Picturing Life

As a magpie, I tend to make decisions based on what attracts me, believing that I’ll have a nice shiny time doing something regardless of my skill level. This is a practical point of view for someone who has not had much art education. One advantage of ignorance is that there is always more to learn.

However, with ignorance also comes frustration. Why doesn’t something come out the way I had hoped? Why are the directions so hard to understand? Why do these art materials want to thwart me? When the frustration mounts, I must find a class to take.

This past Saturday I finally took my first in-person photography class. I was nervous about this because a) it lasted all day and I don’t like to be confined, and b) because I knew good and well I did not know much about how to use my camera. Would the class be over my head? And what about when the teacher wanted to get into additional equipment such as zoom lenses? Because YIKES!!!! I had somehow LOST, LOST my zoom lens! What kind of a photographer does that?????

Saturday came, and once again the universe saved me. It turns out that what is behind photography is not fancy equipment, but the photographer’s trust in his own ability to see, and the patience to take many, many pictures until he gets it right. The day flew by as we looked at photo prints and photography books, learning about what makes a picture worth looking at.

I did learn some technical things which I have not yet tried out. I decided to get out my last set of pictures, those that I took last month when I went to Winston-Salem North Carolina for my nephew’s high school graduation and Eagle Scout ceremony. With what I just learned, would I find these pictures worth looking at? Look along with me now, and tell me what you think.

The three questions to ask yourself are: what do I see, what does it mean, and how do I know?

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Does the picture make you curious about the lady on the left? Here’s the story. We befriended her while waiting for our carry out order, and found that she had tried to donate her vintage LIFE magazines to Ellen’s library, and been turned down. But with Ellen to the rescue her treasures will now be accepted with thanks.

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Why photograph these guys? Because all of Ellen’s St. Francis statues have been decapitated through various means. A little too much of a coincidence, yes? Is it a curse of some kind? Sure, they’ve been repaired, but when will disaster strike again?

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My nephew’s Eagle Scout ceremony and combined grad/Scout party were on Sunday afternoon. Because of my sister’s graduate school schedule she had had to leave all the party prep to her hard working husband. What you see here are some of our efforts, before the party to turn an essentially male party into something civilized.

Imagine our horror when we saw on Sunday morning that the husband and son had lined up cloth camping chairs in a straight row across the backyard, blocking the bucolic view and reminding one of a Protestant wedding reception. The cloth chairs were banished by us, tactfully, and tablecloths added. In addition, we bought pillow cases to recover chair cushions and purchased potted herbs for natural centerpieces. Just then a Scoutmaster showed up to help. He allowed as how we should protect the tables from bird droppings, so he covered all our pretty work with hefty bags, weighted down with logs. Sigh.

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Here was the ceremony in a tiny country church.

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And here is the Scout with the beautiful soul. I would hope that his optimism and willingness to serve others comes through in the picture.

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I do not claim this as an example of a good photo, but seeing my salt of the earth brother in law moved to tears on Father’s Day was priceless to me.

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Then came the party. Above, my sister again tried to inject a little civilization with the relish tray. Note the implement being used to spear a goodie from the plate.

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In addition to simply trying to record the events of the day for the family, I also wanted to show through photos the way Ellen’s lifestyle differs from mine. She is fortunate enough to live a more rural lifestyle, while I am more of a city girl. Meaning that chickens would not be guests at my lawn party.

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But these girls made a day of it.

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As an out of town guest, I was paraded through the guests, and then allowed to mingle or simply observe as I chose. Folks came and went. Hilariously , some guests brought their OWN cloth camping chairs and lined them up in a row. Much meat was consumed my man and boy. The afternoon was unhurried and the weather glorious. DSC_0472

I was pleased to finally meet Ellen’s next door neighbor, Bonita who is an artist and photographer. She showed me a few camera tricks and took this photo of us, on manual setting, of course. When she left she invited me over to see her art studio.

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Later in the day I moseyed over to Bonita’s, opened the back gate and knocked on the door. She gave me permission to take photos of some memory books she has made, both of which have already been exhibited. Currently she is working on a photography book of vintage American movie theaters. Was I jealous? Yes.DSC_0517

When I returned from Bonita’s, most of the guests were gone. As the shadows grew long in the yard, a late staying guest built  a campfire. Don’t think this was not a thrill for a city girl.

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Those of us who were still there pulled chairs around the fire and put our feet up on logs. Fireflies swept past us as we listened to the calls of the owls and shared whatever stories came to mind. After a time fatigue and mosquitoes drove us inside.

I went to sleep to the sounds of the whirring attic fan, tired but gratified to have been a part of the day. I would have two more days to spend at my sister’s, providing moral support as she completed her end of the semester projects, folding clothes from the clothesline as needed, and taking night walks down her dark country road, wine glass in hand.

As I look through these pictures I ask myself the three questions. What do I see? I see a family celebrating a once in a lifetime event, surrounded by loving friends. I see a life made with love, humility, hard work and persistence. I see treasures in unexpected places.

What does it mean? To me it all means that life goes by swiftly, and we must tune in to get every bit of pleasure and whimsy it has to offer. It means I am fortunate to have these people in my life. How do I know? I know because I know, but does all of that come through to those who view my pictures?

I’m hoping you’ll let me know what you think.

San Francisco Sleuth

As though I were invisible I slid through the revolving door of my airport hotel and kept going  on foot. No need for the doormen to know my plans. Besides, the Millbrae Bart Station wasn’t too far to walk, even for a dame of my age. I was dressed to fit in with the population: scarf, stylish shoes, sunglasses, and dark jeans. I had an old Bart card with eleven dollars on it, so I went through the turnstile with the practiced boredom of a native. So far so good.

I was wearing the ones on the right.

I was wearing the ones on the right.

I could have sworn I used to take the Bay Point train out of Millbrae, so there was a bit of awkwardness when a Bart employee had to tell me I just needed to get on this Dublin train, but I don’t think anyone saw that. In just a few snaps of my gum I was at the 16th and Mission station, ready for some San Francisco sleuthing.

Why San Francisco? Because I was THERE, wise guy, because I was THERE. And a sleuth gets to sleuthing wherever she she may be. Haven’t you read Harriet The Spy?

Rising from the bowels of the 16th and Mission terminal I mixed in with the human flotsam milling outside the station. After a few purposeful turns around the square I found  the Fillmore 22 Bus stop just where I expected it to be, at the edge of the road.  I had just cased my fellow riders in the bus shelter when I realized I needed to be on the other side of the street.

I was just in time to board that bus, but  my intuition, borne of long experience, told me to  check with  the bus driver  who sent me back to the original spot across the street. With moves like these I  was confident no one could have followed me. At last I boarded the correct bus, blending in easily with the populace. My destination: Portrero Hill, where I was to meet a couple of operatives.

We saw each other the minute I stepped into Chez Papa Bistrot, the agreed upon  rendezvous. I’m sorry to say they were there first, but they had chosen wisely. Their table had a clear view of the entrance and exit. Mark was dressed in his customary black, while David, with his dark rimmed glasses looked the part of a hapless  professor. Well played, gentleman, I nodded to myself. These men could be at home in any large metropolis, watching, noticing, making things happen, with no one any the wiser.

There was no mystery here; the food was delicious.

There was no mystery here; the food was delicious.

When David left for the men’s room, I pulled a package out of my enormous black handbag and slid it across the table to Mark.  The package was an “Otter Pup” coloring book from the Monterey Aquarium, but inside were original childhood photos of Mark’s Dad, who also happened to be my Uncle Eddie, my mother’s little brother,  deceased now for many years.

The three of us put in some effort perusing the photos. Wondering about the people and circumstances in old photos, looking for clues to past lives – I am always on the scent of these hunts. Here was Uncle Eddie in the backyard of our grandmother’s house, cleaning a fish, while a curious cat looked on.  In a second photo young Eddie was angelic, dressed in a white  first Communion suit with short pants, accompanied by an older boy. They are standing in a church narthex. We could identify neither the  older boy nor the church. Yet a third photo showed young Eddie aboard a white sleigh, right beside Santa Claus, in some unknown department store. The last picture showed Uncle Eddie as a handsome young man in a letter sweater, posing with a pipe. A caption underneath, we think written by one of our spinster great aunts, read “The Pipe.”

Here is one I found after I got home. I believe that to be my mother on the left.

Here is one I found after I got home. I believe that to be my mother on the left.

Knowing we would not be able to answer all the questions raised by the photos, as there is no one left alive who knows the answers, we left the Chez Papa for some more contemporary surveillance. We  settled ourselves down the street on the patio of Farley’s to drink some coffee. Noir, of course. Though ostensibly we were deep in conversation about Southern mores, we all had our eye on the joint across the street.

Don't tell me there's no story here.

Don’t tell me there’s no story here.

Thankfully by now we had some reinforcement, in the form of Mark and David’s elderly black and white terrier Windsor. Windsor is blind, but he looked as best  he could, while scouting the area for edible clues.

Windsor evades having his picture taken from the front; he's security conscious.

Windsor evades having his picture taken from the front; he’s security conscious.

Maybe we saw suspicious activity across the street. Maybe we didn’t. Maybe the five year old girl and her mother sitting on the patio were plants, sent to charm us into giving up our secrets. That kind of gray area is  all in a day’s sleuthing. But one thing was certain: we three had to split up, in case we were made.

To throw watchers off the track we posed for some touristy type pictures. Meaning we were noisy and conspicuous. IMG_2884Then as if by magic, three adults and a blind dog disappeared inside a black Smart car and disappeared up the hill. David, displaying the spy craft for which he is well known, dropped me off by the Mission Street bridge, right beside the Portrero Hill Community Garden.

Source: sanfranciscodays.com

Source: sanfranciscodays.com

We’re professionals, so I didn’t ask their destination, but as an out of towner I did have to consult with them on one thing. Where could I get my nails done? Mark suggested a place in the Castro called the Hand Job, but also some other options. I took in his suggestions noncommittally, not recording them on paper.  The less Mark  and David  knew of my comings and goings, the better.DSC_0480

After crossing the Mission Street Bridge I found the streets to be curiously quiet for some blocks. But I kept my eyes open, crossing streets frequently, but not stopping except when I needed to examine native plants, which are another focus of my ongoing detective work.  Eventually I came upon what I considered to be the likely nerve center of the neighborhood- a yarn store, Imaginknit.

This photo proves I am just an old lady minding her own business...or does it?

This photo proves I am just an old lady minding her own business…or does it?

Maybe because I was hot and tired, I decided to just play it straight in there and not try any funny business. Was I ever glad of that decision when out of nowhere bounced what to my unpracticed eye seemed to be a brown and white miniature greyhound. Knowing the place was well policed, I simply chose a pattern, yarn and needle, and after purchasing same I killed a little time winding my yarn. Everything seemed on the up  and up there. The shop was chock full of  helpful salesladies, delicious yarns and knitted samples. That dog runs a tight ship.

Revitalized by my yarn purchase I ventured back onto Mission Street. Street traffic picked up around Dolores Park. I put away my camera after the passing the park so as not to arouse suspicion.

Dolores Park, under construction.

Dolores Park, under construction.

In a few short minutes I was in the Castro, looking for a nail salon. For safety’s sake, and also because I couldn’t find it, I did not go to the Hand Job Nail Salon, instead choosing the one right beside the Castro theater. The manager was kind enough to take me as a walk in, or else he was afraid to say no to me.  For a time my detecting efforts were slowed, as I could  only guess at what the nail ladies were  saying amongst  themselves. They seemed  concerned about the blisters I had worn on my toes from the up and down terrain of my reconaissance that day. Me, I was used to it. It’s the cost of business in this crazy trade.

Finally I was released from the salon, with newly bronzed nails and toes. No one who had seen me before could now recognize me as the same woman who had crawled in with overgrown cuticles just one hour before. I sat at one of the round tables at the top of Castro to ponder my next move.DSC_0481

DSC_0483Having made my thorough way from Portrero Hill to the Castro, my mind turned to plans for the evening. Truth was, there was a man interested in my company for the evening, and I was considering his offer. No, it wouldn’t be  as peaceful as grabbing a couple of cold brewskis with a meat and three at Mae’s Diner, but the plus side was I wouldn’t have to pay for my grub. I was torn, but then I looked down and found the best clue of the day. If it’d been a snake it would have bit me.IMG_2898

Well then. I decided if that man wanted my company, he would come to me. So I texted him,” Found a place at Albion and Mission. Meet me there.” I ducked in the place and sat myself at the bar. I had time for a Pilsner and a little eavesdropping before my companion arrived, if he arrived. Sure enough, before I could say “You  must have thirteen tattoos and body piercings,” to the hostess, the man in question arrived.

Fine. He could pay for the beer I’d already had. We decided the place was as good as any to eat dinner, as there was already a long line to get in where we were. We had each had a long day, his, lecturing  in a cold conference room and mine out pounding the pavement in the  golden sun, and we were each glad to sit down and relax. My companion knew better than to even ask about my classified work.

As the evening wore on I felt myself lose a little of my hard boiled edge. In the end I let the man  guide me back through the crowded street with the pupusa places and bars, back to the Bart Station. Turned out we were each going back out to the airport area, so I let him accompany me. As the Bart train pulled away from the station, I saw our reflection in the window. We looked just like an old married couple on the way back to their hotel. A perfect cover.

 

 

 

Overheard At The Book Sale

Hey everybody! I’m on my way out to the pool, but before I go, I know you want to hear about the  Friends Of The Library Used Book Sale. Because although everyone does not get to go, everyone SHOULD have the chance to go. Yes, I wrote about this last year. It was a popular post, but I know better than to try to recreate it.

I know you would have loved being there. I arrived at 10:00 A.M., accidentally grouping myself with the crowd waiting to be the first ones in. We streamed in when the doors were unlocked: the young, the old, the limping, the pony tailed, the bearded. Many thought to bring their own bags, for a bagful of books was priced at five dollars. And we early birds each had a game plan.

Mine was to head straight to the record albums. I did find a few, not as many as I had hoped, but I had to move on. Now I was free to drink in the heady air of the shelves. Nonfiction first. I already had a rolling cart, because as the pro that I am, I was not going to be held back by a handbag, despite its potential value as a weapon to procure the only copy of  Backyard Pests or Desserts From Around The World.

I would willingly fight for this Anthony Powell, but I already own it.

I would willingly fight for this Anthony Powell, but I already own it.

I found paperbacks to read in the swimming pool:DSC_0325

And some nonfiction that suited my fancy.

I'm in a World War I phase right now. Also I'm in a World War II phase. Double nerd.

I’m in a World War I phase right now. Also I’m in a World War II phase. Double nerd.

Though we were  a civilized crowd today, emotions ran a broad gamut. Would there be any decent classics left? And how about the selection of banned books? Endorphins and cortisol filled the room like a whiff of Midnight In Paris.

Hey. Scoot over and make room for somebody else.

Hey. Scoot over and make room for somebody else.

Tension was definitely in the air, but if one wanted to be sure, one could do what I did. I eavesdropped. Here is my report of the emotional scene:

Disappointment in the  the paperback fiction: “I been lookin’. But I ain’t found the first romance in here.”

Dang!

Dang!

Effusiveness, obsessiveness and  poor boundaries in the mystery paperbacks: “I’m a neat freak! Everbody wants to know how I keep my house so clean!”

I don't see the lady in question. She had clearly come straight from having her hair done.

I don’t see the lady in question. She had clearly come straight from having her hair done.

More obsessiveness  later from the same woman, apparently worried abut the effects of unauthorized reading on the populace, in the hardbacks: “Yes, but when you get started on one it really ruins your housekeeping, doesn’t it?”

Attitude of entitlement in the children’s section, from a middle aged woman, imperiously, to a volunteer,”Where are the third grade books?”

Affability and non competitiveness, or perhaps a pickup line  in the hardback fiction, from a man to a woman, Him: “I’ve seen quite a few Danielle Steeles in here. Aren’t you looking for those?”

Her: “Yes, I’ve got my list of titles right here.” Displays handwritten list.IMG_2836

Defeat, from the woman with a limp, to her friend in the science fiction, “Just take yer time, Charlene.  I’ve gotta take a load off.”

I feel her pain.

I feel her pain.

Hope, from one woman to her husband, over in the corner ” Let’s pay for what we’ve got and come back at 3:00.”

Determination, in the History section, from a little girl to her Mama, “Please just let me finish this row!” Mother agrees reluctantly. Girl finishes searching the row and grabs a book.

Mother,”Young lady, you have already got a set of Presidential biographies at home. You can’t find what you want so you just want to buy something.”

History girl is the one in pink. Is it so wrong to just want to buy something?

History girl is the one in pink. Is it so wrong to just want to buy something?

Generosity, from a man to his wife in the record department, “Honey, go ahead and get it. It’s got Cher on it!”

And from me, ambition to become one of the helpers at the sale. and not entirely for altruistic reasons. Me, to my husband, as we exited the parking lot, “I know that record volunteer was holding some records back. I saw him.”DSC_0323

These Boots Are Made For Walkin’

The day I left for Europe my hairdresser told me I was wearing the wrong shoes. “What?” I asked, looking down at the serviceable Merrill hiking boots which had accompanied  me on many a sojourn. “Nope,” she repeated in a definite tone. “You can’t wear those shoes in Paris.”  You don’t know my hair dresser, so I’ll tell you that when she says a thing she means it. As I was going straight to the airport from the salon, I could not rectify the situation until I got to Amsterdam.

On Monday while my husband worked I tried to turn myself into someone who could blend in with the Parisians. For the fashion mavens among you, I went from wearing these items:

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Check out the boots: they have memory foam in them!

Check out the boots: they have memory foam in them!

And the nifty black rain coat!

And the nifty black rain coat!

After our usual good time (mostly mine, while my husband worked) we departed Amsterdam for Paris by train on Wednesday afternoon. Neither of us had ever been to Paris, but we were certain that one way or another we would enjoy ourselves. After a confusing time at Gare du Nord we boarded the metro to the apartment we had rented.

We got into our charming apartment without a hitch, but we were tired, so we spent the evening in, and dined on items from a market down the street.

The apartment building.

The apartment building.

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The stairs leading to our apartment.

The next day I was ready to walk while looking smart and sophisticated. We soon learned that we were lucky enough to have blundered in on yet ANOTHER  national holiday : May 1st in France! The streets were thronged with tourists walking in the rain, looking to see what would be open that day. We set out  from the eighth arrondissement to see for ourselves.

Jardin de Tuileries? Yes. DSC_0475

Cafe in the Jardin de  Tuileries ? Thankfully, yes.

The Louvre ? No.DSC_1231

Notre Dame?  Yes, but who would even try to wait in that line? We satisfied ourselves by taking photos of the outside.DSC_1240

Bathroom outside of Notre Dame?  Thankfully, yes, although it smelled like a zoo.

Deportation Memorial?  No.DSC_0503

When we left the Ile  de la  Cite we turned toward the Eiffel Tower, the only definite destination of the day. Having been unable to purchase advance tickets on the internet we had opted for a behind the scenes group tour of the Tower. As we walked we talked about what other things we might see on the way and what photos we would like to take if we arrived early. And we did expect to arrive early, for we still had one and a half hours until our tour.

Somewhere around that time I started to suspect I had worn the wrong socks, for the soles of my new boots seemed to have become so thin that  I could feel every slap of my feet on the pavement. On and on we walked. At one point I realized I had my airplane socks in my purse. I sat down on a ledge and put those babies right on. Ahhh, for a few minutes the cobblestones didn’t feel so close to my skin.DSC_1236

And we walked and we walked. With my sore feet and bulging purse I was going as fast as I could. Even the fact that I looked smart and sophisticated was of little comfort. The Eiffel Tower was just so far away!  We kept thinking it would be just around the corner, but when we turned, no. Not yet. Eventually my husband started to worry that we couldn’t even make it in time. I did not mention that I was past caring whether I ever saw the Eiffel Tower or any other monument ever again.

The wea

You trickster, you!

We rushed onto the Eiffel Tower grounds with two minutes to go until the tour. What you need to know abut the tour is that we missed two hours of lines, and that when we rode the elevator up, sheets of rain were buffeting the Tower so that it was useless to try to go on the observation deck. We exited as soon as we could.

So much for all those artsy Eiffel Tower pictures we were going to take!

So much for all those artsy Eiffel Tower pictures we were going to take!

We trudged the streets again   in the rain to a sidewalk cafe which  served overpriced beer. I didn’t care; I was going to get to sit down!!!!  And oh, when I did……has anyone out there ever found the act of sitting down to resemble a sexual experience? I don’t want to embarrass my children any more than I already have, but that 14 euro beer was worth every last penny!

Ahem. Afterwards.

Ahem. Afterwards.

Once we were seated with our beers I had an announcement to make to my husband: under no circumstances would I walk back to our apartment. I didn’t know where we were or how we got there, but he was going to find me the metro to get back. Or else. Since he had had the big idea to walk all day, and his google map seemed  to have underestimated the distances, he deemed it politic to agree  immediately.  I did concede  to walk one more half mile  in the rain to where we had found a brew pub open.

The oldest peeps at the brew pub. Bonjour!

The oldest peeps at the brew pub. Bonjour!

We were the oldest people there, but again, aside from being as wet as a drowned rat at least I looked smart and sophisticated for my age! In time we left, on the lookout for the metro station. We walked and walked and somehow missed the first station. But lo, in the darkness was another one! There was yet hope for the two foreign waifs!DSC_1269

Back at the apartment, I allowed myself to look at my fitbit to see how many steps I’d walked that day. Are you ready for it???? Drum roll, please???????

29,000.      That is correct, my friends.

29,000 steps  and 12.45 miles for the smart, sophisticated girl in the new boots! I was tired, aching, wet and cranky. But oof, what if I’d had the same experiences that day  while  wearing those old hiking shoes?? Qui serait  terrible, no?

Failing Farmer Flees To France

Want to know one of the most satisfying parts of being a 50 something? It’s simply the ability to do what I could not do as a child. I’m referring to creativity mess making here. How many tantalizing dreams did I entertain, lo those many years ago, only  to be thwarted by some short sighted adult saying “Girls can’t do that”, or, “I will not take you to the store”, or “PUT THAT DOWN RIGHT THIS MINUTE!!!!!”

Before long I was an adult myself and  in charge of OTHER people’s messes. I was all for turning a refrigerator box into a spaceship, or the living room into a cavern made of bedsheets. I tried never to say “Girls can’t do that,” but I did on many occasions say sternly, “PUT THAT DOWN RIGHT THIS MINUTE!”

Now, as an empty nester, I can come up with whatever big idea suits me, and proceed to make as big a mess as I want to. If my first mess making attempt does not pan out, I am free to try the same schemes over and over again! There is no one stop me, which is one of the reasons why I need to go to France right now.

Didn’t you ever want to get as close as possible to the very beginning of whatever you wanted to make or do? For instance, to not only paint your own picture, but to stretch the canvas as well? Or to not only make a quilt, but  to also dye the fabric yourself? That’s my approach to farming. I want to grow plants from the seed right to the table. Also I will admit  that colorful seed packets remind me of the penny candy we used to be able to buy at the TG&Y. And I want them all.

Each spring, having had the winter freeze my memories of  whatever farming peccadilloes I got myself into the year before, I  vow that this year I will be organized and efficient as never before. And because of my vow, now seems like a good time to go to France.

Here is where I so carefully planted one million seeds.

Here is where I so carefully planted one million seeds.

After planting

After planting


DSC_0323This year I kept meticulous records of which seeds were planted in which little container. I didn’t want to wind up not knowing what was where. On April 12 I transplanted almost every seedling into my garden. It was a calculated risk, because I knew I was going out of town before long. I thought the plants might do better in their natural habitats instead of crammed in those little plastic trays.

I moved the tender plants onto the patio in preparation for planting. I likened  their journey from seed packet, to seed tray and to the garden as a kind of Middle Passage. My young plants had not chosen to come to my yard. Rather, one day they were dislodged  from a seed packet and packed together, head to toe, in plastic seed trays. Today I would free them from their rude vessels and release them into a New World, where they could  freely reach toward the sun. I am nothing if not a benevolent farmer.

 

DSC_0328 Did you know that it is very difficult to get  a miniature seedling out of a plastic tray section which is only 1/16th of an inch wide? As my planting day progressed, despite my lofty plans,  I grew weary of trying to gently pry out the seedlings. More often than not I turned the whole tray upside down and shook, then tried to turn the seedlings right side up. There was no one to stop me.DSC_0336 I also ran out of room. I resorted to finding a spot that didn’t look already dug up, and stuffing the darn things down right there. So much for organization; I could find out what things were whenever they got big enough. At 3:00 I stopped, having only one more tray of peas and a couple more seed packets to take care of at some later date.

That Tuesday night we had a FREEZE warning. I spread tarps over as much of the garden as I could. It was out of my hands now. This past Saturday it was warm again. It seemed some  bedraggled seedlings may have pulled through. In a hopeful mood I gave the garden a good drink from the irrigation system. Two hours later my husband came in and said, “By the way, I’ve watered your garden for you.” DOH!!!DSC_0327 When it finally dried out a little, things didn’t look too promising. DSC_0325 Is that something growing up there??? Maybe???

All I can do at this point is to say that I had a big idea and made a big mess to go along with it. Mostly it has been glorious fun. I can’t bring myself to believe that NONE of my one million seeds will make it. Four o’clocks and peppers, for example, are fairly hardy. Since I can do no more now except wait, I’m going over to France for a few days. DSC_0329 If worst comes to worst, when I get back, I can try again with these babies. Isn’t it great being a 50 something? There’s always another big idea around the corner. See you when I get back!

Little Ole Ladies In Pasadena: Advice From Professionals

Magpie TV, devoted to bringing viewers the very best in practical information, is pleased to bring you travel tips from two very special little old ladies: The Magpie herself, and her stalwart companion Readmegirl. Hey, there’s precedent:

She's such a copycat! Source: starpulse.com

She’s such a copycat!
Source: starpulse.com

Martha Stewart appears on her own network. Tune in today to learn how to make sure YOUR trip feels as smooth as the zipper in your properly sized and packed suitcase  from start to finish!

Commercial Break: Planning a trip to Pasadena? We’d love to help, but we’ve only seen a few sights  there: Huntington Gardens, a famous bridge, and the Rose Bowl. What we can recommend is walking the neighborhoods and admiring people’s yards. If you happen to see inside their homes, so much the better. Here are a few neighborhood highlights:DSC_0382

DSC_0401DSC_0416Part One: The ladies, recently returned from visiting Krug The Thinker in Pasadena California, were not available to appear live, which is fine because this is not a live show anyway. Nor is it taped ahead of time. Our unique no audio/no video format made it oh so possible for our guest stars to compile some dos and don’ts from their most recent peregrination.We are also privileged to have some of their photos for our commercial breaks! ( We suggest some music now, but all we can think of is “Leaving’ On a Jet Plane.” Lame.)

1) Trip Planning: Arranging conveyance by airplane is more complicated than ever, warns  the Magpie.The fares, the routes, the service – all have become so unpredictable and frankly, unsuitable for civilized beings. What one wants and what is available often do not mesh conveniently. However, if possible, when arranging a trip, depart the morning AFTER the clock springs forward, depriving you of the one hour during which you sleep most deeply. You’ll be in such a daze you won’t even notice the delays or the bad breath of  the man behind you in the TSA line.

2) Airport Transportation: Never make assumptions about ground transportation. The wise traveler learns ahead of time what is available and makes arrangements accordingly. The alternative is to stand at the exit with one’s mouth open, inviting native insects in for a visit. IF one arranges a pickup by limousine service as the little ole ladies did, it is helpful upon landing  to respond immediately to the driver’s text announcing his arrival at the airport. But don’t call the one who most recently texted you. Ignore THAT text and call the one who picked you up last December!! That will really surprise him on his day off, and make for a zany good time leaving the airport!

Little Ole Ladies in Limo

Little Ole Ladies in Limo

3) Footwear:  Magpie makes it a point to have comfortable walking shoes. Last year the Magpie had occasion to own two identical pair of walking shoes, the first pair having rudely hidden themselves in the closet until after the second pair was purchased. Magpie’s response was to immediately put one pair inside her suitcase so she would always have a pair of walking shoes. Upon arrival at the Saga Court Motor Hotel, congratulating herself on her forethought, Magpie whipped both of those left footed babies right out of the suitcase.

Oops!

Oops!

4) Packing Light: Be creative! The Magpie never checks bags, so she tries to use multi purpose garments. For example, a bathing suit cover up can double as a nightgown. If, as happened to Magpie, you underestimate how cool it gets at night, especially with a roommate who wants the air conditioner running,  and you have to add a couple of shirts on top and a pair of jeans on the bottom so you won’t freeze, that bathing suit cover up will tuck right down in your jeans so that you barely have any bulges when you appear in the lobby in  your two left footed shoes and an ice bucket in which you plan to stack three or four cups of coffee to take  back to your room. Decorum is everything, Readmegirl reminds us.

This is a very nice look for the hotel lobby.

This is a very nice look for the hotel lobby.

5) Be Courteous! Some travel companions have odd proclivities, such as announcing that they cannot sleep while being serenaded with the combination of honking, sawing and gurgling that makes up snoring. If  you are awakened by a nudge in the middle of the night, and  are surprised to find a frowning yet familiar face hovering above you, demanding that you cease and desist, simply say “Thank you,” and go back to sleep. That’s how the Magpie handled it , and she’s convinced that the gentle approach to the nudger made all the difference.

Commercial Break: ( We recommend narration in a calm dignified tone.But you do what you want.)  Today we feature the Saga Court Motor Hotel  of Pasadena.

View from the second floor. Source: Saga Motor Hotel

View from the second floor. Source: Saga Motor Hotel

This 1960s gem, located on Route 66, offers palm trees, a heated pool, and 1980s bedspreads. (Now  a little suspenseful music.) In addition, the  Saga’s peach colored stucco walls, retro atmosphere including jalousied windows, will make you sure that a noir mystery is occurring on the premises. We can’t be sure one did NOT take place, as we had a mysterious call from someone asking for “Marcia.”Who calls anymore on your room phone?? Keep the Saga in mind when you visit Pasadena. It’s reasonably priced, has an air of mystery about it, AND has a few books to read in each room.IMG_2664

And now we return to our show: We’re learning so much about how the smart set travels. But there’s more!

6) Don’t Avoid Responsibility: When you have been invited into town to see someone, don’t make THEM do all the heavy lifting. Specifically, Readmegirl tells us, when your hostess announces that her one of her sweetest friends who is also an incredibly talented chef is in town and wants to cook for all of you, insist on supervising! You may look as though you are only snapping peas, lounging on the couch, and drinking a purple drink called an Aviation, but in fact you are making sure those kids don’t burn the house down. In the name of safety, search your heart for the humility needed to complete this noble task. You won’t be sorry!

Stealth  Supervision

Stealth Supervision

Can you trust a man who makes beautiful crusts with his bare hands?

Can you trust a man who makes beautiful crusts with his bare hands?

And makes you a beautiful purple drink in the middle of the afternoon????

And makes you a beautiful purple drink in the middle of the afternoon????

Supervision has its own rewards.

Supervision has its own rewards.

7) Clarify, clarify, clarify: Readmegirl reminds us of the importance of communication. Here’s the kind of ubiquitous situation to which she refers: When you are  enjoying a glass of wine at an Italian restaurant where the decor is reminiscent of the Ratpack days  and your sister returns from the restroom and announces, “We’re all going to have to go on a field trip to the bar after dinner. It’s got gold wallpaper with black stripes with  machine guns on the walls”, DO NOT JUST ASSUME THAT THE SHOTGUNS ARE REAL!!!!!! You will be so, so disappointed!

When they get so disappointed you have to let them sit in the special chairs for a few minutes.

When they get so disappointed you have to let them sit in the special chairs for a few minutes. I won’t say who thought the machine guns were real, only that between these two there are 78 years of formal education.

8 ) Don’t be territorial: You don’t have to be the center of attention at all times. Allow your travel companions to get ahead of you on walks and have their own conversations. After all it’s not THEIR fault you can’t keep up because you are having to wear someone else’s too large shoes that squeak so loudly that you have no chance to practice your favorite pastime of eavesdropping. Try not to take it personally when they get ahead of you while you lag behind to take pictures because after all, life is art, and that while ahead of you THEY witness a woman  watering her flowers clad only in a shirt and some shiny underpants. It won’t be easy, but in time you will get over it.

You can't be talking every moment when there is such beauty to capture...

You can’t be talking every moment when there is such beauty to capture…

Ahey're probably NOT talking about you.

And they’re probably NOT talking about you anyway. Right??

9) Use your Southern hospitality! Expect to be included in your hosts’ lives and activities. When invited to drink celebratory beers with a group of Cal Tech astrophysicists and assorted other left brain specimens, accept happily and chances are they’ll never dream you know nothing about science. Instead, choose a topic of universal interest, such as your own wedding 35 years ago, and how your seventeen year old sister had to drive home the car that your male guests had adorned with inappropriate sayings. That’s something everyone can relate to!

Nonmembers cannot make purchases at the Athaneum Club. So all we could do was amuse the geniuses with our wedding stories. It seemed an even trade.

Nonmembers cannot make purchases at the Athaneum Club. So all we could do was amuse the geniuses with our wedding stories. It seemed an even trade.

10) Getting Home: All good things must come to an end. If you are reluctant to end your voyage, chances are you will be packing, inexpertly, at the last minute. Some of the inexpertness could be due to the lateness of the hour, to the wine you are drinking to assuage your sadness, or to the knowledge  that the new suitcase you just  bought at the thrift store because luggage was 40 percent off does not unzip all the way around. Though Readmegirl is a very efficient little cuss, she could not make headway with her suitcase situation and was forced to avail herself of her sister’s help. Magpie’s expertise at least got all items packed, but put Readmegirl over the line for  carryons. Should this happen to you, advises Readmegirl, decide what you will give up if challenged at the airport. Should you decide to let go of the  red duffel bag you brought, as was Readmegirl’s choice, only leave your ignition key in the bag if you think it would be funny to call your husband and ask him to come pick you up at the airport one hour away from home at midnight. That joke never fails to get a response!

Readmegirl struggles with her unzippable bag. Note the expendable duffel on the floor. Who knew it contained one tiny loose ignition key?

Readmegirl struggles with her unzippable bag. Note the expendable duffel on the floor. Who knew it contained one tiny loose ignition key?

Well everyone, that’s all the time we have for today. We hope we’ve left you with some useful tips from this peripatetic duo. Viewers, as always, if you have tips to share, or simply want to validate the ladies’ experiences, we welcome your comments!DSC_0372 DSC_0407

Dear Pen Pal

It’s March in Memphis, as evidenced by temperatures in the high 60s yesterday followed by predictions of a quarter inch of ice tonight. I’ve learned not to get too excited over predictions of winter weather here, especially this year when seemingly all our snow predictions have dwindled into just more swirling brown leaves at the curb. Luckily I have the March 2014 30 Days of Lists to keep me company. I completed this challenge once before in 2013 and found, to my surprise, that I was able to complete the entire month. My success inspired me so  that I decided that I could probably also complete NaNoWriMo in 30 days, and I did.

So when I saw the 30 Days of Lists announced  again of course I accepted, for who knows where it may lead me? I’ve done it for the two days of March, and so far it has led me  right to… the fourth grade! Today’s list prompt was to describe yourself to a pen pal. I like to follow these prompts as soon as I read them, writing the first thing that comes to mind. Here is what came to mind:

Does anyone else my age remember entering contests as a child? As I recall there were often contests involving prizes or giveaways. One contest was the Happy Hal Secret Toy Contest, in which you sent in your name and address, and Happy Hal, on his show, would draw the name of some lucky boy or girl to win the  toy of the week. And once a year he had the BIG giveaway, in which a child got to go in his toy warehouse for some predetermined amount of time and CHOOSE WHATEVER HE WANTED!!!!!!!

 The Happy Hal Show Source: ClemensArt.com

The Happy Hal Show Source: ClemensArt.com

I am sure I begged my mother to enter me, her most suitable child, in the contest, but whether she did  or not I do not know. The truth is that by  the time I was in elementary school I was starting to notice a disturbing pattern in my mother’s behavior. More and more it seemed, she was  willfully not following my directions. Clearly, with nothing more to do than all the cooking , cleaning, shopping, sewing, laundry, ironing, and child care in our home, she could easily have complied with my wishes.   I felt it necessary to remind her repeatedly of what I expected her to do, a strategy which did not always yield positive results, but that I was willing to proceed with if it meant I would eventually win the Secret Toy Contest.

On one occasion, my hounding must have paid off, for  when I was in the second grade she sent in my letter and picture to the Memphis Commercial Appeal to the Pen Pal of The Week Column. Oh, I was  the smug one at school for a time, for one of these days, all my classmates and teachers would open the paper and there I’d be, a celebrity from one end of the Mid South to the other. But when week after week passed without my picture in the paper,  I concluded the Commercial Appeal choosers were not going to select  me for Pen Pal of the Week.

The second grade passed, and the the third. I began to lobby my Mother for more sophisticated favors, such as having her take  me to see The Beatles. Sharon, a girl on my street whose father played the drums, got to see them, but I did not. I would have had a better chance at winning the Secret Toy Contest, now that I think about it.

Before I knew it I was in the fourth grade, writing flowery poetry modeled after ideas I’d read about in Little Women.   I argued my case with my teacher that I be given the lead part in a play about  a Christmas tree. After school most days I rode my bicycle  over to a vacant wooded strip of land in our neighborhood where my friends and I swung on hanging vines. I was confident that I could achieve the fame I wanted on my own, without depending upon my mother to sign me up for contests.

I was sophisticated, all right.

I was sophisticated, all right.

And then. THEN. Out of nowhere, with no warning, the Commercial Appeal published my second grade letter and picture in The Pen Pal of the Week. I had to go to school to be greeted by jeering fourth and fifth graders calling, “Hey, Pen Pal of the Week!” ” Tell us about your pets and pretty clothes!!!” What an intolerable humiliation! The paper might as well have published a picture of me as a baby, naked in a bathtub!

The damning evidence!

The damning evidence!

Not only was the picture out of date, although they had adjusted my age which just made me look even more babyish, but so was the two year old letter which stated among other things that my favorite subject was Math! What had I been thinking in the second grade? By now I had established myself as such a mediocre math student that Mary Ellen Somebody had to quiz me on my multiplication tables before school. Whoever I had been in the second grade, I was someone else now.

This was all my Mother’s fault for letting the paper do this. But my mother did not have to wait for the school bus after school, nor did she have to ride it. No, she was at home playing innocent! Once again the butt of jokes by these insufferable boys, including my own sixth grade brother, I took matters into my own hands one at a time, whacking them repeatedly with my purse.

Reenactment. Do not attempt this at home!

Reenactment. Do not attempt this at home!

Somehow I made it home on the bus, and home from the bus stop. Getting home from the bus stop could be tricky, in that it was a long run home if one were being pursued by one’s sixth grade brother. But I did get home, and maybe not that day, but in a few days there were letters – I don’t remember how many in all  – from second graders!

I wish I had kept or could even remember the letters. Away from nasty, sweaty, fourth grade boys with crew cuts with their derisive comments, in the partial privacy of the room I shared with my sister, I was FAMOUS. I had the letters to prove it. But I was conflicted. I loved receiving the letters, but public opinion was against me now. What did I want with letters from second graders who loved arithmetic? I had enough to deal with having to share a room with a first grader! I know I did answer one letter from a girl in Rosedale Mississippi, because I remember writing, “Rosedale Mississippi reminds me of Rosedale peaches in cling syrup.”  ( A brand we ate regularly)  I think I thought that if I sounded sarcastic and rude the younger child would realize I was out of her league  and buzz off. I wonder if my Mother mailed that letter?

The Magpie’s Jewel Box

Welcome again to Magpie TV, the unique low tech television show which challenges YOU to use your imagination! In Episodes One and Two, and also Three we detailed the Magpie’s journey to find and renovate a little treehouse of her own. Today’s show is the Magpie TV version of the typical last day of HGTV renovation shows, in which we see a fast forward ( in our case, imaginary) video of a renovated space being furnished.

For those who are new to  the show: You’ve followed the HGTV shows which depict  a hapless individual or couple completely renovating their home or yard over the weekend. It’s easy, right?  Two skinny celebrity do- it- your- selfers come over and show you how to operate heavy machinery on a Friday afternoon. You get four or five friends, and together you rip out those passé  walls and smelly hi-lo carpet, laughing and laughing at the sheer hilarity of tearing up your house.  That’s Friday night. On Saturday you rebuild the walls, install the new kitchen cabinets, and paint. Some of you work inside while others outside make new furniture and decor by gluing sequins to  pieces of board found by the roadside.  Or maybe they reupholster or even spray paint the fabric from a thrift store chair which will eventually be placed in front of the fire place. And finally, on Sunday, all the  magically chosen new furnishings are moved in, curtains and pictures are hung, candles are lit, and everyone lives happily ever after.

But of course it’s not that easy.  Magpie found out it takes a LOT LONGER than a weekend!  In today’s episode we hear it straight from the Magpie herself. ( The show has a fairly low budget.)

Part One:  As far as furnishing the condo went, for many months I had only vague ideas of a midcentury modern space, which included an attractive credenza housing a hi fi, a snazzy bar holding all the cocktail accoutrements I did not yet own, and a teak hutch from which I could serve my guests. As far as upholstered goods went, I came to the conclusion that although I would have loved to furnish the place with all vintage furnishings, I didn’t really want to sit on fifty year old upholstered items. I would therefore look for vintage case goods but buy a new couch and chairs.

It was too soon to buy furniture, but I felt as though I MUST start finding things for the condo. The solution? Art from silent auctions. I readily confess that silent auctions bring out the most desperate acquisitive parts of me. I never leave an auction without something. That is because I bid on 500 things. I will leave my silent auction behaviors for another post but suffice it to say I have left auctions with items  ranging from the doors of railroad cars to hand knit scarves. Since I could not yet hang my selections, for many sad months they languished in a closet. One silent auction find was a painting so shiny I had to have it. Look at the upper left of there photo below:

I bought a painting that reminded me of this Sputnik from outside Joe's Liquors in midtown Memphis. As HGTV would say, it was my "Inspiration" Source:joeswines.blogspot.com

I bought a painting that reminded me of this Sputnik from outside Joe’s Liquors in midtown Memphis. As HGTV would say, it was my “Inspiration”
Source:joeswines.blogspot.com

Also we had this former swag lamp turned into a dining room chandelier.IMG_1908And suddenly it was time to find things.  My ideal method of furnishing the condo would have been to stop in at consignment places and estate sales, waiting until I found just the right thing. But that method wouldn’t work for two reasons. Number One: I didn’t feel I had the luxury to shop slowly over time. I had a mighty powerful hankering to see the place finished. Second: Folks, I don’t like to shop, in part because I don’t like to drive the car around. I did make a stab at shopping locally for furniture when my sister was here, when  we hit a consignment place and found these two tables.

Table Number One. And on the right a partial view of the “Sputnik” painting.

IMG_2060But after that I went straight to…Ebay! I have to laugh because prior to this I had never bought one single thing from Ebay. Instead of starting small, with a dish towel or kitchen implements perhaps, I started with a dining room table!  So you can Imagine my surprise when, as a complete newbie,  my bid was accepted. And now  imagine my further surprise when I realized my bid was only for the TABLE, not the chairs! Oops!

But the table… I loved it! Look what it does!

Its smaller diameter.

Its smaller diameter.

But it expands! This baby is from the50s, but it was in its original box. Never used!

But it expands! This baby is from the50s, but it was in its original box. Never used!

So after purchasing a table I got busy looking for chairs. I could have spent more money, but after the table incident…. I thought these would work, and they did.

These do have signs of wear. Well, so do I.

These do have signs of wear. Well, so do I.

And while I was at it, I found some nesting tables that could be used in lieu of a coffee table.

These hail from Denmark.

These hail from Denmark.

I now had a bed, a table, chairs and two side tables and nesting tables.  The next step was to find the living room furniture. What did I actually have room for in this Magpie’s nest?  Not very much,  as it turned out. After lots of measuring I  got together with Jane the Designer and chose a couch, a chair and an ottoman. At the same time I chose fabric for a curtains and sheers at the sliding glass patio doors. I particularly wanted that big glass door to be covered by the time winter winds came through.

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Hum a peppy “Susie Homemaker” type tune to yourself. Read out loud to yourself: Looking for ways to go greener during the next holiday season? Mindful Magpie has a free tip for you.

I'll et they've never seen a present like this!

I’ll bet they’ve never seen a present like this!

Out of bows and ribbons? Or too lazy to walk all the way up the stairs and find them? Do what the Magpie does and decorate your packages with STUFF YOU ALREADY HAVE!!! Look how nice that coaster looks with the wrapping paper.  It almost keeps you from noticing the bunchy wrapping job. You’d be surprised what items can be used: Mardi Gras beads, small statues, even a nice ripe bell pepper would be festive. Next year get out of the wrapping rut and see what you can come up with.

Part Two: We placed our furniture and drapery orders and waited eagerly for delivery. Weeks and weeks went by. Since I could not speed up the delivery of these items I returned to Ebay for more instant gratification  mid-century modern pieces. We had only two possible spots in the living room for a bar. The space limitation meant we could only use a very shallow piece. Eventually I found this:

And there's another glimpse of the Sputnik painting as well.

And there’s another glimpse of the Sputnik painting as well.

The wire to the little lamp inside had been cut, but it was configured to use in England anyway. Replacing the light is on our to- do list. Now we were getting closer to being able to have those Manhattans! After purchasing the bar my budget was a bit maxed out. Until the furniture came in I really couldn’t make any more decor choices anyway.

Finally, some time in the fall, the drapes and sheers came in. My husband thought we did not need to pay someone to hang these, that he and my taller son could handle it themselves. He and the son did eventually get them hung, but it was a lot of trouble, so much so that when the curtains proved to be a little longer than I expected I chose to leave them as they were rather than take them down for hemming. Ready to see the drapes?

Drapes, a definite improvement over the vertical slat blinds.

Drapes, a definite improvement over the vertical slat blinds.

Drapes and sheers.

Drapes and sheers.

Light coming in through the sheers. Have you ever seen such cuteness?

Light coming in through the sheers. Have you ever seen such cuteness?

I was so pleased with the  drapes. But when would the furniture come in so I could sit and read in that room? Find out when we come back!

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Cue some music with building tension. Newscaster’s voice: We interrupt this commercial for a Handknit Sock Alert. The mate to this sock has been reported missing at the home of local citizen Mindful Magpie.

Will this sock become a permanent singleton?

Will this sock become a permanent singleton?

Some say it is unfair for her to use her own show to broadcast information which may only pertain to her. But Ms. Magpie is convinced of the existence of a global sock abduction conspiracy. No doubt some of you are as well. We at Magpie TV want to give this issue all the attention it needs. If you have seen this sock, please return it. No questions asked. More updates as the story…unravels?

Part Three: Fall 2013. Thanksgiving approached and the furniture had still not arrived. Since we had ordered it in the summer, we were beginning to doubt we were ever going to get it. The manufacturer kept assuring Jane the Designer it would be delivered but then… it wouldn’t be.  How did I manage my impatience, you ask? It wasn’t easy! Sometimes, audience, it seemed the only thing that kept me going was to  remind myself that ONE DAY I  was going to be able to write a blog post showing this whole process. ONE DAY!!!! became my mantra!!!

We decided that if we did not have a true delivery date by Thanksgiving we would simply scrap our plans, go to Macy’s with our tails between our legs, and make the best selection from what they had on the sales floor. Luckily at just the last minute, the company did load our things on the truck and deliver. I had forgotten what I had ordered, it had been so long, but when I saw it I was so grateful I had not had to scrap the all my carefully made plans.   ( Furniture will be shown momentarily.)

Now at long last we could do the part that looked so easy and fast on television: hang the pictures, ( as though that could ever be fast with a male involved) roll out the rug, turn on the lamps and set out the accessories!!!!!!! Drum roll, please!!!!! Close your eyes, and OPEN!!!

Come in the front door!

Come in the front door!

The living room

The living room

The comfy chair and ottoman.

The comfy chair and ottoman.The picture on the wall is a by young local artist, Joey Evangelisti , who also happens to be autistic.

A few accessories...

A few accessories…

DSC_0919

The photo on the wall is from a collection of vintage downtown Memphis scenes.

So here we are. We’re not completely finished with the condo, but what is undeniable is that what started as a treehouse has turned into a Magpie’s Jewel Box. Shininess Abounds!  True, I haven’t solved the hi fi problem, but I’m working on it. Some walls still need pictures. We haven’t done much to spruce up the balcony. But each time I unlock that front door and walk in, I feel as though the condo is welcoming me to sit down, prop up my feet and relax. After eighteen months of condo work, I’m more than ready to do that! Manhattan, anyone?

The first Manhattans!

The first Manhattans!

Closing Credits: A few before and after shots. Sing the song of your choice.

Magpie with her first condo visitors: Jane the Designer and her Ubiquitous Mother, AKA Mimi.

Magpie with her first condo visitors: Jane the Designer and her Ubiquitous Mother, AKA Mimi.

Memphis Sesquicentennial glasses, an early find for the bar.

Memphis Sesquicentennial glasses, an early find for the bar.

In the kitchen.

In the kitchen.

A Word From the Magpie TV Staff: Thanks to all who have faithfully tuned in to a show with no staff, no budget, no audio and no video. We’ve tried to give  a realistic but hopefully not too tedious picture of the making of the Magpie’s Jewel Box. If you have questions or  comments we want to hear them, please!  After all, this is our  first television series; we depend upon your feedback!

Magpie TV Episode Two: A Bathroom Is Born

Welcome back to Magpie TV!  We’re NOT going to recap the last show because that is an insult to your intelligence. So here is:

Episode Two: A Bathroom Is Born!

Part One: The Magpie was so thrilled to have the condo that she initially planned few creature comforts. When she pictured herself in the condo in fact she didn’t think that much about furnishings. Instead she pictured the condo as an empty vessel, the Magpie’s willing muse, waiting  to be adorned with whatever Magpie chose. In particular the Magpie planned to fill the echoing rooms with pulsing rock, lonely ballads,sophisticated jazz, or whatever moved her heart that day as, oblivious to the world around her, she covered the bare walls with expressive colorful murals. She would heed the long suppressed urge to build layer after layer of color, to make the marks her heart demanded. But first, she needed a bathroom.

A creativity killer.

A creativity killer.

For as it has been written, what artist can use a yellow commode with a splintered wooden toilet seat? No doubt some have had to use such facilities but the sheer ugliness of the bathroom, with its tired linoleum, speckled formica countertop and depressing 80s vanity light caused a visceral reaction of disgust in the Magpie. When her husband suggested they gut the whole thing, she was willing to wait a month or so to have something less offensive installed. Since neither of them had ever gutted a bathroom, they needed the services of Bubba the Contractor.

Commercial Break

Cut! Cut! This is a family friendly show! Heads will roll, I guarantee it!

Cut! Cut! This is a family friendly show! Heads will roll, I guarantee it!

Part Two: Magpie knew of Bubba from a friend who had used his services. Bubba, dressed in his freshly ironed work pants, met with the couple and agreed to take on the job. Magpie and her husband never made a better decision than hiring Bubba, whose honesty and work ethic were an even match to those of Mr. Magpie, who found himself able to let go of the idea that he should paint all the ceilings himself. Bubba soon got to work tearing out the iron tub and tile surround.

Bubba later had to go to acupuncture on his shoulder after his efforts in gutting the bathroom.

Bubba later had to go to acupuncture on his shoulder after his efforts in gutting the bathroom.

Because of the dust and mayhem in the apartment, condo life became more of a  spectator sport for the couple. Each week they would stop by the condo to admire the work they had not had to perform themselves.

Bye bye bathtub!

Bye bye bathtub!

Magpie began the process of picking out replacement materials for the bathroom. Bubba recommended that Magpie go  on her day off to look for granite, cabinets and tile in places like Hernando or Southaven MS, and no, Magpie, a city girl,  did not know where those places were.  Unlike HGTV where a designer takes a client to a warehouse and shows them two examples of what won’t work and one example of what will, which the homeowner happens to love, Magpie was on her own. At the cabinetry place they didn’t know what midcentury modern meant. They just had these certain cabinets and Magpie was to choose one. She did the best she could.

The cabinet place had some run of the milll granite that could be chosen for the bathroom vanity but Magpie did not like any of them. So they sent her to another large warehouse in MS. This warehouse was full of shiny granite, tile, and plumbing fixtures. Magpie decided to purchase as much there as she could just to simplify things. That is how she chose a granite which was just as exquisitely beautiful as it was expensive. When she thought back she realized the salesperson had never mentioned the price to her. Should she  choose another, less expensive granite, saving money but delaying the project? The cabinets could not be made until the granite was chosen. The tile would not be laid until the cabinets were installed, and so on. Stay tuned for her decision!

Commercial Break

I would suggest you  hum something Sinatra like here. This photo is of Cafe Fontana, a wonderful restaurant in my neighborhood. I'm proud to have them on my show.

I would suggest you hum something Sinatra like here. This photo is of Cafe Fontana, a wonderful restaurant in my neighborhood. I’m proud to have them on my show.

Part Three:  ( Upbeat music) They kept the original granite!!!! Bubba the Contractor, knowing the couple had not meant to spend that much on granite, had the cabinet company agree to keep the rest of the slab to be used for their small kitchen countertop. Finally  after, unbelievably, a dispute between the couple over what kind of TOILET to choose, all materials were chosen and ordered.

Magpie and her husband realized that they had learned a lot doing this project. Having bought the condo in August,  they had expected to be able to use it by the fall. Now as the months rolled by they laughed at their folly.  And then there was the whole communication thing. She and her husband held many meaningful conversations along the lines of:

Magpie: Bubba called  today. He said something about.. a  hot water heater squirmaloid.  I think he had to turn it around. Or backwards.

Husband:  ( Excitedly)  What do you mean! That thing runs on a 150 powered molly bolt engine! Did you remind him of the Euripidean pass that has to be drilled from under the cortical edge?”  (That’s how science stuff sounded  to Magpie.)

Magpie: (Indignantly, feeling unappreciated because she always had to deal with  tedious condo stuff on her days off) NO! I did NOT ask him. I can only tell you what he told me, that some part of some thing had to be done. Why don’t you call him yourself if you want to know!

So sometimes the husband did go straight to Bubba to discuss mechanical matters which simply did not appeal to Magpie. Magpie found ways to stay busy, for with Bubba’s superior capabilities she was rarely needed in her accustomed  supervisory role.

She went to Amsterdam.

She went to Amsterdam.

And while in town she attended a book signing

A very interesting book by the way!

A very interesting book by the way!

She attended estate sales and looked at other people’s collections.

Someone had to think about the eventual decor of the condo!

Someone had to think about the eventual decor of the condo!

Sometimes the hardest part of waiting for the condo to be ready was having to say to people who asked,”No, We’re not using the condo. They’re still working on the bathroom.”  Probably some wondered if the condo existed at all!

Commercial

This is a public service announcement for the Read In Public Campaign. Meaning, there should be one.

This is a public service announcement for the Read In Public Campaign. Meaning, there should be one.

Part Four   In December, the bathroom, minus paint and towel racks, was ready to use. It had not occurred as smoothly as such a thing appeared to on HGTV, but Magpie and her husband had lots of opportunities to practice patience and breathing, neither of which are shown much on other home remodeling shows!IMG_0320 IMG_1735 IMG_0333

Definitely worth waiting for!

Definitely worth waiting for!

Magpie was grateful for a bathroom even though she could not yet bear to walk barefoot in the rest of the space. Surely the bathroom was the hardest part though, and with Bubba’s help the rest of the work would fly. “I’m also grateful to my friend Jane the designer who helped me decide on tile and fixtures. I haven’t exactly told her yet but she’s going to help me with every other decision I have to make going forward. She doesn’t watch TV, so she won’t know I’ve said this.” Magpie, we sure hope you’re right about that!!! Be sure to stay tuned for the next episode when work moves beyond the bathroom! Of course we welcome your comments and suggestions!

Before

Before! Scroll back up for the after!

Magpie TV, Episode One: Wouldn’t It Be Nice If….

Today, in response to popular demand, we will play  an episode  from the archives of Magpie TV, a show I have actually just invented. This low tech  show allows us to  pretend we’re on HGTV doing cool home things, but without the annoying summaries they give before and after each commercial.  Why the rerun?   It seems  that quite a few readers have forgotten about my own little pied-à-terre nestled in the broad bosom of midtown Memphis. That’s not a criticism; I haven’t wanted to mention the condo much during renovation. I preferred to wait until I could show the whole process.

We’re in the final stages of completion now, so I don’t have to wait any longer. But first I wanted to refresh people’s memories. Inventing Magpie TV seemed the best way to remind folks of where we’ve been before I reveal where we are now. So, without further ado, Episode One of Magpie TV, The Shiny Show that Exists Only In My Mind! We’re glad to have you watching! I mean reading!

If you're trying to experiment with whether or not an old ice bucket will float, you definitely need a new project.

If you’re trying to experiment with whether or not an old ice bucket will float, you definitely need a new project.

Part One: Magpie used to talk to her husband quite a bit about a weekend getaway spot. She used to ponder this idea particularly when she realized that what they had spent on college tuition for their little brood could have been used to purchase a very nifty, if not palatial, second home. She saw herself in a wispy dress, on a  terrace on  the French Riviera, sipping drinks with long legged men in linen suits, drowsy from the sun and their seductive accents….Oh. but then  she realized she was already married and the Riviera money, for good or bad, was already spent.

This woman belongs  on the Riviera!

This woman belongs on the Riviera!

Well then, she thought. What about a weekend getaway  spot in the United Sates? The Magpie and her husband loved the mountains of North Carolina but decided the distance would be prohibitive, as they had recently paid two sets of wedding expenses instead of buying their own airplane in which they could have zipped anywhere at a moment’s notice.DSC_0346

The Magpie wasn’t daunted, however. She realized she did not need a large luxurious space in which to relax. What she needed was the equivalent of a tree house or clubhouse from her childhood, only with indoor plumbing. In fact, the thought of finding her own inexpensive getaway energized her. She imagined a tiny antique Airstream trailer in a silent wood, or miniature A frame at the top of a hill. Her husband listened but didn’t say too much. Most likely he thought it impossible to find what she pictured, but did not want to be the one to tell her so. She had a history of not liking such pronouncements.

Don't even TRY to tell this girl what she can't do!

Don’t even TRY to tell this girl what she can’t do!

One day while drinking her coffee and wasting  time on the internet, Magpie  saw a listing for a one bedroom condo in midtown, in walking distance to theaters, restaurants, and the soon to be revitalized Overton Square. When her husband came home from the gym she asked him, Honey, would you buy me a condo if it only cost XYZ?” “Certainly,” he replied.

The Mayfair Building.

The Mayfair Building.

Now picture the Magpie and her husband with a realtor,  viewing the condo she had found on the internet. The realtor showed them the 1960s era building and its amenities: the pool, the party room, the laundry, the covered parking. They felt at home in the small condo situated just beyond  the elevators. The owner had done some cosmetic work on the unit. Magpie and her husband could move right in and begin to enjoy city life on the weekends. Would they make an offer ?

Commercial Break. Look at this picture and hum to yourself.

Just a nice picture for the commercial break.

Just a nice picture for the commercial break.

Part Two: Yes! They decided to go ahead with an offer on the property. They were ready to close as soon as possible. But then, the realtor called with the unhappy news: the owner had removed his condo from the market.What?!!! Magpie and her husband were disappointed, and the realtor somewhat embarrassed. She offered to show them two other condos for sale in that same building.

One unit was larger than what they had originally looked at, but it  faced busy Union Avenue. It not only had its original 1960s bathroom fixtures, but sported celery green carpet and floor length peach draperies of the type Magpie’s mother in law used to think simply divine. After murmuring the usual HGTV remarks such as , “Nice space,” and “Good lighting,”, they went down a floor to the second unit. The second unit was identical to the uniit they had originally wanted.

The living room.

The living room.

The bathroom.

The bathroom.

The balcony

The balcony

This vacant unit boasted the most economical type of laminate flooring which buckled as they walked across the living room and bedroom. There were somehow two layers of molding and quarter round along the floor; one of the layers was crown molding applied upside down. Magpie thought it looked rather as if she had done the carpentry herself. Though the unit needed cosmetic work, the dated bathroom was in working order, as were the 1980s kitchen appliances. Which unit would they choose? The larger, the more grandmotherly unit facing the busy street, or the smaller, but more private unit at the back?

Commercial break. Look at this picture and stew in suspense, wondering what this unknown couple, whom you now feel so warmly toward, will decide.

Oops. This is NOT the couple. I guess Magpie TV still has a few kinks to work out.

Oops. This is NOT the couple. I guess Magpie TV still has a few kinks to work out.

Part  Three: AND They chose the second unit!!!! ( Imagine upbeat music.)  “We’ll only have to replace the floor and molding and repaint,” said Magpie’s husband. “Also we’ll have to strip the garish kitchen paper and repaint. it should be pretty straightforward.” Magpie remarked,” I like this unit better than the one I first saw, because it is a floor higher, and cost less. Now I’ll be able to make my own choices in whatever cosmetic changes we decide to make.”

Magpie and her husband can drink a toast to their new adventure from these vintage Memphis glasses!

Magpie and her husband can drink a toast to their new adventure from these vintage Memphis glasses!

The show ends with Magpie and her husband toasting each other on the balcony. Please stay tuned for our next show  to see how Magpie and her husband updated the condo! And many thanks to our sponsors, previous posts Funny Thing and Squatters Limbo, for sharing your memories!