To Pee Or Not To Pee

The City Council here had a policy discussion on gay rights last month and much of the ensuing kerfuffle centered around bathrooms and whether or not an individual had the right to use the bathroom of one’s sexual identification rather than the bathroom of one’s genitalia.    Eventually, they took bathrooms out of the discussion. . . then decided to vote down the whole proposal anyway.

I’m perplexed as to why a person chooses to vote against someone solely because of their sexual orientation.  I’m for putting equality on the front burner and leaving sex to simmer in private on a back burner.   My gaydar antenna is still in the original wrappings.  I don’t care whose team a person plays on–just make the rules fair for everyone.

As for the bathroom issue, I admit that I’d be taken aback if Bruce Jenner walked into the Cracker Barrel bathroom right behind me, but at the same time, I don’t think someone should have to drop their drawers to prove where they’re allowed to pee.  Just make sure the bathroom is clean.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, my Dearly Beloved and I enjoy going places together, but we have different ideas about the road trip.  While I’m for stopping at interesting places (okay, they usually involve shopping) along the way, he points a laser beam to his destination and would prefer not to stop for anything.   I like to wait and buy gas in South Carolina, where it’s about 20 cents a gallon cheaper.  He fills the tank here the day before we leave and it’s fine with him if we reach our destination on fumes.

He does, however, know that bathroom stops trump everything.  In fact, he even asks me, “Do you need to go to the bathroom or should I keep going?”  because parts of our trips often go through No-Bathrooms Land.

During a pit stop on a trip a couple of months ago, Dearly Beloved pumped gas at one of those Gas/Fast Food/Junk stations along I-85 while I went inside to use the ladies room.  I walked in and headed into a stall like I always do, used the toilet, and walked out.

It was like I’d entered The Twilight Zone.  Although I don’t recall anyone else being in there when I went in, there were FOUR MEN using urinals went I walked out.  I was flabbergasted, but it was minimal compared with the stunned expression on their faces.  They froze.

How had I managed to overlook the Men’s Room sign on the door and the urinals on the wall on my way in?   If I could miss all that, might I have been so intent on my mission that I overlooked a guy or two standing around?   For all I know, Bruce Jenner might have been in there.

I didn’t look up and I certainly didn’t look down.  Nothing for me to do except say, “Pardon me!” and get the hell out of there.  I didn’t even stop to wash my hands.

So. . . I’m not about to attempt to solve the problem of who gets to use which bathroom, but other people have much interest.   I understand that some states are working on laws to ban transgender folks from using the bathroom of the sex they identify with.   Might I have been arrested for an Oops?

I did learn one thing from the experience:  If unisex bathrooms ever become commonplace. . .  as long as they’re clean, I may not even notice.

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Get A Room!

When my friend Beanie took two of her grandchildren to the Washington Zoo in the fall, she was expecting that she might hear questions from them about some of the 1800 animals in the zoo.

But she WASN’T expecting to run into this Aldabra tortoise scene right by the entrance.

Get a room?  I carry it with me!

Hard to tell him to get a room when he already has a house on his back.

Looks like that makes her a two-story.

(Many thanks to Beanie for the picture.)

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Travelin’– Or, As They May Say In Michigan, ‘Raveling.

Whenever we go on a trip, I tell myself that I’m not going to take any photos of weird things along the way, then I see situations that tickle me and I change my mind, but by the time I pull out my phone and aim the camera I end up with a series of blurred photos.

Here are my blurs and blobs, with explanations:

IMG_0259  The license plate on this car says “UDontNoMe”

This one says, “YOUKNOWIT.”  IMG_0262

I know that in the South, we have a tendency to drop our G’s at the end of words.  This truck is from Michigan.

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Notice anything missing?

And last but not least, since this story made the front page of the Wall Street Journal last week, I thought I’d include a photo of the peachoid along I-85 in South Carolina.

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Although it looks like it’s wearing a winter bonnet, the Gaffney, SC water tower has actually been under repair for some time.  The Journal article pointed out the town had “hoped to get cracking last fall,” but it wasn’t that easy to find an artist who can mix the 12 shades  and paint in the air like that.  It isn’t just a simple one-color job and the end is not in sight.

Depending how you look at it.

 

The Grove!

People had told us that the spectacle of an Ole Miss football game is unique, that there was nothing quite like tailgating in The Grove.  The Grove?  A bunch of trees?  I had so much to learn!  Is it still called tailgating when cars aren’t allowed in the area?

The Grove–a shady, park-like setting with a magnificent assortment of mature trees– is lovely enough to enchant any gardener.  It is situated in the middle of a campus so well designed that everything seems within walking distance for its just under 20,000 students.  The buildings are Southern classic and beautiful and the traditions deep.

The Lyceum, oldest building on campus, served as a hospital during the Civil War.
The Lyceum, oldest building on campus, served as a hospital during the Civil War.

The football players pass through The Grove on their way to the stadium on a brick walkway with arches at each end–the Walk of Champions.  The stadium holds over 60,000 and who knows how large the crowds are in The Grove.  Talk about a heady walk!IMG_0951

The Friday before the game, garbage cans were set out to mark spaces where hospitality tents could be set up, beginning at 9 PM.  During the day people hung around, marking their spots.IMG_0955The game was at noon and we went to the Grove on that overcast mid-morning, we found the area transformed into a sea of tents, chairs, people, and food.  Image 56What it wasn’t filled with was smoke.  No grills allowed and in fact, no smoking.  That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t food.

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IMG_1113The game that day was a rivalry between the Ole Miss Rebels and University of Arkansas* Razorbacks, also known as The Hogs, so folks went whole hog with their food.  Hams galore!

Not that food was all they brought.  Some tents were quite elaborate, sporting generators, chandeliers, large flat-screen TVs, comfortable chairs, and satellite dishes.  One tent sported a replica of the Lyceum, with each of its columns holding a different beverage.

Just as there were plain tents and fancy tents, there were basic toilets as well as some with more panache, like the Hotty Toddy Potty, complete with attendants.

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The Arkansas fans partied, too.

As for me and my house, we will call the Hogs.
As for me and my house, we will call the Hogs.

Elvis was there–in several shapes and sizes–raising money for St.Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  They call themselves “The Elvi.”

Image 26 Who was he pulling for? Image 29

The cheerleaders were in The Grove.IMG_1095IMG_1096And the band was in The Groove.IMG_1097You’re probably wondering did we EVER get to the game.  I’ll have to save that for the next post.  It was THE ELVI in all their glory, for goodness’ sakes!  Show some respect! 

Are you there, Elvis, it's me, Mary!
Are you there, Elvis?  It’s me, Merrily!

*BIG OOPS on original post.  My brain said Arkansas, but my fingers didn’t listen.  Sorry, Arkansas!

M-I-Crooked Letter. . .

This time last week, Dearly Beloved and I were high-tailing it to Oxford, Mississippi–a nine to ten-hour drive, depending on traffic and my bladder.  We made it a two-day trip and planned to stay at a B&B along the way.

If you’re interested in trying a new career, look into opening a B&B in western Alabama or eastern Mississippi because you certainly won’t find much competition.  The problem is, you won’t find many towns along that route, either.

Charlotte’s ambient lights make this a tough place for stargazing, but let me tell you–nights on rural Alabama secondary roads are DARK!  That night, there was only a sliver of moon and few houses on our route, so we kept an eye out for deer or Bigfoot.   When we reached the small town B&B where I’d made a reservation, I learned that the one I’d chosen was on this bucket list!

IMG_0912I’m not sure I’ll make the other 99, but The B&B, a historic home built in 1870, happened to be serving their signature dish (in the lower left corner of the list)–a strawberry/almond Belgian waffle, not to mention bacon, fruit cup, and a giant chocolate chip/pecan muffin.    IMG_0907

I-85 through the Carolinas and Georgia is not a pretty route.  NC’s billboard lobbyists have won free reign at the expense of the trees and natural beauty.  South Carolina is even worse–it has seedy buildings intermixed with one giant billboard after another; one advertises Jesus and the next one an Adult Toy Store (perhaps an unfortunate order.)   I must say, KUDOS to Alabama and Mississippi for their highways and byways.  Their senators have done them proud securing federal road funds.   We’ve been in that area before, but this was our first time on the Natchez Trace Parkway or crossing the Ten-Tom Waterway.  Lovely!

My cousin had sent excellent directions, so we found the condo in plenty of time to visit before our lunch reservation:  a window table at City Grocery.  Since their food is to die for, it should top any list of 100 Places to Eat in Mississippi Before You Die.   The chocolate bacon bread pudding is certainly list-worthy.

I think I could live in Oxford, Mississippi and love it.  (That sound you heard was my cousin gasping in alarm.)   It is a beautiful old town with wonderful architecture, large trees, nice  restaurants and shopping, the best independent bookstore in the country, and right in the middle of it all is (drumroll, please…) Ole Miss.

(Photos of the campus and Saturday’s game in a later post.  It was quite a spectacle and even though I usually read during football games, I loved every minute of this one.)

Right after our City Grocery lunch on Friday, we headed downtown and our first stop was Square Books.  I could spend days…years… in there.  I’ve never seen so many signed books in my life!  IMG_0976

Next stop was their second store just up the block where I didn’t buy a cookbook because I couldn’t decide between…oh, 50 or so… that looked wonderful.  Garden & Gun magazine was hosting a book launch, so we browsed with their wine and hors d’oeuvres in hand.   A third store, filled with children’s books was in another block.

Square Books was the first bookstore to host a book signing for (then) local resident John Grisham’s books back when he was peddling his book out of the trunk of his car and he still shows his appreciation by signing his books for the store whenever he writes a new one.  Pat Conroy had been recently and signed books, as had authors like Lee Smith, Ron Rash, and Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch.)

The bookstore specializes in southern books, especially ones by Mississippi authors.  (Think William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Shelby Foote and a host of newer ones like Kathryn Stockett–The Help)  Even DB commented that there was something about the area that made one want to sit down and write.

That probably makes you wonder why it took me a week to write this post.

Faulkner Alley sign
Faulkner Alley sign
The alley.
The alley.

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Ceiling of an old downtown building.
Ceiling of an old downtown building.

Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in mississippi. – Oprah Winfrey

I’m not saying she was stupid, but I asked her how to spell mississippi and she said ‘the river or the state?’ – Unknown

As The Woolly Worm Turns

Monday night my Dearly Beloved asked had I ever slept with a 71-year-old man.

Umm, that would be a definite NO.

Well, starting tomorrow night, you’re going to.

Turns out he was wrong about that.  WHY is a convoluted story:

One of the good things about living in Charlotte is that one can think “beach” or “mountains” and reach either in two to four hours.   For years, we always headed to the coast since we had a house there, but the mountains have been calling us lately and we went twice in one week.

The first time we went to Waynesville, a sweet town just beyond Asheville.  We stayed at an inn on a golf course.  One sunny day, one cloudy day, and both were lovely.

At the end of a sunny day, the clouds began rolling in...
At the end of a sunny day, the clouds began rolling in…
The next morning, the mountains had disappeared.
By morning, the mountains had disappeared.

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DB went to a junior college the first two years of his college education.  He’s mentioned driving up to see it several times, so when his class announced their 50th reunion, he decided it would be a good time to attend.  Two of the girls he went to high school with were also going.  We made reservations for the four of us at an old farmhouse B&B.

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The football practice field was now the soccer practice field, but the mountains beyond were the same.  It was easy to see why he’d loved this place.

All three of them were horrified to see that the nearby diner was now a service station.  I was horrified to see that we were too early for the wooly worms, since there wasn’t much else to do around there.

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There was a women’s clothing store with lovely things in the windows and a huge SALE sign, but it was closed.  Turned out that the SALE was the store, not the merchandise.

So we walked around the campus until time for their reunion party that night–which is getting around to explaining why I’m not sleeping with a 71-year-old man.

I have mentioned before that DB considers himself to have been a very good shag dancer  in high school.  Do watch a bit of this video link to see how popular it The Shag was back then.

Now picture it still being a favorite of the 50th year reunion attendees.

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(There are plenty of Learn to Shag videos on the internet now.  DB says to plan to spend time practicing with the closet doorknob or the bedpost if you try it.)

For the first time, we had a chance to slow dance together in his college environs.  Then, at my urging,  he did a couple of shag dances with his old schoolmates.   When he felt some early creaks and pains, he thought it was because he was just getting warmed up.  It was his Double-back Suzy move in the second dance that wiped him out completely.  They laughed while they were dancing, but by the time we arrived home the next day, his back and knee were assuring him that it was the pain that had been doing the warmup.

Since he must lie in careful corpse position, he’s sleeping alone until it gets better.  His birthday has come and gone with only the dog by his side. . . and she’s on her own bed.  So no, I’ve never slept with a 71-year-old man, but I’m willing.

DB now considers himself a “recovering, former shagger.”   That’s okay with me.

The slow dances are still all mine.

His favorite dance quote:

“If a man doesn’t know how to dance he doesn’t know how to make love, there I said it!  

–Craig Ferguson

My favorite:

“When you do dance, I wish you

A wave o’ the sea, that you might ever do

Nothing but that.”

– William Shakespeare

Scenes of Charleston

We spent a couple of days sightseeing in Charleston, SC last week, mostly to see family, but we did get to the downtown area one afternoon to mosey around.  We walked down to Battery Park and back, far enough to give me shin splints, although 6-year-old Elmo took the same route with no difficulty.  In fact, his journey was much longer because he frequently raced ahead to the corner, then back to us, then back to the corner, etc. until we finally arrived there, too.   Not to mention that he climbed trees, poles, fences, cannons, bandstands, and even made a lunge at George Washington before Granddad intervened.

The rest of us were wearing our sensible walking shoes.  Elmo wore flip-flops.

We passed the guinea fowl, which announced our arrival with their strange calls.  A young man nearby said they’d been living in that area for over 100 years, but the articles I found online say that a couple of them just flew into town one day and hung around.   When you see the place, you can understand why they liked it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Watch that video link above because it offers a chance to wander, thanks to The Lee Bros.,  through one of the mysterious iron gates and see the lovely garden inside.)

I won’t even try to show you my photos of the houses or the wonderful shops.  (You can look at these by much better photographers.)  Instead, I’ll show you a few scenes that you may not see elsewhere.

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Thou shall not park here.  Seriously.

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The classic Charleston boot.

There were cobblestones. . .

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And headstones. . . .

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Two of the signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried there.  The Handicap Parking sign was mystifying, since it was inside the fence.

Here’s another one:

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A headstone with my brother’s head.

There were pretty windows. . .

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And pretty strange windows. . . .

Image 7This sign–with the same spelling–was in more than one window, so of course, my imagination ran faster than Elmo’s sprints to the corner.  Remolding.

Surely not this:black_mold

Crown?  Dentil? Toe?  Chair rail?  Wood? Stone? Polystyrene?

Making cheese?

One day we ate lunch on Daniel Island.  Right beside the restaurant was this sign:

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We took it seriously.  Didn’t want us–or the alligators–to get the boot.

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I’m going back to dignity and grace. I’m going back to Charleston, where I belong.  — Rhett Butler, in 1939 movie, “Gone with the Wind

Stepping Out in Atlanta

When my friend Martha and I went on a “weather permitting” trip to Atlanta last weekend, she pulled two pedometers out of her bag, saying she was sure we’d walk 10,000 steps each day, with all the plans we’d made.   It turned out that we had more battery life than the pedometers.  We didn’t really need them; our exhaust-o-meters indicated that we surpassed our goals.

We had tickets to The Girl With the Pearl Earring exhibition at the High Museum of Art Saturday afternoon.  We saw the Dutch Masters paintings, then headed upstairs to see two more floors of other featured art.

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She looks vaguely familiar, doesn’t she?!

Martha, a Bed and Breakfast affectionado, outdid herself by finding us accommodations at The Social Goat, a  B&B in the Grove Park area, near the Atlanta Zoo.   We didn’t quite get up with the goats, turkeys, roosters and chickens, but we did feed them after our own breakfast of blackberry French toast and sausage, grilled peaches and oranges with granola and yogurt.

We had tickets for a Sunday afternoon concert in Roswell, GA  and even though the weather was iffy that morning,  we decided to take our umbrellas and head to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, to see the exhibition from the Mosaiculture International Montreal. These living sculptures are making their first appearance in the US and “fabulous” is inadequate to describe it.

Take a look at a few of them:

One of two giant butterflies.
One of two giant butterflies.

There were cute rabbits hiding in the grasses. . .

A batch of bunnies.
A batch of bunnies.
The unicorn wasn't "loveliest of all" but he was awfully cute.
The unicorn wasn’t “loveliest of all” but he was awfully cute.

There were two cobras.

Look how he coils!
Look how he’s coiled!  His friend was on the other side of the walkway.

Earth Goddess was magnificent!  Love the hair!

Rising right out of the hillside....
Rising right out of the hillside….

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The fish twirled and spit water in their pool.
The fish twirled and spit water in their pool.

Gooseberries and strawberries frolicked in the vegetable garden.

Walking berries.

Could they have been more spot-on with this canine cutie?

Shaggy dog.
Shaggy dog.

This Ogden Nash poem was posted beside him:

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There are 19 creatures in this exhibit and they’re scattered throughout the grounds among the permanent garden treasures.  I’ll show you some of those another time.

The rain suddenly began in earnest, so we ran to the car and made it to the concert with enough time to grab a quick lunch first.  The music was delightful enough to make us forget about our wet feet.

We’d managed to keep up with each other all weekend, but somehow we went out of different doors after the concert and it took us over 30 minutes to find each other again, thus ensuring our 10,000 step count for the day.

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“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.” 
― Victor HugoLes Misérables 

Between a Rock and an Avant-Garde Place

When my friend Martha and I went on the fall tour of historic homes in a nearby small town,  one home wasn’t historic at all–but it turned out to be the most fascinating.  We almost skipped it.  We were soaking wet, it was still raining, and this part of the tour was mostly outside, to see the homeowners’ art collection.  It was the last place on the list and we were pooped.

The family home is set well back in a wooded area off a quiet road.  The owner is a sculptor whose work has received international acclaim.  We knew we’d found the right house when we came upon the roadside newspaper and mail boxes.  (Click on any photo to make larger.)

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There was a gate, of course…

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and a nearby sentry made of  scrap metals and repurposed junk, like the tractor seat.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A dog and cat stood on either side of the front walkway and beyond the walk, an old parking meter marked a graveled spot.

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Dozens… maybe hundreds… of his sculptures are featured throughout the property.  None of the large rocks, like the one beside the meter, were original to the site.

Art works inside the house hung from the very high ceilings, over some of the windows,  on the walls.  Mantel, floor, tables, and ‘most every available surface held more treasures.  Some of the collection was the work of other artists, but most was done by the homeowner.

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The hearth room in the center of the house had minimal furnishings and maximum art displays. Many were whimsical in nature, like the fish “skeleton” over the mantel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis little clock tickled me.  I wondered if it chimed in silent screams.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dining Room Table
He made the dining room table
Patio table.
…and the patio table.

A larger-than-life horse had once been a pile of old gears, washers, bicycle chains, wrenches, and other scrap metals.

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Woman waving pink ribbon.
Woman waving pink ribbon in front of a giant sunflower in a blue pot.

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An outbuilding held a huge, kidney-shaped pit for skateboarders, including the couple’s teenage son.   On weekends they open it for others to enjoy.

Half of the skateboard room.
Half of the skateboard room.

Remember, every boulder was hauled in and carefully placed–dozens and dozens.

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I have dozens more pictures of sculptures; arbors to zebras.  So many unexpected surprises–like this guy on the upstairs balcony:

Statue off upper balcony.  Swim trunks and winter scarf.
Swim trunks and winter scarf.

Meanwhile, back inside the house. . .  remember the woman in the hearth room, sitting there looking at the Christmas tree?

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I’d walked right past without even realizing that she wasn’t real.

I remember thinking that her outfit seemed a little casual.

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Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

My Favorite House on the Tour

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Well, drat!  Just when I wanted to put oodles of photos in a post so that I could write about the house I loved so on the Historic Homes Tour,  I discovered that I’m almost out of photo storage space on WordPress.  Oh well, this is a house worth blowing it on.

It was built in the late 1800’s as a narrow Victorian with a two-story front porch.  The second owner was a physician who had his office and his home there. The current owner’s family bought it just after World War II.  The additions to the house have all been built seamlessly and beautifully.

The murals in the entry hall depicted scenes of the historic town and one of the parlors held a bookcase on which miniature replicas of some of many of the buildings and homes were displayed.

Scenes of the old town on each wall of the entry hall.

The sofas and chairs throughout showed off pillows needlepointed by the homeowner.   Family photos, antiques, and heirlooms are mixed with treasures from the homeowner’s  travels around the world.

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His talents as a gardener and floral designer were obvious in every room.  The lovely rear gardens were designed so that each window of the home frames a delightful view.  The laundry room was so light and cheery that I think I might even take in laundry if I lived there.    (I’d use the money to pay somebody to dust all the bric-a-brac sitting around!)

Lovely red, white, and blue den.

Dining room window.
Dining room window.
Cheeriest laundry room ever!
Cheeriest laundry room ever!

Patio with landscaped rear garden which included a guest house.

Each window framed a lovely view.
Each window framed a lovely view.

The color scheme throughout was primarily blue and white, with pops of red everywhere, along with an occasional dash of yellow.

Keeping room table.
Keeping room table.
Stunning dining room floral arrangements.
Stunning dining room floral arrangements.

The windows were spotless, sparkling even on the rainy day we visited.  Everything was polished, shined, dusted, vacuumed, and fluffed.  Not so much as a single wilted leaf on any of the floral displays in profusion throughout the house.

Imagination, whimsy, elegance, and comfort throughout…!

Keeping room was an add-on; shares wall with laundry room.
Keeping room was an add-on; shares wall with laundry room.
Keeping room ceiling.
Keeping room ceiling.
One of four "pepper light" trees in keeping room.
One of four “pepper light” trees in keeping room.
Greenhouse window over sink.
Greenhouse window over sink.

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Large old range in kitchen.
Large old range in kitchen.

The staircase in the den was narrow, as was the case in the other houses we toured.  Imagine moving a highboy up those steps!

Narrow den staircase.

The master bedroom was off the den,  behind the staircase wall.  The curtains bore creweled flowers on the bottom.  I lost count of all the Christmas trees throughout the house.

Master bedroom.

Front porch had historic register designation and wooden flag.
Front porch had historic register designation and wooden flag.