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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Late to the Gate, with Three Or More and Tasty Tuesday!

It's late Tuesday afternoon, and I'm just now getting to the computer to put together a post!

I'm jumping into Three Or More Tuesday (click here!), hosted by Tam at The Gypsy's Corner, and also hopping into Tasty Tuesday (click here!), hosted by Jen at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Thanks to both these ladies for the fuss and bother of hosting; we do appreciate it!

Anne and I wandered into Dollar Tree this afternoon;
it is dangerously close to That Old House, and thank goodness it isn't "Hundred Dollar Tree."

We wandered out laden with bags. We dumped everything on the
big round oak table in the sunroom when we got home:

We definitely had more than three!

I've had my eye on these blue and aqua dishes for a few weeks. They look like they belong in a beach house.
Matte finish, nice and heavy -- they have an almost handmade feel about them.

I got a few of these, too:

There is nothing remotely artisan-looking about these. They are cheesetastic -- they're flocked, for goodness' sake, and silvered inside -- but they make me smile, and on Thursday, in a tablescape with the blue and aqua dishes . . . they will do just fine!

I got a half-dozen of these white plates, with their basketweave border:

Wedgwood, Tiffany, and Aynsley all have white plates with basketweave borders.
So, as we say in New York, "What's not to like?"

I'll see how well they wear before getting more. I have my Mom's old ironstone restaurant dishes that I am returning to the beach house, so I need some plain white everyday dinnerware here at That Old House. This may be just the ticket.

Or maybe I should bring the blue and aqua dishes out to the beach house? Hmmm. . .

Now. . . it's also Tasty Tuesday,
featuring the food that we like to serve on the 4th of July.

My favorite things to have on the 4th are the first tomatoes from the garden.

They are fabulous just sliced and served warm and nekkid, but there's also tomato pie;
it makes a great nibble while the grill gets going.

This past Saturday, a week before the 4th, I wanted to make a tomato pie to bring to a cook-out at a friend's house, but when I began to assemble the darned thing, I realized I was missing a key ingredient: mayonnaise.

What to do?
I could make my own mayo from scratch, but seriously, folks. . . .

I decided to do a tomato pie, That Old House style: no muss, no fuss, and hold the mayo.

I pre-baked a store-bought crust (yes, proudly cheating!), and then put in a thin layer of leftover shredded cheese, then piled in sliced seeded ripe tomatoes, fresh basil leaves from the garden, and some cut up sundried tomatoes in olive oil. On top, thick slices of aged sharp New York State cheddar cheese.

Into a 350 degree oven, till the cheese melted and the tomatoes got soft.

As simple as simple can be. And pretty darned tasty, too.

I'm dreaming up other combinations -- thin sliced zucchini and goat cheese, spinach with feta or swiss, cut up Reese's peanut butter cups with hot fudge -- oh wait, that's a different fantasy.

But I do like this method of making a pie. Pie for Dummies, that's my speed.
Thanks for visiting! -- Cass

Monday, June 29, 2009

Thrifty Treasures on Met Monday, if by "thrifty" we mean FREE

Have you ever visited a house that just seemed perfect? I don't mean that it was grand or spectacular, but that it was perfect for what it was -- someone's very special home -- and a true reflection of its owner.

I was lucky enough to visit such a home on Saturday.

Today I'm double-dipping in Blog Party Land ...
Metamorphosis Monday
(click here!) and Today's Thrifty Treasures (click here!).

Thanks to Susan of Between Naps on the Porch and Rhoda of Southern Hospitality for hosting.


I have a new friend -- Barbara -- whom I met last month at the home of an old friend.

Barbara invited our family (including Dion) for a barbecue on Saturday. If I had been bolder, I would have begged to take pictures of her house (and her pups, too!), to share with you.

Barbara's house is a 1930's era Sears kit house, and it is perfection. It nestles cozily into a beautiful established garden, crazy with bloom, with a tall hedge that I've already forgotten the name of, but that I need here at That Old House to screen out a new house next door. I would love to hire Barbara to give me garden design advice!

Inside, the house has been beautifully and carefully updated, and a wonderful room added across the rear, with built ins and big chunky rows of windows. . . but what makes this house so special is that it could only belong to Barbara; it is that personal.

I just loved it. Maybe I'll be invited back, and this time,
work up the courage to say, "May I invade your privacy, please?"

As we were leaving, Barbara told us she had something
she thought That Old House could use; she was right.
She gave us two of these:

I asked my daughter Anne if they could qualify as Thrifty Treasures,
and she said, "What is more thrifty than free?" She has a point.

So . . . on to the Metamorphosis, using our Thrifty Treasures. . . .

Here, $8 worth of supermarket flowers, beginning to lose their oomph!

Time to bring in a shorter vessel:

A pair of clippers, a steely resolve to toss the past-their-pull-date blooms,
and voila! A new look.

The dining room, meanwhile, looks a bit austere -- a big dark leafy philodendron
on the table, and two side windows looking rather bare, square and plain:

So. . . let's put a little color on the table:

And take the philodendron and put it in one of the plant stands from Barbara:

Take a pothos, swiped from the parlor, and pop into the other
plant stand, and in front of the other window:

And we have our metamorphosis --- a softened look,
with colorful flowers, healthy plants, and two lovely old iron stands!

From another perspective:

So it's a simple change today, or, as Anne put it, "Not much of a Metamorphosis, Mom."

But it's a change for the better -- albeit a small one -- and that's what counts. Right?

I am looking for a place for these plant stands in the sunroom, too, for the colder weather. Stay tuned; I have a feeling they will turn up again, and again. -- Cass

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Are There Ghosts in That Old House?

This is a blog post from March 2009, and a follow up from the June after.
To update this story, as of June 2009 I have not seen or heard anything odd since writing this piece. But I can't say the same for my daughters. I've added their experiences at the end of the original tale.

Don't read this in the dark. . . .



Now, right off the bat, let me tell you that I don't believe in ghosts.
Remember that, okay? There will be a quiz later. (No, actually not.)

My sister-in-law Doris sort-of, kind-of, pretty-much believes in ghosts, and has been asking me since we bought That Old House if it is haunted. My daughters even considered conjuring up a make-believe ghost, just to spook and tease their Aunt Doris.

Turns out, they didn't have to.


Before we moved here, I spent a lot of time alone in the near-empty house waiting for painters or electricians or plumbers or contractors or deliverymen. I heard a lot of noises.

Door-closing sounds, creaks and, most often,
the noise of a hammer blow in a distant part of the house.

But, I don't believe in ghosts and was not concerned.
Old houses make odd noises. It's part of their repertoire and their charm.

And all it was, was noise. Never anything scary.

We moved in, the house filled up with stuff and people, and the noises, if there still were noises, weren't so noticeable anymore. Sometimes I'd find the door at the foot of the attic stairs standing open:

and sometimes the attic light was on.

And no one had been to the attic.

But, never anything scary.
I don't believe in ghosts.

Months went by, and I got used to the noises (after all, old houses make noises) and even got used to finding the attic door open every once in awhile (hey, these things happen in the best of houses, right?).

But then, in the early winter, I saw a . . . well . . .

I don't exactly know what I saw. Doris might call it a ghost.

But ... I don't believe in ghosts.

Here's what happened. . .

I heard some thumps coming from the kitchen area, around eleven o'clock one night. I stood up, meaning to investigate,
and saw a figure, in silhouette, move across the conservatory, right across this area:

. . .between the table to the right, and the seating area at the end of the room.
The figure, or shadow, or whatever, walked right-to-left,
into the kitchen, out of my range of vision.

I thought, "Oh, that explains it. Howard came back downstairs for something," and I called his name. No answer.
Turns out, Howard was sound asleep upstairs. No one had walked through the conservatory.

But it was okay, because I don't believe in ghosts.

A few weeks later, I sensed some movement in the front hall, while I was in the butler's pantry area.
I looked and -- again -- saw the shadowy silhouette of someone moving.

I looked through the dining room into the hallway:

The whatever-it-was moved from the right, past the front door,
and into the door that leads to the study, at the foot of the stairs on the left:

Yes, into the door. This door is nearly always closed, yet the figure disappeared anyway.

But it's okay, because I don't believe in ghosts.

I tease our Pastor that since he did our House Blessing, the demons are gone from the house.
But there are no demons in this house and never have been;
it is a friendly, warm and sheltering home, and I have never felt afraid here.

The odd noises, the opening attic door?
They are the vagaries of a crooked old house, built without nails and
bearing the evidence of having at one time been a popular hangout for powder post beetles.

But those shadows? They are a little harder to explain away.
I'm not an excitable type, I've got good eyesight,
and I did see them; I was wide awake, and one sighting was in broad daylight.

I don't know what they were. Tricks of the light? Some sort of shadow in my vision? I will never know.

Whatever they were, I truly, still, don't believe in ghosts.

Not the type that float around an old house to spook the current inhabitants, anyway.
Old house are haunted, but by the traces and stored memories of past stewards.

For example, just this morning I went downstairs to the cellar to fetch eggs from the extra fridge,
prior to making a meatloaf for my Mom's 88th birthday luncheon today.

As I was turning off the overhead light, I saw something I'd never before noticed:
scratched into the very old paint near the wall switch was the word:


Can you see it? It's larger, below.
(I have no idea what the red smudge is. Too bright for blood, right? Right?)

Now who the heck scratched that word there, and why?
No ghost, that's for sure; I hope it is some sort of antique family joke!



Back to the present . . .

As I said, I have not seen anything since those two experiences. But my daughter Anne has seen a similar silhouetted something-or-other move across the dining room, and across the front hallway, towards the parlor.

I asked her to take pictures of where she was standing. The first time, she was standing in the butler's pantry, looking into the dining room. It was night:

She saw something move across the room, in front of the windows.

Then, one afternoon, she saw a similar something move across the front hallway, left to right. Anne was standing near the top of the cellar stairs when she saw this -- from this perspective:

And then Alida, in the upstairs hall on her way to bed one night, saw and felt "something" right in front of her, as if a dark veil were briefly there, and snatched away.

The only common denominator in these things is that my daughter Anne has been in the house each time.

Clearly, she is the enabler. :-)

I am heading outside now into brilliant sunshine -- hooray! -- to weed -- boo! But Howard and Annie are out there already doing their bit for the landscape, so I'd better post this and step away from the computer, and into the fresh air. -- Cass

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Outdoor Wednesday -- Greetings from Guam

It looks as if we are finally going to be getting some summer weather here in Northern New Jersey (could it be because a friend from Kentucky is due to visit today?). To get us in the mood for hot, steamy weather . . .

. . . I've got a few of the zillions of pictures my daughter Anne took this month when she was on Guam, singing in the Pacific Music Festival.

Thanks to Susan at A Southern Daydreamer for hosting Outdoor Wednesday!
Please click here to visit more stories of the Great Outdoors.


Anne called me on her first day there. It was 5 AM in Guam, 7 PM the night before, in Jersey. She had waked early, and so as not to wake her roommate, went out on the balcony of her hotel room to watch the sunrise.

At 5:15 . . .

At 6:45 . . .
It was a busy couple of weeks, with rehearsals and performances,
but Anne and her cohorts managed to squeeze in a lot of fun.

They swam in the Philippine Sea:

Same beach, looking toward land:

They hiked the jungle:

Swam in a "hidden pool" in the jungle:

One of my favorite shots -- a coconut, fallen to the beach. Look closely;
there's a baby palm tree growing out of it! I never think of coconuts as giant seeds!

Crazy wacky looking fish, just swimming in the sea:

Anne was charmed by Guam, and the people who live there; they are gracious and generous. Plus it was nice to be 7500 miles from home and able to use U.S. dollars!

Happy Summer! -- Cass

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pots and Pops, on Met and Mosaic Monday

It's Monday!

I'm sharing a simple but oh-so-important metamorphosis here at That Old House, joining Metamorphosis Monday, hosted by Susan at Between Naps On The Porch (go visit!) and joining Mary at Little Red House for Mosaic Monday (click! visit!).

Inspired by Mary's own mosaic for today, honoring Father's Day (which is a delicate way of admitting I totally copied her idea), I rummaged through my photo files and came up with some pictures of my Dad, my husband, and my husband's Dad.

So, Herb, Howard and Milt... great Dads, all ... this one's for you!

I have lots of pictures of my Dad, but I only had two of my father-in-law -- one from Alida's college graduation last year, another from going out to dinner after Annie's college graduation this year. See what happens when Zayde lives in Florida, but Pop-Pop is just 6 minutes away? A serious imbalance in camera time!


And now.... pssst. Pssssttt.... You! Yeah, you. C'mere. Lean in, I gotta question for you. . . You got any pots? No! Not that stuff! Pots, pots, like you cook in. Pots! Yeah, me too.

I like pots. I like to see them out and populating (potulating?) a kitchen, not hidden in dark cabinets, stacked in untidy piles, getting banged up and scratched. I don't think there is any finer kitchen decor than pots and pans. They belong.

I have always managed to hang our pots in our kitchens, no matter how tiny or goofy
that kitchen may otherwise have been (and we've had our share of tiny or goofy).

For a whole year I've been trying to find the right spot. With 4 doorways, a stair case,
counters, cupboards, freestanding storage -- a big-enough kitchen can seem too-small.

Then ... inspiration. At our last house, we hung pots from a shelf above a window.
We only have one window in this kitchen, and it's over the sink. But, why not?

Whatcha think?

Howard anchored a 4 x 4 between the two cabinets, and screwed in great big stainless steel hooks:

Ta-Da! I can hang enough pots to free up space in my corner cabinet to house the gorgeous stainless steel roasting pan
I bought on sale at Macy's on Friday, and still have room for more stuff!

More stuff . . . was there ever a lovelier phrase? Plus, we already had the 4 x 4 from a previous metamorphosis that
I haven't blogged about yet (not quite complete) so the pot rack was nearly free as well . . . leaving more money for more stuff!

Thanks Howard! (Don't hit your head too hard on your desk when you read this at your office.)

Happy Monday! I'm off to Princeton soon with Anne; she has an interview there,
so I am tagging along to shop, and maybe find (say it with me)... more stuff! -- Cass

P.S. Dion can't do a thing with his hair this morning! Time to go back to sleep.