Monday, August 30, 2021

Little Lord Fauntleroy

I don't get my knickers in a knot when I receive a wedding invitation that is not engraved or is pink or purple - to each their own. And, I am past the point of worrying about one using initials in the address in lieu of full names. I realize folks these days are busy and don't have the time or are not willing to take the time to get their guests' full names.

However I do find it, especially in the South, unnerving when the forms of addresses are incorrect. One of  my pet peeves (to borrow a favorite phrase from my Mama) is the use, or rather misuse of the title "Master". Addressing a young boy as "Master" evokes portraits of the little one dressed as Little Lord Fauntleroy.

And usually, when someone refers to their son or grandson as such they have no doubt subjected the young lad to a portrait sitting costumed in the required get up of velvet breeches and a wide lacy Victorian collar. I dear say some may still be in therapy due to such get up and humiliation.

Amy Vanderbilt stated "that in the USA, unlike the UK, a boy can be addressed as master only until age eight, then is addressed only by his name with no title until he turns 18, when he takes the title of Mr. although it is not improper to use Mr. if he is slightly younger. "Mstr." is used as a prefix for boys on the UK Passport Service online application form." 

Robert Hickey, deputy director of the Protocol School of Washington, stated that "use of Master [as] an honorific when addressing boys is considered old fashioned outside of conservative circles."

Basically in the United States, the use of this term is considered honorific at best and old fashion at worst. In my estimation (ie my humble opinion) it is arrogant. Little boys should just be little boys. John McCall Pillaster VI, should just be that, John McCall Pillaster VI - isn't that enough. 

And, yes, little girls are still referred to as "Miss" until they are married or choose "Ms." or become a doctor of some type. Perhaps unfair that McCall's little sister is "Miss Margaret Pinckney Pillaster" from the day she is born (in formal address) but such is life. 

So as I said, I only get my knickers in a knot when mothers dress their darling sons in them with the wide Victorian collars and then insist they are "Masters". If they want their little boys to be a "Master"they  should have been British and there they could have enjoyed the title until age 8. 

But then as my dear Aunty used to say, people in Hell want ice water.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Dark Side of the Moon

I was checking the weather last night and noted it said that there was a Waning Gibbous. What the Hell? Now I am familiar with the waning and waxing of the moon (thanks to Dr. Drost, my college astronomy teacher) but "Gibbous"? Inquiring minds want to know.

The Oxford Dictionary states:

  1. (of the moon) having the observable illuminated part greater than a semicircle and less than a circle.

And to think for 60 years I have been experiencing the Gibbous and was totally unaware. It never came up in a trivia game, on Jeopardy, or the Weather Channel. So I l took it upon myself and loooked into the 8 phases of the moon. 

Of course the next thing I saw was the "Jean Dixon" version of the phases of the moon. (Not familiar with Jean Dixon? You are showing your (youthful) age. Run along now.)

This is where the monkey dust comes in. Where as the scientific definitions are clear, describing each phase of the moon in relation to the sun, the touchy feely description delves into the spiritual aspects of each phase. In reading the attribute to each phase, I wasn't sure it had anything to do with the moon per se. They read more like the astrological column on page 3 of the National Enquirer, just under the story of the Elvis being sighted living as a gardener for the Hari Krishnas.

Somehow I doubt Diana (or Selene for the Greeks) referred to the New Moon as a time for an intense reboot or a time to release yourself from the grip of the past. (To paraphrase a description I found in some Astrological Digest.) Nor, did they see the Waxing Crescent as embracing desire. The article went onto attribute the First Quarter Moon as a time of action, the Waxing Gibbous as a period of redirecting course, and the Full Moon as the Harvest Moon (when you fight to find balance between two extremes). The Waning Gibbous is a time for gratefulness, the Last Quarter, a period of release, and finally, the Waning Crescent - the point of surrender.

And what about a Blue Moon? It is the second full moon in a calendar month which happens every 2 and half years or so (therefore it does not mean forever). Or a Super Moon (when it looks bigger because it is closer to the Earth). There is the Blood Moon, named for its reddish glow and seen during a total Lunar eclipse.

Learning all of this was not for naught.  I did note that under my sign (Virgo), the aspect, angle of the planets was in synergy with the winds, Venus was rising, Mars was transitory, and soon I would find myself restless. But, not to fret, for Jupiter was in my future bringing leisure and wealth.

Whatever. Keep in mind this is from the same publications that boasted such headlines as:  "I saw a Mad Cat eat my Mother", "Vengeful Corpse Makes Good on 100 Year Old Curse", and one of my favorites, "I was Seduced by a Flying Saucer". But, I'll hold out for Jupiter.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Food Gentrification


- to renovate or improve. 

Folks, while the world is concerned about the macro issues of world wars, economic recession, and health crisis, perhaps we should look closer and consider a micro issue that is slowly overtaking our society.

Now, I only speak for those of "us" with good taste, who were brought up, not necessarily in a wealthy home but one with a rich heritage of good food. Where the meals consisted of a cuisine anyone would kill to enjoy. These repasts were based on a heritage of the land and the sea, local herbs and spices, along with those brought from Africa and the Caribbean. 

But now these rich dishes are being reduced to simple boxes and disgusting cans. Instead of a slow cooking dutch oven, a cast iron frying pan, or good ol' pyrex dish, now a microwave and a can opener can (supposedly) reproduce these southern delicacies in minutes.

This is what our "society" has stooped to. I will warn you, the following images are very disturbing. 

Our collard greens, fresh from the fields, that we cook (using everyone's "secret" recipe) adding a ham hock, strips of bacon or fat back,

Have now been reduced to this:

Related image

Boiled peanuts should be dug up, rinsed, then cooked in a large pot over a gas burner. Part of the glory of this dish is the camaraderie around the cooker, telling stories, adding salt, and tasting the peanuts to see when they are done.

Image result for boiled peanuts in a can

And, now some poor children think a can opener is all that is involved in "preparing" and serving boiled peanuts. Worse yet, can you imagine what they taste like?

Margaret Holmes, Green Boiled Peanuts, 13.5oz Cans (Pack of 6)

My Mama and my dear mother-in-law both made the best macaroni and cheese. It was a serious rich cheesy casserole so thick is was cut and served in squares. This dish was as good the next morning (if anything was left over) as when it was first served. 

And now, "The" Blue Box is what this generation equates to "Macaroni and Cheese". Oh, the inhumanity!!

But the worse casualty, what someone should be tied and quartered for is that sweet succulent crab that we grew up eating. As a child, we used to use chicken necks tied to string to catch them in the inlet between Sullivan's Island and the Isle of Palms. Then that night we would sit on the front porch and pick and eat crab until we were full. Or Mama would make her rich crab casserole. After I learned to cook, I would use the fresh crab meat to stuff large shrimp, then wrap them in bacon to be grilled.

Image result for blue crabmeat

And today - mock, fake, crab like, style food ...

I know I have offended many, confused some, but hopefully I have opened the eyes of a few to the true southern food that is now "Gentrified" by these feeble fake foods.

Bon Appetite or, as we say down here, pass the biscuits and butter, please.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Life's Lessons - So Far

Over my many years, I have learned a few things - most the hard way. Some of the more important lessons I learned were not over keeping  Chaucer's characters in the Canterbury Tales straight or the value of Pi, but rather what to do or not, truths to accept, and accepted beliefs to reject. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Don't ever ask an overweight young lady when her baby is due.
  • If the outfit you are trying on is too tight, return it to the rack. All the good intentions to lose enough weight for it to fit will be in vain. Trust me. It took me several purchases to reach (and accept) this realization.
  • When the bottle of wine is empty and you cannot remember if it is the 1st or 2nd bottle you have shared with friends that evening 'tis best to go to bed.
  • No matter how much you believe or click your heals, the House Keeping is never going to come.
  • Every time your souffle falls, your Hollandaise sauce curdles, or your chocolate burns, keep in mind Julia Childs didn't know how to cook before she went to France so there is hope. 
  • When someone says "You are as young as you feel", chances are they are much younger and feel much better than you.
  • Benjamin Franklin said “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Unfortunately, no one remembers the first part of the quote and the second part, which everyone does remember, is a cruel reality.
  • Contrary to lore, the LBR (Little Black Dress) you keep in your closet will not always make your size 12 look like a size 8 - no matter what the fashion magazines say.
  • Never buy cheap shoes, cheap sheets, or cheap aluminum foil. 
  • Anyone who brings up the issue of a diet during the dessert course is rude, crude, and unattractive. 
After all, in the Canterbury Tales, The Wife of Bath (Alisoun) is the character who most enjoys life,The Prioress (Madame Eglantine) is the most proper, and Hubert, the Friar is a pain in the ass. As for Pi, it may be irrational, but it is still an even number

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

On and Off the Bandwagon

According to Merrian-Webster, the definition of Gluten is: "a substance in wheat and flour that holds dough together".

Once again, my little mind is a bit confused. As a child and young adult I had many friends (and relatives), and knew folks from many other parts of the country, and I never heard of anyone suffering from the ill effects of "gluten". This, despite the fact we were raised reared on a diet of Cherrios, Wheaties, and Sunbeam Bread. God forbid I mention our consumption of coconut cake, biscuits, and fried chicken - all these are truly gluten possessed. 

It wasn't until I was in my late 40's when I first heard of a friend of mine's cousin's child suffered from Celiac Disease that I ever heard the term "gluten free". The disease, she explained to me was when digesting gluten triggered the body's immune system to damage the small finger like projections that line the small intestine that promote nutrient absorption. This would prevent nutrients from being absorbed properly into the body. In this case, the child was really ill and the mother had to learn a different way to shop and cook for him. 

I could not imagine such a fate. First having a child one had to protect from such a horrendous disease and learn how to rethink how to shop, cook, and eat wheat and flour free in our world of bread, breading, cakes, cookies, and pasta. Obviously this was before the birth of the Gluten Free market.

Suddenly we have "Gluten Free" aisles in the grocery stores. A good 20% of my friends are now convinced that Gluten is the cause of every digestive, intestinal, or weight  problem they have and have sworn off the evil stuff. There are articles stating "80% of those with Celiac Disease go un-diagnosed". According to an article on Healthy Living while there are those who suffer from Celiac Disease, more may just have a wheat allergy. My question is how many of those on the Gluten Free band wagon have been tested to know exactly what they have?

I'm not saying it is a passing fad. Giving the "Gluten Free" aisles in the grocery stores, it is a full fledged business now. However, if one looks closer they will see many of the Gluten Free products while free of Gluten are chocked full of fats, sugars, and carbs. Remembers the "Fat Free" diets of the early 1990's. I thought I was in nirvana. That was the diet for me. Once I found that I could eat an entire Entennman's Raspberry Danish Twist (all 5 servings) without a fat gram I was in heaven knowing I had not strayed from my diet. (Of course how I was going to lose weight given I had just consumed about 1500 calories was just a minor detail.) Also remember that Kate Gosselin's haircut (the one that looked as if it were done by a drunk stylist with great ambition) was also a fad. But  digress.

I'm not saying that Gluten Free is all bad or that we may be carrying this a little far. Personally I'm not quite ready to swear off biscuits, fried chicken, and  whole grain bread - the real stuff not some GF alternative. All I am saying is, as a country we love band wagons and are quick to jump on. This all came to mind this morning in the shower when I noticed that on the front of both of my DH's shampoo and conditioner bottles it read "100% Vegan Free - Gluten Free". Seriously? Well, I'm just going watch this parade.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Barbie Gowns

My Mama may have tried to kill me with ric rac, but my Grandmother made the most incredible clothes for my Barbie dolls. I had an entire Barbie closet full of ball gowns, a wedding dress, and cocktail dresses, and Grandmama had all made  all these by hand.

Each of these pieces were incredibly detailed. The gowns would be made of satin with a coordinating chiffon or netting over the skirt. The cocktail dresses would be made of silk edged with sequins or some other fancy trim.  For every long gown for my Barbie, she made a coordinating one for my Skipper. One year, she presented me with a full length wool coat, with such details like pockets and a coordinating collar. 

When I look back on the small bodices and tiny waists she had to work with to produce these clothes, I am in awe. There was usually a small snap or tiny hook and eye in the back to hold up the skirt or fasten the back of the dress. The hems of the dresses were always perfectly even and turned under.

Even as a little girl I loved the Barbie clothes she made. When I went to play with my friends I had the loveliest Barbie clothes by far. If we were producing a Barbie wedding I was always fast to share my ball gowns and bridesmaid dresses. My friends were welcome to dress their dolls in the beautiful cocktail dresses my Grandmama had made for me.

But the grass is always greener. Out of all the gorgeous clothes I had, I did not have any "every day" clothes. My Barbie and Skipper could only dress for balls and dances and weddings and parties. I did not have any "real" Barbie clothes, the kind that came from the store with the Barbie label in them. I had to borrow those from my friends.

One afternoon I can remember a friend of mine having this Barbie suit made out of pink faux fur trimmed in white vinyl. It had a top, a skirt, and a coordinating hat. I had played with that outfit so much that she asked me if I wanted it. Seems she had been eyeing one of my ball gowns. When she suggested a trade I had to think about it. After much angst and guilt I made the trade.

Even though I can remember enjoying that pink outfit as long as I played with my Barbies, I still to this day feel pangs of guilt over that trade. How could I have given something my Grandmama spent so much time making for an outfit anyone could buy from the dime store? Now I am sure if my Grandmother knew about it she would chuckle. One gown would not have upset her. She would been happy that some other little girl was enjoying the gown she made. She probably would have been hurt though that I never asked to her to make my Barbie some everyday clothes.

Whatever the case, I look back on the two generations of talent. My mother who made my clothes and although I did not appreciate them at the time, she was an excellent seamstress and spent a great amount of time sewing each one. And my Grandmother who spent hours crafting those Barbie clothes. 

Unfortunately, while I once had an interest in sewing and learned the basics, like many things this is a lost art with me. However, the time and talent they put into it is not lost on me. All this came to mind when I found one of the lovely Barbie gowns my Grandmother made for me in the attic. And yesterday I came across a red plaid dress in a size 4 with two pockets and ric rac on it that my mother had saved in a box of other memorabilia we had unearthed while cleaning out her house. 

It is amazing how pieces of cloth hold so many memories. Well, pieces of cloth that have been carefully cut, folded, sized, stitched, edged, trimmed, and hemmed. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Little Girl from Voque

As I have said, my mother made my clothes. I can remember the excitement of school starting and my 5 or 6 new dresses. Each was from the same basic pattern - but at 6 what did I know. Each was from a different material, in a different color, some were plaid, one was solid, a few were prints. Each were short sleeved and most had pockets on them. Almost all were decorated with a different color of ric-rac.

This enthusiasm was well worn off by Halloween. I was tired of my wardrobe. To make things worse, I seemed to be the only child in my class who was "fortunate" to have a mother talented enough to sew. Other mothers would often ask me if my mother made my dress and comment that is was "so cute". Even at 6, I wasn't sure if that was a heart felt compliment or the kiss of death.

One particular little girl comes to mind. She was pretty and petite. Her clothes were always perfect. I was not sophisticated enough to understand what I was seeing, but I knew it was different from the rest of us. Every season, she would change like a chameleon into a new phase of fashion.

Then there were the kids who got their mothers to let them shop at the "It" shop in town, where all of the "hip" clothes were. I think I got to go into the store once. Needless to say, none of my clothes came from there - only in my dreams. Meanwhile, I endured ric-rac. Little did I know I was just beginning a 12 year battle with my mother over clothes - a stand off that I never won.

It was only after I got out of college that I found my sense of "style", what I really liked and felt comfortable in. I never learned to sew and swore I would never make my children endure that affliction. (Although, we fought many battles over dress - or lack of it, over the years.)

The mystery of the well dressed little girl was revealed many years later when I learned that 3 or 4 times a year her mother would take her to New York to shop for clothes. No wonder she was so far ahead of us. After all, in 1966, most of us did not even know where New York was. Since it was north of the Mason-Dixon line it may as well not have existed. Looking back on it, even at 6 she looked like she dressed out of Vogue. No wonder I couldn't relate - as I sat next to her in gingham and ric-rac.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Simplicity and a Fate Worse than Death

I found an old Simplicity pattern recently and it brought back all kinds of memories. 

My Mama sewed and was an extremely talented seamstress when she put her mind to it. My Grandmother was also very talented and obviously taught my mother how to sew. Mama made some beautiful clothes for herself. She also made drapes for our house as well as some for my dear Aunt Kat's new house. She made throw pillow of every type and description. 

During the centennial of the war, she made Daddy an exact replica of the uniform those in Hampton's Legion wore so he would be correctly dressed for his reenactments down to the grey wool, red felt, and gold braiding.

Mama was practical - sometimes to a fault. When I started kindergarten, she made five little dresses for me. They were all from the same simplicity pattern. Each was of a different fabric. One was plaid, two were solid (in different colors), and two were of fabrics of different patterns. Each little dress was a bit unique. One may have one pocket, while another would two pockets, and a third would not have any pockets. But each and everyone one was decorated with a coordinating color of Ric Rac. (I went on to call that year and the next - "Death by Ric Rac".)

When it got chilly I would be dressed with tights and a blouse under the dresses. If was very cold, she would  put me in a matching pair of corduroy pants under the dress - which even at five I thought was a hideous idea and shared my opinion with her each time that occurred.

In the spring there would be five more in bright spring colors, each with coordinating ric-rac. It never got as bad as having the days of the week labeled on them, but it was damn close. 

Mama was being thrifty and looking back on it, it made perfectly good sense. She was very talented. The clothes were well made. The dresses, although fairly plain, were in fashion for the time - whatever fashion was in the early 1960's for a five year old. 

Other mothers would ask me if my mother made my dresses. I would answer "yes" with pride. All went well until first grade. For some reason the fashion rules change between kindergarten and first grade, something Mama never quite caught onto. 

That fall she made my five dresses. About 4 or 5 weeks into school I went into revolt. My clothes were different from those of my classmates. I wanted store bought clothes just like they had. Mama would have none of that. And so started the clothes war that continued until I left for college. 

In high school one year a certain style of top came into vogue. Everyone was wearing them. I had bought 2 or 3. One day I came home from school to find that Mama had decided to make several for me from a pattern she had found.

Yes, her heart was in the right place. However, the fabrics she selected were hideous. The calico prints were something so God awful I feel certain the Mennonite women who shopped locally had passed on those bolts of cloth in the fabric store deeming them too homely. I thanked her for them, tried them on, and put them in my closet. I think she took the hint because that was her last attempt to surprise me with a piece of clothing she had made.

My senior year, I could not find a formal gown for one of our spring dances. In total desperation and came home with the fabric and a Vogue pattern. Mama produced a lovely simple but elegant gown that I enjoyed wearing and actually wore to a dance in college.

Now I had another friend whose mother made all her clothes and they were gorgeous and trendy. Mama had the talent, she just never got the memo that perhaps things would go more swimmingly if I had some input into the fabric and pattern. But generally there was a failure to communicate between my mother and me until I was in my late 30's and had two children.

To keep the peace Daddy decided when I was in high school that perhaps I needed to learn how to sew and bought me my own sewing machine. I took lessons and learned the basics. Several attempts showed me that it takes a great deal of patience and talent to produce a garment from scratch using a pattern, fabric, the necessary notions, and a sewing machine. I gained respect for Mama's talent and the time she dedicated to making my clothes. 

However kindergarten was fine for calico, gingham, plaid, and ric rac, but after that peer pressure prevailed. Even as a 6 year old I did not know what "fashion" was. But I knew what wasn't and "Simplicity" was not going to be the end of me. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

We the People

 I climb upon my soap box to speak my mind.

Personally I think one of the main issues in today's climate of uber partisanship is a fundamental lack of the knowledge of the US Constitution. In my generation (ie the Olden Days) we were taught citizenship. From an early age we learned how the government works. And, yes, more than just "School House Rock". Today one rarely finds this curriculum in schools.

If one asks many of the citizens of our great land about the constitution, the response will be something like, "We the People". A few know the following line, " . . . of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,". But I would bet money that few of those under age 40 know how many Articles there are. For reference purposes, there are 7 and there are 27 Amendments.

    Article I - sets forth the Congress and its powers

    Article II - is about the presidency and its powers

    Article III - gives the US Courts its structure and powers

    Article IV - is about states' powers

    Article V - explains the amendment process

    Article VI - sets forth federal law

    Article VII - is about ratification of the Constitution itself

And then there are the Amendments - all 27 of them. These have been the life blood of the grand document. The first 10 are known as the "Bill of Rights". Most folks know that the 1st Amendment deals with freedom of the press. 

    The 13th Amendment abolished slavery.

    The 15th Amendment grants all American citizens (well, males only), over the age of 18, no matter their        faith, race or religion the right to vote. 

    Income taxes were established with the 16th Amendment.

     Prohibition was brought in with the 18th Amendment ratified in 1919. Then in 1933, the country came to     its senses and revoked the 18th amendment with the 21st. 

    The 19th amendment gives women the right to vote.

    The 22nd limits any citizen serving as president to 2 terms.

    The 25th Amendment sets forth the process for the cabinet to deem the president unfit, followed by               approval of congress by 2/3's vote.

    The Equal Rights Amendment, the ERA, giving women equal rights was proposed in 1923. By 1977, 35      of the 38 states required had voted to ratify it. Since then, 5 of those states revoked their ratification.

The point of all this is that since 1789 when the US Constitution was ratified, this great experiment has worked. The document is fairly clear. It established 3 separate but equal parts of government. It is living and can be amended as the times require.

But, like the rule of law, it only works when everyone follows it. For almost two and a half centuries, this grand document has kept the country growing and thriving.  If we lose sight of the way government has been set-up and how it operates within the the Constitution with its Articles and Amendments, we will become another failed state. Many Americans take this for granted, that it will always work. No so much - for our grand democracy and all its freedoms is only held together by this document. 

We, the people do self govern. We control who our lawmakers are by the ballot box. The constitution was originally written in the 18th century, times have changed, the country has modernized. Up until the 13th amendment slavery was legal. The 15th amendment protects our right to vote. The 19th amendment expanded this to include women. Every citizen has a right to vote. But, today some are trying to limit this right to certain people by making it more difficult for many to vote, incorrectly saying this past election was not legitimate. However the courts and election officials across the country have stated that it was carried out in a fair, legal, and legitimate way. 

Think of our country as a large bus that for  232 years has safely carried all of us. Oh, there have been bumps in the road, times when the engine spit and sputtered. But, over the years it has carried us safely. Now we find it recklessly speeding down the road, running through stop lights, hitting other vehicles, with no regard to life or limb. It can crash into a building or careen off a cliff at any time. 

Over the centuries there here have been many countries that operated in a free and democratic manner, to suddenly find themselves as an autocracy or a dictatorship. It is a slippery slope, an icy road, that many have gone down, only realizing too late that their freedoms are gone. 

We are a free country. Let us stay that way. If some fear the way some others will vote. Rather than trying to limit that right by false pretenses, it is up to them to rally their like minded fellow citizens to vote. For it is the majority who will rule. That is a fair and free election.

So let us remember we are all on this bus of democracy together. Let us keep it on the road to protect our 'more perfect union.'

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Truth and Scales

 Each time I walk into my kitchen a piece of cake whispers "Come hither and partake", while the salad and fruit are mute. And in the bathroom, my scale gives me bad news, actually it speaks the truth. In denial, I never equate the allure of cake with the attitude of my scales.

I can remember years ago, while I was in school I had a suite mate, Emily, who was  'big boned' as my Grandmother would say. As often happens with a group of young ladies, there was an obsession with weight. The 4 of us decided to diet - all for one and one for all. So sandwiches and cookies were sacked, replaced by salads. All cake and candy were done away with. Chicken became the sole meat around the place.

Upon our weigh-in after the first week, the results were mixed. 3 of us lost a pound or 2. However, dear Emily gained a pound. No doubt due to the stash of cookies she kept hidden in her room, supposedly for those times she had low blood sugar, although she was not diabetic. But we were not to judge.

The weigh-in after our second week had similar results, 3 of us lost a pound or so and poor Emily gained another pound. She acted shocked at the results, after all, according to her, she had been very faithful to her diet. (There was no mention of her "blood sugar" issue.)

At the end of the 3rd week, prior to our 'weigh in', we decided to help Emily. After all, each of us had at one time or another suffered by the wrath of the scales. So we adjusted the scales at negative 2 so it would show our true weight less 2 pounds. That evening we gathered for our weekly moment of truth. Needless to say the 3 of us knowing the scales had been doctored, pretended to have mixed results.  But, we waited for Emily's moment of truth, knowing she would be excited.

But, we were all shocked at the look on her face as she stepped off the scales. "Well", she said. "At least I only gained 1 pound this week." We then realized the situation with Emily was a bit worse than we suspected. 

Jennifer, the most successful dieter among us just laughed. "Well, at least she seems pleased." After that we jut let the chips fall where they may. The scales were readjusted for the truth and each week we commiserated with Emily as her diet continued to fail. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Ah, To Be Able to Go

I was talking several days ago with a friend about traveling. Since March of 2020 and this blasted pandemic, traveling (for pleasure) has pretty much ceased to be. I had a trip planned to Cayman that April, that was cancelled. Looking back on it, had I been able to go, I do not think I would have returned for a long while.

Many of you who know me are aware of my wanderlust and love of traveling. As a psychological fall back, I have always known, if all else fails, I could drop everything and catch a plane to some other place. I always said Aruba. However, for the first time in my life, this pandemic has prevented that vicarious escape. I never thought I would live to see the day when it was not safe to to go ANYWHERE. But, alas for these past 18 months this has been our new norm. 

In total confession, I have taken several plane trips during this time, but they were all stateside. I long for trips to far away places with strange sounding names. Hard to believe, but my last international trip was to Brazil and Argentina 2 years ago. 

As with everyone, I have that list of things I would do with my winnings from the lottery. Top of that list would be a share of Net Jet (ie a fractional jet ownership). With one phone call, I could book a flight anywhere I wanted to go on my schedule. Forego the lines, the screaming children, the inconsiderate fellow passengers talking loudly on their mobile phones. Ah, that would be the life. 

Most folks have a "Bucket List" of things they wish to do before their time comes. Mine is more of a detailed list of destinations. The place I most wanted to visit was Cuba, and thanks to a birthday gift from my oldest daughter, I traveled there. For the record, I would love to go back. It was everything I thought it would be and more. However, there is still much more of the island I wish to see. And, I hope to return before it is developed into a Disney World and Club Med and ruined.

Top of my list is India, followed by Morocco. Rounding out the list is Nepal, Bali, Chili, the Canary Islands, Dubai, the Seychelles, the Maldives, Singapore, Vietnam, Micronesia, Nauru, Vancouver, Toronto, Banff, Cayman Brac, and Portugal (in no particular order.) Also, I would love to go back to the Cote D'azure, Argentina, London, and a few other places in Europe. (I can always dream!)

However, for now my passport sits on my dresser. There is also the issue of time and money, both I will need a lot of - but those are just details.

Monday, August 16, 2021

The Flying Circus

 There are few things in life that are truly brilliant (IMHO). Lately, I was reminded of one - Monty Python. Earlier this week I stumbled upon a documentary on the group. Watching it reminded me that most TV comedy is nothing compared to the writing and acting of Monty Python.

I have always appreciated British humor. Saturday night live aside, US comedy pales in comparison. Years ago, our family watched the BBC shows on PBS regularly. Such shows as "To the Manor Born", "Are you Being Served","Yes, Minister", "As Time Goes By", and "Keeping Up Appearances" - to name a few. 

Memorable actors of these shows included John Inman ("Are you Being Served"),  Patricia Routledge ("Keeping Up Appearances"), John Cleese ("Faulty Towers" and "Monty Python"), and Judy Denche ("As Time Goes By").

The thing about British Humor is the quality of the writing, the willingness to push the envelope, the excellent scripts, the physicality, and the attitude of taking no prisoners. There are so any great examples, I cannot even start to name the characters and the plots. If one has not experienced British humor, it would be lost in translation. 

But "Monty Python" was the Holy Grail - no pun intended. The acting, the writing, the wit, and the irreverence was amazing. SNL comes close, but even that is tamped down due to American sensibilities, however, I give them credit for pushing the envelope. 

I could go on and on, but I will not. I could never do it justice.  Either one gets it or not. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Angels and Irises

 In the past 2 weeks I have had the opportunity to take advantage of 2 incredible experiences. One was the traveling Michelangelo exhibit on the Sistine Chapel. The walls and ceilings of the famous chapel in Rome have been recreated on enormous canvases. When you walk into the exhibit it is as if you are walking into the chapel itself. But, one advantage is that you are closer to the art. The ceiling is lower, allowing you to see the incredible detail of the artist's work.   

I traveled to Europe while I was in college. However, at that particular time, there were some issues in Italy and the US State Department was not encouraging Americans traveling there. So I made my grand tour sans Italy and therefore missed the Vatican. This exhibit allowed me to see what I missed, just more up close and in person. If you have the opportunity to experience this, do, it will be well worth your time.


Although we missed Italy, we did visit Amsterdam. While there we went to the Van Gogh Museum which was an incredible experience. This past week I visited the traveling Van Gogh Immersive Experience in Charlotte. I was not disappointed at all. This is set-up in an old warehouse. It is described as "immersive" because you are truly "immersed" into Van Gogh's most famous paintings. Sitting in this dark room, his paintings are projected on the walls (and sometimes floors). 

You are looking at a wall with green leaves and purple irises. Slowly as the picture enlarges you soon find yourself in his Iris painting among-st the purple flowers.

That fades and fields of golden hay appear and the black crows "fly" in. Then the crows leave, and workers and hay stacks appear to move you from one masterpiece into another.

At one point the walls go black, then slowly turn dark navy. Slowly stars appear and you find yourself in "Starry Night".  And on it goes. You truly have to be there to appreciate it. I found that this method allows one to pay more attention to the details of his work. 

For instance, a hand pouring a cup of tea appears and the picture widens to show a table surrounded by diners and you are "in" the Potato Eaters - at the table. And, then there are the sunflowers.

If you have the chance, take advantage of one or both of these exhibits, especially the Van Gogh Experience. In today's madding world, for just an hour or so, it is nice to lose yourself in the brush strokes and color of a master. 


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Walking the Dog - Not Just a Yoyo Trick

Let me make one thing straight - a fenced in back yard is highly under rated. For years as a dog owner, "putting the dogs out" entailed opening the back door and letting them run past you. The only hardships were when it was a cold morning and you felt the freezing weather on your face when you opened the door or the frustration of them scrambling around your feet to see who was going first.

Those were the salad days, the carefree times when I was innocent - the years I never appreciated. When I moved to Charleston and brought Ellie with me, we had a new reality. The first morning at 5:30 I awoke to a furry face looking at me with this, "Well, are you taking me out or what?" look. 

It was cold outside, I was still sleepy, and "going out" was now a participation sport. So I got up, pulled on some decent warm clothes, put her leash on her and we headed out the door for her morning constitutional. Now, I will say, Ellie is very good on a leash - when it suits her.  However, like a determined Sumo wrestler, she can just stop, dig her little feet in and no one is going anywhere. That is until she decides she wants to. 

Thankfully, I live in a wonderful neighborhood. I do not need a bigger dog with a bigger chip on her shoulder than 10 inch tall Ellie who, bless her heart, never got the memo that she falls in the "little dog" class. She definitely has the Napoleon Complex.

Marshall, on the other hand, can be schizophrenic. One moment he is this sweet little thing making his way down the street tail wagging and then, at a moment's notice, my fiercest defender. This is the point when I think he is on a suicide mission. It doesn't matter how loud he barks, how menacing his growl is, or how hard he pulls on his leash, the pair of Golden Doodles around the block are not going to be phased, the black lab 2 doors down is not going to really care, and, should he engage the elegant Weimaraner down the street, he is going to lose every time. 

Even the squirrels and chipmunks know the score. They know the dogs are on a leash that is only so long. It is not unusual for a squirrel to dash across our path just a few feet ahead. There is one daring chipmunk, who will sit on the grass calmly eating his nut in full view of us as we walk by. Ellie's lunges and Marshall's antics do not phase the little thing at all. 

There is the other "Ellie", a lovely older Australian Sheep Dog, who is faithfully walked every morning at 7 and again every evening around 6. If we are venturing out at that time, we go out the back door and walk down the private road that runs behind us. Best let Ellie, the sheep dog, enjoy her constitutional in peace.

We have established our route. We know the characters on the block.  We know the house that has the Brittany Spaniel that sits by the front window and move quickly by that door, hoping to go by unnoticed. There is the regular schedule of the little old man who wears a funny hat and his well behaved Jack Russell - best avoid them less I be humiliated by my pups' antics.

Don't get me wrong, friendly folks are always stopping and noting Ellie and Marshall's perky little terrier personalities. Neighbors are quick to acknowledge them. One kind lady even has treats ready to share with them should she be on her deck when we pass. 

However, the one variable in the calculus that I have no control over is the yellow Cheshire cat who often lies in wait. I have no clue as to when or where she will make her presence known. So each time I open the door and we venture out, the games are afoot and hopefully our timing will be favorable. 

Monday, August 9, 2021

Somewhere Between the Ghouls and the Jolly Ol' Elf

This is the time of year when it seems as if the train of life suddenly becomes the Acela. Just a few weeks past July 4th, the stores start filling their aisles with Halloween goods. Before one knows it, there will be inflatable witches on brooms, Draculas posed to pounce on any warm blooded creature that comes near, and round orange pumpkin coaches with happy ghosts hanging out the windows, all atop the stores shelves. 

The worse of all this is the candy - bags and bags of mini bars - Snickers, Milky Ways, Three Musketeers, to name a few. I find these calling from the shelves - 'Buy me, you know you want me, we’re small consider us low calorie.'

Then even before the remaining pumpkins, witches, and vampires are deflated and hidden away, the orange and black morphs into red and green. Now it is the beginning of the 7 weeks of Christmas.  Boxes of colorful balls, bells, and lights fill the aisles. From atop, on the shelves there will be Santas, reindeer, elves, and inflated snow globes. Even the candy aisles turn red and green. After Thanksgiving the air will be filled Christmas music.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, just where in all this madness is Thanksgiving - my personal favorite holiday. Once again this celebration of family and thanks gets lost in the melee of goblins and elves. How can this be? How can the grand American tradition of a festive meal, much like Normal Rockwell depicted be overlooked? Is the remembrance of that first Thanksgiving where the settlers and the Native Americans shared a feast just a pause between All Hallow’s Eve and Yuletide. Are inflated Turkeys, plastic cornucopias, and dancing pilgrims not fancy enough to grace the shelves? 

Hopefully this year, after the worldwide pandemic of the past 15 months, we will all stop and give thanks for the family we have and remember those we have lost. How can anyone not look forward to that obnoxious uncle with his corny jokes or the cousin who embraces goth? Who doesn’t miss the burnt turkey, Aunt Sara’s god awful cauliflower and parsnip casserole, or the unavoidable argument over whether plain corn bread dressing or oyster dressing is preferred. 

This November I look forward to the family get-together, complete with the arguing children, the store bought pumpkin pie, and Aunt Mary and Uncle Al’s late arrival. So let us gather to together to ask the Lord’s blessing . . . to hasten and chasten . . . the wicked oppressing to cease from distressing. 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Eastern View

A bit of a change.

With North Carolina being so close, I have spent a lot of time over the years visiting the mountains there. Whether viewed from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, or Mount Pisgah, they are always awe inspiring. 

On my many visits I have been able to capture many images of the mountains, but even with the magic of the lens, nothing quite matches seeing it in person.

My favorite spot is an overlook on the Parkway, just past the Pisgah Inn. I have spent many mornings, often in the bitter cold, at dawn watching the sun rise over the mountains. And, as often as I find myself there, the view is never the same. The following are some photos I took at the exact same overlook at (approximately) the same time each morning over a period of 8 or 9 years.

This particular overlook happens to give one a 180 degree eastern view of the mountains. There were mornings when the view was a veritable rainbow of colors.

Sometimes, it seems the hills are swimming in the morning mist.

Then there are the lovely pink mornings.

And the blue mornings when it is if there are a dozen hues from navy to azure bathing the hills.

The misty mornings that show the hills and valleys awash in layers of light.

Some mornings seem almost heavenly.

Others are so cool, that the mist is heavy in the valleys.

And there are the mornings when it is as if the hills are wrapped in gossamer.

I have many more views, but I will bore you no longer. I will, however, say that the takeaway here, if there is one, is to never assume the view never changes.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Judge

Today would have been the 70th birthday of a most incredible lady - one I had the pleasure of knowing for most of my life, and working with for 14 years. To say she broke barriers would be an understatement. She was the first woman to become a member of the local Rotary Club. She went on to become the first female judge on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Yes, I am referring to the late Honorable Karen J. Williams. Growing up, her father's Doctor's office was just behind my father's drugstore. Our town was only so big, so our paths crossed often. I was good friends with one of her younger sisters - there were 5 girls in the family. 

One Sunday afternoon at a family picnic, the Judge (as she was known) out of the blue, asked me if I would be interested in coming to work for her. I was a paralegal by training. A little taken aback, I replied, "I would love to but I don't type."

She laughed,"Oh, I don't need you to type, I just need you to keep my law clerks happy." 

And, so within a week, I found myself working in her chambers. Very soon I learned that "keeping her law clerks happy" was another name for keeping the trains running on time. These 'Law Clerks' she referred to were some of the best and the brightest young attorneys to come out of the top law schools in the country. Having a clerkship for a Federal Appellate Judge, was second only to one with a Supreme Court Justice. Keeping them 'happy' was not hard.

Juggling the schedule of a very busy federal judge, who was also a devoted and very much involved mother and grandmother, was active in many local civic and social organizations, often traveled internationally, and enjoyed entertaining (often a party of 100's), was a challenge. She was also very active in her church, a member of several social clubs, and with her extended family.

The Judge kept her own calendar. My job was just to make sure everything else flowed seamlessly around her. I quickly learned there was no "User's Manual" or "How to Guide". I found myself moving and sorting documents - court opinions for review, bench memos to be studied, court correspondence on the many motions, orders, cases, and opinions that were being circulated to be read and often responded to. 

Everything was digital, which made the work faster and easier to maintain. Well, that was the design. However, when you were working with a very active lady who carried a bag with her at all times, filled with "hard" copies of most of these documents, managing the paper alone was a job. She could be found in the stands of a baseball or football game with a pen and a proposed opinion in her lap - multi-tasking the work of the federal bench along with the keen interest and support for her children.

And, she never quit. Even as she traveled internationally, her work with the court continued. Other judges took time off to travel. They would notify their colleagues, that for the next week or two, they would be 'out of touch'. The court should carry on without them. I can never remember her doing so. Whether it was -South Africa, China, Argentina or Uruguay, her work continued.

I  quickly learned that in FedEx terms, "Overnight" to Athens, meant overnight while "Overnight" to Istanbul meant several days. When I tried to explain to her that to receive any postal mail at the ranch they would be staying at in South Africa involved a ride in a vehicle for 45 minutes through the bush to the nearest post, she was undeterred. "Well, call UPS. They say they go anywhere." After speaking with several folks in the UPS logistics office, I learned that 'anywhere' did not include this particular game ranch located deep in the bush of South Africa.

When she was with one of sons at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, she requested the use of the doctors' fax machine to send and receive documents. Needless to say, much to their dismay, several reams of paper were required to handle her 'project'.

But that was the "Judge" side of her. There was also the lovely, tall, thin, elegant lady, who spoke with a soft southern accent. She dressed in designer suits, she managed to pay only pennies to the dollar for, having a dear friend who could buy her clothes directly from market. She was the first to show up with a homemade cake when someone was ill. Never missed a former law clerk, friend, or colleague's birthday. And always had a personalized baby blanket made for the birth of the child of any of her 40 something law clerks.

Often the local people were clueless and that suited her just fine. When asked what the Judge did, a fellow church member replied,"Well, I know she's some kind of Judge although she doesn't have a court room. She must not be too important, she can't fix a parking ticket."

Once a law clerk was taken aback when her hair dresser, upon learning who the attorney worked for, commented,"We always knew she would be someone special. She always had such beautiful skin." Or one of her former teachers who lamented, "I just don't understand, she could have been so successful had she learned to type."

The whole office would go eat BBQ at the local establishment every Thursday (if we were in town). The only things that set her apart from everyone else who sat at the long communal tables enjoying lunch were her perfectly coiffed hair and immaculate suit. Although everyone their knew her, I would guess 95% were not aware of her professional stature. And, she would have it no other way.

She was beloved by everyone. A reporter from the New York Times once interviewed one of other judges on the court, one on the opposite end of Judge Williams on the ideological spectrum, hoping to get a disparaging comment about Judge Williams. He was sorely disappointed in Judge Micheal's response: "Well I'll tell you one thing, if someone in my family dies, she will be the first to show up with food." 

There is so much that can be written about her life and her career. She would compliment me to friends and colleagues as her 'right hand.' To which I reminded her that she was left handed. The Judge set a high bar. She is one of the few people I can honestly say touched everyone she met. We often laughed at the truth that she and I spent more time with each other than we did with our spouses. She was a role model, a mother figure, a dear friend, and the sister I never had. My life is so much richer thanks to her being part of it. And, so much emptier, now that she is gone.

Not a day goes by that I do not think of her. I miss her dearly. And,in that, I know I am not alone.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

No, I Really Don't Do That

It's not unusual to get the odd request concerning my photography. An example being, "I see you have this picture of downtown Charleston, do you have one of Scranton, Ohio?" Or - "I notice you do landscapes, could I hire you to photograph my pet bunny?" - Honest to God, a true story.

One lady asked me if I did family Christmas card photos, when I told her I did not have the talent to photograph people, she was incensed. "But my family would be easy, we are all so photogenic."

I had the owner of a gym call me out of the blue and ask me to come discuss a project doing a series of macro shots of equipment, sweaty arms, taut muscles, etc. After spending a good 90 minutes with him, he asked when could I start on the project.  I asked if wanted me to give him finished pieces (ie canvases or prints) or did he want the digital files he could use to produce whatever he wished? He gave me an odd look. I went on to explain how much each medium would cost him. He was shocked - not at the price, but that I would charge him a fee for the photography. "I had no idea you would charge me, since I gave you the idea," he said.

Rethinking it I said, "Oh, so if I do this - then I can sell the photos?' 

"Oh no," he replied, obviously aggravated. "That's not what I meant at all. It was my idea. I just need you to come do the photography. I thought you would enjoy the experience. The prints would all be mine. In fact I may sell them."

Needless to say, this project never went any further.

Then there was the lady who had her heart set on one particular print, but did not like the frame. No problem, I was quick to change the frame to a more suitable one. She was thrilled but wanted to take the picture home to see how it looked in her hall. The following day, she called to say that the picture looked great but the canvas was too "thick" and could I order her a thinner one? I agreed to do so.

Then she asked if she could keep the one she had for the next day or two, she was hosting her supper club and the photograph just looked grand in her hall. Being the polite southern girl, I agreed. After all, I knew my Aunt Kat would have told me that was the right thing to do.

Three days later, the new canvas was in,  The following day she called to complain about the frame - it had a "mark" on it. This would be a mark neither of us had noticed when she first saw it, when she took it home, or while it was on her wall before her dinner party. Long story short - she returned the framed canvas. I ordered  new frame and let her know when it came in. To this day, she has never come to get the newly reframed picture, on the canvas I especially ordered for her.

But the winner of all time (so far) came in an email through my online store. The inquiry concerned an image I have of red bicycles and a rickshaw. The question was, "How much does the rickshaw weigh?" I did some quick research and saw that the shipping weight was 1.1 lbs, so I replied that I could only estimate, but my best guess would be somewhere around 1 lb for the 16x20 size.

The customer responded fairly quickly, "Oh, there is some confusion here, I thought you were selling a rickshaw for $189. The price looked so good, I just wanted to see how heavy it was." (As an aside, over the years I have received no less than 3 similar requests to purchase the rickshaw. Each time I have clarified that it is an image for sale, not a rickshaw.)

Perhaps I should add a line to my policy statement, "No kids, no pets, as is, where it is, and what it is. Any questions, refer to former statement."

Monday, August 2, 2021

Going to Hell, Making Donations, and Taking No Prisoners

Aunt Kat, please turn the other way (in your grave) for this will not make you proud. Sometimes a southern woman needs to make herself clear.

A week or so ago, I received the following email:

           Hi Ann!  I hope things are going well with you.
          We are gearing up for our seventh local book and author luncheon to be held this year at              the Orangeburg  Country Club.  Last year you donated a beautiful framed print for our silent           auction and I was wondering if you would be willing to do the same this year.  100% of the             proceeds from the auction, sponsor ships and ticket sales go to our Newspapers in                          Education program.

           If possible,  would like to have the items by Friday, the 13th.

         Please let me know.  I have attached a copy of the ad with information in case you might be           interested in attending!

        Thank you!

Now for those of you who follow along, you may remember, last year when I was approached by this same lady, I immediately said I would be happy to donate to photograph to their auction. Then upon rereading her email I called her back and after explaining that I, too, was a local author, I asked what the criteria was to participate as an author. She acted as if I never asked the question and just asked when they could pick up the photograph.

Fast forward to this year. When I received her email this morning it dawned on me that until the mention in this current missive, no one had ever thanked me for my donation last year. And after reading this year's email it seemed as if I was going to be asked every year now. Also, no one every offered a complimentary ticket to attend the event. More like - can we please have your donation for our cause - thank you.

"Politely", I responded:

       Actually Carla in addition to my interest in photography, I have published 2 books and being         a local author would like to know what the criteria is for being included as an author. I am just         curious as I mentioned this last year  when I generously donated to the auction and you                 never replied.
        I am always happy to support a local cause.

I may be going to Hell. I know this was not "Nice", but Nice girls finish last. I took grave offense, given her response, or lack there of last year. After all it is not like I did not donate to the cause. 

I have nothing to lose but she does.

After all, what is the worse they can do? Take away my birthday?