Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Displaying Vintage Linen

I have collected a lot of vintage linen over the years.  I use some of it, but a lot of it languishes in a marble-topped buffet.  I've had it in mind to swipe the hundred year old ladder from the garage to display linen for quite some time.  Today was finally the day.
My house was cut into two apartments during World War II. If you look closely, you can see the slot cut into the crown molding.  The wall dividing the house into two parts used to rest in that cut.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More Creativity During Irene

Inspired by Judy's birds here:

I decided to get busy during Hurricane Irene.  I'm not sure why, but nasty, garish, and cheap Goodwill gold plastic frames look awesome painted bright red, black or white.

Since I'm not as artistically talented as Judy, I printed a bird picture from the Internet and cut and pasted the dictionary definition of "songbird" underneath.  It pleased me and kept me from getting the jitters during the storm.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Calm AFTER The Storm

Morning dawns calm on Scotts Creek (part of the Elizabeth River).  The sign is gone, but everything else is fine.  That crumbling pier you see has been gone for decades.

My porch is almost back to normal.  I brewed some coffee and read my Bible out there.  God has been good to 256.  This venerable old lady stood firm as she has through wind, snow, tempests, and rain for one hundred years.  This is what I see this morning, my view from 256.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What I Did During Hurricane Irene

I finally made a slipcover for the cushion on both living room chairs vs. just tucking the sheet around the old cushions.  The vintage sheet was part of a set for $2.25 from Goodwill.  This was one of three things I wanted to change in the living room which I mentioned in this post:

My mother used to have a lampshade made of this print in her bedroom when I was growing up.  The lamp was made from a bottle that looked like the one below.  My father wired it to make the lamp.  She'd never admit it, but I think I started my junking tradition from her. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Glamour Shots of "Irene"

Get ready for some really glamorous pics from my house:

We love Lulu, but she is an irresponsible parent.  Two of her "babies" are dead in the backyard.

I"ll have to make a trip to Goodwill for some more teddy bears.

Naturally my house is camera ready and immaculate:

Nothing like having the entire front yard in my living room and dining room...and the best is yet to come!  Still have power, working on some projects, a roast chicken in the (gas) oven, and feeling pretty cozy, actually.  God is good.

As Irene Rages....I Tweak Vignettes for Fall

If the house blows away, it'll be looking autumn-y before it goes.  It is all about priorities, people.
The lovely vintage fall bird picture came from my on-line buddy Jenene.  Her daughter works at my favorite Goodwill store. Right now, she lives far away, but she will be moving to the next neighborhood over soon.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Keep Calm and Carry On

I love this sentiment.  Posters like these were produced in Great Britain beginning in 1939. 

So, you know that the natural world is a little unstable in your region when you hope that Hurricane Irene will put out the wildfire that's been burning in the Great Dismal Swamp for months now.  When the wind blows a certain way, the haze actually hangs in the air inside my house. This week has been intense what with an earthquake and now a Cat 3 hurricane.    What's a girl to do but keep calm and carry on.

And let me just mention that those of us who hang unique things like handmade dollhouses from our fence and use seatless antique chairs to hold potted flowers in baskets are in a world of hurt when we need to remove projectiles from our property.  They don't seem quite so cleverly eclectic in the midst of a weather emergency.

Actually, I think the situation may be so grave that I need to follow my sister Kerry's advice instead:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Painted the Fireplace Area...FINALLY

This cost nothing except the cost of the blue candles in the hurricane lamps.  I swiped them from my mother's garage.  The paint was in the basement.  Here's how it looked when I lit the lamps.  I had originally intended to paint them white, too, but I love the contrast against the white background.

My Great Grandmother's Recipe Book

My great-grandmother, Annie O'Toole, was a remarkable woman.  She lived in Wilkes-Barre, Pennylvania and was the light of my mother's life, just like my grandmother, Helen, was the light of mine.  Annie was not educated beyond the third grade (as you can see from her spelling and handwriting), but she was very wise.   She kept a spotless house, even with six children and Uncle Johnny (her brother in law) living there.

I am told that she was a fantastic cook.  This must have skipped a generation, because her daughter, my Nana Dunn, was a terrible chef.  Her burgers were so over done that the National Hockey League could have used them at center ice.  My mother has the cooking gene.  I have Nana O'Toole's periwinkle blue bean pot.

Annie's recipes were written in an old pay booklet that must have been from my great grandfather's employer.  He worked in a lace mill as a weaver.  That's her book scanned above, open to the Old Kentucky Nut Cake recipe and signed with her name.  I noodled around on the Internet and found the same recipe with more modern measurements instead of her quaint "coffee cup full" directions.  I kind of like her non-precise recipe better.  I am proud to have been named after her. 

Old Kentucky Nut Cake from


  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped walnuts


  1. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.
  2. In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Combine milk and vanilla, and add alternately with flour mixture to egg mixture. Fold in nuts. Pour into a greased and floured 9 x 13 inch cake pan.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.                at she didn't go too far beyond a third grade eduation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Secret Gardens of Shea Terrace

Some cool, green, inviting hideaways from my neighborhood this waning summer day...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Amazing Things on the Porch at 256

So I was sitting in this rocker on the front porch tonight, after a bike ride.  I considered all the other people who also sat on the front porch of 256 before I did.  I like to think about the Shea Family who lived here until the 1960's.  Their great nephew, Butch, still lives two streets down in a white house with yellow shutters on the water. 

I mused about the live oak trees in front of the old school.  They must have been just saplings back then.,  The sound of the ferry and the Norfolk Southern freight train would have been similar.  No street lights and far fewer houses.   No air conditioning.  Few cars.   However, on a beautiful night like tonight, I feel sure that they would have been rocking or gliding on the front porch.  Most women would still have been wearing skirts just above the ankle, although those scandalous flappers might have been dancing the Charleston downtown.

I went inside to look up this date in history, in 1920, to be specific, when the house was brand new. The first radio news broadcast had just been made in Detroit, but they wouldn't have known.  I was wondering what they might have been discussing as they rocked back and forth.  The Great War, perhaps and how things were now getting back to normal again for everyone.

Nope.  That's not what they were discussing.  Can you guess what?  Women's suffrage!  Women's right to vote was ratified just about this time in August of 1920.   

Autumn Leaves a Wee Bit Early

My friend, Terry, is the best person in the world.  Really, trust me, she is.  Terry is a psychologist.  Besides that, she has a lot of wisdom and is the soul of kindess.   I recommend having a friend who is a psychologist because it is cheaper than psychotherapy AND you can call them at home in the evening.  I have a collection of friends who are psychologists or therapists.  Psychologists...collect all three!   This is an odd thing, but I collect them like I collect Virginian Pilot newspaper reporters.

Anyway, back to Terry being the best person in the world...Terry went to an estate sale last week.  We chatted on the phone.  Then she said those words that make every vintage vixen's heart sing, "I went through a box of vintage linens and took what I wanted.  When you come over, I'll give the box to you, so you can see if you find anything."

I found quite a few things, but nothing more than this beautiful hand-painted fall tablecloth and matching napkin set. 

Here's some detail of the painted pattern:

I had to do a new bouquet.  Strangely, it pleased me that I put the flowers in a depression glass canister marked "flour."  I'm odd and fanciful that way.
The little leaves are actually ashtrays from my Franciscan Ivy pattern.
Thank you, Terry, for this cooling bit of Autumn during dusty dry summer days.  You are such a Proverbs 31 woman.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dollar Store Crafts Blog

Part of my Sunday routine this time of year is biking to Starbucks and reading the Sunday New York Times.  I am a New Yorker at heart, although I split my time between New York and the Hartford, CT area when I was a kid.  I get a vente skinny vanilla 7-pump three Equal latte and go through the whole paper at my leisure.

In today's Times, there was a great article about Dollar Stores which I think all you "frugalistas" would enjoy:

The article refers to this cool blog:

Just sayin'

Bird Brained in the Living Room

I mentioned the little beadboard cupboard above in my last post.  I found it on a trash pile outside an old church.  Judging from what I found inside, it was from a juvenile Sunday School classroom.  I think it has good karma!   I found the smaller box at Goodwill last week.  I couldn't find any reasonably-priced bluebirds to put inside, so I spray painted some Dollar Store birds instead.  Not very Elle Decor, but it works for me.
My livingroom used to be decorated in shades of cranberry and cream, as you can see in the memorial post to my Little Bit.  My living room is dark, because I have a porch across the front of my house.  The colors just contributed to the darkness, so little by little, I changed over to a blue, yellow, and white cottage-y look.  Finding the mirror for the fireplace helped brighten things via reflection.  The mirror looks fabulous with the glow of reflected candles in it when I put a candlestand down in front.   The whole area looks so much brighter.    Thank you Goodwill for $5.25.

I have to thank Daisy Cottage Kim for the bold use of color.  What a living doll that girl is.  My palette isn't the same, but she taught me how to make a room look like me.  I also learned that all the colors don't have to be "matchy matchy."  I wouldn't have picked up those shutters if I hadn't read her blog. 
My next three jobs are to paint the floor lamp white, paint the flagstones around the fireplace off white, and actually sew the chair cushion covers.  Don't tell anyone, but all I did was tuck the vintage sheets around the two old cushions.  I have to fix that before my friend Elaine, the professional decorator, comes for Bible study.  She is QUITE Elle Decor.  O! the horror if she fiddled around with that cushion!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Upcycled Blue Shutters

I never fail to be amazed at what folks put out for the trash.  Just off the top of my head, following are some treasured items I upcycled from the trash: 

a beautiful old door with a wonderful patina and estucheon plate (the decorative area around a door knob) that sits in my living against a wall
the headboard in one of the guest bedrooms
my coffee table
a chair with no bottom that I spray painted red. It sits in my front yard with flowers in the seat area
vintage suitcases
a vintage red checked apron
a folk art wooden heart
the bottom of a Hoosier cabinet
a vintage 1940's enamel counter top
a chest of drawers
a vintage free-standing kitchen spice cabinet about six feet tall
a small beadboard cupboard from a Sunday School classroom which I use for diplays in front of the living room window.

Last night I was riding my bike at Merrimac Point and spied these amazing blue shutters on top of a trash pile.  I kept my fingers crossed as I raced home to get the jeep that no one else would pick them up. I couldn't see balancing five-foot high shutters on my handlebars.  My ceilings are 12 feet high,so the shutters fit perfectly in the area above the bookcase.  

This area is tucked into a corner created by the fireplace flue.  The bookcase is the main reason I bought the house, I just fell in love with the glass front and door knobs.  It is original to the house. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

C'mon Baby Douse My Fire

Did you know that a swamp can go on fire?  I know, neither did I, but if you think about it, the Irish heated their homes for centuries with peat, which is basically the same thing.  The Great Dismal Swamp is on fire and has been for weeks.  The wind has changed and for a second this morning when I first awoke, I thought my own house was on fire.  It is hot and the smoke hangs in the air like fog.   (pic courtesy of the Daily Press.)  The Great Dismal usually looks anything but, however, I have to admit that this pic looks very 1313 Mockingbird Lane (the Munster's address).

So today is definitely a good day for the crock pot.  About the last thing I want to do is heat the kitchen up.  Just to give you some ideas, I mixed a can of cream of mushroom soup, a half a can of wine, one teaspoon of marjoram, and a half can of water together.  I put boneless pork chops in the botton of the crock, then sliced raw carrots, then sliced raw mushrooms, and the mushroom soup mixture on top.

I don't always think "crock pot" in the summer, but if you think about it, this is a great time of year to use one.  The house stays cool and you can run off and do your summer thing, but dinner will be ready when you get in.  It doesn't get any better than that.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Carlos Wilson Died

This may not be a big deal to you, but it is a huge deal to all of us in the Tidewater area.  Carlos worked at the old-timey Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach for 73 years.  That is not a typo.  Can you imagine? He was working there when World War II ended.  I wrote about the Cavalier a few years ago.

You can read about this inspiring man in my local paper, the Virginian Pilot here:

I am surrounded by Pilot people.  I went to church with Ann Johnson, the research librarian.  Nancy next door is an editor. Aaron and Kate down the street are two married reporters.  Dave further on down is another reporter. And then there's my friend Martin Smith Rodden, an award-winning photo journalist. Martin lives over in the next neighborhood. He took his wife's name when they married, which is entirely too 1970's for me.  Makes him sound British, though.  All Americans think that anyone British sounds really smart.  I am the Queen of the Parenthetical Thought, aren't I?  Seriously.

Here is Carlos' advice to all:

Remember people’s names.
Show up on time, and you’re 90 percent ahead of everyone else.
Do more than you’re paid to do. One day it will pay off.
Respect is worth more than money.
Lies beget lies. Tell the truth about everything; deal with it and move on.
Life ought to be something to live, not fear.
Slow down

Now if anyone out there in Blogville could tell me why on earth the Google widget below is indicating all these random stories insted of my previous blog entry about the Cavalier , I'll buy you an eclair from the Marietta Diner.  I'm lying.