Funny Thing

A funny thing happened on the way to building a pergola this summer. We bought a condo. Yes. A condo, as in condominium. Here’s how it happened.

The building is just a little bit younger than I am.

I live in a state of constant searching for new exhilarating  challenges  while at the same time having to manage the boring but important  parts of life, such as arranging for food, shelter and clothing. In earlier years, having library books helped balance out the folding of the cloth diapers. Making a spaceship out of an appliance box negated the emotional effects of having no disposable income. Painting the workbench in the storage room purple took my mind off the fact that teenagers were driving my car so often that I had no chance to go anywhere. Learning to knit brought solace as I started the eventual highly successful transition to becoming part of an empty nester couple.

Today, having fewer hands- on responsibilities gives me more time to practice my Magpie lifestyle which includes  indulging myself in  little dreams which may or may not  come to fruition. The idea of buying a condo as a getaway spot  has been one of those “Wouldn’t it be nice” kinds of things. Fun to think about, but impossible financially. Fun to think about, but too much responsibility. Fun to think about, but impractical.

Though I  don’t care to my have fantasies deflated, for a time all of  the above mentioned objections were true. A luxury condo would be out of our range unless we rented it out, which would require that we furnish it nicely and deal with management people. And where would the condo be? We love the mountains, but the closest mountains would require a bone rattling drive over Arkansas roads. In the other direction if we were to drive to East Tennessee, we might as well drive to North Carolina. Since two of our three children live at opposite ends of the United States, how often would we want to make a twelve hour drive to a mountain cabin? And a long weekend? Fuhgeddaboudit!

One morning while we were still building the pergola, I glanced  at a real estate site while drinking my morning coffee. Condos. Memphis. Wha? What? Wait a minute! Here was a one bedroom  condo, perfect for a weekend getaway.  In walking distance to the theater and restaurants. Balcony. Swimming pool.  I KNEW this was for me!!!!  AND THE PRICE WAS MORE THAN RIGHT !!!

Adrenaline flooded me! My knees were weak. My fingers longed to press the “Contact me” button, but I made myself wait until my husband got home from the gym. Then I  nonchalantly asked the big question. “Honey, Would you buy me a condo if it only cost XYZ%$?” “Oh, certainly,” he replied. YES!!!!

And so a new adventure was born!  I had to make an appointment, the first one without my husband because he was, um, building me a pergola. I was sold. We went back together. We both were sold. Of course, as I so quickly remembered, buying real estate can never be totally smooth. The first unit, which had been upgraded cosmetically, was taken off the market. Ouch. We regrouped, and looked at another unit, which we bought.

Everything in this unit needs changing. EVERYTHING!!! But what fun it will be! The first unit was move in ready, but I  wouldn’t have chosen those particular upgrades. I would rather make my own choices. For me it is like having a brand new house, choice wise.

The floors are buckled. They have to go.

The balcony just needs cosmetic work.

The whole place needs painting.

We plan to use the condo as a weekend getaway. Not every weekend, but lots of weekends. Before, we often didn’t go into mid or downtown as much as we wanted to because we didn’t always feel like schlepping back to the suburbs at midnight. Or to be perfectly honest, 10:00 P.M. Now we can have an evening out and when we are tired, the condo is only a few minutes away. The more we think about it the more fun things we think of to do.

Could you make coffee each morning while looking at this?

Heeere’s the bathroom!

Yes, it will be gutted. All of it.

Here are two of a set of vintage Memphis glasses I bought for the condo. I just can’t leave you with that bathroom picture.

 We have owned the condo now for about two weeks. Tonight after walking somewhere nearby for  dinner and  over to see  Legally Blonde we are going to spend our first night there. We’re packing light: Air mattress, sheets, pillows, toiletries. I suspect we’ll have glass of wine on the balcony where we already have two lawn chairs, and welcome ourselves to  the neighborhood. Sometimes dreams do come true.

Queen of the Book Club

Many women, and I am sure some men,  belong to a book club these days. Like all  groups, book clubs develop their own social norms. In some groups there is no overt or covert censure for not reading the book you agreed to read for the evening.  Meanwhile, members of  other clubs may send a invisible chill across to the room to that unlucky  woman who announces once again she hasn’t gotten around to reading the story. Some groups even have  compulsory attendance rules. Yikes.

Now MY Book Club, since you want to know,  falls into the very- few -rules- category. Members take turns hosting, and the selection of books seems to happen by some unseen democratic  process. I am not an original member of the group, so I don’t know if they ever said things in the beginning such as , “Let us  read books of literary merit. Or at least no insultingly bad best sellers.” But I am grateful that no one in the group ever suggests reading some type of annoying treacle. Because I wouldn’t want to burst out in some unflattering pronouncement if someone were to make such a suggestion. And though we try to respect one another’s book suggestions, my ardent bibliophilia requires me to maintain some standards.

So of course we discuss the book of the evening, and compare one another’s responses to the characters, plots, and prose. Spirited debate takes place over whether character A actually had an ulterior motive when he undertook Action B. When one member announces she couldn’t put a particular book down, another will declare she found the characters in the very same book completely boring.  We are all equals in the realm of book discussion. No member is admired more, or less,  because of her reading habits.

But  if you want to locate  the Queen of The Book Club, go where the food is.  Because good food is one of the top reasons to have a book club.  Wine is another.  Listen to the talk in the dining room.  What talented, genius woman baked  that warm crusty bread, oozing with melted butter? Who conjured the Indian vegetables sizzling with tumeric and roasted cumin seeds? Who churned  the homemade mango ice cream?  For SHE is the Queen of the Book Club for the evening.

The Queen’s subjects identify themselves by their adoring glances at their plates, their raised eyebrows and bugged- out eyes, and their enthusiastic expressions of gustatory pleasure. Mmmm! MMmmm!! MMMMM!!! Oh.  Chew.  OH!! Yes! I’ll have what she’s having! The subjects approach the Queen with supplications to release her recipe and the its provenance, a request to  which she complies with appropriate grace and ceremony, as befits a royal. The Queen declares her dish was something easy to do, and that the other members can also achieve the same results.  Recipes will be emailed forthwith. She doesn’t preen, but appreciates each and every subject.

The higher culinary standards of the group have challenged me to look for dishes to bring which at least to me seem  more novel – ha- than the average fare. I have at times felt the warm glow that comes from assuming the Crown for the evening, when  I ran across a new recipe on a blog, and decided to give it a try.

Have YOU ever been the Queen of The Book Club? If so, what dish did you make? For those who  have not yet been the Queen, I am  from time to time going to share some recipes I have made which catapulted me into royalty. Because I think everyone deserves to be a Queen, if only for the evening.

Today’s selection is Very Green Tahini Dip. I saw this recipe on Tasting Table and was intruiged by the combination of ingredients.

Very Green Avocado-Tahini Dip

Recipe adapted from Wild About Greens, Nava Atlas (Sterling)

Yield: 1½ cups

Cook Time: 4 minutes


4 ounces (about 4 cups) baby spinach or arugula

1 large, ripe avocado–halved, pitted and diced

⅓ cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

Juice of 1 medium lemon

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, cilantro or dill

½ teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crudités, pita chips or fresh pita bread for serving

DIRECTIONS1. Wash the greens in cold water and transfer to a large skillet with the water clinging to the leaves. Set the skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until the greens are wilted, 3 to 4 minutes.2. In a food processor, add the wilted greens, avocado, tahini, lemon juice, parsley, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Process with 2 tablespoons of water to yield a medium-thick consistency (add up to 2 more tablespoons of water if needed). Serve with crudités, pita chips or fresh pita. Calories Per Serving: 108; Sodium: 161 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 6 g; Fiber: 3 g; Fat: 9 g I thought the 1.5 cup yield sounded as though it could be skimpy so I was generous with my arugula.Fine so far. The my scooped out my avocados.I  think this is about where I found that I had indeed thrown out that drippy looking jar of tahini I used to have in the refrigerator for all that time. But I had sesame seeds so I could just make my own. A little tapping on the computer and I had my recipe for tahini from a blog called Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice :


sesame seeds
olive oil (not extra-virgin)


  1. For every cup of sesame seeds start with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil and add more as needed. Make a little or a lot.
  2. Toast sesame seeds gently over low heat stirring often, about ten minutes, they don’t need to take on a lot of color. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Add the sesame seeds to the bowl of a food processor along with 1/4 cup of olive oil for every cup of seeds, pulse until a thick paste forms, scrape down the sides, and add more olive oil if needed until it reaches a consistency you like. Store in glass jar tightly covered in refrigerator.

But did I have an entire cup of sesame seeds? I did not!  Was my kingdom at stake? I threw in a few pumpkin seeds with the sesames  and hoped for the best.

They pureed nicely, so crisis averted , but I think when I buy the enormous bag of sesame seeds I plan to get I will make my own tahini ahead of time.

Then I got kind of hypnotized watching the ingredients pulsing in the food processor. It was getting close to time to go so I forced myself to put the dip in a bowl. About that time two eminent food critics – my son and one of his friends – walked into the kitchen. My son wrinkled his nose a little  because I had  failed, inexplicably to him, to make a meat dish for him to taste. But taste they both did. Once, then twice, then once more, until I had to say, “Uh guys, I’m taking this somewhere right now.”

If you love arugula as I do you will love the nice bite it gives. If not, spinach will work. I served this at the book club with small sweet peppers but chips could be used.  And folks, it was a winner. It was green, vegan, snappy, and delicious. And I smiled benevolently  at all in the dining room,  for I was Queen of all I surveyed.

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

“It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No! It’s a Magpie!”

Special To Hot Springs N.C. Times: Rumors of a Magpie sighting in Hot Springs N.C. have now been verified by many sources including this writer. After rumors that a Magpie, driving with an unidentified woman in a black Volkswagen Jetta had been seen going up and down Road 209 on Sunday August 05, this writer went to the cabin  on August 06 where they were said to have lodged the previous evening.

The Magpie and her companion were seen to leave the premises early on August 06. This writer, observing at a  discreet distance, was able to definitively identify the Magpie. Through sheer persistence and keen journalistic skills this reporter now brings you an exclusive interview  with the Magpie herself , and her sister, widely renowned as The Little General,  or L. G. as she will be called in this report. The interview took place at an undisclosed location. The Magpie was attired in colorful sequined shoes with casual togs. Her rapport with the also casually dressed L.G. was easy, the conversation sparkling and urbane. The women wore no makeup, yet seemed unconcerned by this.

R: May I say how flattered we in Hot Springs are, Magpie, that a shininess lover such as yourself has chosen our town as your vacation spot?

M: Actually, Rod, our cabin was more closely connected to Luck, North Carolina, just on the other side of Trust, North Carolina. But we won’t split hairs.

R:   Magpie, can you tell us why you picked the Hot Springs area to visit?

M: Sure, Rod. My sister and I wanted a girls’ getaway that was not too far a driving distance from L.G.’s home, that afforded us with refreshing mountain views, opportunities for adventure, and no responsibilities whatsoever. I  searched on VRBO  because I felt a cabin would offer us what we needed for less than the cost of a hotel. We chose our current cabin because it was NOT a mobile home, where I found myself last year, and because it  had the right amount of space for us.  It didn’t hurt that the Appalachian Trail, with which I have long been infatuated, runs right through downtown Hot Springs.

R: And why L.G. as your companion?

M: Rod, you have clearly never traveled with L.G. If you had, you would know that no one ever spends time with L.G. without knowing they have been with an adventurous madcap woman who makes even the simplest things fun.  She could rub two sticks together and make a party out of it. Also we like to do the same things. Such as read.

L.G. Thanks for your kind words, Magpie. I would like to say that on my part I knew we  would have fun having a few days with no set schedule, and no written- in- stone. rigid  goals. In other words, with no testosterone in the vicinity.

L.G.’s car is also a female. Her name is Zula.

M:  Good point. L.G. Another important point is that L.G. would help me keep a low profile. Celebrities need their privacy too.

R: But you were noticed immediately after going up and down Road 209 so many times.

L.G.  Ahem. Things were not very clearly marked on that road,  we didn’t think.

R: Good enough. Could you talk about some of the highlights of your trip? For example, you were seen going up and down the Max Patch Bald Mountain numerous times on the 6th.

M: Yes, we wanted to hike the Max Patch Bald. We had a printout of directions. And although we got lost  the day before on our way to the cabin, could not figure out how to work the keypad to get in the cabin for some time, and we did need to use the ladies’ room, plus we couldn’t figure out the many remotes on the Direct TV and VCR, I still had complete confidence in L.G. to navigate us.

L.G. The TV and key pad directions were poorly written. And the signs on the Max Patch road were poorly marked.

R: You hiked which loop of the Max Patch Bald?

L.G. We’re not sure. We both looked at the map at the parking lot but when we got up there we both remembered the map differently. I would say we hiked a short part.

L.G. reading about invasive flora instead of reading the map.

The view on the way up.

At the top!

Authenticated Magpie photo.

R: A short part. Good. According to my notes you then drove around several other local roads, stopped, turned around and drove some of the same roads again.

L.G.: And your point is? I think we have said we were in a no testosterone zone, so no more questions about where we were when and where we thought we were going and what the signs said.

Hadn’t we already passed this?

And this?

And this?

M: Rod, the scenery was outstanding. And in my sister’s defense, things really were not well marked. All we had to do was get to the Hot Springs Spa by around 3:00 P.M., and we made it.

R: Yes. There is a man in town who waves at everyone who passes him on Main Street. He waved at your car fourteen times. But, the spa experience?

L.G.: It was the best money we’ve ever spent. A lady we call Precious, because she called us Precious, led us to our  hot mineral water  soak in a secluded little cabana along the Spring Creek. It was just what we needed after our rigorous car riding.

Here’s Precious!

View from the tub!

L.G. in the tub with the misters spraying.

M: Afterwards we walked past the ruins of former hotels on the same location up to the Spa for our deep tissue massage. That was just the massage I wanted. When I get a massage I want to know someone’s been working on me. Our two masseuses were very skilled and knowledgeable. I listened closely to my sister as she  discussed all her physical frailties with her masseuse. I had no physical frailties. After the bath and the massage we were two copacetically inclined  ladies.

L.G.: We were able to remember which road to take back to our cabin, meaning that the way back was more clearly marked. Then we were able to chill on the deck and grill out some goodies for dinner.

The more clearly marked road.

R: Could you share some of your recipes?

M: Yes. L.G. brought some lovely peppers from her garden which we stuffed with an assortment of cheeses we had on hand. You can’t mess this up.

L.G.: I also marinated some meat and put it on skewers, along with tomatoes from my garden. You may have guessed that my garden is more prolific than the Magpie’s.

M: Anyway the evenings were relaxing and peaceful. The last night we walked some of the trails on the property. One crossed a little spring. I don’t know which trail that was. We couldn’t seem to match the shape of the map to the shape of the property.

It was very quiet up there.

L.G. in a fit of stubbornness refused to pose coming out the door of the outhouse.

R: Are there other special aspects of your trip?

M: But of course. It is refreshing to travel with people who let you have a chance to use words which don’t come up in everyday conversation. Such as sobriquet. And nonce. And read. And discuss books.

Remember to serve refreshments at your book discussions.

L.G. Yes, Rod. Never would it behoove us, in the behemothian responsibilities  to which we subscribe but need not detail,  to insinuate  that you may yet harbor some refractory intransigent iota within the labyrinthine recesses of your bald yet indefaitgble pate which may indicate an opposing tableaux.

R: Whut?

M: She means she can’t believe you don’t already know that. Another important point is that when we get to be together we don’t spend it in an intellectual vacuum. We discuss lofty subjects, such as how those Scottish characters in our mystery shows say” maird – thur” instead of “murder.” We introduce one another to vitally enduring aspects of culture. For example L.G. had never seen “The Big Lebowski”. Now thanks to me she has, and can now more fully participate in the life of “The Dude.”

R: Right. How were you treated by the natives of Hot Springs?

M: Really, Rod they were all so kind and down to earth, you would have thought they had no idea they were talking with celebrities.

L.G.: Speak for yourself. They knew I was a celebrity!

R: We know you went rafting, so that is one local business you patronized. Were there others?

M: Yes, Rod. We rafted with the Huck Finn Rafting Company. They were very professional. It was my first time to raft you know.  I don’t think they took it personally that I was too afraid to jump off a big rock into the French Broad River.

L.G. Yes but I had told you specifically that if you climb the rock you have to jump!

M:  Rod, I’ve told L.G. that my feelings about not wanting to jump were quite strong and could not be ignored. As you know I must stay in touch with my feelings because of the work I do.

L.G.: Guffaws loudly.

R: That’s actually pretty ridiculous, Magpie.

M:  This AGGRESSION, man, it won’t stand!  Anyway, after rafting we lunched at the  Spring Creek Tavern where we had a view of the Spring Creek and a chance to taste  regional beers. L.G. prefers wine but after rafting I think she was ready to take whatever she could get.

L.G: On Tuesday many places were closed, so we motored over to Mars Hill because we just had to spend some time inside a bookstore. We  also tried Marshall NC but   many places,  especially meaning the bookstore, were closed there as well.

Definitely closed.

Also closed.

Closed in Hot Springs!

We would have liked to be able to visit every establishment in Hot Springs  but the days got away from us. We were, however,  able to visit a very nice place  on our way out of town. Yes, I know that through town is not the way we came. We did that on purpose.

R: OK so you knew where you were going on your way out of town. What was the establishment you visited?

M: Rod, it was The Black Horse Consignment Shop. This little shop has only been open for eight weeks, but it is full of shininess. I immediately saw these beauties

These chandeliers wanted us!

which I knew we must have. The owner was very friendly and accommodating. We must have browsed in there for an hour. As the owner of a small business I like to patronize other small businesses.

Inside the Black Horse

L.G.: Based on her inventory and prices I would say she is off to a good start. We both admired many more things than we bought. The prices were very reasonable, but it just wouldn’t be sporting to buy the poor woman’s entire stock   after she worked so hard to open the place.

Some of our goodies from the Black Horse.

The gracious proprietor of the the Black Horse.

M: The owner gave me permission to take pictures even though she has no idea of the quality of my photos. And she said I could mention her shop on my blog. And I’m grateful because  I HAVE to show the new chandeliers. One is for me and one is for L.G.

R: Magpie,  is there any chance of your mentioning this interview on your blog? And could you keep me apprised of any more trips you plan to make to the area? I want to stay on top of this story.

M: Rod, yes and yes. I am all about encouraging creativity wherever it may be found.

R:  And just one last question. Do you ladies know how to find your way out of this undisclosed location?

L.G. Oh certainly. Just as long as the way is clearly marked!

Vancouver Memories

Honey, I’m home!  I’ve escaped to the mountains with my sister  and returned to eerily decent weather, with  temperatures in the 60s in the mornings, and highs in the 80s, with breezes and no humidity. With this weather I could just about stand to live here! I know you are all eager to get my mountain report but today I’m going back to the beginning of the summer , to the last place where I felt such pleasant temeperatures: Vancouver.

Actually it was  cooler  in Vancouver than it is here now, but  the coolness was a welcome treat for me. Looking back  at the pictures it is hard to believe that only a few months ago I was someplace where I couldn’t walk down the street without a scarf wrapped around my neck. If someone tried that fashion trick around here they would be asked by old ladies in kindly voices, “Honey, did you hurt your neck?” Anyway, time for a look at Day Two in Vancouver!

Goals for Day Two in Vancouver were simple. Hit the Granville Island Farmers Market early, when it would be less crowded, followed by the Museum of Vancouver, to get a feel for the history of the city. From our location in Davies Village it was a short downhill walk to the place where we could catch a a little tug boat to Granville Island. These tugs come every twenty minutes, so we bought an all day ticket so we could come and go as we pleased.  On the short ride over we envisioned a leisurely walk through the various vendor stalls, occasionally stopping to sample goodies or order a strong aromatic cup of coffee. We were two cosmopolitan empty nesters, out on the kind of cool  Sunday morning adventure that cosmopolitan empty nesters have earned. EARNED.

Oops! We didn’t realize  that Granville Island was the location of The International Children’s Festival, and that very Sunday was the grand finale!   We  gamely toured the covered parts of the market, wending our way through the crowds, and admiring goodies as we had hoped.

Don’t even try to mess with her.

But the density of people was much worse outside. We quickly found we would need to scratch the relaxing plan and go with the survival plan. Apparently people can drive their cars to Granville Island, so everywhere we turned we were dodging Volvos crowded with kiddies either coming or going from the festivities. I  wonder if some of those poor people are still bumper to bumper on the Island, circling until they find a parking place?

All around us were face painters, organ grinding music, kiddie performances  and the like. Surely this is a worthwhile event, but what were we doing here? After looking unsuccessfully for a peaceful sanctuary, we came upon a helpful maintenance man, perhaps fleeing himself, who pointed out a hotel at the end of the island where we might find respite. We made a dash for the Dockside Restaurant  and were grateful to be seated on an outdoor patio, facing  the opposite  direction of the festival.

We hadn’t planned on a brunch, but the salmon burger was delicious, and the live jazz soon made us forget the cacophony at the other end of the island.Yes. These people are covering themselves with blankets.

Next we got back onboard the tug to head for the Museum of Vancouver. Aah! We virtually had the place to ourselves.  A word about Vancouver museums: there aren’t very many. Unlike other large cities, Vancouver seems to be young in its  municipal museum life.

This cozy little museum has some permanent exhibits about life in the area since white settlers came in, up to the present day. ( There is another museum that tells the story of the   indigenous tribes.)The town that became Vancouver grew very quickly after  it was named to be the final stop on the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1884.  Many ethnic minorities came in to help build the town and the railway and formed their own communities. Suburbs and roads were developed. The town was swept into the World Wars and embraced life’s modern conveniences in the post war boom.

Shoes from the Japanese part of town.

One of the two special exhibits was Art Deco Chic, a study of art deco influence on fashion. I  Ioved, loved, these dresses. And would love to wear them. This exhibit really whetted my appetite to learn more about the history of fashion. It is an interesting lens through which to view history.

This dress from the 1920s was influenced by recent archaelogical finds in Egypt.

This dress was made in Vancouver by the Aurora company.

Robin Hood-inspired accessories.

The second special exhibit was of neon signs from the city. As Vancouver has grown it has faced issues similar to other big cities: zoning, infrastructure, commerce. At one point it outlawed large neon signs. Many were destroyed, others left to languish in junkyards. The exhibit asks if the signs are an eyesore, or  art in themselves? You will have to decide for yourself.

But I think you know which way a magpie would lean on the subject.

After the calm of the museum we were ready to brave the Island again, this time to buy some goodies for dinner. The place was still bustling but at a somewhat lower decibel level. This time we actually went in a few shops, and stopped for a much needed cup of coffee.

After making a few dinner purchases we boarded the blue tug for our final ride. Our heads were filled with the vivid sounds, smells and sights of the day. We looked to forward to having a dinner of market goodies in our room and watching the sun set behind the mountains. And we did.

To The Mountaintop

Sigh. We in the South are dripping with pervasive, intractable humidity. It is hard for me not to assign human traits and motives to the sticky miasma that surrounds me. Could the humidity actually be pernicious? To delight in seeing me sweat down my entire head of hair within fifteen seconds of opening the front door? I will leave those decisions to another day, because it is  too hot to even try to think. Also, I am about to flee this place for the mountains of North Carolina, where at least if there is humidity or rain during the day , I shall be blessed with a breeze by nightfall.

My refuge is a cabin atop a mountain, where some of the time I will lack cell phone service and most certainly  the internet. I welcome the rejuvenation that comes from disconnecting from technology, but want my small readership to know I won’t be posting anything until I return to this broiler… I mean town.

This same time last year my husband and I tried this exact  thing – meaning a getaway to the mountains to disconnect from technology and relax. It was a last minute trip we put  to gether after a summer filled with the wedding activities of two of our children. Naturally since weddings had occurred we were on a limited budget, but that was of little import, I thought, for we didn’t need anything fancy. After a little perusing on the internet, I  booked us a spot in a secluded cabin on a mountaintop in a location that did not require too far a drive away from home. The pictures showed a cozy getaway for two, with mountain vistas.

Our getaway was operated by a sweet couple who brought us their own eggs, honey, and freshly baked bread each morning. 

And it was remote, all right. We had to park our car and use one of their four wheel drive vehicles while on the property. And whenever we wanted, we had the private use of their wood fired hot tub and Finnish sauna once we could locate it on the property.

Yes, that is me after a strenuous hike. The hike where I failed to make it up the steep two mile trail that was going to lead me to the flat part of the Appalachian Trail.

The getaway was private all right. We sat out on the deck at night until the sun went down, enjoying the peace and quiet.

On the rise above us, up a gravel road, was a Buddhist Temple, where visitors were welcome. 

There was just one question that puzzled us. How had anyone managed to get a mobile  home up to the top of  this mountain? For yes, my friends, our remote, quiet, quaint retreat for two was a mobile home. Disguised, of course, by having a deck added and the roof raised, but a mobile home nonetheless. Never, never, in a million years had I ever contemplated spending my vacation in such an accommodation. Well I had been the one to say I didn’t need anything fancy!

Regardless of the rusticity of the surroundings, fond memories were made there. But this year I am trying again to have a mountain getaway. I think I know now how to scan rental pictures to determine if a “cabin” is merely a disguised mobile home. Also, my getaway this year is with my sister, so we don’t need luxury or romance. I did the luxury and romance thing earlier this summer in Vancouver, So wish me luck, and envision me on a mountaintop deck, relaxing in an authentic log cabin, not a prefab home!

On Feminism and Fashion

Readers, I come to you today dressed in what ladies used to call a ‘duster”, or a ‘house dress”.  Please don’t tell my Mother. She wouldn’t understand.  I know she’s deceased, but Mothers have their ways of finding things out. Here’s a little background:

When I was growing up,  housewives  frequently wore these  unattractive sleeveless cotton garments, which seemed to be a cross between a bathrobe and a dress. They often had garish patterns of watermelons or gingham.  While these were never to be worn outside the home, they were deemed  to be suitable  inside daytime attire by some ladies for  times when one should be dressed but due to the heat, one could not allow said clothes to touch one’s body.


On our street in the 1960s, virtually every mother was at home during the day. I was used to being greeted at the doors of my friend’s homes by ladies in house dresses, sporting helmet  hairdos, smelling of cigarette  smoke, Final Net hairspray and starch,  Yes, I think some of the house dresses were starched and ironed.

My Mother on the other hand, never sunk so low as to don a house dress. She didn’t ever say they were tacky; I just knew.  As I recall she wore what were called ‘shorts sets”, consisting of say, solid  color shorts with a striped or printed blouse, with a Peter Pan collar and loafers.  Unlike some of the other neighborhood ladies, she had what was deemed a “cute figure”, with slim, not jangly upper arms and evenly proportioned hips and bust. She watched her weight, sometimes announcing she was “reducing”, then eating  garden style cottage cheese at lunch for a week.

She reinforced her helmet hairdo by wrapping it in toilet paper at  bedtime, just like the other ladies alright, but  her daytime appearance was tidy and tailored. She never seemed to get dirty, but every afternoon without fail, I suppose after she had cooked dinner, she disappeared into her bathroom to “freshen up” for my Father. By the time he came home  she had on another crisply  ironed blouse, and had applied new lipstick, Revlon face powder and  black Maybelline  cake mascara.

My Mother and I were of the same mind regarding fashion right up until I was about six years old and began to have my own preferences. After that all bets were off.  I did not want to wear all those slips and things that were called “petti pants.” I wanted to wear my white shorts with a white shirt, which my Mother would not allow because she said it didn’t match.  How could they not match if they were both the same color? I did not want to wear a dress identical to that of my four year old sister. And I certainly did not want to wear a dress patterned after one that Julie Andrews wore in the Sound of Music. Anyone could see it had a very scratchy built in petticoat.

Cut to high school. Whenever we shopped together my Mother was sure to whisk a preppy little  top from a hanging rack and exclaim, “Isn’t this darling?” Uh, no.  I was going to wear men’s overalls from Sears and high topped tennis shoes,  and I did.  My Mother was mortified.

Eventually the pitched battles ended, but we remained at opposite ends of the fashion spectrum right up to the last years  of her life, when I was often the one to choose her clothes. I always knew what she would like: little white sandals, straw purses, pants sets that matched and had to be ironed, dainty feminine nightgowns.

If my Mother were to see me today in a duster, ( And actually it’s a little loose sleeveless dress  with a muted neutral print from the thrift store. But I USE it as a duster) she would only be baffled and disappointed at my choice. But we have led different lives. My Mother stayed in the house to protect her hairdo. I go outside in a pony tail, climb a six foot ladder and pick figs for an hour. My Mother did all the housework in our home, except on the days  the maid came, but seemed to stay clean. I can’t walk from the bedroom to the kitchen without spilling something down my shirt. If my Mother did perspire a little during the day there would be no trace of it by the time her man came home. I make no attempt to disguise whatever condition I may be in when my husband comes home, and he has never objected.

Despite our differences, as I look back I have respect for what my Mother was trying to do. In the rigid world inhabited by housewives in the 1960s, with the paucity of choices available, my Mother was trying to find her own way to have a sense of self. She would rise above the tyranny of the housedress and instead clothe herself in an array of snappy, sassy outfits which emphasized her youthful figure. She might iron and cook all day but she would always find the time for the feeling of luxury that came with the application of her makeup. She might be only a housewife, but she would remind herself daily with her careful attention to her person that she was capable of so much more.

I think she wanted those same things for me, and tried to achieve her goals for me through the lens of choices she could see as acceptable for girls and women at the time. But I saw so many more options, having grown up in a time when women were becoming  empowered, that I saw her ideas as constricting, unimaginative and hopelessly old fashioned.

Well Mother, you succeeded. I have managed to find my own sense of self, and follow it, though I may be the only one I know who sees what I see or wants to do what I want to do. I have raised a family but do not see my own dreams as subordinate to theirs. When I return home from a day in the professional world, my home is a haven where I can nurture my own interests and relationships, and suit only myself. And if it suits me to wear my improvised duster, because it is 102 degrees outside, then I wear it proudly.