Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chapter 20

From Chapter  20 - "The Uber List"

(This is the latter part of  Chapter 20 from my new book on weddings - telling of my earlier experience assisting a Mother of the bride put together her guest list which was extensive - to say the least.)
At one point, I had a separate list of names that had been pulled off the main list. This separate list included anyone on death's door, with a terminal disease, with marital problems, in the process of a divorce, or whose house was for sale. The Mother of the Bride was determined that the invitations would be addressed correctly. If parties were separated at the time the invitations were delivered, then they needed to be addressed accordingly. She would not have an invitation sent to someone who had already passed away. That would be most disrespectful to the family. And Lord help us if one was returned because it had been sent to someone's former address.  So for six months I kept up with the obituaries, the MLS, and the local gossip to ensure that list was up-to-date.

And, the names - they had to be complete and correct. She insisted on this to the point that I had a copy of the style manual put together by the corresponding social secretary at the White House which contained the formal way to address everyone from a Four Star General to a Potentate to a Maharajah - should we have one on the list.

I remember one prominent business man always used his middle initial "M" and never his middle name. The Mother of the Bride had me call his office to obtain his middle name so his invitation would be correctly addressed. His assistant told me, as I expected, just to use the initial, that was his preference.  The Mother of the Bride would have none of that and called him herself. After several minutes of polite but emphatic language on her part, the gentleman finally said,"What difference does it make? The invitation is coming to me. If I say 'M' is correct, then by God it's correct." She hung up in defeat.

"Have it his way. But it is not correct. You just cannot address a formal invitation without a full name."

Looking down the list, I cringed. There was the name of a doctor with an initial. I knew him and knew that the initial was not short for anything - it was just a "J". He did not even put a period after it. Amy Vanderbilt did not cover this one, nor did the White House. Before the Mother of the Bride made the call she commented, "You don't suppose he would consider changing it to 'John' would you? That certainly would make my life easier."

Noah - A Movie Review

I am not a Biblical Scholar but I was paying close attention to Mrs. Roberts in Sunday school at church at age twelve when she taught us the story of Noah. She read to us from the King James version of the Bible. Darren Aronofsky takes liberties with his Noah the movie. So if you are going to see this film for religious reasons or to learn how God had Noah build the ark and save all the animals when he flooded the earth, keep in mind the story here plays fast and loose with the facts.

All that said Noah may have been able to save the animals of the world however even Russell Crowe was unable to save this ship. It was in rough seas before the floods came. Spoiler alert, I had issues with a stowaway I do not recall in the scriptures, several of the animals becoming meals during the voyage, mythical transformer like characters, and a few other facts that I felt were questionable.

It is one thing to add a few things to spice up a story, make it more interesting to keep a story going through a dull time or to explain something that isn't clear in the story. However don't add these created bits and pieces as fairly important parts of the plot.

The cast was adequate but struggled like the screen play to save the ship. The bright spot was Emma Watson. She was able to use her talents to make her character seem more relevant, not that she was more important, but while everyone else seemed burdened by their roles she rose above the weight. The problems were not due to lack of talent, rather lack of story and dialogue.

We stayed for the entire film, although in retrospect I'm not sure why. Perhaps we thought all would be revealed in the end. After 138 minutes however I felt like as if  was drowning and needed some fresh air.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Circuitous Route to Happy Orchids

For eight years now I have been raising, or I should say trying to raise, orchids in two small greenhouses. I started in the kitchen as a "Window Sill Grower" and soon my DH bought me greenhouses for fear we would no longer have room in the kitchen to eat. 

How expensive could greenhouses be after they were bought? Well there were fans to buy that summer to keep them cool. Then when winter came, I needed heaters. Meanwhile I was keeping a record of every plant, name, species, color, and age on an excel spreadsheet. Each had a marked tag so I could identify it. 

After two summers of loosing most of the plants to the unrelenting heat of South Carolina I figured there must be a better way. I went online and read several orchid forums. Taking their advice, I invested in a two misting fans. That was great in the winter to keep the humidity up but no so much in the summer when the humidity was already 80% so the mist that should be cooling, just became water that dropped to the floor.

We went to Ecuador for three weeks that summer (ironically part of the trip was for orchids) and left my daughter at home with the simple task: turn on and off the misters twice a week. Obviously, this didn't happen until the last day when the misters were turned on and left on. I came home to find 6 inches of standing water in the green houses and dry plants. 

In the meantime I was still losing plants right and left. What remained were sad and bedraggled. I was back on the orchid forums. Plan B was humidifiers. I invested in 5 humidifiers to keep the humidity up in the houses, but the small reservoirs needed to be refilled every day.  The fans did not cool enough and the heaters were still too hot. 

So far I had dead and dying orchids, more than I could keep up with and plants that were not cheap. I was (trying to) raise Catlayas and Oncidiums. I longed for the days when I was a "Window Sill Grower." My DH kept telling me I was not "listening" to the experts. I was taking as much advice from every expert I could find. The days of recording the names of each plant and marking it were long gone. I found that much too depressing.

At a reptile meeting (of all places) I found a gentleman selling misting systems that were not cheap but they were well designed and obviously what I needed. So I invested in one. After setting it up with an 8 gallon trash can as the reservoir, I found that the humidity was better but I still had water all over the floor. And, I was constantly refilling the reservoir as I cleaned up the floors of the greenhouses. By then I had a series of 5 or 6 gentle fans in each house to keep the air moving. 

My DH bought me a professional thermostat that allowed me to set the main fans and heaters to turn on and off according to a given temperature. And I had a timer on the misting system that set the cycles and intervals of the misters. Using trial and error, I established a system to collect the excess water from the misters. By this time my DH had me add a 55 gallon trash can as my reservoir. That worked great until the morning I awoke to find it had a leak. So my DH  convinced me to purchase a 165 gallon farm nurse tank that was three times what I planned to pay.

Then in the fall of 2012 I was working in the green houses and looked around. All the plants were alive, green and thriving. Wait, I had not lost a plant over the summer. And, I no longer had to water the orchids, the misting system was set so there was enough moisture they did not need additional water. And there were spikes and buds on many of the plants. 

That winter the orchids bloomed and every time I entered the greenhouses I was greeted by the rich aroma of orchids in full bloom. Often I was surprised by a new bloom I was not expecting. The orchids were happy. I was happy. No, I was thrilled. We had reached an equilibrium. And that continues. But what a painful way to get there. 

Now my inexpensive hobby included fans (many replaced by now), heaters, humidifiers (which are no longer used), a misting fan (that is long gone), two large trash cans (both out of commission), a new "nurse" tank, an expensive misting system, a timer, a thermostat, and more plants than I cared to count. 

All I can say is today I have 93 happy orchids. That is not to say that they may all perish tomorrow. Not only has this been an investment of money, blood, sweat, and tears, I have lost what little religion I had over these plants. But they are addictive. Just this past week in Florida I found a gorgeous Vanda that I could not pass up. Not that I  had room for this huge plant with 4 feet of roots hanging from its basket. 

My advice when someone asks about growing orchids is quiet simple: keep them in your kitchen.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Trembling of Finches or a Herd of Fairies

We were in a pet shop, not an unusual place for us to be, and I made the mistake of lingering too long in front of the cage of finches. Next thing I knew my DH was looking at bird cages to go in the den. We have already been around this mulberry bush when he thought a pair of Love Birds was the ideal Mother's Day gift two years ago. Not! Thank God my daughter convinced him of the error of his ways. Obviously his memory is short. But  digress.

Then he started asking the store clerk about the size cages they had available. Of course before that conversation had finished my DH had already decided that a cage matching the flying squirrel cage currently in our den would be the best idea. Naturally, why not get something large enough for a small family of pygmies from New Guinea or a warren of wombats while we are at it.

If I were to ever get some finches, then I would do my own research and select the cage I want. However since I am not in the market for finches, have not indicated I would like some finches, do not have a need for finches, or am not in any way interested at this time in my life getting finches, considering cages is not an issue. The fact that he is even discussing this is room for concern.

We had just visited the Ringling Circus Museum. God please tell me he did not get any ideas. Perhaps I should have started worrying when I noticed he was spending  time in front of the antique wagon with the steel bars that held the lions and tigers - oh my!!  We may as well rent a clown and buy a popcorn machine.

Mother's Day is several weeks away and hopefully he will have moved on to something else by then. Meanwhile I hope I have made it clear that at this time I do not need nor do I want to see a trembling of finches (or a flock of ducks, chattering of chough, flight of pigeons, prattle of parrots, nor tribe of sparrows) much less any type of cage to house such. 

The only thing I wish to see appear in my den is the House Keeping Fairy and so far I fear he or she is a figment of my imagination. And in that instance I do not need a herd of fairies, just one will make me a very happy girl.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A "Southern Bell"

Women love to talk, that is no surprise . And I'll admit I'll guilty as much as anyone else. The telephone just makes it worse. Come to think of it I am award winning in this category. (Or I should say was, now talking on the phone is something I really do not like to do.)
         When I was in college in Charleston, my (to be) DH was in Columbia in grad school. Those were the days prior to cell phones and "free calls any where in the country to friends and family". Long distance calls (ie anything "out of town" for those of you young enough never to have known life before Facebook) were charged by the minute. However for those patient souls, the phone rates dropped after 11pm. So we always had to wait until that time to call each other to save money. And we talked every night. Needless, to say I had a healthy phone bill. My DH and I laughed that we should just invest in phone company stock.
          Each spring my sorority had a picnic for our parents during the college's parents weekend. My senior year my parents decided to attend. Daddy, as you can imagine had gotten to know many of my sorority sisters over the years. And of course my DH also new most of them. 
          Mama and Daddy showed up with some of mama 's friend chicken and the cooler of adult beverages. Since the picnic was alcohol free the cooler stayed in the car but Daddy walked in carrying his own large glass of "iced tea" and invited any of my friends to join him for more refreshments at the car after lunch. 
          During the picnic, Senior Superlatives were awarded. There was a range of categories, "Most Likely to Succeed", "Most Likely to Marry First", "Top of the Class", "Top in Philanthropic", "Best Leader". In a second, more entertaining category, I walked away with "Southern Bell" to the hoots and hollers of my sisters. My mother was beaming with pride.
        When we got to the car, needless to say many of my friends had taken Daddy up on his offer. As we all stood there visiting, I turned to one of my good friends and congratulated her on 'Winning' ""Most Likely to Marry First. She just laughed, "Given my wedding is planned for the Saturday after graduation, I think I had that one in the bag.
         Another friend of mine looked at me, "Like you did not have 'Southern Bell' wrapped up."  Once again that brought out laughter from everyone including my DH. 
         Later that evening as my parents were saying goodbye, my mother looked me, "I am so proud of you." I thanked her. Daddy gave  me a kiss. As they got in the car I heard my Mama say, "Of all those nice pretty girls, they chose our daughter as the southern bell of the whole sorority."
        Oh dear God I thought. Dad just turned and smiled, "Just let her revel in her own world. It makes her happy"
        "Yeah, that's fine until she goes to bridge club next week," I said just mortified by the thought alone.
         "Well, that may be a problem," Daddy said. "But maybe she will have forgotten by then." 
         I just looked at him. He just laughed, "Or not."

Friday, April 11, 2014

Chapter 2

Just an excerpt from the new book on weddings. This is from  Chapter 2- "It's a Girl", and comes from the end of the chapter:


Every time I brought someone home, if she {Mama} liked him, no doubt in her mind, she was sizing him up for a tuxedo. Only to have her hopes dashed later when we broke up.

Of course by this time, she already had the florist selected, the Bridal Shop in mind, a sample kit from the engraver on her desk, the bakery, and, I swear, a list of available dates from the Country Club. All she needed were those words all southern mother's live for, "Mama, I'm engaged". And, then the game was afoot.

As I said, this is a competitive sport. First, spot out the competition - who were the other Brides for the season? And, which brides were members of our church. There was a push to set the date, book the church, lock in the Country Club, engage the florist, and most importantly, make sure we got the best Bridal Director in town secured for our date. Once I learned, the Bridal Director ran interference between my mother and me, she became my new best friend.

At this point, it was no longer my wedding, like I was under the delusion it ever was to begin with. My mother  started - "Oh, Julia had shrimp at the reception, I think we need to add that to the menu, but, God, those colors she used were ghastly." 
       "Can you believe that Charlotte had to have her reception in the church hall, her mother should have known to book the Country Club early." 
       "Oh, and I am disgusted with Mary Louise. She had the audacity to get Jerry (the florist) engaged for your date, even though we discussed that at bridge. I told her I planned to use Jerry." (All's fair in love, war and planning a wedding.) 
     "And those white flowers at Linda's wedding, 
why it looked like a funeral."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Memories, Like the Fragrances of My Life

And while we are on the subject of fragrances, I still reminiscence about my Daddy, Aunty, and Hoyt's Cologne.  Those two had a running joke every Christmas - one of them was going to give the other a bottle of it.  I was much too young to understand, I just knew there was much laughter when the gift was opened. Aunty always said it smelled "God Awful". I never thought it was that bad, although I stuck my nose up about it like everyone else, since that seemed like the party line at the time.

I have since learned that Hoyt's Cologne dates back to 1868 and was worn by gamblers, thought to bring them luck. It had notes of citrus and floral which are the scents I prefer. Guess it was best I kept my preferences to myself when I was five. Lord knows my Aunt Kat would have feared I was destined for a life on the wrong side of town, my Granny would have pulled out the Presbyterian Catechism, while Aunty would have been proud of me.

Of course my Aunt Kat wore Emeraude up until she died. My Aunt J'Nelle preferred Channel No. 5. I never asked, but no doubt if I had, my Aunty would have told me she preferred "Some type of toilet water." I just remember her smelling like the Salem cigarette she always had hanging out of the side of her mouth.

Then there were the "perfumes" Daddy sold in his drugstore in the 70's - Jean Nate, Faberge's StrawHat. Tigress, and Woodhue, Windsong, Cache and Shalimar. And, the men had their own with Old Spice, Brut, English, and Steson.  I can't seem to forget you.  For the life of me I doubt I could tell any one those colognes apart. However, a few men's fragrances would probably bring back memories of some men of my far distant past. Especially Polo. Ah, Polo . . . and that British Racing Green Austin Healey. But we will not go there.

Ahem. Anyway as I was saying, Daddy and Aunty always exchanged Hoyt's Cologne at Christmas.