And the blanket total is…

For the past 20 days, many individuals and businesses have contributed to the 9th annual drive to Blanket Orange County.

Take a look at what BOC volunteer and Keller-Williams Realtor, Kim Solomon found when she went to pick up blankets donated at the YMCA.

That was last week.

Darcy Gunn from the YMCA called again yesterday to say the box was o’erflowing again!

And look at the piles of blankets picked up by BOC volunteer, Farley Bernholz.

Farley has picked up at the UNC Wellness Center almost daily to keep their box from overflowing.   Even so, Wellness Center manager, Mike Martinho has been stashing them in his office for between visit overflow prevention.

BOC volunteer and Coldwell Banker/HPW Realtor, Gayle Claris will be delivering a big load of about 40 blankets to IFC tomorrow. Thirty of these were donated by Homewatch Caregivers of the Triangle.  About 15 more blankets await Gayle’s pick up at the Chamber of Commerce and Aloft Hotel.

Rosemary Waldorf, former Mayor of Chapel Hill who now works with Bryan Properties, just picked up 20 blankets from H2Only Cleaners and the UPS Stores.

Susan Reda, owner of Susan Reda Productions, has coordinated these pick up efforts and spread the word to media contacts.

And speaking of media contacts…Ron Stutts and Aaron Keck have done interviews, invitations, articles and announcements to get the word out to the WCHL/Chapelboro community.

With the efforts of all of these individuals and businesses plus the many individuals who have dropped off blankets so far…the grand total as of today is…

240 blankets collected.
Just 60 more blankets needed to reach goal.

Can you or your business help by donating a new or gently used blanket*?

Drop off boxes are ready and waiting to accept your donation from now until Monday morning.
They are located at:  


For more information, visit the Blanket Orange County website or Facebook page.

*Twin/single bed sizes preferred.

Ron Stutts Retrospective

Last week WCHL celebrated the 35th Anniversary of Ron Stutts’ start at the station. Surely you noticed, with all the on-the-air promos and all the guests and surprises in the studio last Friday morning.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt declared it Ron Stutts week in Chapel Hill. Former mayor of Chapel Hill Howard Lee and his wife Lillian came in to express their appreciation. Chapel Hill police chief Chris Blue and fire chief Dan Jones came in and presented Ron with a First Responders T-shirt, since ‘CHL seems to usually be first to inform the community of dangers and natural disasters, such as the devastating December 2002 ice storm that hit the area just a few weeks after the station “came back” to Chapel Hill from Durham. Former Carrboro mayor and current state senator Ellie Kinnaird came in to thank Ron for his service.

Ron with Ellie Kinnaird and Freddie Kiger (Photo Credit: Richard Taylor)

There were dozens more, including phone calls and appearances from some of Ron’s on-the-air compatriots from years past. Of course, Ron’s regular cronies Dr. Wayne Pond and Freddie Kiger were there with humor and insight as well. WCHL station manager Christy Dixon and owner Barry Leffler orchestrated all the celebrations. Numerous promos ran on-air all week.
As we ponder Mister Stutts’ contributions, we are blessed to have Ron and his comedic cast of characters to wake us up weekdays, compared to the formulaic morning zoo madness heard on most radio stations nationwide. Sure, Ron gives us the news, so aptly prepared by Aaron Keck and the award-winning ‘CHL news department. But Ron informs us and entertains us as well.
He’s a master at the control board and produces the show himself. That would take three jobs in New York or L.A.
Ron knows how to laugh at himself. When he makes a rare mistake, Ron includes us, his listeners, as he owns the joke and rolls on. Most listeners don’t realize all the preparation and behind-the-scenes work Ron performs each day to make the next day’s show sing. He schedules Commentators like me to give our best 90 seconds. He finds our daily Hometown Heroes, produces their stories and even brings in Pets of the Week. He emcees dozens of local events and charities each year and records numerous station spots and promos. Sure, Ron is the voice of WCHL, but he’s also the voice of the local community as well.
So, thanks for your longevity, Ron Stutts. You’re just as much a Hometown Hero as anyone Gerald Ramoin ever put in the spotlight. You’re the glue that holds us together, and we really appreciate it.

See you on the radio.

Ron Stutts’ 35th Anniversary July 27, 2012 (Photo Credit: Richard Taylor)

8-Course is 8-Course, Of Course, Of Course


I cook. I do. Not as often as I or my bank account would like, but I have been known to produce pretty unexpectedly awesome stuff from the kitchen when I put my mind to it (cinnamon burgers and Pineapple Thingie to name two).
But one thing I’ve never done is made an X-course meal, where X is some number larger than, say, 3 (appetizer, entrée, dessert. Done.)
So, Monday at noon, I emailed 6 friends and invited them to an 8-course dinner at 830PM. After sending invitations, I decided on the 8 dishes that I wanted to prepare. (Yes, I invited people to an 8-course dinner that I hadn’t planned yet. What of it? I’m an improviser; surely it couldn’t be that difficult to improvise an 8-course meal!)
The Menu:
Soup course: Green Pea Vichyssoise
Salad course: Caribbean-Chicken Salad (NOT Caribbean Chicken-Salad; ugh)
Pasta course: Creamy Bacon Carbonara
Fowl course: Grilled Chicken with Watermelon Salsa
Meat course: Maple-Bourbon Steak Tips on Roma Tomato Petals
Dessert course: Peppermint Ice Cream
Fruit course: Cranberry Relish
Cheese course: Grapes with Cubed Cheddar and That Marbly-Kind of Cheese, You Know the Kind I’m Talking About
A couple of things about these dishes:

  1. I googled ‘8-course dinner’ for the course titles themselves (soup, salad, etc), then googled ‘awesome SOUP recipe’ ‘amazing SALAD recipe’ etc.  The Google-Fu is strong with this one. Also, I find that googling adjectives is a much more reliable rating system for products and recipes than, say, the five-star system. For exactly the same reason that a lot of your friends are willing to Like a post on your Facebook wall, but only a select few will Share it and Recommend it on theirs.
  2. I had lured my friends in with promises of steak tips from The Meat House on Franklin St. (seriously, they’re the best, and you should try them tonight). So I designed one course around them using a cool plate decoration recipe I found.

The Plan:  

  • 5PM: Leave work.
  • 5-5:45PM: Buy ingredients.
  • 5:45-6PM: Drive home, unpack car.
  • 6-8:30PM: Cook everything (maybe leaving a couple dishes in holding patterns and checking on them while serving the other dishes).
  • 8:30PM: Guests arrive and ask if they can do anything to help. Smile casually and shake my head, saying, “Oh, no, everything’s already taken care of.”

Feel free to take a moment here to laugh at my naiveté.
Hubris has always been my heroic flaw.
First of all, I got out of work at 530PM. And then I spent a half-hour rushing around the produce section of Harris Teeter, cursing under my breath. At one point, I realized I had just spent 3 minutes walking up and down the organic produce aisle, mumbling, “Cilantro, cilantro, wherefore art thou, cilantro?”  
…I don’t often cook things with more than four ingredients. Don’t judge me.
And all that was before I got to the rest of my shopping list. I finally got out of the grocery store at 6:35PM, and that was only because I had to get to The Meat House before they closed at 7PM, and so I gave up on several ingredients I just couldn’t find.
COOL FACTOID: You can’t buy fresh cranberries right now at Harris Teeter OR Food Lion.
Fruit Course: CHANGED.
I got home with all of my ingredients at 7:10PM:

In my new car (a new thing I tried right before I started this column)
and on my kitchen counter. I overbought. By a lot.

No worries, I thought, I’m only 70 minutes off-schedule. How bad could it be? I pulled out my six full pages of recipes and began on the vichyssoise.
COOL FACTOID: I chose vichyssoise because I’ve been wondering about it ever since I saw this scene from Batman Returns.
A short while later, two separate guests showed up early, asking if I needed any help. And I smiled casually, shook my head, and said, “…Yes. Yes, right now, yes.”
Thus, the evening suddenly changed from Kit cooking 8 courses for his friends…to Kit cooking 8 courses WITH his friends. I have really awesome friends.
More guests showed up, and they had decided to further derail my plans by potlucking it up. Bringing a dish to an 8-course dinner? What were they thinking? Well, to make them happy (and for no other reason), I begrudgingly replaced two of my planned courses with these new additions.
Fowl course: CHANGED.
Dessert course: CHANGED.
Menu Update:
Soup course: Green Pea Vichyssoise
Salad course: Caribbean-Chicken Salad
Pasta course: Creamy Bacon Carbonara
Fowl course: Chicken Stir-Fry
Meat course: Maple-Bourbon Steak Tips with Watermelon Salsa on Roma Tomato Petals
Dessert course: Cherry Pie and Hand-whipped Cream
Fruit course: Berry-Apple Smoothies
Cheese course: Grapes with Cubed Cheddar and That Marbly-Kind of Cheese, You Know the Kind I’m Talking About
With the seven of us all collaborating, everything went smoothly (although my friend Sylvia did give me a dirty look when I asked her to blanch, peel and quarter a dozen Roma tomatoes, and my friend Ted did give me an exasperated sigh when I asked him to zest orange peels and then discovered the closest thing I own to a zester is a fruit knife, and my roommate Aaron did give me a smack upside the head when I referred to him throughout this column as ‘a friend I invited over’).
The rest of the evening was spent madly half-preparing a dish, running to the table to eat the previous course, finishing the next course, and repeating the process.  Here are the results:

Soup course: Green Pea Vichyssoise

Note: I bet I’m the only person ever to make vichyssoise in a Ninja Blender.
Secondary Note: Also, we ate the soup course so fast, I didn’t get a photo of the finished product.  These are the bowls after they’d been cleaned. It was the best I could do. It was really good. Although, due to time constraints, I didn’t serve it completely cold, which, as that clip from Batman Returns mentioned, is the entire point of vichyssoise.

Salad course: Caribbean-Chicken Salad

Note: I don’t eat salads very often, but I’d make an exception for this one.
COOL FACTOID: I’ve never had vinaigrette dressing before. It’s really good with strawberries.

Pasta course: Creamy Bacon Carbonara

Note: Probably the long-term winner of the evening. I’m sure I’ll make watermelon salsa again, and vichyssoise is definitely a keeper, but this was both delicious and the kind of easy that defines my nightly dinner choices. Also, bacon. ‘Nuff said.

Fowl course: Chicken Stir-Fry

Note: My friends Sylvia and Matt brought this. It fit very well with all the other dishes, which vaguely makes me feel like they somehow cheated. Not complaining.

Meat course: Maple-Bourbon Steak Tips
with Watermelon Salsa on Roma Tomato Petals

Note: Watermelon salsa sounds insane. Ignore that; it’s like tomato salsa without the acid. Also –a personal recommendation– use, like, a quarter of the recommended cilantro.

Secondary Note: It was, I admit, a little too much sweet for one dish. If I did it again, I’d go back to my original plan: savory grilled chicken with the sweet watermelon salsa, and sweet Maple-Bourbon Steak Tips with the salt-and-peppery Roma Tomato Petals.

Dessert course: Cherry Pie and Hand-whipped Cream

Note: My friends Colin and Julia brought pie and a carton of heavy cream. Colin whipped the cream, and he gave me a disappointed look when I told him we didn’t have vanilla. I’m buying vanilla today. Don’t judge me.

Fruit course: Berry-Apple Smoothies

Note: I make a lot of smoothies. This was one of the better ones.  My secret: Use more strawberries than seems healthy. It hasn’t steered me wrong yet.
Secondary Note: That crazy thing in the middle is the blade-stem from my Ninja Blender
…I own a thing called a Ninja Blender. Seriously, how cool is that?

Cheese course: Grapes with Cubed Cheddar and That Marbly-Kind of Cheese,
You Know the Kind I’m Talking About

Note: By this point in the evening, everybody was full and tired.  We all just had one piece of marbly cheese each (Who eats the cheddar first? Weirdos, that’s who.) and headed home (Aaron had a shorter drive than most).
Quickly, Lessons Learned:

  1. I don’t plan well.
  2. My friends are awesome and supportive.
  3. A lot of fruit went into these 8 courses. (looks back)…Wow. Like, a WHOLE lot.
  4. Things that you truly care about have a tendency to work out in the end if you push yourself hard to excel but don’t sweat the small stuff.

Now, on to a ten-course meal!

I, Kit FitzSimons, am an aspiring Experience Junkie; I’ll try anything once. Every week, something new. If you have suggestions for me, stories of your own, or want to join me on an adventure, let me know via email here.

Not-so-Savvy Spending

The Chapel Hill Town Council (CHTC) has banned the use of all types of cell phones by drivers: both the handheld and the hands-free as of June 1.  If you’re a regular Chapelboro reader, you probably know this.  What you might not realize is what it may cost you and I’m not talking about the $25 fine.  

Here’s the scoop:  this ban will end up in court and the town will have to pay to defend it and council members knew that and decided to spend our tax dollars (and/or staff time- which we also fund) doing so.  

I keep hearing about priority-based budgeting, that we’ll have to make tough choices about what to fund, that our already high taxes will have to go up….  and now, this little expected expenditure.  Really people?  This is your priority?  

In a terrifically thorough discussion of the likely court arguments, WCHL News Director Aaron Keck and Legal Analyst Hampton Dellinger explain why this ban may be unenforceable.  There’s even an opinion from the North Carolina Attorney General’s office saying so and guess what?  That opinion was available to the CHTC before members voted. 

I too have seen drivers oblivious to all else but their phones, weaving and dawdling their way through traffic.  Somehow I know they’re on the phone because they are using one of their hands to hold the device instead of the steering wheel.  “Both hands on the wheel,” my driver’s ed. teacher told me.  

So if hands-free devices are also being banned, I bet the phone lines are jammed at Performance Automall to make appointments to remove car radios (perish the thought!).  Also, the Chapel Hill Town Council must be moving some priority budgeting over to childcare because I certainly can’t be talking to my child in the backseat; that’s a hands-free conversation too.  Also, inventors must be furiously working on patented devices to detect chewing gum and Chapstick that may also be illegal to use inside my vehicle.  

I’m not advocating distracted, unsafe driving; I’m saying that each driver is licensed and is required to pay attention.  Once we get beyond the rule of both hands on the wheel, we’d have to start regulating daydreams, laughter, rubbernecking and dozens of other hands-free distractions that happen to all of us at some point when we’re driving.  While I think this is impossible, as is the upcoming ban, I think the bigger problem is a question of those darn priorities.  

I submit that all elected officials need to look at the biggest possible picture when making decisions and voting on laws, plans, bans, etc.  This ban reeks of being voted on in the abstract, in a world where taxes and budgets and residents in need are on the periphery.  It’s nice to take a utopian stand but only when we live in Utopia.  

Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below or write to me at