Susan Marie Molloy

Life in the Oasis


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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.


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Date Night: At the Movies – Last Flag Flying

  1. Yesterday morning, I worked in our bead shop after having a bowl of Raisin Bran® and Cheerios® with a light spritz of skim milk. I was on my third room temperature cup of black joe, and was tired of taking photographs of beads and writing product descriptions.

My beau remarked, as he was pouring his next cup of java, “You want to go to the show? What time? Ten? One? Fo–?”

“One,” and I rushed to comb my hair and put on my face (Chicago lingo for putting on make-up).

We bought our tickets at the theater window, and since there was an hour and a half before the show started, we treated ourselves to lunch at a restaurant in the town square. Then we went to the show—

Last Flag Flying” was the movie, and wouldn’t you know it: I liked it very much (despite the vulgar language. My beau told me that, yes, men talk that way.) Basically, the story is about a father who looked up his two closest buddies in the service during Viet Nam, and the three go on a very personal mission. The way I saw it, this mission was three-fold: humanistic, spiritual, and patriotic. The three actors – Steve Carrell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne – worked beautifully together. Their characters were believable, I felt the camaraderie that skipped three decades without missing a beat (almost), and darn it, I want a sequel.

Without giving away the plot, this movie addressed trust, love, parenting, friendship, spirituality, and, well, men being men. That is refreshing, a movie that depicts men as men and not milk toast wimpy males. I like that.

The most hysterical scene in the movie was when Carrel, Fishburne, and Cranston where talking and laughing to beat the band. I – along with most of the audience – laughed along with them. It was worth the tears in my eyes and the hearty laughing. In fact, that scene reminded me of the 1930 Laurel and Hardy movie, “Blotto,” where they were laughing hysterically, thinking they were drinking wine, but Anita Garvin clandestinely replaced the wine with tea. Good times.  Innocent fun.

All in all, I highly recommend seeing “Last Flag Flying.”

I told my beau that the Bryan Cranston character (“Sal Nealon”) reminded me so much of him.

He noticed that, too.

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.


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Preserving the Nature Walk

The day after Thanksgiving, my beau and I treated ourselves to lunch at a favorite Italian restaurant. We like its out-of-the-way location, the black and deep plum décor with brushed nickel fixtures, and mostly importantly, the food. My beau ordered a meal called, “The Pacino” and I chose “The Brando,” and what is funny about that is:  Pacino is of Sicilian descent, and Brando is of German, Irish, English, and Dutch heritage, and there we were, in an Italian restaurant, and that’s another story—

After eating, I came up with an idea to swing by the nature preserve in our town. And that, we did.

The preserve is a little over 500 acres of nature’s glorious wonderland. There’s a pond, massive live oaks with Spanish moss draping their branches, a boardwalk, some prairie, and wildlife. Though it was chilly that day – somewhere around 45 degrees Farenheit – our walk was refreshing nonetheless.

This white heron sat long enough on the boardwalk for me to take his portrait:

And off he went, silently into the marsh:


A single lotus flower (water lily) floated among lily pads and reeds:

The brackish water near one pier ensnared some seaweed, and spiders wove their webs:

And, of course, unfortunately, there was some garbage in the stagnant water, which thankfully, isn’t too visible in this photograph:

Some of that garbage is probably left over from the big storm we had here in September. I’d rather believe that people don’t purposely toss their cigarette butts and candy wrappers in this appealing and pacific sanctuary.

We met a neighbor taking photographs.  He pointed out a bald eagle, “down yonder”, that was perched on the lowest horizontal support of a high line wire. We could see it, just so barely, but since I didn’t have my telephoto lens with me, I couldn’t get a good snapshot.

Continuing our stroll, we came upon some brown ducks swimming in circles and dipping their beaks below the water’s surface; a school of swimming, scurrying minnows gathered between a cluster of green lily pads; another white heron stood in the swamp, calling forlornly to some unknown entity; and we were pleased and content within such a placatory environment.

Our walk done and my feet wet (one of my shoes is seemingly coming apart at the toe), my beau and I headed back to our car, carefully looking out for dips and holes in the path. As we held hands and talked about the fascinating wildlife and vegetation we drew in, we promised each other to visit the preserve more often and in all seasons.

We will. It’s a promise we will preserve.

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.


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Date Night: At the Movies – Murder on the Orient Express

Last Friday, we were lucky enough to get tickets to see the latest film interpretation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Lucky? It’s because the line was forming fast. We haven’t been to a show in a long time where a line formed at all (see my review of Dunkirk), let alone all the seats in the theater being filled. That was, in my mind, a good sign.

This was a very good adaptation of the story. I particularly liked Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot, with his outrageous moustache, A-type personality, wicked sense of humor, and French-Belgian accent. As compared to Albert Finney’s role as Poirot in 1974, both actors did equally well. They represented the character just right, as I imagined him in the several Poirot books I read.

Moreover, the current movie followed the book’s plot well. Although I very much like the way the dénouement is treated in the 1974 version, the period fashion and hairstyles in the 2017 version was somewhat better, and truer to the 1930s setting.  However, I had a little difficulty with the train’s engine (it’s a boiler on wheels, you know) hitting and being buried by the snowbank and not cracking. In the book (as I remember) and in the 1974 version, the super-hot engine wasn’t buried by the avalanche.

Since then, we tracked down a few television versions of Murder on the Orient Express, and some were awful: slow, stiff, an unemotional Poirot, and wacky scenes I don’t remember in the book.

This calls for me to dig out my copy of Murder on the Orient Express and re-read it. It’s on my Christmas Vacation Reading List.

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.