Estate sales held in a home are strange events. It’s fun to look at the house and the “stuff” for sale, but it’s hard not to be a little depressed while thinking about why this sale is happening. So I try not to.

I have a friend who joins me in attending these sales, which we almost over-did by going to five of them in one afternoon. She bought a few small items and I bought one book. That purchase changed my life for a few weeks.

The book measures 10-1/2 X a foot and weighs about 2-1/2 pounds. The title is “Restoring A Home In Italy” and covers 22 home restorations. It is printed to be $75 on the flyleaf and I bought it for $7.25. It still had the plastic wrap on it.

But enough about the book because I want you to know that I went native for those weeks (Italian native). I read every word in the book. Dreamed over every full color, gorgeous picture. Then I moved on to my third time of reading “Under Tuscan Sky.” When I got past that wonderful read, I moved on to Frances Mays’ “Bella Tuscany.” I must confess that I’m not quite finished with my Italian marathon as I have yet to see the DVD of “Under Tuscan Sky” for the umpteenth time. I also must see again the DVD from Rick Steves about his Italian travels.

To compliment my reading, I bought lots of vegetables and a ready-made thin wheat unadorned pizza pie. I chose two different kinds of pasta to cook with some different sauces. I bought fresh basil, onions and garlic. Of course, there was wine. I know, I hardly ever cook, but it’s a lot more fun while drinking red wine.

I go through this Italian phase every so often. I also think about our trips to Venice, while trying to go to sleep. I move slowly along the Grand Canal in a gondola, looking at the gorgeous old mansions bordering the water. I don’t think about their rotting foundations just as I don’t think about why an estate sale is taking place.

Instead of drinking my tea and munching on a chocolate chip cookie during this period, I drank cappaccinos and ate biscottis–chocolate ones, of course. Yum!

COMING NEXT: Snort. Sniff. Blow.

Whoa! I have been trotting (figuratively speaking) and posting around on Facebook, that untamed entity where traversing it is like riding a horse over rough terrain. I’ve hopped into the saddle on my rough Facebook ride a number of times and was completely lost and stressed out by the end of the trot. Today, I started to get the hang of it. But I’m not ready for the rodeo.

Maybe I should explain “posting” to those of you have not yet experienced Facebook, and it is an experience to those of us who’ve shunned the social media When you arrive at a page on the Facebook site, you can communicate with other Facebook “friends” by writing something, which is called “posting.”

The thing that got me so confused is that you can have your very own Facebook page with your very own attendees, called “friends.” When I first started trying to figure out this so-popular social media, what appeared on my very own page were a lot of postings by people I don’t know, about things I was not interested in. I fact, I was a bit embarrassed by some of the postings on my page. I didn’t like what people were saying and wondered why they weren’t on their own page and just leaving me along. To tell you the truth, I still don’t understand that.

But what I learned today is that I can go on their pages and write what I want to write. What I really want to write is an invitation to read my books and join me here on my blog. I finally figured out how to do that. I still have a lot to learn but at least I can now trot here and there posting my comments.

Not many of the people on Facebook are really my friends because most of my real live friends (those that see my face and hear my voice) are from ages 65 to 85. Not many older people trot around on Facebook and neither would I if I wasn’t trying to get readers. And following the horse analogy again, my butt gets sore. You have to sit in front of the computer for quite a while to wend your way around the sites.

By the way, I have had minor experience with horseback riding and a close call when I fell head first off of a 17 hand high animal with no mane to grab and when I was sitting on an English saddle with no Western saddle horn to grab. That was my last horseback event. I got off without an injury but could have broken my neck or had a concussion. I’m hoping I fare better trotting and posting around on Facebook.

Stick your foot in a stirrup and climb in the saddle, and begin trotting around Facebook, posting as you go. (By the way, in horseperson’s language, you “post” in the saddle, bobbing yourself up and down. I never got the hang of that either.) You may end up saying, “Yippee Ki Yay” and having a grand ole time. So what the hay–try it.

COMING NEXT: A Passion For Things Italian

SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM

This blog was written in the summer of 2012.

“You scream; I scream; we all scream for ice cream.”* I recall people saying that a lot in the summer when I was a kid. I just discovered that it was the title of a song from the1920’s.

The weather is very warm as I sit here drinking my tea (iced, today) and eating my chocolate chip cookie, and I’m thinking about childhood summers when we cranked the bucket to get homemade ice cream. Delicious! We ate it in big soup bowls in the backyard under the stars. My parents had dear friends who often joined us on those nights so there were usually seven of us. Sometimes the ice cream was vanilla, sometimes peppermint and sometimes with fruit such as peaches. I can’t recall that there was ever chocolate but sometimes I put chocolate sauce on mine. I was the only kid.

The history of ice cream, which I found on a National Geographic site, is sketchy but it is probably true that the first ice cream kind of dessert was from snow or ice and contained no cream.

Our kind of ice cream was first mass produced in the 1850’s, or so the source says. In the 1900’s, it became affordable for most people to buy ice cream. Ice cream in cones seem to have originated at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1905. It was probably an accident. The ice cream vendor ran out of bowls and a waffle maker nearby handed over cone waffles as containers.

When I was a kid, many drugstores had soda fountains. The trend became popular in the 1940’s. This probably came about because they could supply the carbonated water which settled people’s stomachs. Besides ice cream sodas, the store usually offered ice cream sundaes. I remember visiting grandma in Nebraska and having two sundaes with a friend. We felt quite guilty at being so extravagant.

My sad story was on a very hot day in Arizona, at the age of three or four. I was on a driving vacation with my parents. We saw a place that had ice cream, which wasn’t all that usual. I got a cone and couldn’t wait to get to the car to eat it. On the way, the chocolate scoop fell out of the cone onto the sand. I was so sad. My sweet dad got me another one.

I’ve had many brands of ice cream in my long life and even the best of them could not begin to compare to the homemade ice cream eaten in my back yard on a hot summer night. So, guess what I’m having for dessert tonight? Bought at the market, of course.

*Song lyrics at http://www.heptune.com under the jazz and blues page

COMING NEXT: Posting And Trotting On Facebook

In case you think the headline here is clever or is corny, excuse me, but “uplifting” appeared so often in my bra research, I just had to use it. “The Story of the Drooping Boob” might have gotten more attention.

As I was dressing this morning to go enjoy my tea and cookie, I started to think about the incredibly uncomfortable piece of my wardrobe that I was attaching to my upper body–that thing known as a bra today and formerly as a brassiere (French, of course). Maybe you’re thinking, “I love my small, lacy bra that I purchased from Victoria’s Secret,” but I’m not sure they carry my size.

Since my cup size does not appear on the front of most of the children’s alphabet books, my fabric torture devices are heavily constructed with strong under-fabric and wide straps. You get the picture. And since you may not know me in person, I should tell you that if I was considered vastly overweight, I would just blame it on the boobs.

When I thought about conversing with you on the subject of bras, one of the first things that jiggled into my mind was the famous Fredrick’s of Hollywood store that was looted of the celebrity lingerie during the Los Angeles riots in 1992. The company had a famous bra and panty museum that was started in 1986 in a back room of the store. I was living in LA at the time of the riots and remember the stories about Madonna’s stolen bra, and other celeb intimate apparel being carried away.

Bras were celebrated for their 100th anniversary in 2007, but women had been binding their breasts in one way or another way before that time. Bras, as we know them today, really became popular about the beginning of the 1930’s. Are you old enough to recall the introduction of the push-up bra? How about the days of women going bra-less, mainly in the 1960’s? Neither idea worked for me. And when did women start doing the enlargement enhancement. And why?

Men in this era don’t have to have an imagination to know what breasts look like.
They are hanging out everywhere–the hooters, not the men. There was a time when men got excited if they had a glimpse of an ankle. (National Geographic magazine was a really big seller just so men could look at the pictures of naked native women.)

Yes, I have lived long enough for big breasts to be popular even with women. When I first got mine in middle school, it was very embarrassing, and when being thin as a rail was in vogue, most stylish women were flat chested. Well, now there’s no need to hide them, and for me, there’s no way to hide them either. So I decided to let it all hang out and have this conversation with you. And since this is a bit one-sided, I’d be happy if you posted a comment below.

COMING NEXT: Scream For Ice Cream

THE DAYS BEFORE GPS

There are some of my tee shirts that I just can’t get rid of–Go Lakers!, Hawaii, and especially one that says “Miss-Direction” on the front. My son gave it to me when he was a teenager; by that time, he had been with me on several trips when I got lost.

Just let me get a bite of my chocolate chocolate-chip cookie and a sip of my apple spice tea and then I’ll tell you the first story. (Pause.) Thanks. Well, it happened when my son was small enough to fit into the handy deep hole behind the back seat of my Volkswagen Bug. This was before the days of seat belts and child seats.

My mother’s best friend was visiting me and I took her to Venice Beach in California. We hadn’t seen each other for quite a while, so we chattered non-stop and paid no attention to the small child trapped in a hole too deep to ascend. He was having a grand ole time as we found out when we removed him. There was box of facial tissues in the hole with him and not one square of paper remained in its original box. It was a blizzard in California.

This is not all of the story. You need to know that this was in 1966 and Venice beach was a wild place and a favorite of the Flower Children (or Hippies) so the wide sidewalks were filled with pedestrians on foot and on bikes and roller skates. My car had joined the throng; I was driving along at two miles an hour dodging people. I wasn’t there long when a police car approached in front of me. The authority told me it was against the law to drive on that stretch, and asked me how I got there. I said it was easy. I had just driven between two permanent metal stanchions with my little car. The lady with me was hysterical with laughter. It was the best part of her trip. I was not given a ticket as the policeman could see that the problem was–I was an idiot. He told me to turn around and go back because there was no way out ahead of me. Many spectators were entertained!

Then there was the time, after my son was in his teens, that I drove down a street that was reserved for only streetcars and busses. We were somewhere in Canada. Surprisingly, I wasn’t even stopped before I found my error and hurried out.

The next “I’m lost.” event occurred somewhere in Vermont. My son and husband were with me and I was driving. I’d planned the trip and they just got into the car and rode along. Suddenly, there was a sign that indicated we were in Vermont. I pulled over and said, “We are not suppose to be in Vermont.” As it turned out, we had to backtrack about thirty miles to a place where I had erred in a turn. Much laughter ensued after that mistake, but not by me.

These little events have had a long after-life in my family, but they don’t know about some of my blind wanderings when they weren’t around. After all, a gal has to have some secrets. Guess that’s over now since I’ve shared with you.

COMING NEXT: An Uplifting Story of Women’s Bras

FOUR FAMOUS WOMEN ARTISTS

I’m looking at a picture and article in my Sunday paper today of a very accomplished eighty-four year old woman who is an artist, among other talents. As I munch on my chocolate chip cookie and enjoy my cinnamon tea, I’m thinking about another very famous artist, Grandma Moses, who died on December 14, 1961. She was 101 years old.

On the day of her death, The New York Times ran a charming, long article about her life. They described her as being “cheerful as a cricket.” Her art was, stated the Times, “Gay color, action and humor enlivened her portrayals of such simple farm activities as maple sugaring, soap-making, candle-making, haying, berrying and making of apple butter.” I’m not sure what “berrying” was beyond the picking, but maybe that is what was meant. Anyway, her art is charming.

Grandma Moses had art training but another artist who worked in the “primitive” genre had no training at all, yet she is almost as famous. Clementine Hunter was born December 1886 in Louisiana, and died at the age of 100. When she began painting, she was living on the Melrose Plantation, bordering on the Cane river. She was a cotton picker when she first moved there but soon began as a cook in the mansion. The African and Creole cultures were strong in the area, and also it attracted many artists and writers such as William Faulkner and John Steinbeck. My husband and I were fortunate to own two of her paintings which cost about $75 each when we purchased them in the 1960’s. They now run in the many thousands. We were forced to sell ours a few years ago. We miss them.

Agnes Martin and Georgia O’Keeffe were friends and both lived in New Mexico a good part of their lives. Martin died in Taos at the age of 92 and O’Keeffe left us at the age of 98 while living in Santa Fe in a home that is about a minute away
from me. Martin was doing realistic art until her 40’s when she switched to abstract. O’Keeffe is probably best known for her lush, lovely renderings of flowers, but she did many other subjects and styles. If you come to Santa Fe, don’t miss a visit to the beautiful O’Keeffe Museum.

Even if you are not interested in art or art history, if you are interested in the history of women, these four women are very important. They lived during a time when women really struggled to overcome being in the place of second fiddle to men. And, these were people who continued to use their talents clear into their
90th year.

MOSES at the New York Times on Dec. 14, 1961archive
HUNTER showing at the Gilleys Gallery in Louisiana
MARTIN at the Washington Post Dec. 17, 2004 archive
O’KEEFFE at http://www.okeeffemuseum.org

COMING NEXT: The Days Before GPS

STEP RIGHT UP

I’m celebrating today with my tea and a double chocolate chip cookie. The reason is that I now have two bannisters going down my steep thirteen stairs to the garage.(I know you must be thinking I’m losing it when I’m excited over bannisters.) Our indispensable hammer-nail-paint man was here off and on all week. The problem was what color to paint the railings as one had been here all along and the new one’s wood had a different grain. Staining did not do the trick. Finally we decided to just paint them the color of the wall, and voila, that was the solution. It even made the staircase look wider.

We almost didn’t buy our house because the stairs looked a bit scary. They are quite steep. We also have extremely wide, brick steps that go up to the front of our house. I think they’re dramatic. Two female real estate people came here once to see about selling our house, and they said, “Houses with steps are really hard to sell.” Then they proceeded to underestimate the value of the house. I researched their assertion and then I laughed. How many two story houses are sold in this country? A zillion!

Staircases can certainly be dramatic or at least invite scenes of drama. How about the staircase in “Gone With The Wind”? Old movies used them a lot to show off the actor, especially a beautiful woman or women. Remember the Zeigfeld Follies? The stunning women always came on stage down steep, wide steps.

People love to climb the steps of the Pyramids. Thousands climb the narrow, winding steps inside the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, including me. However, I nearly fainted halfway up from claustrophobia. Of course, that climb was not done because of the climb, but because of the spectacular view, from which I almost fainted from acrophobia. (So, I need a shrink.)

Wanting to climb is pretty much built into our DNA, or at least it seems that way because you know that kids love to climb on everything. No little kid can walk along on a sidewalk if there is a wall running along side. They must walk on the wall.

I’ve never figured out why people want to scale the face of a mountain, unless it is just what some people say, “because it’s there.” It can’t be always for the view as many times the top of a mountain is closed in by clouds or fog.

By the way, we put our house on the market, just before the big financial crisis, with a male broker. One of the women, who said it was hard to show the house because of the stairs, showed our house to a client. Think she wanted us to reduce the asking price when she had come for the listing? You don’t say such a thing to someone who had been a real estate broker in Los Angeles for seven years. Me.

So, step right up and tell me some good real estate, bannister or steps stories with the comment button below. Love to hear from you.

COMING NEXT: Four Famous Women Artists–Moses, Hunter, Martin, O’Keeffe

SOME YARNS ABOUT KNITTING

A friend of mine recently finished knitting a gorgeous cape in purple, being her favorite color. It took her quite a while to do it because it involved a lot of knitting. So, I was just sitting here reminiscing (which I spelled without looking it up) about my knitting history. I don’t knit. But I did knit, long ago.

Let me get a sip of tea and a bite of chocolate chip cookie and I’ll relate some amusing, or maybe not so amusing, yarns, which are also tales or stories.

Being old enough during World War II to knit, I helped my mother make sweaters for soldiers. The government gave out yarn, in sick green/grey, to use in making the sweaters. Mom and I both worked on the same sweater each time. Mom used very tight stitches and mine were quite loose. These had to be the ugliest sweaters ever created, but the point was to keep our men warm.

Around this same time, I knit a scarf for my grandpa to give him at Christmas. This was the world’s longest scarf. It was a silvery grey. Nice. However, my dear Gramps had to wind that scarf around and around to keep from tripping on it.

During college, I knit my boyfriend (now my husband) argyle socks. Now, these are not easy to make, and I have no memory of how I did it. Anyway, he loved them. He still had them when we got married, so for our first Christmas, I used a pair as you would use a Santa stocking. I tucked a large orange into the toe. Now, if you have already read “Ticked Off And Tickled About It,” you know that my husband likes fashionable clothing. He does not like stretched socks. Well, a Santa stocking was not in our extremely limited budget. Our Christmas tree was just like Charlie Brown’s and our decorations were cut out of white paper by me.

My best memories about knitting were the many beautiful sweaters that my mother knit for me. The first year I was in college, she made me six sweaters and gave them to me for Christmas. Each one was in a different color.

One of the sweaters was a rusty orange and at the time I was a redhead. When I walked around the small campus, it was like a spotlight moving. One time, my boyfriend and I cut out of a meeting we were suppose to attend every week. The next day, the Dean of Women said to me, “If you are going to cut, don’t wear your orange sweater.”

So as for my knitting history, it would probably best be described as “pearl, one…nit wit, two.”

COMING UP: Step Right Up

Hello! Is there anyone else out there who also attended the first Ice Follies Show? It was 77 years ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when the spectacular show of ice skaters opened for the first time. That was 1936 and I was five years old. (Okay, do the math.) My love for skating was born that night and has never gone away. I saw the Ice Follies every year until I left for college in 1949. By that time, the Ice Capades was also coming to town. It began in 1940. And, do you remember Sonja Henie?

We have an excellent ice rink here in little Santa Fe and a very professional program that offers training and shows. That’s what set me off this morning while reading the paper, drinking my tea and eating my cookie. The young skaters are putting on a show.

I began ice skating when I was about six years old because my dad was in charge of ticket sales for the big venue where they also had hockey and other large events. I could skate for free but I didn’t skate too well until I was 36 years old. At that time, I took skating lessons in an adult class run by an Olympic speed skater who was also a figure skater. A lot of top skaters used the rink where I skated in Los Angeles and I was able to watch them up close. What fun!

My Dad knew Sonja Henie because she had her own show and she was such a smart, hard-headed business woman, as well as the leading skater in the world, that she went to the ticket office at the end of every show and supervised the show’s “take.” This did not endear her to my father, but she became extremely wealthy.

She made a famous movie, “Sun Valley Serenade,” and skated on an outdoor rink at the Lodge in Sun Valley, Idaho. As an adult, I got to skate on the same rink and loved it.

I owned a Sonja Henie doll when I was a child. The Sonja doll had her own ice skates. I never played with her; she sat, beautifully, on my bed together with my Shirley Temple doll. They were Stars, not like my huggable Teddy Bear.

There are quite a few websites on the subject of figure skating. A good history of Sonja Henie is in the New York Times archives–sadly, her obituary.

COMING NEXT: Some Yarns About Knitting