For Betsy Ellinger, home is where the heart is — and the gazing balls, four birdbaths, bird feeders, tin ducks and ducklings, wind chimes and, a butterfly bush that draws its quota of yellow, black and orange beauties.
But there's more — a lawn jockey, fluttering flags, assorted concrete or wooden rabbits and frogs, Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh, another bear with a less distinguished pedigree, and a burro wearing an Orioles cap.
"A lot of people stop in front of my house and say "Wow!" said Ellinger, who has lived in the same modest brick Cape Cod on Aigburth Road in Knollwood-Donnybrook for 43 years.
The other day a woman stopped and I thought she wanted directions," Ellinger said. "But she told me she goes by every day on her way to work at St. Joseph (Medical Center) and just wanted to tell me she loved my place."
Stephanie Parry, one of Ellinger's four grown children, recalls her days at Towson High School when students were surprised to learn she lived in the house with "the yard with all that stuff."
"All that stuff" was the multiplicity of lawn ornaments and decorations in the well-kept yard and, in season, the bright yellow black-eyed Susans, the profusion of pink, purple and fuscia-colored flowers, and the hanging baskets.
The inside of Ellinger's house, with its 100 houseplants and 40 small containers of Betta fish, is just as visually rich.
"I have a love for kids, flowers and animals — and it shows," Ellinger said.
And, the property doesn't retreat into the shadows at night.
"It lights up," Ellinger said.
There are battery-powered candles in the windows all year round and landscape lights next to flowers and lawn features, and in shrubs and hanging flower pots.
During the daytime, a closer look at the house could reveal several toddlers sitting inside the huge front bay window playing in the sunlight and watching the birds.
Ellinger, who has two grandchildren, has been a day care provider for more than 30 years.
She fell into it after she helped out at Pleasant Plains Elementary School and her daughter's teacher was impressed enough to ask Ellinger to take care of her own baby.
"I love little kids," she said. "I like to watch them grow and learn. It's fun."
Ten years ago, she installed garden windows which extend at least a foot outside the house and let in light from their glass roofs.
"My curtains do not shut," she said. "I like the outdoors. I like to be able to see. The day care parents love the way the windows make the house so light and open."
Decorated inside and out
Like the yard, the inside of her house is neat and tidy, but the walls are filled with artwork, including a charcoal portrait of a horse done by her grandmother, as well as a cow clock that moos on the hour "always when I'm on the phone," Ellinger said. The dog clock barks, a bird clock tweets and a cat clock meows.
The furniture surfaces sport everything from figurines and family photographs and antiques to a wooden bowl with a snowman painted on it and Lalique inherited from her aunt, "which is really not me," she said.