Category: Author

The legend of the Robert the Doll

“Robert the Doll” lives in Key West, Fla. Innocent looking with his sailor suit and toy bear, Robert is said to wreak havoc on anyone that takes his photo or chides him in any way. Hundreds of letters are sent to Robert, begging for forgiveness, as visitors’ lives fall apart after crossing the infamous doll. His history is an interesting one, and the haunting even more so. Robert the Doll started out his life as a gift to a lonely boy. The doll was given to Robert Eugene Otto (known as “Gene” to family and friends), who lived in Key West, Fla. The doll was German, made by the Steiff Company, and was purchased by Gene’s grandfather while he was on a trip to Germany in 1904, and given to young Gene as a birthday gift. The doll wore the same little sailor suit that the young boy liked to wear, and the doll and the child became inseparable. The Ottos had servants who would be cleaning the upper floors where the young boy’s room was located, and would swear they would hear conversations in different voices and tones coming out of the bedroom, only to find the child and the doll were completely alone in the room. Sometimes at night, the parents would find young Robert Eugene screaming and crying, furniture upended and his room a mess. As...

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Prepare soil to nourish wintering plants

Fall is settling in on us and that means it’s time for amending the soil for some plants to feed them into the new year and promote their next bloom. Start with poinsettias and roses then move on to the Christmas cactus and acid-loving plants. At the end of the month, check in on strawberry plants and get your leaf composter fired up. Fall is fun, but there’s still much to do in the garden. WEEK ONE • Hosta plants are going dormant now. After foliage has yellowed and browned, cut stalks to the ground. Check the pH now and adjust, it needs to be between 6.0 and 7.0, to be on target for the new growth in the spring. • To get your poinsettia to re-bloom in time for the holidays, give it 12 hours of total darkness and 12 hours of light per day. Just a few minutes of artificial light will upset the process. Continue to do this for two full months. Also, fertilize the plants every other watering. My choice is Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster. WEEK TWO • After the last roses bloom, spread bone meal over the soil and soak in. A lot of rose guides suggest pruning now; but I believe it is better to wait until March to prune back any rose. Do this before spraying dormant oil/lime sulfur spray. This will...

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Tulips a candidate for containers

October has bright blue skies and cool but comfortable weather, perfect for planting many trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials and spring flowering bulbs. Some spring bulbs like daffodils and hyacinth thrive on the Eastern Shore, but tulips often succumb to soft rot diseases in the heat of summer and die. Also, tulips are very tasty treats to many animals including voles, squirrels, chipmunks and mice. Despite those problems, it is hard not to purchase tulips each fall for their spectacular colors, shapes and sizes that are available! When purchasing tulips, choose large, firm bulbs with little to no blemishes. Choose colors that complement or contrast with each other, or just choose one lovely color. Early spring tulips include Kaufmanniana or Water Lilly tulips, which are short with wide open flowers and Fosteriana, or Emperor tulips with tradition tulip shapes. Mid-season tulips include Darwin tulips with large strong flowers, Greigii with green and variegated foliage and two to four flowers on each stem. Mid-season also has Triumph tulips, many with two-tone colors and Viridiflora which comes in many colors and all have green streaks on each petal. Late-season tulips include Parrot tulips, full flowers with ruffles and many colors, and Lily flower tulips that have a vase shaped flower. Fringed tulips have thin fringes on the top edges giving color and texture to the flowers. The double late variety looks like...

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Seek out simple stress relievers

I’m not sure how life gets so busy but no matter what I do, I feel like we are working more, playing less — and feeling the results of such an overscheduled existence with constant feelings of stress and chaos. While I love having a family to tote to various sports and social engagements and am grateful to have a job I love to go to, I tend to look at bedtime and weekends as a much-needed recharge. On the Friday of the first week of school, I was passed out on our couch by 7 p.m.! Each week has gotten a bit easier, thanks to some adjustment and some simplification on my part. While we cannot create more hours in the day, there are, of course, lots of ways to maximize our waking hours so that we have more time (and energy) when we do have down time from the busyness of our lives. Try a few of these stress busters and time savers today to see if it helps you live a sweeter, simpler life! Clear the Clutter: I’m amazed at how quickly things pile up in my house. By midweek, there are piles of books, mail, clothes — you name it — on counters and in piles throughout the house. Have you ever noticed how much happier you feel when you walk into a room that...

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Dresden porcelain: German excellence

Dresden porcelain is recognized in the antiques industry as the hallmark of good taste and fine German porcelain manufacturing. German hard-paste porcelain was produced in the Meissen factory, so Dresden is also known as Meissen, and it began very early, in 1710 in Dresden/Saxony, present day Germany. The Chinese developed a product called porcelain that the Europeans desperately wanted to copy. Known for the hardness of a rock and the beauty of a shell, manufacturers could not figure out how, indeed, it was made. The secret of porcelain, the ultimate ingredient being kaolin, was discovered and copied by alchemists and physicists in 1707, opening up the market for Germans to produce a hard-paste porcelain, ripe for the hungry European markets In the early 1700s, the Dresden factory made dinnerware, figures and more, and the demand and flow of business began to pick up. Dresden-decorated porcelain was popular, and in 1731, a sculptor named Johann Joachim Kandler developed a decoration called onion pattern, which was widely copied and admired. The porcelain has a mark of crossed blue swords for antique identification purposes. We take porcelain and the secret that it holds for granted in modern times, but in the early 1700s, Dresden dominated European porcelain manufacturing until about 1756, when it was surpassed by the famous Sevres French porcelain, known for very high standards of excellence in production and quality....

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