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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Red Barns

I was wondering about my obsession with red barns this morning when the Rolodex in my brain flipped the cards back to my Grandfather Dunn reading a pop-up book to me about a farm. I recall being amused that the book was a "pop up" book and I called this grandfather "Pop."

Each page had a tabs on the side that you pulled, causing the chickens to lay eggs or the horse's tail to move.  The center pages popped up a red barn in the middle.  That was back when I was learning to read and the letter "J" looked like a soup ladle to me.

My mother and my Pop, her father, were teachers.    They both read to all of us often; wonderful books like Hide N Seek Fog and the Lonely Doll series.  Christmas and birthdays always involved stacks of books like Little Women, Island of the Blue Dolphins, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and other edifying books.

I would sit in a blue patterned wing chair in the living room for hours transported to New York City at the turn of the century or Massachusetts during the Civil War.  I am so glad that my niece, Piper, carries on this tradition...despite Facebook and other electronic enticements.

So Saturday was a red barn kind of day. I find that weathered silo very beautiful.
If I could have staged this pic below, I would have added a pair of worn cowboy boots.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

National Coffee Day

Today is National Coffee Day.  Do you ever wonder who makes up "days?" I get Columbus Day. Mother's Day,. Father's Day, etc.  Such days came about by tradition.  However, some of these "days" I kinda wonder about.  "Thank a Police Officer Day"....clearly I have no problem with that, but we also have "Wear A Skirt Day"...also okay, but what for?

I found this list of National "Days" as follows:
Real List of National Days

January 10 is Peculiar People Day...finally, a holiday just for me.

So about O'Doodle Doo's....This is an incredibly cool little doughnut cafe out in the "toolies" as we say in my family, in the country area of Suffolk.  The building has been a used car lot, an ice cream shop, and several other incarnations.

I adore the big billboard-type sign along the side of the road.  I've noticed it for about a year.  I keep telling myself that I'm going to go, but I never get around to it. Today, I got around to it.

Love at their posted hours, "5 a.m. til 2'ish or until the doughnuts sell out."  Love that. I would, however, like to change "everyday" to every day.
So today, to celebrate National Coffee Day, I finally went to O'Doodle Doo's.  I became a cliche of a law enforcement officer as I got a light sweet coffee to go and two doughnuts.  I had a pumpkin velvet and a banana nut.  Bruce had a pumpkin velvet and a "vanilla eyeball."  In where the doughnut hole should have been, there was a bloodshot eyeball in honor of the ghoulish season.  We sat under an awning at a picnic table, sat companionably sipping coffee and hot chocolate over "ooooh this is so GOOD." We gazed at this across the street.
Bruce told me this joke. A trooper pulled over a man and said, shining a flashlight in his eyes, "Sir, your eyes are bloodshot, have you been drinking?"  The man peered at the trooper and said, "Your eyes look glazed, Officer, have you been eating doughnuts?"  Why, yes, I have been.

It might be raining this morning,but life is good.

Learn more about this cool-lio place here:
O'Doodle Doo's

Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

And speaking of Andy Williams, I can just hear him singing that song.  No, I am not confused on the date at all.  For me, Autumn is the most wonderful; time of the year.  I do not blossom in extremely hot weather.  In fact, high temps often make me feel unwell and cranky.

Pumpkin spice lattes are a seasonal item which disappear after New Year's.  The moment they arrive at Starbucks marks the beginning of Fall for me, despite the temp or the calendar.  Shortly afterwards, the evenings become a little cool...just that bare hint of Fall.  The days are pleasant and this period of time is my most wonderful time of the year.

Virginia is still a major agricultural area when you get out of the suburbs.  We are blessed with farm stands all around which do Autumn in a big way.
I adore church pews.  This high-backed pew is particularly charming.

I couldn't find the name of this country store out 12 miles from my house in the country.  It was closed for the day, so I couldn't ask.  Yes, I did trespass and take pictures.
Enjoy every moment of this season with its wildly exuberant colors, the crunch of the leaves under foot, the sounds of the geese honking as they fly in formation, the taste of pumpkin bread,  and the slimey feel of the seeds you pull out when you carve a Jack-o-Lantern.  Savor it all, because it will be over before you know it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Goodbye, Andy Williams

My mother had this record.  Another amazing crooner...gone.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Salt and Light

Have you ever persistently forgot about one pesky item at the grocery store?  Like for two weeks?  For some reason, I kept forgetting the salt.  Finally, I remembered to pick some up, got on line at Farm Fresh, and realized that my wallet was in the other car.  You'll be happy to know that I took care of the salt yesterday.

Maybe I kept forgetting the salt because I don't purchase it often. Salt is ubiquitous...on top of most tables at home, in the restaurant booth, and in little packets at the bottom of the McDonald's bag. When do we ever think too much about it?  Shake, shake...salt is always sitting on top of my stove.

This morning, I was pouring salt into my special vintage shaker when I thought about how precious salt was in the ancient world. Salt was not only a flavor enhancer in those days, but was also an important preservative.  Back then, salt was a costly and essential commodity.  You can bet your last  garbanzo bean that Ali who ran the pottage stand wasn't throwing a bunch of salt in the bottom of the burlap bag of falafal he gave to every Esau, Moishe, or Aaron.

In the interim between running out of salt and remembering to buy it, my food was a little bland.  I used some bouillon powder, which is salty, but it wasn't quite the same.  I was rationing what I had left and the food suffered from it.
Jesus called us to be salt and light in the Sermon on the Mount as follows:

Matthew 5:13

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality), how can its saltiness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men.

Wow, strong words!  In the ancient world, the world that the earthly Jesus walked in, salt served two basic functions. First, salt kept food from spoiling, a basic way of curing meat in a desert area with high temperatures.  In other words, salt kept food pure enough to nourish and sustain.  Secondly, salt added flavor and zest to that nourishment. Salt made food tasty.  Salt keeps food from tasting bland.

So I'm thinking what I always think about as I consider scripture.  So what?  Wait, wait, don't get upset!  I'm saying, "So what...what does this meant to me?

Jesus is telling me, as he always does, that I am precious.  I am to serve in this world as an agent to help keep others pure, to keep them from spoiling in a certain way.  I am also here to help make the lives others zesty, flavorful.  That's a fun task, isn't it?  Don't all we bloggers try to do that, to add a little bit of zest for others to enjoy?  

Don't we serve Jesus' purpose when we create beauty at home, cook tasty meals, take pictures, refinish furniture, keep ourselves interesting for our spouses, dress and groom ourselves to avoid being invisible, grow gardens, play music, sing, or write...make life more flavorful for others?  To me, all those things help bring zip to the lives of those we love.  It's all about joie de vivre.

And if we don't?  If we live dry, cheerless, introverted, drab, measly, joyless, humorless, stuck-in-the-mud Christian lives (can that even BE a Christian life?), well, we are fit only to be trampled underfoot.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Drive

The first day of Autumn and we took a Saturday drive.  Starbucks pumpkin lattes are back for the season.  The evenings in the Mid-Atlantic region are just a little cool. The very first leaves of fall are turning and scatter on the mirror surface of Tulls Creek:
Look closer at the same shot.  A wise old turtle suns himself on a fallen branch:
The cornstalks sway, rustle, and whisper in the breeze.
The hay is baled in the field.
Just a drive on an ordinary fall day and yet so much beauty all around.
My heart jumped when I saw this old general store along the way.
Here is a close up of the signage:  The building dates back to the 1890's.
This shy deer scampered back into the woods when she noticed me taking her picture.  Just a little gift for me on the drive home.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Nobody Living Inside

I passed by an abandoned house on Tulls Creek Road in Moyock, NC.  I was drawn to it.
I wonder what the rhythm of the falling rain sounded like on that old tin roof...
As I explored the old place, a song started playing in my head, the sound track of my life that my brain plays at odd moments:

Well there's too many windows 
in this old hotel 
And rooms filled with reckless pride 
And the walls have grown sturdy 
And the halls have worn well 
But there is nobody living inside 
Nobody living inside...

I picked my way past the abandoned garden... 
and the pond...
To peer in the windows and see one of at least three wonderful old fireplace mantels...
As always, I wondered about the house and how it ended up empty with the curtains still on the windows.    I took this black and white pic through a broken front window.

I stopped by at the library just behind the old house to inquire about it. A kind librarian handed me a fact sheet about square footage and numbers of bathrooms.  But that so wasn't what I wanted to know.

What woman stood in the kitchen in a gingham apron and put up preserves?  What children romped and shrieked and raced through the hallways?  Did they run down to that parlor with the fireplace to see what treasures Santa had left for them while the entire world was at war?   Did women with pearls and starched A-line sleeveless dresses play bridge in that parlor on July afternoons,  gently stirring the breeze with fans printed with funeral home advertisements?

Whose footfalls echoed down those stairs day after day?  When did they stop, leaving only the sound of the wind scattering the early fall leaves as the goldenrod gently swayed in the front yard?

Simple Things

The trouble with getting out of the habit of posting regularly is that as you ease back into it, you think that you must publish something momentous, stupendous, or deeply significant for the functioning of the world as we know it.

I don't know about you, but my life isn't like that, so as I get behind and try to catch up, I keep trying for that elusive next big thing to post about.

And then there's Alex and Living the Small Life, a favorite blog.  Alex posts nearly every day and I check up on her every day, too.  She doesn't post about momentous, stupendous things, but about her daily life and how she lives it.  And you know fascinates me.

I decided to jump back into blogging with the intent to try to chronicle something every day.  As Carole King says, "My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue."  Life is mostly about the small stops and highlights of the journey, not the occasional enormous achievements.

My enormous achievement for yesterday was to minister to the kids next door.  Their mom struggles because their dad in another state doesn't pay his child support.  There are four of them and they hunger for adult attention.  I am closest to little Genesis.  That is her above through the mesh fencing of McDonald's play area.

A Happy Meal.  Chocolate milk.  Playing.  Picking out a little pumpkin. Eating a package of Starbursts on the way home.  Pure joy and chocolate milk mustaches.  Doesn't get any better than that.

Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven.

Friday, September 21, 2012

I tweak and fluff, therefore I am

I haven't had much time to fluff things and tweak my decor lately.  I did do a little job on the Hoosier cabinet.  That's my great-grandparents on my mother's side, Annie and Martin O'Toole, in the picture. I am named after her.

I used to keep both of the cabinet's doors closed until I saw some wonderful blogger who had a similar cabinet open for display on one side.  No, of course I didn't write down whomever this genius decorator was.  I wish I did, because I love the results.
My sister gave me that sweet set of spice containers. Helen, my grandmother, had a set of spice containers just like this over the top of the stove.  I have more of them in another spot in the kitchen.  I had such a good time working on this!

As I edited this area, I noticed that I had spoken of my grandmother in the present tense, as in, "Helen has..." I corrected that and changed has to had.  Wishful thinking, but I can see her right this minute standing in front of that stove with the old-fashioned spice bottles, making creamed chipped beef with a big, wooden-handled spoon in her hand, chatting away.  The kettle is bringing hot water for tea to a boil for her proverbial "nice cup of tea".  Ginger, the marmalade-colored cat, is perched in the copper-lined dry sink, green eyes missing nothing.

My Dad is sitting at the breakfast  nook, reading the Hartford Courant as orange-red maple leaves drift past the kitchen window.  I can hear blue jays and crows crossly calling out to each other in the tree out back. There must have been a Saturday morning just like this or perhaps many mornings which now exist only inside me.  I'd give anything to be sitting waiting for creamed chipped beef on toast in my grandmother's kitchen this morning.

I feel sure that when I get to heaven that's exatly what Helen will be doing.  I sure hope so.  I miss her.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thanks, Gale!

My friend, Gale is the best person in the whole, wide world.  Seriously, she is. No, really.   My grandmother would have called her a "peach."  In Yiddish, she is a mensch.  As the Golden Girls (and Carly Simon) used to say, "Her heart is true, she's a pal, and a confidante."

I hadn't seen her in quite some time so I was thrilled when she called to get together for lunch. I was on the way there when I realized that my wallet was in my personal vehicle not my state car.  And let me say right here that the state police really frown on employees driving without their licenses.  Just sayin'.

So Gale had to pay for lunch at Ruby Tuesdays because I am so absent-minded.  On the way out, she gave me a little gift which has been in her car for about a year.  Knowing my love for ceramic birds, she gifted me with this one.

Wow, I love the texture on it.
That medallion reminds me of the lace on the antique table cloth.

I was supposed to work on something right after I came home, editing for someone else's agenda.  I decided that was, uh, for the birds tonight! I postponed that task just for a little while to take pleasure in this small gift and eat some strawberries.  I think it was the best choice.  Life is short.  Say thanks first.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Conversation at Chez 256

Me:  I wish I hadn't finished all the cookies.

Him:  (Seriously)  We live in perilous times.

Fall Mantle

A friend asked me today what I do to re-acclimate after a trip.  Generally, I settle the dog down with a walk or a romp in the backyard, I cook a meal, and I do laundry.  Can't abide piles of laundry or piles of ironing or wearing un-ironed clothing, for that matter.  I live life on the wild side, don't I?  Yep, I'm a rebel.

I did all that Monday when I returned home from DC.  I also changed out the summer mantle to early autumn garb.  I don't know when or why I started on that, but I find it a cherished tradition now that I look forward to. Since changing my living room decor to blue and yellow, Autumn has been more of a challenge.  I think I met the challenge with a vintage Fall picture in soft yellow and blues with a touch of light brown.  You'll have to let me know what you think about it.

I find something about changing out the mantle very soothing.  I wipe it down with Murphy's oil soap, store the old season away until next year and fuss, stage, move, re-arrange, and tweak until I have it just right.  

I used to tease my mother about her need to match everything, including the candy in our living room dish which was blue to match the room.  I am more free-form about matching, but please note that my Indian corn is in yellow and blue tones which is probably a step too far into preciousness. Very twee.
Liturgical churches change vestments and altar cloths as the seasons move from Advent to Christmas to Epiphany to Lent to Easter to Pentecost to so-called Ordinary Time (I love that expression) and back to Advent again.  I guess a little of that liturgical tradition seeped deep into my soul.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fall Mantle

Jim asked

Stinky's Restaurant

My brother in law is an expert in marketing.  Among other things I have learned from Corey is that real estate developers hire marketing firms to name new subdivisions and the streets in them. I hate anything contrived. You can immediately recognize a contrived name for such developments because there’s an “at” or “on” thrown in there for no apparent reason. Included in this concept are names such as The Golf Homes at Eagle Point, Kingsmill on the James, etc.  My brother refers to all such developments in generic fashion as being called, “Pretentions at Broken Wind.”

This is how we end up with street names these days such as Balmoral Trace, Winster Fax, The Cool Amber Forest, Leatherstocking Lane, and Tarleton Bivouac, my personal favorite for ordering delivery from Domino’s.  Try relaying that street name to someone who dropped out of high school.  Tarleton Bivouac is an unfortunate address for residents in the Williamsburg area of Virginia off Route 60.  Another favorite I ran across last year In Virginia was “Narvel Blackstock Lane, “ Narvel being the husband and manager of country star Reba McEntire and thus needing his own personal street.

I have lived on some streets with lovely names which emerged organically, rather than from the fertile mind of a marketer.  Knollwood Road, Wind Road, McKeen Place, Burnside Avenue, the generic Main Street. Mill Pond Road, Kohr Road, West End Avenue (New York City), Center Drive, Adrian Street, and my current Constitution Avenue, all strong names which just came about rather than being planned to match with other names in the area.  

Now to be fair, there are those really unfortunately named streets which did just occur naturally.  A few of them are in the Norfolk area; Quarantine and Omohundro (sounds like a name for the Hunchback of Notre Dame’s uglier brother) Streets, as well as Pleasure House Road in Virginia Beach. And yes, it is named after just what you think.  This seems problematic for Bayside Baptist Church which is located there.   I always wonder what the Southern Baptist Convention thinks about that!

All this brings me to Stinky’s, pictured above.  I think Stinky’s really needed a marketing name developer or whatever you call them.  I’m not sure what is worse, the name which seems to question either the hygiene or the cooking skill of the owner, or the skunk logo, which brings to mind a really noxious odor.  Please also note the yellow Stinky-mobile in the pic which is for catering.  All I could say when I saw this diner in the Grafton neighborhood of Yorktown, Virginia was, “Seriously?”

I think they must be related to the owners of another diner, located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina which is called, “Eat and Get the Hell Out.”  Seriously.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Raspberries and Cream

I am blessed to have a Mom who gets me a lot of  "pursizes," as I used to call surprises when I was little.  Mom would give us surprises, or "deservements" as my brother called them, during The Wonderful World of Disney, National Geographic specials, and Flipper.  I think he confused the word "dessert" with "deservement" or else he had an entitlement mentality as a three year old. He would also cry if there was whipped cream on anything he was served, which makes him subsersive as far as I am concerned.  One can never have enough whipped cream.

I ended up making a lovely breakfast from the raspberries and the chocolate chip bread she brought me from Fresh Market.

That tea cup belonged to my grandmother and is very special to me.  The big pitcher below was a gift from my fellow junking/thrift store friend, Nancy.  She gave it to me for my birthday filled with pink peonies.   Not only is it lovely to look at, but the smooth finish on the outside feels wonderful in my hands.  Nancy is the kind of girl who leaves fresh vegetables on your front porch just because and remembers that you like to eat quinoa when most people don't know what quinoa is.
The French call raspberries "framboise" which is much more elegant.  Framboise are a favorite fruit.  I love their texture and the way they burst into your mouth in that ripe, ruby sort of way.  Thanks, Mom!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Doe, A Deer

Few things make me happier than going on a little adventure with my man.  We don't have big, giant adventures like climbing Everest or traveling for an ecological vacation to the Galapagos Islands.  We have wee little adventures like, "Hey, honey, let's just go onto Route 10 and drive!  That's where we find amazing little hamlets like Rescue or Battery Park, Virginia.  That's how I found the spot where my 4th Great Grandfather was captured during the Civil War at Bermudas Hundred. FYI, he escaped and walked home.  We Galvins are a tough bunch.

On our most recent adventure, we ended up at the Coast Guard Base at Yorktown, Virginia, along the James River.  This little jewel is a training facility, but an amazing amount of history of our earliest years as Americans remains in place.

The first church at Yorktown, in fact one of the first in the country, was originally on this base.  The site is commemorated with historical information. That early church became Grace Episcopal Church, where my friend Suzanne is music minister. Their silver communion set (a plate for the wafers and a cup for the wine), is the oldest one in continuous use in this country. 

The book of Hebrews talks about the "Communion of the Saints."   All followers of Christ, either alive or in Heaven, share in that same fellowship of believers.  I like to think of all of them, as in the stadium image St. Paul gives us, watching and cheering us on from above saying, "Go, go, that race before you."   Kind of like The Wave or the 7th Inning Stretch, but way better and with nicer team jerseys.  So many of them gone before, who received bread and wine from the same silver service that saints today still use.

The base also has preserved a trench used during what is referred to by some here in Virginia as, "The War of Northern Agression."  I like to think of that War as, "God doesn't think it is too cool for people to own their fellow human beings."  Check out Exodus to see what He thinks.  Hope we cleared that up, peeps.

The sweetest part of the day was seeing this deer.  Apparently the deer on base are utterly tame and protected, because she wasn't at all concerned. about the likes of us  In fact, she looked at me sitting in the car with grave curiousity until I felt like one of the monkeys at the zoo.  The little deer happily ate acorns and grass, but clearly was unimpressed by the human natural habitat (the car) display.  Check out her long eyelashes in the first pic.

And adventure I tell you...they're all around.  It's the journey, not the destination!