Goin’ South in 2013

Capitol Street

Capitol Street ~ Charleston, West Virginia

Hi friends!

Happy 2013!  First may I say, I’m thrilled to bits that the Mayans were WRONG.  Honestly, I wasn’t worried (well… not much!) I’m glad we’re all still here to ring in another year!  YAY US!   Oh, and just in case you’re still skeptical, my husband said that they unearthed another Mayan calendar that didn’t end in 2012.  So relax! We’re good to go for a bit longer folks!

So as most of you know, we live in the eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and have for about 3 years.  We moved from the mountains of Maine and before that we lived in Portland, Maine and before THAT, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Indiana and Vermont.  But, I spent about 30 total years living in Portland, Maine and, yes… I do miss Maine and my family immensely.  Portland, Maine has an amazing vibe and cool factor that is hard to beat.


My hometown,  The Old Port ~ Portland, Maine

But, I digress!

So you may ask, “Why then move to the Eastern Panhandle of WV.  Huh?”

You’re wondering why I left my family, friends and the lovely coast of Maine to come to a suburban, bedroom community for D.C.?


Part of our hood,  Spring Mills ~ West Virginia

This is the theme song for our neighborhood! LOL!

All I can say is I came kicking and screaming (yes, literally) and had many a “discussion” about this move with The Mr.  I was less than impressed about this and it’s been the source of many uncomfortable conversations.

I could drag on about the long  list of dislikes I have about living here,  but I would also then be dismissing the numerous finer points of living here.  Like the amazingly great winters and the long dry springs, awesome friends I’ve made, hanging out on the Potomac River on pontoons drinking Yuengling beer, picnics at Antietam Battlefield and visits to our nations capitol.  Hey, you gotta find the silver lining, right?


One of our best WV friends, Eric and their dog Rocky

So I have to admit, the idea of staying here I swore would never cross my lips.

Never say never friends. 

Round about the time I read the 400,000th posting on Facebook from my New England friends about their flu’s, colds, lousy springs and the bitter cold winter weather that lasts for five months, PLUS, the cost of living there is insane.  They don’t coin Maine “Taxation Land” for nothing and the fact that there are warnings that the east coast will be under water in the future, kinda made me rethink moving back.

The way I see it is, I can always summer there.  It’s really the best season anyway!

So late fall I started on my quest to find the best city in West By God for me and my family to move to.  A town that is friendly, quaint, somewhat like Portland, Maine, coffee shops, good markets and walkable.  Phew!  I don’t ask for much!  ; )

After extensive searches, I came across the capitol city of Charleston, WV.  Strangely a place my husband and I had visited about 16 years ago when we were living in Maryland and considering a move to West Virginia!  I do remember it looking and feeling a lot like Portland too!  YAY!

So here’s to a fresh new start in 2013 for the Wilkinson Clan.  Come late spring, early summer I will be writing to you from the Charleston, WV area, where hopefully we will find our little slice of “Almost Heaven” to enjoy what West Virginia is so known for.

Oh, and if anyone lives or has lived in Charleston, WV and can offer some  sense of life there, I’d appreciate it!

Capitol Street Shops

Our new home come early summer of 2013!!  Charleston, WV

And a blessed Winter Solstice to all and to all a good night…


Celebrate the Winter Solstice With Your Family
by Wendy Priesnitz

The winter solstice provides a great opportunity for our families to share the principles behind our lifestyle and beliefs with others, especially with our children. Solstice celebrations can attune our family to Nature’s cycles, while strengthening bonds within our immediate families. And, if we’re not religious, it can provide us with an alternative celebration to share with extended family and friends who are.

Many of the religious holy days celebrated by people around the world are linked in some way to the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and have ancient roots in pagan celebrations. The term solstice means “sun stands still” and, indeed, this is a time when the sun appears to halt in its apparent journey across the sky. The Roman feast of Saturnalia, honoring the god Saturn, was a week-long feast that included the observance of the winter solstice. Parties took place and houses were decorated with boughs of laurel and evergreen trees, and lamps remained lit to ward off the spirits of darkness. Much visiting took place, along with gift giving, and processions of revelers took to the streets. Pagan Scandinavia celebrated a winter festival called Yule or jul. Many of our Christmas traditions were inherited from these celebrations and you can incorporate them into your own solstice celebrations…along with creating your own personal traditions.

Planning your Celebration

First of all, decide whether your solstice celebration will be focused on the exact time of the solstice, or at twilight, later in the evening or during the day. That, and other details, will, of course, depend upon the ages of the attendees. Then, decide on whether you’ll be outdoors – in a park or your backyard, for instance – or inside your home.

Food is the focal point of many celebrations. You might want to prepare a feast of favorite foods (or have a pot luck), topped off with a cake decorated with a sun. One family we know puts candles on the cake and each family member lights one while making a wish. Then the whole family blows them out together. (For good indoor air quality, use beeswax candles.)

luminariesBecause they symbolize light, candles are important to solstice celebrations. You can decorate outdoors by making luminaries – or candle holders – and spacing them about a foot apart…along the sidewalk to your home, for instance. Place candles inside dollar store glass holders or canning jars, punch decorative patterns in tin cans or use flat-bottomed paper bags. If you use bags, fold over an inch or so of the top to help hold their shape and place a few cups of sand inside to weigh them down. Twist a votive candle into the sand in the middle of each bag and light the candles as dusk falls. (Don’t use indoors!)

Create your own family tradition by gathering in a circle around candles. Each person can light a candle and talk about something they’re grateful for or something they wish for another person in the coming year. Or you could tell or read legends about the winter solstice, or sing appropriate songs. (You might want to record this part of your party for future enjoyment.) You would, of course, adjust the ceremony based on the ages of any children involved.

Feeding our friends in Nature can be a part of a solstice celebration too. You can erect a bird feeder or fill an existing one, or venture into a neighboring forest and create a ceremony around placing seeds or nuts in a place where wild animals will find them. You might want to talk about how this connects us to and makes us grateful for our place in Nature.

Yule wreaths, logs and trees are other familiar aspects of solstice celebrations. Wreaths can represent both the family circle and the cycle of seasons. Making one from natural materials that you collect can be a meaningful and enjoyable family activity. While you work, you can discuss the meaning of the various customs, or each family member can share something they appreciate about each other or about winter.

If you have a fireplace or a space outdoors to light a bonfire, you can gather around it in the dark and tell stories. One ancient tradition has each family member throwing a holly sprig onto the fire to usher out the old year, then saving some of the charred wood to start next year’s Yule log burning.

Since solstice is a celebration of Nature and of light and living, your Yule tree should, ideally, be a living one. It can be growing in your yard or you can purchase one in a pot to plant in the ground later. Each family member should add an ornament that is meaningful to them and many families enjoy limiting the decorations to representations of the sun in honor of the solstice. (Moons and stars are other suitable decorations.)

There is a long-standing tradition of gift giving at solstice. You could have a unique and Nature-themed gift for each person present. Or you could dispense with gifts altogether and just enjoy the companionship.

It’s always good to end by holding hands in a circle focusing on the joys of friendship and family.



Thanksgiving in Vermont

Yes, Vermont is this beautiful friends.  While I have not returned there in over five years, it will always remain one of the best places that I’ve ever lived.


From our family to yours, a very happy Thanksgiving.

Peace and love to you all,

Priscilla, Jason, Gwyneth Mairead and Isabella Octavia

Octavia’s Vintage

Old Orchard Beach, Maine in Autumn

Last November we made a surprise trip home to Maine for my mum’s 70th birthday.  We decided since we were staying so close to Old Orchard Beach that we would go take a walk on the seashore.  Normally I’m not a fan of Old Orchard Beach.  Well, I’ve been known on an occasion to get a hankering for hand-cut pier fries, a good slice and maybe a bumper car ride peak season, but it’s not my first choice for soaking up the sun.  I know, I’m in the minority with that, but it’s generally overrun with tourists and locals.  I prefer quiet beaches, where I can just chill and snooze in the sun.

This proved to be the perfect time to visit in my opinion.  I had forgotten that everything pretty much closes down post Labor Day.  All of the  folks who flock to O.O.B. from all over the world,  go back home.

It was eerily still and almost like a ghost town.  Buildings boarded up.  Not a soul around. We were literally the only four people on the beach.

I thought it made for a great opportunity to take photos of the deconstructed amusement park, Palace Playland, the pier and the seven mile stretch of deserted beach.

It’s worth noting that Old Orchard, which opened in 1902, is the last remaining beachfront amusement park in New England.

Graffiti Greetings from Portland Maine

“On the back wall of the Asylum nightclub, facing a parking lot on Free Street, stands a 1,500-square-foot mural painted – and paid for – by a collection of talented Maine graffiti artists.

“This one was like a gift to Portland,” said Mike Rich, the 37-year-old de facto curator of the space, which has been reserved for graffiti art since 1997. “Out of the infinite possibilities of themes, of what we could paint, of what we’d want to paint, we painted this.”


Rich grew up on Munjoy Hill and started making graffiti in 1985, when he was 11. He began painting murals at 14 and started painting the Asylum in 1997, after proposing it to the nightclub’s owners.

“It was just getting bombarded with vandalism all the time,” Rich said. “It’s a dark parking lot on a one-way street, and I thought, ‘Geez, let’s see if they’ll give us permission to do something, and then we can do something really awesome.’”

Before its latest incarnation – completed Sunday after a month of toil – the space featured a spooky montage from Stephen King horror novels. Before King, the scene was George W. Bush and Armageddon.

This time around, vibrant colors and big, bold block letters infect the mural with joy. Eight artists filled each letter in P-O-R-T-L-A-N-D with their own styles, making for a brassy but cohesive whole.

A rocky coast is below the letters. Above them is an orange-yellow sky radiating from the iconic Portland Head lighthouse image – with an aerosol can standing in for the limestone tower and two rays of white enveloping the words “Greetings From” … instead of a beam of light.

“Ties it all together,” said Rich, who painted the P. “I’m totally thrilled with the way it came out.”

He’s also proud of the mural’s do-it-yourself nature. The nightclub hosted a fundraiser one night last summer. Otherwise, artists brought their own materials and donated their time. Rich pegged the cost of supplies at $1,500 to $2,000.

“We did something great for the city of Portland, especially in this time, with the whole graffiti ordinance downtown,” Rich said. “There just seemed to be a lot of tension with the art form itself. I thought it would be a really good gesture to do something, and have a little class, too. To show that we can do something nice and it’s not all undecipherable to the common person, you know?”

In June, the City Council adopted an anti-graffiti ordinance calling for fines of as much as $500 for perpetrators. Property owners are required to file plans with the city for removing graffiti within 10 days after it’s reported.

Doug Fuss, owner of Bull Feeney’s on Fore Street, is president of the Portland’s Downtown District board of directors and a leading advocate of the ordinance.

“Well-conceived street art is not what we’re talking about here,” Fuss said. “The stuff that we’re talking about is tagging, and it’s taking paint pens and writing on meters and etching glass and even painting pretty large-scale pieces.”

The Asylum wall, he said, “as long as it’s well-curated, which that one is, I think, is a completely separate world from vandalism.”

Rich and his artistic friends covered three other walls of the building in colorful murals, one of which includes a whimsical puffin. Now, his biggest worry is the annual tradition of repainting the wall.

“This year’s mural is so good,” Rich said, “it’s going to make me cry if we have to paint over it next year.”

The Enchanted Forest ~ Maryland’s Ghost Park

B&W Photos by  ~ Opacity

When The Mr. and I were first married we moved to Ellicott City, Maryland from Salem, Massachusetts.  I was out exploring our new town and came across this shopping plaza with the most unusual vintage mascot guarding the gate.  Old King Cole.

The plaza was called The Enchanted Forest.

I remember feeling like I had just found one of the neatest things ever and thinking, “How cool!  I’m so getting groceries here!”

What I did not know what that it was next to the second oldest amusement park in the U.S. The Enchanted Forest.

The Mr. grew up around that area, but apparently had never gone to this park, however his younger sister Meg’s had fond memories of the park in its heyday, prior to its closing in 1988.

Since the park has been closed for years, the crumbling buildings have taken on a whole new life, post fairy tales and Mother Goose. Naturally it has become a hot spot for  curious teenagers and photographers, albeit illegal to enter the park.

The good folks in Ellicott City are trying very hard to preserve what remains of the park.   A lot of the park decorations have been pillaged and sold at auctions, Ebay, and tag sales sadly.  They are trying to recover what they can now, no questions asked.


Opacity has a lovely array of beautifully creepy black and white photos that they took of The Enchanted Forest.   In fact their whole site is pretty amazing.

West By God ~ Almost Heaven

Bathroom walls at The Lost Dog Coffee House in Shepherdstown, West Virginia

West By God.

Admit it, I bet you thought this was going to show mountains and maybe rednecks drinking beer with their shirts off.  You got the banjos from Deliverance in your head.  It was actually filmed in Georgia though, not West Virginia as many think.  Or at least I did and was shocked upon watching it again, it was actually Georgia.  Oh well.  It fits, either way. But, I digress.

One of our favorite towns in our area is Shepherdstown.  It’s a funky, hippy~redneck, college town and is an oasis for those of us who lived in culturally saturated areas previously to moving to WV.  We go to Shepherdstown when we need some good coffee, good food and something more than strip malls and big box stores.


Izzy at The Lost Dog Cafe and more Cafe’ bathroom artwork


One of our favorite places to hang is The Blue Moon Cafe’.  It’s got the best backyard patio area with a spring running through it and some pretty okay fresh and local food.  It’s not the most comfortable seating, but the scenery is amazing and unique.  They also have local bands play inside.

The main street through town with all of its old homes.  Shepherdstown is the oldest town in the state, chartered in 1762.


One of the many notes left by Lost Dog customers

A stuffed squirrel holding a cup.  Now THAT’s West Virginian!

I’ve always thought this house was super coolio!  It’s got to be one of the oldest, original homes on German Street

Our two daughters in front of the tiny house.  Inside it’s furnished with bitsy chairs and tables!

West Virginian Punk Rock!

Somewhere around She~Town

West Virgina.  All around one of the nicest places to visit or live.  It’s beautiful beyond words, laid back and has some of the coolest folks I’ve ever met.

Alright, here you go.  Mountains, shirtless dude (actually our friend “E”) drinking on the Potomac with his guitar and his dog Rocky.