Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Way We Are

A thrill was meeting actor Jon Provost (Timmy Martin)
and getting his autograph!  This was in the early 1960s.

It seems more and more I am remembering the way we were.  I know with age comes glossing over past events in our lives but I truly believe the way we were is much better than the way we are.

A recurring thought keeps coming to me and I just had to write about it, maybe then it won't be so recurrent.  In November, Clint called out to me to look outside our front window.  There were three police cars parked across the street from us.  A few yards down there was a firetruck and another "official looking" white vehicle.  Of course we expected the worst, THREE police cars!  The only thing I could learn that day was that someone had been carried out on a stretcher. 

Flash back to the 1950s or 1960s:  I could not imagine such a scene on my old hometown street back in those days.  We knew almost everyone in the entire town and especially the neighbors on our street. We even knew their phone numbers by heart.  More amazing than that, they actually answered their phones when we called them!  Imagine such a thing!

Clint and I are dumbfounded when we pass people
on the sidewalks here who will not respond when we speak to them.
In my make-pretend "Mayberry World", people will actually return a "hello".

Year ago if we had witnessed three police cars across the street, we would have known what had happened and tried to help our neighbors in any possible way. Of course, I don't mean running over to the home or intruding in anyway with their medical assistance. The most common way our old neighbors would communicate the news of some kind of trouble would be by telephone. I was the caretaker of animals and plants on my street if someone had to be away from home. {Also the "hair stylist" and "make up artist" but that's another blog ;-)}

In front of our house, back in November.  (The background has
  been "airbrushed" out.)

Currently I am reading James Agee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Death in the Family.  Once again I am reminded of days gone by when we used to gather outside at night.  I lived next door to my grandparents and we would spread blankets out in the front lawn at night. The kids loved the blankets on the ground, the adults would be in lawn chairs.  Often we were catching lightning bugs while waiting for the watermelons to be cut or the homemade ice cream to be churned.  I remember one night my grandmother attempting to show me Sputnik in the clear night sky.

I remember it like yesterday, my grandmother trying to
point out Sputnik in the starry night sky.  I was about 5 years old.

Never will I forget one particular week in my former Tennessee neighborhood.  I believe it was in 1998, we had three close neighbors pass away within four days of each other!  One neighbor right behind us, our neighbor right beside us and the neighbor directly across the street all passed away within four days of each other! I couldn't make up such a story!

Yikes!  Yes, this was getting a little too close for comfort!  I remember walking around feeling stunned!  We had known these neighbors for decades.

There was a time when we used to know our neighbors.  I admit we knew many of them because of playing with the neighborhood children.  A totally different lifestyle back then, we would get up and roam all day on our bikes and on foot.  My brother and friends would be at the Clinch River fishing.  We were climbing trees, playing with bugs, flying kites, playing in mud ... YES, getting dirty and loving it! GERMS!

People spending time together on porches or on blankets spread out in the front lawn as in this scene from The Andy Griffith Show.
Today's world has most people inside the house, spouses and children all separated and involved in their respective electronic device of choice.

A few nights ago during one of our 4:30 AM conversations, Clint brought back a warm memory.  We both remembered our parents coming out to yell at us that "supper's ready" or "time to come inside."  Clint's parents had a more "advanced" system at times, the ringing of a bell or the turning on the porch light as a signal to get him home.  On our street the method was to just step in the front yard and loudly yell the person's name you wanted! We never gave it a second thought.  This method of communicating brought up memories of Lassie, my favorite TV show.  Imagine me stepping in my front yard here in Plano and yelling "CLINT" as loudly as I could!  Or worse yet, "LASSIE'S ON!"

If I remember correctly, the TV show Lassie came on at 6 PM on Sunday evenings.  My mother would come outside and tell me it was about time for Lassie and then I would yell out in the neighborhood, "LASSIE'S ON!" I remember the neighborhood kids scurrying home to watch Lassie.  I know that was 30 minutes that our street was devoid of kids, I was not the only Lassie fan.

Presently I do not know the neighbors across the street from us.  I would not recognize them if I ran into them at our local grocery store around the corner.  Honestly, I have only seen the woman in the family about five times in almost three years. The same goes for many of our very close neighbors.  We rarely see then outside.  One reason is the way this community was planned. 

If you have a lawn service here, theoretically you would have no reason to go out front.  Some people walk to their mail boxes under cover of darkness or drive up and get their mail from their cars.  As far as I know, you are required to have your "backyard" fenced, there again more privacy.  Parking in front of your house on the street is very frowned upon here in Plano.  I was "reminded" of this within days of moving in by a  "well meaning "neighbor.   For the record, there are six cars parked in front of homes right now as I type this.

We have a yard service here, so therefore we don't have to go out front for yard work, we can drive by the mailbox and get our mail, we arrive in the alley coming home and remotely open the garage door, drive inside, remotely close the garage door and  have had no human contact in the process.

How well I was reminded of of the lack of human contact a few years ago by the documentary, Subdivided: Isolation and Community in America.  I was struck by this documentary by Dean Terry and his story about "the lawn mower guy"" that he encountered in this area. 

Terry had moved into a nearby neighborhood and saw the guy across the street was mowing his lawn with his riding lawn mower.  Terry decided to walk over and introduce himself to this new neighbor.  As soon as the "lawn mower guy" saw that Terry was approaching him, he turned his mower around and drove to the back of the house.  Terry relates how he lived there for several years and never ever met the "lawn mower guy".  An image of a Plano, TX, water tower was used in this documentary.  I am not saying this is only happening in Plano, TX, unfortunately it is becoming the way we are.

About those three police cars in front of our house:  About six weeks later an opportunity arose that enabled me to inquire about what happened that particular day.  It was a medical emergency that hopefully had a happy ending.  That's all I know.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Beautiful Berry Bowl

Detail of drain hole designs in our handmade berry bowl.

The day before Christmas Eve, our neighbors, Wayne and Suzan, visited us bearing a beautiful gift!  Suzan told us the story of how she acquired a Maine Berry Bowl from her niece who visits that area of the country.  Suzan had her niece get us one for giving to us as a gift.  We thought it was a sweet story for someone to remember us to get us this special present and the behind-the-scenes events surrounding the bowl.

The handmade pottery piece, the berry bowl with
the little saucer that sits under the bowl.

It is a handmade piece of pottery, red with other golden colors of glaze and an arrangement of drain holes in the bottom.  A small saucer-like plate sits under it to collect any left over water draining from rinsing the berries.

Looking forward to getting some berries
 to rinse off using our special berry bowl.

We look forward to finding some berries and using our berry bowl.  As I have mentioned in another blog about Suzan and Wayne, Suzan loves color and the color red.  This red bowl will be treasured always and an instant reminder from Suzan ... we can all use more color in our lives.

Wayne and Suzan, thank you so much for this wonderful Christmas gift and the loving thoughts behind it!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Elves "Struck" Again

The bottom of the box was decorated with these adorable
vintage style Santas.  Behind Santa is some delicious Creamy Tomato Basil Soup.

The Christmas Elves have struck again at the Ellison home!   Outside our front door this afternoon was this large box:

Not shown in the photo was a gold charger holding some of
Sandy's freshly baked pumpkin bread.  She even included some
Philadelphia Cream Cheese!  (This elf thinks of everything!)

You may have read about Sandy and Ray, our wonderful neighbors, who are always sharing wonderful treats with us and other gifts.  Sandy called and said "something" had been delivered outside our front door.  I have never seen such a spread!

What a spread!  Sandy's peanut butter and pretzel bark was also included!
Also, love those red decorative socks!  Thank You!

We always appreciate their gifts, it is special to be remembered.  Thank you both so much, Sandy and Ray!  Hope your Christmas Day was a wonderful one for you both!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Three Minute Christmas Decor!

Things have been hectic at the Ellison household.  Our house is on the market and we have been busy with showings.  In the middle of showings, I have been busy with portrait commissions plus all the other happenings called "Life".

I spent about three minutes on our Christmas "decorations" this year.  It's not that we are not in a mood of merriment, this Christmas season is a different one in our lives.  This year we are focusing on the more simpler aspects of Christmas such as contemplation, Bible reading, food, music and thoughts of family even though they are almost 800 miles away. We also plan on watching some movies.

Back to my three minute Christmas decor:  On the mantle I drapped a faux evergreen garland and added a strand of large red beads I bought the other day at the Goodwill for 50c.  Grabbed the three yard sale candles from the den and placed them on the mantle and it was completed.  Well, maybe even less than three minutes was spent on it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Niagara Falls in December

Finally, a dream come true!  I am standing at Niagara Falls!
December 2002

Clint and I usually march to a different drummer, we can't help it, we were born that way.  Besides, it makes for a much more fulfilling and interesting life!

Niagara Falls, beautiful in any kind of weather!

We have been known to take vacations during the winter in blizzard conditions.  Our well meaning friends and family have given us warnings and like most unsolicited advice, we had not heeded it.  (There was that front we were advised about on our way to El Paso a couple of Decembers ago, we probably should have followed this advice.)  I don't know if danger heightens one's other senses but these risky winter vacations in blizzard conditions have been some of our best and most memorable.

As you can see in this photo, the roads were covered as we drove to
and from Niagara Falls.

A freezing Clint standing at Niagara Falls in December 2002.

All my life I have always wanted to see Niagara Falls. From the time I was a toddler,  I had heard  the name "Niagara Falls".  My dad made many business trips there when I was very young.  Also, I always loved the movie, "Niagara", with Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotton.  I had not envisioned my visit to the falls being in December but what a trip!  We saw what I feel is a different side of beauty there with all the ice formations. We did not walk after we stepped out of the car upon our arrival, we "ice skated" in our shoes as we were in awe of this majestic beauty.

A beautifully adorned ice covered tree.

Me attempting to see through the misty telescope.

 I will admit it was not a fun drive going to the falls and back to Buffalo.  Buffalo, New York, in the winter ... well, that's another blog!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tis the season ...

You are about to enter the spectacular wonderland
of Wayne and Suzan's ...

Last evening Clint and I attended a party at Wayne and Suzan's, our friends and neighbors. Wayne and Suzan know how to throw a party!  The festivity begins even before entering their home, they have the most beautiful Christmas lights adorning their yard and home.

Wayne and Suzan's beautifully decorated home.

(Double click on images to enlarge)

Looks warm and inviting inside, doesn't it?

Guests had many choices!  As I mentioned before,
Wayne and Suzan know how to throw a party!

A beautiful array of desserts on their buffet.


Our smiling host, Wayne.


Suzan is telling us the fascinating story about this most unique
coffee table.  It had a former life as a NYC street grate.
I loved the coffee table.  Wayne and Suzan have such wonderful taste.

Have a seat, please ...

Getting the table prepared for brisket, parker house rolls, bacon wrapped scallops,
hot crabmeat dip, meatballs ... the food was hearty and delicious!

Ginny and Dan, artist friends of Wayne and Suzan's

The sunroom area, I love the Christmas decorations in this room.

Friend and neighbor, Mike

(Fa la la la la la, la la la la ...  )

The "Frankie" ornament on the tree.  Frankie was away for the evening,
he was at a spa.

Diane, friend and neighbor ...

Ginny and our neighbor Sandy

Friends and neighbors, Ray and Sandy

It was good to see and meet  family members of Wayne and Suzan's,
Kathy and Scott.

Mike, Ray and Sandy

One of Suzan's vintage reindeer ornaments

Suzan and Clint

Wayne, a master craftsman, built this fantastic greenhouse!
Love this neon watermelon light.

A beautiful traditional style tablescape on the dining room table.

Wayne and friends

A more detailed scene from their sunroom.

This color print hangs in their kitchen.  I love the way Wayne and
Suzan use color in their home.

Thank you, Wayne and Suzan!  We had the most wonderful time!
Merry Christmas and have a very blessed New Year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Special Delivery

Yesterday two of Santa's elves left some special treats outside our front door.  This beautiful plate had several varieties of homemade candy!  On it were Martha Washington Candies, Dark Chocolate Pecan Drops, Fruit and Nut Bark and Peanut Butter Bark.

Such a sweet surprise for a Sunday afternoon! 

To our two wonderful neighbors, thank you so much!  How blessed to have such neighbors.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Blue Waltz at the Five and Dime

Dick's Five and Dime in Branson, MO.
A old painful memory was rekindled in
this 50+ year old dime store.

A couple of weeks ago Clint and I made our first trip to Branson, MO.  We love Branson and am looking forward to visiting again.  A nice lady who worked at the desk of the Hampton Inn helped us so much in touring Branson and selecting shows and other sites to visit.  She was a native of Branson and was perfect for this job.  My eyes lit up when she mentioned an old dime store in the historic downtown district of Branson.

Over 50,000 different items are sold in this dime store!

I have always loved dime stores, as we used to call them back in the 50s.  I remember my cousin called them "the ten cent store".  I have had many daydreams of being back in Emery's 5 and 10, this was the name of the "dime" store in my home town.  I still remember where the certain sections were located, especially the toy, cosmetics and record sections.  We also bought our colored Easter chickens at Emery's.  Today can you imagine buying live chickens at Walmart?  Our poor little chickens usually died by the time we returned  home from our Easter family gathering at my grandparents.  I can also remember Emery's selling live turtles.

The cosmetic sections had some favorite items I remember, including Blue Waltz perfume.  Of course this perfume was very cheap and I have a very embarrassing memory involving this little bottle of fragrance.  I took a bottle with me to school in the 4th grade.  I spilled this bottle of perfume in the class room and it was disruptive and all heck broke loose.  This strong scent was not appreciated at all, I remember my 9 year old classmates holding their noses and making disgusting sounds. The janitor was called to the room and the teacher was not happy, either.

Back to the Hampton Inn's front desk and the nice lady giving us directions and advice on sight seeing,  I knew right away I wanted to head to the old dime store.  It is called Dick's Old Time 5 and 10 and boasts it has over 50,000 different items.  A Branson, MO, landmark ... it has been in business for over 50 years.

It was so crowded we could barely move.

I could not believe the crowds at this dime store, Clint and I could barely move!  The tile floor was old green and white linoleum.  I was in heaven but Clint was not quite as amused.  I headed for the cosmetic section, you had to just walk and search, but I found it.  I could not believe my eyes, there was an entire display of Blue Waltz Perfume!  I have since learned it is still being made and the claim is made it has the same formulation today as it did back in 1927, when it was introduced by Blue Waltz, Inc.  I have read some women still like it and wear it today.  I am not one of those women, it brought back some childhood memories but not pleasant ones ... to this day I can still feel my embarrassment of that spilled bottle in the 4th grade.  I am just gonna stick to my bottle of Clinique's Aromatics Elixir in the spray bottle.

A display of Blue Waltz perfume.
Funny how scents can evoke old memories ... good and bad.