Susan Marie Molloy

Life in the Oasis


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Today is So Long Ago

Last night became a time to think about time.

While straightening up the house and closing the shutters for the night, I passed by our Christmas tree. This glass ornament caught my eye:I received it from one of my 6th grade students, and it was so long ago, I had to whip out my abacus and figure out how old he must be by now.

Twenty-eight. Twenty-eight years old.

That really took me aback. And if you look in the picture, you might see a red candle ornament (yes, right there to the right of the snowman) my Ma made about thirty-three years ago. So long ago.

It was only a couple of years ago I was learning to play piano, and got this music book:

The day after Thanksgiving, my parents put this cheesy Santa Claus and his reindeer on the knickknack shelf in the kitchen:


Last week, every lady had glittery plastic corsages on her coat:


On December 6th, each one of us kids put one of these plastic managers on our dressers:
Yesterday, my grandparents put their tulle tree on their coffee table:


Today will someday become “so long ago—

©Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.

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I Don’t Get It

I have a legitimate question: When did Winnie the Pooh’s little donkey friend, Eeyore, become a part of Christmas?  And why?

He seems to be taking the stage as a blow-up decoration on peoples’ lawns, along with Winnie the Pooh, Minions from “Despicable Me,” and dragons.

So, what are their roles at Christmas that they become a part of the Christmas décor?

I really would like to know the tradition or logic behind this—


—just as frogs, beetles, and dragonflies decorated Christmas cards about a century ago:


It gets lost with me.  I don’t get it.

©Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.


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My Christmas Reading Gala 2017: Update #1

A couple weeks ago, I set a reading goal for myself, of books I want to read before the end of this year.

So, how’s it going? you ask.

Pretty well, I reply.  Have a seat.  Pour yourself a cuppa.  Here are the books that made it to the “Finished Reading” shelf as of today:

1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War by Charles Emmerson
• This is a fascinating, history-political science work that takes the reader around the world to every continent (except Antarctica) and the major cities to show what governments and people were thinking and doing. To put it succinctly, World War I was a little bit of a surprise for most of the world. I recommend “1913” it is a lengthy book, so be aware.

The Three Daughters of Madame Liang by Pearl S. Buck
• Madame Liang, long abandoned by her husband who took up with concubines (gasp!), has three daughters who are the center of her world. She runs a restaurant for the elite in Communist China, while her daughters – Grace, Joy, and Mercy – live their lives in China and the United States. People are suspicious. People are spied upon. The lives of Madame Liang, her daughters, their husbands and boyfriends, their children and close friends are all intertwined to bring a fully rich story of youth, age, and wisdom. I recommend “Madame Liang” for its beautiful descriptive scenes, remarkable history, and well-rounded characters. Note that it is filled with overt messages about governments, change, and tradition.

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport
• In “The Romanov Sisters”, we get a look at the personalities of the four sisters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. We get a good understanding of their schooling, social interactions, familial roles, their relationship with their parents and brother, Alexi. What I found the most interesting is what the author believes is the real reason Czar Nicholas II abdicated, Czarina Alexandria’s unmistakable poor health (and how much was it, really, psychosomatic?), and the back and forth between Nicholas and Alexandria and the other royal houses of Europe in trying to find husbands for Olga and Tatiana. I recommend “The Romanov Sisters” for its thorough research, interesting photographs, and clearly written chapters and index.

The Case of the Perjured Parrot by Erle Stanley Gardner
• This is the fourteenth Perry Mason book, published in 1939. The pace moved along quite well in “Parrot,” and the twists and turns were remarkable. Just when I thought I knew who the murderer was, there was another twist to the tale. About two chapters to go, I nailed the murderer down. But there was Mason, bringing up another fact, and wouldn’t you know it? The murderer was the last person I thought. The funniest passages in the book were the back-and-forth between Mason and the sheriff at the coroner’s inquest. Is the parrot a witness? Was the parrot sworn under oath? Should we believe the parrot? Brilliant light comedy! I recommend “The Perjured Parrot” for fans of detective fiction, mystery, and Perry Mason, in general.


Here’s what still left on my Christmas Vacation reading list:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Rest in Fleece: Ghosts Tall Tales & Horror Stories by Jan Olandese
A stack of books by Bobby Underwood:
Beyond Heaven’s Reach, No Holiday from Murder, Johnny’s Girl, Lover’s Tide, The Unlocked Window, Nautica City, Dark Corridor, Galveston, The Trail to Santa Rosa, Holly, Passage to Tomorrow, The Wild Country, Grover’s Creek

I’ll continue to update my progress here and on Goodreads, where you can read my more in-depth reviews of these and the other books in my library.

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.


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Date Night: At the Movies – The Man Who Invented Christmas

The past couple of days have been cool and grey, with off-and-on rain. It led my beau and me to an early show and a trip to the bookstore.

We went to see the movie, The Man Who Invented Christmas, a story about how Charles Dickens came around to writing the blockbuster novella, A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas (a.k.a. A Christmas Carol, published in 1843). Overall, the acting was good, the sets, scenery, and costumes were just right, and the story was fairly true to the events leading up to, and culminating in, the publication of the story.

Leave it to me to find the few “embellishments,” such as the availability of the penny dreadful, Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood, used as a prop in the movie. True, Varney wasn’t available until about two years after the publication of A Christmas Carol, but this was a film, not a documentary, so there’s the creative license that can be overlooked.

It is a good movie, and it’s a movie kids can go see. There wasn’t any bad language, unless you consider “bloody” a swear word. (It is considered so in England.) There is no nudity, although there are bedroom scenes where Charles and his wife, Catherine, are in bed, but they are fully clothed and nothing adult goes on except maybe a peck on the check and a “Good Night.”

We see how a writer such as Dickens goes through the process of gathering ideas, falling back on experiences, and even collecting names for characters. The way it was presented in the movie was good; entertainingly good.

We ended our evening with a trip to the bookstore, where we picked up a copy of A Christmas Carol and a few other books. We need to go back today. I accidently bought a book that I bought a few weeks ago, and I need to return it.

Returning to the topic of The Man Who Invented Christmas: Did Dickens really invent Christmas? I don’t know. By the time he wrote it, England was already, albeit slowly, rediscovering the holiday. Interest in sending Christmas cards was already increasing (people had done cards well before the Victorian years), and although the Christmas tree saw its days in England as early at the 17th century, interest was reborn with its re-introduction by Prince Albert.

A Christmas Carol has never been out of print, and there are probably so many adaptations too numerous to list.  Perhaps the one thing Dickens saved was people’s awareness and sensibilities about how they treat other people, not only during the Christmas season, but throughout the year.

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


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Date Night: The Baker House

This is a nice time of year to tour old and historical houses. My beau and I like to visit such places, and looking back on my journals, it seems that many of these places we visited were around the Holidays.

Last Saturday night, we did it again.

After a little early supper, and the evening clear with the temperature around 65*F, we drove down the two-lane road apiece (I’m feeling so pastoral as I write this).  We passed ancient oaks heavily laden with brown Spanish moss, glimpsed a few spindly palms, and a flock of black birds scattered as we navigated a curve. Several miles later, The Baker House appeared in the twilight:

As we walk up to the house, watch your step; the sandy path and grass are a little uneven.  Here’s a little background in the meantime—

David Hume Baker was born in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky on October 7, 1841. He served in the Civil War in the 12th Kentucky Calvary (Union). He served as a State Senator in Kentucky. His wife was Mary Hannah Matthis.

Baker and his family moved to Sumter County, Florida, where he built this two-story house in the late 1880s on 1,200 acres, grew oranges, and served as a Florida State Senator.   David H. and Mary Baker are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The house still has its original wood floors, original window sashes, original decorative door hinges, original plaster walls in the library and parlor, and a veranda and balcony that wrap around the building:

Baker House Balcony

The kitchen is in a separate building next to the main house. In those days, kitchens were typically built as a separate unit in case of fires, which threatened the main houses. Here, the kitchen has a dining room, three pantries, a bath, and two upstairs bedrooms. The family lived in this building until the main house was completed, and at one time there was a covered walkway between the two buildings.  Here we see the kitchen on the left in this photograph:

As we walk into the house, the foyer welcomes us:

The Baker House has on its main floor, the foyer, a parlor, living room, and library. Folding glass doors separate the rooms:

The single fireplace in the living room is the only source of heat, even to this day:

To help move heat to the other rooms, small ducts carried the heat throughout the house. In the months when the fireplace isn’t used, these ducts are covered with the original decorative caps:

Walking upstairs on narrow risers and holding onto a thick, hand carved railing, we saw the stained glass window on the landing. Although most of the glass is original, some needed to be replaced over the years. The stained glass colors represent the four seasons: green for spring, amber for summer, red for autumn, and violet for winter. The clear and blue glass are the replacement glass, since some of the original colors were no longer available at restoration:

Once upstairs, we found four bedrooms, and a bath that was added in 1926, and updated in the 1950s with paneling. As part of the renovation, the bath will be restored to its original 1920s style.

There is an open attic, not available for tours. (All the more I want to see it!) At one time there was a ladder in the attic that took you up to the cupola, which at some point was removed.

The windows were installed with the idea of cross breezes and air movement to help keep the house cool.  As the house is being restored, workers and volunteers are discovering some things that were hidden for years, such as the red painted window sashes. What you see now is the original red; red paint was inexpensive, and now I think it’s quite fashionable:

Some of the articles on display are original to the house, some are donations from kind-hearted people who want to help preserve history.  This brown and black dress was donated by a lady who wanted it kept and preserved, and not tossed in the Goodwill box because none of her relatives wanted it. Despite its age, this dress is in pristine condition:

A little girl’s white ruffled dress is displayed on a bedroom door:

A wedding dress hangs in a bedroom closet:I didn’t see any men’s period clothing on display.

The master bedroom has a huge closet.  See how the plaster needs a lot of work:

We were able to see a closet in one of the other bedrooms. That closet was about five feet wide and maybe 18 inches deep. There were only hooks on the back wall. I forgot to take a photograph.

There is a lot of plaster work still to be done:

We were lucky to meet a couple of Baker descendants that night: Mrs. Carolyn Baker Moore, a great-granddaughter of David H. Baker, and her daughter, Barbara. Carolyn was born upstairs in one of the bedrooms:

We spoke at length with Barbara and learned a few family stories about her grandmother and her cane – it was how she keep the kids in line. Those types of stories, we believe, are plentiful and worth writing down to keep the soul and historical feel with the house.

Six generations of the Baker family lived in this house. In 2012, the family donated the house and land to the Wildwood Area Historical Association, which is working on the restoration of the house.

During the year, there are events you can attend and participate in. Money is needed to help restore the house and preserve it.

Currently, there are tours during this 2017 Christmas Holiday season:

Baker House
6106 Co Rd 44A
Wildwood, FL 34785

December 3 — 6:00 p.m.
December 9, 10, 16, & 17 — 10:00 a.m.
December 19 — 6:00 p.m.
December 29 — 6:00 p.m.
December 30 — 10:00 a.m.

Tickets are $10.00 per person, no reservations are needed, and proceeds benefit The Baker House’s restoration. They also could use some volunteer help.

More information can be found at:  The Baker House Project

There is so much more to this story, and needs to be written.  I’m thinking— 

©Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.