The Chicken Teapot and the Fantastically Lovely Day

Today was one of those days that ended up being exceptional, and for no particular reason. The purpose of my excursion was to find a local “fruit stand” (a misnomer, if you ask me) in order for my daughter-in-law to buy some thyme plants for her little garden in the backyard. I wasn’t exactly sure where this place was located, so we headed out on this fantastically lovely day for a little adventure.

Well, being Memorial Day weekend, and a fantastically lovely day (oh, did I say that already? I can’t help the repetition—the attributes of the day were just part of the many factors making up the exceptional excursion), so naturally yard sales abounded. I tried to ignore them, turning my eyes away from all the items of someone else’s clutter, determined not to add to mine. Fat chance.

The blue sky, fresh air and front yards full of treasure beckoned. I must say, I did manage to resist all manner of furnishings crying out for an application of paint to make them into what I like to call “practical art”—my usual weakness at yard sales. Instead, I fell in love with a uniquely-shaped chicken teapot. Not that the teapot possessed a chicken shape. That would have been too much even for me. No, it is a square-ish ceramic pot with a painted scene of chickens. I couldn’t walk fully from it. I kept returning again and again to the place where it sat until I felt compelled to ask the price. For a yard sale, the price was a little steep, but I bought it without haggling. Lauren (the above d-i-l) announced how proud she was that I had managed to ignore all the furniture we’d seen and that despite the price of my adorable little chicken tea pot, I deserved the occasional splurge. (God bless her.)

Chicken Tea Pot close up

“Someday, my kids will be cursing me, because they’re going to have to get rid of everything I’ve collected,” I commented to the gentleman seated nearby, whose yard we were perusing for items of irresistible interest. He laughed. So did I. I wasn’t about to let the thought of my demise at some future date and my children being burdened by my possessions ruin this fantastically lovely day.

This is a heartleaf alkanet, which has the prettiest, tiny blue flowers, which you should be able to make out to the left (I hope).

Our next stop was the “fruit stand” itself (eventually located), awash in lovely color, as tables and wagons and graveled paths laden with annuals, perennials, and the very thyme we’d been hunting met our delighted eyes. We spent quite a bit of time hunting thyme and everything else, leaving Stauffer’s with the thyme in question, as well as chives, a heartleaf alkanet (a what? I’d never heard of the shade-loving plant, but it’s beautiful), and a pot of coral bells, whose burgundy leaves are a treat.

Coral Bells - nice color, right?
Coral Bells – nice color, right?

However, we were not finished. The open road, the blue sky, the fresh air continued to call to us. So off we went, to Somerset Nursery, where we ogled more plants. Naturally, I couldn’t walk away empty-handed. I cringe as I write those words, because I really am not a spendthrift. In fact, I am usually most obsessively frugal. Oh well. Blame it on the fantastically lovely day. (Right now, the writers of my acquaintance are also cringing. I don’t think they will approve of my disproportionate use of adverbs and adjectives in this blog—again, blame it on the fantastically lovely day.)

Lauren's garden, which will have all the makings of a delicious salad soon.
Lauren’s garden, which will have all the makings of a delicious salad soon.

Afterward, made light-hearted by our unexpected fun, we headed home to grace the waiting soil with our finds—with the exception of the chicken teapot, of course. That little beauty is planted on the windowsill in my kitchen, where it will neither bloom nor bear fruit, but will remind me of this wonderful day whenever I see it…

Now who could resist this?
Now who could resist this?

(Yes, that is my hope, and not that I will be reminded instead of the fact my children will one day be forced to stick a price tag on all my treasures and set them out on a table in the sun for some other bargain hunter to find—but hey, such is the cycle of life.)

B.B. King – Passing of a True Legend – not my words, but my brother’s heartfelt message

On May 15, 2015, at 11:45 AM, my older brother, Bob Probst, wrote and forwarded to my younger brother and me the following in regard to the passing of B.B. King:

An iconic musical giant, and a powerfully personal hero of mine, has passed into immortality. Riley B. King, better known as B.B. King, has died in Las Vegas at age 89.

 I was fortunate enough to see this man perform on five separate occasions during my lifetime. The most memorable was the first,  when I attended one of his shows at the legendary Club Paradise in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee in the spring of 1973. I was accompanied by my longtime friend Rick Hurd, and a small group of our Memphis pals.

This concert was unforgettable for so many reasons. The venue was in a section of the city that still exhibited the widespread devastation resulting from the riots that occurred five years earlier, following the assassination of Martin Luther King. The price of admission was three dollars and fifty cents (!).

 As we went inside, I immediately noticed a large sign above the entranceway that stated “Please Leave Your Weapons At The Door”.  To the right of the ticket booth, there was a literal stockpile of guns, knives, brass knuckles, blackjacks, etc. I was terrified, more so as I realized quickly that we were part of a very small minority of white patrons.

Miraculously to me at the time, we were welcomed with friendly, open arms, and in fact, were given a front row table, center-stage. That warm reception in and of itself was a revelation that I took with me for always.

When B.B took the stage, I was seated less than ten feet in front of the man. He immediately launched into his classic ‘The Thrill is Gone’ (a big radio hit around that time) followed by a seemingly endless performance that was nothing less than breathtaking. He sang and played his beloved Gibson ES-355 guitar with raw emotion and startling power; every note he exuded soared with truth and beauty. It was something ethereal that crept into my bones and remains to this day.

 B.B. himself had said in interviews that he played his guitar ‘Lucille’ the ‘economy way’. Rather than the extended leads and lightning-fast, shredding style so prevalent in today’s rock and blues music, B.B played sparse solos and short fills where he could speak volumes with one single note. He utilized the guitar in a way that both complimented and accentuated his stirring and soul-drenched vocal phrasings, but never distracted from them. This was never more evident than that night in 1973. I can say with all honesty, that I was nearly moved to tears.

There were no intermissions, no breaks that night. B.B. was on fire, and I don’t think he would have stopped playing if the roof of the place had fallen in. By the time we left, it was close to 3:00 AM, and he was still going strong. In fact, some members of his band were so exhausted that they had to stop, and B.B. wound up recruiting musicians from the audience to fill in so he could continue. As we left the club, the sounds of his explosive voice and exquisite guitar soloing followed us out into the early Memphis morning.

 It should be noted too that with B.B’s departure, a critical chapter of American musical history has come to a close. He was the very last of the legendary bluesmen from the Mississippi Delta.

This great performer gave me moments in my life that will never go away, and I couldn’t be more thankful.  R.I.P, Riley. You truly were the King of the Blues.


Thank you, Bob, for this moving tribute. I read it with a combination of tears and goose bumps. ~ Robin

The Library Rules

Yes, I know, there are rules to using a physical library, a brick and mortar building of hushed voices, high ceilings, row upon row of worn and handled books, lofty ideals and hope, earnest absorption and the concentrated knowledge of so many others at your fingertips.  But I don’t mean those rules.  I mean the library rules!

I am ashamed to say, I haven’t been inside a library for years, performing all my research on-line or through the use of books I have purchased for that purpose.  However, last week I had a few hours of time during which I couldn’t leave the Doylestown area, and decided to spend it in the library I used to frequent when I lived in Bucks County.

Oh.  Freaking. My.

It was like coming home.

Yes, indeed, I found myself enveloped by warm and fuzzy welcome.  And unlike the internet, where you pretty much need to know exactly what you seek before you search, in the library you are free to wander down the aisles, drawing books from the shelves at random for your researching pleasure.  And draw out books I did, taking them one at a time to a comfy chair at the end of the aisle where I perused each with an eye to anything that caught my fancy.  As the first fascinating tidbit of information jumped out at me, I wrote it down, which then led me to search for more and more, until I had wandered down each and every aisle and filled multiple pages of a purple (I have a particular affinity for purple) spiral-bound notebook with facts and quotes and references, enough for me to have formulated a rough idea of an entire storyline.

Goodness, I had forgotten how wonderful that felt.

Unfortunately, I also found signs that the library had succumbed to the digital age, as the amount of shelving, and therefore books upon them, had shrunken considerably.  Alas, such is progress.  Who am I to deny the benefits?  Still, I hold a special place in my heart for the sanctity of the library, with gentle and loving remembrance of a certain few.

The Somers Library in Upstate New York, lodged in a tiny one-hundred-year-old house with the children’s section fitted into the space beneath the attic eaves.  Perfect.  Adults couldn’t even stand up there.

Or the erstwhile Cherry Hill Library in New Jersey (I believe it has since grown into something new and therefore remarkable—but I may be mistaken), where I found copies of personal correspondence written by the men and women who lived through the brutal sepoy rebellion in India.  The brutality existed on both sides, as did the noble acts of selflessness and bravery, something of which I hadn’t been entirely aware until I read the descriptive words contained in those journal entries and missives.

And, of course, I cannot ever forget the grade-school library where I discovered my favorite book of childhood, Apples Every Day.   So enamored was I of the story penned by Grace Richardson that I renewed it over and over again and even wrote a letter to the author, who wrote back to me.  I still have the letter, written with lovely penmanship and containing a promise from Ms. Richardson that if she wrote a sequel, she would give Gabby a horse, just for me.

In conclusion, I shall reiterate: the library rules.  It rules the places in my heart where inspiration curls in want of awakening, it rules the places in my mind where the roots of inspiration have grown to blossom upon their lurch from slumber.   It rules my reader’s longing for worlds that would otherwise be hidden from me, and it rules my writer’s passion.

Quite clearly, the Library Rules.