Trespassers Wil…

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If you’ve never read Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, don’t ever admit it.  Also, you will not “get” the title of this blog.  If you have, and you should have, you will.  Or “wil,” as the sign in the book reads.

All that has not much to do with the adventure my Lake Sister and I had today.  Well, except the fact that we were trespassing.  It started with our discussion of Nichols and Stone chairs, which are a name of fine chairs, easily identified, if you know what you are looking for, and of which G gave me two that she got for $5 each at a sale.  Score!  Big. Time.

I have painted my two chairs, and use them at my kitchen table.  G wanted me to see from where the found chairs came.  I have strict instructions, when I get home, to ink on the bottom, “Georgia-Pacific/International Paper Company,” to document my chairs’ origins.  She’s an historian.  ‘Nuff said.

So we drove down Bella Coola Road, and stopped in front of the International Paper Company Training Center, which, truth be told, was probably a secret “he-man-woman-haters club” for the paper company.  Anyway, G decided we should walk back (i.e. Trespass) to explore.  I’m going to state clearly at this time, that no signs were posted, and we did not even have to climb over or crawl under a fence.  We just walked onto the property, though I was NOT feelin’ it, because, rattlesnakes.

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It is very beautiful back there, even if it is overgrown, with a view of the Lake, and would be an excellent “secret clubhouse” site.  That’s why we took the liberty of opening the door of the brick building, and we had a walk about.  It has been vandalized, naturally, and Mother Nature has begun her “take back,” but we found it interesting, and our curiosity was satisfied.

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It’s been a long, long time since I took such a chance, was so brave, and “farethed forth” into the unknown.  After the fact, and with no rattle-or-any-other-kind-of-snake encounter, I am glad we went exploring.  Christopher Robin and Pooh would’ve been proud of us.

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This is one of the chairs post-paint, pre-house installation.

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On Squirrel Patrol…

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Here in the North Carolina Piedmont, squirrels are active year ’round.  This, however, is their season of glory.  The babies are fresh from the treetop nests, playing enthusiastically.  The parents are practicing their gymnastics from my bird/squirrel feeders, and my little dog, Hattie, is on “Squirrel Patrol.”  It is her job.

She actually has the official designation of “Squirrel Patrol” given to her by my baby sister, who gifted Hattie with a collar tag that says just that.

It is my understanding that most dogs have “work” to do.  Some track, some cart, some search and rescue, some are therapy dogs.  Hattie’s job is keeping our “queendom” free from squirrels.  While earnest, she’s not at all successful.

Every morning, after breakfast, she hovers by the door, looking up at me expectantly.  Then, I let her out, where she positions herself at one of the two “stations” she has carved out for herself.  She will sit or crouch, patiently.  I have watched her.

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Once, Hattie came dangerously close to catching a poor unfortunate squirrel, and it scared her so badly that she forgot about chasing for the rest of that day!

It doesn’t really matter that the squirrels continue to taunt her with their leaping from roof to tree, from feeder to ground, Hattie, is an optimist, as am I.  She continues to patrol, and I continue to delight in her perseverance.

Entertainment is cheap around here.  You just have to take the time to stop.  And watch.  And take in the lesson.

 

The Wendy House…

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“Let’s be quiet as a mouse, and build a lovely little house,  for Wendy…” goes the song from the musical, Peter Pan.  I watched the show when I was a little girl, starring Mary Martin, on black and white TV in the 50’s.  I memorized most of the songs.

The Australians call my tiny, tiny house out back, The Wendy House.  I call it lots of other names, but when I am talking to them, I always refer to it as The Wendy House.  I knew right away where they got this nickname.  When I call it The Wendy House to other people, they don’t get it.

So, I call it the tiny, tiny; the shop; the studio, though to me that sounds pretentious.  I also call it “downstairs,” or “out back.”  I tried She Shed, but..no.   I tried to call it The Hive, and I even have a sign that says The Hive, but that name hasn’t stuck, either.  Among my first blogs, I asked my readers to help me name The Wendy House, and I got some good suggestions, but still, seven years later, I’m fumbling.

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Last spring, for my 70th birthday, I finally had the Wendy House finished off inside.  I had the floor painted the rust color of my Carolina soil, a window moved, a door removed, and French doors added.  I had the electricity upgraded, canned lighting put in, the walls painted white, and a motel-type heating/cooling unit installed.  Then I furnished it with salvaged wicker, scavenged from Bulky Pick-up week, some given-to-me shelves, a 1950’s (my era, I guess) red formica-topped kitchen table, by way of my-friend-Ginger-from-Lake-Waccamaw, and my sewing machine.

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It’s a perfect workspace.  It’s a good relaxing place.  I throw open the French doors, and sit looking out at my “land,” and I read, or think.  Sometimes I listen to Audible books as I sew or paint furniture, or craft.  I can see the magnolia tree, the bird feeders, the kids next door playing ball.  In some ways, with the doors open, it’s like sitting on a porch, especially when it’s raining.  My entire home is a retreat, but The Wendy House is my retreat-within-a-retreat.

Finishing off the Wendy House was last year’s birthday present to myself.  And I’m thinking this year’s birthday present to myself is it’s name…The Wendy House.

It’s Magnolia Season!

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I was a baby when my mother painted the three magnolias that hung in my grandmother’s living room until she sold her home and moved to assisted living.  Grandmother passed away in 1997, and I inherited that painting.  The pink frame doesn’t really go with my decor’, but because of that painting, I have always loved magnolias.

Magnolias don’t grow in Indiana, and I never asked Mom why she painted them, or what she used as a model.  Magnolias DO grow in my piedmont North Carolina backyard.  Well, not really my backyard, but my backyard neighbor’s backyard.  His tree drapes over our mutual fence, and I get the joy of his tree.  It’s HUGE!

To me, magnolias smell like lemons.  Not real lemons, but Pledge’s chemical smell version of the lemons.  Others have told me I’m nuts, and yes, I can be.  Not because my sense of the magnolia fragrance, though.

This flower has been made popular, at least by name, by my favorite HGTV couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines.  Their business is named Magnolia, and though they live in Texas, they now have an entire section in every Target, with home goods products by this name.  I, for one, am grateful.

My whole neighborhood has a plethora of magnolia trees, and this time of year, I get to see and smell the flowers as I walk my little dog, Hattie, or just survey my tiny “queendom” out back.  It’s one more Southern Thing that makes this place home.

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Southern Comfort (food)…

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I had a horrendous experience with Southern Comfort (the booze) back in the late 60’s, and I can hardly type the name, much less look at a bottle.  Now southern comfort food?  That’s a different story.  I’ve needed a lot of comfort these last six months, this last year, really, and there is no better place for comfort food than the South!

Let me give you a glance…and we begin with my all time favorite…Pimento Cheese.  ‘Menner cheese, for those of you poor souls who have not experienced this delicacy, is shredded cheddar cheese, pimentos, mayonnaise (preferably Duke’s, but Hellman’s will do), and maybe a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper.  It’s glorious on crackers, but my choice is in a grilled sandwich on any kind of good bread.  With tomato soup, I am comforted for at least a full 24 hours.

Next, I offer you the classic Carolina Slaw Dog.  I fell in love with these guys when I was in college.  (I’m pretty sure one helped me recover from the night-I-would-like-to-forget with the You-Know-What mentioned in the opening line.)  The Slaw Dog is a hot dog with chili, slaw, onions, and mustard, all of which drips down your hand while consuming said food.   I used to ask my baby sister to take me to get one every time I visited North Carolina, before I moved back here eight years ago.  A very desirable substitute can be a Carolina Slaw Burger.  Same stuff except no hot dog (no kidding).  It can sometimes send me into delirium if pimento cheese is on the burger, as well.

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Then there are other comfort foods like the southern version of Banana Pudding, Shrimp and Grits (or just grits with butter, for that matter), Biscuits and Sausage Gravy,  and Mac and Cheese (neither of the latter are exclusively southern),  Plus, recently popping up on social media have been some more obscure southern foods such as tomato gravy and jello pretzel “salad.”  All of these can be of extreme comfort, were I to eat them regularly.  Mostly, I just look at the pictures, with the exception of the Pimento Cheese and a semi-annual slaw dog.  

I’m more at home in the south than anywhere I’ve ever lived, and who wouldn’t be?  It’s comforting and comfortable.

Afterward:  I haven’t written in several months.  The deaths of my baby sister and a younger brother this past year just knocked the wind out of me.  I think I’m better.  I will never be the same, but my general outlook is more hopeful, and there is always joy.  And those grilled pimento cheese sammies haven’t hurt a bit.

Another Stamp on my Passport…

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I flew over the Andes Mountains this morning. I never thought I’d be saying that. I never even thought I’d be thinking anything of the sort before this morning. Yet, I looked out of the plane window, and had to pinch myself.

This afternoon, I saw Blue Footed Boobies. They are birds, just in case you weren’t sure. I’ve wanted to see one in real life, ever since I heard there was such a thing. And sea lions lolling all over the place. Imagine.

South America is my sixth continent. I never thought I’d say that I have visited six of the seven continents, either. I started “collecting” travels by states, ticking off the last six in New England in 2000.

Now, here I am in the Galapagos, with the giant tortoises, iguanas, frigate-birds, previously mentioned sea lions, and my personal favorites, the boobies. Ain’t life grand?

Creative Teaching…

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the final luncheon banquet of the North Carolina Association of Gifted and Talented.  One of my mother’s long time friends is the Executive Director of the Association and organizer of the yearly NCAGT Conference.  It’s held right here in Winston-Salem, about five minutes from my house, and Wes invited me to join him for lunch.

The Keynote Speaker, Freebird McKinney, is the North Carolina Teacher of the Year, and he talked of Village Teaching…of being the Hero to your own story…of doing ANYTHING for the kids.  He gave us some personal background which helps him to relate to all of his students, and he showed photos of his students scuba diving in the Galapagos, off the coast of South Africa, and in the Caribbean.  He showed us a photo of his kids standing outside of the only jail cell they will ever see…that of Nelson Mandela.  (Not sure how all that was financed, but he did it, and that’s the point!)

We were told by Freebird and others to STOP teaching to the middle of the class and to STOP teaching to the test.  I was inspired and heartened!  All those “gifted and talented” teachers in the banquet hall, who were basically the Choir, were inspired even more.  All that was said supported my personal belief that every child deserves a “gifted” education.

So, I’m very happy to say that Creative Teaching is alive and well, because rumor has it that teaching  is now prescriptive and test-based.  I’m sure that is true to a significant extent.  It was the growing trend when I retired nearly ten years ago.  Rumor has it that curriculum is now written for the inexperienced and the laissez-faire teacher.   I knew inexperienced teachers.  I was once one myself.  In 49 years, though, I have only met the very rare teacher who took his/her “job” casually.  Why “the powers that be” feel schools need to be geared toward both inexperienced, careless instructors is a mystery.  Maybe, Betsy DeVos?  I don’t know.

Happily, I am here to report that, as I must repeat…creative teaching is alive and well. If you question that…go find Freebird McKinney, and he’s not the only one.  Go into your local school, get a Visitor’s Pass, and take the tour.  You’ll be glad you did.