Monday, May 30, 2011

An Ashy Flashback

On the day my lemon tree was confiscated a couple of weeks ago, after a relaxing outdoor lunch I took my kids (When can I call them my adults?) to a funky shop in town where my entire childhood is on sale. They were unimpressed by double knit polyester, which my mother thought was a requirement for an article of clothing during the time we were growing up. I didn't know we even OWNED an iron until I was 16 and bought my first cotton shirt. They were slightly interested in the vintage martini glasses and funky serving trays. But the thing that they absolutely marveled at were the ashtrays.

You remember those, don't you?

Two young people who have grown up in the last twenty five years or so cannot imagine a time when it seemed everyone smoked. They stare at me in astonishment when I explain that I used to be sent into the gas station to buy cigarettes for my mother at the age of 8 or 9. They look at me with disbelief when I tell them that in junior high there was a "smoker's pit" outside the cafeteria where smokers (teachers AND students) could go to smoke. You would think I had two heads.

My daughter picked up one ashtray weighing 10 pounds or so and gave me a quizzical look.

"It would have sat on the coffee table, probably part of a set that included a lighter and cigarette case."

"Who needs room for 60 cigarettes?"

"Think cocktail party, but it would have been a decorative piece left on the coffee table."

It was a different day. I recently called my son into the room to see a hospital scene from an old movie I was watching where the patient was smoking in bed while he talked to the doctor. He was dumbfounded. One generation can make such a difference.  The smokers have gone from being
completely socially acceptable to a kind of societal pariah, banned from nearly all public spaces, including recently some outdoor ones. When traveling not long ago and making my way through the Frankfurt Airport I saw that in Germany, they have taken to relegating the smokers to cages...of sorts.

Seeing this made my inner child (who spent one too many hours trapped in a car with two smoking parents) very happy.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Bookcase to Restore Your Faith in Humanity

I had placed the estate sale ad in the paper and the dealers showed up early, looking for the best deals. I hadn't hired a professional firm, but had priced things myself after enlisting the help of a few friends by asking what they thought. I had what I thought was a high price on this piece, which I'd only ever seen full of little knick-knacks.

The dealers poured in and pored over a table full of costume jewelry and the contents of the house. The southern July heat was blasting early on and a friend who had come to help me, and I sat in a shady spot eying them.

They knew what things were worth. I did not. They knew that too. As the cicadas hummed, I broke a sweat.

A man got out of his truck and my friend and I exchanged glances.

"It's Earnest Hemingway."

"He looks exactly like him! He could win that contest they have in Key West every year!"

He was even wearing a captain's cap. 

We watched him look over the jewelry table carefully then go into the house. A scant few moments later he leaned out and said to me in a stern voice "I need to see you."

My friend gave me a worried glance.
He took me to where this piece stood. He pointed to the price.

"I don't think you know what you have here."

I'm sure I looked bewildered.

 "It's a bookcase. See the lock and key? It was made at a time when books were valuable and would have been locked up. Have your husband come and get it. It's the only thing of any real value you have here."

He then went back out to look over the jewelry table again. He took out his loop and studied each piece. Mostly it was junk but every so often he would walk over and motion for me to hold out my hand.

"This is a little piece of sterling silver. This is a tiny piece of 14 K gold."

He did this until he was sure all that was left on the table were pieces of rhinestone and paste.

He didn't buy anything and I asked him why he told me about the bookcase.

"You could have paid me what I had on it and I would have been happy to get it, then you could have sold it for a tidy profit. I'd never have known."

He explained to me that he'd lost half a million dollars when a big downtown antique store went out of business and the woman who ran it had bilked many dealers out of their merchandise. He got in his car and drove off.

Later when I told my son the story he said "Wow, it's almost enough to restore my faith in humanity."

Mine too...and you can't put a price on that.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Musical Chair Fabric

Every once in a while I look around the house and see something I haven't seen before. How is it that something you see everyday disappears from view? I recently rearranged my dining room and noticed just how bad the chairs looked even though they'd been in my house for two years!

 The fabric itself wasn't horrid. Classic vintage 1960s brocade, but it had seen better days, thousands of them.

The front of this one was so worn that the foam was showing and coming apart.

Time for a change. I was in the mood for something bold. I like traditional but with a twist.  I found this coffee bag at a local shop and knew I could use it for, unroasted coffee beans fell out of it when I got it home. I originally thought of using it but burlap can be a bit scratchy, so I'll make something else out of it.  I found this oversized check at Hobby Lobby on sale and bought 3 yards. I could have easily gotten away with the chair covers for half of that but I'll find a use for the remaining fabric.


I know that Martha would want us to gather the proper tools, measure, and carefully cut and tack with our upholstery tools on our nifty craft tables.

Please. I could be done by the time I do all that. I eyeballed the amount of fabric needed for each seat and cut four squares. I heated up the hot glue gun. I know. That's cheating, but hey, I'm planning a wedding. I've got a few things on my plate.

I folded the fabric around the seats and hot glued it to hold it in place. At the corners I carefully (sort of) folded the fabric and used a U shaped naily type thing to hold it in place by hammering it in.

Oh, where am I doing this, you ask? On the floor like any real woman.

                                                 Craft table...I wish.

I then screwed the seat bottoms back onto the chairs.

Stay tuned to see how I'm going to use the remaining fabric. When I figure it out you'll be the first to know.

That really is an improvement, wouldn't you say?  Not a bad project for the cost of the fabric and less than an hour, start to finish. And NO I didn't forget the coffee bag. I'm getting to that.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Snarky and Snarkier

My dear blog reader, let me preface this post by saying that if you are reading this blog I like you. I may even love you. I'm assuming that if you keep showing up here you appreciate (and maybe even share) my snarkiness, or perhaps you are hoping for one of my stories about something embarrassing that has happened to me. If that's the case then today, you are in luck!

My son and I were shopping for a new phone for him and when the sales girl took our phones (we share a family plan) and looked at our combined minutes of talking, she gasped. Let's just say we aren't phone people. Text us. E-mail us. Send up smoke signals. Do not call unless you are on fire. (Which could possibly happen while you are sending up aforementioned smoke signals.)

She looked at us as if there was something wrong with us. There isn't. At least WE don't think there is. The other people who live in our house are great communicators. Very social. You know the type. Planners, tons of friends, the go-to-people when you want something done.

My son and I get excited about "welcome" mats that say GO AWAY. He will be beside himself when I tell him that I have discovered online a set of "business cards" that say STOP TALKING.

Where was I? Oh yes, our phones. The girl, while recovering from her shock over our lack of talk time, asked a few more questions about our phone use habits and at some point I said (and I really don't know why),

"We aren't very social."

Now this isn't even really true. We both just require lots of time alone, but as a friend said to me once,"You're a lot of fun once you leave the house." The leaving the house... that's the thing. I do like so much to be alone in it, but that is rare these days, so I am currently scouting out public places where one can be alone. That's a trick, let me tell you.

Anyway, as soon as I said it I thought better of it, but it was too late for it to be saved.

My son, AKA Mr. Snarky took umbrage at this and said "We're social. There are just a lot of people we don't like."


Out loud.

Our poor little sales girl had the most interesting look come over her darling teen-age face. A look that said our lack of used minutes was suddenly very clear to her. In an effort to save the moment with a comical pop culture reference I tried to pull off a reverse Sally Field to make her laugh.  "We like you really, we really really like you." My attempt at humor fell flat. Who says there isn't a generation gap?
There is one, and it isn't funny.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Internet Giveth and the USDA Taketh Away

When life gives you lemons they may be in violation of federal quarantine DA#2009-02.

An officer of the SITC (Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance) showed up on  Monday to confiscate the lemon tree I'd been nurturing for 3 years. Does Glenn Beck know about this latest conspiracy by the federal government? Jesse Ventura should probably do an expose. Those two could figure out what's really going on.

I was sitting on a shady outdoor patio with my kids, and downing some Mexican food on a warm afternoon when my cell phone rang. Does anyone ever relay happy information by cell phone? Mine only seems to ring if someone wants me to do something for them, inform me of something I've done wrong, or give me bad news. So when my phone rang during lunch I cringed and answered. On the other end of the line was  my husband to tell me that someone from the federal government was there.


"He wants to confiscate your lemon tree."

My husband called local law enforcement who arrived on the scene only to be equally confused by the entire scenario. Let's just say we don't live in a state where it's usual for anyone to even OWN a citrus tree let alone be up to date on quarantines and the laws concerning them. The police officer did acknowledge that the SITC agent did indeed have the authority to confiscate the tree. As he pulled it out of its pot he said "See? It was root bound anyway."

Really? You are going to take my tree and then insult my gardening skills?

I'm glad I was shopping and not at home to witness all of this first hand. My husband was very proud to inform me that he didn't let it go without a fight. I'm just glad he didn't punch  the guy in an effort to defend my horticultural honor...or something.

Apparently the internet company I purchased the tree from had illegally transported the trees it sold from Florida to Georgia where the company operated. The agent informed my husband that the sales records had been seized and they were now in the process of scouring the country for these potentially infected trees. 

Here's the link to read about plant health and quarantines and those pesky laws: USDA.

Now as a Southerner and a gardener, I get it. We all wish someone had foreseen the woes caused by kudzu or that Asian fish that eats all the other fish in a lake. While I understand that the USDA is working to protect not only the home citrus grower but also the entire citrus industry, still...the whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Friend Rob's Slow Day At Work

In Egypt social networking sites helped bring about the downfall of a government. As we all know they aren't always being put to such important uses. Here's how my friend Rob and I put our favorite social networking site to use on Valentine's Day.  I hope you can tell by the pictures which one is him. He's hardly changed since high school. :)

wonders why Barbie and Ken are trending at # 3 on Yahoo.
(another friend asks "Huh?" here)

    • go to and look in the upper right corner at the "Trending Now" section. B&K have slipped to # 8, however.

    •  They broke up and the Barbie Dream Home is in foreclosure.

    •  whew.... at least she's not pregnant !

    • Me: oh...about that...

    • LOL... next you'll tell me the Barbie Sports car has been recalled....

    • Repossessed. She never figured out how to pay off the student loans for med school, law school, nursing school, flight school, modeling school...

    •  tsk.... poor Barbie. Looks like Skipper will have to take over the business....

    • Me : She should have plenty of time now that she's dropped out of school...

    • lol... where is GI Joe when you need him??!!!

    •  Afghanistan...

    • and Stretch Armstrong?

    • Me: Wearing thin...he made a go at being a loan shark for a while but...

    •  lol...I thought you were gonna say he was up on a steroids charge.

    • Sadly, and I hate to be the one to tell you...that was Superman...

    • well I knew all my SSP Racecars were busted for speeding and throwing off excessive sparks in an enclosed area....

    •  That's nothing. Holly Hobby is working in a Chinese sweatshop...Things are bad, I'm telling you!

      I'm not sure exactly where Rob is employed but I need to find out so I can apply there.  

      Oh and by the way here is a link to the article that had them trending at #3 on Yahoo.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Flooding, Bad Hair Days, and Other Natural Disasters

I'm up this morning watching the local weather and checking our county emergency preparedness site. We are in an area that is expected to flood. While I'm toying with the idea of moving all the furniture upstairs, I realize we are out of coffee creamer. When it rains it pours.

But on the other hand my hair looks great today. We had dinner with friends last night and I spent some extra time on it. I don't want to be one of those poor women you see being rescued  by the police or National Guard who look tragic. I may be a flood victim but I don't have to be a style victim...not yet anyway.

We've been in this house for twenty years. Before that my in-laws lived here going back to 1965. It's never flooded however FEMA says we are in a flood plain and our new neighbors have all had to buy flood insurance when they purchased their homes. We will shortly see if the government is  right.  Quite frankly we've been too concerned about relatives in Alabama who live in towns where tornadoes wreaked havoc over the past few days to pay too much attention to the level of the Mighty Mississippi and local rivers and backwaters.

We are paying attention now.

I'm packing a bag just in case we have to evacuate, imagining which pieces of furniture I'm going to want to haul upstairs, estimating how much time it would take to save my books, and hoping the power doesn't go out. I don't want to do all that in the dark.

My next big decision is rain boots: pink swirlies or polka dots?

This is what is directly on the other side of my backyard fence: