Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Fruit (not Candy). Well…Almost

This morning after my Yoga class I stopped in Walmart to buy a few supplies. The store was awash with folks, all of whom seemed to be in search of Halloween candy, costumes for the kids and the like.

I quickly passed by the bins and bins of every imaginable type of candy, mostly blocking the center isles (they plan it this way, right?) and headed for the produce department to buy my weekly supply of fruits.

Apples, grapes, bananas,  pomegranate, mango and a bag of cranberries were my purchases this week. A glass container of parched peanuts on the kitchen table won't tempt me quite so much as a container full of cookies will. They are so good and (relatively) good for me, unless I eat too many!
I did wish, however, to purchase a Halloween treat for the three children who have moved in down the hill from us. They are quite small, and I am not quite certain their parents will bring them up our long driveway tonight during their trick-or-treat rounds. Therefore, I’m going to bag their treats up festively and deliver them later in the afternoon.

Treats for the neighbor children: Skittles in pumpkins, gumballs in a miniature dispenser machine.

While in the store, I was about to leave the sea of candy when I hesitated, thinking I should buy a Halloween treat for my husband. Any kind, so long as its Hershey’s chocolate is his stand on the matter. But there were so many choices in size of bars, size of bags, etc., etc., etc.

Finally I settled on a VERY large bag of miniatures. Will I eat some? Surely I will. He’ll leave all the dark chocolate for me and concentrate on the milk chocolate; I’ll fix a bag filled with the Krackel and Mr. Goodbar for mother.

Chocolates and the kiddie treats.

The dogs will beg when they hear the little bars being unwrapped, but no, they will not get any. Definitely not. I’ve heard, but don’t know if it’s true, that chocolate is poison to their systems.

A Spooky Halloween picture:

I took this picture yesterday after dark when I went out to check on the kittens. They were playing around on the concrete driveway when two of them climbed up the old persimmon tree. Light from the nearby pole lamp sheds an eerie glow on the tree leaves. Can you discern Myrtle and Murtie perched on the tree limbs?

And here's Carl, nestled among the fallen leaves. I made this photo a couple of days ago. Isn't he beautiful? We are still missing Blackie and Gurtie, who never returned. These cats were always special to my sister and me, but the three remaining ones especially so after the loss of the other two.

Ole' Doe-eyed Kris wishes you a happy Halloween.

I love this pose of Valerie. She looks as if she's thinking, "how pretty I am!"

This is Mommy Sox (mother of the kittens above). She is not the scary cat she looks to be in this photo. I just happened to have luckily caught her as she was yawning. Isn't this a hoot?

Happy Halloween everyone.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What's In Your Handbag?

People who know me know that I love handbags – large ones. There’s a good reason I prefer big bags: I haul around lots of “stuff.” Friends often ask me if they can “lift” it, just so they can kid me about how heavy it is.

I’m warned by some that I’ll damage my shoulder or back by hoisting such a heavy weight on my shoulder. I know this is true and realize it could cause a problem, so I reassess, rearrange and downsize the contents….for a while… but before I know it it’s back to its normal weight.

I just tell them that I'm prepared to live a week out of my bag. Not completely true, but close.

Out of curiosity, I removed the contents and weighed them on my kitchen scales: 4 pounds. The handbag itself weighs 2.5 lbs, for a total of 6.5 lbs. That’s heavy!

But where do I begin to lighten the load? It seems I NEED, or will potentially need, everything I take around with me. For instance: 

These items definitely are necessities: Wallet, sunglasses in case, checkbook, address book, notepad and pen. The cute little notepad serves many purposes: shopping lists, a place to jot down information during phone conversations, ideas for future blogs or something I want to research, notes to myself about anything that pops into my head.

The cosmetic case: Compact, nail file, hand cream, eye drops, lip pencil, lipstick(s),lip gloss, comb and hair pick. I need all of this!

Into another little bag I have hand sanitizer  mouthwash, pain reliever, tissues and  purse size spray scent. I never know when I'll need one of these!

A Swiss Army knife and flashlight are invaluable additions to my handbag. The knife has a scissors handy for so many things; the flashlight lights darkened keyholes and  crevices in the car my "stuff" may have fallen into! 

My little red Moleskin book  holds  permanent notes; it moves back and forth from my desk to my handbag. Within are birthdays, passwords, inspiration notes, bank account information, books and movies to investigate, titles of music to listen to, products I want to try and meaningful information I copied down and can review from time to time. 

Here's an example of things I write in my little book.
Also, if I'm to be away from the house for several hours you might also find in my bag a bottle of water, a few nuts, an apple or crackers (my rationale being I don't want to be tempted/forced to eat something unhealthy if a hunger pang strikes while I'm out).

So where do I begin to lighten the weight? I need all of the above items.

When I was still traveling to work each day, there was yet another bag within my bag that I have now removed. It contained  over-the-counter meds that might be need during my absence from home; a mini-sewing kit; band aids, cough drops, sun block. So I'm rather proud of myself that I have removed this weight from my handbag!

What about you? What's in your handbag? Am I just extreme in my wanting to have everything with me? Or are you like me and want to be prepared for any contingency.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Remembering Vonnie

It was regret and sadness that we awoke to the news today that Yvonne was gone – at a much-too-young age.

Mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, niece, and to many of us, cousin.

Here's a photo of the cousins (and a few of the older ones' spouses) on Christmas Day 1953 at Mommie Howell's (our grandmother) house. That's Vonnie, as we all called her, on the right, front row. She's holding one of her Christmas present, a majorette baton.

Such fond memories come flooding back of days when  we were a group of kids, playing together at our grandmother’s house. Cousins and sisters, all within an age range that we could play together without too much conflict.

She was the fairest of us all in those days – a pretty blonde, whose bubbly personality made her a job to be around.

As a teenager, she became really movie-star beautiful, bearing a striking resemblance to Cybil Shepherd. 

Time and individual life situations dispersed us and not all of us have stayed in touch.

But we’ll always have our memories of the good and innocent years of our youth, when all things seemed possible.

That's Vonnie on the left, spending the night with my sister. I am not sure of the year, but they appear to be about 11 or 12-years-old.

Goodbye, Vonnie, rest in peace.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

If Walls Could Talk

Oftentimes while driving around, my attention is drawn to any old and deteriorating building or house I see.   A wave of sadness overcomes me when I think about how these structures were once teeming with life and activity and are now abandoned and forgotten, except perhaps for anyone still living who has a personal memory associated with them. 

An old general store building where neighbors once met to exchange news, talk about the weather and buy what meager goods they could afford.

This store was operated for many years by a man, and then his son, until about 8 years ago. Here you could buy food,  animal feed, electrical hardware and the like, tools and gasoline. They also prepared food and had "eat-in" tables. It was a "gathering place" where friends met friends.
This now abandoned general store has a personal association. It was built and operated by a great-uncle. And in later years, owned and operated by one of my uncles and then another. It was once a place where people filled their automobiles with gasoline, bought snacks and even bought their weekly provisions. 

Beautiful old brick work on the above building.

This old house is still occupied by 86-year-old Doris, who moved there in 1936, when she was 10 years old. She told me this when I knocked on her door a few days ago and asked permission to photograph her house.

This particular house holds special significance for me because it was here my father's family lived when he and my mother met. She tells the following story: She and one of her sisters and two of their friends heard the family that had moved into the house had four good-looking young men, so off they went to meet them (my mother lived just a short distance down the road). Upon being invited in and introduced to the boys, my mother said she looked at one and said to herself, "that one is mine." And sure enough, they began dating and eventually were married.

The beautiful old rock fireplace on the above house. Doris told me my father's family moved out one morning and her family moved in the same afternoon. She said there was a low fire still burning in the fireplace when they arrived. I wonder what was talked about as families sat around the fire on cold winter nights.

The entire front yard is covered with acorns from the huge oak tree, below, which grows alongside the road. 

I stood and stared at this old tree and wondered if my dad and his brothers had climbed this tree when they were boys. Did they do battle with the abundance of acorns that covered the ground?

Yet another old house -- this one unoccupied - with a special memory, as this is the  place my father's family moved into after vacating the one above. It runs deep and contains many rooms, certainly needed to accommodate the large family. There would have been 11 people living here in 1936: Parents, 8 children, 1 grandchild. My father walked 3.1 miles each way twice a week to see my mother, unless he was lucky enough to catch a ride with someone.

The ivy-covered fireplace on the above house. Houses like this hold  secrets from past generations; the walls within absorbed the joys, the laughter, but also the trials and tribulations of those whom they sheltered.

Our present day society prefers the new, the shiny, the modern look of affluence. Do you see beauty in old or abandoned buildings or consider them  an eyesore? Do you ever try to imagine the people who once occupied the buildings and what their lives were like?

Friday, October 26, 2012

More About the Cotton Harvest

Since I posted yesterday about the cotton picking equipment, I wanted to show these pictures as a follow up:

This bale looks to be about four times what the bin on the cotton picker can accommodate. If the four were "pushed together" to make one large bale, it's a seamless operation. Note the plastic across the top to protect the cotton from rain.

The cotton is quite compact. The picker collected the cotton stalks and boles as well as the cotton, but the ginning process will remove them.

Here's the way the rows of what used to be cotton stalks looks like after the picker has finished.

The picker apparently passes over the cotton rows twice. Note the contrast in the foreground of this picture, where almost nothing remains. The field beyond the foreground  has more stalks remaining, as well as more white cotton, although it's not evident in this picture. Apparently the picker will return to go over once more the remaining rows in the background.

This may be more than you EVER wanted to know about cotton harvesting, so I promise this will be the last post on the subject!

Since the images above aren't particularly "beautiful," I've leave you with one I think is -- the turning leaves on a Sycamore tree:

Sycamore tree

Time to begin raking leaves!
Have a very good weekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Cotton Picker and Other Autumn Musings

One person and one machine can accomplish in half a day what it used to take a field full of hands to in several days. Welcome to cotton-pickin' time in Alabama!

This morning I heard the loud sound of machinery nearby and realized the day for harvesting the cotton across the road from my house had arrived. I walked down the long driveway to get a look and made this picture, just in the event you've never seen one of these.

Now I'm not an expert on how these things work, but my general understanding is that the machine is driven up and down the rows and the fluffy cotton is sucked up through the hose that's visible in the above picture. The collected cotton is deposited in the large bin, being packed tightly as it is collected.

The next stop for the cotton is a gin, where the cotton is processed to remove seeds, boles and any debris. Again, the cotton is packed into tight bales and shipped to a cotton market where it is sold.

When I was a child all cotton, around here at least, was picked by hand. Each person was paid by the amount he or she picked that day. Pickers filled a sack each pulled behind him or her down long rows. When filled, the cotton was weighed on a pully-type scale, with the amount each picker picked duly recorded in a notebook. Sacks were emptied into a wagon or trailer, the empty sack returned to the picker and the process was repeated until almost nightfall. The next day you started all over again. (Kids prayed for rain every night because you couldn't pick cotton in a wet field.)

When the wagon was full, it was pulled by a tractor or truck to a local gin, just as it still is today. 

The farmer, both then and now, are paid by the amount the bale weighs and whatever the going price is for cotton that year. 

Like everything else, farming has changed. Cotton farming is done on a large scale these days with machinery that costs thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars. For any of us who ever picked cotton by hand, this is a welcome change. Maybe we wanted or needed to earn enough money to spend at the county fair or buy our new fall school clothes, but it was tough work.

Cotton farming has changed, but other things have not.  For instance, Nandina berries still turn from green to orange in autumn and their beauty makes your heart skip a beat:

The muscadine vine still dresses herself in a beautiful golden costume for a short time -- until the cold weather strips her of her colorful attire:

The majestic Maple tree still tries to outdo all her neighbors:

The luscious hot-pink seed pod of the Southern Magnolia still beckons one to come closer for a better look:

And the sun setting in the western sky still tells us it's time to rest from our labors, whatever and however different they may be from times of yore. 

I hope everyone reading this has had a great day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Autumn Displays in a Small Town

I mentioned in a previous post, Getting Ready for Halloween, that I would be  watching for further Halloween decorations and post what I found. 

I've been looking on each roadway and street I travel and I can report to you -- with Halloween less than a week away -- that the over-the-top decorations of past years at houses are almost nonexistent this year. 

It would seem, though, that what’s lacking in decorations on the exterior of homes is being made up by the merchants in the town nearest me. Whether you call them Halloween, autumn or fall displays, here’s what you see if you drive down the main business street – ahem, make that the ONLY one – in Rogersville.

Corn stalks, pumpkins and mums.

What a cute idea -- a jack-o-lantern face cut-out on the back of a metal chair!

Mr. Jack-O-Lantern.

Pumpkins and hay on a cart.

A lovely lady!

Even the miniature pumpkins nestled among the flowers are gussied up.

Mr. Punkin' Head

Add caption

A mother headed for the antique shops. Note the unhappy child at her side. See the photo below for the note on his back.

Oops. Almost didn't capture all of the sign. It reads: Don't hate me because I'm boo-tiful. This little lady sits outside a cosmetic shop.

Ornamental gourds highlight this display.

Such creativity!

Even the lingering plants of summer get a pumpkin to make them seasonal!

I've never bought a green or white pumpkin. Have you?

And finally,  a nod is given to the local high school football team. Isn't he cute with his clay pot body?

Are you seeing seasonal decorations in yards or towns/villages near you? I think they are so bright and cheerful with their gold, orange, rust, yellow, red and brown colors!

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