Friday, September 26, 2014

Last day of our weekend jaunt …

Back in 2007 I wrote a blog about the world famous Ben Long frescoes in two very small churches in North Carolina and, since we were within a few hours of them I wanted my friend to see them too. So on Sunday afternoon we bid our hosts goodbye and set off for the Jefferson area.

It was a beautiful drive and we reached our destination about 3 pm.  Although I'd seen and been thrilled by them before it was a special treat to show them to Olive.  Both churches are open 24 hours and a recorded talk describes the process of making frescoes and how Ben Long and a group of his students chose to paint them there.  Here is one of them:
and here we have my friend in front of the 2nd church.

We spent a long time admiring the small churches and their frescoes and then we had a delightful dinner before we headed on to our final destination ... the Buffalo Tavern Bed & Breakfast ! We had planned on staying in a motel until our hosts heard about that and insisted that we change our plans. They had stayed with “Doc” Martin, the owner, in the past and couldn’t say enough good things about their experience, so we took them at their word.

We were delighted to see that it was a lovely country home with two front porches and a scenic mountain view.

... and guess what the name of our room was? The Flapper Room ! Hmmm. I wonder if that was because of our age or how our friend described us when he made the reservations ?  Here are some pictures so you can judge for yourself. 

  (We were happy to find that the curtained tub was strictly for show !)


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Last weekend's vacation …continued.

Our destination was just up the road from Carl Sandburg’s home … the quaint and lovely town of Hendersonville, NC, where our friends Jim and Caryl live. They are newlyweds and it was wonderful to see them again.

On Saturday they were our tour guides and we spent the day in Ashville at the River Arts District. More than 170 artists have working studios there in old industrial warehouses that were once thriving but had been unused for years.

They have really turned that area into a thriving community but it wasn’t all artwork as you can see by this next picture. When my traveling companion, Olive, heard the lively music being played by this impromptu group she broke into a lively Irish Jig. The woman with her back to us is one of the artists who dropped her paintbrush to join in !

It was a fun day and we topped it off with a ride to the top of Mt. Pisgah and dinner at the famous inn and hotel located there.

The spectacular view that we’d heard about was completely obscured by fog and all we could see was the reflection of the lights from the ceiling of the Inn, but we didn’t care. The good food and even better companionship made it a memorable evening.

I do have to admit that the ride home down the Blue Ridge Parkway was pretty scary at night in the fog but it didn’t faze our hosts a bit and, as you can tell by reading this, we made it !

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A visit to the home of poet Carl Sandburg …

A friend and I had the pleasure this past weekend of visiting Connemara Farms, the 246 acre home in Flat Rock, North Carolina, where Carl Sandburg and his wife lived from 1945 to the time of his death 22 years later. It is a lovely spot, maintained as a National Historic site, and well worth the visit.

As you can see, the property is far from ornate and reflects the type of life that Sandburg loved… lots of seclusion and a house overflowing with books. It also provided his wife with 30 acres of pastureland that she needed to raise her champion dairy goats who are still in residence.

Carl Sandburg worked from the time that he was a young boy and never had much of a formal education but he had a powerful way with words. So many of his poems reflect his experiences and are first-hand experiences of the struggles between rich and poor, but; my favorites have always been his “handfuls”, as he called them. Here are two of my favorites:


The fog comes on little cat feet./
It sits looking over harbor and city
on silent haunches and then moves on.


The single clenched fist lifted and ready,
or the open asking hand held out and waiting.
Choose:     For we meet by one or the other.



Thursday, September 11, 2014




Porky, the penguin and Penny, the porcupine
lived in Pittsburgh, Pa.
where Penny played in the park, picking posies ‘til dark
and Porky peddled the posies by day.

At a penny per posy the profits were cozy
and they put piles of pennies away.
But, the problem arose, and the question it posed, was
“How much?” and “Who?” should get paid?

Should Penny, the porcupine, palm all the profits?
She picked the posies, you see.
Or should Porky, the penguin, pocket the pennies,
for the selling was done by he.

Now Penny, the porc and Porky, the pen,

were a sensible pair, that’s a fact.
So they pondered the matter, amid much pitter patter,
and finally signed a pact,
whereby every last bit of the profits they split,
thus keeping their friendship intact.

(A silly little ditty that I wrote quite a few years ago. I had planned to turn it into an illustrated book for children but that never happened.)

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Memories from the 1950‘s

A lot of memories seem to be coming to the fore lately and this is one of them. It will make more sense if I tell you that I was the youngest of 5 girls brought up in a loving but quite reserved household in Massachusetts. I can’t remember one instance of my parents arguing in front of us and when a situation did need to be faced we would approach it with those old New England traits … self restraint and common sense. We certainly never aired out grievances outside of the family unit, that’s for sure !

In 1952 a friend and I went to California on our College break. We got jobs as waitresses and one of our fellow workers was a very vivacious Italian girl named Gina. We became friends and one weekend when we both had a Saturday off she invited me to spend the day with her family.

I had no idea what to expect but it certainly wasn’t the elaborate Italian villa with an ocean view that was Gina‘s home. She introduced me to her family and her grandma insisted that I sit with her at the head of a very large table laden with food. There were maybe 8 of us there to begin with and then other visitors arrived …most of them bearing even more food and many bottles of homemade grappa.

What I thought would be an hour or two at lunch turned into a full day of festivities interspersed with heated arguments. It made me uneasy until Gina’s grandma informed me that it was a commonplace occurrence at Italian gatherings and would soon be over. She was right and the next 3 or 4 times that disagreements cropped up I just watched in amazement as they fizzled out with much laughter, back slapping and lots of loud Italian that I didn‘t understand.

It was 62 years ago that I spent that day with Gina and her family but it feels like it was yesterday. I will never forget the feeling of love and contentment that overshadowed the disagreements and, although I don’t think I changed much, it really made me take a second look at how we staid New Englanders would have handled those situations !

Monday, September 01, 2014

1949 … my one and only foray to the famous FILENE’S BASEMENT …

In 1908 Edward A. Filene came up with a great shopping idea. Instead of simply having a clothing sale every once in awhile (as his famous dad had been doing) why not sell the surplus and overstocked merchandise of the department store on a full time basis? A year later Filene’s “Automatic Bargain Basement” opened it’s doors and it was as overnight success.

I was 16 in 1949 when I made a visit to that famous discount store. I remember the long line of frenetic women waiting for the doors to open and then using all my strength to hold my own against the push of all those bodies. Once inside I elbowed my way to one of the tables and was thrilled to see a peach colored cashmere sweater in my size and at an incredibly good price. I held it high in front of me to inspect for flaws & before I knew it a hand reached out and snatched it from my grasp.

This was not an auspicious beginning so I decided to step back and reconnoiter. I saw that the savvy shoppers had large Filene shopping bags. They would quickly scan a table and shove anything that seemed of interest into the bag. When they had their fill they would retire to the end of the room where large mirrors were hung. Then they would take their time inspecting their choices…keeping everything close and out of reach from the other shoppers.

Soon I had the maneuver down pat and, at the end of the day I’d spent very little and had quite a bit to show for it. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was worth it. Even at age 16 I was exhausted and I realized that both my dignity and my body were bruised. To this day, and unlike a lot of my female friends, I have never enjoyed shopping for clothes and I bet it has a lot to do with that first and only trip to Filene’s Basement !