Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fall - Flowers, Fear and Floods

It's the season for mums, pumpkins, corn stalks and turning leaves here in upstate New York.  But, on this last day of September, what we are getting instead is rain.

And, perhaps, more rain.

For me, living in a neighborhood damaged by a flood four years ago this September, it causes anxiety. (Interested? Read my posts from around September 10, 2011, forward.) I've blogged before about how the sound of rain, once a source of pleasure, no longer is.

We are under a flood watch, as is much of the East Coast of the United States, not from this storm, but from Tropical Storm Joaquin, still way off shore. But, despite that, fall marches on.

My yard, this year, has a lot of fall interest. Fall is such a beautiful time of year here - too bad it also makes me realize what is coming next.

Let's not think of that (the "s" word), shall we?  Instead lets think of these, on this last day of September, using photos taken several days ago.
My cultivated Northeast Asters (Michaelmas Daisies) glow towards sunset.
Hardy mums (not mums purchased at the store just for the season.
More hardy mums.

And one more sunset view, this time from last week - Japanese anemones.

All we on the East Coast can do now is wait for whatever is in store for us.  In the meantime, I'd like to thank everyone who commented on my post yesterday.  I haven't responded to all the comments, but I will.

What is fall like, where you live?  Do you live in a four season climate?  Or, is it spring where you live?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Eight Things I Wish I Knew When I Started To Blog

 What do I wish I knew when I started to blog?

As part of being DIFFERENT in 2015 (my "word" for this year), I wanted to share some blogging comments and tips I have gathered through the years.

I've had this post in my drafts since January (January!).  And now it is almost October.

This year has been a different year than any year in my life. My spouse and I, as a team, have faced new challenges, and my blogging has suffered for it.

As a result, I decided, a couple of months, not to enter any more blogging challenges (something I've done almost continuously since 2011).  Yet, I feel I do need to give something back to the blogging community.  I am not a blogging expert, but I have been blogging since 2009.  I am continuously learning, and hope that, if you are new, some of these tips may be of value to you.

1.  I wish I knew there was such a thing as blogging challenges when I started.  If you want to grow your readership (and who doesn't want followers, for either personal or business reasons?), this is one of the fastest ways to increase your readership.  By reading the blogs of those in your challenge, you will quickly learn what works - and what doesn't.

2.  I wish I knew that consistent posting is key.  I highly recommend daily posting, at least for the first month or two of your blog.   Once you establish yourself, what becomes necessary is not daily posting, but, rather, consistent posting.  If you don't want to post daily - and many bloggers don't want to, or can't - then it helps your readers to know that you have a schedule. Then stick to it.

3.  I wish I knew there is no such thing as a perfect blog post.  Perfection is not necessary.  Passion IS necessary.  If you don't like what you write, your readers won't, either.

4.  But, you must know what your readers want.  A blog is not all about you.  It is about your readers. My readers seem to love pictures of snow (in the winter) and flowers (the rest of the year),

5. You must read your readers' comments.  You must!  Those comments are more valuable to a blogger than breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even good chocolate.  For example, last week I wrote a blog about fall, which turned out to be a bit self centered.  A couple of my readers gently reminded me that much of the world does not experience quite the same fall as upstate New York (where I live).  My sin?  I had taken my readers for granted.

6.  Related to #5, I wish I knew how important it was to comment on, not just read, other blogs.  Yes, don't be shy.  Comment!  And if you do disagree, which is fine, please, please, please, be respectful. There is a person, a living, breathing human being with feelings, on the other end of that blog post you like or dislike. 

7.  Realize you are an expert - on something.  Then go for it. On the other hand, don't blog about something just because an "expert" tells you to.

Experts have good advice, but only you are the expert on you. (Say that fast, three times!)

 If you love something, work that into your blog posts.  If you couldn't care less about that topic, don't bother.  Blog about something you love.  I can't emphasize this enough.  That dislike/boredom/lack of passion will show right through your writing.

Be real. Be you.  It's not as easy as you think, but it is worth the effort.

8.  Finally: appreciate your readers.  Let them know often.  I don't do that enough.

If you had advice to new bloggers, what advice would you give?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Not Forgetting to Remember

It was still another message on the phone, asking my spouse and me to do something related to the care my spouse and I help to provide for both an elderly and a disabled relative, and my mind wanted to go "pop".  So, I forced myself to step back.

Sometimes, there are just not enough hours in the day for most of us.  But then, there are also flashes of seeing another side of life, a side where we who give care depend on the kindness or effort of others, and sometimes we just don't pay them enough thanks.

Sometimes, we are so harried and forgetful, and we forget to see past ourselves, our own problems, and realize what we have been granted - friendship, support, and kindness.

Today, I want to say "thank you" to some of the people in our lives we could not have made it through the past months without:

The cousin who, seeing how we were struggling with a last minute deadline, switched with someone else at his job, and came by at 7:30 the next morning, with his patient and strong son in tow, to help us out.  We never could have met a deadline without this act of kindness.

My mother in law's neighbor, who has been more of a help than we can ever thank her.

My son.  Your grandmother appreciates everything you did.

The co-workers who gave me support, and listened to a rant or two (or three, or....I'm not saying how many.)

A couple of in laws and their spouses or significant others, and other relatives, for what they did to help us.  It's too long a list to publish.

My spouse, who puts up with my impatient and emotional nature.

A geriatric care manager, who gave us more support than she will ever know.

Staff of a certain ARC chapter, for their years of service to my brother in law "B", who has autism.

Various medical people.  The nurses who do the work and tend to be forgotten, especially.

I know I have missed people in this list.  If I missed you,know that I still appreciated you.

And finally, you, my readers, during this time of me not commenting on their comments, not reading their blogs, being somewhat self-centered at times.  They forgive me for rerunning posts of the past from time to time (to time).  This situation will probably exist for at a while longer, and I appreciate your patience.

Have you ever depended on the support of others?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Throwback Civil War Sunday - Civil War Penmanship

This past week, a Facebook post went viral.  It was a picture of a young schoolgirl's homework with a warning that she shouldn't be writing her name in cursive, and that she has been warned before.

I am not going to comment about the post - I have a feeling there is a lot more to this than the post mentioned, and this is not the place to interject my educational opinions.  However, the debate about teaching cursive will obviously heat up because of this post going viral.

This boils down to:  should cursive writing be taught in school?

Many parents and teachers do believe that cursive writing should be taught in school.  I am one of them.  Not teaching cursive (and how to read cursive) shuts the student off from many historical documents.  Further, the overall art of penmanship should be taught.  If you look at handwritten documents from United States history, I am amazed at the quality of penmanship.

Recently, I was amazed by the handwriting of my mother in law's new doctor.  This doctor was educated in Pakistan.  Her cursive writing is a thing of beauty.  I wish I could post it online, but it has personal information on it.

Seeing that doctor's list reminded me of a Civil War post from 2012 , which I would like to share with you again.

Civil War Sunday - Civil War Penmanship and Dr. Charles Leale

 (Matthew Brady photograph of Abraham Lincoln in the basement of the Tioga County Historical Society, Owego, NY November, 2011, salvaged from the September 2011 flood..  Photographed, not too skillfully, by me.)

This past week, some exciting news was announced - the report of the first doctor to reach Abraham Lincoln after he was shot was found.  The doctor was Dr. Charles Leale,a doctor who had seen Lincoln speak several days before.  For some reason, Lincoln's face fascinated him and he decided to go to Ford Theatre that fateful night of April 14, 1865, to study Lincoln further.  Accounts say he was only about 40 feet away from Mr. Lincoln when he witnessed the assassination.

Of course, it is always exciting for historians to have a source document found.  But, to me, what is more exciting is the availability online of the document itself.

For example, doctors have wondered if Lincoln's life could have been saved by modern medicine. As of 2007, the answer would have been "yes but with a lot of brain damage".  Now, we have an exact account of the medical measures taken.

From my point of view, though, what fascinated me the most was the document itself.  If you look at it, you will see it is beautifully written.  Not only is the writing that of an educated man, but the quality of penmanship is breathtaking to the modern reader.  For example, I would never win an award for my penmanship.

I had to do some research.

Handwriting was a main form of communication during the Civil War.  Those fortunate enough to be schooled spent countless hours practicing penmanship.  There were no typewriters commercially available (to the best of my knowledge) until right after the Civil War, although they had been invented.  Many documents were handwritten.   Part of judging how educated a person was consisted of judging penmanship.

Each side, Federal and Confederate, wrote countless letters, battle orders, and the like. Some kept diaries. Most all of these were handwritten.

What I found is that there were two main styles of writing during the Civil War era, "Copperplate script" and "Spencerian script."  I am not a graphic designer, but it seems from the small amount of research I did that both scripts, in one form or another, are still quite alive and well.

Even the instructions provided for Spencerian script sing to me.

With penmanship an instinctive skill, the writer was free to express his thoughts - and I could imagine the thoughts of Dr. Charles Leale flowing as he wrote about the fateful night of April 14 and morning of April 15, 1865. He did not talk about that night, the night he spent holding the dying President's hand, for years.  He  made his observations public in 1909, the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, in a speech called "Lincoln's Last Hours".

Dr. Charles Leale died in 1932, one of the last living witnesses to the assassination.

Have you learned calligraphy?  Do you mourn the removal of cursive handwriting from elementary school curriculums?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Local Saturday - Grapes Ready for Harvest

In late summer, we made a brief visit to the Finger Lakes of upstate New York, about 1 1/2 hours from where we live in the Southern Tier of upstate New York.  The bounty of late summer was evident in the markets and wineries we visited.

The best part, though, was seeing grapes growing, and ready for harvest, at some Finger Lakes wineries.

These are Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. I have to admit that I am a white wine drinker, so wine made from these grapes would not be my first choice.  But this wine is popular in the United States.
Chardonnay grapes.  If you like sparkling wines, you are no doubt familiar with these grapes.
This is a trellis with concord grapes, although none of them is visible.  I love eating Concord grapes.  Growing up, the only wine I experienced (and yes, I was permitted tiny sips of wine at a certain annual religious dinner) was super-sweet Concord grape wine.  I am far from an educated wine drinker, but I have moved far behind that super sweet concord wine.

Finally, at a local farm market, a combination tray of grapes.

There is nothing as good as a good grape - yes, grape - pie.

There are so many types of grapes being grown throughout the world - what a pity that supermarkets in the United States only feature a few.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Falling Friday - It Ain't Over Until It Is

"He'd fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch", his manager once said of him.

Earlier this week, famed baseball catcher Yogi Berra died at the age of 90.  His death has been mourned by millions of Americans.

You don't need to be a fan of baseball, or even know what baseball is, to mourn the death of an elderly athlete who did so much for a sport and for disadvantaged youth.  But he was even better known for his sayings, full of mangled logic, that somehow made perfect sense.

Many believe the cartoon character Yogi Bear was named after Yogi Berra.

Sadly, another aspect of his old age was just like deja vu all over again.   .


Over and over again - death due to complications of falling.  In fact, my spouse's 103 year old aunt was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago, fighting an infection that was related to a fall she too last year, which resulted in a partial hip replacement.  She's in rehab now.

But, speaking of Yogi....

Some five years ago, this athlete, one of the greatest baseball players of all time in his youth, fell and hurt himself.  More recently, he had to be moved into assisted living.

He isn't the only mighty athlete who has ended up in assisted living.  I read this inspirational story about howYogi would visit Phil Rizzuto, one of his teammates, when the elderly Mr. Rizzuto was moved into assisted living. 

I don't know if Phil Rizzuto had fallen once he was elderly, but I wonder if Yogi Berra's fall somehow, eventually, contributed to the "natural causes" he died from.

Even the mighty athletes among us fall, it would seem.  And if they fall, than what of us, the non-athletes?

You can observe a lot by watching.

I've watched, and I decided to lower my chances of falling again - I've fallen several times already in the past five years.

I've blogged about the falls prevention class I took earlier this year.  Yes, I still do the exercises.  Yes, it has made me feel more stable.  But I have a ways to go to regain the steadiness of my youth.

I still fear falling, and rightly so.  I sometimes wonder why old age brings the trials I dread, as I enter that part of my life.

But Yogi Berra knew why.

He once said "If the world was perfect, it wouldn't be."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Throwback Thursday - The Last True Days of Fall

I was intrigued by a comment by someone who lives in a climate where they never truly have an autumn.

On the other hand, in upstate New York, where I live, we are blessed (normally) with beautiful falls.

For my readers who don't have "fall", I am bringing you a taste of it today from 2013.

It is a bittersweet time, as the beauty of fall means the coming of winter.  But now, from the comfort of your computer chair, you can enjoy some coming attractions of our fall season, which is just starting.

Fall Fancies - The Last True Days of Fall

Fall, to us in upstate New York, is a fleeting thing.

It is the short season of trees turning color - of red, yellow, and brown - before the snow starts to fall.

Monday, it was mild, hitting 60 degrees.  Yesterday started out mild, before the cold came in, with a taste of bitter wind.  A little after 4:30 I took my exercise walk with my spouse, as the sun shone in our eyes.  The sun gets lower every day.

Tonight, we will be getting our killing frost.  And, we may also be getting our first snow flurries, if you believe the National Weather Service.

But for now, red, yellow, and brown rule the land.

Mushroom and burning bush, West Side of Binghamton.

Otsiningo Park, near Binghamton, New York.

Knotwood, an invasive plant, turns yellow in Otsiningo Park.
Tree on the West Side of Binghamton.

Soon, we will have the last of our fall color.

A burning bush glows.  In just a few days these leaves will be a distant memory.

Fall will last until December 21 on the calendar but, for us in upstate New York, it will be gone by the end of the month.  Let's enjoy it while it lasts.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall Fancies - Falling Into Fall

Today, in the Northern Hemisphere, fall began early this morning.  With this seasonal change, my Wednesday seasonal feature also changes its name.

For the next three months I will blog each Wednesday about "Fall Fancies".

Fall is a beautiful time in upstate New York, but for many, the joy is tempered by the knowledge that snowflakes will be falling in the next several weeks.  Alas, one day, there will be frost, and our gardens will end until next year.  Outdoor flowers will become a distant memory.

So, let us celebrate the flowers of the last day of summer, with these photos taken yesterday.
Late summer flowers, asters and their cousins, bloom in white.
More white.

Pink flowers join them.
Meanwhile, the sumacs are already turning color.

It isn't just the sumac turning early this year, though.  Other trees are turning early, perhaps due to drought. It looks like we are not going to have good color this year.

In New York City, where I visited last week, I saw trees in Brooklyn already turning brownish.

But other goodies of fall are starting to show up - apples, pumpkins, fruit pies, winter squash, and more.

This is my #septemberchallenge post for today, hosted by Corinne at Everyday Gyaan.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Last Day of Summer 2015

It's become a  tradition, here at Ramblin' with AM, to end summer with a selection of summer oriented songs.

Summertime, when you are growing up, is a time to listen to music on hot, sunny days.

Like those in my native New York City.  This song came out in 1966, when I was 13 years old, and it was love at first listen.  Enjoy the movie clip this video is set to.

A Summer Song - Chad and Jeremy

Ain't No Sunshine  - Bill Withers

Summertime - as sung by Annie Lennox

Finally (upbeat for a change) I'm Walking on Sunshine by Katrina & The Waves.  It doesn't get more upbeat than this.

Goodbye, dear summer.  Wish you didn't have to go.

This is my post for the #septemberchallenge hosted by Corinne at Everyday Gyaan - I invite you to visit her blog, and others in this challenge.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Memories of 2012

This past week, I made two trips to Brooklyn.   One trip was (as it turned out) to say goodbye to a seriously ill friend.  The other trip, yesterday, was to sit shiva (a Jewish mourning ritual) with her family. 

The house where you visit is unlocked.  When you enter, you do not speak unless and until you are spoken to.  The immediate family of the deceased sit on stools or boxes lower than the visitors.  They do not wear any leather.   Mirrors (in some houses) are covered. There is a lot of other symbolism, something that is comforting to the mourners.

Most importantly, memories are shared.

 The past few days my memories of my friend have been running in my mind, almost like a movie.  It was comforting to sit with my friend's sisters and nieces and share some memories.

I was with my late friend when we took the walk that resulted in the pictures below.

I'd like to share these memories with you, my readers, also, with some updates and edits.  In the midst of destruction, there is also hope, and renewal.  I will remember that in the days to come.

Memories (September 2012)

We were there a month before Sandy.

So many of the scenes were too familiar, 14 months after my neighborhood in Westover, near Johnson City, New York, flooded - except we didn't have the strong winds, or the sea water, or 15 foot waves bearing down on us, like the waterfront neighborhoods of NYC.

It took me a month to search online for the fate of Red Hook after Sandy hit.  I already knew it in my heart.

I don't want to show you pictures of the destruction, although the NY Times wrote a heartbreaking article about the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook that won my heart during two visits this year.  And now it's been undone by the same sea that gave it identity.  Can the community be rebuilt?

(The answer was "yes").

New York City is not just midtown Manhattan.  Its people will surprise and amaze you. 

Let us remember the Red Hook of September, 2012 and not the Red Hook of late October, 2012.

The best Key Lime pies in the world - will they be able to recover?  (They did, and reopened a block or two away, in a better location.)
Pre Civil War warehouse.
And a view from afar.

The Fairway, in another historic warehouse building, was flooded with over 7 feet of water, and they lost everything. (They reopened, too.)

One more view of Fairway.  My friend loved this store and loved the key lime pies of Steve's. At one point, they helped sooth her and allowed her to get some nourishment.

In spirit, I walked down Van Brunt Street in Red Hook yesterday.  In spirit, I visited the Pier 44 gardens as the imaginary winds of late fall blew against me.

And now, like Red Hook, I move forward.

This is my post for the #Septemberchallenge, hosted by Everyday Gyaan.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Will the World End with Music?

Civil War Sunday resumes next Sunday.

One thing appears certain.  If the world had ended after June 1, 1980, the last song anyone tuned in to CNN would have heard would have been contained on this video.

The band is the United States Armed Forces band, and they were gathered by Cable News Network, founded by Ted Turner, so that CNN could record this for the end of the world.  Now international, 24 hour CNN is listened to by over 250 million people each day.

But, at one time, there was no such thing as a 24 hour news station.

Back when I was growing up, this is how TV stations signed off each night, because stations were not on 24 hours a day.

Here's one for those who don't know the words to the first (and most commonly sung) stanza of the United States National Anthem- a video, complete with lyrics for the song, "The Star Spangled Banner".  

Yes, according to what I've read  the stations (at least back in the 1960's) were required by law to play our National Anthem at the end of the broadcast day.  I don't know if that s true, because some remember playing of the "Air Force Hymn" instead.

But Ted Turner decided that, rather than use the National Anthem (or the Air Force Hymn), he would use the hymn "Nearer My God to Thee" - the hymn that was supposedly the last song played by the ship orchestra of the Titanic as it went down.

Except, there is conflicting evidence concerning if the last song was indeed "Nearer My God to Thee." To me, it doesn't matter.  What is true is that the musicians stayed with the ship and played music to try to calm the passengers - and they were all heroes, every last one, for staying with the ship until the end.

Finally, to give equal time to my readers across the ocean, I wanted to leave you with a UK TV signoff (channel 4) from 1992.  (You may only want to listen to the first 50 seconds or so.)

Would you be watching TV if the world was ending?  I have a recurrent nightmare of having to evacuate my house because of an impending nuclear war.  In some of these dreams, there is a TV playing in the background.

But I never care what song is playing.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Local Saturday - Foam on the Water

There is a mystery foam that appears every fall in the waters of Skaneateles Lake in upstate New York, one of the minor Finger Lakes.  It's a yearly natural phenomenon.

I haven't tried to pick this stuff up but one article describes it as "stiff and sticky, not unlike meringue..."
September 2015 by the shore

The foam seemed to be more prominent in certain areas of the lake.

Taken from a dock

The ducks seem to enjoy eating it.

These next couple of shots were taken at sundown.  You can see the rocks in the lake (it is shallow where I was standing) and ducks, the sundown light shining off of them, eating the foam.
I didn't take a picture of what else I saw, which were parallel bands of the white foam, all lined up as if someone had measured, drawn lines and placed the foam there.

This foam "could" be due to an invading species that has become a problem here in the upstate New York area - zebra mussels.

The naturally occurring foam has no odor (or a slight odor) and, indeed, I didn't smell anything.

Zebra mussels are bad news and I understand they have been found in Skaneateles (pronounced "skin-ee-anteles" Lake.

My late friend Margaret, who passed away earlier was an elementary school science teacher in New York City for many years before her retirement.  I know, if I had asked her, she would have told me all about it, explaining about water surface tension being reduced and air mixing into the water to create the foam, and so forth.

Have you seen lake foam where you live?

Friday, September 18, 2015

No Greater Love

The man walked into the hospital room.  His wife of 43 years was asleep.

"Wake up, honey." he murmured, rubbing her face, kissing her cheek.  She did not respond.

"It's me, I'm here", he said, putting his mouth close to her ear, continuing to rub her cheek. He squeezed her hand.

He sat on one of the chairs in the room, waiting for the lunch tray to arrive.

It came, with a selection of pureed foods.

There was a whiteboard on the wall, giving the date, the names of the nurses caring for his wife, and the goal for the day, which was simple:  Eat!

Yesterday, she had had a good day, smiling at her husband and her son.  He had taken her picture.  Today, she did not respond.

"Lunch has arrived", he said gently.  "Would you like something to eat?"  He brought a spoonful of pureed turkey with gravy to her lips.  She did not take it.  "Please, take something", he encouraged her.

A stuffed animal shared her bed.  The turban that covered her head was provided by her sister.  Family and friends had been visiting for the last month.

She made a sound.  Perhaps she was trying to say something.  Perhaps she wanted to tell her faithful husband, always there without fail, how much she loved him.

He offered her a glass of water with a straw.  He touched her lips with the straw.  She did not sip it. 

He rubbed her face some more and squeezed her hand.

He would come again tomorrow. And the day after that.

My friend of 52 years, your journey ended yesterday, shortly after your husband arrived to visit you. Last night, I read a tribute to you on Facebook written by one of your fellow teachers.  You taught elementary school in Brooklyn for many years.  You will be remembered fondly by many, both former students and your fellow teachers.

My childhood friend Margaret, rest in peace.
June 19, 1952-September 17, 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday - The Goodness and Pride of a Grape Pie

This post was originally from September of 2013.

Grape season has come upon us here in upstate New York once again.  On the roadsides along the Finger Lakes (a little more than an hour from where I live), signs advertise grapes or grape juice for sale.  The wineries prepare for an onslaught of tourists for harvest season.

And then there is a regional favorite - grape pie.

I love to eat Concord grapes and, I have to admit, they do make a wonderful pie. I also put them on my breakfast cereal.  In season, I can't get enough.  So join me for a Throwback post on grape pie.

Grape pie, oh my.

You've heard of apple pie, strawberry/rhubarb pie, peach pie, pecan pie, and blueberry pie. Everyone has their favorite recipe for pie and many regions of our country have a pie that represents them.

For parts of upstate New York, our local pie of pride is grape pie, made with Concord grapes.

Yes, Concord Grapes.  Those grapes, the grapes you find in concord grape jelly and grape juice and yes, certain types of very sweet wine.  But, commercial varieties of those products don't always reveal the true taste of the concord grape.  (I never tasted "true" grape jelly until I was about 14 years old - and then, never went back to the commercial type.)

For that, and a grape pie, you need fresh Concord grapes, which are available in many farmers markets here in the Binghamton, New York area at this time of year.  These grapes can be more expensive than supermarket grapes but they are a native heirloom.  Support your local grape farmer!

Concord grapes were developed, in 1849, from a wild, North American grape.  I am not any kind of grape expert, but I do know there were problems with disease affecting European grapes that the early settlers tried to grow.  The Concord grape, developed in Concord, Massachusetts escaped those problems because of their native American heritage, plus they matured relatively early, perfect for escaping the first frosts.

In 1869, a New Jersey dentist, Dr.Welch, developed a bottled unfermented grape juice, using the then new process of pasteurization.

Some people do not enjoy eating these grapes fresh, because they have a very tart skin, but I love them. I find the texture of the grape inside to be something like muscadine, but more bursting in flavor (and smaller, too). If I start eating a bunch, I can't stop.

I don't worry too much, because Concord grapes are high in nutrition and low in calories.  They are high in polyphenol, an antioxidant.  They contain vitamin C, calcium and phosphorus. One cup of concord grapes, according to online sources, contains 62 calories. As they are a good natural source of oxalates, these sources warn that people prone to kidney stones should watch intake of Concord grapes. (Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional.)

Since the initial grapes, a seedless variety (smaller than the original) has been developed, but both varieties were for sale yesterday at a local farm stand.

In fact, I love fresh Concord grapes so much I never get around to making grape pie.  I'm not that good of a pie baker, anyway.

Oh yes, the grape pie of my title.

If you really want to eat pie, go to the Naples, New York grape festival the weekend of September 26-27 in Naples, New York.  If you can't make it to Naples, or other local farm stands, you may want to try this recipe.

Or, even better, go to the Cayuga Lake Creamery in Interlaken, New York, for their Grape Ice Cream.

Does your area of the world have a favorite pie?

This is my day 13 post for the #Septemberchallenge, hosted by Everyday Gyaan.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Summer Ramblings - The SIgnals of Change

This is my last Summer Ramblings, as fall starts next Wednesday.

But we who garden don't need to consult a calendar to know when fall has come. All we need to do is look outside.  The shortening days are obvious.  The angle of the sun is changing.  Nature is sending forth the signals of change.
The asters are blooming.
Sure, summer thinks it is still in charge. Some knotweed is still hanging on, refusing to stop blooming.
The nasturtiums, which will die with the first frost, still put forth blooms, soaking up the heat from a mid September warm wave.  Sunshine is plentiful and humidity is low.
The goldenrod still turns some fields - well, golden.

It is time to prepare mentally for winter.  I love the season of growing, of plentiful produce at the markets.  But, in six weeks or less, the first snows will be blowing in on the wings of winds that will chill us to the bone. Then nature will fall asleep, confident in a belief that spring will come again, one day.

Then, the cycle will begin again.

This is my 12th post for the #Septemberchallenge, hosted by Everyday Gyaan.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day September 2015 - Transitions

It seems like only yesterday that it was spring. And now it is the 15th of September.

The growing season here is so fleeting here in upstate New York, but that is why it is so cherished.  In just the blink of an eye, frost would have hit, and snow will be back on the ground.  Or so it seems on this September Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, where gardeners gather from all over the world to show what is blooming in their yards or homes.

In another week, it will be fall.  Here in my zone 5b garden near Johnson City, in upstate New York, the fall flowers are opening on a beautiful sunny and mild day.
Michaelmas Daisy, or New England Aster, grows wild here in upstate New York, but this is a cultivated variety in my front yard.  They are one of my favorites, but it makes me sad when they bloom, because I know the last part of the blooming season has come.

One of our several hardy mums.

Another mum.

Our sedum is pinking up.

Our Japanese anemones are just starting to open.

We still have summer flowers - for example, these garlic chives, which make great cut flowers for my kitchen table.

And these pink turtleheads, which are still blooming strongly, to the delight of the bees.

Thank you again, May Dreams Gardens, for hosting this monthly meme.  Please visit some of the other garden blogs linked to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and see the beauty in our world.

Today's post is also linked to the #Septemberchallenge hosted by the blog Everyday Gyaan.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Throwback Monday - Moon River and Me

I wrote this post in September of 2012, right after I heard about the death of Andy Williams and right before visiting a friend from my childhood.

Today I take a journey with a lot of emotional significance to me, and I want to dedicate this post to someone I have known for a long, long time.

Moon River and Me

I loved this song so much when I was growing up.

I never knew exactly what it was talking about, or anything about the man who wrote the lyrics, Johnny Mercer.  I never imagined I would ever see Moon River (an inlet of the actual river was named after the song, not vice versa), or visit the grave of Johnny Mercer in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. 

I can't say that I dreamed of visiting Savannah because of the song, but I did have the dream of visiting for over 30 years before I finally visited last year.  Things kept getting in the way, but I finally made it.

The phrasing of this song is so beautiful.  It rang so true to the childhood me.  It reminded me of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, floating down the Mississippi, smoking their corncob pipes and fishing for their next meal. It was a never ending childhood dream to this girl growing up in the Bronx, to join them on that raft.   I was never made for the Bronx, although it shaped me and made me the woman I am today.

The story of the song isn't quite Huck Finn, but is quite interesting.

That song made me want to travel.  So today I will be in Brooklyn, visiting my huckleberry friend.  This September is the 50th anniversary of our friendship.

Yesterday, packing for the visit, I heard that the man who sung that song on the radio, to my childhood delight, had died.  Another piece of my childhood gone.

In your honor, Andy Williams, I will think of Moon River, even as I return to visit my native New York City. I will think of my childhood memories and my childhood with my huckleberry friend.

Moon River and me.

Did the song Moon River have any meaning to you?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Civil War Sunday - The Lost Texts of the Civil War

Today, a light-hearted post.

In 2012, when I visited the Antietam Civil War battlefield in Maryland, I discovered, to my horror, that my Verizon phone had encountered a dead zone. (Apparently, the entire length of I-81 in the states of Maryland and West Virginia are part of this dead zone.  And, as of this spring, that situation still existed.)

It got me to think: what if the Union or Confederate troops were fighting with modern technology and used Verizon as their service?  (maybe there would have been no battle, and maybe that would have been a good thing, considering the horrible casualty toll of this battle.)

Could you imagine a United States Civil War with Internet, texting, and social media?

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who has wondered.

For example, I found this blog post "Scouting the Civil War with Cell Phones" which explained about the technology of "cellofonies".

I found out about the Lost Texts of the Battle of Gettysburg of the United States Civil War recently, and (since I am hard at work trying to take care of some personal business), bring them to you for your amusement.

Next week, back to my normal Civil War blogging.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Local Saturday - The Beginning of the End

Today, at the Otsiningo Park farmers market near Binghamton, New York, the signs were clear.
Champaign Grapes and Late Blueberries

The growing season is almost over.  In fact, blueberries are done, but this man, who also sells late summer strawberries, manages to have them.  As for Champaign (yes, that is how they are spelled here) grapes, they are also known as  Corinth, the black form of which is used to make dried "currents".
Just a week ago the market had dandelion greens and kale for sale.
Today, green and purple beans were still available.

But we are transitioning.  And soon, the winter produce will be all that is left - and jellies, and baked goods.

But, today, we purchased English mufins beans, a zucchini (our garden zucchini are long dead) and the champaign grapes, and dreamed of a summer without end.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Ones Who Linger

This is a post inspired by events of 14 years ago, part of a #SeptemberChallenge hosted by Everyday Gyaan. (Please visit her blog after you read my post for an amazing September 11 post from India.)

They linger, the civilian casualties of September 11, 2001.

In August, a woman who became known as the "Dust Lady" of the 9/11 attacks died from stomach cancer.  She is not the first civilian casualty of 9/11 to die from medical causes and not the crash of airplanes or the ground destruction of that day.

She won't be the last.  The rates of cancer in first responders that day are known, but what is less well known is the number of civilian casualties, still dying 14 years after the attacks.

Is this a controversial statement?  No, I don't think so.  I may know one of these civilian casualties.

One of those civilian casualties may have been the singer Donna Summer.

Others were less famous, but they suffer just the same.

One may have been my uncle. who passed away in 2005.  The plume of toxic smoke passed over his Brooklyn neighborhood. His health deteriorated.  Another may be a childhood friend, who lives in a nearby neighborhood. The dust fell all over her house and yard.  In August of 2012 I visited her and her husband, and she showed me how she was still finding dust in nooks and crannies of her house.

At night, she coughed much of the night, so loud I could hear her on a different floor of the house.

Now, she is ill with lung cancer.

We will never know for sure, officially, but I believe the illnesses of both individuals were both, at least in part, related to 9/11.

"9/11", in our country, has a certain meaning.  We all know it means "September 11, 2001", also known as the day that terrorist attacks in three points of our country (the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Virginia, and a Pennsylvania farm where a plane destined for still another target crashed) took over 3,000 lives.

I grew up in New York City. 13 of these people who died (including a fireman, Christian Regenhard) went to my high school, and some others from my school helped at Ground Zero in the aftermath.  I know several people who saw one or both World Trade Center towers fall.  I know people who knew people who died there.

I knew someone, up here in Binghamton, who lost one of his two sons. A part of him died that day,  and he took early retirement later that year.  He lost his other son several years later, in what I suspect was "collateral damage".

I felt, years ago, that life would go on eventually, and September 11 would again be a day during which people in the United States could be happy.  We would still remember, but we could also be happy.  In fact, I blogged about this belief on September 11, 2001.  Now, I wonder if I was wrong.

Can we truly forget this day as long as the civilian deaths continue? And it isn't just people in our country.  Thousands have died in the Middle East and in Afghanistan, due to the aftermath of 9/11.  Thousands more have become refugees, or slaves, or victims of sexual violence.

So much suffering.

We had no idea, on September 12, 2001, exactly what had been put in motion.  Now, we have a better idea, with no idea how it will all end.

Our world will never be the same again.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Hold Me Closer Tony Danza

I'm having some problems with my hearing, but even before now, I've had some problems with mishearing song lyrics.

I think it's just the nature of the rock n'roll music that I like.

I am far from the only one.  In fact, there is a technical term for it, one of the surprising things you will learn in this post. If you don't get anything else from this post, you would have increased your vocabulary by one word.


Hold Me Closer, Tony Danza

Have you been guilty of mishearing song lyrics, to sometimes comic results?

I have.  I bet you have, too. A number of websites exist for the purpose of discussing song lyrics and allowing people to discuss lyrics that other people have misheard, sometimes with quite comic results. 

There is even a name for this - mondegreens.

Take the song "Tiny Dancer", by Elton John.  I love that song.  I have several of the earlier Elton John albums, such as Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboys, Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player and Yellow Brick Road.  Plus, one of his greatest hits albums.

I've spent countless hours, since the early 1970's, listening to these songs. (I will also admit I am not partial to his later work.)  I clearly hear "Hold me closer, tiny dancer". But somehow, I never realized that young Tony Danza had crept into the lyric when I wasn't looking.

"Tiny Dancer" came out in 1971. Tony Danza was born in 1951. The show "Who's The Boss" started in 1984.  So, Tony Danza must have been pretty young - about 20, to be exact - when he appeared in the lyric, only 13 years after the song came out.

For the record, I never have watched the TV show Friends (the show that immortalized the "Young Tony Danza" lyric), so no wonder I was the last to know.

Until yesterday, that is. A tweet led me to the website Mental Floss (a wonderful magazine, by the way) which rated the "Ten Most Often Butchered Song Lyrics".

And "Tiny Dancer" was #1 on the list of most misheard lyrics!

Now, my personal most misheard lyric is the Bruce Springsteen/Manford Mann's Earth Band classic "Blinded By The Light.".

Meanwhile, on the other side of Atlantic, the BBC has had its own fun with mondegreens.

I must admit, in more than one instance, that the wrong lyric makes more sense than the right lyric.

Do you have a favorite misheard lyric?  Or have you been singing the wrong lyric of a particular song for years?

Today's post is part of the #Septemberchallenge over at Everyday Gyaan.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Summer Ramblings - Long Live the Queen

She doesn't want any fuss to be made over her today.

She surpasses a record set by her great-great grandmother, Victoria, at around 17:30 local time today.

63 years and 7 months.   23,226 days.  Just another day in the life of Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of the royal house of Windsor, also known as Queen Elizabeth II,

She has been Queen for my entire life.

Why should it matter?  Why are we Americans making a fuss over this? 

Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution reads as follows:
No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.
This is also called the "Title of Nobility Clause".

Our citizens may not be able to accept a title of nobility, but nothing says they can't follow the activities of the British royal family with interest.  And follow it many of our citizens do.

Elizabeth has outlasted 12 Prime Ministers.  At 89, she still works a schedule that would exhaust many of our citizens.  Whether she is worth her $58 million salary is for the British people, not we Americans, to judge.

There are those - called Republicans - who feel the monarchy should be abolished, that it is a tradition that has way outlived its usefulness.

I will leave it to the British people to debate whether Queen Elizabeth II should be their last monarch. In the United States, we made our decision over 200 years ago, deciding we would not shower our President with titles of grandeur.

I will be sorry when Elizabeth is no longer Queen - the end of an era, and another passing of an icon of my youth and adulthood.

This post is part of the #septemberchallenge hosted by Corinne of Everyday Gyaan.  Please do read Corinne's post, and the posts of others in this challenge.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

When Is It Time To Forget?

Traumas heal on their own time schedule.

Today and tomorrow are the fourth anniversary of devastating floods that hit my area (and other areas in several states) of upstate New York.

Today, parts, but not all, of the physical damages have been fixed up or removed.  But the memories remain for too many of us.

We've moved on with our lives, yes.  The vacant houses in my neighborhood have, for the most part, been demolished.   Many businesses rebuilt but some businesses never recovered. 

The building rented by a major employer in this area (1300 employees), vacant since the flood, is finally going to be demolished.

We no longer have to structure our lives around the flood damage.

Right after the flood there was a blame game so many of us played.  The flood walls hadn't been tall enough.  FEMA wasn't responsive enough.  Pumps failed.  The river hadn't been dredged.

But, in reality, there was, and is, no one to blame.  Perhaps, only we ourselves are to blame, as we haven't done that much to make sure we don't suffer the same way next time.

There are still the memories, too.

I have never enjoyed the sound of falling rain in the same way again. I used to love that sound.

In the 2011 NaNoWriMo, I wrote a fictional memoir to help me heal.  I've never gone back to edit it, but there is a little part of me that wants to make that memoir the first book of a trilogy.  The third book would take place around 2060 in a Brooklyn neighborhood changed forever by climate change.  I wrote a first draft of that book for last year's NaNoWriMo, but that draft also needs major work.

In my caregiving efforts, I don't have enough time to concentrate on any editing, but perhaps it is just an excuse.

So, back to what we in Binghamton, New York call simply "The Flood"  Perhaps, forgetting isn't what we should do, because otherwise, we will never be prepared for "next time".  And, I believe there will be a next time.

The disaster I witnessed in my neighborhood, and in my city, in 2011 wasn't anything like disasters occurring in other parts of the world right now.  I want to make that clear.

But each anniversary brings back the memories of September 8 and 9, 2011 for me. And I wonder when we in New York will finally learn, and deal with the world we live in, with the climate that has changed and will be changed for the rest of our lives.

One day, it will rain again, and we will know if our actions (or inactions) made a difference. 

This is a post for the #Septemberchallenge, brought to us by Everyday Gyaan.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Jerry LewisTelethon

Today is Labor Day in the United States, a holiday that has been celebrated on the first Monday in September since the 1880's.

In my childhood, one of the traditions of Labor Day was something which no longer exists, thanks to the Internet and social media.

For many years, starting in my native New York City, comedian Jerry Lewis (now in his late 80's) used to host a Labor Day telethon. 

The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day telethon was part of my later childhood.  It started in New York City in 1966, and went nationwide soon after.  Jerry Lewis left in 2011, and the telethon, in a vastly shrunken form, survived until 2014.

But many baby boomers remember it.

The purpose of this telethon was to raise money for a charity that existed to fight a condition called muscular dystrophy.  Hour after hour Jerry would tell stories designed to make people feel sorry for the children with this condition (there are many, many adults, too, who somehow never got onto the show, and there is still no cure), which eventually were called "Jerry's Kids".  As the hours passed, Jerry got more tired, more cranky, and the stories more pathetic.

A toteboard, starting in 1976, totaled up the contributions, and there would be cutaways to local volunteers taking phone calls.

There was something about watching this hour after hour, and being able to tune in at any time, and there Jerry and friends still were.

Celebrities performed.

Drummer Buddy Rich and Jerry Lewis battle on the drums, followed by an incredible Buddy Rich drum solo.  The clip is about six minutes long but well worth it.

Here is the ex-Beatle John Lennon, in 1972.

Jerry would end the telethon by singing "You'll Never Walk Alone."

Eventually, disability activists started to call for the end of the show.

Times have changed - for the better, I feel, as the sister in law of a man who is developmentally disabled.  I don't think people with disabilities should be shown as objects of pity.  Nor should they be portrayed as "cripples".  They are people.  But, back then, attitudes were so different.  Sometimes, it is hard to explain to people who weren't alive in that era, and I am not here to defend that part of what Jerry Lewis did.  It was acceptable in the context of its time, but that time is no longer our time.

This show created many magic moments and performances.  Many people still miss it.

Now, with crowdfunding and viral events like the Ice Bucket Challenge, the national charity telethon is a thing of the past.  But in a way, I wish I could turn on my set...and, somehow, find Jerry there again.

This is a Monday post for Everyday Gyaan's #Septemberchallenge.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Civil War Sunday - He Started It All

Why am I interested in the United States Civil War?

Part of the reason is my love of history, and part of it was a film created by a man by the name of Ken Burns.

25 years ago, this film, called The Civil War, was broadcast by American PBS (Public Broadcasting System) for the first time.  I saw it, and I was immediately hooked.

Years later, I took the series out of the library (VHS tapes!) and my spouse and I shared it with my son, then in school.

Now, PBS is going to show a remastered version this coming week

The original film was starting to deteriorate, and the technology of 25 years ago doesn't work that well for audiences demanding HD quality work.  The film has been remastered in "4K" quality.

There was so much about the film I fell in love with.  The portions of a diary written by a southern woman, Mary Boykin Chesnut (I stayed in one of the homes she wrote portions of this diary in this past spring-one day I should blog about the experience), recited at many points in the film.  The soft spoken narration, in contrast to the horrific events. And, the theme song, called Ashokan Farewell (written in 1982 by Jay Unger), totally captured my emotions.

This is not the exact version of the song featured in The Civil War, but it will give you a flavor, along with the Civil War images it is set to.

The film took longer to make than the Civil War lasted.

Whether or not you are that interested in history, you should (if this is being shown where you live) try to check out at least one episode of The Civil War, and experience some of this story that made the United States what it is today (for better or worse).

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Local Saturday-Honeynut Squash

Today, I celebrate the ripening of the honeynut squash.  I've blogged about them the last couple of years, after I found them in a farmer's market in Ithaca, New York.

The variety was developed by Cornell University, which is based in Ithaca.  From what I've read, it is an open pollinated squash.  What is nice about them is their small size-perfect for a single person or a small family.

We grew them last year in our community garden.

This year, with only limited time to spend at the garden, this was our crop.  The squashes came out just a little too small. But everyone of them will be cherished.

Here is an easy way to prepare them.  I wouldn't, as we are in the midst of a hot spell, but, in another month, this soup will be welcome.

Here's a post from 2014.

Easy Peasey Honeynut Squash Soup

This year, we grew them for the first time.  The results were a bit small, but the squash are as sweet as sugar.  They are the sweetest winter squash I've ever tasted.

They never got big, and we didn't get too many, but the experiment was successful enough that we will try it again next year.  And, we were able to find some more in a farmers market about an hour from where we live in upstate New York.

Today, I want to give you a quick and easy recipe for low calorie (but high taste) winter squash soup.  Made with the honeynut squash, this doesn't need any sweetening.  You can also use regular butternut squash.  You can thank my dear spouse for this recipe because my cooking skills don't extend too far.

1. Don't split squash.  Just poke some holes in it with a knife.  The squash will be hard, and you don't want to injure yourself.

2.  Cook whole squash in microwave until soft.  For a squash the size of the above, about five minutes.  Length of time will vary according to size.  Two squash, to make soup for 2-3 people, will take 10 or so minutes.  Then, split and remove seeds, let rest.  (If you don't have a microwave, you can do this in a conventional oven, and you can still roast it whole.  It will take a lot longer.)

3.  Then, scoop out the flesh and put into blender with some chicken stock or veggie stock. Puree. 

4.  You can season with nutmeg, ground ginger, or sage - if you do, it is recommended that you cook it for a few minutes to allow seasonings to blend.  If desired, cool to room temperature, or eat hot.

This makes a wonderful late fall soup, and it is so versatile.

You can add some caramelized onion in the last stage of cooking (after you puree).  Or, you can add chopped up cooked carrots, or, really, whatever you want.  I would think some applesauce would work for a sweeter soup.  Or, you can make it thin and use as a sauce for ravioli or other pasta.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Falling Friday - A Question of Balance

Day four of the #Septemberchallange at the Everyday Gyaan blog, and one of her themes is "Let Our Choices Reflect our Hopes".  She quotes the late Nelson Mandala, who said "May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears."

One of the greatest fears seniors face is the fear of falling.  I've tried to be proactive by taking a falls prevention class this past May and June (I've fallen several times in the past four years) and, with the exercises I've blogged about from time to time, my balance is improving.  Hope has reentered my life, but only time will tell how much an improvement in my strength and balance I've made.

Today, I will allow another blogger to do the heavy lifting - or, shall I say, the heavy balance work?

I am linking today to a blog post called Artichokes, Red Rocks, and Risk.

I invite you to read it and ask yourself:  Would you have done what this man, who did something special to overcome his fears, did?

His experience was fascinating.

I'm not sure if I would have taken the risk of falling in what could have been a deadly situation for someone with balance issues.  I think it took a special kind of courage to face your fears in a most physical and dangerous way.  Even with my recent falls prevention training, I'm just not sure I would have taken the risk.

In your choices, do you choose hope and not fear?

I am planning some changes to my blog.  Would you like me to continue the Falling Friday feature in September?  If you would like to see future falling posts, let me know.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Throwback Thursday - An Ordinary Day in 1986

 Sometimes, we don't realize how much things have changed over the years until we remember a day long ago.

Things have changed so much even since April of 2009, when I first started my blog.  I communicated primarily by email, rather than through social media, just as one example.

Now, think back to 1986 and this post from years ago.  It started as just another ordinary day, this day in January, 1986.  But something happened that evening that froze that day in memory.

And what a memory it is, of technology now obsolete, of actions I would never take today.  A world before the Internet.

For Day 3 of the September Blogging challenge on Everyday Gyaan, I present....

An Ordinary Day in 1986

Could I ever live a day like January 21, 1986 again?

I remember so many details of that day because my father died suddenly that evening.  When bad things happen, small details stick in your mind, never to vanish.

It was an unusually warm day.  The high temperature where I lived in Arkansas for the month of January, 1986 was 75.  It may not have been on January 21 but it may have been.  It was sunny, and wonderfully warm.

At lunch, I sat outside, near the office where I worked, and - wrote a letter.

Such an ordinary thing.  This was before the age of the Internet.  People wrote letters to each other  As I recall, the letter was to an aunt, an aunt who never did buy a computer, and who wrote letters to the last day of her life in 2003.

That evening, I got a phone call from my aunt back in Brooklyn that my Dad had been brought to a hospital, he had died in the emergency room and "no one knew why".

That's how you got hold of someone in a hurry in those days. No cell phones, no texting.  You picked up a landline, wired to your home, and called.  In those days, long distance wasn't cheap, either, but it was cheaper than when I was growing up in the 50's and 60's.

I called the airline I knew served our area - on a landline, of course-and booked the next flight to New York City.  I got the number from something called The Yellow Pages.

There was no other way to book a flight, short of turning up at the ticket counter at the airport.

In those days, there was little security on airlines.  You packed your bag, not worried about the contents, got a paper ticket, maybe went through a metal detector after emptying your pockets, and boarded.  I packed, numbly, after calling my boss.  The next day, I flew from Arkansas to New York.

It was such an ordinary day, January 21, 1986.

Today, it would be extraordinary.