Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fall Fancies - Over the Rainbow

This past weekend, we made a trip from our home in upstate New York to a New York City suburb.

We pass through mountains called the Catskills. Many of the trees in the mountains were already bare.

We were greeted by this sight soon after getting to our destination.  You can't see it too well, but starting about at the center tall tree and then going upward and to the left, there is a rainbow.

I wanted to treat you to some other photos from that day.

This is the Hudson River, the mighty river that runs some 315 miles long, mostly through eastern New York State, before it ends in New York Harbor. 

On a nice day the river would have been lined with sailboats enjoying the fall foliage.

In grade school, we who grow up in New York City learn about the Hudson, and how, for part of its length, it is actually a salt water estuary.  And, it is a lot cleaner than it was when I was growing up in the 50's and early 60's.

Along the Hudson are many historic river towns, some of which I have visited, and others which I need to.
This was taken on the historic Taconic Parkway.  This portion was built in the 1930s.

Another view, the fall colors muted due to the clouds. On the left side, in the distance, you can see some of the historic stone walls that line portions of the parkway.

So many people think that New York State is New York City, a city noted more for its tall buildings and cultural heritage than its natural beauty.

There is so much more to New York State than New York City, although New York City is well worth the visit.

And, although I don't always like making this trip due to my back problems, I must admit that the scenery can be inspiring.

How did you spend this past weekend?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Do They Care About Others?

Today, I'd like to tell you a story - a true story.

Once upon a time...no, wait, this happened on Sunday.

My spouse and I were driving "B", my brother in law who has autism, to the supermarket.  He was out of lunchbags and we needed to pick up something for a quick lunch.

"B" isn't big on idle chatter.  If something is on his mind, he blurts it out, whether or not the moment is appropriate or not.  At least, it was an appropriate moment.

"What are you doing for C's birthday?", he asked.

We've had so many things on our minds recently.  And, with my mother in law's recent falls, it most probably was not on her mind.

But "B" knew better.  He only has one sister, "C", and that sister was going to celebrate a milestone birthday later this year.

And all of us had forgotten.

"What should we do, "B"? I asked him.  I was curious about how he would answer.

How about having it on ______, so we can also celebrate "A"'s birthday?, "B" responded.  The date in question was a milestone birthday for my son.  Trouble was, the date was several months in the future, way after my sister in law's birthday.  But "B" was keeping track of everyone's birthday, no doubt about that.

After a couple of more questions, I realized that "B" had it all planned.  The date.  The restaurant.  Even who should be invited.

I don't know why I should be surprised.  Why do we, as a society, underestimate (and undervalue) people with autism?  And, furthermore, why do we feel they don't love anyone?

They may not show love the ways we neurotypical (people without autism) folks think love should be shown.  But that love is there.  And, in the midst of us worrying about so many things, "B" was thinking of his sister first.

Now, for an announcement.

This is my 1800th post.  No giveaway.  Just a big thank you.
Thank you, dear readers for making my writing of this blog worthwhile.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Would You Let Your Child Play in Hot Lava?

I'm taking a little mental break today - this post was inspired by one of the most awesome people on Facebook, the actor and activist George Takei.

It's been a long time since I've visited Seattle, Washington.  I was there before I had my son, and my son is grown now. Until I become a grandmother, I won't have much reason to visit a playground, because I have no nieces and nephews.

But if I did need to visit a playground, I might just visit this one.

I wonder if this is for real.  Readers?

According to a post on Reddit, a playground (Cascade Playfield) in Seattle, Washington has a "Hot Lava Survival Game" posted on the playground equipment.  So, if a child gets bored of the swings, slides, and other regular equipment, they can play "Survive a Mt. Rainer Eruption!" Yes, when there is an active volcano in your city's backyard (and it is an awesome view if you've ever flown into Seattle on a sunny day-which I had the pleasure of doing once, many years ago), you might as well turn that scary fact into a childhood game.

Strangely, though, the website for the City of Seattle parks does not feature anything about the Hot Lava Survival Game. 

At least, there is no real lava on the playground - not yet, anyway.

Another blogger even took pictures of some of the "landmarks" in the instructions on how to play the Hot Lava Survival Game.

Here are some facts about Mt. Rainier, which is about 60 miles from Seattle. 

It is the fifth tallest peak in the 48 "lower" United States (not counting Alaska and Hawaii) and the tallest mountain in the state of Washington.  It measures some 14,411 feet tall.

It last erupted in the 19th century, in 1894.

It was first climbed (that we know of, of course) in 1870.

And, it is expected to erupt again, someday. When it does, it really isn't hot lava, but a mud flow called lahar, that may spell doom for thousands of people, if they can't get out of the way.

Considering its proximity to Seattle, a city of about 650,000 people, "when" becomes an important question.  There is a lahar early warning system in place, but we may only find out how effective it is when the volcano erupts.

In the meantime, I do wonder about that playground.  Is it in the path of the expected lahar flow? Do children really play that hot lava game?

Do you have an unusual playground near you?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Civil War Sunday-All Ignored at The Western Front

Many of my blog readers know me as someone who was raised in New York City, and ended up living much of her life in upstate New York, near Binghamton.  But there is another part of me.

I spent my early adult life in what many consider the midwestern portion of the United States (Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, and Iowa ) and, when I study the United States Civil War as someone interested in history, I sometimes like to blog about that part of the country.

Missouri, a border state whose citizens fought on both side of the war, suffered greatly. However, many of its battles are relatively unknown to the casual follower of Civil War history, who concentrates on the battles along the East Coast.

And, some of the ugliest events of the war happened in Missouri.

Arkansas?  Nearly 30 years ago, I lived near two Civil War battlegrounds, one of which has never been honored with an official park.

I  never really investigated the history of that area until I returned last year, for the first time since I left in the mid 1980's.  I was amazed at what I found out about ruins (a mill and an abandoned college) I passed on the way to work every day for nearly four years.

And Kansas?  Some of us remember "Bleeding Kansas", as Kansas became a battlefield overrun by pro and anti slavery combatants, some seven or so years before the Civil War began officially.  I lived in Kansas in the late 1970's, due to my spouse's job.   I enjoyed my time in Wichita.

Yesterday, a battlefield in Kansas, Mine Creek, held its 150th anniversary commemoration (the actual battle took place October 25, 1864).   It's a battle, unknown mostly to those of us who live on the East Coast, and one of the best preserved Civil War battlefields.

The Confederates had invaded Missouri in August of 1864 in an attempt to disrupt the 1864 Presidential election, when President Lincoln was running against-well, you would have to read it to believe it, and I just may have to blog about that election in the next couple of weeks. (Hopefully, I'll have the time).   Missouri, a slave state, had remained in the Union, and capturing it would have been an impressive victory for the Confederacy. 

After a number of victories in Missouri, the Confederates headed into neighboring Kansas. Their destination was Ft. Scott, Kansas, a major supply depot.

But at Mine Creek (also known as the Battle of the Osage), the Confederates were turned back.  After the Union victory,the rebels were chased back into Missouri, and then, pushed back either further into Indian Territory (now the state of Oklahoma).

I only wish I had known about Mine Creek when I had lived in Kansas.  I didn't have time to go there during my Arkansas vacation last year.  It was just a handful of hours away by car.

How many people showed up at the 150th Mine Creek commemoration yesterday?  About 400, I understand from Mine Creek's Facebook page.  It made me a little sad, with better known battle commemorations on the East Coast drawing thousands more.  In fact, some 30,000 are expected in a small town in Virginia next April, for the 150th commemoration of General Robert E. Lee's surrender.

Have you ever studied lesser known history?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - The Other End of Life

Part of sustainable living is thinking of, and honoring, the "other end of life". 

My spouse was talking on the phone to his sister, who is several years younger than he is. (He is in his early 60's).  He was talking about going through the various seasons of life. 

We are entering a portion of life, my spouse and I, too often devalued in our Western society.  That should not be. In some societies, the elderly are honored as keepers of wisdom.

Several months ago, I blogged about "human wormholes" and my spouse's last living aunt, who was alive when the Titanic sank and when millions died in a worldwide flu epidemic.

Today, I have something sad to report.  My husband's aunt, at the age of 102, fell and broke her hip while plumping pillows.   She is hospitalized.  Surgery is scheduled for Monday.

But we all know what usually happens when people that old fall.  We may be losing her wisdom in the not too distant future.

Her son, who lives with him, has to make some very hard decisions now, about where and how his mother will spend the rest of her life. 

When I told my son the news about his beloved great aunt, he exclaimed "what was she doing [making a bed] at her age?"

Well, she was doing what she was doing.  Living life.  She knew the day would come, no matter what she did - the day that will come to us all, no matter what we do or try to delay that day.  We can't be afraid to plump a pillow, so to speak.  But too many of us, me included, can be.

I am reminded of a fellow blogger who lives in Great Britain, Francene Stanley.  She and her husband are both older than me, and she gave me these words today, in reference to another elderly relative I have.

"Beauty is fleeting, to be enjoyed, to be embraced, to be hugged close, and then, let go."

To honor Aunt T, I rerun this post:

Treasured Links to the Past - Or Human Wormholes?

She is what some call a human wormhole.  And I hope she'll forgive me for saying so, because she knows I love her very much.  It's not the most elegant name, the "human wormhole" but if you think about it a little, the name is a bit catchy.

Yes, I know she looks like a woman of a certain age.  To be exact, she's 102 years old.  But she's so much more.  She's a treasured relative in my spouse's family.

She is a link to the past.  She may be physically frail, but her mind is as sharp as the day she was born. Maybe even sharper.

She's a living link to the past, the past that, for all but a handful of us, exists only in textbooks.  When I touch her, when I talk to her, I am touching history.

She was alive when the Titanic made its maiden voyage (1912).

She was alive when our country enacted a constitutional amendment permitting the income tax (1913).

She was alive during the post World War I flu epidemic (1918-1919) and vaguely remembers wagons traveling from house to house where needed to pick up the dead (what a childhood memory).

We are fascinated by human wormholes.  I've blogged about some of them myself, from the living grandson of a U.S. President who served from 1841 to 1845 to a man who witnessed Lincoln's 1865 assassination and lived to tell the story on a late night game show in 1956.

One story has an interesting twist.  It is said that Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who fought in the Civil War, shook hands with both former President John Quincy Adams (born in 1767) and a young/future President John J Kennedy (whose life was cut short by assassination in 1963).  I can not find any firm evidence for this having actually happened (there is a fascinating discussion online about whether it might have been possible, though). However, Holmes did have a link to more than just the Civil War, where it is said he once saved Lincoln's life.

Holmes, who lived from 1841 to 1937, had fond memories of his grandmother, who could remember red coated English troops marching through the streets of Boston at the beginning of our Revolutionary War. When she was five. In 1776.

If I live long enough, I might be a human wormhole, too.  I don't know if that makes me happy - or scares me a little.

Do you know anyone who would qualify as a human wormhole?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Days of Red and Roses

It's the last hurrah of summer.  All things come to an end. 
My dahlias, earlier in October

The growing season, the season of green, is ending, soon to be replaced by bare trees, snow, and ice.

Where I live in upstate New York, many areas have received frost.  Right where I live, we haven't had our killing frosts yet, but we probably will on Sunday night/Monday morning.
So, it is time to say goodbye to our days of red and roses, with some parting pictures taken recently in the Binghamton/Johnson City/Ithaca area of upstate New York.  Fall beauty is fleeting, to be enjoyed, to be embraced, to be hugged close, and then, let go

At my job, we are already talking about what we call the "s" word - snow.

Can you tell I don't like winter?


But it isn't here yet, as I show you the progression of fall color here.

Red bushes in early morning fog, by an abandoned factory building in Westover, near Johnson City.

Rose hips.
Roses in Ithaca, New York, were still in bloom on Sunday, but for how long? (Their climate, moderated by Cayuga Lake, allows for a longer growing season. But it is still upstate New York.)

Every day, the sunrises are later, and the sunsets are earlier. 

These clouds proved the "red sky in morning, sailor take warning" folk saying - we had heavy rains later that day.  But it was mild.

In another week or less, that mildness will be a memory.

Do you have seasons where you live?  Which is your favorite?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Love Potatoes? Try This

Do you think that cauliflower is bland, white, and boring?

It doesn't have to be any of those. 

It's time to think of cauliflower in a different way.  And, as a bonus, I am going to blog about a recipe I love.
For example, in a purple way. (the only drawback is, when it cooks, it doesn't turn green like many other purple veggies - rather, it turns a blah purplish grey.)
Tried to show the orange and it got too blue

Or an orange way.
Or a green way. (the green cauliflower is on the left and the right, with brocolli in the center.)

We are so fortunate in upstate New York, where cauliflower grows well, and it grows big.

And it is nutritious.

Don't just think white!

Now, I have a recipe for you.  This is a variation my spouse makes on a famous "South Beach Diet Cauliflower Mashed 'Potatoes'"  recipe that was so popular a few years ago.

I interviewed my spouse, the family cook, for this recipe.  He is a "feel" cook, i.e. he doesn't measure, and he can't tell you exactly what he does.  He just does it.  So, you may want to refer to the above link if you need more exact directions.

Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes" a la AM's Spouse

One Head cauliflower, cut up into the florets.  Of the various types, spouse likes the orange best. (I wouldn't use the purple kind.  White works, though.)
Light butter, to taste
Parmesan Cheese, to taste

Method

1. Cook cauliflower in microwave or steam until fork tender.  Microwaving preserves nutrients. Spouse does not use chicken broth - rather, he uses water.

2 Puree in blender until smooth, adding just enough cooking liquid so it will come out as a thick puree. As you puree, add 1 tbsp light butter in to taste, along with 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Salt to taste. 

4. Warm in microwave before you serve it.

5. And that's it. Enjoy!

I truly like this better than mashed potatoes.

Do you have a favorite "mock food" recipe?