Not only do we have billions of them attracted to our patio, they LOVE me! We use a Dyna Trap that has been plugged in since April, we use an incense coil, we have citronella and cedarwood oil burning in year round torches, an oil lantern that sits on our party bar, citronella candle votives EVERYWHERE, Kristen Nauss’ Arizona magic, and the added addition of diffusing citronella YL oil plugged in on the side table, white socks (oh yes, very attractive but they prevent my feet and ankles from being eaten alive) along with long sleeved shirts, and I can actually sit out for happy hour and conversation for a few hours…with only a few bites! And did I mention that West Nile is rampant in Michigan! #TryMyStrategy #YesIDoThisRoutineEveryEvening #CocktailsAtHome #DamnCOVIDAdvertisements
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Today, the sad division in our country, COVID & COVID’s effects on people I’ve known personally, social restrictions, masks, longing for a road trip home to Virginia…I think, disrespect & hatred, destruction of our beautiful country, and as an EXTREME EXTROVERT – really missing my friends, my polo family – oh how I miss y’all, and the lack of long sincere embraces has finally gotten to me and taken its toll.
Last evening I tuned out of my nightly ritual of TV news and social media scrolls, and watched an hour+ long interview between Billy Joel and Don Henley from four years ago. I love to write and it was so refreshing to hear two 70 year old artists, especially Henley, talk about his writing process, growing up in Texas, his work ethic, and his respect for his high school English teacher. And, he was an English major in college. He said that when he writes – he actually writes – no electronic notes. His choice of words was a ball point pen. Who even uses that reference for a pen these days? Everything about his storytelling style, his emotion, his thoughts, his mannerisms, watching the wheels turn, moved me. He is a deep thinker. He loves Thoreau and Emerson. The encouraging reality is that they both seem to have unfinished business and more music inside them yet to be heard. After watching this, as well as having just watched three Eagles concerts on ESPN last week, I feel somewhat revived. I’m ready to write again…from all of those thoughts I tuck away in my mental box – and color note, of course.
#ThankYouDonHenley #MyFavoriteEagle #ILoveYouJustTheWayYouAre #Memories
#WritersBlock #Enough #BallpointPen
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Over 30 years ago I became acquainted with a song that has remained in my mind through the years. This song, reminds me of Cecil Miller. Cecil was MY grandfather. Period. And I called him PawPaw. He married my grandmother, Sadie Mae, when my Dad was a young boy. He raised Daddy and provided everything for him that a biological father would; a home, security, clothing, food, his first car…and love. I have never known the identity of Daddy’s biological father and more importantly, I’ve never needed to.
From the time I can remember him, PawPaw was my hero. He drove a station wagon and we would pile up in that car – me, Grandma, sometimes my sister Cindy and sometimes my cousin Angie Gaye, and head for weekend adventures. Most times it was to area back roads with creeks, streams and ponds for skimming stones to watch the water ripple. Or to country stores along our way, one being White’s Wayside that has recently reopened here in rural Virginia. We would stop for a loaf of freshly made hot bread and a hunk of longhorn cheese. The cheese was warm and the flavor at it’s peak because I vividly remember it sitting out on the counter under a huge glass dome. We also got a little brown paper bag of treats…those pink, wintergreen flavored candies – I loved those things! Sometimes we would go to Lakeside in Roanoke, a little amusement park that drew its’ audience from area south west Virginia cities and towns. He loved riding through the beautiful mountains of West Virginia and of course stopping at roadside vegetable stands for homegrown tomatoes. In the summer he loved to go to Shenandoah Acres for the day which was a fun lake not too far from home. The beach house had wooded floors that we were always cautioned to be careful of and not get a splinter in our foot. There were changing rooms with baskets to hold your clothes and inside showers to wash the days sand away. There was a juke box inside and it played the hits of the day. I can smell sand, baby oil and grills with sizzling hot dogs hovering over our beach towels. We never went far and we never stayed long, but those little rides are secured deeply in my heart.
PawPaw knew that I didn’t like riding the bus to school, so he picked me up and took me to school each morning on his way to work. One morning, when I was 15 he didn’t show up. I was so upset and just did catch the bus in time to make it to school. When I got home that afternoon, my Dad broke the sad, sad news to me that PawPaw had passed away suddenly during the night. We were both heartbroken. My Dad always called him Sam. To this day I don’t know why. He never had children of his own and my Dad was his only stepson. I have had people say to me before that he was not my “real” grandfather and I quickly correct them and remind them that Cecil Miller – PawPaw – WAS my grandfather and that’s all I ever needed to know. He was a kind and loving gentleman and he fills my mind with beautiful thoughts. I just heard this song last evening and I felt the void I’ve had for so many years. I’ve got to color this man love!
Twenty five years ago, I was blessed with this sweet princess and given the honor to be called Mommy. I have loved every year and each stage of her growing up and I am thankful I get to celebrate Mother’s Day Weekend with Katie Kingrey! And she sends the best flowers…always unique and full of thoughtful blooms. This one is overflowing with Virginia’s state flower – the dogwood, along with allium, cabbage roses, peonies, ranunculus, eucalyptus and a couple of gorgeous, ruffled surprises that I don’t know. Thank you, Katie & Taylor! If you want something informally elegant and often organically, garden grown, call our friend Kaci Lee at her shoppe, Damsel Floral.
A week or so before the Kentucky Derby I have always read reviews and researched the horses to see who I would be cheering for. Yesterday, as I was scrolling through Facebook, one of my favorite pages popped up, Albemarle Magazine. Here was this story of a Derby contender named Patch. His odds are 40-1 and he’s the underdog – or underhorse I guess fits better. He has only one eye due to an infection last year. Since I’ve had no vision in my left eye for over 25 years now, I can relate to not letting those obstacles stand in his way. This year, my decision is an easy one. Who else could I cheer for this Saturday? Beautiful Patch is my choice!
Hoping Patch will make a “Soulful Strut.”
When I have some time alone, I love to come to Downtown Staunton and stroll through memory lane in this picturesque college town. The building where Shenandoah Pizza is, was an adorable little boutique – Chez Marie. Pretty, white fixtures and thick, plush, hot pink carpeting is what greeted you inside. I was lucky enough to work there for a couple of years back in the day. I learned so much, from New York and Charlotte NC buying trips to creating exciting window displays. Lots of classic sportswear of the time – tartan plaid wrap & kilt skirts, cable cardigan sweaters, monogrammed blouses, turtlenecks, fair isle sweaters, navy blazers, espadrilles, khaki jumpers…actually, khaki everything and shell belt buckles galore! A preppy girl’s Heaven on Earth. But the architecture of this building is captivating, regardless of the business. I’ve always loved the stone florets that adorn the front. If you live here or come home for a visit, check out this lovely building. And treat yourself to the best pizza in town!
Photo Credit: Dana Kingrey – Downtown Staunton – Saturday Evening, October 8, 2016
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” That song brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it during my long “Christmas Music listening” season. Growing up in Staunton, Virginia and celebrating Christmas is a vivid memory for me. From planning our decorations with trips to the garden centers, Woodrow Wilson Gift Shop, The Emporium and Small’s Hallmark with Grandma Miller, to listening to Momma’s classic Christmas albums – Andy Williams, Walter Brennon, Johnny Mathis, Elvis & The Statler Brothers – and watching “White Christmas”, to planning our meals with holiday cooking and baking. Delicious fudge, sugar cookies decorated just right and the country ham with brown sugar and cloves. The hustle and bustle of running around to get everything done, the Christmas parade, shopping in the great little boutiques downtown. Those images remain in my mind, in my sense of smell and best of all in my heart.
I started traditions with Miss Katie early on in Richmond. The paper Noah’s Ark garland that we purchased at the James Centre during the annual lighting ceremony downtown on Cary Street, a sugary candy garland from the Christmas Shop at Westbury Pharmacy, and continued with us in Grand Rapids with special ornaments from the Nutcracker after the performance at DeVos Hall downtown. Every year we add something from one of our favorite spots, even as minimal as the perfect cocktail napkin.
I think I was longing for those early moments and thought Christmas, at home in Virginia, would provide for me what I remembered. It wasn’t until this year, Christmas 2015 that I realized that “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” now means, MY home, with MY family, specifically Daryl and Katie, along with my special and unique pets, Miss Muffin, Socks, and Tinkers and the traditions that I recreated for us based on what I grew up with. Not to mention all of the special friends in our lives who have become like family to us. Starting in November, with all of us getting the house decorated, planning our menus and events, Bing Crosby and other Crooners always in the background, a houseful of people either just stopping by or specific parties, Christmas movies galore and the weeks of Advent. None of that happened this year. Instead, we were away for Christmas for the first time in eight years to enjoy family and friends in Virginia. We did celebrate Advent and Christmas Eve Mass between all of our stops – Grand Rapids, Columbia, SC and Staunton – and that keeps us focused on the important things along with our family bond.
Ahhh, The Eve, haven’t even touched on that yet. Eve’s are our thing. The Eve of any event is celebrated enthusiastically in our home. And ALWAYS with popping and woos of the champagne bottle. To quote one of our favorites, Lilly Pulitzer, “Let’s have a party, let’s have it tonight,” is our motto.
Starting with Thanksgiving Eve the beautiful season begins for us. With preliminary prepping and cooking, the perfect music, hor d’oeuvres and an artistically created – if I do say so myself – cheese board, champagne of course, and a holiday favorite of either “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” or “Miracle on 34th Street,” we’re ready to celebrate! The latter is a favorite because of John Payne being a Roanoke native. We get up early on Thanksgiving and have the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade playing in the background. We never watch a lot of it, but it’s ALWAYS on. Usually a breakfast frittata and mimosas for early brunch and then the cooking continues with football in the background. We try to have dinner early, but at our house, it’s tastefully Dinner at Eight for many reasons, mainly our lively conversations and stories throughout the day. But after Dinner at Eight, Christmas officially begins.
Except this year. Because of Daryl living and working in Virginia, along with Bryan’s wedding the week before Christmas, our being home for Christmas, we opted out of everything that was familiar to us. No decorations, no Christmas tree, no parties. We missed it. The wedding was gorgeous, meaningful and special. After that, I thought, Okay, the wedding was the perfect kickoff, we’ll just accept this as a transition year and enjoyed Christmas in Virginia.
Christmas to me? This was always Christmas to me. Listening to these classics in our home.
Lyrics, by The Statler Brothers.
Saturday afternoon before a snowstorm in Michigan. Not just a snowstorm, but the snowstorm after a very unseasonably warm and dry winter. This was the first one of any significance and a foot of snow was expected. And so, uncharacteristic of Michiganders, the grocery stores and roads were packed. As I’m waiting for Katie to pick up a few more items, and I’m standing halfway back through the store with over 20 shoppers in front of me, I decide to check Facebook to keep me entertained. The first post in my newsfeed was from Mark Goff, a dear classmate and friend. His message: Just in case you haven’t heard the news – our classmate Susan Pleasants (Sue Batt) passed away – she was at the reunion – I just wanted everyone to know – gone too soon!
I was in complete shock! I was overwhelmed with emotion and tears were streaming down my face. Although we were not particularly close friends in high school, as many of us were not, I had just seen her, and had spent time talking with her at the reunion and during the planning. How could this be? Like others, I wondered if she had been ill based on a couple of indicators. But there was no discussion of it in detail on Facebook or in our conversation that beautiful July weekend in Virginia. I was on the planning committee for our reunion and from the time we announced details to the time for the event, Sue had sent me numerous notes letting me know how excited she was to join all of us for the festivities. Her first note read: Hi Dana..want to come to the 40th..how do I pay…best wishes, Sue Batt Pleasants. After a couple of months of correspondence, I found her last note to me prior to deadlines, the most interesting. Ok gonna pay soon.. Anxious about seeing who is no longer alive…thanks.
My greatest memory of Sue as a classmate was that evening and how much she wanted to dance. She asked me several times when the dancing would begin. She enjoyed catching up with everyone. Her date was a handsome gentleman that she introduced as Nelson. Sue’s obituary in the Richmond Times Dispatch, painted a loving picture of a life dedicated to her beautiful daughter, her friends and family, and helping others as a nurse. Our classmate Paul, shared old pictures of Sue that he had held in his memories from 1976 when he and Sue dated. Most of us probably weren’t aware of their brief, post-high school relationship, all of which now allows us to know Sue more personally.
Many have said that our reunion weekend was magical. For reasons and memories like this, it truly was. So much so that we are planning another Lee reunion for this coming summer. No, Sue and some others in this special class won’t be joining us in person, but I know they’ll be looking down on us and we’ll be reminded that our Robert E. Lee High School class just might be the most exceptional group of friends to ever grace those historic hallways on Churchville Avenue.
I needed to spend a little time in the kitchen since it helps me wind down after a busy work day. Miss Katie and I headed to the store and found salmon on sale. I had the seafood specialist at D&W cut the beautiful salmon into filet strips. Katie wanted her favorite…pasta! I found a couple of recipes for sauce and decided to combine a couple of recipes to hopefully give me the taste combinations I was going for. And here is the end result – Pan-grilled salmon over ravioli – (I did not make the ravioli from scratch though). A balsamic cream sauce was the perfect finishing compliment. I must say it was incredible and restaurant worthy!