, but I suppose sometimes we cannot be omniscient narrators in our own lives.  So rather than my usual practice of sitting here and updating you on the other side of whatever the focus of the story may be, I’m going to trepidatiously share a bit more in real time.  As Mr. Gorbachev and I tear down this wall, I’m wearing a little bit more vulnerability. Which, admittedly, makes my skin crawl.  But it’s good.  I’ve ended up opening myself to other phenomena of the natural world as well.  After all, change does have a ripple effect...
I’m sorry for the long silence and truly touched that some of you really missed me.  Thank you.