Tuesday, March 31, 2015

An A to Z Challenge and an April Rose

Tomorrow the Blogging from A to Z Challenge begins.  This is a big thing in the blogging world.

We all know what it is like to overcome challenges.  This one sounds so simple.

On April 1 you blog about something beginning with the letter A.  On April 2, something beginning with the letter B.  Rinse and repeat (rinsing is optional), six days a week.  We get Sundays off, so I will continue my Civil War Sundays series.

A lot of people like to preplan their posts.  Quickly, you learn that you have tons of ideas for "C" and not so many for, say "Q".  But I am what is called, in the trade, a "pantser".  I don't like to plan.  So I did preplan some posts for the first week but after that, it may just be a high wire act.

Watch the blogger and see if she falls, splat, right on her face!  But I do have some ideas.

For example, my "A" post will be about Autism, although my theme for the month is going (I hope) to be "America the Beautiful".  And, "America" includes Canada, plus the United States.  (Something tells me, though, a lot of the posts are going to center on North or South Carolina, and New York State.)

The A for Autism post, though, is because (as my regular readers know) I have a brother in law with autism.  He will be challenging us in the coming years, and whatever the future brings to him will challenge him, too.

After that? I am going to surprise you.  But, just to whet your appetite, I want to introduce you to what I will be blogging about for the letter "I".

It involves this plant.  Her name is April Rose, but she is not a rose.  If you want to know her story, you'll just have to wait until "I" day.

Are you participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge?  Or, are you working on any challenges in your life?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Liquor Measles

In the United States, each of the 50 states controls sales of alcoholic beverages.  Hence, you have a collection of conflicting laws for the sales and even consumption of alcohol.

One of the (sometimes) pleasures of travel is seeing some of those different laws in action.

My resident state of New York, for example, does not allow sales of either wine or liquor (hard spirits) in supermarkets.  Beer is sold in supermarkets and groceries.  Wine and liquor are sold in liquor stores (wineries can also sell their own wine).  A person can only own one liquor store, so there are no chain liquor stores in New York State (although people are trying to get around that in imaginative ways beyond the scope of this blog.)

In the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, wine and spirits are sold through state run liquor stores.

And then there is South Carolina, where I am vacationing.
When you visit South Carolina, you will think certain stores will have broken out in measles.

Here's the sign showing the full name of the store. (& more?  Well, bear with me here.)
Here's another store.

By now, you may be wondering why all liquor stores in South Carolina have broken out in measles.  Well, it dates back to 1945 when South Carolina changed a law concerning signage permitted for liquor stores to prohibit advertising.  They decided not to permit liquor stores to have signs with letters more than six inches high and four inches wide.  Bigger than that and you would have an advertisement for liquor.  So, what to do (other than own super magnifying glasses?)

An enterprising sign man in Charleston was hired to do a sign for a Charleston liquor store owner.  He painted large red dots around the letters to highlight them.

It caught on at a time when liquor stores were called "ABC" stores (three red dots needed) for Alcohol Beverage Commission stores.   South Carolina may have had state run liquor stores at one time (I didn't research that).

But now, the three red dots are just plain custom.   And those dots are so easy to see when you are driving in a strange place. (Thank you, South Carolina!)

There's another theory, too, involving an older law prohibiting liquor sales between sundown and sunup but I like the "large red dot around the letters" theory.

Oh, and one other thing.  That Total Wine & More above, in Charleston?  The wine/beer part, and the liquor part, have to have two separate entrances and they do (once you enter the main entrance).  But they are a chain, and they operate quite nicely.  The beer and wine part even sells food, including mixers, crackers and cheese.  And, oh yes, T-Shirts from local breweries.

Something they could never, ever, do in New York State because all liquor stores can sell is - well, liquor and wine.  No food. No T-Shirts.

Does your area have special liquor laws (including prohibiting sales)?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Civil War Sunday - One Last Look Back

This is a post I originally made in April of 2014, with some minor edits.

As we approach the 150th anniversary of the official end of the United States Civil War, I wanted to repeat these thoughts.  In the past week, I've gone to a Civil War battle reenactment (Bentonville, near Raleigh, North Carolina), visited the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia (nearly destroyed by Union troops, along with much of the rest of the city), and a "minor" Civil War battlefield elsewhere in South Carolina. My spouse had some discussions about the war with a native of the South.

In many ways, the country we live in today, here in the United States, was shaped by that war, and its aftermath.  So, before commemorating the events of April, 1865, it is well to look back one last time.

Here's my post from last year.

 April 12, 2014, marked the 153rd anniversary of the start of the United States Civil War, as Confederates bombarded Fort Sumter on an island in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.

I was in Charleston this past week, and the car trip down from my home in upstate New York was a fascinating experience.  It gave me a lot of time to think.

Gettysburg, PA - the site of perhaps the most famous Civil War battle
On the way, we passed exits for a number of Civil War battlefields and related sites, starting in Pennsylvania.
Spring still hadn't reached Gettysburg as my spouse and I passed near to a site where 51,000 people had been either killed, wounded, or captured in the battle that represented the Confederacy's greatest northward penetration into the Union.
Moving into Maryland, we passed near Andrews Air Force Base.  When we passed from Pennsylvania (a free state) into Maryland (a slave state that stayed with the Union), we had also crossed the historic Mason-Dixon line.
Then we crossed from Maryland into Virginia over the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.  Such a simple act, but in 1861, if the bridge had been there, Virginia certainly wouldn't have been welcoming a couple of Yankees.  This was the border between the Union and the Confederacy.  In fact, a small portion of the bridge is technically in our capital, Washington, DC.

I didn't take any pictures of road signs at that point, but there were several road signs which had both Washington, DC and Richmond, Virginia listed on the same sign.  So simple - two cities, some 106 miles apart. But, during the Civil War, they were the capitals of two countries at war with each other.
Fredericksburg - near to four major Civil War battles, two of which will be commemorating 150th anniversaries next month.  Now, a city connected to other cities, north and south, via Interstate 95.

How many people give thought to history when they travel this road daily?  Things could have been so different if history had worked differently.  We can play the "what if" game - some people who enjoy something called "alternate history" do that and write some pretty interesting books based on "what if".
This photo was taken from the Ravenel Bridge that connects Charleston, South Carolina with another South Carolina City, Mt. Pleasant.  Permanently docked in Mt. Pleasant, and now a museum, is the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Yorktown, in a living museum called Patriot's Point.

If you look behind the green area to the left of this aircraft carrier which proudly flies the flag of the United States, you will see a distant, small island.  On this island sits Fort Sumter.

This is what the view of Charleston Harbor looked like after sunset on April 12, yesterday evening the 153rd anniversary of the start of the Civil War. So peaceful.

I offer no deep thoughts. Instead, what I feel is sadness. 150 years ago today, the war was close to its end, but there was going to be no end to the sufferings of our nation.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Meet Your Cremator

Think of a city called Columbia, in South Carolina, which also happens to be the state capital.  The natives shorten the name to "Cola" or "Cola Town".  In turn, the nickname has morphed into "Soda City".

Now imagine a place (where I live, our high was 22F (-5 ) with a wind chill of 6F (-14 C)) where it was about 43 F (6C) with bright sunshine.  It was warming up fast.

I was so happy, having escaped the Zombied Snowcopolyse I blogged about on Wednesday.

Hence, welcome to today's Soda City Farmers Market.

This outdoor market is in the heart of downtown Columbia, several blocks from the state capital.  Two blocks of Main Street are closed down for the Saturday market.

It was so nice to be at an outdoor market - my first one since October of last year.

Yes, you will find soda. (In other parts of the country, this might be called "pop" or even "soda pop".)

Fresh pasta. (We filled up).
And then we saw this booth.  My spouse loves hot sauce, and a good pun.  This booth had both. (Their motto is "Hot as Hell. Tastes like Heaven.)

It didn't disappoint.  Sauces were laid out for tasting on little cubes of cheese, and spouse and I had to taste.  Spouse bought a jar and was happy.  Meanwhile, I'm still coughing.
One last picture - you would expect to find grits at a Southern market and this one did not disappoint.

The only disappointing thing about this market is that they are not a producer only market, but I only saw one booth that, I'm positive, was not selling local fresh produce.  (The grits above are not grown locally, but are processed locally.)

Next Saturday, I will only have my memories.

Do you like to shop at farmer's markets?

Friday, March 27, 2015

It's About Time

As a person in her early 60's, I sometimes think my life is like a time capsule.

Everyone our age has seen a lot of social change.  I thought about this as I walked the grounds of the State Capital in Columbia, South Carolina today, especially after passing this bicentennial time capsule. 

This was placed on the 200th anniversary of the founding of the city of Columbia in 1986.  It will be opened in March of 2036.

I wonder what South Carolina will be like when that capsule is opened. 

Later, my spouse and I took a tour of the State House.  In the legislative chambers, the female tour guide turned to us after giving her pre scripted talk.  Most of the tour group looked to be late elementary school age.

The tour guide mentioned that South Carolina's governor, Nikki Haley, now in her second term, was also South Carolina's first female governor.  Yes, one female governor in all of South Carolina's distinguished history.  I should add that this is the grand total of one more female governor than my native New York has ever had.

The tour guide went on to explain that not too many state senators or representatives have been women.  The guide also mentioned she was the same age as Nikki Haley, 43.

Then, she looked at us.

Wouldn't it be great, she mused, if some of you, especially the girls, could grow up and serve in these chambers?  She continued with words similar to these: "I would weep tears of joy if one of you came to me years later and told me you had been elected, and had been in one of my tour groups".

Could I have imagined being talked to like that when I was a little girl? 

No.  In my childhood, help wanted ads were divided into Male and Female.  I guarantee you that "Governor" was not found in the Female section.  Neither was Legislator.

I have seen incredible change in 62 years.  I can hope for even more change in my lifetime.

Perhaps, one day, one of those children will make the tour guide weep tears of joy.  And that child will

Thursday, March 26, 2015


I am humbled.

I am sitting in the room where a small part of a famous Civil War diary wrote by a woman, Mary Boykin Chesnut, was written.  The very same window, listening to mockingbirds and mourning doves as she may have, in the midst of the United States Civil War  (If you are wondering, none of the furniture or pictures are from her or her family.) 

But, instead of taking a pen dipped in ink to paper I tap on a laptop keyboard.

Mary Chesnut, the wife of a United States Senator before South Carolina seceded from the Union, started her diary in February of 1861, as the events leading to the start of that war were happening.  And I...well, I will never compare my blog to her diary.  (I hope!)
Outside, camillas bloom and it is supposed to be 80 degrees today.  The azaleas are starting to bloom and the dogwoods should be out in another day.

What a place to write a blog in.  My muse is in full spring mode and I wish I could stay here for weeks. I am fortunate that the current owners of the house turned this into a B&B called the Bloomsbury Inn, in Camden, South Carolina.  This is a splurge for us, but has been well worth it.

To write in the footsteps of history is a privilege.

Have you ever done anything special to get writing inspiration?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring Things - The Hunger That Will Not Die

Near Binghamton, New York, the Third Week of March of 2015, wrote the survivor in her blog.

Day #917 of winter (or so it felt.)
Oh yes, it is pretty out there in the countryside where the guest photographer lives, the diary continued. But don't be fooled by those pretty icicles in the picture.

Here's the sad truth, she wrote.

Zombied out people, sick of snow, sick of no green, sick of shoveling, sick of nights still dipping into the teens, have left for the Carolinas to search for spring.  "Spring.  We must have spring!", they cried as they left. 

"Spring is the hunger that will not die." the blogger explained just before she left with her spouse, too

They drove away, leaving her to the mercies of the snow, the wind.
The guest photographer knew she was one of the few survivors of the Zombied Snowcopolyse.  Now she decided to hunt in search of Spring, accompanied by her favorite dog.

Alas, she will not find Spring today. Or tomorrow.  Or, apparently, anytime soon.

But then she got this picture from her blogging friend.

"I found spring!", her friend said. "I swear to you I will bring her back to upstate New York."

So, our story ends here for now.

Will she soften the hard heart of Spring?  Or, will the guest photographer continue to fight through the Zombied Snowcopolyse?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to South Carolina

I have not felt the greatest the last couple of weeks, but thought it was exhaustion from my job, which is in a busy time of the year.  I needed a vacation - badly.

Monday, at about 5am, in a motel room in Raleigh, North Carolina, I got a familiar feeling- and, later that morning, I was waiting to see someone in an urgent care the desk clerk in my motel had recommended.

I have to say this - they have excellent walk-in urgent care facilities in Raleigh.  But, between my particular infection, and the antibiotic treatment used for it, I can now write a book called "Many of the Restrooms Along Interstates 40 and 77 in the Carolinas, Rated."

(Sorry if this is gross.  Last on that topic.)

So fast forward (yes, PLEASE) to today, where spouse and I were walking down a street in South Carolina.  Normally we would have been walking fast, but today, I just couldn't.

We were admiring a house when a man, perhaps close to my age or a tiny bit older, came over.  He had been doing yard work.  He said "hi", we said "hi" back, and continued our walk.  Then, after a little bit, I was tired enough where I didn't want to walk anymore. So we were heading back to our car, and the man came over again.

This time, we chatted a few minutes, and then the magic happened. The man invited us into his (large!) yard, and then gave us a tour of part of his house, which has a distinguished ownership history.  Part of his land is also located on a Revolutionary War battlefield.  He gave us permission to take pictures of plants, but not his house.
If it wasn't for that infection, perhaps I never would have seen this tree on his property, or known its story.

This is a magnolia tree.  He told us (which I am unable to independently verify) it is the widest magnolia in South Carolina.  At one time, it was a lot taller, too, but Hurricane Hugo (1989) took care of that.

Several years ago I did a blog post on the Angel Oak near Charleston, SC and this tree reminded me so much of the Angel Oak.

I can mourn the loss of part of a battlefield, but the antebellum house this magnolia belongs to shows that battlefields weren't that respected, even more than 150 years ago.

Sometimes things happen for a reason.  I would rather not have that infection. But sometimes, you just never know what is around the corner from where you may, except for the unexpected, never have been.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Great Reveal

Today, many participants in the Blogging from A to Z blogging challenge are revealing their blog themes for the month of April.

If I was honest, my theme would be "I'm scared, even though I am sort of a seasoned blogger."

But that wouldn't be exciting, would it?

Why would anyone want a blogging theme, when you are being required to create a blog post based on  each letter in the English alphabet? A on April 1, B on April 2, and so forth (Sundays excepted).

So - my theme is:  America the Beautiful

Although, I can tell you that my theme on April 1 will be autism - because of its impact on my family.

But, I have traveled in 46 states of the United States, and several provinces in Canada.  I haven't been in all of them recently, or recently enough to have electronic photos.  But, with a few exceptions, each of my posts in April will be about a place I have visited, such as (not guaranteeing, of course):

Charleston, South Carolina and its surrounding area
Savannah, Georgia
Macon, Georgia
Prince Edward Island, Canada (yes, Canada.  It is part of the Americas, after all!)
Arkansas (where Wal-Mart started)
New York State

This is going to be fun - scary fun, perhaps, but fun nevertheless.

I hope you will join me on my April journey!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Civil War Sunday - Tar Heels

The United States Civil War's 150th anniversary commemoration is almost over.

But now, one of the remaining focuses turns to the state of North Carolina.

General Sherman, known for his "March to the Sea" from Atlanta, Georgia to Savannah, Georgia in the fall and early winter of 1864, had shifted his focus to the Carolinas.  In early 1865, his armies (including the local regiment fielded by Broome County, New York, where I live) had fought their way through South and North Carolina, on their way to meet up with Grant's Army of the Potomac.  If this happened, the war would basically be over for Robert E Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and the Confederate States of America would be forced to surrender.

On March 19, 20 and 21 remnants of four Confederate armies faced off against Sherman's forces at Bentonville, North Carolina.  This was the largest battle of the war fought in North Carolina.

Today, I attended a reenactment of that battle.  Unlike previous reenactments I have gone to, this one was on part of the actual battlefield - the Morris Farm.  It made the reenactment, if anything, more meaningful.
The Confederate reenactors, including troops from North Carolina (called "Tar Heels") march to the battlefield.  You can see how they are dressed, in various odds and ends.  But they are bravely ready to fight.
At the battlefield (again, the actual Morris farm where some of the three day battle took place) Federals enter.

The Harper House, an 1850's farmhouse that served as a field hospital for Sherman's troops, a long walk away from the Morris Farm.

What happened at the end of the battle?

The Confederates withdrew, but this battle weakened them so much that, a month later, the largest surrender of the war (which was NOT Lee surrendering to Grant)  took place a few miles away.

I won't show pictures of the battle, but will note that, at one point, the Confederates started chanting "Tar Heels!  Tar Heels" in addition to sounding their rebel yells.

 And, North Carolinians, to this day, are proud to be called Tar Heels.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Best of AM - Going to the Dark Side

Am I going to the dark side?  In a way.  But not in a Star Wars way.  I am talking maple and a trip to the Dark Side, repeating (with a couple of updates) a post from late March, 2014.

This weekend is the first of two Maple Weekends here in upstate New York.

We are fortunate to live in maple syrup country, because, for me, nothing else will ever touch my pancakes.  And, of all maple syrup, I think the best is that produced using wood fired evaporators.  They give a special taste that just can't be duplicated.

This producer, Bush's Syrup House, uses the wood fired method.

Making maple syrup is an art.  There is a brief period of time at the end of winter when maple trees start to wake from their winter hibernation. Sap, clear and not very sweet at all, starts to flow.  The days must be above freezing and, preferably, sunny.  The nights must be below freezing.  These conditions produce a push-pull condition in the trees, causing the sap to flow.  Producers tap the trees, attach a bucket (involving judgement as to how many taps a tree can support) and collect the sap through tubes that lead to the processing house.

Some people drink the sap for health reasons.  I've sampled it and it isn't much different from water.  The magic comes later, after the evaporation process.  And, it's quite a process, with 40 parts of maple sap needed for 1 part of maple syrup.  That's a lot of sap, and a lot of heat source needed.  And all of that takes money and a continued investment on the part of the maple syrup producer.

The season lasts about 4-6 weeks.  When the trees start to bud, or temperatures remain above freezing, the sap turns bitter and the season is over.

At the beginning of the season, the sap produces a light syrup which is the most expensive to buy. Toward the end of the season, you get darker syrup.  In our part of upstate New York, we prefer the darker (not the darkest grade B, suitable more for cooking, but what we call Dark Amber) for our pancakes.  In maple syrup, you want to go to the dark side. It's the one product where Grade B is better than Grade A (noting the NY grade scales differ from some other states.)

Today, Bush's was producing dark syrup but it wasn't yet bottled or available for sale.

This is the barn with the evaporator.
The wood fired evaporator.
The syrup tank.

A display of maple candy molds and old fashioned taps (some dating from the 1700's).

After our look around, we walked into the sugar house to buy some syrup.  You may blanch at the $45 a gallon price Bush's was charging.  But, consider the amount of work that goes into the production of maple syrup.The only syrup available was medium amber from earlier in the season.  Knowing we were having a poor season, we bought a quart ($18), hoping we could get some dark amber syrup later in the year.

Right behind us, another couple was looking for dark amber, too.

Can you make maple syrup at home?  Yes! (if you have the right kind of trees, that is.)  I worked with someone, years ago, whose husband  made syrup and, one year, offered it to sale. He totally sold out to his wife's co workers, including me.  I've never had better syrup before or since.  Just don't try the boiling in your kitchen - you will ruin your wallpaper.

With health concerns about manufactured pancake syrup now arising (from the substance used to give it brown color), more people may, despite the cost, be searching for real maple syrup.

Is maple syrup popular in your area?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring is the New Winter

Here's a photo of roses in downtown Binghamton, New York, for you, my faithful readers.

Not Taken Today
These are roses near the confluence of the Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers in downtown Binghamton, New York.

It's the first day of spring!  Rejoice.  Everything is in bloom, the birds are singing, and the people  are happily playing in the sunshine, dressed in shorts and T-shirts.

Um, not so fast. (Cue sound of record player needle ripping across a record, for those who know what that sounds like.)
Binghamton University - the haze is snow

This is the Binghamton, NY area today, on the first day of spring.  I am happy to bring these photos to all of the fans of my winter photos. 

The problem is, it will only be winter for about six more hours, as I write this.  But the spring memo, as usual, has been lost in the mail.  Someone is holding onto spring tightly, and won't let it go.
Snow on bush - again.  Am I trapped in a movie?

Fear not.  We are used to this.  We aren't done with winter yet, no matter what the calendar, or the sun, says.

Today was a day I was able to slow down and relax a little.  I am happy, in some ways, that today turned out the way it has.  Although I pout a little (well, more than a little), I am also grateful for each hour.

Still, I would appreciate it, spring, if you don't delay too much longer.

(The Falling Part 2 post I planned for today will be run next week.)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Falling - Part 1 of 2

In February of 2011 I wrote a post on falling.  Now, it is March of 2015, four years later, and the possibility of falling is more and more on my mind.

It isn't something you think of much when you are young, unless you are caring for an elderly relative.  As you grow older, though, it becomes deadly, which I will blog more about tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with an excerpt from my 2011 post,  which included this passage:

"Falling has been on my mind a lot lately.  So has aging.

Last Tuesday, I was walking in my neighborhood.  Fresh snow covered the sidewalk.  I should have known better - this particular house, I knew, doesn't take good care of their sidewalks.  I thought, though, there shouldn't be a problem.

I was wrong.  There was ice under the snow.  My feet slid from under, I fell on my butt, and hit an ice bank on my right side.

I thought I wasn't hurt.  I got up, my dignity slightly damaged (someone was cleaning off their car, and I don't think even noticed), and proceeded on my way.  But by the time I got to work, I knew I had hurt myself.

Three days later I saw my massage therapist, my back hurting and pain occasionally shooting down my leg.  He worked on me for an hour.  He said nothing felt wrong, but I obviously had given myself quite a jolt.  Even now, a week later, my back still doesn't feel right.

I've fallen on the ice before trying to get to work - although I certainly don't try to make a habit of it.  I don't think I've fallen on ice in about three or four years, though. (I do have ice cleats, if it gets really bad.)  Other times I bounced back.  This time, not as fast.

The next day, one of my husband's co workers, who happens to be the brother of someone who works at my company, fell on the ice on his driveway (freezing rain having fallen) flat on his back.  He had a backpack on because his school aged daughter had asked that he bring the backpack out to his car.  No lasting damage, fortunately, because of the backpack (for one thing, it probably prevented him from hitting his head.).  His doctor told him to put heat pads on his back.  Maybe I should have done that.

Meanwhile, my balance stinks and I have to do something about it.  My local Y (where I exercise) doesn't offer Tai Chi, which I've read could be of help.  Yoga, I'm not so sure about, with my back problems.  I've heard mixed things about Pilates for those with back problems.  I need a back friendly exercise that will help with my balance.  My search will continue. 

Aging stinks.  So does winter."

Tomorrow - part 2 of this saga

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Winter Wonders - Happy Ice Trails to You

This is my last Wednesday Winter Wonders post of the year - until December, anyway.

Today, I am featuring my guest photographer.  She took a walk with me a couple of days ago in downtown Binghamton.  We headed down to the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers to look at the ice breakup.

As much as I could complain about not having the 80 degree weather many parts of the United States experienced this year, such weather would have produced a rapid melt leading to flooding.

Sometimes, you have to be careful of what you wish for. (Winter, I could have done without the snow squalls of yesterday, though.  Or the ice cold temperatures of this morning, with interstates closed not far from us.  Ice to the south.  Accidents.  Not nice of you at all.  Just sayin')

Instead, (until today, anyway) we have a slow melt.

The geese are enjoying it.  You can barely see them, two tiny dots in the right center.

From a pedestrian bridge, the ice photos almost look like something taken from an airplane from high up.

The shore was looking good - no huge ice chunks.
There are even trails in the ice.

Where do those trails lead?  Hopefully, to spring. Starting in May, my Spring Things feature will return each Wednesday - perhaps earlier than that.

How is the change of the season affecting you?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

May the Luck of the Irish

This post, originally from March of 2012 and repeated with some edits, is one of my favorites.

Today, I also want to give a shout out for a good friend undergoing cancer treatment.  Today, we hope, begins the last week of her radiation treatment.  Starting today, she takes what they call "boost"  treatments for a week.  She will have her (fingers crossed) final treatment on what would have been her late husband's birthday, March 24.  May this friend, who has an Irish first name, enjoy the luck of the Irish.

The "Luck of the Irish" saying, apparently, originates from the mid 19th century, referring to the ability of Irish miners to, as the saying goes, "strike it rich". 

And now, let's enjoy some

St. Patrick's Day Crochet

I've been crocheting for some 45 years now.  I don't do as much as I used to, for various reasons, but I still crochet a gift or two each year. I also work on crochet projects when I am on the road, since my loving spouse does the driving.

I haven't blogged much about my crochet hobby, but crochet has been a treasured part of my life.  My Mom wanted to teach me to crochet but rheumatoid arthritis robbed her of her ability to do any needlework by the time I was old enough. Instead, a high school friend taught me, and I've never looked back.  But although she didn't teach me, I still feel a link to my Mom whenever I pick up a hook.

These are both projects I worked on 20 or more years ago.  I got the afghan pattern from a magazine that no longer exists, I believe.

I have no idea where I got the pattern for the Christmas stocking.  But there is a special reason why the stocking has shamrocks on it.
This has a special meaning for me and a certain family member.  I made this for his first birthday.

So, today, although I am not Irish, I will wear some green.

 Do you have a favorite hobby or craft?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Upstate New York Dreaming

All the leaves are brown.
Tree, west side of Binghamton, NY 3-14-15 - a pin oak?

And the skies are grey.
West Side of Binghamton, 3-14-15

I've been for a walk/On a winter's day.

I'd be safe and warm if I were....

Oh, what the heck.  The snow is melting.
Yards are reappearing.  Soon, the first crocuses and snowdrops will be visible.  And, isn't this birch tree beautiful?

The sap is rising.  The upper branches of trees are glowing red and yellow.  OK, it snowed yesterday, but I am in a forgiving mood.  It didn't stick.  It was above freezing.  Tomorrow, winter returns, though, and I admit to a bit of envy when I see temperatures in the 70's and 80's in other parts of the country. (On the other hand, the rapid thaw increases flood risk.)

Focus, AM.

This weekend starts the first of our annual Maple Weekends.

Think maple.  Luscious, slightly smoky local made maple syrup on some good buckwheat or buttermilk pancakes.  Or, maple yogurt.  Or maple cotton candy.  There's nothing like upstate New York when the snow starts to melt.

How sweet it will be soon.

Eventually, it will be our turn.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day March 2015 - Hope

There is hope for spring.

May Dreams Gardens, who hosts a meme every 15th of the month, where gardeners from all over the world gather to show what is blooming in their yards or houses, has spring flowers in her Central Indiana yard.

Iris reticulata.  Snowdrops.

Meanwhile, in my zone 5b garden in the Binghamton area of upstate New York, all that is growing is snow.  In fact, it is snowing and sleeting right now.

So, indoors we move to our blooms.

As March days are on the same day of the week as February days, so are the flowers in my house repeating the flowers of February.

Kalanchoe.  This is blooming so nicely despite an infestation of whiteflies.  In the last couple of days, we were able to put it outside as it was above freezing, and hope we can take care of the whiteflies, finally.

Our surprise Alternathera (we were told it was a coleus but GBBD readers set me straight) is still blooming nicely in a north window.

But wait, there's more!

I rooted some Persian Shield and put the plant in a 1/2 gallon plastic freezer bag for moisture.  Now, it is blooming. (Too bad my iPhone doesn't do macro photography well.)

Finally, on this hopeful Ides of March day, an unusual green mum I picked up yesterday at a local supermarket graces my dining room table.

Spring can't come fast enough for me.

What is blooming for you today?