Sunday, July 31, 2011

SHHHHH was a surprise !

It was a surprise 70th birthday party for a good friend and she was, indeed, surprised ! About 50 people came and the food and fellowship were awesome but …

That’s not why I’m writing this entry. What I want to tell you is what we gave her and why. This lady is one of those persons who sincerely care for the welfare of others. She has always been a “giver” and the list of charities that have benefitted from her attention is long. She is not wealthy but has always given above and beyond her means.

As much as we all love to give gifts we decided that the last thing she would need or want would be more of them. So, we devised a plan to have the guests bring cards and, in lieu of gifts, to contribute whatever they could to a “treasure chest”. This would be her money to spend as she saw fit.

Well, the party is over, the guests have gone home but the memories linger on. She was thrilled with the chest and today told us that she’d received $326 dollars which she will donate to our county’s Food Bank!

It’s a WIN, WIN situation for us all and we couldn’t be more pleased.
ADDENDUM: I just received an email from her and she said that some of the people who couldn't make it to the party contributed anyway and the total now is actually $406.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


This is not my usual type of entry but bear with me … I am so fed up and frustrated that I just have to get this off my chest.

So many of us voted for change in 2008 and we were thrilled to have Obama elected. The first two years were a challenge but, little by little we could see progress. Maybe…just maybe… the powers that be would listen to the middle class … maybe we’d have a chance for survival.

And then came the mid-term elections and we, who had elected Obama, COMPLETELY LET HIM DOWN. We failed to come out in droves, like we did when he ran in 2008, and the result is what we have today … a completely divided Washington and a bunch of fanatical right wingers who tell us lies and are determined to undermine every single proposal put forth by the Democrats… or even their own more moderate party members.

Whatever happened to Statesmanship? When did compromise become a dirty word? We are now being held hostage by a completely self-absorbed bunch of Tea Party Republicans and we have NOONE TO BLAME BUT OURSELVES !

I have no idea how this fiasco will unfold but I hope that we’ve learned a powerful lesson...and I pray it's not too late.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

An amazing event caught in “the WEB”

Some of you faithful readers may remember the entries that I’ve made about my Grandfather, Harry Lee. He was the author of two books and a play about St. Francis. He lived with his wife Mary in Plainfield, New Jersey. (That’s Papa in the picture and copies of a booklet of poems that he wrote, illustrated and hand printed for his grandchildren.)

He died in the 50’s and my Grandma lived on in the house with her daughter Lillian until they were both put in a rest home late in the 60’s.

Now, fast forward to the present. I recently received an email from a man named Tom Mac who, while surfing the web, came across my blog entries about Harry Lee. As he said, he felt like he’d hit the Jackpot! In 1968 he and his family bought my grandparents house and lived there for quite a few years.

He was able to tell me all about the changes in the neighborhood and even recalled the brook beyond the back yard where I remember catching fire flies at night. When his 4th child was born in 1970 the small room off the upstairs bedroom, (where Papa wrote those books) was their nursery.

And now to the amazing part … One day, shortly after moving in, his 7 year old daughter asked, “Who is that person at the top of the stairs?” When noone was found they chalked it up to “kiddie imagination”. Then, while “noodling on the keys” of his piano Tom would often feel that someone was watching but he never caught sight of anyone. Their dog must have felt the same way because he would run to the stairs and start to bark as if someone were coming down or going up.

Tom says that he and his children, who witnessed it also, never felt threatened and even now they talk about it frequently. I find it fascinating and would love to know if it was a male or a female that his daughter saw.

My grandfather was a blithe spirit … a dreamer, a writer and a poet. I can well imagine that he‘d “stayed on“ after his death to see to the well being of his beloved Mary and how much he would have wanted to welcome the new family to his house. How frustrated he must have felt … not being able to make contact !

I feel like I’ve found a new friend in Tom … one with a connection to my past. He says he still misses the place and I can understand that. He also says that he has more stories to relate and I have a strong hunch that they’ll end up right here as blog entries !

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Staten Island Ferry … 1957

There’s nothing much hotter than the city streets of Manhattan in summertime and I remember one August Saturday in 1957 in particular. Although I had procured a job I was new to the city and had few friends so on this particular day I was taking a long walk and feeling forlorn and sorry for myself

The streets seemed to be deserted and the usual hustle and bustle of the “Big Apple” had come to a standstill. Air conditioning was practically unheard of then, with the exception of the movie theaters, so it was near impossible to find a way to keep cool.

Suddenly I remembered what a long-time resident had told me about the Staten Island Ferry. “It’s the biggest bargain in town“, he’d said so I decided to give it a try and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’d made since moving to NY City.

The Terminal was near Battery Park and the Subway that I took to get there actually cost more than the ferry ride… 10 cents for the subway and just 5 cents for the ferry. It was mid morning when I boarded the ship and I was thrilled to feel a breeze as we took to the open water.

I found my depression ebbing away as I immersed myself in this new adventure. The steam generated ferry seemed to be in no hurry and we had plenty of time to enjoy spectacular views of Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty. Within half an hour we had reached Staten Island and I spent a few hours getting acquainted with the town and visiting the local zoo.

The return trip provided even better views. We passed very close to Governor’s Island and watched in awe as the lower Manhattan skyline materialized. It was the perfect ending to an enchanted day and I felt lucky to live in this wonderful city where a nickel could buy such a treat.

That nickel fee for the Staten Island Ferry lasted for many years but it increased slowly until it hit a high of 50 cents per ride in the ‘90‘s. Then, in 1997, the city of New York decided to suspend all charges. The same trip that I had enjoyed for 5 cents is now FREE … amazingly making it an even greater bargain than it was 40 years earlier !

Saturday, July 16, 2011


“Hey, diddle, diddle…the cat and the fiddle…and the cow jumped over the moon. The little dog laughed to see such sport...and the dish ran away with the spoon.”

That’s one of the oldest Mother Goose rhymes and I used it as the basis for this wall mural that I painted a few years back. It was a fun project and the parents of the yet-to-be-born baby were happy with their new nursery.

I, however, couldn’t get that silly rhyme out of my head. I would be working on something entirely different and it would come back to haunt me. What did it mean? Where had it come from and who was the imaginative person who wrote it? I kept thinking that if I were a foreigner just learning to speak English I would be completely baffled by that jingle.

I decided to do a little research and, bless the internet, I came up with some interesting ideas as to the origin of that rhyme. The one that seemed to be most plausible was from Wikipedia and I quote: “It is likely that this poem is a satire of a scandal during the time of Queen Elizabeth I. The cat is Elizabeth and the dog is Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whom she once referred to as her ‘lap dog’. It is also speculated that the ‘dish’ is a server at the royal court, whereas the ‘spoon’ referred to the taste-tester.”

Interesting stuff...except where does the cow come in and why is it jumping over a moon? I guess I’ll go to my grave pondering these earth-shaking questions. I did, however, find a version of this poem that my animal-loving friends will relate to, so I will close with that:

“Hey, diddle, diddle, the cat did a piddle...all over the kitchen floor. The little dog laughed to see such a the cat did a little bit more.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My Summer with the HIPPIES … 1967

In 1967 my husband, three children and I were living in New York, about 100 miles North of NY City. We had a small Real Estate business in our home and one day two young Vassar students showed up. They were dressed in the typical hippie attire of the ‘60’s and were looking for a place to rent for the summer. They needed a place that was cheap and that could accommodate 6 girls.

We liked the girls and I wasn’t surprised when I heard my husband make them an offer. He represented a group of investors that had just bought a 300 acre farm in the next County. The farmhouse on the property was very old and barely livable. But it did have 5 bedrooms, a rudimentary kitchen, electricity and running water.

He proposed a rental agreement that included paying $800 for the 8 weeks. Then, if, under my supervision and working 6 hours a day Monday through Friday for the 8 weeks, they would help with emptying, cleaning and painting the inside of the house, we would return the money at the end of the summer.

The girls were ecstatic and we signed papers that day. Little did I know that this was the first link in a chain of events that would provide me with one of the best summers that I would ever know!

A few weeks later the girls moved in. By Monday they had already planted a small garden in the back yard and had jugs of water sitting in the sun, filled with a variety of exotic tea leaves to make “sun tea”. They had also made “house rules” and one of these was that, during the 6 hour work day, each girl would have an hour to play the music of her choice.

For the rest of the summer whenever we were working we would have music. One girl’s dad was an opera singer and she would play the classics. Then it would be Heavy Metal or Rhythm & Blues or The Beatles, or the new sound of Pink Floyd.

We didn’t only listen to the music … we danced our way through the dullness of washing a floor or stripping wallpaper. We’d sing and mimic the artists and we’d talk, talk, talk. I had been out of college for 13 years and it was exhilarating to be back in that atmosphere. I felt younger than I had for ages.

A few of the stodgy neighbors complained about our “hippie” farm, but we paid little heed to that. The girls were reliable and fun to be with and they put life back into that old farmhouse. By the end of the summer we hated to see them go.

It’s interesting to note that one year later nearly half a million “real hippies” congregated 30 miles north of the property at the Woodstock Festival. It was touted as “a weekend of music, love and peace“...but I’d had my share of that already !

Friday, July 08, 2011

The sum & substance of my corn field !!

Can you believe this? This measly, although cute, little 2 ¼ inch ear of corn is one of four that I finally reaped after 2 months of sunshine and daily watering. I even tried sweet talk but it made no impression, as is obvious.

I’ve just about given up on outdoor gardening. I also had a large tomato plant that seemed to be doing well but the yield there was a disappointment too.

I’m envious of you bloggers, from all corners of this amazing world, who post those wonderful photos of your it vegetables or flowers. There’s no denying the fact that y’all (as they say here in the South !) have a green thumb and mine is beige or downright colorless.

From now on I’m coming inside and sticking with the paintbrush !

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

My front porch comes alive …

This is my little house and you can see that it sits near the road and has a small porch with a concrete floor. The floor was gray and dull and, although we lived with it like that for many years, I always felt it could be livened up.

As you regular readers know I love to decorate with paint. I actually have a small business called “Snowflakes”. I create custom designs for my clients and this can come in many forms such as in murals, painted furniture and faux painted rugs. The inside of my house reflects this and, about 5 years ago, I decided to bring the “fun” outside too.

After I took all the measurements I was able to map out my design. Since the concrete had never been treated I decided to use just plain exterior gloss house paint on it. I felt sure it would soak in and, with two coats of paint, it did and it’s held up very well. I touched it up about 3 years ago and then this past Spring I scrubbed it down and gave it a complete new coat. Here’s the result:

Now I’m set for another few years and I even got an additional
bonus that I didn’t expect. As I was painting it many passers-by stopped to chat and to ask me for ideas for their patio or garage or cellar floors. My refurbished floor has not only brightened up my porch … it’s also added a whole new batch of acquaintances !