Sugar Magnolia

Sugar Magnolia


Front door, Magnolia House

Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers—Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire”

We traveled to the east coast for a wedding in Philadelphia, the World Traveler having taken himself forevermore off the marriage market and finally settling down with a nice Jewish guy, who will, no doubt, keep him on his toes, but I digress.

Since the boys had their fall break, we decided to tag on a few extra days and head to New York City. FOTI had seen enough of hotels the past months, so we decided on an Air B & B, but what a choice! Every enterprising homeowner in the tri-State area seems to be doing Air B& B. “Here’s a good one,”  he told me one night after dinner, ” its called “Magnolia House”, Staten Island, easy walk to the ferry, two rooms so we don’t have to share with the boys, living room, breakfast and, oh by the way, Tennessee Williams stayed there.” Hold the phone. Tennessee Williams, right, not Hank  Williams (although that’d be cool too) or Ted Weems? ” Tennessee Williams for sure,”  he said, “you know, Stella!Stella!” “Book it,” I told him, without a second’s hesitation.

The host, Danforth, responds to our booking request with the elegant, almost florid correspondence of a 19th century gentleman. I, for one, was intrigued.I didn’t have time to google Danforth to make sure he wasn’t of the Procrustean persuasion, so I had no idea what to expect he’d look like and was hoping for the best.

We arrived after dark on Sunday night.

Magnolia House,  is nestled in the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island, tucked just beneath the wing feathers of St. Peter’s Church. Even under cover of darkness, the Victorian house is as quaint and welcoming as her name would imply.

Danforth was a surprise. I think I was expecting a cross between the immortal Jeeves and a forbiddingly gothic Mr. Danvers as it were, but the friendly figure who answered the door looked more like your hip college RA than a B & B landlord.

While FOTI and Danforth parked the car, the boys and I moved into the parlor. Here quaint gave way to opulent, quirky eclecticism. As they say in Dutch “Ik kwam ogen tekort” or  my eyes could hardly take it all in! From the golden proa , to the masks, the regency sofas the curios, the art work. “Is this a haunted house?” one of my sons asked. “No,” I replied, “we’ve tumbled into a game of Clue and this is obviously the Oriental Room.”


The Parlor

By this time Danforth and FOTI had returned, wine was poured and we sat down for a chat about our plans, what time for breakfast, books, art, music etc. etc. like you do. Hey, when I meet somebody, first thing I need to know to get their measure is: Atlantic or Motown? Eventually, Danforth shimmered off to his second-floor abode and we shimmered off to bed.

Breakfast was another surprise. Darwin, that is, Darwin Porter, yes, that Darwin Porter was manning the stove and whipping up some delicious scrambled eggs. It is not every day that you get breakfast cooked by a mondo travel writer, journalist and raconteur extraordinaire. Between Danforth’s running commentary and Darwin’s wonderful tales of New York, Key West and Hollywood “back in the day”, time flew by and it was well past noon before we took Manhattan.

It was a great stay in New York. We took in museums, strolled in Central Park and Times Square, surfed on the subway…but getting to know Darwin and Danforth made everything even nicer and more memorable; hanging out on the veranda, talking about  all kinds of important things including politics, Harper Lee, The Pink Triangle, extraordinary people we’ve met…


Joe College and FOTI hanging out on the veranda with Danforth

If you are looking for a unique and unforgettable place to stay on a trip to New York City and if you aren’t expecting a premium hotel experience, this is the B & B for you. As Danforth says, “The Hilton, it ain’t”. He’s a believer in what he calls “radical hospitality”. All I know is that we arrived as guests at Magnolia House, we left as friends.


For Those About to Rock…

For Those About to Rock…



There is a lot to be said for mobile technology, being able to keep in touch with your loved ones at all times and then there’s the downside.

This is a rare weekend for Vince and I, being mostly child-free. We went out to dinner last night, made conversation about subjects other than our offspring, enjoyed getting up without a rugby match or concert on our Saturday agenda, we were relaxed. I worked on a new oil painting, Vince went to the gym and pottered around the yard. No. 2 Son was off to Pink Pop with his uncle and No. 1 Son wasn’t arriving for one of his flying visits home until the late afternoon. If anybody needed us, we were a phonecall, text, or what’sapp away.

No. 2 Son is a hard rocker. To emphasize this point he has a wardrobe consisting almost entirely of black T-shirts promoting various bands, some known to us, some only known to heavy-metal cognoscenti. I don’t think he has a tattoo yet, at least not where I could see it. Perhaps he really has taken my threat of the sandblaster to heart? Recently he’s taken up the bass. It could have been the drums, but no, he chose the bass. It is not the piano. I shall say no more on the subject. Apparently he’s in a Motörhead  tribute band and I will get to hear them play at a school event this week, but I digress.


No 2. with a friend and his cousin at Pink Pop


This morning, No. 2 was off to the legendary Pink Pop festival with his uncle and a few other like-minded individuals because today’s lineup was all about metal. We were treated, via telephone to lots of nice photos of the black T-shirt contingent from Pink Pop, just to let us know they were having a good time. I thought that was nice, long live the mobile phone, until this flashed up on screen:

Mosh Pit

No. 2, dead center wearing the vest with patches…

There was my baby, (he’s 6′ tall, but still my baby!) headed straight to the vortex of the mosh pit. Some things you just don’t want to know. I responded as one would expect by yelling at my brother-in-law in caps that he ought to put a stop to this. If I’d responded any other way, everybody would be disappointed.

We haven’t heard anything from Pink Pop since. I can only assume that he made it out of the mosh pit in one piece and I have already planned my revenge. Next Wednesday evening, guess who’s going to be in the mosh pit when her son’s on stage.

throw metal

Trending in Twente

Trending in Twente


Gevonden op


Someone from beautiful Twente, a part of the Dutch Province of Overijssel




Twente Juniors


Twente is a nice place to live. Closer to Germany than it is to Amsterdam, dull in the best way possible, rural pockets surrounded by rust-belt towns and a truly excellent University, it is a fine environment to raise a family, walk the dog etc. etc. It is not known for being a ” fashion forward” locale. Imagine my surprise when I caught a look at this while watching Team Twente juniors from the sidelines.




Tukker Nikes

I have a feeling that this is the beginning of a serious trend, here in the wild, wild east.

Poems Lost & Found

Poems Lost & Found

Poetry Folder

I spent most of this evening cleaning up my work area. It is where I write and paint and store most of my books and stuff. I noticed the other day that the stuff was getting to be too much. I couldn’t sit at my desk anymore because of the stuff and the idea of going through all the stuff was rather intimidating so there it remained. Until tonight.

After spending a lovely afternoon with my MIL at Ikea (she needed a new kitchen table, a lamp and a tiny trashcan) I came home to a dark, gloomy house and a sky that was threatening to snow at any minute. I’d promised myself a run before dinner and sundown, but it was just too cold and the time was right to tackle the stuff on my desk.

Clearing away the bills, the junk, the stuff that seems magnetically drawn to my desk because it has no proper place in our house or my life felt great so I moved on to the big messy, cluttered bookshelf. Among all the books I think I should read, but never will and other assorted flotsam, including a statue of Shiva I’m afraid to toss because it will most certainly bring bad luck, I found an accordion file of my writings over the years. Even better, I found a manila folder of poetry in the file.


I’d forgotten about the manila folder. It wasn’t even mine to begin with. It belonged to my parents’ next-door neighbor, the unsinkable Mary Dwyer Currier, or Maribel as her wonderful husband, Richard and I called her. They had
“adopted” me as their ersatz granddaughter when I was very young and I adored them.

At their house I could escape the drama and chaos of my own. Richard would crack open a few Cokes in the kitchen, put a few Milanos on a fancy plate and we’d spend hours talking about music and art and books and politics. They introduced me to Bach, the theater, Jesuits and John Cheever.

Richard was a gifted pianist, philosopher and mathematician as well as former head of the school district. Maribel was a card-carrying Feminist, Truman-democrat and renegade Catholic. They both loved poetry and collected clippings from journals and newspapers in a manila folder that came into my possession shortly before Maribel passed away. Before tonight I never looked to see what was in there.

The clippings are carefully done. Long strokes with the scissor, not like my choppy haphazard cuttings. The New Yorker, NYT, The Atlantic, American Poetry Review...The poems themselves cover a variety of themes, which give my older adult self new insights into the hearts of two people I loved when I was young, who I love still.

I’d like to share some of the poems in this blog and see where they take us.
I don’t know if I’m breaking any copyright rules, so if I am, let me know.

Late Winter Afternoon
by Charles Wharton Stork

Near and afar now, low and high,
The sharp black boughs and the dull
gray sky.
The air grows chilly, the faint light
Dismal the hush of the woodland
As the gathering twilight settles
Over the fields of withered brown.

Little of beauty is here, you say,
At the somber close of this winter
But study the exquisite traceries
From trunk to twig of the passive
And note how toward the horizon’s
The tones of the hillside soften and

The time between January 2 and the first glimpse of spring is a year unto itself in the Netherlands. It snowed a bit today but not much more than meager white dandruff over crusty flat fields. Driving my car over a sandy road no dust rose behind me although my car door felt gritty when I stepped out onto our driveway. The sand itself is frozen down to a distillate that produces no clouds but settles without any fanfare. My gloves make everything clumsier than usual. It seems to take forever in the freezing cold to open our mailbox to collect the post before I go inside. When the front door opens I smell them. My husband brought me daffodils from the market last Saturday– Here, March preview! Yellow flowers with a sunny scent on a January afternoon, by which he means to say he loves me.




I am getting old. This manifests itself in many funny little ways, not the least of which is my reaction time on all fronts: physical, emotional, intellectual. After the attacks in Paris on Friday, I needed time to absorb the basic information. It was important to knowwith which lunatics we (as an ex-pat, I feel safe in the use of “we” in matters European) were dealing this time. Was it ISIS or one of her newly spawned twisted sisters? Were the terrorists home-grown or imported? What is their beef this time?

Frankly, I’m getting a little battle weary for knee-jerk symbolic gestures and calls to prayer for peace to be inspired to join the tragic chorus without knowing more facts. My Facebook photo is not sporting the tricolors of France because the people who know me and about whose opinions I care know how I feel about terrorism and empty symbolic gestures.

Saturday, still ruminating on the attacks in Paris, I went to the sauna with my sister-in-law, who, as we were settling down in the earth-sauna opined that this particular terrorist event was scary because “our kids could have been at any of those places”. Joe College and Charlie Brown went to Paris together this summer for the first time without us. I worried about them getting robbed or separated or falling in with a bad crowd, but I did not worry about terrorists for some reason. Silly me. A week after their return, in the same train, a terrorist was taken down by 2 French and 3 American guys about the same age as Joe College before he could do any damage to the other passengers. I know what my sons would have done in the same situation and that frightens me.

Monday morning I spoke to a friend who thinks that the reason for this terrorism comes down to “haves” and “have nots”. She may have a point, however in disagreements between “haves” and “have nots” the pursuit is based purely on material want and not purely nebulous idealism. These jihadists don’t want Europe’s music or food or fashion. They don’t want more money (except to buy arms), they don’t want anything to do with our way of life. In fact, they want to take away our way of life, to make us fear them. Why?

Well, I have a theory about that. My ride is a snazzy little Mini and I try to stick to the speed limit most of the time, which some male (yes they are always male) drivers situated behind me find annoying. Most don’t have rides as cool as mine (sub-zero, ask Clarkson) and their need for speed seems to arise from a feeling of inadequacy—I never checked, but I’m sure most, if not all are under-endowed and have no say at home. Why else would anyone need to drive 80 kph in a 30 kph zone?

The so-called jihadis have no locus of power except for that which they receive from being terrorists. They are disenfranchised losers who lack the intelligence and grit to better themselves any other way than violence. They are like stupid sheep listening to poisonous words which only enhance their conviction of their disadvantage and taking their direction based upon it. They have lost any ability to think and reason. I am weary of trying to understand these people and worn out with worrying.

The last time I worried this much was 1969. Vietnam was being broadcast into our livingroom and at 5 years old, I was sure the Viet-Cong were going to burst through the door any day. The Viet-Cong, which sounded to me a lot like King Kong, who was one badass gorilla, were also “gorillas”. Every morning at school we’d have to pray for the soldiers in Vietnam and at recess we’d discuss how we’d escape if the gorillas ever came knocking at our door.

On the train to Amsterdam the other day, I sat thinking, not really interested in the book I’d brought along for the 2 hour journey. I spent the trip eyeing up my fellow passengers, sizing up their terrorist potential, checking out possible escape routes and finally considering what I’d do if somebody pulled out a gun.

As a teenager, I was a bit of a mall-rat. Spencer Gifts was always a favorite. My friends and I could spend hours looking at the goofy wallposters. I always liked this one:


All things considered, the best way for me to respond to the massacres in Paris last Friday is defiance. I will continue to go about my daily life, travel on airplanes, talk to strangers, enjoy a concert or a sportsmatch…and if somebody pulls a gun I won’t hesitate. If I’m going down, I’d rather go down fighting.

The Shabbos Goy at Leiden U.



Our firstborn is at university on the other side of the country. That sounds far away; it’s only a 2 hour drive, but still! We’ve had the necessary sleepless nights worrying first about how he was going to make it on his own,keeping on top of his busy schedule, laundry, feeding himself proper food, then about his choice of study, followed by what would his wacky first landlord come up with next, and shouldn’t he be spending more time on his study than his music? Lately we’ve seemed to have arrived in calmer waters. Olivier’s study is going well, he’s still singing but it’s no. 2 on the priority list for the time being, he doesn’t come home in the weekend with a week’s worth of laundry anymore and disappear until Sunday dinner, he actually spends time with us when he’s home, he’s learning to drink wine…in short he’s turned into a delightfully civilised young man and we’re getting a good night’s sleep because of it.

He’s been writing a few articles lately as part of his minor at Leiden U. as well as just setting his thoughts down to make sense of the world. Here’s what he wrote about the shooting at Umpqua Community College last week.

Horrified by the shooting in Roseburg, OR. I couldn’t imagine the lack of safety, and fear I would feel if this would happen at Leiden University. With eight school-shootings in the US in the past three years, the most painful being the one involving the first-graders in Newtown, CT, it makes you question if school environments are safe in the US. Especially, since this one happened in a gun-free zone.

It’s frustrating to see this happening over and over again. The Charleston-shooting is just 3,5 months ago. A very memorable quote from a family member of a victim was: “Hate the sin, but forgive the sinner”. It stresses the importance of environmental factors leading to such a crime, be it gun-control in whatever form, lack of good parenting or the lack of a community that exercises social control on its members.

Sending strength and consolation to the families in Oregon, while hoping larger steps will be taken in addressing the root cause(s) of these shootings. And finally, enjoying the safe community around me, consisting of tolerant people allowing different people to live together safely. Tolerance is necessary, but in this case, as a (world-)community, we need to speak out a collective vote to stop tolerating these crimes, not just in the US, but everywhere.

I couldn’t wait to tell him in person how well put I thought this little piece was.

We usually get the week’s drama out of the way when I pick him up at the train station. By the time we’re at our front door I’m listening to his stories of college life, the new experiences, hearing his (wild) plans for the future. Its fun to see his old highschool crew when they come to our house to drink beer and play cards on the odd Saturday night, and hearing him sing the Magnificat when he’s under the shower on Sunday mornings is a treat not to be missed.


This weekend he announced “Mom! I’m a Shabbos goy!” I can’t remember the last time I heard that term, certainly not in this country. Simply put,a Shabbos goy is a non-Jew who performs work that a Jew is not permitted to do at Shabbat. There are a shedload of specifications and exceptions if you look into this properly, but this is the short version. After I got done laughing he told me the details. Apparently one of his friends at university has returned to the faith and our Ollie puts the lights on in D’s apartment on Friday’s after sundown. The days are short at this time of year on this parallel, so this qualifies as a “life threatening situation”– 18th century buildings, high, narrow stairs…you dont’want to think about the consequences of stumbling around in the dark because you aren’t supposed to turn on a light switch. Is my kid a mensch or what?

We shipped him back to Leiden on Sunday morning. He sent me a funny Facebook sticker last night.


This afternoon the phone rang and it was my friend, Marjolein. “Did you hear about Leiden?”

The phrase “Did you hear about…” in the middle of the afternoon sends chills up my spine. Nothing good comes of it. Another afternoon in 2001, my mother-in-law phoned and asked, “Did you hear about the Twin Towers?”

The earth tilted and my world started slipping away.“What about Leiden?”

There was a threat posted in social media about a gun massacre somewhere on the Leiden campus. I’d been too busy bumping up my Candy Crush score all morning to look at the news, so I hadn’t heard about it yet.

I hung up and quickly phoned my son. I heard his voice. The earth tilted back to a normal position. He was at home, studying for his exam this afternoon. Olivier wasn’t worried about the threat. He assumed it was just some nutjob being stupid online. My son is 21 and still immortal. The immortal train left my station a long time ago, I think it was when I became a mother. I was scared. He wasn’t. He was going to his exam as planned. I made him promise me that if he heard gunfire to hit the ground and play dead. I couldn’t believe what I was saying as the words left my mouth. What kind of world do we live in?

Murder for Breakfast


Crazy Jack

I have a terrible addiction. I wake up to it in the morning, binge on it all day long and if left to my own devices, it’s the last thing I do before hitting the hay: Crime TV, or as my family calls it, when they walk in on me enjoying another episode of Homicide Hunter with my morning coffee, “Murder for Breakfast”.


Cat ci


Frankly, I never knew I lived in such a dangerous country the first 22 years of my life. Along with my man, Joe Kenda, the Homicide Hunter, you’ve got “Women Who Kill”, “Nightmare Nextdoor”, “Blood Relatives” and on a good day, something icky and maggoty on “Dr. G. Medical Examiner” or “Forensic Detectives” all happening in the U.S. Of A. keeping law enforcement busy as can be.

A number of episodes of “Nightmare Nextdoor” occur close to where I grew up, but on the other side of the highway, aka “down there”, which provides a comfortable degree of separation and Dr. G. works out of the county where we vacation in Florida. Having watched many seasons of “Homicide Hunter”, there is no way I’ll ever willingly go to Colorado, it is just too damn scary and Lt. Kenda is retired. Don’t get me started on the murderous goings-on in the Midwest; Capote’s “In Cold Blood” is just the tip of one very creepy iceberg.

Creepy, but entertaining. No, seriously. I’m not a ghoul, not really, hear me out. My life is pretty boring (in the nicest way possible) and it is the drama of looking for a solution to the crime, cracking the code, tracking and catching the perp that I enjoy, the crimes are heinous. I cannot watch any programs dealing with child murderer and “Criminal Minds” gives me nightmares. For me its true crime, solved, done and dusted with a Joe Kenda, “My, my, my” thrown in for good measure.

my my