A Rocky Mount Christmas

Just about everywhere in America this time of the year, you see Christmas lights and Santa Claus, Christmas trees and nativity scenes. But just about everywhere also has its own spin on the holiday season. Here in Rocky Mount, NC, the restored Mill Village has celebrated Christmas with a couple of special events.power house

A short history lesson: Rocky Mount Mills, built in 1816, was the second cotton mill built in the state. It thrived for well over a century and a half, but when textile manufacturing moved overseas, the mill began to decline, closing in 1996.

The mill and the surrounding campus sat idle and decaying until the whole kit and caboodle was bought by Capitol Broadcasting Company in 2007. Since then, the buildings have been reclaimed, restored, and repurposed into craft breweries, restaurants, offices, and lofts. As a bonus, the cutest tiny houses were brought in for overnight visitors.

tiny house

Back to Christmas at the Mill Village, as the folks in Rocky Mount call it. The Chamber held its 115th Anniversary Christmas Ball in the Power House. That night, my husband and I wandered through the old cotton plant with its refinished wood floors and exposed brick walls and pipes. It was magical.

The next evening, the Mill Village hosted a family event, The Lighting of the Tower.

tower lighting.jpeg

Before witnessing the grand finale when the lights came on, my grandson and I enjoyed a horse-drawn wagon ride around the campus. It was free, as was the whole evening–well, not counting the one holiday craft beer purchased by Grandma.

carriage ride

Another unique local Christmas experience can be found right outside the Rocky Mount city limits. Smith’s Red and White Grocery hires talented artist Jimmy Craig Womble each year to paint Christmas scenes on the store windows. They’re so beautiful I hate to think they’ll be scraped off after Christmas.

smith's window.JPG

Inside the store is equally festive. Yes, this is a giant Santa next to a fully decorated Christmas tree and, yes again, there’s a train circling on a track. And this is not the only Christmas display–or train–in the store. I’m on sensory overload–in a good way, of course–when I go in to shop and find myself buying all sorts of Christmas candy like those double-dipped chocolate covered peanuts in the display case below.

smith's inside.JPG

If you’re from the Rocky Mount area, I hope you’ve experienced  some of what makes Christmas special here. If you live somewhere else, I’m sure your hometown has a unique holiday celebration or tradition. Let me know what it is. I love to hear about all the different ways to celebrate Christmas!

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Who Knew the Rocky Mount Christmas Parade Could Be So Much Fun?

What’s there to do on the first Sunday in December after you’ve had your Thanksgiving turkey leftovers for lunch and taken a nap?

Go to a Christmas parade! I hadn’t been to the one in my hometown in years and realized yesterday what I’ve been missing. The Rocky Mount Christmas Parade was a dose of  wholesome fun and a great way to usher in the holiday season!

parade start

So what made me decide to go this year when I haven’t been in the last fifteen (maybe longer)? I went to see my grandson, the cute little Boy Scout with the yellow tie in the picture below waving at the crowd. His troop was on the Barnhill Farms antique fire truck.

Charlie on the float

But here’s the thing. After he rode by fairly early in the parade, I could have left and gone on about my Sunday afternoon business. But I was enjoying the spectacle of bands, floats, and local dignitaries cruising by. I stayed put. Here’s some of what I saw (and heard).

Southern Nash band

Who doesn’t love a marching band? Southern Nash Senior High School is stepping along.

NN band

The Northern Nash Senior High School Band sported Santa hats!


Boys and Girls Club Float

Somebody spent some time decorating this float.


ECC float.JPG

Check out the tree and the poinsettias on the Edgecombe Community College float.


balloon float

Okay, we’ll go with balloons here.

moose head

Hey, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade isn’t the only one with blow-ups!

Mayor Pro

Want to see a smiling councilman? Go to the Rocky Mount Christmas parade!

These little fellows stood beside me on the sidewalk in front of First United Methodist Church. I enjoyed watching them watch the parade.

little boys.JPG

Loving the candy thrown from the floats.

I took so many pictures my phone died before the grand finale arrival of Santa. Fortunately, my twelve-year-old grandson was standing by. I had him text me his photo of the last float of the Rocky Mount Christmas parade.

Santa at last

Is this the real Santa? Photo credit to Sammy Bowles

Will I go to the Rocky Mount Christmas Parade next year even if I don’t have a cute little grandson to lure me there? I’m thinking yes. It’s an opportunity for a feel-good day about my hometown. I love being proud of my city.








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Write a Review? Please?

Thanks to all who’ve purchased a copy of my debut novel Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder from Amazon or locally at Bailey’s Jewelry or Almand’s Drug. I appreciate your support.

Alamnds display

My novel for sale at Almand’s Drug Store in Westridge Village, Rocky Mount, NC

But now I’m asking another favor. If you’ve finished the book (and if you haven’t, why not? :), could you please take a few minutes and write a review on Amazon? It doesn’t have to be anything long or book reportish. You don’t need to summarize what happens. In fact, don’t tell the reader whodunit!

Just talk about how you feel about Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder. Could you relate to the book in any way? Did you like the characters, the setting, the story? Would you recommend it? (I’m holding my breath that the answer here is “yes.”)

It’s easy to post a review on Amazon. Simply find Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder on Amazon.com (you can use the link above). Click on the number/ratings beside the stars which takes you to customer reviews. Scroll to the bottom, and click Write a customer review. And then write something.

Here’s part of what alert reader Debra F. Lee wrote in a review:

“Being from Eastern North Carolina myself, I enjoyed this intriguing “whodunit” page-turner from page one all the way to the surprising twist of the ending. One of the many things I enjoyed about the book is its down-home language and feel. I’ve heard this kind of story called a “cozy” mystery, and it lives up to that name. The author not only makes references to the Eastern North Carolina setting that takes me back to the late 70’s and early 80’s, but also to the national issues of the time, such as the women’s movement and surreptitious racism. The story had me laughing one minute and appalled the next….”

Thank you, Debra F. Lee. Thanks also to Sunshine, Linda, and DPB, my other three reviewers so far.

Reviews are important for the success of a book, I’ve been told by those in the book-selling business. So if you’re not one of the above four people and you’ve read Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, please, pretty please, post a review.

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Exciting News!

And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for (drum roll, please): Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder is finally on Amazon! Yes, you can order a copy by simply clicking on this link . Easy peasy!book cover frontFrom start to finish, writing and publishing this book has been a long, sometimes frustrating experience. As I’ve said before, I’ve been through countless revisions and quite a few editors. I’ve spent a lot of hours writing when I probably could’ve been volunteering in the community or working on my golf game.

But I felt I had a story to tell. This book has a fun plot that fits the cozy mystery genre, but it’s also a portrayal of the life of a young wife and mother in eastern North Carolina in the late 1970s. In that respect, the book is historical fiction. Although the plot is made up, the times are not.

Thus, while I hope readers will enjoy the who-done-it aspect of the book, my goal was also to depict the social and political issues of the day as seen through the eyes of my feisty heroine, Dee Ann Bulluck.

She’s not always likeable–she herself says, “I can be mean…”–but she’s funny. For example, here’s some of what she has to say about:

  • Husband Joe: “No doubt lying on the couch and eating Little Debbie snack cakes can add a few extra pounds to a person.”
  • Daughter Heather: “I couldn’t help believing Heather was the prettiest child in the world. In fact, I thought she bore a strong resemblance to the Gerber baby myself.”
  • Her new hometown: “After ‘Where does your husband work?’ the second question Narrow Creek natives asked when meeting me for the first time was ‘Where do y’all go to church?”

I hope you’ll buy the book. And, as I say in a Note to Readers, if you enjoy Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, please do one or both of the following:

  • Tell your friends to read the book (but let them buy their own copy!).
  • Post a review on Amazon.com. It’s easy. Simply find Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, click on the title, click on customer reviews, and then click Write a customer review to add your two cents’ worth.

I’m excited that the book is finally on the market. Now I have to promote it. I’m not much of a salesperson, so please help!

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A Look Back at October

October is one of my favorite months. The leaves are at their fall foliage peak, turning those gorgeous shades of red, orange, and yellow. To me, there’s nothing more glorious than a blanket of October maple leaves covering my yard. I find myself delightfully kicking through them like a kid when I walk down my front sidewalk. I’m almost disappointed when someone (not me) clears them away with a leaf blower.

fall leaves

Look at this cotton field not far from my neighborhood. A landscape of October snow. It was so beautiful I had to pull over, get out, and take a picture as traffic zoomed by me on Halifax Road. I love the old buildings in the background too.

cotton fields.JPGUsually October finally brings some relief from the summer heat here in eastern North Carolina. (I say usually because this October has been unusually warm!) We haven’t seen a frost yet, but at least we said goodbye to 90 degree days and high humidity. And a bonus to no frost in October this year: my okra look scraggly, but these sad-looking stalks are still producing.

fall okra

Halloween is fall festival time, too. I went to two in North Carolina this year: one on the coast and one in the mountains. The Swansboro Mullet Festival advertises as the oldest festival on the Crystal Coast. Incidentally, the festival is a celebration of the fish, not the haircut.

Image result for mullet fish"               Image result for mullet haircut"

The other fall festival I attended was the Wooly Worm Festival in the little town of Banner Elk. What does one do at the Wooly Worm Festival? Well, you can buy a worm to enter into the Wooly Worm Race–or simply to give to your grandsons, along with a purchased cage. I wonder what the survival rate is for these poor captive wooly worms. How many ever see their glory days when they change into beautiful tiger moths?

wooly worm

On a happier train of thought, I love October because it brings, on the very last day, Halloween. I embrace the holiday–maybe because I have grandchildren who are still young enough to trick or treat or maybe because Halloween is just plain fun.

Charlie with pumpkin.JPG

Candy for everyone who comes knocking at my door trick-or-treating!


What’s easier or more fun than baking up a couple of batches of those Pillsbury ready-to-bake pre-cut Halloween cookies for the family to enjoy? Full disclosure: my husband and I are probably the biggest fans/consumers of these.


Finally, apart from the colorful foliage, the cooler temps, the fall festivals, and Halloween, this year October brought me another treat: the paperback edition of Miss Dee Ann Meets Murder is ready to be released (hardcover and eBook version soon to follow). More about how to order a copy next week!

book cover front

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It Seemed Like a Good Idea…

Sometimes a project goes exactly the way you think it will–but sometimes, not so much. My husband and I were at the Beech Mountain Ski Resort when we saw this repurposed lift chair for sale outside a shop.

finished chair for sale

At $175.00, it was a little pricey, but I decided it was exactly what we needed to go on the front porch of our newly-purchased house on Beech Mountain. I mean, why buy a traditional swing or some type of deck chair when we could have something as authentic as a repurposed ski lift chair? Something that used to take Beech Mountain skiers up the slopes?

ski lift

We didn’t have a vehicle large enough to haul such a chair home that day, but a few weeks later, we arrived at Beech Mountain with the rented U-Haul we were using to move some stuff to the new house. After unloading, we had a big, empty trailer and were ready to go buy a ski lift chair for the porch.

This is when the project became a bit more complicated. We found out the chair isn’t sold the way it looks outside that ski shop. Oh no, we learned we were looking at the finished product. For $175, we could purchase a lift chair minus the legs or any kind of suspension system.

We should have thrown in the towel then, but I had become obsessed with having one of those chairs. We’ll figure something out, I told my husband.

We paid our money and were given directions to the lot where old ski lift chairs go to die. Pick any one you want, we were told. No resort employee went with us. We were on the honor system, I guess, to get only what we paid for.

lift lot.JPG

Believe me, after we struggled to load one of these bad boys, we didn’t want another. Talk about heavy! I pictured the resort employee who sold us the chair back in her office laughing. There’s a sucker born every minute, I imagined her thinking.

Once we got our chosen lift chair home and out of the U-Haul, then we decided to haul it to its new home, the front porch. This involved going up a flight of front porch steps. There our lift chair currently resides (I won’t say “sits”).

chair on porch

I know; it doesn’t look like the one outside the ski shop. But there’s hope. We saw a ski lift chair in the neighborhood that someone has actually fixed and painted. Excuse the fuzzy picture; it was a foggy day on the mountain.

painted chair

Last weekend, we chatted up a guy at the Banner Elk Wooly Worm Festival who does welding. He said for $150, he would come pick up our chair, weld some legs on it, and return it to the porch.

Pick it up, fix it, and bring it back? We’ll pull out the checkbook again. We don’t know how to weld, and we sure don’t want to lift that sucker again. I just won’t think about the original price plus what it’s going to cost to fix the darn thing so we can sit in it.

One day I hope to post a picture of our ski lift chair with legs. It might even be painted–by me. I can save that little bit of money.



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Ms. Dee Ann And the ERA

With its wholesome sleuthing by an amateur detective, Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder can be classified as a cozy mystery. But I’ve added more than the solving of a murder.

book cover front

The book takes place over the course of a year, 1979-1980, and I’ve tried to capture the times. The setting is a small town in eastern North Carolina named Narrow Creek (made up; remember, this is fiction).

What isn’t made up is what was happening with the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in North Carolina at the time. If you’re as old as I am, you may remember the battle over its passage (which, incidentally, never happened).

To refresh your memory: the ERA read “Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

It had been approved by Congress in 1972 but needed ratification by 38 states within an initial seven-year deadline to become law. In 1979, the bill was three states short of passing, and North Carolina was a holdout.

How to include this social issue in the book?

I have Dee Ann see a sign in the teacher’s lounge announcing a meeting at the town’s library featuring pro-ERA speakers from Raleigh. She decides to go. Here’s part of what happens:

“Despite what Phyllis Schlafly and her Stop-ERA cronies would have people believe, the Equal Rights Amendment is simply about guaranteeing women the same rights, benefits, and privileges as men, ” Betty began. “To quote Alice Paul, who spearheaded the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote, ‘There is nothing complicated about equality.'”

Suddenly a voice came from the back. “Who wants to be equal to men? Most women enjoy being put on a pedestal. I know I do.” I turned to see who’d interrupted the speaker and locked eyes with none other than Tippy Gaylord.

“I’d appreciate the chance to speak before fielding comments from the audience,” Betty replied, unruffled.

“Personally, I’m not going to sit through whatever communist propaganda you intend to spout off. I came only to warn these impressionable young women here tonight not to believe anything they hear from you liberal feminists.” Tippy Gaylord made the word feminists sound like a profanity while glaring at us “impressionable young women.” Her disapproving stare lingered on me. I hoped she didn’t recognize me from her Fourth of July party. Maybe all the wives of the men who worked for her husband looked alike to her….”

Did Tippy Gaylord recognize Dee Ann? Were there repercussions for husband Joe at work since his wife had boldly attended an ERA meeting?

What does this circa 1979 button pictured below have to do with the ERA? These questions will be answered in Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, due to be released soon.

59 cents


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