Monday, February 29, 2016

Music Monday - Leap Day and The Musical Pillars of the Vittala Temple

February 29 is the bonus day we only get once every four years here in the United States, where we use a secular calendar called the Gregorian calendar.

It comes once every four years, on a year divisible by four (with one exception).

It has some interesting physics behind it.

It's rare - and precious.  We don't want to waste it.

It's only the second leap day in the existence of my blog.

Today, a special leap day edition of Music Monday, where I will share some blogged information about the Vittala Temple provided by Parul, an Indian blogger.  Ruins at this site are considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Instead of talking about the architecture, which Paurl does an excellent job of, I will blog a about the musical pillars.

Hollow pillars at the temple, if hit correctly, produce musical sound.  Parul tells the story of how the British, fascinated, cut open two of the pillar to see what was making the music.  The pillars turned out to be hollow



You don't have to travel far to hear that music - just click on the link.

 Interesting and (for an American) rare-just like a leap day.

Finally, as a bonus for this bonus day, here is the #1 song on the charts as of February 29, 1960:  Theme from A Summer Place. A totally different style of music, but one appropriate (I think) for those of us wishing for the days of summer.  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Weekly Blog Roundup #7

Welcome, everyone, for my Weekly Blog Roundup, seventh edition.

At this time, I intend to continue this roundup through the end of March, as it is so much fun to give shout outs to fellow bloggers.

Here are some of my favorite posts of the week.

Alice's Grand Adventures lead her to a mosque and a fascinating discussion of what she learned.

Kimberly explains to writers why we must make our characters suffer.

Marian gives us a peek into how a story can begin from a little throwaway thinking scrap.

Leanne blogs about regrets:  What would you change if you could?

Gilly blogs about an abandoned Jewish cemetery rotting away behind a car wash.

Denise asks: do we google ourselves?  Or others?  It's interesting what you may find.

Green diva Brigette blogs about dry skin and the many things we can do to help our bodies and skin hydrate.

Here are some about philosophy:

Techniques and steps for overcoming discouragement.

Do we live life as if we were being chased?

Thank you for reading - and, please, pay the blog love forward.  Tag a blog you enjoy today!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Local Saturday - Fickle February Finale

The title of this post was inspired by Kathy, a local blogger, who blogged about her "Stroll Through Fickle February".  

Kathy has country property to stroll through.  I, on the other hand, live on a little postage stamp of an urban property.

But that doesn't stop me from celebrating this most fickle of Februaries in the almost 30 years that I have lived in this part of upstate New York.

Let me share some memories of this past week.


There was the sundog I saw.  (Note the true sun, over on the left, and the sundog, between the conifer in the middle of the photo and the row of houses to the right.)
The beginning of a sunrise on Friday.

One of the many stunning sunsets February brought us.  This was the last of a series of sunset photos I took for my Winter Wonders post Wednesday.  The horizon is on fire, with the Susquehanna River in front.

Our high near 60F, our low -10F, I still wonder if our camilla, our experiment in trying to grow a southern plant out of its hardiness zone, will survive.

And now, by Sunday, it will be back in the 50's, or so they say.

Could you ask anything more of a Fickle February? 

Friday, February 26, 2016

It Can Never Happen Here

Last night, I was half watching the Republican Party's Presidental candidates debate on CNN.  I opened my laptop and clicked on Facebook.

I saw the news "active workplace shooter situation in Hesston, Kansas....at least 14 wounded...reports of three dead." (This is now updated to 4 dead).

For my dear readers outside the United States, "active shooter" means exactly what you think it means - a shooter is on the loose somewhere, shooting at people with the intent of killing.

This time, the gunman was a 38 year old man, an employee of Excel Industries, a lawn mower manufacturer, who came through their production area with an assault weapon. Prior to that, on his way there, he shot at people from his car, according to news reports.

Many years ago, due to my spouse's job, we lived and worked in Wichita, Kansas.  My husband had to make occasional trips to the Hesston area, which is about 30 miles from Wichita.  I've also had ties of sorts with a couple of other shooting locations, including Charleston, South Carolina.

My memory, whenever I hear this type of headline, heads to April 3, 2009, when 14 people (including the gunman) were shot dead at the American Civic Association, a few blocks from where I work in downtown Binghamton, New York.

These shootings are a routine in my country now.  The shooting.  The news coverage.  The people stunned: "it can't happen here".  The realization that it did happen there.  The funerals.  The finger pointing.  The political speeches.  The uptick in gun sales.

And then nothing changes.

The shooting happened before the Republican debate ended, but not once was it mentioned.  No surprise there, because we all know how the candidates would have reacted.

So today, I will tie on my snow sneakers, go to work, and wonder, while at my workplace, where it Will Never Happen Here next.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Confessions of an Orchid Killer Part 1

Considering that I say (in the description of my blog) that I blog about gardening, and my Twitter handle (or whatever you call it) is "RamblinGarden", I don't seem to blog too much about gardening.

Except on the 15th of the month, when I participate in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

But that isn't enough.  I need to get back to my roots (pun intended) and do an occasional post about gardening.  So today, I have a true confession for my blog readers.  I've been inspired by Bethany over at Dandelion Pie, to confess something that I rarely talk about.

I'm an orchid killer.

That's right. Yes, I know they are supposed to be hard to grow, but I am a GARDENER.  A RAMBLINGARDENer.  I should be able to grow anything, right?

Wrong.

I am an equal opportunity orchid killer, too.  I have killed several Phalaenopsis (the common ones you see in your local supermarket), a Dendrobium, and even a Cattleya (and let's not forget the lady slipper my son killed for me, but that's another story) during my long orchid killing career.

Oh, I don't necessarily kill them right away.  I've had a couple of phalaenopsis rebloom but eventually, they all make their way to Orchid Heaven.


Until last year, I bought all my victims orchids at the local orchid show which is held either at the end of April or the beginning of May. I could not go to that show without coming back home with a plant in bloom, or with flowers getting ready to open, even though I knew what its eventual fate would be.   But my favorite vendor retired, and I decided to go orchidless last year.

Until I saw this plant at the local supermarket, in a display for Mother's Day, that is.  They were in a beautiful cachepot. I wanted to buy my mother in law a Mother's Day gift, too. At the time she lived some 150 miles from us.

Was the Orchid Killer about to strike again?

To be continued.

Have you ever succeeded in growing an orchid?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Winter Wonders - Not a Liar, Sky on Fire

What a wonder this winter has been.

February always brings its share of beautiful sunrises and sunsets, but it is usually a chore to take picture of them due to the cold weather.

This is what sunrise usually looks like in a small upstate New York village come winter.

Not this year.

Last week, this is what sunrise looked like in the east.
Meanwhile, at the same time, this is what it looked like in the west.  Mind you, this is a sunrise not a sunset.

A few days later, the sunset glowed so much over the Susquehanna River it looked like the horizon was on fire.

The birds are singing more and more each day, nature's announcement that winter may end one day.

One of the few things I will miss when winter ends are all those sunrises and sunsets. 

Only another month (according to the calendar) till spring.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Demolition Begins

For so many years, I have blogged about an abandoned defense plant in my neighborhood.  It has lain vacant since September 8, 2011, when floods ruined this historic building.  Officially known as Air Force Plant 59, it was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, wood framed building in the United States when it was built in 1942.

This is how I blogged about it when the abandonment of the plant first became official.

And how I treated it as a subject of my photographic rambles.

Several days ago, I took a picture.  It may be one of the last ones taken with snow on the ground.  Gaze upon it well.

Because, Friday, the demolition of this 600,000 plus square foot building begun, after several months of preparation.

I am going to dread the demolition in some ways. 

Many years ago, I lived in a neighborhood of Tampa, Florida called Hyde Park.  When I lived there, it wasn't one ofTampa's premier neighborhoods.  Over some 42 years, that has changed.

Shortly after I moved to Hyde Park, as a newlywed (it was what we could afford), buildings vacant for years were torn down to start construction of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, known locally as the "Crosstown".  Out of those vacant buildings, as demolition proceeded, came roaches.  And rats.

Lots and lots of roaches and rats.

I wonder what we in BAE's neighborhood are in for.


And, in a way, my heart breaks for this historic old building. It deserved better.

 But all I can do, at this point, is watch.  And document the demolition.  And hope that the asbestos abatement was done well, because there is plenty of asbestos in that old building.

I can only hope that good comes out of this.  At least, it gave me a possible topic for "D" day at the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Music Monday - Ray Jessel

Today, after several weeks of "this musician just died" tributes, it is time to start with a little laughter.

It all started with an email from a cousin's husband, sharing a You Tube video with me.

Just an 84 year old man singing a song he wrote.  It sounds so sentimental at the beginning.  But, keep listening.

If you want to continue to listen in, please be aware this performance is NOT safe for work, or for playing in front of your young children. Some will be offended. (Instead, head for the two videos below.)  Still, I offer it because this was an audition for a popular program in our country, America's Got Talent.

I loved this video.  He seemed to be a born performer.  Where had he been all these years?


Well, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, there's a rest of the story.  And what a story it is.  Sadly, though, I found out in a quick Google search that Ray Jessel passed away last year, at the age of 85.

This is Variety's "obituary". 

Turns out, this man was an accomplished writer for many TV shows, including The Love Boat and the Carol Burnett shows, and some Broadway shows.

I wanted to share a couple other of his songs.  These are safe for work and family (if you don't mind a certain word describing a very hot place).

His "Short Term Memory Loss Blues" is even funnier than the AGT audition.  I know the feeling well.
 And, in case you think he looked like Albert Einstein - he had that covered, too.

We all need a good laugh sometimes.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Weekly Blog Roundup #6

It's Sunday, and it is time to settle in for a little blog reading - my favorite posts of the week.

At this time of the year, I get to see the sunrise as I commute to work - here is Coco, another lover of sunrises.

Is there life after death?  Carol says - we don't know what we don't know.  But read the post and the comments, and see what you think.  Actually, I have two posts from Carol this week to list -the other talks about a word I never knew until I read this post about lost places of our past.

How about some easy no knead bread, from Amy in Nebraska?  The smell of home baked bread is like nothing else.

Ready to buy some clothes?  How about capris or leggings, or skirts, using Zentangle® method-inspired patterns, from Laurel in Canada?

I've blogged from time to time about the United States space program; I was so proud to read this update on the state of our space program.

Finally, Martha's review of "365 Inspirational Quotes".  We all could use some.

Thank you to the many bloggers I read each week for enriching my reading, and my mind.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Local Saturday - The Legacy

Few things in life are simple.

At first, it was a legend written so perfectly.  If she had tried, she couldn't have written it more perfectly. 

The story seems simple on the surface  A woman grows up in a small Alabama town, the daughter of a lawyer and a mother who, apparently, suffered from bipolar disorder.  She is the youngest of four children.  She had an older sister who becomes, herself, a prominent lawyer in Alabama and lived to the age of 103.

Contrary to reports, it would appear she is not a descendant of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.  But let us continue with the story.

Working in dead end jobs, she writes a book.  An editor works with her, and after much hard work and rewriting, it is published in 1960.  The book is an immediate classic. It wins the Pulitzer Prize.   It is made into a hit movie.

In the years after it was published, it is called the book that unites Americans.  It is read and enjoyed year after year.  It becomes required reading in many high school classes, including in Alabama.

People name their children after the main characters:  Atticus, Scout.

We all know that books can, and have changed the world. 

Many authors can aspire to be the writers of one of those books.  Few succeed.

The author becomes a recluse, rarely giving interviews.  She spends her life in that small Alabama town.  Her sister, the lawyer, becomes her spokesperson.

She was so protective of her privacy she would rarely give interviews.  She never published another book.

Her story was neatly tied up and presented to an adoring public.  It made sense-if you write a classic as your first book, how can you follow with something even better?


The book, which took place in the Alabama of the 1930's (during the Depression), can be enjoyed on so many levels.   On the simplest level, it's the coming-of-age story of a young girl being raised, with her brother, by a single father, a lawyer.  He takes on the case of a black man accused of raping a white girl.  Her life is changed forever.

And then, last year, it all changed.  An announcement was made that there was a second book - and it would be published later in the year. It was a sequel to the first book, the American classic.  But, once the first chapter was released, many people were stunned.   The book, many believe, was actually an early draft of the classic.  And, still others believed that the author, then in her late 80's, was being taken advantage of.  She was, after all, in assisted living, having suffered a stroke almost 10 years ago.  She was said to have been nearly deaf and blind.

The neatly tied box of the author's life reopened.  Things were no longer neat and clean.  Her literacy legacy would now be complex.  Perhaps it always was - we just liked to hear the legend we had become used to hearing.

Yesterday, the author died.

I am talking, of course, of an 89 year old woman, Nelle Harper Lee, of that small town in Alabama.  Harper Lee, as she was known to the world,  has left a complicated legacy.  (I suspect it may get even more complicated in the coming days. We'll see.)

All of us who write hope to write THE BOOK, the book that will change the world for the better.

What we don't realize is that the book changes us just as much.

But still, I can wish to write that book one day.

In the meantime, I will content myself with my love of To Kill a Mockingbird.  (And if you wonder, why the title, it is explained in the book like this to the main character, the young girl Scout:


“Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.
“Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

And one more thing. If you enjoy the comic strip "Bloom County", and read it on Facebook in its current incarnation, you can partially thank Harper Lee for its revival.  Just for that one fact, I would love her.  Berke Breathed even published her letter on Facebook yesterday - it was wonderful.

Do you also mourn the death of Harper Lee?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Ready for a Challenge?


"Write to find yourself, to wake your soul" says Vidya Sury, a distinguished blogger from India who will be co hosting a challenge this April.

Are you ready to join me in being challenged?

Like over a thousand other bloggers, I am going to spend six days a week, all through April, on a pursuit that will take hours of my time: the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

As I blogged last year: "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.

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."

I completed the challenge, and I loved it.  I still read several blogs I discovered in last year's Challenge.

I used the theme "America the Beautiful" and vowed to use some of the never published photos residing in my poor, overstuffed iPhone.  It worked well.

What am I going to do this year?  This is a year where I chose the word "determined" as my word of the year.  I am feeling a bit spiritually adrift, knowing I will be going into a new phrase of my life in not too many years, and not sure where I want to go from here.

On February 22, signups for a day of Revealing your Theme begin. 

So, what is my theme?

You'll find out on the day of revealing - March 21.  I hope you will be intrigued enough to read my posts for the entire month of April.

Until then:  will you join me in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Would You Use a Self Driving Car?

My mother in law formally gave up driving yesterday.

Yesterday, she turned her leased car back in.  She no longer has a car to drive, although she still has her license.  She does not intend to drive again.

For her and many other seniors, giving up driving is a milestone, and not a good one.

For many seniors, no longer being able to drive, either because of health issues or physical issues, also means giving up their independence.


My brother in law, who is developmentally disabled, has never driven, either.

So wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if we had self driving cars?   The elderly, those with conditions that don't permit motor vehicle operation even with technological assistance, the developmentally disabled and even those too young to operate a motor vehicle safely but old enough to be transported without their parents could all enjoy a degree of independence.  It would change a lot about the way we live.

We know that some, including Google, are working on true self-driving cars.  But how long will it be? 

It's all about...wait for it....autonomy.

How about a little thought experiment?

Let's say a self-driving car was announced tomorrow.  Or even next week, or next year.

Would we, those of us who are used to controlling their own cars, ever be comfortable riding in such a car?

Would hackers and terrorists be able to take over these cars and cause massive destruction on the highway?  It's already been done, in test situations, with cars not truly self driving.

It would certainly involve a transition period. 

I can see a long period where, even if an actual self driving car hit the market, a person would still need to sit behind the wheel, and pay attention.  But how many of us would just fall into our smartphones out of boredom and not be paying attention when the computer suddenly wanted to give control back to us?

I think, though, the time will come for self driving cars to be accepted, and it will be sooner than we think.  And, in a matter of years, it will seem so natural to the generation growing up during the transition period that driving yourself, with all the imperfections in driving our human nature creates, would even become repugnant.

I remember reading a science fiction story as a teen (I am 63) about a man pulled over for driving - driving himself - and sentenced to the death penalty because he had taken control over from the self driving mechanism, and made a mistake in his driving.

I only wish I could remember the title, or the author.

What do you think about self driving cars? 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Winter Wonders - Our Brave New World

February, in upstate New York, is normally a predictable month.  It will be cold. There will be snow on the ground.  It will be damp, cloudy, and miserable.  It will make you hunger for spring in a way so intense you will be left breathless, as you cry out "Enough!"

Not this year.  Well, except for the hungering for spring part.

Clear days produced golden sunsets.
Hibernating shrubs were starting to show a red glow up against the bare ground.
Earlier in the month
The forecasts showed temperatures almost never known in February. (That 45F is 7C). With sun.  It was time to break out the sunscreen.
That's almost -17 for most of the world not including the wind chill
And then, it hit this weekend.  Cold so brutal I never took any pictures. On Saturday I never even left the house. 
Courtesy of my son

On Valentine's Day, we, and most other cities across the Northeast United States, broke records.  For me, the official -18 F at the Binghamton airport was a new personal record.

Ice crystals on windows are beautiful, but you would rather not have ice crystals on the window.

And yesterday?  It got up to 50 (10 C) after an icy start.  But two hours from us they got snow - mass quantities of snow.

And today?

It's your guess.

Winter in our brave new world.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Throwback Tuesday-The Amazing Secret of Sherwood Forest


Today, a day after President's Day in the United States (yesterday was also Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, so my President's Day feature is today) I am repeating a post from 2012. 

Yesterday, I read that President John Tyler's two grandsons are still alive.

This became a newsworthy story back in 2012, and it is even more amazing today.

This shouldn't be a big deal except John Tyler was born in 1790, and was  President from 1841 to 1845.

I invite you to read the Mental Post article linked to above (the comments are even more fascinating) and then read about....

The Amazing Secret of Sherwood Forest

No, the amazing secret of Sherwood Forest doesn't have anything to do with Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Although it would have been interesting to watch them fight in the Civil War, dressed in their bright green clothes and using their longbows and clubs to fight....well, I don't know if they would have sided with the Union or the Confederates.  But Friar Tuck would have been quite the sight.

No, I am talking about Sherwood Forest Plantation, in Virginia, which is suddenly (I suspect) going to become a whole lot more popular as a tourist destination than it has been - all because of an 83 [2016 update - now 86 ] year old gentleman who lives there.  His name is Harrison Tyler, and he happens to be the grandson of President John Tyler, a U.S. President who served from 1841 to 1845.

John Tyler was born in 1790.  In other words, a man born in 1790 has two living grandsons.

To put this in perspective, Jane Garfield, the granddaughter of President James Garfield (who was a Major General for the Union in the Civil War), is 99 years old. [2016 note, I can not find any Internet evidence regarding whether Jane Garfield is still alive. ] Garfield was President 40 years after Tyler.  (Garfield was also the second president of the United States to be assassinated-he died just before his 50th birthday.  The first President to be assassinated, of course, was Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. President during the Civil War.)

It's one heck of a story, this grandson, and has taken the Internet by storm in the past week, just after we passed the 150th anniversary of John Tyler's death in 1862.

So, putting Harrison Tyler aside, what is so fascinating about President John Tyler?

Although John Tyler's administration is interesting from an aspect of studying pre-Civil War history, his actions after states started to secede is what holds fascination for me.

A Peace Conference was held in February 1861 to reach a compromise and enable the Union to continue.  It was hoped a settlement could be reached before Lincoln took office in March of 1861. (unlike today, Presidents in that era took office on March 4 and not January 20).  John Tyler came from his home at Sherwood Forest Plantation to attend.

John Tyler, sent by his native Virginia, was the head of this conference.  It did not succeed, although a Constitutional amendment was proposed. 

After the failure of the Peace Conference, Tyler sided with the Confederacy, and was a delegate from Virginia to the  Provisional Confederate Congress.  When elections to the First Confederate Congress were held in 1861, Tyler was elected to their Congress but died before he took office.

He is buried in Richmond, VA near the grave of President James Monroe.  As he was in rebellion his death was not officially mourned by the Union.  On the other hand, the Confederacy declared him a hero.  A grand funeral was held in his honor.

Do you have something like this in your family?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day Feb 2016 - Impossible Dreaming

Welcome to the February, 2016 edition of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, hosted by an Indiana bloggers, May Dreams Gardens.

Today's word is "heartbreaking".  Just a day after Valentine's Day, too.  But before I discuss the weather in my zone 5b Johnson City, New York garden and the possible end of an experiment, here are the indoor flowers that gladden my heart today.

My Mother's Day gift, a phalaenopsis, is re blooming.  Four flowers open as of this morning, with more buds swelling. 

My last forced hyacinth flower.  I bought a bulb, in water and in bud, back in January at a local discount market and how it has rewarded me.  Now, I wonder if I should pot it up or not.

A couple of hanging baskets I brought inside at the end of summer are still alive, under light.  My Calibrachoa, another Mother's Day gift, is starting to rebloom.

My begonia, bought at the same discount store as the hyacinth, had been on clearance, half dead.  It thrived all summer and is starting to rebloom, too.

(Looking at these, I have to wonder - why are they all pink?)
The weather, alas, has broken my heart.  After a mild winter, just about the mildest I can remember in my almost 30 years living in upstate New York, I woke up yesterday morning to this.  It had actually gotten down to -18 F (-28 C).  With wind.

To mock me, even the Weather Channel turned pink.

Living in my yard was a purchase from spring of 2015. We decided to try to grow one of my favorite flowers, the camilla, outside of its zone. We had visited a camilla nursery in Wake Forest, NC that specializes in hardy camillas and purchased one of their hardiest, called April Rose. (Yes, pink).  It was thriving in the record mild winter weather, buds all set for spring.  It was my Impossible Dream.

And then yesterday happened.  At our house, it only reached -10 but that may have been past its limit. Officially, it is only hardy to zone 6b.  And I should know better, right?  Wrong.


Right now it has a protective cover, but I dread imagining what I will find under it when it warms up again.

But, as all gardeners do, I will continue to pursue my Impossible Dream.

Now, head on over to May Dreams Gardens, which hosts this meme every 15th of the month, and see what is blooming in yards and houses all over the world.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love Texts In The Sand

How many of us have love letters in a box on a high shelf in one of our closets?

I do.  Do you?  Maybe.  It may well depend on how old you are.

The most poignant love letters are the ones written by loved ones separated by war.  When we were helping my mother in law downsize last year, we found a couple of letters written to her sister by the man she ended up marrying.   He was in the military; she was back home in suburban New York City.

This 1957 hit by Pat Boone, "Love Letters in the Sand" was written in 1931, and talks about a man broken hearted by the breakup of his relationship.
So, what about my love letters?

My spouse and I were a couple of college students, in our late teens, when we met in 1970.  During periods of separation, we wrote each other.  And yes, I still have those letters.  Here's the back of two of them.

We married, and a couple of years later, he went into the military.  Our letter writing started up again.

Now, it's been nearly 42 years since we've been married.  I hope we can grow old together.  The boy who drew the pictures on that envelope has a face lined with wrinkles now.  His hair is starting to grey (mine greyed years ago) and he has a bald spot on his head.  We aren't the people who wrote those letters.  We are older; I hope we are wiser.  Perhaps our lives did not go in the directions we dreamed of once, but it has been a good life together so far.

One day, I know my son (who is in his 20's) will be cleaning out our closet (I promise it will be less cluttered than it is now), and I wonder what he will think when he finds those letters.

No one will ever read his letters, though.  I doubt he has ever written a letter in his life.

Instead, he may have written love texts. Here today, gone tomorrow in a "poof" of electrons.  Written on the sands of Verizon cell phone service in a flurry of moving thumbs, they will wash away one day in a tidal wave of millions of other texts.

Will we be poorer for the disappearance of love letters?  Perhaps.  But none of us know what the future will bring.  If you want to try your hand at writing a love letter, here's some advice from the New York Public Library.

Did you ever write love letters?  Do you still have them?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Local Saturday - Weekly Blog Roundup #5


Locally, it is cold.  2 F translates into -16C.  It will be a good day to stay in and write a Weekly Blog Roundup.

I wanted to devote tomorrow to a special Valentine's Day post, so I am using my normal Local Saturday feature for my Weekly Blog Roundup.

Because tomorrow is Valentine's Day, I thought about posting links blog posts about love.  But, I don't want to limit myself.  One post, in particular, was so powerful that it couldn't wait and it's not about love.

It isn't just the United States, and it isn't just Bill Cosby.  A powerful post written by a Canadian blogger about a topic too many of us want to avoid.

All children love snow, don't they?  They love snow days, don't they? And they love ice cream, don't they? How about Amy in Nebraska blogging about the best of all worlds - snow ice cream during a snow day at home? (not your typical snow day, though.)

But, on the other hand, Roy asks us if there is such a thing as being pure as driven snow.  You may not like the answer. (Good news, though - there is good news.)

Moving indoors, Amy in Nebraska blogs about her vintage Frigidaire Flair Stove.   I'm older than this stove, but I suspect many of my readers are not.  If you love to bake, you must read this.

Especially when I read an article about a 78 year old blogger from Brooklyn who blogs about...well, a subject not too many of us want to think about on Valentine's Day, I think of several women I know who are widowed.  Death, after all, is part of life.  Some of us learn that lesson early in our lives.  For others, it takes much longer.

Speaking of death, another blogger, Barbara Baird, died this past week from cancer.  Blogging under the name of Purple Death Hawk, I did not know of her until I read an online tribute to her (link, below). 
Here, Barbara speaks of regrets. 

Finally, the online tribute to Barbara Baird, written by K'Lee,  which reminds us to Cherish Life. 

I hope you find value in this weekly roundup.  Next week, it will return to its normal Sunday spot.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Rail Splitter President

You would think, by now, that we would know everything there was to know about Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, who was born on February 12, 1809.

He grew up to be President during one of the most dangerous times in the history of the United States - a time when our country was at war with ourselves.  In many parts of the country, he is revered.  He was a man of the backwoods, a man of little education, who self educated himself and rose to the highest position in our land.  At one time, he even earned his living by splitting wood into rails - an arduous and skilled task.


It would seem that a mallet belonging to Lincoln in his rail splitting days was kept by a family and passed on from generation to generation until now.  It's a fascinating story, and I invite you, my readers, to read this link.  This mallet from his young adulthood in Indiana will be on display starting today.

The mallet is now at the Indiana State Museum, and experts believe the mallet, some 187 years old, was the property of Mr. Lincoln.  Indeed, Lincoln's early life as a rail splitter has become folk legend in our country.

Speaking of Lincoln, I have written many blog posts about him - this one, perhaps, is my favorite.  Enjoy this rerun from February 12, 2015.

Happy birthday to one of our greatest, if not our greatest, Presidents.

Dining with Abraham Lincoln

It isn't every day you get to eat lunch with a sitting President of the United States.  Or, to be more exact, the sitting statue of a former President.

Today, February 12, would have been the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, and our country's President during the United States Civil War.

I enjoyed some vintage photos of the late President and then remembered I had a couple of pictures of my own.

In the summer of 2013 my spouse and I drove from our home in upstate New York to Arkansas for a visit.  On the way back home, we stopped for a rest break in Vandalia, Illinois.

Back in the 1830's, Vandalia was the capital of the state of Illinois - the second capital of Illinois,  from 1819 to 1839.  It no longer is the capital and you may be surprised to learn who is partially responsible for that.
This was the Vandalia state capital building, built in 1836.

In the city of Vandalia, a young Illinois state legislator got some of his early political experience.  His name was Abraham Lincoln.  (One day, I will blog more about Lincoln).  Ironically, this particular statehouse was built to try to convince Lincoln and some of his colleagues to keep the capital in Vandalia.  Lincoln and some of his colleagues wanted the capital closer to the geographic center of the state.  It replaced a different building that was torn down while the legislature was in recess.  The hope was, the building would so impress the legislature that they would stay in Vandalia.
Looks nice, but Lincoln never tried any cases in this room.
The bribe (if you could call it that) didn't work, and Lincoln was not a beloved figure in Vandalia for his actions in moving the capital away from their city.  But, time has a way of dimming memories.  Now, Lincoln is quite beloved in Vandalia.

In 2001, Lincoln Park was built near the statehouse. It features a statute called "Sitting with Lincoln".

On this bench, I ate lunch with Abraham Lincoln in 2013- a tuna sandwich we had purchased in Missouri that morning, to be exact.  It was a hot sunny day, a day I would treasure today, when I think of the subzero wind chills outside at this moment.

I hope Lincoln enjoyed that wonderful Missouri tuna sandwich as much as I did.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Time to Think of Gardening.

Gardeners are eternal optimists.

In the northern climate, our gardening season ends in October.  We gardeners spend the next few months pondering what we did wrong, and planning for a better year to come.


In November, the seed catalogs start to arrive in our mailboxes.

As the bitter winds blow, and snow covers the ground, we sit in our warm houses.  We sip coffee or tea, and take inventory of our seeds.  We choose our varieties.

Do we want to grow beets again?  Do we want to try to grow gherkins for the first time?  What about those multi use peas we just read about? Could there really be such a thing as a blue petunia?

Our garden plot, May of 2013
So, this week, my spouse sent his renewal form and check for his two community gardening plots in Binghamton, New York.  One more year, spouse says.  Last year he wasn't even able to plant part of it due to long distance caregiving needs.  But this year, we hope, will be different.

Tonight, spouse placed his first order, for onions.  We dreamed of the tomatoes we would grow.
I dream of the day my hanging baskets would be filled with flowers again, and not snow and brown foliage.

And I know in my heart that this season will be the best season ever.

My eternal optimism tells me so.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Winter Wonders - February Has Finally Arrived

February is the month that you can depend on, here in the Northeast.  It will be relentlessly cold.  There will be snow on the ground.

Until today, that wasn't true for 2016.  This has been the strangest February in my memory.

But finally, there is snow on the ground.  The cold is coming to my part of upstate New York.  Saturday the forecast high is 6 F (-14.4) Saturday night, they predict a low of -5 (-20.5 C).

As much as I hate winter, I must admit there are some things about winter I don't mind.

Beautiful January and February sunsets.
The opportunity to crochet.   I've been working on this washable wool blanket for my son since August of 2013 - so long, in fact, that neither color of yarn above is being made any more.

Snow?  Remember snow?  It's back.  Too bad I have to go out in it.
And, orchids. A Mother's Day (May, 2015) orchid purchased by my spouse is reblooming.
Coal House, Vestal Rail Trail, Vestal, NY 2-7-16

Goodbye, mild weather.  Hopefully, the next few cold days will be temporary, and we will be back to our unusually warm winter.

I just hope that my experimental camilla survives the coming cold blast.

Is your weather seasonal, or strange?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

I've Come a Long Way, Baby


This year is a Presidential election year in our country. One of our two major political parties has two candidates running for the party nomination. One is a 68 year old woman.  We have never had a female president, or Vice-President, in our country.

So, I should vote for her, right? We women must stick together, right?

At one time, I would have felt that way.

I grew up in a country where help wanted ads had "Male" and "Female" categories.   Where, in a typing class, I was taught to aspire to the highest level - being an executive secretary.  Where pregnant teachers had to quit once they were "showing". Where, if I walked down the street, I could expect comments, whistles and other open displays of appreciation for being...well, young, or pretty, or (as they said back then) "stacked". Where someone suggested to me, as a teen, that I hide my books because being perceived as intelligent would scare men away.

I refused to hide those books.

Hillary Clinton, who is five years older than me, grew up in much the same world.  If we met each other, we might find we had a lot in common.

I lived in Arkansas in the early and mid 1980's, and Hillary was the wife of Arkansas' governor for part of that time.  Before Bill Clinton became Governor, Hillary and  Bill rented a house in Fayetteville about two miles from where my husband and I lived several years later.  Hillary's Mom bought Hillary's wedding gown in a department store in the Northwest Arkansas Mall where I shopped for my clothes.  Hillary and Bill may have walked on the same streets I did and bought food at the same stores.  I'll never know.

I can remember all the heat she got for keeping her maiden name, Rodham.

Meanwhile, when I lived in neighboring Springdale, Arkansas, I could not get a library card showing my own first name because I was married.

I have so much more to say but it would make my post too long. Suffice it to say I agree that women still have a ways to go to attain true equality in our country. 

Thankfully, though, it is better than in the 1970's, where our only equality seemed to exist in cigarette commercials.


I rarely get political in my blogs.  The fact that I have readers from outside the United States makes it even harder. But some things are universal in any democracy.


In the end, we must individually make up our minds and vote for the candidates (local and Federal) we feel will do the best job for our community, our state, and for our country.

When the New York State primary is held, I will have two choices as a Democrat:  Hillary (now a former Secretary of State and former First Lady when her husband was President in the 1990's), and a man by the name of Bernie Sanders.

I am going to vote for the person I feel can do the job of President best.  It may be Hillary.  It may not.

I will use various factors in my decision.  The candidate being a woman will not be one of them.  And, because I am not the only woman feeling that way, gender issues have hit our news in the past few days in a big way.  Some hateful things have been said.

I don't care. I may have when I was younger.  And, I have voted for women before - many times.

If my decision leads me to vote for Sanders, then I guess I will go out and buy clothes suitable for the special place in hell I will end up in.

Isn't that, after all, the type of choice women have worked hard for all those years?

A Streetcar Named the Past

About five years ago, a video (no, actually, a film) went, as we say today, viral.  It was a film taken from the front of a San Francisco, California, street car in 1906 - days before an earthquake destroyed much of the city.

It is so mesmerizing, watching this video.  This was a time when automobiles were replacing horses as the main method of travel, and was filmed before the traffic light is invented.  People and vehicles scurry everywhere, and, miraculously, no one is hit or killed.

What is sobering is realizing that many of the people in this film may have been injured or killed mere days/weeks after it was taken.  In fact, there is a "side by side" film on You Tube that shows this film on the left, and newsreel film taken not long after the earthquake, so you can see the devastation.

It is probably true that everyone in the film has since died.  It was made nearly 100 years ago, after all.

We should not be surprised, however to discover that there are other "streetcar" films made from about this time.
The link above takes you to a 1906 film made in Boston, Massachusetts.

There is even (poor quality) a 1903 film taken from a streetcar in Boston.  
But look at the crowded, narrow sidewalks of Boston - some things never change.
There is even a film from an unfamiliar (I grew up there) New York City.

What a difference 100 years makes.

These make me think of my spouse's aunt, who is 104 - she was only born about six years after some of these films were made.  She grew up in this world, although, by then, the transition from horses to internal combustion engines may have been more complete.

How different do we think the world will be for our children or grandchildren?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Music Monday - Say You Do Remember

It's sad, in a way, that my Music Monday blog series seems to have become a weekly tribute to people whose music I have enjoyed - and now, those people are no longer with us.

Joining that list this week, two musicians.  The better known one:  Maurice White, dead at 74.  He was the leader of a band called Earth, Wind and Fire - and did I love to dance to their music back in the 1970's.

I still do.

Maurice White was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1992. He had to stop touring in 1995.  One of my cousins, who I have not seen in many years, also has Parkinson's.  It's a terrible illness, a central nervous system disorder which sometimes is inherited.

Lenny Kravitz said, on Instagram:  "King. Genius. Leader. Teacher. Producer. Arranger. Writer. Multi-instrumentalist. Motivator. Mystic. Through his music and artistic expression, he taught me a lifetime's worth of knowledge. He is at the top of the list of all of the greatest masters. The music he left behind as Earth Wind and Fire, mixed with his messages of love, will live on forever."

Of their songs "September" is my favorite.  How can you not get up and dance?

Another favorite is Fantasy.

Not so well known was Dan Hicks, who died yesterday at the age of 74 from liver cancer.  What can you say about a man who named one of his songs "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?"  Here is a live performance from 1972.  I will leave it to the music experts (I am not - I only like to listen to music) to figure out his style.

Do you remember either of these groups?

Next Monday is the 15th of the month, when I participate in the monthly Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, so Music Monday will continue on February 22.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Weekly Blog Roundup #4

Today is the 4th in my Sunday series of a Blog Roundup (always organic) - some of the best posts of the week that I collected for those of you wanting to read new or different blogs.

Shall we get started?

A beautiful post on love, loss, memory, and writing, blogged by a widow.

One way for a successful blogger to think of some of the comments she receives- if profanity isn't your cup of tea, skip it - and if it is, click on over!

Nicole blogs about how famous authors conquer writer's block 

Leanne - Life isn't always pretty

Beautiful pictures of the symbol of the United States - nature at its best - American Bald Eagles (don't be fooled by the name of the website linked to).

I am trying to introduce different blogs each week, but this blogger deserves a rerun in her post about the link between the legendary golfer Arnold Palmer and how he saved us from alien zucchini.

And finally, from a woman looking back on her life, a teacher's regrets.

Next Sunday is Valentine's Day- I will therefore have my weekly roundup on Saturday.

Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Local Saturday - Is Winter Going the Way of Dinosaurs?

Are we in upstate New York witnessing the death of winter?
Dinosaur Toy Planted with Thyme, Binghamton Farmers Market 2-6-16

Will winter eventually go the way of the dinosaurs?
There is still no snow on the ground.  Last year, at this time, we had over 16 inches of snow cover and it seemed like the temperatures were going below zero (which, in Fahrenheit, is way below the freezing point) nearly every night.
Like this reading(-23.6 F equals -30.8C) temperature February 24 of last year at my son's house, about 20 minutes from me.

Instead, this year, we have a bountiful farmers market indoors twice a month in downtown Binghamton, New York.  Farmers are still growing greens under high tunnels.  There is plentiful garlic (though a bit dried out) and winter squash.


Baked goods beckon.
As do onions and potatoes.

This year, instead of us, other parts of the United States are feeling the harsh lash of winter.  In fact, Charleston, South Carolina, my beloved Charleston so green, may get snow this evening.
Sailboats in Charleston Harbor, March 2015
Not having a true upstate New York winter is not cause for celebration.  The cold temperatures prevent us from being overrun with harmful insects.  Snowfall helps cleanse the air.  People with allergies have been having trouble this winter.  The snow protects the roots of perennials.

But it is sure nice not to have to worry about slipping on ice, or shoveling snow.

How has the season treated you?

Friday, February 5, 2016

World Cancer Day 2016

Yesterday was World Cancer Day, an international effort to "raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment."

Well, yes.

Few of us don't need to have our awareness of cancer raised any more than it is already raised.  I would dare say this of each and everyone of my readers.  Dear reader, I would be willing to bet that one or more of these is true:
1.  You have or had had cancer;
2.  You have a loved one who has or has been treated for cancer; 
3.  Same for a friend; and
4.  Sadly, you probably know someone no longer with us due to cancer.

How much more aware can any of us be of cancer?

The prevention, detection and treatment part is something else entirely.  

For example, right now, there is no test for early detection of pancreatic cancer, the cancer that took an aunt, an uncle and a great uncle.  The man possibly most at risk of pancreatic cancer in the United States is currently battling a different type of cancer - former President Jimmy Carter.

Just speaking for myself, I don't know what strikes more fear into my heart - thinking of cancer and the nature of this disease that hijacks your very cells and turns your body against itself, or thinking of how cancer is treated and what it does to you.

All of our hearts have been broken by cancer.  A couple of weeks ago, I found some photographs from 2008, when I still had printed photos.  I looked at a group of me, some friends and neighbors, and thought of those who have had cancer since that day.  It was chilling.  Two of the group are no longer with us.  Three more survived their cancers.

 Today, I reread a post from 2012, wishing my best friend from childhood a happy 60th birthday. That girlfriend I blogged about below passed away this past September from cancer, and one of the bloggers who commented on that post passed away, also from cancer, last month.

It is said that cancer is a word, not a sentence.  Neither my childhood friend, or my blogging friend,would put up with an instant of self pity from me.  Instead, if they were here, they might have said:

"Let's get out there and treat life as the miracle it is - each and every day.  And let's do whatever we can to whip cancer's butt."

The people who do the cancer research, who work long hours in labs, whose pictures never get on the cover of celebrity magazines, are our true everyday heroes.  Perhaps you know one of those people.  If you do, I welcome your comments.

Today, in this blog post, I honor them.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Many Shades of Sunset

There is something about an early February sunset on a warm February day. But this was no ordinary sunset.  It was something that never happens in upstate New York.

Except yesterday, it happened.

It happened with no snow on the ground.  It happened in 50 degree (10 Celsius) temperatures.  It happened without me wearing boots.  I didn't even have a coat on.

I didn't even have a coat on.  Imagine that.

As the sunset unfolded, I took my iPhone out.  Snap first, evaluate later.  Be in the moment.

This impossible sunset may never happen again, so enjoy these moments of extreme beauty near Johnson City, New York.
The sun sets, bathed in golden fire, behind the former BAE plant, one of the largest wood framed structures in the United States. 
The after sunset period has begun, as the sunlight still reflects off a local creek.
Neighborhood trees.

The same stream as above, a few minutes later.
Time to go inside.

There is just something about a February sunset.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Winter Wonders - The Winter That's Been a Wonder

Floods.  Blizzards.  Tornadoes.  Strong winds.

Everything in extreme.

That has been the story of winter in the United States.  No exception here in upstate New York, where normally February is something I dread.  Below zero wind chills, ice and snow, with no respite.

Except for this year.

Exhibit 1:  the website of the Golden Snowball award, a friendly competition between five upstate New York cities for the most annual snowfall.  Mind you, we are PROUD of our ability to withstand snow.  We might as well be proud - there's nothing we can do to stop the snow.


Back to the Golden Snowball, the person who runs the Golden Snowball website almost cancelled the contest this year (and I'm not sure he was kidding), claiming he had nothing to write about.

Exhibit 2: a recent blog post about a road trip, complete with my pictures of Southern Tier non snow.
We are on the edge of the New York snowbelt, and although snow has mainly missed us, it has not missed the snowbelt itself.  Yet, even they are below average.

I did find snow on that trip to the Syracuse area.  So as a public service so we don't forget what it looks like, I want to share some of my pictures now as a Winter Wonder.  (People living in Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas, among other places, feel free to avert your eyes. You've suffered enough with your severe weather.)
Skaneateles, New York.
Another Skaneateles, New York (a bakery I love).  The icicles make a good picture but you really don't want to see them on your roof.

LaFayette, New York.

A Trader Joes food store in a Syracuse suburb has a snow pole, where they gleefully post their cumulative snow totals.

As for us in the Binghamton, New York area about 70 miles from some of these pictures, just remember that Golden Snowball chart. 

May it continue that way.  So many of us are wondering when the "big one" will come for us. I won't be surprised if we are pounded with snow in March.  We keep saying "it has to come, eventually."

How has your weather been recently?