The Roads Not Taken (at least for a while)

If ever I wrote a column for the Telegram where I wished I could add pictures, it was the recent one about all the road construction underway AT THE SAME TIME here in my hometown of Rocky Mount.

It was hard to describe how inconvenient and unpleasant it is these days for me to drive into town from my house in the burbs when the bridge I need to cross on Sunset Avenue, the main thoroughfare, is gone. Yep, completely demolished, so a higher one can be constructed to accommodate soon-to-be built extra lanes on the highway underneath.


Sunset Avenue minus the bridge


There’s a detour off Sunset that involves immediately crossing over two lanes of 50- miles-per-hour traffic in order to take a needed left-hand turn to get back on Sunset on the other side of the missing bridge. Not for the faint of heart.  No picture available of this stunt, as I value my life and therefore couldn’t slow down to snap a shot.

I’ve switched to using Hunter Hill Road as my alternate downtown avenue, but construction is underway there as well as new lanes are being added. The stop/slow sign guy is on duty, which makes travel a little safer than Sunset Avenue detours, but the area looks like a war zone.  Hulking machinery, orange cones, torn-up roadside.


The sights on Hunter Hill Road


My husband has also been traveling Hunter Hill Road to get to and from his downtown office. Then for a few days recently, our section of Halifax Road, which he used to get to Hunter Hill, was closed for road repairs.  Aargh!  “Guess I’ll just quit work,” he said.

Road projects on several main avenues at the same time are a headache for sure. But I guess I need to quit griping and just be glad my hometown is getting its share of highway funds.  One day, the projects will be finished, like this section of Country Club Road, where traffic can now zip along a four-lane highway.  A bonus after this road was widened:  the speed limit was raised to 45 from 35!


Smooth sailing these days at 45 mph


Click here if you want to read more:

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What I Did on My Winter Vacation

Remember that warm spell we had at the end of February? Just a couple of weeks ago, it was, right at the time of my carefully planned trip to escape the cold by going to Florida.

Yep, my husband and I left 70-degree days and my blooming daffodils to go to Miami and Key West. Lining up a rental car in the frigid days of January, I’d walked around the house singing Jimmy Buffett’s “I gotta go where it’s warm.”

Well, it was warm all right, almost too warm once we got to Key West with upper 80’s temps. But we saw the sights, soaked up some sun, and ate some great food (last week’s blog).  Here’s just a smattering of What I Did on My Winter Vacation.



The shallow Everglades

Neither my husband nor I had ever been to the Everglades, so we booked an excursion from Miami to what I thought of as a big swamp but the tour guide labeled “a slow-moving river.” Very pretty and yes, we saw alligators.  From afar.




After years of being run-down and a little dangerous, South Miami Beach is a safe, fun place these days. We ate dinner at Tapas & Tintos on Espanola Way, a pedestrian only, café-lined boulevard with a festive atmosphere.  I had plenty of tapas in Madrid last summer.  This time, it was paella for me.


Ready to order paella


Key Largo

Key Largo is unique in that it’s rowdy but historic. You can bar-hop from the famous Hog’s Breath Saloon to Hemingway’s former hangout, Sloppy Joe’s.  Or you can be like a couple of old folks I know and visit Truman’s Little White House and the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.  There’s also the Butterfly Conservatory for those seeking tranquility.


Is that a butterfly on my hat?

In driving our rental car from Key West back to Miami to catch our flight home, we ate lunch in Key Largo (Cue the Beach Boys: “Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama, Key Largo, Montego, baby, why don’t we go….)

Order at the window

Order at the window


Go we did, not to Kokomo—is this even a real place?—but to the balmy beaches of Miami and Key West, even though it was pretty balmy at home as well.

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Calories? Who Cares?

February was a big food month for me. To combat the winter doldrums, I took a trip to the “Crystal Coast,” as beach promoters label Emerald Isle.  On a foggy, drizzling weekend, there wasn’t a lot to do there—except eat.

So eat I did. On the way Friday night, my husband and I stopped at our favorite restaurant in Kinston, the midway point in our journey to the coast.  King’s Restaurant is known for its barbecue, which I can vouch is excellent, but on Friday night, it’s the fried trout special for me.  Three large pieces of fish with two sides, Brunswick stew and slaw.  Iced tea and hushpuppies.  All for the grand price of $7.99.

Saturday night, we ate at T & W Oyster Bar close to Cape Carteret. Nothing better in a winter “R” month than to saddle up to an oyster bar and let someone shuck you a half-peck, steamed medium.  IMG_0796

Sunday, I was back to fried foods. The no-frills Bogue House near Swansboro serves great fried chicken.  I threw sensible eating out the window as I consumed a generous portion of white meat along with mac and cheese, collards, and hushpuppies with a hint of onion in the batter.


To read more about my food adventure in eastern North Carolina, click here:

IMG_0940The end of February found me at the southernmost town in the continental United States—Key West.   My husband and I celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary with a trip that allowed me to eat conch fritters and some of the best key lime pie in the world.


I’d been advised to treat myself to a slice of key lime pie on a stick, encased in a thick coat of dark chocolate.  If you get the chance, try it.  You’ll feel sick afterwards for indulging in this divine concoction, but it’s an experience not to be missed.   IMG_0924

Later, when you come to your senses, you can have a piece of regular Key lime pie.


It’s March now, I’m home, and back to salads and no desserts. But I don’t regret my February eating exploits.  After all, everything in moderation, including moderation.

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Romance the Way It Used To Be

I overheard a couple shopping at the Rocky Mount Bulluck Warehouse Sale the other day. (I eavesdrop a lot, or as I prefer to think of it, pay attention to what people are saying around me.)  They were buying furniture, and the husband joked that the purchase was the wife’s anniversary present.  They will soon be married for 42 years.

“Tell him it’s for Valentine’s Day,” the sales clerk joked back.

“Oh, we’re too old for that,” the man said. “We don’t do that stuff anymore.”

I had to bite my tongue. Too old for Valentine’s Day?  Never.  I always use the holiday for a special meal, roses, and candy. Sometimes I even buy something for my husband.

See, I believe in romance. The old-fashioned kind, where the man woos the woman.  You can find this type of romance on the sitcoms of yesteryear, still broadcast on MeTV.  Programs like “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Andy Griffith Show.”

My most recent column talks about two episodes I saw recently, one from each show, that portray “a time when manners, chivalry, and propriety—along with feminine wiles—were considered to be part of a courtship.”


Image result for the andy griffith show

To read more about how the Cleavers viewed teenage dating or how some folks in Mayberry went about getting a wife, click here:

Maybe you’ll remember these episodes—or the times they depict. Hope you had an old-fashioned romantic Valentine’s Day.


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Killing Two Writing Assignments with One Pen…and a Few Pictures

IMG_0817So much writing to do… so little time. As most of you may know, each week I write a Sunday column for the local newspaper, The Rocky Mount Telegram.

I’m also working on the rough draft of another cozy mystery, tentatively titled Love and Death in Narrow Creek.  I used to post on my author Facebook page, where I commented on what I’d been reading—sadly, this has fallen off my writing radar.

And then there’s this blog that you’re now reading, that I don’t want to neglect as I have my author FB postings. But as you can see, I’m pulled in a lot of writing directions.

This past weekend, though, I had a brainstorm. The kind where the lightbulb comes on.  Why not tie the blog into my weekly column?  Often I wish I could submit pictures with my columns, and guess what—a blog is made for just that thing.

So here’s how it’ll work. I’ll give an abbreviated version of the approximately 525-word column that’s in the newspaper, along with a picture or two.  Or I may talk about what inspired me to write a particular column, again using visuals.  Or I may give an update on a column I wrote a few weeks before, with pics.

Then, dear reader, if you’re interested in seeing the newspaper column, I’ll provide the link right here in the blog. You won’t even have to click on the tab I have on my homepage that says, Patsy’s Columns! How exciting is that? So let’s get started.


Do you have a problem with email clutter? I do.  I find it hard to delete most email, especially if it’s a message with a time or place or some other nugget of information I may need in the future.  I’ve never been slick enough to figure out how to store email I think I might need and brave enough to delete the others.  Before I know it, I’m swamped.

As you can see, as of this minuteIMG_0810 I have 4,649 messages.  That’s not counting the thousands of promotions and social emails, held under separate tabs.  Shameful, I know.  What can I say, I’m an email hoarder.  If you share my problem or want to feel superior to a tech dummy like me, click here to read more:

If you have any simple solutions, feel free to leave me a message below.


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A Dalliance at Dunkin’ Donuts?

“Are these handsome young men your grandsons?” The tall sixtyish gentleman in Dunkin’ Donuts spoke in a familiar tone, as if he was someone I knew but hadn’t seen in a while.

“Uh, yes, they are,” I answered politely, studying the man’s face.  I didn’t recognize him.

It was a Friday afternoon, and I’d picked up Sammy and Charlie from school for an afternoon Grandma visit. A visit that began with a trip to Dunkin’ Donuts.

The man, alone, lingered by our table. “I bring my great-nephews here sometimes.  They’re fine fellows.  Of course, we all think our young ones are great, don’t we?”

“Uh, yes, we do,” I said, not making eye contact this time.

Teva Alp Sandals - Men's Deep Teal He moved on then, bare feet in Tevas on this freezing January day.

“Grandma, who was that?” ten-year-old Sammy asked as the door swung shut behind our visitor.

“I have no idea,” I answered.

“He creeped me out,” Sammy said. “And did you see he had on sandals?”

“He could’ve shot us,” chimed in six-year-old Charlie, who’s all about stranger-danger. “But if I had my bow, I could shoot him right back.”

“I hardly think anyone’s going to shoot us in Dunkin’ Donuts right across from a Harris Teeter in what is probably the safest part of town,” I said. “He was just someone trying to be friendly.”

Or was he flirting? Is “Are these handsome young men your grandsons” a geezer pick-up line?

Nahh.   I’d have heard something like, “You’re far too young for these handsome young men to be your grandsons.”  Or even better, “Are you the mother of these two handsome young men?”  He pegged me for what I am, the grandma, and the compliment was for the boys.

IMG_0773Nope, he wasn’t flirting. Just some old dude passing by our table, making small talk on a Friday afternoon in Dunkin’ Donuts.  I think….



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What’s Better Than One Book Starring Dee Ann Bulluck? Two!

While Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder is at the competition I’ve entered (see previous blog), I’ve returned to working on another cozy mystery, a sequel tentatively titled Life and Death in Narrow Creek.

Here’s what’s happening. A little over two years have passed—it’s October 1982–and Dee Ann again finds herself in the role of amateur sleuth.  This time, the deceased is her landlord, Floyd Vaughan, whose sudden death requires an autopsy.

I’m not going to tell you what is discovered as the cause of death. Or who the suspects are.  And it’s not because I don’t know yet.  I do.  I’ve got the basic plot figured out; I just have to find my way chapter by chapter, filling in the details and hopefully keeping the reader guessing.

Life and Death in Narrow Creek gets off to a fast start with Floyd Vaughan dying in the first chapter. His wife, Miss Josie, has sent her handyman, Willie, to fetch Dee Ann on this traumatic morning. Here’s a snippet of how the scene unfolds as Dee Ann (the speaker) runs the short distance from her apartment to the Vaughan’s house with three-year-old Heather bouncing on her hip.


“I got Miss Dee Ann like you asks,” Willie was saying as I entered the dark den of the Vaughan’s house. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust.  But soon enough, I could see Floyd Vaughan, lying peacefully enough in his brown leather recliner, propped way back, the way I’d often seen him when I visited Miss Josie.  It took me a moment longer, though, to realize that beneath his shock of thick white hair, his eyes were half open, glazed and lifeless. There was no blood, thank you Jesus. …

 “Miss Josie, have you called for an ambulance?” I really thought we needed a hearse, but I certainly wasn’t going to suggest one.  I was trying to be a calm, steady influence, although to tell the truth, I wanted to run out of the house screaming.  I’d never seen a dead person before—well, not before the funeral home did its business on the corpse.

 “I did. I did.  Willie, run down to the street and make sure the ambulance driver doesn’t miss the house.”  Willie shot out the door, glad, no doubt, to be out of the room.  Miss Josie began to sway a little, so I plunked Heather down on the blue-checked Duncan Phyfe sofa, on the end that was farthest from the recliner, and went to help the widow. 

“Come on, Miss Josie, sit down. There’s really nothing we can do until the ambulance gets here.”  I was pretty sure there was nothing anyone could do even when the ambulance did arrive, but that was best left unsaid.


Intrigued? I hope so.  As you can tell (maybe), death isn’t to be taken too seriously in a cozy mystery.  The book is meant to be a fun read, and so far, I’m having fun writing it.

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