Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ode To 2011

Year three of blogging is done,

not as many posts as year two and one.

A very busy year with little rest,

time spent becoming an empty-nest.

Looking forward to what the new year brings,

so that I may share many more things.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Oddly Perfect Gift

(Names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Thanksgiving (Nov. 24th) this year was a little different from those in the past. Instead of cooking the big turkey dinner at home, we opted to eat our turkey-and-all-the-fixins at Cracker Barrel.

Yam and Spud were home from college, Darling-Sister-In-Law was in town and The Colonel's parents joined us from across town.

The fact that we ate at Cracker Barrel wasn't what made this Thanksgiving so was the little presentation given by Darling-Sister-In-Law, when we got back home and as we all sat on the back porch, digesting, enjoying the excellent weather and one another's company.

Darling-Sister-In-Law was standing near the steps with a piece of paper in her hand and a small gift bag at her feet.

She began reading...

"Today we come together to celebrate another prosperous year. Those who work have jobs, those whose work is finished are reaping the benefits, those who seek higher knowledge have the opportunity to do so.

We are able to be together as a family, we are healthy, we want for nothing.

But today, that is not all we celebrate. For one among us has reached a milestone they set for themselves.

Bird, you have now been a "Jones" longer than you were a "Smith".

You can't choose the family you are born into but you can choose who you make a family with."

She then hands me the little gift bag which contains a small, beautiful box. I open the box and inside I find a pair of pretty, Victoria Secret panties and Darling-Sister-In-Law says,

"As a "Jones", you will never have to share underwear."

I am surprised and very touched by the words and the gift. During all of the upcoming holiday preparations, I had forgotten about this milestone of mine, but those I chose to make a family with did not.

My In-Laws had not forgotten my tale of having to share underwear with my four sisters and always seeming to get the ones without enough elastic in the waistband to keep them up and having to resort to using a beaded Indian belt to cinch them around my waist.

The words, the gift, the thoughtfulness (and humor) are such things that make me feel so blessed to have chosen the right people to make a family with.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Worn Out

Well done, good and faithful servant.

My camera finally wore out (must have been those thousands of pictures I took).

It started in October. I was taking some pictures of The Colonel at his birthday lunch at a local Mexican restaurant and my camera's screen started breaking up. It would take one or two good pictures and then a bad one.

This behavior continued to spiral downward until finally my camera refused to work any longer after our town's Christmas parade.

I called Canon's repair service center and found out that it would be cheaper (Best Buy and Office Depot had some sales going on) to just go out and buy a new camera instead of send my old one in to be fixed (plus I cannot be without a camera for long (at all), especially at Christmastide).

I bought a new Canon camera (an early Christmas present from my In-Laws) and anticipate taking thousands more pictures in the future with my new, good and faithful servant.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Historical Hauntings

A couple of days prior to Halloween, The Colonel, Darling-Sister-In-Law and I participated in an event that took place in the second oldest cemetery (established in 1886) in the county where I live.

The county historical center was hosting the first ever "The Tales of Indian Spring Cemetery: A Hauntingly Historical Walking Tour".

During this event, patrons (the tour was $10) would come to the cemetery (6pm - 8 pm) where they would be taken on a tour through the oldest section of the cemetery, as "spirit guides" would show them grave sites and tell them tales of those buried there.

The Colonel was dressed as a grave digger spirit guide. He was at the beginning of the tour. Some of his tales included one about Katie Sloan. She was mauled by a dog in the late 1880's and died. She was also eight months pregnant with her second child at the time. He also spoke about Swede Johnson who worked with the Ringling Bros. Circus for over 50 years and his son, Hunkie Johnson. Hunkie also worked with animals, especially bears, but he should have been more careful around the most dangerous animal...the human animal, because his own son-in-law murdered him. The Colonel also spoke about Albert W. Gilchrist. He was leading area real estate developer, orange grove owner, cigar factory owner, state legislator and state governor.

There were other spirit guides pointing out and sharing tales of the dead along the tour's route between The Colonel and myself. Darling-Sister-In-Law and I were near the end of the tour.

I was also a spirit guide, dressed as a fictional character I created and named, "Cemetery Mary". Mary was a drowning victim of the 1894 hurricane. She was fished out of the harbor, was unknown to anyone and consequently buried in the cemetery's Potter's Field. I played my character so well, even my mother-in-law did not recognize me.

As a guide, my first stop was at Marshal John Bowman's graveside. Darling-Sister-In-Law was at that stop. She was portraying Marshal Bowman's daughter, Betty. As Betty (grown up), she told the story of how her father was killed by shotgun fire that came through the window one evening in 1903. He was shot in the back of the head and died instantly. Betty was sitting on his lap at the time of the shooting; she was about 4 years old. After telling her tale, Betty would hold up her childhood dress which was covered in her father's blood.

Leaving Betty and Marshal Bowman behind I then took my tour group to the Potter's Field area of the cemetery. That area of the cemetery is where the poor and indigent are buried. The term Potter's Field is found in the Bible.

When Judas betrayed Christ, he was paid in 30 pieces of silver. Judas soon became guilt-ridden, gave the silver back to the chief priests and then hanged himself. Well, the chief priests did not want to use the "Blood Money" for the synagogue's poor box, so they took the silver and purchased a field of clay. This clay was used by potters to make pots, hence the name Potter's Field. The chief priests designated this field for the burials of strangers and the poor.

While in the Potter's Field area of the cemetery, my next stop was at the grave of "Big 6". There is no real headstone marking exactly where Big 6 is buried, so The Colonel and I created one for the tour.

Well, Big 6 was a local prostitute, over six feet tall and working under the name of Miss Ollie Bracket. She ran a "bawdy house" of ill repute and had seven girls working for her and had a few customers of her own she would personally entertain. She would wear provocative dresses, large hats and feather boas as she rode side-saddle on a big white horse down the streets of town.

In 1894, Big 6 fell ill with dysentery. She did not want a doctor and refused to let the girls call one in for her. Eventually she fell into a coma and the girls had to call in the doctor.

The doctor discovered the Big 6 had a big secret...she wasn't a woman, she was a man!

Big 6 soon died and the coroner called in several prominent citizens to witness the body. They all agreed that Big 6 was a hermaphrodite...having both male and female sexual organs.

Personal papers were found in Big 6's trunk and one was a marriage certificate stating that under the name of Mariah Dempsey, Big 6 married a man, Dan Patrick, in Tampa in the year 1892.

Big 6's real name was George Asbell. He was from Alabama. Upon learning of his death, a niece from Alabama claimed that her uncle George had to flee that state and assume a female identity because he had killed his cousin Tom by pushing him off a cliff.

One of the other spirit guides' husbands bravely put a dress on and portrayed Big 6. He was terrific. As I told the tale of Big 6, he was standing at the headstone with his back to the tour group. As soon as I said, "Big 6 had a big secret...not a woman, but a man", he turned around and faced the group. There were many gasps and much laughter.

After bidding farewell and thanks to Big 6 (who said, "You're welcome sugar", in his best falsetto, which brought on more laughs), I took my tour group to the cemetery section called Baby Land. As the name implies, this is the area where babies and small children are buried. Legend has it that some visitors to Baby Land can hear the sound of children playing and laughing.

The final stop on my leg of the tour was at a family mausoleum. Most graves and mausoleums in cemeteries face east...this one for some unknown reason faces west.

It was fun to give the tours (about 6 or 7 groups) and give the history of some of the people buried in Indian Spring Cemetery. It was the first time I had ever been in a cemetery after dark. My inner thespian loved the dress-up and play-acting/theatrical aspect of the tour.

The Colonel, Darling-Sister-In-Law and I had so much fun participating in the first cemetery historical walking tour, if there is a second one I think we'd like to do it again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Mom and Wacky Weather

I have been a little busy and preoccupied of late and have not had any new postings for a while (as some of my readers have pointed out recently), so now, I hope to remedy this situation.

I am now back home after a nearly two-week visit to my parent's house in Indiana.

This trip was not one of leisure (although I did have some fun).

I went to help take care of my mother (who had gotten out of the hospital just three days prior) and to lend a hand to ease the burden on my father and siblings who had been with my mother throughout her nearly two-week hospital stay. A severe reaction to a new medication had landed my mother in the hospital.

My mother was getting stronger each day. The visiting nurse, occupational therapist and physical therapist from the hospital came in (on separate days), assessed her and each one signed off, saying my mother did not need their assistance (a woman who has given birth to 8 children has to be one tough mother, er, uh, cookie I mean).

It was good to see my parents, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews and my good friend Kim while in Indiana. I played some great card games like Euchre and 1 to 10 with my family and Kim made me a delicious lunch of excellent tomato soup, one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I have ever eaten and a tasty, family dessert cake of which I cannot remember the correct nor incorrect name of (thanks again Kim for the delicious lunch and laughter-filled visit).

There is an old saying that goes like this..."If you don't like the weather in Indiana, stick around for a few minutes and it will change."

When I arrived (on Halloween), the beautiful colors of fall welcomed me and the weather was pleasant (even for this thin-blooded Floridian). The day before I left Indiana it snowed! Even for Indiana it was an early snow (I flew out of Indianapolis on November 11, Veteran's Day).

My sister and I ran outside to see the big, fat snowflakes. They were swirling around us like we were in an enormous snow globe. I tried to catch some on my tongue and immediately thought that Lucy, of Charlie Brown and Peanuts fame, would shake her head at me and say that she only eats January snowflakes.

I loved seeing the snow fall, it was beautiful. It has been a while since I have seen it but that little bit was enough...I got my fill. I remember the Blizzard of 1978 (and many other long, frigid winters) and was glad that I was heading back to sunny, subtropical Florida the next day even though the little snow flurry did not last long and the snow melted almost as soon as it hit the ground.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Matrimonial Mathematics

One Man + One Woman + 25 Years of Marriage = Two Beautiful Children and Many Wonderful Memories

Friday, October 7, 2011

Oneth By Land, Oneth By Sea

Tybee Island and Cockspur Island are a short drive from Savannah and each island is home to a lighthouse. The Colonel and I like visiting (and occasionally climbing to the top of) lighthouses.

Tybee Island is named after a Native American word for "salt". Many flags have flown over the island, claiming the coastal paradise for Spain, England, France and the Confederacy. The Light Station has the distinction of being the site of one of the nation's oldest and tallest lighthouses, originally built in 1773. The lighthouse has 178 steps (which The Colonel and I opted out of taking this go around). Tybee's lighthouse is accessible by land.

The Cockspur Lighthouse on the other hand is only accessible by the water (we wished we had our kayaks so that we could get out to, and then into the little lighthouse). The current Cockspur Lighthouse is 46 feet tall and was built in 1856 upon the ruins of an earlier lighthouse.

The Colonel and I had to walk along a woolly and muddy trail to get as close as we could to the little lighthouse in the water. We were not going to let foliage, mud or biting insects deter us so that I could get "that perfect shot" of the Cockspur Lighthouse. The lighthouse begs you to take its picture.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Eatin' Our Way Thru Savannah

The Colonel and I discovered that Savannah is full of delicious food.

After we checked into our 1872 guest house we walked through some of the many pretty squares that dot Savannah's historical district to the Riverfront. There we ate at the Cotton Exchange restaurant.

I had a very southern dish of shrimp and grits. They were awesome! I have got to learn how to make them like the Cotton Exchange does. I think this Yankee girl can make that happen eventually, because I recently made another very traditional southern dish of Banana Pudding (which we saw on every menu in Savannah) and two of my friends who were born and raised here in the South thought my pudding was extremely delicious (and have asked me, a Yankee, to make it again soon).

While in Savannah, The Colonel and I also ate at Paula Deen's restaurant, Lady and Sons. The food was dee-licious Y'all.

When you decide to eat at Paula Deen's restaurant you have your name and the number in your party put on a list, then you go across the street to wait until your name is called. Before names are called a waiter from the restaurant comes out to ring a triangle dinner bell (really whips the crowd up). When your name is called you are given a card with what floor of the restaurant you will eat on. They really have this down to a science to get people in and out in a quick, orderly fashion. The Colonel and I were on the second floor. We opted to eat from the buffet. I only had one piece of fried chicken, there were so many sides I wanted to try and did not want to fill up on chicken.

We ate where Paula Deen got her start; Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room. Lunch is served there between 11AM and 2PM only. The line outside the door starts early.

When you reach the door you are asked how many are in your party that way they can best seat you at a table. Each table can seat 8 to 10 people and you are seated with total strangers (we had two German men at our table). The lunch is served family-style. There was fried chicken, BBQ pork, beef stew and all kinds of side dishes available (The Colonel counted 32 side dishes on the table).

The waitresses kept on refilling the food dishes. Once everyone at the table had their fill a dessert tray was handed around. You had a choice of peach cobbler or, of course, banana pudding. Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room has one rule and that is when you are done you must take you plate and glass to the kitchen door where a worker will take it from you so that it can be washed. Oh yes, one more rule I almost forgot...Mrs. Wilkes' only takes cash.

There are so many places available to eat at while in Savannah. The Pirates' House is another place we chose.

It was built in 1754 and associated with Robert Louis Stevenson's, Treasure Island.

The history of the Pirates' House is rife with tales of drunken sailors being carried through a tunnel, out a door near the river, whisked away aboard ships and pressed into service with hopes of making it back to Savannah one day.

The food was delicious and our waitress was knowledgeable about the history of the restaurant and was willing to take my camera down to the haunted cellar and take some pictures for me (only because it was daylight she said).

When she came back she said that my camera was acting strange down there. The flash was on, but it would not always work as she was snapping pictures. These are some of the shots she took.

We didn't see anything paranormal in the pictures she took.

We found a nice convenience store called Parker's Market. It much more than a convenience store...It had gourmet cheeses and wines available for purchase as well as many pretty gifts and cards to choose from. We walked there every morning and got our breakfast and coffee. The people working there were extremely friendly.

We had very delicious pizza twice at Vinnie Van G0-Go's located in the City Market area of Savannah. We also had a lovely dinner at the hotel 17Hundred90 (our guest house was associated with that hotel).

Thank goodness Savannah is a very walkable city...with all of that delicious food to eat, The Colonel and I needed the exercise to limit the pounds we could have packed on while there (Oh, I almost forgot, we also made two stops at Leopold's Ice Cream-some of the best ice cream we've ever eaten).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Our Introduction to the South's "Hostess City"

It is still about three weeks until our 25th wedding anniversary and over one month ago The Colonel and I celebrated it by taking a much anticipated (and planned) trip to Savannah "The Hostess City of the South", Georgia.

The Colonel and I love history and Savannah (and the surrounding area) is drenched in Colonial and Civil War history.

Savannah was established in 1733 as the Colonial Capital Province of Georgia by General James Edward Oglethorpe. He was sent to Georgia by King George II (hence the name, Georgia) to create a buffer between the English Carolinas and Spanish Florida as well as French Louisiana.

Oglethorpe did not allow lawyers, rum, slaves or Catholics in his newly established province. He thought Catholics would be influenced by or sympathize with Catholic Spain in nearby Florida. Oglethorpe thought there was no need for lawyers and that people could work out their differences between themselves. Rum caused people to become intoxicated, which in turn caused trouble and Oglethorpe was personally against slavery (Georgia's history had Oglethorpe rolling in his grave a few times since his original social experiment of 1733 I would imagine).

Our very first experience in Savannah was checking into a guest house that was built in 1872 by John Feely, on land that was once owned by the last Royal Governor of Georgia, James Wright.

This was the little, enclosed garden area behind the guest house.

And this was our private balcony. On the balcony was a wrought iron table and two chairs, the perfect place for a cup of coffee in the morning.

We stayed on the second floor. We had a beautiful bedroom, a gorgeous bathroom and a fabulous parlor.

During most of our stay at the guest house (6 nights) we were the only ones in the entire house....or were we? The Colonel and I would hear footsteps and dragging sounds from the floor above us when no one else was staying at the house. Savannah is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in the United States.

The minute we walked into the guest house we were smitten with its historic charm and taken in by its beauty (actually when I saw it on line while looking for lodging, it was then that I was smitten).

The ceilings in the guest house are beautiful. In 1890 two Norwegian ship painters were staying at the house and instead of paying rent with money (they apparently were short of) they offered to paint the ceilings. The ceilings in our bedroom and parlor were beautiful as well as the ceiling of the parlor on the ground floor.

Our beautiful bedroom and its ceiling.

Gorgeous bathroom.

Fabulous parlor.

This is the ceiling of the first floor parlor.

A close-up of the detail; a delicate butterfly and flowers.

While staying at the guest house we couldn't help but feel transported to the year 1872. The parlor especially made us feel that way with its floor to ceiling windows, original hardwood floors and opulent appointments. During the day and evenings horse-drawn carriages would pass beneath our parlor windows. The clip-clop of hooves would become louder as the carriage drew nearer and would fade away with its departure. You could imagine you were 139 years in the past where no cars existed.

Looking out our parlor windows and across the street we could see the balcony of the Owens-Thomas house where the Marquis de Lafayette gave a rousing speech in front of a throng of listeners on March 19, 1825.

The image of the painting below is from the Internet; Preston Russell

Lafayette (67 at the time) toured all of the states (with "Rock Star" appeal), travelling more than 6,000 miles at the request of President James Monroe in honor of the 50th anniversary of the United States of America.

Lafayette, born into a wealthy French family (and later married into an even wealthier family), as a young man had sympathized with the American struggle for independence and fought in crucial battles of the American Revolution. He was at Valley Forge with George Washington (he would later name his son George Washington Lafayette and his son would travel with him on his 1825 tour of the U.S.A.).

If our very first experience of Savannah was an indication of what the "Hostess City of the South" had to offer us, we were going to have a remarkable and diverting time on our anniversary trip.