The Sunday Scoop

Any writer can relate to the current state of Mind dominating my days: wrapped up in my characters and plot, living in a different time and place from good old Sonnystone Acres. Since these characters are also my relatives, there’s another level of imagination added — putting 2plus2 together from stories and facts.

Right now, I’m living 100-years in the past, WWI, trains and automobiles, bobbed hair and suffragettes. In particular, my great-grandfather and his family moved from the farm in southern Illinois to Evansville, Indiana to work as a brakeman for the L&N Railroad in around 1914. In addition to my great-grandfather, Ed Stallings, the family included my my great-grandmother Gainsey, and their children, Vivian, Verla (my grandmother), and Maurice and they lived in Howell, a neighborhood on the edge of the train yards that had been built by L&N for its workers; it was literally surrounded by the tracks and the trainyard.

I lived in Howell in 1974 when I was pregnant with my daughter and remember that my then-mil was worried that the trains would trap me there when I needed to get quickly to the hospital. It’s true that we often waited forever when they were hooking and unhooking the train cars, but I didn’t have a problem.

There were train tracks everywhere in Evansville when I was growing up; the “highway” came right through town and the tracks impeded any kind of traffic flow going north-south. The “highway” going east-west had a train track right down the middle — I was terrified to drive on it when the trains were wobbling back and forth a foot from my car!

Since my great-grandfather worked for L&N, his family got to ride for free and the Stallings ancestors rode the trains to visit relatives in St. Louis frequently during those days. I only was able to take one trip, from Chicago to Evansville, when I was about 6 or 7. I remember my sister getting mad at me because I got the hiccups and kept saying “excuse” me after each hic…and also the conductor going down the aisle announcing “Terre Haute, next stop! Next stop, Terre Haute!”.

It wasn’t just Evansville, of course, where we were accustomed to hear and see trains. The highways often had tracks that ran parallel and I remember my uncle “outrunning” one as I rode in a 3-hole Buck packed with cousins, aunts, and grandma to visit my Aunt Almeda in West Frankfort, IL.

The sound of a train in the distance transports me to my childhood, fills me with a nostalgic yearning for “the good old days” when I was a kid. As John Prine put it…”I can hear the train tracks through the laundry on the line.”

The kitchen cabinets are looking good…

I’ve got to get back to my imaginary world and move the ancestors on to 1920s, another mind-blower…the prohibition of alcohol from January, 1920 to December, 1933. Can you imagine how people would take to Prohibition today? With all the screaming about constitutional rights and citizens united, can you imagine what would happen if the government started tearing down businesses and destroying their product? Interestingly, it was during the Prohibition years that my family began to drink! I carry on the best I can…


The Sunday Scoop

Not much to scoop today…After angsting for days, I finally chose a color for the kitchen cabinets…I forgot to get a true “before” picture –we’d already taken off the cabinet doors — but you get the drift: we’re entering into a blue phase. I’m taking the opportunity to clean up/organize all of the cabinets, too. It’s amazing how much crap we’ve stuffed up on the top shelves!

Casey’s got a shop set up in the diner and he just paints away while I write. It’s been a productive week for both of us. I am focused on my research and writing the ancestors and should be able to post a chapter in a couple of days. I’m planning two, possibly three, chapters after this and then my first draft will be finished! I would love to have first edit done before we head to London in June, but since it’s taken me three years to get this far, I wouldn’t be surprised if that goalpost gets moved.

Speaking of London, the trip is Definitely Back On. We’ll not be there for the Queen’s Birthday, Trooping the Colour and all that, but will arrive the week after. The Royal Ascot is taking place that week, where I hope to glimpse Her Majesty and other Royals. I’m back to planning it all out and the concierge at Queens Gate Hotel in Kensington is helping tremendously…getting excited…Long live our gracious Queen!

Scene from my weekly lunch with the Jr. girls…just before we went to the mall…


The Sunday Scoop

IWe had our first snow of the year on Thursday! Accompanied by bitter cold, I was snug as a bug in a rug, watching the birds flock to the feeders.

Just the day before the temperatures dropped, we had to spray the house for fleas! Our venerable cat, Wink, had been declining ever since our return from Disney World in October. We noticed he was scratching and licking himself a lot, but mostly that he was just sleeping all the time and stalking me, meowing to be rubbed and petted constantly. I thought it might be dry skin and old age, but after a couple of weeks I got some flea bites on my ankles and raised the alarm. We were still unsure and a bit afraid to spray him when he was doing all that licking, so we got him a flea collar, but he continued to seem skinnier and more lethargic. He’s 17-years-old, so it’s easy to blame old age and we did. However, Casey finally got some flea bites and took matters to hand. We put the Winkster in the laundry room and bombed the whole house, then sprayed him down real good. He’s a new man and back into trouble, knocking over plants trying to get to the birds outside. I figure he’s got several more years in him…

I’m in a quandary regarding my Trip in June for The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I seriously don’t want to miss it, but if UK keeps its quarantine requirements in place, I don’t know. This trip has been cancelled and rescheduled three times since I originally booked it in 2019. All of the $$, both hotel and airline charges, have been credited to me, so the money is spent and I want to use it. I’m going to contact the hotel, Queens Gate in Kensington, and see what they recommend. I am so over the Covid — still wearing my mask, ready to be boosted prn, practice social distancing, but we have to learn to live with the fact that we might get sick. I suppose that if HM The Queen can show up for the Jubilee, then I definitely should, but quarantining for two days of a 5-day trip doesn’t sound fun.

Casey has an abscessed tooth and is as lazy as Wink right now. That’s rare, so I’m enjoying it…for a while. We’re starting Phase I of a kitchen remodel, so he needs to rest up and get back to it!!!

Hope your next week is a good one!


New Year Resolves 2022

The New Yorkers got caught in the omicron blizzard last week; first Emma, then Eliza, and of course Melissa, were sick so they weren’t able to visit with us. I was both concerned and disappointed, but everybody’s okay now, so it’s all good. We pulled down the Christmas decorations earlier than usual, cleaning and rearranging and I’ve felt very in sync and in tune with the New Year and moving forward, making changes, and all that. Yesterday I cooked up some Hoppin’ John with greens, so I know the year will be prosperous; we kissed at midnight New Year’s Eve (eastern time), so 2022 is going to be filled with love.

Back in 2018 I wrote about my attitude toward resolutions:

I’m a little skittish about making Resolutions…  I’ve done it before, but I’m just not a Resolute person.  I have only a passing understanding of Determination or what on earth a Firm Decision would be.  Same way with Goals…  The very word implies Effort and there is a whiff of competition that has never appealed to me.

Just like cooking the traditional lucky food, and kissing at midnight, I usually make a list on New Year Day.  In the past, The List was aimed at Self-Improvement, being healthy, changing my habits… It consisted of the usual stop smoking, stop drinking, lose weight, join a group, take a class… I was determined that I Would Become a Better Person!!!  January was always full of hope…  By February, I would be making excuses, and March always saw me in the line of shame to d/c my gym membership.

Now that I am an Old (wise) woman, I see the Year Ahead much differently– I look at it as an Adventure, Each Day a New Experience, Every moment present and aware.  So I’ll call it my Adventure List?  My Experience List?  My Learning List?  My Here’s What I Want to Do in 2018 List? Whatever you want to call it, here it is… (in no particular order and not necessarily complete)  

from “The Perfunctory New Year/New You Post, January 1, 2018”

Right Here Right Now, 4 years later, it’s slightly modified to reflect my growing acceptance of myself…

1. Enjoy Each Moment

2.  Write

3.  Travel

4.  Spend Time with Family

5.  Learn New Music

6.  Read

7.  Garden

8.  Spruce up the House  

I’m actually feeling excited and hopeful about starting fresh again, and I’m making plans to achieve all of the above with great gusto! A New Year that finds us still coping with the pandemic, our political divide, and freaking harry&meghan can sound a little daunting, but I like to look at it from the point of view of this poet:

The new year always brings us what we want

Simply by bringing us along—to see

A calendar with every day uncrossed,

A field of snow without a single footprint.

New Year’s
by Dana Gioia

May our footprints be gentle in 2022!


Boxing Day

It’s the Second Day of Christmas and I’m expecting the delivery of my turtledoves anytime now. Boxing Day in the UK was originally about opening the alms boxes to give to the poor, but has devolved into a shopping day. It’s also St. Stephen’s Day in the Catholic church, the day that Good King Wenceslas looked out where the snow lay round about…

Last Monday was the anniversary of my daughter’s birth and we were in NYC to celebrate. After luncheon at The Community, we proceeded to the movie theatre to see “West Side Story”. (We Loved it, we cried, we marveled…you really should see it.) Then we trooped back to the apartment to sing and blow out candles; I’m Sure her wishes can come true.

We had a super time on Christmas Eve with the Jrs. After a good meal replete with mashed potatoes and gravy, we opened presents. Then it was off to the movie theatre to see “Encanto” which was encanting…(insert punny emoji)

We called the grandies on Christmas morning; beyond that it was just us, two old kids, exchanging presents, drifting through the day, content with grazing the leftovers, amicably sharing. The Day was balmy, so we walked through the woods, planning a pruning spree next month; walked around the gardens discussing plans for the 2022 upgrades; walked down to the campfire circle and envisioned a wall of forsythia between us and the neighbors’ pond… I hope your Christmas was just as heartwarming as ours…

We may or may not have visitors from Manhattan this week, depending on Covid testing. I think Emma may have gotten caught in the blizzard out there…


The Sunday Scoop

We drove through the fog and rain from Eville to Nashville, past trees that had been broken like twigs by that massive tornado that had roared through Kentucky just a week before. We have always lived with the threat of tornadoes and have experienced a few, but a twister staying on the ground, a mile wide, for 227 miles is mind-boggling. There was literally no escape from it. It is such a sobering sight to see the damage those Big Winds do and my heart goes out to the survivors.

We arrived in NYC Thursday evening to weather that was spring-like and I was feeling so confident that I was “safe”, wearing my mask, thrice-vaccinated, and visiting a city that is Strict about such things. Already, though, the omicron was rearing its ugly head and Grandie Emma’s school had closed a day early to avoid large gatherings. Still, I was shocked, dismayed, and disappointed Friday afternoon when Radio City Music Hall cancelled All remaining performances — we were to attend 11am Saturday.

Still, we’re together, and we just pivoted…The Jose’ fam opened their presents on Saturday morning…

It’s Luggage!

On Saturday evening, Melissa, Emma, Eliza, and I drove out to Garden City on Long Island so they could attend an “extra” Irish Dance class to prepare them for the upcoming major competition, All-Ireland’s.

You’ve seen my girls in their wigs and tans, glittering dresses and sparkly headpieces, wearing their winning sashes and hoisting their trophies, but it’s rare (especially since Covid) to see how hard they work to get there. The school that is responsible for making the grandies into champions is Doherty-Petri School of Irish Dancing. Their teachers, Lisa and Karen Petri, know how to set a high bar and help — yes, even Push — these kids to their limits. Emma and Eliza started their Irish Dancing career at another school and have only been at this one for a year. During that time, they have blossomed and grown into World-class competitors. Due to Covid precautions, parents aren’t allowed to sit in on the classes, but these kind ladies made an exception for me. I love the Rockettes, but watching these kiddos sweat and kick was love exponential.

The headlines have been screaming about a “blizzard” of omicron Co-V-19 and all my confidence has eroded into a sick feeling that there is really no end to this. I truly understand that eventually “everybody” will have contracted this virus and that anti-viral treatments are becoming quite plentiful (and no, I don’t mean worm medicine or malaria pills), but the media continues to stir up panic that is hard to avoid when you are in a place that is shutting down again… I guess I’ll double-mask on the trip home.

We’ll be back at Sonnystone on Tuesday and get the rest of the presents wrapped in preparation for Christmas Eve with the Jrs.


The Sunday Scoop

It’s been a busy week here at Sonnystone Acres…

On Monday we drove over to New Harmony to say good-bye to a relic of my past, Main Cafe.

Back in the 1990s I worked for Visiting Nurse, providing in-home care to folks in Posey County, which includes New Harmony – also Mount Vernon, Solitude, Blairsville, Wadesville, Fairview, St. Philips, and all the farms in between. Whenever possible, I planned my day to include lunch at The Main. The place has always closed at 1pm, so I had to get there by 12:30, but as I got to know the owners and servers, they’d let me stay and do some of my paperwork while they cleaned up.

The place is a throwback to the olden days, both the building and the menu. Plate lunches and breakfast all day (back then). Real mashed potatoes with real gravy. Liver and onions on Tuesdays. Perfectly griddled grilled cheese sandwiches. Coffee from a Bunn percolator. Fresh pies. The owner was the cook and the servers were her sisters and her nieces. After 39 years, she’s now 80 and has sold the place; it will shut down for renovations on December 18. Her niece, Kim, and I had become good pals back in the 90s and I’ve always enjoyed seeing her when we’ve stopped in during New Harmony Events.

Sadly, the walls were already bare, the Rotary and Optimists Club banners having been moved to a new meeting place. The place is in dire need of repairs. The owner was not present and Kim said they were training a cook for the new owners who have promised to keep the menu the same, and she made sure he used enough butter, just like her Aunt had. Kim’s mom, now 73, was there to help wait tables.

The rest of the week whizzed by…got all my Christmas shopping done and then some. As is our tradition, Casey and I have agreed to not buy each other presents this year. He usually gets me something anyway, bringing it out at the last minute; I’m ready for him with 2 good surprises, though I’m pretty sure he suspects…

We baked chocolate chip cookies yesterday and Samantha was a Super Assistant in charge of handing me a rounded tablespoon of cookie dough. This was her first real chance to eat raw cookie dough, made from scratch, and I’m proud to have been her guide.

We’re leaving this Thursday for New York, flying out of Nashville to LaGuardia. After missing our trip last year, we’re Excited to be back at Radio City Music Hall for the Christmas Spectacular. We’ll have a fun-packed visit with the Jose’ Fam and I’ll share it with you as soon as I can.


The Sunday Scoop

It’s been a busy week here at Sonnystone Acres with a lot of dr. appointments and that Birthday on Tuesday. Slowly but surely we brought down the Christmas decorations and spread them out around the house. The weather was perfect for hanging lights on Thursday and Friday and we added a new Star… Sorry, I haven’t gotten a picture yet, but it looks good.

Yesterday we held The Official Decorating-of-the-Tree with the Jr. girls

After the tree was finished, we headed Downtown to their Christmas celebration. Nothing going on there appealed to Olivia, so we dropped her off back at her house and it was just the three of us. We had free hot chocolate, a visit with Santa’s assistant, and met the Eville version of Anna and Elsa…Lots of Fun!

I have not bought a single present and currently have no idea what I should buy…As the kids get older I feel more and more like just giving them money. The little one definitely wants toys still, and even the older ones want to open some gifts, so I may do a mix-up of presents/cash. We’ll all be happy no matter what, I’m sure…

You know how it is — every year as soon as Thanksgiving leftovers have been eaten, we all say: I can’t believe it’s Christmastime already! Thus begins the buying and the baking, decking the halls and the fa-la-la-ing. We make our lists and check them twice, and I’d better get busy!


Happy Birthday, dear Casey!

He’s still younger than me, so we don’t dwell on how Old he is, but this is the 67th Anniversary of his Birth. We’re not doing much to celebrate this year, just hanging out here at the Acres, putting up Christmas decorations.

Advent is upon us, the season of getting ready. Last year we weren’t able to be with our New Yorkers, so we’re Super Excited to return to our custom of watching the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall with the Jose’ girls. We’re planning to watch a few Christmas Parades in the Eville area with the Jr. girls, too. My children and grandchildren all still Believe in Santa Claus, so the Wonder never ends…

Here’s to my husband, my companion, my partner-in-crime; Be Happy! Be Healthy! Long Life!


The Sunday Scoop

It seems like forever since I bid you adieu. It felt like a good time to step away from the entire internet thing, go outside and clear my mind of the slime. I hoped to bring myself back to earth, focus on the Now. So I did, sort of.

It was late August when I changed my ways and I threw myself into the garden harvest, as well as pruning and moving shrubs around. By mid-September we were able to pull away from it and take a trip.

Casey has been steadily improving our campervan, Goldie, so we were anxious to take her on the road and try out our new canopies and storage. The Smokies is one of our go-to places, particularly Townsend, TN, “the peaceful side of The Smokies”; it’s only a 6-hour drive and it sits at the Cades Cove Entrance to the National Park. I managed to snag a riverside campsite for a couple of nights and we tooled on down, even though we knew that it was going to rain. Rain it did, damn near the entire time we were there. Because we were able to set up during a dry spell, it was a great test of our new awnings. It rained and rained and rained some more. We spent most of our time sitting watching the Little River flowing around the rocks, changing with every downpour. We watched squirrels and birds and walked around the campground watching people when we could. The last evening the skies began to clear, revealing a full moon rising above the mountains. The next morning the sun slowly rose in the same spot.

It’s always nice to come back home even if the trip is short and we got busy with the garden again. We’ve put a rock path from our Edible Garden to the firepit. The view is still weird since our neighbor dug a pond last summer and it’s only half full. By mid-October we were done, so we traveled down to Disney for bit. It was an impulsive trip, trying out something I’d been mulling for a while. We spent two nights camping in Goldie at Fort Wilderness and then moved over to our “home” motel, Pop Century; doubtful we’ll do that again as you lose a day making the move, even though they are only 15 minutes apart. From Fort Wilderness you can take a quick boat ride to Magic Kingdom; we wanted to see the new Castle Wrap and Fireworks. We had some inside information that Disney allows 100 people to watch the show from the top of the train station and we managed to be the first people up there! The next day we moved over to Pop; from there it’s a 15 minute skyliner ride to Epcot where we rode the new Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (very cool). We’d never been over to the Boardwalk, which is just a nice boat ride from Epcot’s exit. It was lovely. As we returned, the full moon rose over Epcot.

All this time, I missed the blog. I did publish some genealogy stuff and have done a lot of research (so much for staying off the internet). I started planning a comeback a couple of weeks ago, hoping to give the site a whole new life, but was feeling a little shy. This is it, though. I’ll just upgrade my media space and slowly work on deleting any unnecessary photos and ought to be good for another ten years… We’re back!

Just in time for the holidays…