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




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." Mushroomexpert.com

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MheNUWyROv8

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.




Sunday, August 10, 2014

Gardening is an Instrument of Grace

Gothamist is a great New York City blog which I follow.  I love all things New York City.  A certain block in Brooklyn has been designated as the "greenest."  Re-posted above is a picture of one of the little gardens on this "green" street.

The sign reads, "Gardening is an instrument of grace."  I could not agree more, but was rather surprised to see this expressed in New York City.

Here's a link to the article:  http://gothamist.com/2014/08/06/greenest_block_brooklyn.php#photo-1

New York City has many amazing green spaces.  One of the most beautiful is the Clinton community garden which was originally the site of an informal dumping ground with all manner of nastiness including garbage, dead animals, decaying cars, etc.  Neighborhood mothers began the reclamation process and lobbied with the city which led to the beauty seen here today:

This, too, is an instrument of God's grace...beauty from the ashes.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse

Romans 1:20

http://clintongarden.org/

Friday, August 8, 2014

Enjoy Flowers

I can't believe that I forgot to post this picture.  I found the big crate curbside.  Bruce did the lettering free-hand.   The tricycle and the fishing creel were discovered in a little junk store in Suffolk, Virginia on one of our drives.  The bright yellow shelf with shutter doors in the background was also a curbside find.  The planters are little tin Coca Cola coolers from the drug store and the pinwheels came from the Dollar Store.

I love words, word graphics, Scrabble tiles, etc. so when I found the "Enjoy" sign in a specialty garden store years ago, I was thrilled.  I have another one that says "Simplify."  I thought the notion of "Enjoy Flowers" was kind of fun!

This vignette is on the corner of Booker and Constitution, where quite a few people drive past.  In all these years, I've never had anyone take anything from my displays.  Just last night, a sort of rough looking woman with tattoos and a cigarette in her mouth stopped as she drove past and hollered out, "I can't wait to see what you''ll do next.  I love your yard, is just blesses me so much."  Jeepers, I wasn't sure what she was going to say, so I was very appreciative.

This area has a gas line running underneath that was leaking slightly for some time.  I kept smelling gas there and Portsmouth's Bravest came by twice with a little device to test the concentration of gas in the air.  I have a really good sniffer, which, in the work I do with folks coming out of jail and those who are homeless, isn't always a blessing.  The firefighters said that the gas level was very low and safe.  They were surprised that I could smell it.  Eventually Columbia Gas came on a routine inspection and fixed it.

Nothing grows in the ground there.  There's no sidewalk on that side of Booker Street and people were constantly cutting across my yard and letting their dogs poop on my flowers without cleaning it up.  We always clean up after Lulu and it bothered me.

Technically, most of the area is not on my property but belongs to the City of Portsmouth.  However, I am responsible for maintaining it, such as cutting the grass and weed whacking around the curb.  Well, I just figured that I would be a little more creative than just mowing.

Trying to take the high road, I created beauty there.  You know, I was thinking about "pure,and lovely" solutions to the cutting across the yard situation, you know, a "fruit of the spirit" solution.  What is more pure and lovely than flowers?

I kept this flea market gardening area in containers so that I can move the display when the city needs to address the utility lines underneath.  We also built a little brick walkway on our own property to add a some interest.

Wouldn't you know it!  Our city Housing Inspector advised me that someone had made a complaint about the little area to him.  I couldn't believe it.  I love Richard, he does such a great job.  He said, "Leave her alone.  It looks wonderful and she's (meaning me) just trying to make things look nice." Apparently the complainer was peeved that he couldn't cut across my property.  I bet his dog is the phantom pooper!  Or maybe it was him!

I could dwell on this man (name unknown to me), but I am instead dwelling on the lady in the truck and the bikers who pass by and smile and wave saying, "I love your yard."

Years ago, Mr. Crabby Man would have bummed me out.  At least we know which one of the Seven Dwarfs HE'D be and I don't mean Happy.  Not today, I've just been thinking:

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Purple Petunia Bubble Bath

Carytown is a hip neighborhood of Richmond, VA.  We love to head up north for an hour and a half and stop for lunch.  Then we take a long walk down Cary Avenue and through the Monument and Museum Districts.

Virginia Commonwealth University is located in this area.  Instead of occupying giant, soul-less modern buildings, many VCU offices and classrooms are located in rescued old brownstones and mansions located throughout the neighborhood.

This witty flower display is located in front of a chic hair salon.  I fell in love with it.  The salon occupies a sweet old building, an early 1900's house painted that lovely green accented with lavender.  The lady in the tub is bathing in purple petunia bubbles.

I've seen old claw-footed tubs used for flowers before, but the mannequin and the petunia bubble bath took a lot of imagination.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Rainy Afternoon in Boykins, VA

Back to Saturday, we left Portsmouth after breakfast for the little town of Boykins, VA in Southampton County, VA.  Southampton borders North Carolina.  The railroads and agriculture built Southampton. This area was also the site of Nat Turner's Rebellion prior to the Civil War, an insurrection in which he and other slaves killed 55 people.
Boykins is much quieter these days, but still charming.  There are still a number of farms and livestock around.
We stopped at the Hungry Rooster and had an excellent lunch with great service for under $20.  They hadn't picked the Saturday dinner special yet when we were there.  I wonder what they filled in the blank space?
I loved this old sign hanging inside.  It made me hum King of the Road.
This Coke-swilling rock climber hanging from the ceiling was a clever display.
Our dear friend Mark recommended Boykins as a back roads driving destination.  Rather than sit and obsess about the rain and when the lights would go back on at home, we had a little adventure instead!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Demented Squirrel

After we cleared out the wasp's nest under my porch rocker, I noticed that the red toile tablecloth on the little table on the porch was all in disarray.  I keep an arrangement of  fresh daisies in a zinc milk bottle carrier there.  The edges of the tablecloth were bunched up over the top of the table.

I thanked Bruce for spraying under the table for wasps, but he hadn't.  I chalked it up to the wind and yucky weather and fixed it pretty again.

We have some skinny little windows overlooking the porch that you see as you walk down the stairs.  I couldn't bear to replace them when we did all the other, more conventional windows.  Last night, Bruce was ahead of me as we walked down.  Looking those long, skinny windows, he said, "Look at THAT."

A squirrel was trying to pull my tablecloth off and take it with him!  He's the culprit who has been messing up my carefully staged front-porch table. The daisy arrangement was heavy enough that he couldn't pull it off completely.

Bruce shooed him away.  I put some cashews on the table, thinking to distract him.  Here, take some nuts and stop ripping holes in the tablecloth.  We went to the gym.

I feel like my front porch is embracing all nature or something...bird nests, wasps, and now a squirrel. I have an immigration problem right on my doormat.  Hey, go to some vacant house and knock yourself out...poop, make a nest, make honey, sting passersby...do what you do.  Do you really need to be right here at 256?

When we came back, he had tried to get that tablecloth again!  He must be a temperamental decorator squirrel trying to line his nest and appreciates toile.  Perhaps he is a lifestyle blogger squirrel.  He's tenacious, I'll give him that.

He left the cashews.  I feel stupid about that.  "Hey lady, I spit upon your cashews.  Give up the tablecloth!"

Monday, August 4, 2014

Second Post Today - A Recipe

I don't think I've ever posted a recipe here, but WOW did I have something yummy for dinner.  This is modified from a recipe in last Wednesday's New York Times.  It is simple that it is stupid, but boy did this taste GREAT.

Use homegrown tomatoes or some good beef steak tomatoes from a farm stand.  Swirl some olive oil on a large place and the juice of a half a lemon. Slice and salt the tomatoes and arrange on the plate.

Thinly slice an onion and separate the slices, arranging them on the tomatoes. Thinly slice a green bell pepper and do the same.    Scatter fresh basil leaves across the top.

Swirl some more lemon juice and olive oil on top  Grind on some black pepper.

Add stinky feta cheese with a generous hand.  Perhaps you didn't know that the official name for it is stinky feta cheese.  This is a little-known fact.

If you are kinda friendly with your co-diner, share the plate and use two forks.  If you're in the same mood I was tonight, you will repeat all over again and try to avoid the other guy's fork as you stab into the same tomato. .

Seriously sublime.


What Lies Beneath

Saturday started off in a peculiar fashion.  At about 2:30 a.m. I woke to the loud sound of something hitting the ground behind my house.  Simultaneously, I heard that strange electrical waving hum that heralds the electricity going off seconds later.  And so it did.  

I find the absence of noise bothersome.  I usually listen to a news station from NY City at night or a “white noise” application on my phone.  Utter silence doesn’t work for me.

I tossed and turned until daylight when we were still without electricity.  I was so happy to see a Virginia Dominion Power worker in a cherry picker bucket working beside a crepe myrtle in my side yard area. 

My genius husband made coffee by heating water on the gas stove and running the boiling water through our electric coffee maker.  It worked perfectly!  It would have been a grim morning indeed with no coffee. Some of the other neighbors wandering around all coffeeless kind of looked like zombies wanting to suck down my coffee instead of my brains.  And can I say, later on in IHOP, it looked like a Shea Terrace Civic League meeting.

As I stepped out to investigate, I saw this sad sight in front of old Mrs. Lambkin’s 1920’s home on Idlewood Avenue right behind me. I believe she went home to be with God not too long ago and this tree must have been as old as she was.

At first I thought it took a lightning hit.  However, a closer look showed no scorch marks.  Sadly, the tree was rotting from the inside out.  It had beautiful, silvery green leaves and looked just fine from the outside.  The inside was rotting with unattended disease.  Friday night to Saturday early morning was slightly windy and the poor tree just gave up the ghost.

I grieve every time we lose an old-growth tree, but I am thankful the old live oak came down in the middle of the night rather than on a busy daytime street with bikers, walkers, children, and dogs passing by.

Reflecting on that old fallen tree as we went on with plans away from the house with no power, I thought about when Jesus said:

You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

All sorts of folks walk around each day like whitewashed tombs or like that dying old tree.  The outside can look great. That tree was leafed out in splendor.

Whatever is festering inside is not resolved.  The disease grows.  This dis-ease can be unaddressed long-term situations, acting without reflecting upon motives, unforgiveness, bitterness about our lot in life, family problems which we deny or ignore or dysfunctional relationships we would rather ignore than face the pain of fixing.  We engage in obsessions or in activities to mask thinking about the problem.  We prop ourselves up any way we can as long as we don't have to deal with the underlying issue.  A drug of choice doesn’t always have to be an actual opiate. We hurt others in the process. 

Left to grow untreated, the rot at the core can literally kill us via high-blood pressure, heart disease, etc.  We can also kill relationships, dashing our own hopes and creativity in the process.  Finally, like the tree, all comes tumbling down and we are lucky if others aren’t hit in the process.

Get rid of whatever is festering inside.  Talk to a wise friend.  Give it to God and let Him clean it out.  Whatever you do, don’t leave it there.

And speaking of getting rid of stuff, do you like my new porch d├ęcor?  After such a weird day, imagine sinking into a nice porch rocker only to learn that wasps built a hive underneath!  I'll take stinging insects for $1,000, Alex.