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

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Craft

About 7 years ago or so, my church renovated and the workers threw an old Sunday School bulletin board on the trash heap.  It must have weighed 40 pounds at least, being solid wood with no cork board in the middle.  Across the top is some lovely carved molding.

The bulletin board was pitted and scarred from hundreds of staples and push pins holding announcements of the Youth Shrove Tuesday pancake and sausage dinner, Christmas pageants during the Second World War, Easter Egg hunts in the garden, and Lenten soup lunches during the Depression.

I couldn't bear to leave it in the dumpster, so I pulled it out.  The venerable bulletin board then sat in my detached garage for 7 years.  Then I had an idea.

First, I painted it bright red:

I wanted to do some type of stenciling or lettering on it and came up with the shortest number of letters to convey Christmas:  Noel.  I though simply "Joy" was just a little TOO economical on letters.

While at Lowes shopping for something else, I came across this cool nylon rope which reminded me of candy canes:

I got the quilt on the table from Goodwill for $3.00.  I love it.
I wrote out "Noel" in chalk and Bruce used the rope to trace the letters.  He had the lighter for our gas grill and melted the ends of the nylon rope so they wouldn't fray.

The letters are attached by these little nails which have white "hoops" on them.  Bruce found them in a drawer and tells me that they are designed to run cabling to the the TV along the baseboards.  We had EXACTLY enough to finish the project.

Bruce attached very sturdy hooks to the top and hung the bulletin board out front:
I bought that skinny little tree from a garage sale.  I used it inside last year, but thought it would be fun to put it out in the old tin pail with another Goodwill quilt around it.  It is decorated with red lights and vintage cookie cutters.  The gingerbread man cutter is the the topper, instead of a star.

That's my front hall you see leading to the living room on the left, stairs to the right, dining room to the left, then the bathroom to the right, and the kitchen straight ahead, where you can see the back door.

It took me quite some time to find the right setting for the old bulletin board, but I am so happy that it turned out like this.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Colors of the Season

My niece, Piper gave me the idea for photographing cranberries.  I think hers were a little better. This series of pics are all from Fresh Market, my favorite grocery store in the whole, wide world.  There's a new Fresh Market only 3.5 miles from my house, which I consider to be quite neighborly of them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veteran's Day to the Best Generation!

Yesterday afternoon, I headed up to Portsmouth Naval Medical Center to clear up a mistake I had made with one of my prescriptions.  I detest bureaucracy in any form and have to mentally "gird my loins" so to speak to deal with it.  

I do believe that your attitude controls a good deal of your outcome, so I prayed for grace before I drove the short distance from home. I gathered my stuff and stopped off at the hospital's Subway for a diet Minute Maid lemonade,, my favorite.  

I settled down to wait with my Kindle after pulling number 668.  I was the next number called...go figure.  I am so grateful for my Navy benefits which include free prescriptions and fantastic medical care at a state-of-the-art facility a mile from my house. Even though I had made the mistake, pharmacy staff members were gracious, helpful, and polite, quickly resolving the situation.

In the short time I waited, I met this man, Chief James J. Gordon, who told me he served on three different WW 2 ships which sank. When I asked him how he survived he simply said, with a twinkle in his eyes, "backstroke."  Chief Gordon ended up on the USS Shangri-La, which survived the war.

It seemed fitting this morning to celebrate an American hero of the Best Generation.  Happy Veteran's Day Chief Gordon.

Thank you to all who have served, especially a dear 93-year-old in a wheelchair.

Monday, November 10, 2014

What's That Smell?

This is a little island I set up in my long, narrow kitchen.  I like to change it out seasonally.  Down below is a place for rolling pins and vintage bowls that I collect here and there when they are not ridiculously expensive.  This was a microwave cart in another life left out for garbage collection.  I love red spray paint, what can I say?

And there is my morning cup of Joe as is said in the Navy, in my dear Starbucks mug with the NY skyline and the yellow taxi in the lower left near the corn husks. One of the small luxuries of my life, which I'd find difficult to part with, is the cup of coffee, laced with cinnamon, which Bruce leaves for me every morning, in that cup.. On the weekends, we get all fancy and froth it up with a cool device my sister got me for my birthday.  It also froths eggs for amazingly fluffy omelets.

The last couple of mornings have been marred by THE SMELL (cue in the music from Jaws).  Ever have one of those phantom smells, unpleasant ones, of course, that waft from some unknown spot in your home?  You look in the fridge and the freezer.  Yesterday, we pulled out the stove and cleaned behind it.  Didn't help.

Lulu, a former stray who used to survive from garbage cans and road, kill now literally turns her nose up at plain ole kibble.  We rig up all manner of human food to put on top of the dreaded Kibbles and Bits to entice her.  Lately, her snack de jour has been stinky canned salmon.  She loves it...the stinkier, the better.  The smell first thing in the morning makes me want to barf.

I pulled everything off the counter and cleaned with diluted bleach.  I thought I might have spilled some stinky salmon juice on the curtains I have under my sink.  Nope, but they might have needed a wash and an iron, though, so I did that.  

I boiled an apple and put cinnamon and vanilla extract in the water,  The downstairs was suffused with cinnamony goodness, but that smell about mid-kitchen was still there, getting grosser and grosser.

That smell was starting to take on epic proportions for me. Ugh...was it a dead mouse?  We don't have mice, but it is an old house and it was possible that one could have happened in during this cold snap.

See that cleverly eclectic Indian corn and all on the kitchen island?  I used to have a cool glass pumpkin filled with little gourds.  Gourds, which were liquidizing and rotting inside.  Not too cleverly eclectic.  The word ooze comes to mind.  Actually, if you get right down to it, it was a totally disgusting science experiment.

I really wonder about myself when I realize how many times I walked past it but didn't actually see it.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

New Late Fall Marble Top

Whenever I get to feeling a little "down" (like this week, when I got bitten by a dog) about something, I first count my blessings - out loud, up to 20. If that doesn't work, I try to make something better.

I get enormous satisfaction from making things better.  Such things include ironing and mowing the lawn. Both tasks are similar in that you simply push either an iron or the mower (I don't do riding mowers) and toute voila! all is well.

Spray some starch or squirt some water from a spray bottle, back first, front, front, sleeve, sleeve, and collar...all is well. Start up the mower up and down the back yard, around that bumpy place where the pine tree once stood too close to the foundation, and things look swell once again.

When all else fails and all the ironing is done, I change out the mantel or a dining room tablescape or my Grandmother Helen's old marble top chest.

Here is the new late Autumn arrangement.  I'm not too sure how my Nana (my other grandmother) would feel about being under glass beneath a cloche with an old wooden shoe form.
Since she was a little difficult, I think the rest of us feel better with her constrained in this way.

Who Let the Dogs Out?

We went to Cracker Barrel last night.  You see, I got bitten by a female dog this week…TWICE.  Bruce says that the term “crazy bitch” is applicable and correct right here for this skittish female cattle dog.

I had to have IV antibiotics in the ER and was discharged with anti-nausea pills and an antibiotic prescribed for a week, a “cure” which has left me feeling as though someone has scrubbed out my stomach with Fels Naptha soap and a wire brush.  I wanted something bland and comforting like chicken and dumplings for dinner, hence Cracker Barrel.
The only other thing which has actually “cured” this condition is a carbonated drink which Starbucks makes, with fresh ginger syrup.  If you ever wondered if that old adage about ginger soothing the stomach works, I am here to say “Amen” and “Tell it, Sister.” (And no, this is not a sponsored post!)

I was helping out a neighbor who is in a chaplain’s residency at the local Catholic hospital.  Her dogs needed to be let out.  She moved in next door to the house my beloved Lauren used to live in. 

Lauren, shown here above at graduation with her Dad and Sis,  moved on to Coast Guard Sector Baltimore and lives in the weirdest and yet the coolest studio apartment EVER with the back wall of the apartment all exposed old brick. She is the first female Coast Guard firefighter to serve there.  We are so proud of her.

The apartment is “bagel shaped,” as my family calls every oddly shaped space. She lives near the Orioles' Camden Yards, so guess where we all will be going to see the Yankees play baseball next year?  I miss her terribly.  I might add that Lauren has an ENORMOUS French Mastiff who would never dream of biting anyone.

My new neighbor has to work some long overnight shifts, so I offered to let the two dogs out so she didn’t have to race home on a half hour break.  File this under (as my curmudgeonly grandfather used to say) “No good deed shall remain unpunished.”

The first time, all went smoothly.  The second time, the weather was so beautiful that I let them stay in the fenced backyard for a few hours, rather than just let them out briefly.

When I turned to leave, with no provocation she jumped and tried to bite me in the face.  I raised my arm to deflect her and got a little bite there.  She proceeded on to bite me to the right of my knee where I got four little puncture wounds from her needle-sharp teeth.

I received two little notes under my windshield, one cute and sincere as can be.  The first said how sorry she was.  The second told me how our mutual neighbor, Carol, would now be letting out the dogs on those long days.  Seriously?

Call me madcap, but if your dog ever viciously bites your next door neighbor (a woman who has owned two pit bulls and one wolf/malamute hybrid and emerged unscathed) you might want to consider that it could be the dog and not the person who let the dog out.  Just a thought from those of us in the know.   

I thought about that statement, “Carol will let out the dog” and at first I fumed.  Then it started cracking me up.  Common sense isn’t too common.
I was rereading this and wondering if I’d digressed too much.  You see, this entry was supposed to be about aging and Glen Campbell.  That’s okay, you already know how I am and the Wichita Lineman is still on the line…

Saturday, November 8, 2014

White Picket Fence and JenEvans

I love white picket fences, don't you?  I especially love this kind, along my walk route in Port Norfolk The graduated pickets in the fencing give an almost ruffle effect.  Notice the wrought-iron latch for the gate.  I thought about saying how the graduated pickets "undulate" along the property and then thought better of sounding like a little poindexter smart aleck, which I am, but still...why advertise?

This morning with the sunshine warm on my face, I reflected again how Autumn is my favorite season.  It is all bright colors, the smell of burning leaves, and gathering in of the harvest.  I am grateful for the very late and long Fall we enjoy in Southern Virginia.  Leaf-wise we are 5 weeks behind my NY/New England friends.
Speaking of NY Friends, via a Stony Brook (Long Island) New York website, my high school friend Jennifer Evans got in touch with my sister, Kerry. She and I visited briefly via Facebook this week. What a pleasure.

I hadn't purposely lost touch with her,but since I hated high school with a loathing I can hardly put into words, and since I moved to NY City prior to graduation, and since I even skipped graduation because I couldn't and still can't care less about such things, I can see how we lost touch.

I should clarify here...contrary to Dr. McKrell's concerns, I did, in fact, graduate high school with a Regent's Diploma and currently have a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice...I just didn't attend the CEREMONY.  Which has nothing to do with liking my friend.

She reminded me in a posting about how we and several other friends went to the NY Yankees ticker tape (truth be told there was as many flying toilet paper rolls as confetti and ticker tape.  And speaking of confetti, we had a rather dim high school friend who looked up that day and referred to all the "graffiti" the crowd was throwing.  But I digress.) parade in 1978.

Now I don't know about all her other friends, but it occurs to me that for some odd reason, I always thought of her in my mind as one word, JenEvans.

When my mother called me about Kerry finding her (she always loved her the best of my high school friends) she was doing the same thing; not Jennifer or Jenny or just Jen, but "JenEvans."  JenEvans was (and I'm sure still is) a GOOD EGG.  A girl you could depend upon to watch your back at a ticker tape parade and a good listener.

In my work as an officer in the sex offender investigative unit for a state police agency, I can see how much damage social media can do when kids are targeted by predators.  But isn't making contact with someone like JenEvans just the best thing EVER?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Great Drying Day

As my grandmother, Helen, used to say:  It's a great drying day!
It is in the 70's, rare in August in VA and there's a nice breeze blowing.  I love my bedding dried outside.

I have to stretch to get the wooden spring clothespins in place.  While I hang clothes, I think about all the other women who hung clothes here, back near the detached garage with the ivy nearly enveloping the side. I have to pull some of that down.

The first women who hung laundry here were surnamed Shea and they had no choice but to hang laundry. The first Mrs. Shea must have used a big tub and a mangle. A later Mrs. Shea used an old wringer washer set on the back porch.  We enclosed the back porch, making it part of the kitchen,

The 1960's Mrs. Shea eventually had a more modern washer inside. Eventually, she also had a dryer.   Then the house went to one of the Foster's from Foster's Funeral Home and was broken up into apartments.

Patty and Chuck used the old clothesline and returned 256 to a one-family home.Then Chuck died and Patty moved away. She owned the mother-in-law house for 256 for a long time after she sold 256.  Then Kate, an excellent writer who has interviewed President Obama, moved in.   She dated Aaron, also a reporter, who lived down the street.  They got married and started renting out the house next door.

We had to re-string the clothesline when we got here, but it is still in the old backyard where the camellia bushes are now 15 feet high.

There's a short story by Tillie Olson called "I Stand Here Ironing."  My thoughts today are called "I Stand Here Hanging Wash."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bunnies at IHOP

I saw these cuties on the way in for breakfast.

Hard to believe it, but you can eat low carb at IHOP...sirloin tips and mushrooms with eggs over medium, substitute pancakes and hash browns for a small bowl of fruit and grill three tomato slices on the side, if you please.  YUM O.

Bunnies at IHOP, get it?  Bunnies at I HOP.  It cracked me up.

Friday, August 15, 2014

On the Radio

Ed and Pegeen Fitzgerald were a fixture in my Grandmother Dunn's life. She listened to Breakfast with the Fitzgerald's every morning. Originally broadcast on ABC Radio, then on WOR Radio  (I don't know why the station didn't have four call letters), from their New York City apartment, they eventually left the City for a house in Connecticut. They did the show together for 44 years and then Pegeen broadcast alone after Ed died. Dig the uniformed maid pouring coffee in the picture from New York City.

Radio was a big deal to Nana.  I think she never got over the radio era.  She liked to do housework while listening to all news stations from New York City and early talk radio shows like the Fitzgeralds and another show called Rambling with Gambling.  Rambling with Gambling broadcast until very recently, for 84 years and three generations of John Gamblings.

Pegeen had an upper crust voice that was kind of unusual.  This link below has both audio and video.  Boy does this take me back!

Ed and Pegeen Fitzgerald

I think Nana liked listening to Pegeen  because she never got over being executive secretary to a Wilkes-Barre, PA big wig, Mr. Washburn.  She would answer the phone sort of singing like secretaries did back in the day trilling, "Hedd DOHHHH?"  It cracked my brother and sister up.  Sometimes we answer the phone like that when we know one of us is on the phone or say, "Laughter quickly turns to tears," another of Nana's aphorisms.

This is why I was so thrilled to find a radio like this:

I had to go headquarters in Richmond to get a new cell phone.  There's an antique mall a few doors down.  I stopped by on my lunch and found this radio marked very reasonably in the last stall marked, "FM doesn't work."  Check out the ridiculous E-Bay prices for such an item.

I kept a straight face.  The FM doesn't work because there is no FM. There's only the AM dial because it is an old AM radio from the late 1940's early 1950's.  I had a further mark down with the cashier said that the whole radio didn't work.  It is a tube radio which must warm up for about a minute before it starts working. It worked when I was patient back at home.

I think of Nana in the house at 15 Maynard Drive, Farmingdale,  New York, which smelled of Fels Naptha soap. listening to WOR or the rush hour reports on a radio like this, waiting for my Pop to come home. A load of T-shirts flaps on the clothesline of an autumn Long Island late afternoon.  She stands in a vintage kitchen with knotty pine cabinets cooking a hockey puck hamburger for my Pop.  She was a great baker, but a terrible cook.
Nana's engagement picture. She and my Pop adored each other.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Little Ghost Town in Between Franklin and Waverly Virginia

One of the joys of my life is taking a country drive away from the suburbs.  We take all different routes.  This place is on Collasae Road (like Paul's letter to the Colossians) somewhere between Franklin and Waverly, VA.

Way out in this country area of Virginia, there are towns with names like Waverly, Ivor, etc.; places mentioned in Sir Walter Scott's writings. Apparently Mrs. Mahone, wife of the railroad builder, was a big fan of Scott's novels.  She and her husband disagreed about the name of one country railroad stop and so decided to call the town, "Disputanta," because they had a dispute.

This little crossroads area was a tiny ghost town.  The price on the pumps was 75 cents per gallon; frozen there in time.

I'm a big fan of The Waltons, and this could surely be Ike Godsey's General Store:

Cora Beth Godsey would never have allowed the store to fall into ruin like this.  
This ad for Dr. Caldwell's Syrup Pepsin took me back.  If you look closely you can see me taking the picture!  This was a laxative preparation which Cora Beth would have deemed too vulgar for the front door. "Mr. Godsey, this will simply not DO."

I love this delicious lettering over one set of doors:

This Coca Cola water cooler was still inside the old store.  There used to be one just like this in Stanley Roman's little grocery in East Hartford, Connecticut where I would pick up ground meat or pork chops on an account which my grandmother paid once per month.

Lulu comes with us for all our adventures.  She is such a good traveler that we never leave her behind. When she misses a meal at home, we take her through the McDonald's drive thru for a cheeseburger with no pickles or onions and a glass of ice water.  She drinks out of the cup. Lulu cheerfully jumps out to join us when we stop and is such a little lady.

Here's another building in the small clearing,  I was taken by the texture!

Here we remember Erastus Coggin, who died in 1926,  Is that an old timey name or what?  The stalk of wheat motif refers to John 12:20.  His grave is located in a small country cemetery near the Ghost Town.  

I adore old cemeteries...they can tell you a lot about how people lived.   In Virginia's Tidewater area, one can see the high infant and maternal death rates years ago, the flu epidemic in the early 1900's, an earlier Yellow Fever Epidemic which killed 10 per cent of the area's population, as well as the Civil War and two World Wars.  
Near the old ghost town at the crossroads, we spied this amazingly cool display next to a modern home.

Early Morning Scotts Creek

I love walking the dog along Scotts Creek in my neighborhood.  The Creek, which is really a tidal estuary, was dead calm, as you can see from the reflection of the white houses in the water.

Lulu and I disturbed an egret who had been feeding at low tide.  The egret looks quite like a more common seagull, until you notice his long, stork-like legs hanging down. Egrets look so elegant while they're feeding, all snowy white with those long legs.  As you can see, though, they look kind of silly in flight.
I love these blue flowers, actually I think they're weeds.  One man's weed is another girl's flowers, right? They grow in and around my pink roses and I leave them there.
A tiny monarch butterfly sipping nectar from a wild morning glory growing along the ground.

Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty.  Early in the morning, my song shall rise to Thee.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

mushroom (or toadstool) is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. 

I saw this one while out walking the dog and found it a little more inspiring than just fungus.  We've had very humid and rainy weather of late.  I love seeing these toadstools pop up, although I see many on-line articles about how to eradicate them.

Down the road, there is a fairy ring, which I find even more adorable.
Aren't these fun?  The ancients thought they were the work of fairies, you know, as in fairy garden fairies, the Narnia kind of fairies.  I took the picture below in Richmond, VA.
A mushroom expert put it like this:

"You have found a fairy Ring deep within the forest, a circle of mushrooms . . . Some people will speak to you of spore and fungus circle. They would say that each season of growth fungus sprouts outside the edge of the space it filled the previous season. Moving ever outward leaving depleted ground within the circle. Those who have opened their minds, hearts and souls to the realms of magic may speak to you of the fairies. Those who know the fairies will tell you that fairy rings are where the fairies dance and perform many of the rituals of their own magic."

They're more than spores and fungus to me, too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

You Know How To Whistle, Dontcha Steve?

I love film noire, those old black and white movies with the hard-boiled detective and the beautiful dame.   In my book, there is no better film noire other than To Have and Have Not with Bogey and Bacall.  You can see them falling in love during the movie and it is not hard to guess why they named their son Steven.

You know how to whistle, don't you Steve?  You just put your lips together and blow.

Dear Lauren Bacall, may you rest in peace  The world is a lot less classy without you in it.

The Tears of a Clown When There's No One Around

Robin, we will miss you.

Now there's some sad things known to man
But ain't too much sadder than
The tears of a clown, when there's no one around

Emeraude - Vintage Perfume Bottle

My grandmother always wore Emeraude perfume by Coty.
Emeraude is French for emerald.  It was first introduced in 1921. Helen wore it all her life.   This gorgeous ad is from the late 1940's or early 1950's.

The vintage perfume bottle pictured in the top picture was around for as long as I remember, perhaps influenced by the perfume she loved.  It once sat on the windowsill, the middle one, at 23 Wind Road East Hartford, Connecticut above the rosewood love seat with the muted floral pattern.

There are other beautiful perfume atomizers and bottles without or without a  vintage bulb device which are quite beautiful.

Still, Helen's vintage perfume bottle is the most beautiful in my eyes, because it belonged to her.