Sunday, December 21, 2014

Civil War Sunday - Georgia on His Mind

Today, when you visit Georgia, there is a sign welcoming travelers.

Georgia is glad it is on your mind.  At one time, they even gave away little bags of peanuts to arriving visitors at the visitor's center where you entered the state.

Feel free to drive down to Savannah, which welcomes modern tourists, both from the North and from the South. 
This is the Comer House, built in 1880 so it is post Civil War,  but isn't it beautiful?
 Jefferson Davis, the former President of the Confederate States of America, once slept in the Comer House.  OK, it was in 1886, way after the war was over, but he slept here.

Savannah is full of beautiful architecture, beautiful squares, and the one of a kind Byrd's Famous Cookies.

Byrd's, Home of the Best Little Cookies in the U.S.
I fell in love with Savannah, just passing through, in 1974.  I have visited twice since.  Savannah and Charleston, the other southern city I love, are two totally different places, and I treasure their differences.

I love the squares of  Savannah - there are 22 of them (plus two "missing" ones). They make you slow down and ponder history, as you can't walk (or drive, which you shouldn't be doing anyway) far without having to slow to go around one.  Many have statutes - at least one even has a person buried there.

With apologies to any lawyers reading my blog, Savannah, at one time, banned lawyers, as its founder detested them.

I love the trees of Savannah, dripping with Spanish moss.

Bonaventure Cemetery, in Thunderbolt, near Savannah
 But there was a time when Savannah did not welcome visitors from the North.

In November and December of 1864, Union troops, under the command of General William Tecumsah Sherman, marched their way through Georgia, starting at Atlanta, burning and destroying various targets and cities as they traveled.  By December 21, they reached Savannah, a major port and strategic target.
Confederate grave, Bonaventure Cemetery
On December 21, 1864, 150 years ago today, Savannah surrendered to Sherman, who elected not to burn the city.

Instead, on December 22, Sherman telegraphed President Lincoln:

"I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton."
Green-Meldrim House, Savannah
A man by the name of Charles Green, a wealthy cotton merchant, offered his house to Sherman to use as his headquarters.  The house, now known as the Green-Meldrim House, still stands today, near Madison Square.

While Sherman stayed in this fancy house, his troops camped out in the various squares.

In Madison Square, there is now a marker commemorating the end of Sherman's March to the Sea.
It really wasn't the end, though, as the March lives on in Southern memory to this day.

Although the people of Savannah didn't know it then, the Civil War would be over in a little more than three months. 

Today, Savannah, a city of about 143,000 people, is the fifth largest city in Georgia and worth a visit to explore its history.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Local Saturday - Sweetness and Crackers

The year is almost over - less than two weeks left. 

It's a busy time of year for many.  My spouse and I try t keep it low key.

Today, we visited a farmers market for the last time this year.

In Binghamton, New York, our farmers market has gone indoors.  Our growing season is long over, but that doesn't stop our farmers.
These are some of my favorite crackers.  Seeds, olive oil, and whole wheat flour make an unbeatable combination.
Honey - so colorful - lines these shelves.  There is light colored spring honey, medium colored summer honey and dark fall honey.   The mix of flowers varies by season-everything from sumac, locust, then the later flowers- buckwheat and hardy Japanese bamboo (knotweed).

There were some apples and root veggies left, too.

Today, after the market, I potted up three amaryllis.  Of the three, only one bloomed this past year.  We'll wish them a more productive 2015.

Do you still have local farmers markets open?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy December Natal Anniversary Baby

This card is going to look familiar to a reader of my blog, who is also a family member.

That's because we have something in common.  In fact, our birthdays are only a day apart.

We are December birthday babies. Or, as a friend calls birthdays, our "natal anniversaries".

Not only that, our birthdays are close to Christmas, as are a third family member's.

I'm only following a family tradition.  My father's father, deceased for many years now, was born on December 26.

So, I know what it is like to have your birthday swallowed up in what our country calls "The Holidays". And I do mean swallowed up.

I decided to google "having a birthday near Christmas" and Google gave me 65,300,000 results.  So I can't be the only person who wonders about this.

Many of the returns were along the lines of "why Christmas birthdays are the worst", but there are two schools of thought here for us in that situation, which depends on your family and personal traditions.  (In this, I include people of all religious faiths, as there are other religious holidays besides Christmas in December.  But in our country, the modern Christmas is - face it - rather overpowering.)

1.  It really stinks.  You get a combined gift for your tradition's holiday and for your birthday, and your birthday is swallowed up whole, never to be seen again.

2.  Wow, everything is all decorated, and people are celebrating, and it's really a wonderful time, isn't it?  It's an honor to be born on or around a sacred holiday.  And, the best part of birthdays means that you are alive, and there are a lot of people out there fighting daily for that privilege. 

I have bounced between #1 and #2.  In fact, for several years, I asked my job (which will have a little gathering with cake or whatever with your co-workers) to celebrate my birthday in January.

One thing having a December holiday birthday does is teach you that life, and birthdays, are a lot more than gift giving occasions. I am grateful daily for the opportunity to wake up.  But, when you are young, it can be tough.

As I age, though, I find this birthday dilemma matters less and less.  In some ways, age becomes, more and more, just a number, especially when one candle for each year of your life would require a full sheet cake.  With a fire extinguisher.

So, regardless of your religious faith, if you have a birthday today, or in the next several days, I wish you all the most wonderful birthday possible.

Are you a December birthday person?  What have your experiences been?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Best of AM - When It's Not The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This has been a strange holiday season. We were late getting cards out, and I've talked to other people who have been late.  We have only gotten a couple - like everyone is waiting to see who has sent them one.

Or, perhaps, everyone is using Facebook and we've reached some kind of "tipping point".

It doesn't seem like people are decorating the way they usually do - or maybe it's just a local aberration.

Today, I am bringing you a post from last year.  I re learned an important lesson right before Christmas last year, and I wanted to share it with my readers again. 

What we call The Holidays are not a happy time for everyone.  We had a death in our family a week before Christmas last year and it was a stressful time for other reasons.  We need to be gentle with each other and with ourselves.

Update:  the relative with cancer had a good outcome - it was caught early and tests show she is now cancer free- something we are all grateful for.

When It's Not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I was mentally exhausted last night.

A challenging day at work. A conversation with a dental surgeon's office that left me feeling at loose ends, unsure what to do next.  I am trying to juggle a pending dental problem with the fact that I will have caregiving duties for a relative with cancer in the near future, causing me to be away from home for a few days.

After work, spouse takes me to pick up new glasses.  We crawl through holiday traffic.  After glasses, a trip to Sams Club to pick up food for Christmas Eve. Another crawl through holiday traffic. Upon arrival at Sams Club we see a number of registers closed, and long lines have gathered at the other registers.  We pay for the privilege of shopping there - why can't they afford labor to shorten the lines?

Tired, stressed people look at each other as they wait patiently to be checked out. We make our selections and join the line. Finally, after a million years or so, we are free to leave.

Still another crawl through holiday traffic, only to find, when we get home, that we missed a call from the oncologist's office. We needed information, some information had conflicted with other information we had gotten from a different person in the office, and person #2 had asked person #1 to call us.  Now we had missed person #1's call and #1 person was going to be off tomorrow.  Try again Monday....

My new glasses hurt.

It's all part of what we call The Holidays here in the United States. The Holidays are that time between Halloween and New Years Day when we are supposed to be happy but instead, too many times, we are just plain stressed.  I will tell you what I would like to do with the man who sings "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!" (it involves termination with extreme prejudice, in particularly inventive ways.)

But I read a blog post after I got home with various tips on how to reduce stress during the Holidays.  And I thought - I needed to think about what else had happened yesterday.

I thought about the nurse at my family dentist's office and the good news she gave me after I didn't know what to do after talking to the surgeon's office.

I thought about the woman in front of us on that long Sam's Club line and how she insisted we, with our four items, go ahead of her. She must have been just as tired as we were.

I thought about the people at the oncologist's office, who have been patient with us as we try to learn the ropes of dealing with cancer on a closer level than either my spouse or I (neither of us have ever had cancer) have ever experienced.

I thought about the co worker I wouldn't see until after the New Year, and when I wished her a Merry Christmas, she hugged me.

I thought about my spouse cooking dinner for me.

Not that we have a whirl of parties and other events to begin with (that isn't our style) but we are trying to take care of ourselves in small ways.  Perhaps buying pre made and not making ourselves.  Asking a family member to shorten Christmas dinner and make the start time a little earlier.

We will try to care of ourselves, and take it one day at a time.  And those glasses? I've put them aside for now. I will get them adjusted, but all in good time.

Do the Holidays stress you out?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fall Fancies-To Make the Season Bright

This is the last Wednesday of fall here in upstate New York.
Wild Asters September 2014
In the past three months we have transitioned from beautiful fall wildflowers....
Red Leaves October 29 the season of leaf changing...
December 10
and, finally, to snow.

Now we settle into winter. I sometimes envy the trees that lose their leaves and go dormant.  They don't notice the ice, the snow, or the cold winds.
Office building, downtown Binghamton, NY
We humans decorate for the holidays "to make the season bright".  But soon, it will be the New Year.  The lights and the decorated trees will come down, and we will be left with only the beauty of nature to sustain us in the coming hard months.
Owego, New York

What will we go through before the days lengthen and the breezes blow warmly again? That will be the story told by my Wednesday winter feature, Winter Wonders.  Join me every Wednesday in winter for something related to the season.

One day, the first outdoor flowers will bloom and the cycle will begin again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Dolls of Memory

Today, at sundown, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins.

In Binghamton, we have a Hanukkah House museum in a historic mansion near downtown Binghamton, run by a local synagogue.

Hanukkah House has  a different theme every year. This year, it is a theme of local history - the history of the family that once owned the mansion, and it is a fascinating history.  But, for me, one of the highlights has always been a collection of dolls and dollhouses.

The late owner of these dolls and dollhouses, Roberta (Bobbie) King, was a teacher and a mother of eight. Her life was tragically ended on April 3, 2009 when a gunman entered her adult education classroom and killed her and twelve other people, before ending his own life.  

During her life, she owned thousands of dolls.

Mrs. King was involved in our community, and with Hanukkah House, and her family honors her by containing the tradition..

Today, in what has become a tradition on my blog, I share some photos I took this year at Hanukkah House to honor her memory.

This year, the display was smaller than usual.
Here are two pictures of rooms in the dollhouse displayed this year.  In the midst of our most gloomy time of the year, I can always depend on the sun shining on the day I visit Hanukkah House. I love this doll sunroom.
And I just love this miniature room.  Would you know it was a miniature if I didn't tell you?

Mrs. King refused to retire, and she died doing what she loved.  What an example she set for all of us, with her love of family and community.

A true heroine.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day Dec 2014-Rain and Clouds

It's December 15, and we all know what that means.

It's cold!  It's dreary! There's snow on the ground!  And it's time, here in my upstate New York garden, near Johnson City, for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, brought to us the 15th of each month by May Dreams Gardens.

By December, we in the cold climes of the Northern Hemisphere are dreaming of May, every one of us, thinking of warm breezes and outdoor flowers and the actual sun shining in the sky.

I want to be thinking of white flowers...

A couple of months ago, there was a tomato plant in this pot
....instead of this kind of white from earlier this month.

It has been so cloudy and drizzly, I am just grateful we haven't had much in the way of freezing rain these last three days.

But let's move indoors, shall we, and see what is blooming in my house just as fall ends.

The African violet I purchased in November at a garden center open house is blooming its little heart out.  And, I have no idea why my iPhone rendered the colors the way it did.  The ones in back are the true color.

I have one geranium flower left on the plants I took indoors.
My Thanksgiving cactus don't know it isn't Thanksgiving anymore.  My yellow cactus, which seems to be somewhat shy, decided to open up over the weekend.

And, the pink cactus I bought at the same open house as the African violet just finished its last blooms.  A poinsettia I purchased on Black Friday at Home Depot is in the background.

My kalanchoe has buds, but it isn't going to bloom today.  Threatened by whiteflies, I hope it makes it through winter.

If you click on the link above to May Dream Gardens, you will be able to click links for gardens all over the world and see what others have in bloom today.

Do you have flowers indoors or outdoors today?