Saturday, April 30, 2016

Zaidman #AtoZChallenge

So, what is a Zaidman, and why am I writing about it?

It's not a thing - it's a person.  It's Z time - time for the letter Z, and the end of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Today's post is a tribute to eyesight.  We take it for granted, but not everyone is granted eyesight.

Some of you may have seen the video of a baby in Seattle with a rare eye condition.  A video camera catches the minute little Leo, being treated by an eye specialist in Los Angeles, has special glasses put on his head and his first experience with seeing clearly.

It's not the first time I've seen glasses like that, though.

Earlier this month, my spouse and I sat with my mother in law in the office of Dr. Gerald Zaidman, an eye specialist in Westchester County, a suburb of New York City.

As we waited (and waited) for my mother in law to be seen by Dr. Zaidman, we saw a number of patients called in ahead of us.

One of them, a toddler, had been playing a game on a tablet before she was called. She was holding it right up to her nose. Her mother (I assume it was her mother) sat with her patiently.

Another little girl, perhaps a preschooler, announced to the entire waiting room "I love all of you!" as the staff smiled.  One offered her a lollypop.

One of the patients was a baby, and he was wearing glasses that looked like the glasses little baby Leo was wearing.  I could only imagine what that baby, and his parents (both accompanied him), had already been through.  I overheard the mother tell the person sitting next to them that their baby would have his next cataract surgery in three weeks.

As for that long wait - Dr. Zaidman had handled one emergency already, and was being called away to another one.  He is obviously in great demand.

Too many of us take our sight for granted.  I have poor uncorrected vision (I have been legally blind without corrective lenses since around age seven or eight) and used to go annually to an eye specialist at Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital in Manhattan until I was a teenager.  But I am fortunate - my vision has always been correctable.  And perhaps it always will be.  For me, my poor vision only lasts until I can reach my glasses.  But, as I sat there in Dr. Zaidman's waiting room, I thought about my childhood vision for the first time in years- what if I had been one of those children in that waiting room, back 60 plus years ago?

Other bloggers I have read have much greater challenges with vision than I have, and face their challenges with great courage (and, for many, faith in a higher power that helps them to find that courage).  These bloggers, such as blogger Amy Bovaird, are well worth reading.

I hope that the efforts and vision of doctors like Dr. Zaidman and others will eventually make vision challenges a thing of the past.

Thank you for reading my blog during the A to Z Blogging Challenge.   Tomorrow, I return to my normal blogging schedule.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Youth #AtoZChallenge

Youth.  We miss it when we are older, sometimes.  But without our youth, we would not be the people we are today.

Let us return to the late 1970's.  Economically, it was not the best of times.

My husband and I were afraid, along with many others, that the economy was tanking.  Although we were in our late 20's, we found ourselves trying to prepare for a future that was uncertain.  Part of our urge to homestead came from reading a magazine called "Mother Earth News" and deciding we were going to "live off the land". Oh, and by the way, unlike my fellow blogger in Nebraska, neither of us had any relatives that had ever pursued the rural life.  We were fully urban. I was born and raised in New York City.  My spouse grew up partially in Yonkers and partially in another New York City suburb.

Yet, we had dreams of self-sufficiency, of living the "organic way", and Arkansas turned out to be the place where we were going to make them come true.  My spouse was in the Air Force, he was stationed in Wichita, Kansas,  and his enlistment was going to be up in 1980.  We went on an Arkansas vacation in 1979 (about five hours away from Wichita), looked at several pieces of land and bought 34 acres in Washington County, in Northwest Arkansas. It was gently rolling country, which reminded my spouse of where he grew up in New York State.

We moved to Arkansas the day after the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.
My spouse on our land circa 1982
Full of youthful energy and ready to try our hand at country living, we lived in Arkansas for five years (four on our land).  It was five years we are both proud of.

We learned skills (especially my spouse) that we may never use again-but one never knows.  We learned what works.  We learned what doesn't work.

Don't ask -it was an Epic Fail
We learned there was courage and stubbornness in us we didn't think we had, along with a rebellious streak.  We learned that failure means only that you tried, and you need to do something different.  (For example, trying to build a house out of hay bales on a stone foundation was NOT the best idea we ever had.)

The experiences we had on the land helped us gain maturity.

My spouse and I would both have been different people without this experience.  We are who we are, in part, because we did what we did.

So, almost three years ago, we embarked on the ultimate nostalgia trip- returning to Arkansas nearly 30 years after we left it, to see how it had changed.

Somehow we and Arkansas moved towards each other in the nearly 30 years since we left, and we've met in a strange and unexpected middle.

Northwest Arkansas has grown tremendously over the past 27 years.  Just from 2000 to 2010, the population grew 71%.  Where there was once rural land, huge shopping centers stood.  It made me dizzy.  Literally.

During the visit, we decided to go back to our land and see what had happened in the nearly 30 years since we left.  After about 15 miles of the nearly 25 mile drive, it was almost like time had stood still.

The roads were back down to two lanes.  Farmers drove slowly.  The traffic lights disappeared. Round hay bales stood in the fields.  Cattle grazed.

We went through Canehill, an incorporated place that could have been great except for the United States Civil War.   Several historic buildings (in ruins)- the remnants of its former history as a college town, and a ruined mill, can be seen if you know where to look.  We did know, even though we had never bothered to investigate its history when we had lived near there.  It somehow all came back to us.
From Arkansas State highway 45, we made the turn into the tiny unincorporated hamlet of Morrow.

We passed what used to be the Morrow Cash Store, a true general store. (We didn't go in).
Then, we turned onto the road where we lived.  A little of it is paved now, but most of it is still unpaved.  Just like when we left.

So let me tell you what we found on our former land. 

We had two sets of married couples as neighbors.  One of the men (we had found this out right before we left) died in late 2012 and the other man died several months before we made our visit (August of 2013.)  We had not kept in touch with one at all; for the other, it had been many years.  As far as I can tell, both women are still alive here in 2016.

The house of one of the neighbors was gone  - absolutely no trace of it, or his barn.  No foundation, no nothing.  As of 2012, the other neighbor was still living where they were living when we were their neighbors. I don't know if she, as a widow, was still there in 2013, but her trailer was there.

The cabin my spouse built with the help of one neighbor's eldest son - gone.

Faded picture of our chickens circa 1983
Our chicken house - gone.
Our geese, possibly in 1985
The peach tree we had planted - gone.  My roses.  My flower beds. My herb plants.  Gone.

Our garden areas - gone.  Our raspberries - gone.
The people living there had two dogs who ran after our car, and no trespassing signs at the driveway entrance made it clear they would not welcome a visit (which we weren't planning to do anyway, but I did want to get out and walk on the road.  I abandoned that idea quickly.)  

Spouse drove up the road a bit, turned around, drove down the hill and left, as I took pictures.  When we had cell phone service again, I sent pictures to my son back in New York on a device that didn't exist when we left - a smartphone.

At the time, I said we would never come back to Morrow.  There was no need.  Only ghosts of our past remained, and we let them go.  They flew away in the hot, late August, breeze, dust in the wind.

For many of the homesteaders of the 1970's, I suspect what happened to us also happened to them. Some succeeded.  Many didn't.  But they took what they learned back to the city, and changed our country.

Although I will never say never, I still don't think I will ever return.  But it does make me sad that I will never be able to walk what was once my land, ever again.  My youth must stay in the past where it belongs, along with all the other sand that has flowed through my personal hourglass.
 So are the days of our lives.

"Y" day on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X-Ray #AtoZChallenge

When I was ten years old, I would play outside after school in good weather if I didn't have too much homework.  (That's what we did before the Internet and video games.) In the fall of 1963, I was doing a lot of roller skating.

In 1963, roller skates were a heavy, clunky affair.  They were metal skates (four wheels each) that you locked onto your shoes (using a skate key) and away you rolled.

On a Friday afternoon in late October, I was skating with friends when suddenly I was on the ground.  I had tripped on a sidewalk crack.  Coming down, my right skate slammed down on my left leg, just above my ankle.

I couldn't get up. It hurt.  It hurt a lot.

I was on the grounds of the housing project in the Bronx where I grew up.  A friend ran to get help from the housing police.  Two policemen came, and, holding a nightstick between them, one policeman on each end, I was boosted up and carried to the elevator of my building.  They delivered me to our apartment, where my Mom was cooking dinner.

Medicine isn't what it was like 50 years ago.  In some ways, that's bad.  In other ways, it isn't.

My Mom called our family doctor and he came right over. (Doctors still made house calls in those days).  He examined the leg, declared I had a bad sprain in my ankle, taped it up, and instructed me to walk on it.

I walked on it all night, even after the leg became swollen.  The pain got even worse - so bad I can still remember it today.  But I was a dutiful little girl and did what I was told.  I didn't even try to wake my parents. 

In the morning, my parents took one look at my leg and took me to the doctor's office.  I ended up being sent to the hospital for x-rays.  They revealed I had fractured my leg in three places.   I was put in a heavy plaster of Paris cast, from just past the tips of my toes to the middle of my thigh.  Two months of being taught at home by a teacher sent by the district, missing a field trip to the UN and the game show Concentration, and no Halloween trick-or-treating that year followed.

And yes, my cast became covered with autographs and various words of wisdom scrawled in magic marker by the other neighborhood kids.

Thank heavens for those x-rays, which allowed the doctors to know what had happened.

I think of my childhood as being a museum piece.  Playing outside, the black rotary phone my Mom used to call the doctor, the doctor who made a house call, the lack of immediately ordering x-rays for seems like something that happened long ago and far away. 

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of our Lives.

"X" day for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  Only two more days to go!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wichita Lineman/When Musicians Cry #AtoZChallenge

This has been the annus horribilis of musicians.

So many have passed away since the beginning of this year.

My father in law was a musician.  He never became famous, but he loved music and played several instruments.  Besides playing in a band, he gave guitar lessons as a second job while supporting a wife and their four children.  The brother of one of his then-young students was the realtor when my mother in law sold her house in order to downsize last year.

I, on the other hand, never have taken a music lesson.  I play no instruments.  I sang in my elementary school choir for two years, but I never pursued singing.  I do, however, enjoy listening to music.  

This week, a music legend in the United States Prince, passed away.  Musicians all over the world mourn loss of one of the most talented musicians of the 20th and 21st century.   But unlike other artists I've paid tribute to during the run of my Music Mondays (which may or may not return after the Blogging from A to Z Challenge concludes Saturday), Prince kept tight control over his music.  There are only a limited number of videos available on You Tube.

Not so for singer Glen Campbell, who turned 80 last week.

With tremendous courage, 80 year old country singer Glen Campbell  shared his five year battle with Alzheimer's with his public.

Here, he gives an interview.

No more interviews will be given by Glen Campbell - we are told he can no longer speak. He no longer knows what a guitar is used for.   He is in the seventh and final stage of Alzheimer's - where the person forgets how to eat, and can no longer tell that he or she is thirsty.

Alzheimer's is one of the most feared illnesses - there are other dread diseases but they don't take away the essence of us - what makes us us - our memories, our delights, our ability to enjoy family and friends - the way Alzheimer's and other dementias do.

None of us know how much longer Glen Campbell will be with us.  So, as an early tribute, I wanted to post my favorite song of his:  Wichita Lineman.   

As you listen to this song, imagine a lonely lineman, up on a pole on a deserted stretch of highway (I lived, years ago, in Wichita, Kansas and Wichita Fall, Texas, so this part is easy for me), wanting so much to be home.

Sometimes, the simplest song conveys so much.  Glen Campbell knew how to sing it.

When he passes, and it is only a matter of time, millions will miss him, just as millions miss Prince Rogers Nelson.

How many more talents will we lose this year?

"W" day on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Valentine #AtoZChallenge

Valentines Day - each February 14, we are supposed to think of the ones we love. Nowadays, too many times, it is a commercial, "Hallmark" moment. (For those outside the United States, Hallmark is a famous maker of greeting cards, among other things.)  But during wartime, relationships of love become fragile.  Times are uncertain.  Bad things happen.

Several months ago, after relocating my mother in law, who is now in her late 80's, up here to be closer to her and other family in our area, we were hanging pictures back on the wall of her apartment after the move.  There was a picture that my mother decided not to hang.

It was a picture of a soldier, most probably taken during World War II.  But something made her want the frame.  We disassembled it, and found a letter, a note and another photo.

The note reads "A Valentine.  To the most wonderful girl in all this world.  May never another Valentines Day pass that we are not together. A kiss for you and a kiss for me maybe two or three million."
"Love, Stanley", the note concluded.  This, the photo we found, was a photo of Stanley.  The girl who was his valentine was my spouse's aunt.

And yes, they both survived the war, and married.  They moved to Tuscon, Arizona, had children, and farmed garlic among other things.  I met them once, in the late 1970's, when my spouse and I visited Tuscon.

Both Stanley and his wife are now deceased, like so many of "The Greatest Generation."

Like sands through the hourglass so are the days of our lives.

V Day in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Monday, April 25, 2016

U.S.S.R - #AtoZChallenge

The Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics.  The U.S.S.R.  The Soviet Union.

How many of you remember that country, which hasn't existed in nearly 26 years?

It was a large part of my childhood.  Fear of the U.S.S.R followed us every day of my young life.  Duck and cover drills, because the Soviets had "The Bomb", and they couldn't wait to use it on us. 

To this day, hearing the sirens calling out our neighborhood volunteer fire department make me cold and scared for a quick second before I reassure myself that the sirens aren't air raid sirens announcing the atomic end of the world as we know it.

In October, 1962, we nearly did face nuclear war.  I wonder how many children are taught about the Cuban Missile Crisis in school.

Or, if the Soviets didn't bomb us to a crisp, they would impose their evil Communist system on us.  The theme of my A to Z Challenge is Days of Our Lives and we came so close to all of our lives ending in October, 1962.  It's sobering.

Hatred of the Soviet Union got personal for my family, because my grandfather had immigrated from one of the countries the Soviet Union had swallowed over.  He was escaping pogroms in that country.  I'm told he was evading a forced draft into the army, which would have almost surely resulted in his death.  My parents hated the U.S.S.R and all it stood for.

Now years later, the U.S.S.R. is a historical footnote for my son, who is in his mid-20's.

One of my favorite pastimes is finding magazines from the World War II and Cold War era (especially World War II). This was a nice find at the Ithaca, NY library book sale in 2009, my first year of blogging.

The Ithaca, New York book sale, held twice a year, is one of the largest in the country.  They usually have some boxes of old Life, Look and other older magazines.  Sometimes they are musty, but they are always a treat for people like me to read.  The next sale is in May, and I hope I can make it up there.

The original post can be found here.  To quickly summarize:

At a library book sale several years ago, I found a little treasure - the March 29, 1943 "Special Issue USSR" with a picture of Joseph Stalin on the cover.

My inner historian reminded me that at this point in time the U.S.S.R was our ally (against Hitler).  I paged through the magazine and saw this article "Red Leaders. They are Tough, Loyal, Capable Administrators". Not exactly the, er, party line I would hear in my growing up. Other articles praised the accomplishments of the Soviet Union, and even the accomplishments of the Russia of the past 1,000. years.

To my Cold War amazement, there was even an article "The Soviets and the Post-War" subtitled "A Former Ambassador to Moscow Answers Some Perplexing Problems". The author is one Joseph E. Davies, who famously supported the Soviet government even back in the 1930's, before we became allies.

One question asked of Mr. Davies was "Is Russian determined to pursue the cause of world revolution?" His answer began "In my opinion, no."

Seven years later, in the Joseph McCarthy era, this article may have been unprintable. The story of Joseph Davies is quite interesting, if this article is accurate.

For anyone interested in history, this was a great find.

Do you remember the Soviet Union?  Duck and Cover?  The Cold War?  Do you like old magazines for their glimpses of a world now gone?

"U" Day in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Homemade Non Dairy Chocolate Pudding

It's time for me, a person not known for her cooking skills, to entertain her readers with my cooking adventures.

Back in the 1960's, when I was growing up, I had to take a subject called "home economics" (home ec, for short).  Meanwhile, boys got shop classes. Although I failed home ec (and I wasn't the only one - see the comment from fellow blogger Sue McPeak in another post)  - yes, I really did fail it - I took home some nice recipes from the cooking part of the course.  One was for homemade grape jelly (yes!  I learned to make homemade jelly in New York City) and another one was for homemade chocolate pudding.

Thank you, home ec!  Because now, with my need to increase my calcium intake through food, I've discovered non dairy nut milks, and puddings have become one of my favorite desserts.

Interestingly, I've found that the nut milks (almond, and cashew) don't work well with commercial instant puddings.  The puddings don't thicken.  Nut milks do work with commercial cooked puddings, so I've learned to make the cooked puddings. 

There's just one problem this week.

For me and others of the Jewish faith, it is Passover, an eight day observance when various foods (many grains, legumes, and a number of other foods) are fully or partially banned from our tables. One banned food is corn and items made from corn.  So commercial pudding is out.  Well, there is commercial Passover pudding mix, but the one time I had it - Yuck.

It's time for homemade pudding. 

Um...not so fast.  One of the key ingredients of home made pudding is cornstarch.  Time for research!

After some Internet searching and an experiment, I came up with this recipe.  The recipe needs to be perfected, but it's a good start. 

The original recipe used almond milk, coconut sugar (which I didn't have in the house), vanilla extract (what I had in the house contained corn syrup, another no-no) and cocoa powder.  I had both regular Hershey's cocoa and something called black cocoa.  I decided to use the black cocoa to intensify the flavor.  Finally, the recipe used cornstarch.  I decided to use Kosher for Passover potato starch.  Based on my spouse's cooking experience, I decided to use less potato starch than the cornstarch called for, as potato starch has greater thickening quantities.

So, drum roll, I present to you, my dear readers, something you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy:

Homemade Non Dairy Chocolate Pudding (Makes 4 servings) (sorry, metric readers; you are on your own)

2 cups almond or cashew Milk (I used cashew)
1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon cane sugar
4 tablespoons black or regular cocoa (both should work fine)
3 1/2 tablespoons potato starch (or 4 tablespoons cornstarch) either will work
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I didn't use but I think it was needed)

Place almond milk, sugar, cocoa powder, potato or cornstarch, and vanilla extract in a saucepan over low heat.   Stir together until thick and smooth.  Take off heat and immediately pour into 4 small serving bowls.  Let cool.  I served it with raspberries on top.
(This is what the mix looked like before I stirred it.  The black cocoa, which is an ultra-Dutched cocoa (all the acid has been neutralized) is dark.  You can use it here instead of regular cocoa, but do not use it in any recipe that needs acidity, such as a recipe using baking soda.)

And that's it! 
The completed pudding
When I make it again, I will use a tiny bit more thickening agent, as it seemed a tad bit watery, but that was my only complaint.  If you make it, I invite your comments.

Tomorrow, back to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

This (is) The Time #AtoZChallenge

In October of 2011, over a month after a historic flood hit much of the part of New York State where I live, I wrote this email to a friend.

As my regular readers know, my neighborhood of Westover, near Johnson City, New York, was one of many neighborhoods impacted by a massive flood caused by a record year of rain, capped by two tropical storms in a couple of weeks time - Irene, and then Lee.  Meanwhile, this past week, Houston has also been hit by historic flooding.  I want to tell the people there "it will be a hard road, but you will recover."

This email is intensely personal to me, but I wanted to share it with you for "T" day in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. My theme, after all, is "Days of Our Lives".

"There was a thick fog this morning, and I took a walk through some of my Westover neighborhood.  The lights of the BAE restoration diffused into the fog and dimly lit our neighborhood. For the first 2 1/2 blocks, everything was normal.  These houses have electricity.  Halloween decorations glowed in the dark, orange and green.  And then I hit The Other Side.  Turning onto Main Street, I peered down the streets of the other half of my neighborhood.  Dark, with few cars parked on the streets, no decorations glowed there.  No one was home.  No one has been home since September 8, 2011.  Only the thick fog keeps me company.

I didn't look to my left, towards the Johnson City Y.  It is still closed.  It was flooded, and reopened, but then, last Saturday, a fire hit.  Right now the estimated reopening date is November 4.

On the BAE side of Main Street, restoration employees arrive to begin their daily shift.  The crowds of day workers who did the initial muck-out and waited in lines on Main Street to check in at a tent are gone, and the relative silence is eerie.  There is still a lot of equipment there, tents, and people smoking cigarettes before their shift begins.  Here, the lights glow almost like day through the fog.

The future itself of BAE is in doubt, but they continue to clean up the property in the meantime.  

I walked on Main Street along the BAE property.  On the other side of Main Street, the flooded side, Westover Plaza, stands empty.  Lights glow in only one store, an Aldi, which has been totally remodeled.  They are moving groceries into the building and I expect their reopening will be announced soon.

I stood at the fence in front of the front entrance of BAE, and a song from the 80's popped into my head.  I don't know why, because this is not how I usually behave, but I suddenly sang out the song in my mind.  It was a  Simple Minds song called "All The Things She Said":
(I probably shouldn't be quoting this without permission but, in the Year of the Flood, I take this liberty)  These may not be the exact words but this is what I sang in the fog:
"She said, this is the time
She said, this is the place
She said, this is the place* my heart wants to be"

And then I started my day."

*the actual lyrics say "space", but that morning, "place" seemed so right.

Here is the music video, if you are interested.  

My neighborhood is somewhat restored, with the vacant, flood ruined houses (mostly) demolished.  And it's still the place my heart wants to be.

Now, the "BAE property" itself is being demolished, one of the last steps my neighborhood needs to be whole once again.
Bradford Pears in front of BAE in process of being demolished, April 21
 I see a new day rising.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Spring #AtoZChallenge

It's Spring!  It is time to rest, then renew, reboot and return to Spring.

My theme for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge has been "Days of Our Lives".  What more is a part of our lives than the beauty of nature?

Especially on a beautiful spring day.

Spring is the season of renewal.  Of returning.  One by one, here in upstate New York, the plants are waking from their winter Sleep. This year, however, there was a major problem.

Mild weather caused them to wake up too soon.  When a blast of unusually cold weather came through, blooms died.  It looks like we won't have much in the way of forsythias or cherries this year.

But other plants and flowers are Springing out after their winter rest.  Spring renewal has begun.

A white hyacinth in the "golden hour" before sunset.
A daffodil on my front lawn.

Creeping phlox in nearby Binghamton, New York.
And, of course, tulips.
Finally, in front of a factory building being demolished, Bradford Pears in bloom.

Nature can be dangerous and unpredictable (thinking now of those suffering through the aftermath of floods in Houston and earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan, among other recent tragedies) but when it decides to show its beauty, nature shows its other Side.

"Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives".  Let us spring forward and remember that every day is a chance to show gratitude for the good things in our lives.

"S" day on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Royalty and Renegades (of Funk) #AtoZChallenge

This has been a fantastic A to Z Challenge so far, but there is more to come.

"P" day was the day of the New York State (where I live) Presidential Primaries - blogging about it was a natural.

Today, "R" day, is the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II of England.  Whether you feel the British monarchy should continue, you have to admire a woman who works as she turns 90-and works hard.

The letter "R" also Reminds me of something else: growing up in a city housing project in New York City, at about the time that the hip-hop music genre was born.  Its birthplace, in a different housing project, on Sedgwick Avenue,was perhaps two or three miles from where I was living.  I blogged more about that here.

I don't regret growing up in a city housing project, although I could wish I was living somewhere else for the last few years of my childhood and coming of age. Sometimes, I was filled with Rage.

In some ways, I identify with the song "Renegades of Funk".

The original was released in 1983 by the former warlord of a gang called the Black Spades.  For years, he has gone by the name of Afrika Bambaataa. with his group Soul Sonic Force.

Where I lived in the Bronx was part of the Black Spades territory.  I admit no love for this gang, but their transformation from a street gang to a musical force is something worthy of study. It's not something that happens every day.

Quoting some of Afrika Bambaataa's lyrics:

" Now renegades are people with their own philosophy
They change the course of history
Everyday people like you and me
You know they have their secret notions
And time is endless motion..."
Could I ever hope to be a renegade?  In some ways, perhaps, the years I homesteaded in rural Arkansas may have been my speaking out my "secret notions".  Because, even as I grew up in a small Bronx apartment in public housing, I dreamed, one day, of being able to garden and to even have the freedom to decide what color to paint the interior where I lived.  You see, we didn't even have that right back in the 50's and 60's.

 I heard, on the way home yesterday, a cover by a group called Rage Against the Machine.  Note that the lyrics are not identical.

Do you ever feel you are a renegade?

"R" day on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Quilts #AtoZChallenge

Love and chocolate.  When did the two interwine?

For Q day in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge,  I wanted to blog a little bit about quilts.  I've never made one (I am not a sewing person) but I love quilts.  I have pictures of quilts that have been displayed, from time to time, at our local public library.  I so admire those who have the skill and patience to make them.

One of my earliest memory is a comforter on my childhood bed.  It had a zipper on it.  One day, I decided to be curious and unzip the comforter.

Inside was an old quilt, tattered.  I never did find out the story of that quilt and what it may have meant to my mother.  She sewed when she was younger but by the time I had conscious memories of her, rheumatoid arthritis had set in.  It robbed her of the ability to use her hands for fine work.

I've never learned to quilt, and I admire those who quilt.

From time to time I feature the photography work of a friend I call "my guest photographer".  This quilt was made by her sister, who lives over a thousand miles from here.  I post these pictures with her permission.

I love this quilt because its subject is my favorite substance in the world - chocolate.
Chocolate is a girl's best friend.  How true!

I'm no quitter, either!
Chocolate is what I must have.  No matter if it's a chocolate covered strawberry, or a chocolate covered pretzel, or even a cup of hot chocolate, my day is not complete without a piece of chocolate.

How about you?

Written for "Q" day in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Presidential Primary Politics #AtoZChallenge

Today is the New York State primary election.  Today is the day that registered voters with a party affiliation can vote for their choice of Presidential candidate. 

That's quite a mouthful.  And, it's actually quite a process, too. 

Normally, the New York primary counts for little or nothing.  It is one of the last primaries, and normally, the front runners of each of our two major parties have enough support to get their party's nomination.  The party conventions, as we call them, will be held this summer and the actual election on the first Tuesday in November.

But this year is different.  Our primary is actually important, and we are making national news.

Politics is everywhere.

In lawn signs.

In Town Halls (this one, held Friday in downtown Binghamton, was for Republican candidate Ted Cruz and I took this picture of a news truck outside the venue.)

Bernie Sanders was here last Monday.  Former President Bill Clinton (his wife Hillary Clinton is running for the Democratic Presidental nomination) was here yesterday.  Their daughter Chelsea is in Binghamton tonight.  It's nice to be wanted, for once.

Interestingly, when I went to Facebook yesterday, it asked me if I was voting tomorrow and wanted to know if I need their help to find my polling place.   But even more interestingly, I had already gone to a search engine to find the NY Board of Elections website.  The very first result was not that governmental website but, rather, this:  a paid ad:

Find your voting location - Vote for Hillary on Tuesday‎
Confirm your voting location now.
Official campaign website · Shop the official store

I do not take political sides in my blog, and I will not reveal who I will be voting for. But I will be voting.  My spouse will be voting.  My developmentally disabled brother in law will be voting.  If you live in New York State, I hope you will be voting, too.

We hope to be voting again in November.  That is what democracy is all about.

"P" day in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Old #AtoZChallenge

Yes, I'm old.  According to some people, anyway.

I used to work for a man who is older than I am.  One of his favorite sayings was "age is only a number".  And, for myself and my husband, that number has a "six" in it.  And it isn't the second number.

As for that second number, we are reaching one of those milestones in growing old.

Remember when birthdays excited you?  Do you remember reaching 18?  21?  25?  

Then the fun really starts.  That first grey hair appears.  Your 40th birthday is an "over the hill" party with black napkins and plates.  Then, as you approach 50,  you start to get mailings from AARP. (For my readers not living in the United States, AARP used to stand for the "American Association of Retired Persons" but now is a membership organization for people of a "certain age" regardless of working status.)  Should you join, you get discounts on stuff, a great magazine, and other benefits for your yearly membership fee. 

And then, one day, you open your mailbox and out tumbles this.

This is the first page of a mailing from our health insurer.  It tumbled out of our box on Friday.

The brochure tells us we aren't the "old" kind of old.  We are the "new" kind of old. We are the old people who have blue motorcycle helmets and not blue-grey hair.  We have traded sensible "old person" shoes for jogging shoes.  We use computers.  We don't own rocking chairs.  We are strong, we are smart, and we are brimming with vitality, according to our health insurer.  We are also getting close to the age (remember that age is only a number?) where the government considers us to be....old.

 At 65, in these United States, you (well, most of us) become eligible for a government health care program called "Medicare". And health insurers can sell you supplemental insurance (to supplement the government program) or something called "Medicare Advantage", which is an alternative to Medicare.  (This, of course, is an oversimplified explanation).

For the first time, we are being solicited for supplenting what, in the United States, is the health insurance that people age 65 and over are eligible for.   It won't be the last time.  We know that too well.

Actually the mailing was survey - a short survey - for us to complete since we aren't at the eligible age - not quite yet, anyway.  "A salesperson may call", said a disclosure.

Yes, I bet one will.  And that's why I am not going to complete the survey.

Not yet, anyway.

Because, like it or not, we are close to being Old.  And, like that day we became eligible to join AARP, there are people rubbing their hands in glee, because there will be money to be made off of us.

Blue motorcycle helmets and all.

We who are Old look to the future, and wonder what crossing that Old threshold will mean for us.

"O" day for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Spring Reboot

Spring has rebooted in my part of upstate New York. (Thank you, local blogger Kathy Purdy, for the inspiration).

Some two weeks ago, we were dreading the arrival of an Arctic express, which was bound and determined to derail spring.  At my son's house (some 20 minutes from us) he got six inches of snow (about 15 cm) and the temperature got down to minus six degrees (that's -21 C for some of my readers).   Many spring flowers (including magnolias and cherries, all blooming early due to our exceptionally mild winter) that had bloomed early died.  Others were adversely affected.

But nature has made a comeback.  Today, it reached 72 F (22 C) with brilliant sunshine.

This is what today looked like in nearby Binghamton, New York.

Daffodils.  (some still drooping from the cold snap but later varieties are upright).

Creeping phlox.

Bradford pears finally coming out.

Grape hyacinths (and a dandelion).


And, a couple of days ago, I took these pictures. 

Early tulips on the West Side of Binghamton. 

A spurge (euphorbia) at Cutler Botanical Gardens in Binghamton.

We remember the cherry blossoms and magnolias that were taken by the storm.  I'm even wondering if the forsythias will skip blooming this year.

But spring, hopefully, has finally, truly, arrived.


In a leap of faith, spouse planted peas at our house yesterday in a planter.

Tomorrow, back to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, with my post for "O".

Saturday, April 16, 2016

New (York) Noshes #AtoZChallenge

Nosh:  "To eat a snack or light meal."

Normally, on my blog, Saturdays are Local Saturdays, where I blog about things local.  I grew up in New York City, and have lived, for nearly thirty years, in the Binghamton area of upstate New York.

Now, with New York State in the National News due to the close Presidential primaries (more of that on Tuesday, perhaps) I wanted to share some of the foods of my New York childhood and adulthood.  For Nourishment for body and soul, there is nothing like New York noshes.  (And there is nothing like the letter N for this post, apparently).

For any child growing up in the New York City of the 1950's and 1960's, a favorite drink at the local sweet shop (soda fountain) was the egg cream.

An egg cream basically, is chocolate syrup, milk and carbonated water.  There was only one acceptable brand of chocolate syrup for an egg cream, and it is still made today.
I took this picture in - wait for it - North Carolina
Fox's u-bet.  (As you can see, they have since branched into other flavors.  But for a New Yorker, Fox's u-bet means one flavor only, and that is chocolate.

At the local bakery, we would buy a dessert called a Charlotte Russe.  They are only made in a handful of New York bakeries anymore.
Steve's Key Lime Pies, Red Hook (Brooklyn)

But, enough about Nostalgia. Nowadays, New York bakeries have other things on their mind.  Like Key Lime pies.
Steve's Swingle
Here is a swingle, which is a miniature Key Lime pie on a stick, frozen, dipped in chocolate.  And now, I am hearing a rumor that they will be opening a second location in my beloved Charleston, South Carolina.  Could it be?

Let's see.  What else qualifies as a New York nosh?
High Line, Manhattan, 2013
How about gelato?
Manhattan, again
Wonder what is for sale in this Asian Mart?

But least you think New York Noshes take place only in New York City, come visit a Taste NY shop in the New York welcome center traveling north on I-81, just after you enter New York State.

There is everything from spicy tomato oil from Syracuse to crackers and water from Saratoga.  Nuts from Binghamton.  Sweet corn chips from Ithaca. Spelt chips.  Fruit juice.
Everything from yogurt to deli meats.  Yes, they are all local food, all New York noshes.

Are you hungry yet?

What is a favorite food of the area where you live?

"N" day in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Tomorrow is an off day (I will blog but it won't be an A to Z post) but I return Monday with my Offering for "O".