Who Is Anastasia?

My photo
New Castle, Indiana Zone 5, United States
When I was 55, I decided to embrace the things I love and hold precious and dear - regardless of anyone else's thoughts and opinion. I am a folk artist who loves flowers - my own flowers, grown by me. I love good, hearty, exotic foods, and I love to prepare them myself. I love the secret garden situated in my backyard, regardless of how junky it gets. No longer able to afford a vacation, this will have to be it for the time being. In the winter months, I still enjoy it. Anyway, here I am sharing my art, favorite recipes, cocktails, gardening tips, and just my usual vents and bantering. After all, I'm old enough to say whatever the heck I want to now ... Oh, the two pictures below are NOT of my garden, although the one with the pink French doors looks very much like the backyard I grew up with. I am searching for pictures of that wonderful place and will post soon.

JEWELS OF MY SOUL

JEWELS OF MY SOUL
My Book Available on AMAZON

Stacey Torres ART Prints

Stacey Torres ART Prints
A very limited selection of reproductions from my paintings can be found here

October 31, 2016

THIS IS WHERE IT HAPPENED ...

There's a spot about the size of a quarter on my right shin that's very tender to touch, and has been for the last 55 years. It comes from a deep gash I got after I stumbled up some steps.

Earlier this year, I wrote about my love for my late great aunt's ancient Brooklyn brownstone where I spent my childhood summers. I shared all the celebrations and sweet memories with you, and even painted a visual of the home's garden. But there's another story about the house I'd like to tell. A lot of older homes are filled with history, mystery, and often unexplained ominous shadows; including the grand old house on Macon Street in Brooklyn.

Apart from spending my summers at my Aunt Car's house, my grandparents and I made regular visits to see her and my Uncle Henry. One such visit I'll never forget. My grandparents picked me up after school and we went straight to Brooklyn, which was unusual. But, at that young age, to me it was just another rendezvous to see family. 

Once there, Gramps visited with my uncle in the garden, where they smoked and drank Jamaican rum. Aunt Car and my grandmother spoke in low tones trying to be discreet, which was always my clue to hone in and listen hard. As they ascended the stairs from the garden level to the parlor floor, I paused by the family door to my aunt's rooms, but much to my surprise, the two women continued up the stairs to the next level – one I rarely went to without Aunt Car or my uncle. There they rented out rooms to boarders, and it always seemed like another world up there.

But, I was nosy, and they didn't try to shoo me away, so I followed at a respectable distance within earshot. The whispers became lower – hushed, if you will. Intrigued, I edged closer behind them as they slowly walked the hall. The doors to the boarders' rooms were all closed and the hallway was silent. 

Aunt Car paused and opened up the bathroom door that was shared by all who rented there. It was a simple bath with a sink, a toilet and a large footed Victorian tub. I really don't like old bathrooms, and the shortest time I can spend in one, the better. Why were we stopping here?

Nana looked at Aunt Car with their strange communal silent language the two of them possessed. I was quickly learning this language and knew all of the facial gestures and signals. Nana's right eyebrow went up, and Aunt Car nodded. Then Aunt Car looked at her again and whispered even lower, “This is where it happened …” It?? I thought silently. What was it? What the heck happened here? I wedged myself between them and looked up, lifting my brows in an attempt to communicate with my elders in their own secret code, but they only shoved me away.

Aunt Car silently shut the door while giving Nana another code glance, and they went downstairs with me following close behind. It was never told to me what happened in that bathroom, and I knew better than to ask. But something sinister took place on that floor, in that room, and it stuck with me for life. From then on, I've had an extreme aversion to claw foot tubs; I can't stand the sight of them, even though I know I'd love soaking in one … probably as a dead woman, but not in this life!


My job, when staying with my aunt and uncle, was to polish the banisters every week. For a couple of weeks, I got away with not polishing anything above the parlor floor. I didn't want to go up there “where it happened.” Eventually I was forced to go up there, and I would race up the stairs, polish the banisters like crazy, and fly back down as fast as I could. On one occasion, as I dashed past the bathroom, I felt something cold swirling around my ankles, and suddenly I was frozen in place. Then, I felt it grab my foot! Terrified, I fled all the way downstairs to the kitchen on the garden level. Out of breath, I immediately realized, I had left my dust rag up there. Not noticing my trembling anxiety, my aunt told me to back up and get it. So I flew up the stairs again -- but on the third step, I tripped and jammed my shin into the edge of the step, cutting my leg open to the bone. Afterwards, I never told anyone what happened upstairs, nor did I ever venture up there again.

Recently, I spoke with the current owner of the brownstone. He told me of his friend, who is legally blind, that visits the home and sleeps in an adjacent room to that bathroom. The friend told him that he senses water, alcohol, possibly a drowning, and a woman who doesn't know she's dead. He's also experienced other occurrences in the brownstone, including a former inmate from the house next door who walks through the walls and haunts him.

So, now I have an idea what may have happened in the upstairs bathroom on Macon Street. But, what if a real incident did not actually occur that night? What if my aunt was upstairs and saw the ghost of the lady in the water? The plot thickens and widens. All I know is, that is where it happened.

On October 27, 2016, in an article about New York hauntings, the New York Post included accounts about our beloved brownstone and its mysterious bathroom.

Published in The Courier-Times on 10/30/2016


October 11, 2016

MOORE'S ANGEL: My Final Gift To Them


As you may know, my mother passed away in February 2015, and my Aunt Thelma (her sister) died in 2010. Both were 91 at the time of their deaths. I chose to have them buried side-by-side in a double plot, and purchased a headstone for them shortly before my mother's passing. I did not, however, make the final arrangements to add the inscriptions, etc. It has been an extremely painful challenge for me to even visit the grave site and move forward.

When I was ill, all I could think of was 'I had not given them the details for the stone. What if I don't make it; what will they do?' And then, I put it off again and again - until last week. It finally stuck in my mind that to wait any longer would be unacceptable. So, I met with the funeral service that takes care of my family and talked about the stone. In this meeting, I made the decision to design a stone using my own artwork; something I believe my mother and aunt would appreciate.
However, if you knew them, you also know there were few things that they would agree upon. But, I tried to keep them in consideration as I came up with my design. While headstones are for the living to see, they especially honor and represent those who rest there.
My mother was Methodist; my aunt Catholic. Mom was fond of the Praying Hands symbol, but we had used that on my grandparents’ grave, which is a few feet away. My aunt liked earth tones; my mother liked jewel tones. Aunt Thelma was extremely proud of her Caribbean and Canadian heritage, but Mom claimed she didn't remember anything about it (deliberately). It was not going to be easy.
I prayed on it, and took a nap shortly after leaving the meeting. It's rare for me to dream in the day, but I did. When I awoke, the design was clear as a bell. I painted an angel that looks much like them when they were young. In the angel's arms, she cradles a bouquet of four yellow roses; my mother's favorite flower, representing friendship. In this bouquet are also four Silver Maple leaves - the Maple Leaf being the symbol of Canada, where they grew up. A small halo of Poinsettia and Barbados Cherry blossoms are in her hair in honor of our family heritage, and Thelma's birthplace. The angel's hands are not in the typical prayer position. However, they are eternally held in a gesture of humble supplication. I have named her “Moore's Angel,” my maternal family name.
MOORE'S ANGEL, by Artist Stacey Torres
This is the image that will be glazed upon the headstone above their final resting place. I believe they would be pleased with this, and trust my remaining family will be as well. All in all, I feel tremendously better for it myself. Some of the grief and anxiety has been lifted from me. Painting this angel's image came to me very quickly, and was not of my own design; she just appeared.

The spokes of my wheel are slowly coming back together, and, I too shall keep walking.

Don't Rush Your Endless Summer

Posted: Sunday, August 28, 2016 6:00 am
This year, the autumn equinox will arrive on Sept. 22. Sometimes it occurs on the 21st or 23rd of September when the sun crosses the celestial equator. I don’t know where exactly that is, except that it’s in the sky and it’s supposed to match our equator here on earth. Of course, none of that makes any sense to me, but that’s what I was taught. Thus, it heralds the first day of autumn.
ALLYSON'S GOLDFISH, by Artist Stacey Torres

Fall used to be my favorite season, but I don’t care for it much these days. Perhaps because it signals the upcoming darkness; the cold, desolate period when nature comes to a stop. Some things survive it; some do not. I would like a calm, but endless summer. I’ve had my years of seasons changing, and my own personal equinoxes and solstices are beginning to run into each other.
Years ago, August was the crown jewel of summer, as people wrapped up their family vacations, kids headed back to school, and summer was gently tucked away for safe keeping until the following year. But our society tends to rush the seasons.
Christmas decorations are actually in some stores after July 4. Some kids went back to school early, making family vacations pretty much impossible because of peak-season rates, work schedules and countless sports and other activities children take part in. There’s no more playing ball under the street light, catching lightning bugs, slurping a cone on the back porch or family dinners at the park. By the end of July, everyone is exhausted, and parents, broke from the children’s extra activities, can’t wait to see their kids go back to school.
Life, being so short, should be savored with the ones we love, doing the things we enjoy with each other. Where are those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer?” One day soon, those little ones will grow and jump off that springboard into a pool that will be their destiny. Our elders will be gone, and all we have are these piles of scrapbooks to remind us of what we did yesterday, instead of archiving them in our hearts and minds, to be remembered during those cold, dark winter days ahead.
But I’m just one of those people that like to hold onto the sweet things of the past that still make things feel good ... Nana’s home – brewed iced tea – no, it wasn’t sweet tea, but it was strong, cold and pierced with citrus and cloves ... her fresh-cut roses that were put on our Sunday table that lasted until Friday night, when the last fragrant petal settled on one of her pretty “summer tablecloths” – the ones with the orange slices around the border ... all-day family outings at the park, that began at dawn with ham and pancakes on a small griddle, a hearty all day picnic, and iced-cold watermelon and singing as the sun began to sink … or, sleeping with a million cousins in one bed on a hot night, with feet tangled and a fan competing with our laughter.
Of course, nothing remains the same, and we all change, as does the earth and its seasons. Sure, I really do love the other seasons too. But summer takes us back to our youth … to that first convertible ride under a July sun ... summer dances with friends, and sleeping in the backseat at the drive-in while our parents did whatever that was they did that made them giggle like children.
I could go on, but I don’t need to. You all have your favorite summer memories ... some wonderful; some not. Pull out that scrapbook in the back of your mind, and do something fun again. Enjoy your own endless summer while it lasts.
New Castle resident Stacey Torres is an artist, dancer, writer and author. Her column is published on the last Sunday of the month.

As published in The Courier-Times 8/28/2016

It's Going To Be A Long, Hot Summer

The last few days have been unbearably hot – Everyone is feeling it; there is no way around it. They've warned folks to stay indoors if they don't have to be out; keep hydrated; wear a hat; use your air; and check on pets, neighbors and the elderly.

BREAK TIME, by Stacey Torres ART
The older I get, the harder it is for me to tolerate the heat, and so I've had a lot of difficulty. This is A Long Hot Summer – in every way.

We are now in a world where people are hateful, rude, crude, angry, bitter, accusing, fearful, paranoid, blameful, shameful, evil, spiteful, revengeful, mean, prejudice – did I say fearful? Fear of the unknown makes things hotter, more volatile and explosive. And, worse – people feel justified in their behavior. A nation that is torn apart in multiple directions smolders on the brink of more burning turmoil. Folks don't trust what they don't know – what they don't care to know – what others have told them – without finding out and understanding the truth for themselves.

Are we nation of sheep – following this one or that one aimlessly in no particular direction … without bothering to read their own map first … Marching through A Long Hot Summer?
The heat, along with some new medications made me terribly ill this week. My blood pressure shot up and I panicked, paying a visit to the ER for safe measure. I'm still reeling with spotty dizzy spells and being lightheaded. The ER doctor warned me to remain inside this weekend and stay cool … And, I tried. But, yesterday, I left the house. I was craving lemonade, so I drove to the Speedway station and got a 52 oz lemonade with lots of ice to nurse on all day while I painted and did some M&R (max and relax) under the air conditioning.

There was a friendly sort of guy in there joking with folks and having a conversation with the cashier. When I got to the register, my coupon for a free drink had expired, so I reached in my wallet to pay. But he, in a very Lancelot kind of way, handed the cashier a $10 bill, and said, "It's on me."


In the midst of A Long Hot Summer, with everyone eyeing each other with suspicion and guilt and horrible thoughts, he Paid It Forward! It was very kind of him, and I thanked him. There was a time when this was the norm. When we cared about each other, whether we knew anything about them or not. His timing could not have been more perfect. So, if you see the friendly guy with the green t-shirt and suspenders - Give him ANOTHER thank you for me, please. This Long Hot Summer is hardly over yet.

As published in The Courier-Times, 7/2016

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot
A simple garden meal in the shade. No, it's not my backyard, but it looks identical to the one I grew up with at our home in Queens. Looking for an original pic of it to post soon!

Old Fashioned Tips