Friday, May 29, 2020

Travel Vignette: Virginia

By Elizabeth Prata

In the 1990s I traveled a lot. On one trip, in 1994, my husband and I took a cross-country trip in our 1982 VW Westphalia pop-up camper van. I kept a travel journal along the way, observing quirky things, majestic sights, the food we ate, and soon. The usual travel journal stuff. Occasionally I extract a snippet from one of my travels and post it. This one is from the aforementioned cross-country trip.

Seen on Route 13 south of Exmore VA, 'Ophelia's Hats & Wigs.' We had a great meal at the Trawler Restaurant, crabcake sandwich, sweet potato biscuit, hush puppies, and a pickle. Yum!

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was spectacular. Many small craft were out trying their luck. Imagine being on an open boat out on Chesapeake Bay in the middle of December! We stopped at the scenic lookout/rest area and walked to the edge of the pier. NOAA has a couple of tide gauges  to monitor water flow here at the southern end of the bay. The water was completely still, and the wind was calm. Looking north we could see Thimble Shoal Light, and east we could see the light at Cape Henry, with an anchored tanker just offshore. The bridge itself curved gracefully away from our eyes, toward an indistinct lazy shore.


--Tarheel BBQ, with shot out holes in the sign,
--Cotton fields,
--A truck transporting two large sows,
--Gates Shopping Center, a dilapidated brick building in a sandlot with a sign that said "Yes, we're open" in the middle of nowhere.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


By Elizabeth Prata

I think birdhouses are neat.

There are/were a lot of them in my yard.

Most were here 14 years ago when I arrived as a renter. Some have gone by the wayside since then.

Below is my favorite view in the yard. The yard has various parts. There's the side where the fig trees are and the mockingbirds play. There's the other side yard with the azaleas and rhododendron and lilies. There's the near back yard with two sheds. There's the far back yard with this view of the pasture, hay, and birdhouse. It's a large birdhouse so it's always filled each spring with some sort of bird or other.

Below, if you look open in new tab larger you can see the baby inside with open mouth

I loved this birdhouse too but it is gone now.

This old birdhouse seems like a companion now. It is broken down but still hanging in there. When I look out over the lawn, its blue paint gives nice contrast to the green around.

The one with the chain still hangs from the magnolia tree. The other one is gone now. A bunch of wasps started making a huge nest in it, and I had to get rid of it.

These next ones are decorative bird houses, some are mine, some are neighbors that have come and gone, come and gone.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of my birdhouses. I enjoy my home inside, and out.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Readying the patio for summer

By Elizabeth Prata

My goal for the spring was to obtain some new succulents. I like how they look, and I like how it takes a lot to kill them. I need both in my life, hardy, and pretty, lol.

Kroger had a $1 sale on small succulents so I bought ten. My goal for the Memorial Day Holiday was to re-pot them. I also wanted to refresh my little patio area, clean it, and ready it for summer outdoors enjoyment.

So I did!

These are the small rosettes atop leggy hens & chicks I snipped off to dry.

Yesterday a hawk (maybe an eagle, probably a hawk) was circling above the yard and pasture, likely looking for mice. He was hard to catch with the camera but this one snap came out OK

There's a blooming magnolia flower atop the tippy top of the tree. Yup, it's there.

Let me use the Nikon zoom. There it is! Pretty good zoom for a point N shoot camera.

Here's the Hosta 'eye' springing up. I had wanted to split the hosta but I learned that it's better to do it in the early spring, or at least before the eye springs up.

The Nikon zoom tends to get grainy but the camera does a good job on macro.

Today is a cool day but in Georgia after about mid-May cool means cloudy and max humidity. You just feel drenched all the time. My air conditioner has a setting called "Dry." I'd read in the reviews before I'd bought it that owners really loved the dry setting. I turned it on today and set to dry and you know what, it IS great. I'm not drenched I'm dry. It's the simple things.

Enjoy your summer, whether oven dry, or humid dry or rainy or wet or cool or hot! It's all good, really. This season is for taking it slower, enjoying outdoors with family, reading, grilling (not barbecuing, I learned the difference when I moved to the South), pools, lakes, seashore, and just plain enjoying life.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Dramatic Publishing Company

By Elizabeth Prata

It's a slow start to the holiday and I'm just fine with that. Breakfast was a veggie hash, code for 'I gotta use up some stuff', and after the coffee was finished, ginger tea.

I went up to The Special Store Friday when they re-opened and bought a few things with my gift certificate.

I got a rattan planter stand and a wide serving bowl for a bird bath. A teapot, and some ephemera, a saucer, a booklet, and a notepad. Here's the details:

The rattan plant stand was intended to be part of a pedestal for a bird bath. The bowl I bought fit on it but it looked pitiful, crooked, and not high enough once I set it up. So I moved the plant stand to the area where the plants are and put a plant on it. I kept the bowl outside. I'll probably use it in some way for the bird bath. The bowl by the way is a Brock of California. The company produced kitschy looking items from the 1947-1980s. Mine is the Farmhouse Yellow Pattern.

The saucer was a replacement for a same saucer pattern I'd broken. It goes with a teacup from Royal Doulton translucent china in the Pillar Rose pattern, produced between 1961 - 1978. Translucent china is like bone china, minus the bone. It was more affordable for the average housewife back then. I like it because it's creamy and smooth, with depth, though lacking the precise delicacy of the bone china cup. Sometimes it's nice to hold a different kind of cup in my hand.

In looking at my teacup and teapot inventory it seems that I do enjoy floral patterns! Only one of my teapots doesn't have flowers on it, the Hall's from 1930. Its pattern prefigures the geometric patterns prevalent in the Art Deco era. Anyway, I was glad to get the saucer situation fixed. When I broke the saucer I'd glued it together but I was never sure it'd hold.

A teapot in Pillar Rose appeared in the store since last time I was there, and though it was being sold as part of a set, I asked if I could buy just the teapot, and they said yes (a bit reluctantly). Here is the Royal Doulton Pillar Rose teapot. I love the shape.

The handle is also sturdy, strong enough to lift the pot. It's a big pot, 5-cup. My only other large teapot is the Homer Laughlin Eggshell Cavalier in Dianne pattern (1957). The eggshell comes from a line of products HL introduced to combat the type-casting of their Fiesta ware items being heavy and clunky, as trends and fads shifted away from the once popular Depression ceramics. The pottery in the Eggshell line as you might guess is lighter. The pot is big, but the handle isn't strong enough once it's filled. I failed to examine the pot closely enough and didn't see the hairline crack. I still use the pot but when I do I have to remember to hold it from underneath. The Royal Doulton pot's handle is sturdy.

I'm a sucker for notepads. Especially when they're a quarter. Especially when they are pretty. Especially when they have a scripture verse or scripturally inspired caption on it! Here it is-

I'm always on the lookout for ephemera I can tear apart and use in crafting. Collages and the like. I've bought some books in other languages and have torn pages out and used them in crafting. This was a thin little booklet, a play titled, "Borderland: A Play in Three Acts". It was first published in 1889!

I looked up the history of the publishing company and it's still in business! Founded in 1885, It is a fifth generation business still focused on publishing plays! From their About page:

About Dramatic Publishing-
In 1885, Charles Sergel, a journalist and a young man with a lifelong interest in theatre, founded The Dramatic Publishing Company in Chicago, Illinois. For five generations, the company has been committed to developing and serving the authors, artists and educators who comprise the world of theatre.
As a matter of fact, here is a bit of literary history

Fifty years ago, my grandfather, Christopher Sergel, agreed to a deal with Harper Lee and her Agent whereby he would dramatize (and Dramatic Publishing would publish and license his adaptation of) To Kill a Mockingbird. ... My grandfather's adaptation was read and approved by Ms. Lee...

The company has also adapted literary works from Louisa May Alcott, Horatio Alger, Ernest Hemingway, S.E. Hinton, Edgar Allen Poe and many, many others. Gee, I sort of don't want to tear apart the booklet now! History, history, readers, is found in the neatest of places.

My next task today will be to watch a few re-potting succulents videos and then go outside to re-pot the 10 small ones I'd bought at Kroger on Friday for $1 each. I also have two 'leggy' hens and chicks that need trimming.

Have a wonderful holiday and week ahead!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Con Te PartirĂ² (Time to Say Goodbye)

By Elizabeth Prata

The school year is ended. Yesterday we would have sung goodbye to the children when they boarded the buses to roll out for the last time. We would have cried, hugged, and promised to see them in the fall. Our shoulders would have sagged with relief. We'd taught, loved, chided, taught some more, relentlessly. We would have known we'd have wrung the last drop of energy from our sweat and had poured love and learning into those kids with all we had, until we release them, like doves from a box, to fly, soar, and disappear over the summer horizon.

But no.

We said 'hey, see ya later' on Thursday March 12, expecting to see them pile back into school on Monday after the Teacher Workday and the weekend was over.

It never happened.

The President called a National Emergency for the coronavirus, school closed temporarily, and a few weeks later our school was closed for the year.

And the school has been empty ever since. The tape used to hang kid art, science projects, essays, dry up and they hang askew or have fallen to the floor. Classrooms have been packed. Unfinished math problems written on the white board have half-erased. The lost and found is still piled with winter coats.

This is all that's left of the children; their pencil boxes, end of school year rewards, report cards, unfinished workbooks, left behind toys. Their school life in a bag.

Goodbye, wonderful children! We love you!!

We returned to school a few days ago in staggered socially distant shifts to finalize the school year in organized fashion, pack rooms, and finish report cards of learning we oversaw, but didn't deliver. Are they growing? Healthy? Safe? Happy? We won't know until the fall. IF school reopens normally.

Tomorrow, us support staff will pile into the gym and await the procession of cars to drive by. The principal and assistant principal will look at the dashboard for the name of the child, call it to us in the gym, and we'll go get the bag and hand it to the Principals to give the family member driving up. That's it. All a child's hopes, fears, entire year, is piled into a bag and it gets handed to them as they drive up and away. We won't be able to see the kids or speak to them because of social distancing. Hugs are banned.

It's what we're required to do and that's fine, I trust our leaders to know what's best for the school district. It's an organized and efficient way to return the items to the families and to get end of year report cards and other paperwork to them too.

As I envision the cars lining up tomorrow with a hand out to receive their child's bag, it reminds me of this Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman song. I have always liked the gentle marching aspect to it. It's processional. And sad. Right now, it marks my mood.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Sunshine, Daily Murray, Mail, and other thoughts

By Elizabeth Prata

Good morning! It's late May and we are coming into the home stretch of school. The Governor suspended at-school learning in Mid-March due to Coronavirus but that doesn't mean we haven't been working. In fact, a few days ago we staff were told to return from working at home to the actual school building for 4 hours a day in staggered shifts (social distancing). We will do the same next week.

This Tuesday at noon would have been the last day with kids, and it is sad we won't be able to hug them goodbye. Then we staff finish out the week in what would have been post-planning, and I guess it still will be. It's hard to now how to plan, since things are very much up in the air regarding next year, but we can still finish report cards, clean, sort kids into grade levels for next year, and do other paperwork.

Meanwhile, it is a gorgeous Saturday morning. I've been out already, wandering the yard as the sun rose above the tips of the tall trees in the yard. The birds were absolutely bonkers with cacophonous clamor in birdsong, and it cracked me up. Walking into the driveway, the cardinal was especially offended at the sudden human presence and flew from one tree to another. But he exposed himself when he did that. I caught his glorious red against the sun-splashed leafy backdrop before he flew off.

The magnolias are blooming! Such large flowers!

Since this lockdown, social distancing, shelter in place, coronavirus time has emerged, we have learned to adapt and show our love in different ways. I have been the happy recipient of some postal outpourings outpourings. The US Postal Service is still clicking along since it was established in 1775 by Benjamin Franklin. It seemed that it was becoming redundant when the internet and electronic mail came to the fore, but no. I've received some precious cards in the mail. They bring delight and surprise and happiness when I open the mailbox and see a handwritten addressed card sized envelope in there. Here are some I've received, others I've already put away. Thank you one and all, you make my day! Especially the one given by a student, and the one signed by an actual toddler, lol! I miss seeing children so much!

Also since COVID-19, there have been some TERRIFIC book sales! Always looking to expand my library, I take advantage when they are 50% off. Also, some kind friends found my Amazon wish list and sent me surprise books! I like the series the McGraw book is in. It is a small and short book, they all are, addressing one pointed question. It's the Cultivating Biblical Godliness series from Reformation Heritage Books. Paperbacks are usually around $3. When there's a sale, well, of course I grab them. They are handy to have to give away when a fellow church member asks a question. Here is the link to the series.

The grocery store where I shop puts ready or ripe produce aside in a red net bag and marks it 99 cents. No matter what is in the bag it's 99 cents. It is always a good deal. Yesterday there were three pomegranates and 4 pepino melons. Seven pieces of fruit for 99 cents meant that each piece would cost .14 cents! Pomegranates are usually $2 or $3 per each. I was unfamiliar with pepino melons but at 14 cents apiece I would take a chance. And I love learning about a new fruit!

Apparently when ripe they are supposed to have those purplish stripes. I am hoping they won't react with my FODMAP issues, so I'll try one pepino and wait a while. They are apparently like a cross between a cuke and a tomato and less like a melon. I can eat cukes and tomatoes. They are supposed to have a gentle flavor. And I love pomegranates, but haven't had one in a while, not only due to expense but I'm unsure if I can eat them due to IBS/FODMAP etc. But even if I can't have any of the produce I've only lost 99 cents. Anything more than that is gravy. Winning!

I like Seltzer. I buy a case at a time. When I finished one the other day I tossed the box to the floor before I was ready to take it out to the trash can. Murray, being a cat, and cats love boxes, immediately became interested. He sniffed it at first-

Then he tried for the longest time to get in it. It was so funny!

Of course it didn't work out and he heard me laughing. I swear he knows I was laughing at him. He retired to the bureau and tried to look dignified-

But sneaked a longing look every now and then, deliberating if he should try again...

It's a gorgeous day, predicted to get even nicer. I hope where you are you can enjoy some family time, outside time, private time, or whatever time you need to restore your equilibrium and peace. Have a nice day!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

By Elizabeth Prata

The title of this essay is a take-off of the title of Nobel winning novelist's book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, "Love in the Time of Cholera."

Since we have been mandated to shelter in place, socially distance ourselves, or otherwise stay away from people due to the global pandemic of the coronavirus, people have been forced to express their love in different ways. We can't gather, we can't hug, we can't be in groups larger than 10, of those groups we must stay 6 feel apart, all this makes it hard to express love the way we are used to. Though, I'm not sad to lose the hugs. People in the south sure are 'huggy.'

Instead, families gather under balcony or outside nursing home windows to sing happy birthday or wave to their loved ones inside they cannot visit. Others leave treats and gifts outside a front door, to let the person know they are thinking of them. Others find an Amazon gift sent through the mail with a note a loving way to send support to someone they care about. We send encouraging notes and postcards through the US mail.

A global pandemic spurred panic buying. Some items at the grocery store or Big Box store have been hard to find. Shelves of these items have been continually empty or the limited supply meant that they run out fast. Inexplicably, toilet paper was the first items that stores ran out of and it has remained that way since. This item is hard to find. This item is totally necessary. Potatoes, carrots, and wipes have also been hard to find but one can substitute for those. There really is no substitute for TP. By the way, paper towels and Kleenexes have also been hard to find. Again, no TP? No substitute!

I had a knock on the door yesterday and I opened it to see a dear friend standing there. My friend works at a Big Box store. With arms full, I was presented with the following:

Now, in calmer times, if someone showed up at the door with a gift of toilet paper, I'd likely be thinking that the gift was a backhanded compliment? Or a symbol of our relationship? Or a prank gift? But love in the time of coronavirus means sharing a scarce commodity given generously to a friend.

Thank you!

Friday, May 08, 2020


By Elizabeth Prata

I finally got my hair cut! My last appointment was the day before the national emergency was declared. It had been 7 weeks since I'd gotten my hair cut and it was looking mighty ragged. But then I canceled it so as to comply with social distancing. And then the salons closed anyway. It has been an additional 7 weeks, and if I thought my hair was ragged after a mere 7 weeks, I didn't know ragged. It looks great now! It is such a relief to get it cut and looking good. Our hair goes a long way to making us feel either put together and clean, or raggy and unkempt.

The after shot:

I wasn't driving, I promise. I had stopped at the library on the off chance they were working and clearing out the return bins. I had a book to return. It wasn't open and the bin was shut up. Fines won't accrue, the note said. Okey dokey then.

I had only been "out" for half an hour. It felt too soon to go back home. But it was a work day and there were a few things I needed to do. I decided to take a little drive, 7 more miles up the road to the next town, before turning around to head home.

Here are some shots. It is a gray, drizzly, cool day. Cool today means about 55 degrees. With a rainy dampness, it feels colder. A nice day to do some things at home and then curl up when the work is done. With soup. Last night I'd made a soup of chicken, celery, corn, shrimp, Old Bay seasoning, broth, and some coconut milk. Yum.

But first, some pics:

A Carolina chickadee I think

The local nursing home

Have a nice weekend everyone!