Welcome to My Crazy Quilt! Enjoy the Story Scroll. . . .

110 West 80 St-4R, NY, NY 10024To my readers, longtime and new, WELCOME! Blogging is a shared experience. On a personal level, my blog delves into self-discovery as I stitch together a story in the moment. It is my verbal crazy quilt. With you, it is my joy of connecting.

No crazy quilt is the same. Textile artists toss aside geometric perfection for small, unpredictably shaped patterns. My grandmother, in the tradition of mountain mothers before, created free-flowing art that warmed her family on winter nights. She patched together scraps of twill, denim, corduroy, children’s outgrown clothes, men’s shirttails, worn-out dresses, and cotton sacking into “memory gems” of life. There is a story for every patch.

Your visits are pure pleasure and your comments always treasured. 

cropped ptg Hen Party 10-31-04_peKeep scrolling or check out the category buttons: Characters, Creatives, Musings, Places, The Good Stuff on the sidebar. Or for a quick read, visit my portfolio.

Farmer Leon Goes Squirrely

Zea_mays_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-283My dad’s garden mania shot up about 30 years ago. He doubled the crop when the next-door neighbor gave him permission to plow through the lower end of their backyard. His children-sharecroppers (forced labor until their early teen years) had scattered—college, careers, and families. After hoeing, rowing, and picking beans, squash, tomatoes, new potatoes, lettuce, carrots, and okra, I cultivated an aversion to plants, even no-kill philodendron.

These events forced Dad to double his hours in the garden. My mother never commented, but she developed a blank stare when bushel baskets of produce started piling up on the deck. More “putting up” for the winter!

I pictured them as homesteaders planted on the Great American Prairie, squirreling away potatoes in their one-room soddie to get through seven months of blizzards. Mind you, these passionate people of the earth lived in suburban Birmingham, Alabama, on a 1 acre-lot, with the lower end turned into a farm. Their neighbors’ idea of quaint country living entailed an occasional drive to the local farmers market.

Having conquered new territory, Dad had a street light installed on a telephone pole at the edge of the easement so he could play in the dirt after supper until bedtime. Meanwhile my mother was sterilizing canning jars in four boiling pots on the stove.

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All this activity required careful timing if I wanted to drop by for a visit. Otherwise, Dad would have pressed me back into service. Scary. I did not carry a union card to protect me. Child labor laws had not protected me in my youth. As much as I loved my father, I showed up for free dinners on the nights he was on call. I gambled that he would be at the hospital operating on somebody.

Unlike many southerners, Dad did not hunt. His Scout Master once took him trekking for deer in the North Georgia Mountains. The man got a clean shot, but my father could not bear watching the animal die. That was his first and last mission to find edible wildlife, with the exception of deep-woods poke sallet and blackberries growing beside the highway. When he pulled over to pick, my mother bit her lip as traffic flew by. Fortunately, nobody slammed into the car.

Dad’s peace pact with animals ended when rabbits nibbled early spring lettuce. Then a groundhog and some squirrels chomped his young tomato plants. He acquired a 22 and became an instant hunter. To my secret amusement, I named it “Old Tick-Licker” after Daniel Boone’s legendary gun. The celebrated Kaintuck trailblazer bragged he could shoot a tick off an animal without harming it.

My homespun romance ends there. “Do no harm”? In the case of trespassing critters, Dad intended deadly harm. When he picked off a few rabbits, my mother always waited for the police to show up. It was one of her greatest fears.

Fortunately, the garden bordered a cliff dropping into deep woods. He aimed in that direction, so he would not shoot up the neighborhood. Maybe they adjusted to the crack-crack or perhaps ran indoors when they spied him garden bound.

174px-Common_SquirrelMrs. S.—the lovely lady next door and a member of my mother’s sewing club and church circle—had a penchant for rescuing creatures half-mauled by cats. She once found a half-dead squirrel and rehabilitated him. She named him George, and he lived in her screened-in back porch.

Late one Saturday afternoon, I showed up for my personal soup-kitchen moment. Oh, dear. Dad was not on call, so I had the privilege of gathering the harvest for two hours. Thank God, Mom called us into supper. Dad grabbed his 22, now his best friend, and we moseyed toward the back door.

I was chattering away about some foolish event at work. Suddenly, Dad grabbed my arm and said, “Sh-sh. Be still. Be still.” I learned early in life: one does not argue with an intense surgeon.

I froze. He trained his gun on an immediate victim. Just before Dad pulled the trigger, I spotted it: a squirrel happily dancing along the trellis overhanging the swimming pool. He had a mouthful of dripping tomato. “Old Tick-Licker” had mighty kick that day. The squirrel fell over into Mrs. S’s yard.

“Son of a bitch,” Dad muttered. (My mother, Miss Bunny, was out of earshot.)

“Dad! You just dropped a carcass into Mrs. S’s yard!”Daniel_Boone_engraving

“Sh-sh. Be still. Be still.”

“She’ll find it tomorrow,” I whispered.

“No, tonight after she goes to bed, we’ll go over the fence, grab the body, and throw it over the cliff.”

Mom immediately confiscated “Old Tick-Licker” for good. No more neighbor naughtiness.

In 1968, Tony Joe White recorded “Poke Salad Annie” in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  A year later, it climbed to Number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. He told the story about a poor southern gal and her troubled family. She liked pickin’ that weed.

Credits:

Street light courtesy of Famartin

Squirrel courtesy of Nickomargolies at en.wikipedia

My Phone-less Day in London

Catherine Hamrick:

Reblog: “Technology has an unparalleled and unprecedented power to get in the way of every other important and precious thing around us. You just have to go to any public place and look at the sea of phones to see this.”

Originally posted on Pixelated Lifestyle:

Last year I visited London for a few days as I needed to go to the US embassy to pick up my working visa for America. Luckily I have a friend in London who kindly let me stay at her place for a few days. My interview was at 8am in the morning. If you have ever had one of these dreaded embassy interviews before you’ll know that you aren’t allowed to take anything in the building except your passport and documents.

So after my interview ended at about 10am, I was in the middle of London without any technology. No phone, iPod, camera, watch, gameboy, tamagotchi, NOTHING! I was alone with only my thoughts in one of the most exciting cities in the world. I thought I’d make the most of this rare occasion and go exploring for the day.

It felt so liberating! I felt like Neo in

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A Late Bloomer on a Perpetually Delayed Timetable

Disclaimer: All characters are recalled through the misty lens of creeping age and perhaps a tall-tale slip—except for my homage to our town’s community grocery store, “The Pig,” pet name of Crestline Village’s three-generation Piggly Wiggly. 

cropped Image courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos_peCatching a man couldn’t begin too early in the South. Not that mamas coached their babies in helpless sighs, arch glances, and pretty pouts. Those charms came naturally—at least for a few girls who budded early, their hot-pink and lime-green dresses giving the dusty playground a lush look. Their hair, parted precisely in the middle, rippled long and shiny, especially the blond manes. As these little lovelies turned jump ropes, their wrists flashed their steady boyfriends’ silver i.d. bracelets.

I sighed at the mirror every morning. After a particularly sweaty gym class in sixth grade, it dawned on me to wash my hair every other day.  That reduced my mildly greasy geek look. The bottle-cap granny glasses did not flatter.

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On sunny days, my long, black hair was a fluffy cloud sprouting from a mass of cowlicks. Years later, my rather fetching French hair designer (fashionably fresh from France) declared, “Ah, Cah-tr-r-r-e-e-e-n, what cow-leeks yew ahv!”  Was he saying I was a vegetable head? (For the record, he now speaks English like a diplomat.)

Humidity? Imagine Cousin Itt sticking one of Uncle Fester’s lightbulbs in his invisible mouth and shocking the hair from the roots. I was a rather sparky miss. How I longed for the elegant Morticia Addams’ tresses.

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(In high school, I learned the trick of rolling my hair with four large orange juice cans atop my head so it would straighten. All the girls did. At some point, my father probably shook his head, thinking he was bankrolling the citrus industry in Florida.)

I was a late bloomer on a perpetually delayed timetable. Until age 14, puberty bypassed me except for a sprinkle of acne on the celebrated “T” zone. On the first day of junior high, I discovered something was afoot when I slid onto the warm backseat of Mrs. M’s green convertible: my eyes riveted on two pairs of smartly buckled navy blue shoes with heels. Their owners squealed as if they hadn’t seen me since Pompeii fell to the volcano.

“Hey, Ca-a-a-thy! How’s it going?”

“Your skirt is so-o-o cute.” (Actually, a 6-year-old hand-me-down that I had desperately rolled up at the waist three times to hit a modest mini length.)

“Love those beads.” (Yes, my mother had permitted that purchase at the local five-and-dime.)

“And that peasant blouse!” (My sister Mary’s discard.)

jackie-onassis-kennedy-sunglassesThe most sophisticated passengers glossed their lips with strawberry or peach-scented glazes that mingled with airy perfume. No wonder Mrs. M cracked the window of her marvelous showboat. Ah, Mrs. M. She was cool. Red hair, Jackie O sunglasses. My mother drove a nondescript Pontiac wagon, dinged by blue hairs riding high (on telephone books) in their monster sedans as they backed in and out of the local “Pig” (aka Piggly Wiggly) parking lot. Mom didn’t care. She was in too much of a hurry for one of her cherished weekly outings: the big recipe swap with Aurelia, the Pig’s most beloved cashier.Pigglywiggly

Mrs. M’s kitchen was a thrill to behold. A metal staircase spiraled upstairs. Until then, I thought my family quite evolved, as my father had installed a laundry chute and an intercom system through which he barked early a.m. rise-and-shine orders: “All hands on deck! All hands on deck!” (Or something to that effect.) My mother managed to sabotage the intercom at some point.

Evidently, I had missed Teen Talk 101 over the summer. Between giggles, the carpool chatter was littered with boys’ names—David, William, Chris, John, Bert—and lingo: “Re-e-e-a-lly? . . . You’re kidding! . . . I can’t be-e-e-lieve we are at the junior high. . . . Y’know, that bio teacher, Mr. C, is so-o-o creepy. . . . He has a piranha in his room. . . . Yeah, in a giant aquarium. . . . If I have to dissect a cow’s eye, I will die, positively die. . . . I just love David. Love him to death.”

I found Mr. C. infinitely fascinating. Unless confusing my memory with some Dickensian fiction, I recall he had a scarred, loosely hung arm to which I attributed an unfortunate feeding frenzy on the part of his pet fish.

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Amid all this twaddle, I looked down at my loafers with the penny wedged into each “buttonhole” and prayed to God that Mom would let me shave my legs above my knees this year. Then I pondered the meaning of someone “loved to death.” Was it a crime of passion or simply emotional overkill?

Thereafter, I panicked at the 7:35 a.m. horn honk. How it summoned me to silence amid all the twitter about gauchos, bell bottoms, minis, boots, homecoming, Carole King, Carly Simon, heartbreak, and Bonne Bell Astringent. I longed to drop a boy’s name. Any name. However, the only boy I talked to was my brother Bud, whose homespun name and non-athlete status never rose to the carpool’s standard in praise of great men.

413px-Underwear1913Even more shame to bear. “P.E. is a plot to humiliate me,” I cried, storming home one day. “Today everybody had on a bra and matching lace panties. I’m still wearing full-size granny cotton underpants from JC Penney.”

“Do say ‘undah-gah-ments,’ deah,” interjected Nannie in her South-Carolina-tinged accent. “Cotton is bettah foh you.” A long silence left two key words hanging in the air: “Cotton is bettah foh you down they-uh.” (Translation: “Cotton is better for you down there.”)

“Nobody told me to get a bra. I was so mortified I dressed in the bathroom stall.”

“You’ll get over it, dear,” my mother replied over her coffee cup with Carol Brady’s aplomb sans shag ‘do. Frankly, my mother resembled Alice, the Bradys’ housekeeper sans uniform. “College makes up for junior-high blues.”

Oh, yeah, right! In SEC country, men suddenly admired co-eds just for their brains when they turned 18.

“Mother-r-r-r, I may die before college. I need a bra. Now!”

“Goodness, you must be upset. You’ve never called me ‘Mother-r-r-r’ before.”

“Ah do buh-leeve it is custoh-may-ry foh Ya-un-kees to call theyah mamas ‘Mothuh,'” Nannie smiled slyly. (Translation: “I do believe it is customary for Yankees to call their mamas ‘Mother.'”)

“Mother-r-r-r!”

“What a fuss,” Mom threw up her hands.

“Sistah, you didn’t way-ah [wear] a brah till you packed up foh Agnes Scott,” Nannie said, referring to my mother’s all-girl college that my oldest sister Martha labeled The Cloister.

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“I was flat and free as a girl,” Mom said. “Now you’re dying to have a bra, and I imagine Martha wants to burn hers in front of the student union. And I thought she wanted to be ‘cool.’ What is the world coming to?” On Martha’s first visit home from college, my mother managed to raise only one eyebrow but keep her mouth clamped: my sister sashayed in the shortest fringed mini that ever graced the Birmingham airport. Despite my role as one of four shunned siblings, Martha’s style elated me.

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Yes, my mother was to ride many waves: psychedelic was merely the first. Her cultural surfing career wound down with punk rock and big hair.

(My Republican parents were mightily perplexed that they managed to conceive a couple of radicals who later simmered down. In fact, Martha wound up in the Jackson, Mississippi, Junior League.)

At first, Mom hauled out a couple of Mary’s throwaway bras. (Although Mary and I were only one year apart, she already had a bosom that could heave.) I went from skinny to “frumpled” for a couple of months until my mother finally saw me clearly.

One afternoon, Mom smoothed my poufy hair. “Look in my closet for the green bag on the top shelf, and then promise me you will not burn yours until you are a freshman in college.”

322px-Gloria_Steinem, 1972_pe_peAfter all, she was casually concerned about my obsession with Gloria Steinem’s aviator shades. I was ready to trade in my thick specs.

I scrambled for the package: a 32AA bra with lacey padded cups that I could squish between my thumb and forefinger, even when tightly strapped in. But I didn’t care. I almost went cross-eyed from glancing down at my newly packed chest, overflowing with pride that I, too, had something to lift and separate.

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Footnote: The beloved Piggly Wiggly in Crestline Village (part of Mountain Brook, Alabama) closed its doors in late 2013. “The Pig” was a three-generation tradition. As noted, my mother held up the customer line every Friday afternoon when she and cashier Aurelia traded recipes. Nobody seemed to mind. The usually sedate residents revolted and mounted a campaign to save The Pig. They packed Mountain Brook City Hall in December 2014, and the city council unanimously voted the return of the community grocery store. Main Street thrives in the shaded village of my childhood. Well done, dear friends!

600 px Save the Crestline Pig_pe

Credits:

Flowers courtesy of Africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The original Morticia Addams played by Carolyn Jones

Cloister courtesy of  Myrabella / Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA-3.0

Girl in mini skirt courtesy of Justso, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Justso

Tie-dye courtesy of Ksd5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me tell you about The Bird and The Bee . . .

. . . and a thing called love.

Manager Melissa Welch and Owner Betsy DiGiornio

Manager Melissa Welch and Owner Betsy DiGiorgio

An old adage: “A southerner is never a stranger.”  So true. Early in the New Year, I jumped on FB and posted a video demo of how to paint furniture with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. A longtime friend commented that she had just painted a chest in French linen. It sold before the paint barely dried! She works at The Bird and The Bee shop in Smyrna, Georgia, which I quickly Googled. Five seconds later, I was smitten. 

The Bird and The Bee is a charmer. It specializes in home and garden accessories, unique pieces of hand-painted furniture, homemade soaps and lotions, and handmade decorative items that you won’t find anywhere else. Do not miss the showroom—a showstopper! The shop also features pieces by local artisans and artists. However, I beelined for The Bird and The Bee’s all-about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint tips, furniture refreshing, and before-and-after pieces—a smash with home decorators and interior designers.

bird bee chair beforeafter chair 1st page

Back in the day, I was an art/antiques editor and Annie Sloan fan who thrilled to every book she released. But I had fallen behind the times. This Brit paint duenna still cranks out decorative arts crowd pleasers, including her latest title, Colour Recipes for Painted Furniture and More. I didn’t plunk down cash for that one, as owner Betsy DiGiorgio and manager Melissa Welch gave me the scoop on this fast-fast paint process.

Why is Annie Sloan Chalk Paint so hot?

Betsy: It’s a no-brainer. There is no priming, sanding, stripping of surfaces before you paint. When we discovered Annie Sloan in 2010, we knew this was special paint! And thoughts started flooding my brain of everything that could be completely transformed in my house, not to mention everyone else’s homes.

diamond chest beforediamond chest after

The people that we meet and the stories they share are truly a delight. I think their stories rival men’s fishing or hunting stories. Except ours go a little like this: “I found this dresser at my parents’ house [Goodwill, garage sale, on the side of the road, etc.]. It was so ugly that it had fruit stenciled all over it. I chalk painted it and now look at it.” They pull out a string of pictures, amazing everyone!

Then there is the first-timer who is not “crafty” but brings in pictures of their finished work, overjoyed with what they have accomplished.

We are connecting with our community. That is what having a small business is all about.

before ottomanafter ottoman

Melissa: Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is different from any other paint you’re going to find out there. There are a lot of competitors in the market that try to do what Annie Sloan does, but they just do not have the same wow factor. Her product is a higher quality, and overall looks better than that of any competitors.

Chalk Paint is not just for your “crafty person” or designer. It is for everyone!  It is user friendly and can make anyone feel like a painting expert!

The beauty of Chalk Paint is no prep work! You can virtually paint anything! You can paint that outdated brass chandelier in a new, cool way. You can transform the metal trash can in your office into something worth showing off. Just about anything goes—from Target furniture to an old 1920s dresser. Whatever the piece, it can be transformed with Chalk Paint!

before lanternafter lantern

You work on various types of furniture—but what is your signature style? That is, what you are known for?

Betsy: We work on all kinds of furniture. We don’t really have a signature style. I think our excitement is at its peak when we find a piece that we truly love and know it has potential.

The project folks (our painters) are partial to certain pieces. We call dibs on a piece when we personally want to work on it. Melissa has vintage in her DNA, and it comes out in her work. I like the imperfection look—I’m really drawn to distressed pieces.  Mary Jo is our all-around creative one. She can accomplish just about any look you want. The layers of her talent are amazing.

after-bureau

It’s our job to try all types of materials: wood, plastic, glass, concrete, acrylic, fabrics, leather (or pleather), marble, terra-cotta . . . and more. Because of our firsthand experience, we can tell customers what will work and what may not work.

Long story, short: Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint has been around for over 20 years. I’ve met her, and she is a woman after my own heart. She works hard. I have nothing but respect and admiration for her.

strt detail Before-Dresser-225x300_peAfter-Dresser-225x300

Melissa: I would say our styles are a little bit of a mix. We are vintage, French, shabby chic at times, and sometimes contemporary. Annie Sloan is very inspired by French colorways, which is an amazing style to create with her paint. We really enjoy being creative with her paint and reaching out to all different types of customers who all have their own style.

Melissa-Teaching-Chalk-Paint-ClassJoin the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint “party” at The Bird and The Bee in historic Smyrna. They hold frequent workshops, demonstrating beginner to advanced techniques.

If Smyrna is too far for a jaunt, you can find a list of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint retailers in your area. Either way, you’re in for a decorating love affair—that will last a lifetime.

Contact:

The Bird and The Bee
2968 Atlanta Rd
Suite B
Smyrna, GA 30080770-432-5120

Photos courtesy of The Bird and The Bee

Personal Addendum

I just moved into a small contemporary house with sharp angles and light pouring through windows. Time for some style flipping à la Annie Sloan. I’m an eclectic soul, so my meetup with The Bird and The Bee ladies was fortuitous. Ten redo’s! First up? This Meemaw 1930s Duncan Phyfe sofa—and its 1970s mean-green upholstery.

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I’ll take some color cues from my beloved blue, yellow, cream—and that little shot of red I cannot resist. Breezy linen? Stay tuned!

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Special thanks to Ginny Laughlin Maner for the shop hop!

 

 

 

 

 

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All Girls Are Welcome Here

Catherine Hamrick:

Amelia Earhart was a fashion designer + aviator. It’s okay to be a girly-girl or a tomboy or whatever is true to you.

Originally posted on notquiteold:

Did you know that Amelia Earhart designed her own clothes? I can’t tell you how much I am cheered by this fact.

Recently I had a conversation with an eight-year-old. This girl is nothing like me. I was a girly-girl from the get-go. I loved baby dolls and crinolines and patent leather shoes, and dresses of dotted swiss with velvet ribbons. But this little girl likes none of those things. Instead of dolls, she likes Spiderman; instead of bows, she likes bows and arrows. She cut all her hair off when she was four, and her mother has been persuaded to keep it that way. She is often mistaken for a boy. And she likes it. And I like her.

During our conversation, we talked a bit about movies. I don’t know much about children’s movies. Although I saw “Kung Fu Panda” with this same little girl. I liked it…

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2015: Five Modest Proposals

Inspiration? Thank you, Mr. Swift.

Inspiration? Thank you, Mr. Swift.

The big stat showing up on New Year blog posts? “Only 8% of the population follows through on resolutions.” It’s ubiquitous, like blithe posts of Bland Business Beatitudes. BOR-ing. I’m sticking to basics. I can’t afford to hire the Merry Maids to dash through my house. No resolutions. Only modest proposals on this last day of Epiphany.

  • Scoop the cat box daily.
  • Scrub the bathtub (guest bathroom) faithfully.
  • Eat the Greek yogurt in my fridge—before the expiration date times out.
  • Hold a funeral for dead plants (toss them in the woods behind my house).

Will this list make me a perfect person? No. Cleanliness is next to godliness. I’m not up for sainthood, much less beatification (lapsed Methodist). I just don’t want my significant other to scold me (rightfully and gently) another year.

One more. An oldie but goodie.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― Oscar Wilde

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New Year: Ring Out, Wild Bells

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Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,

For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in navyress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

* * * * *

Lord Alfred Tennyson