Friday, September 30, 2016

Skywatch Friday - Upstate Afire

In upstate New York, we are finally starting to cool down after a hot summer and a warm beginning to fall.
And the sunrise of September 28 reflected that. 

But that beautiful sunrise wasn't enough for me.  Last night I missed the sunset because I was in a class, but when I finally got home, there were a few glimmerings of light left.
This is what I saw.  hard to see, but there is a remnant of what must have been a beautiful sunset in the middle of the picture.

Come visit the Skywatch Friday blog, and click on sunrise/sunset pictures from all over the world.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

National Coffee Day Confession

Many, many years ago I worked in an office where I was the only non-coffee drinker.  I would have my daily cup of black tea (made from a tea bag) while my co-workers stumbled to the coffee pot.  One even said to me one day, zombie like before his first cup, "how can you start your day without a cup of coffee?"

How, indeed?

Many, many years later I have a confession.

I've put the tea bags away (for the most part).  Like many Americans, I am a coffee drinker.

Today, in the United States, it is National Coffee Day.  To celebrate, a number of chains selling coffee have specials.

But there is an underside to National Coffee Day.  Its name is K-Cup, and I have a Konfession.

I use them.  Yes, I hang my head in shame, but we all have our vices.  I love them.  In theory.

A K-Cup is a single serve convenient way to make coffee, and right now they are quite popular in our country.  They are easy - you stick them in a special coffee maker, close the lid, add water and a couple of minutes later, coffee! (maybe not the best coffee, but coffee). When you have company, your guest can choose their favorite.

Shown above, you can see the problem.  They consist of ground coffee, filter, and lots and lots of plastic.  Which, incidentally, is not recyclable.  Yet.

So into landfills they go, because few of us have the time or patience to disassemble our K-Cups.  Which, actually, I used to do (somewhat) back when I practiced worm agriculture.  I fed the worms the used grounds.  But that isn't good enough for our environment.

It seems that even the creator of K-Cups regrets what they have become.

The top K-Cup above is an attempt to make a better K-Cup.  And, you know what?  It makes a good cup of coffee.  But it isn't good enough.

So let's celebrate National Coffee Day with a good cup of coffee, and hope that we don't drown in a sea of non recycled K-Cups before they come up with a solution.

True confession time for you, my reader.  Do you drink coffee?  Do you use K-Cups?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fantastic Fall - Final Flowers

This is the first Fantastic Fall post of the year.

In upstate New York, the last of the flowers are lighting up the approach to the first frost.  In fact, some areas in our county have already had their first frost.
These purple asters are in my front yard. 
These dahlias are, too.

But wait, there's more!
In a yard in Binghamton, in upstate New York, this plant was as big as a bush.

Hydrangeas (also on the West Side of Binghamton) are still going strong.

We've had a warmer than normal fall, but, already, temperatures are dropping, and daylight is decreasing at an increased rate.

What else will I blog about this fall?  Come back every Wednesday for another seasonal post.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Death of a Ballplayer

You don't have to follow baseball to appreciate this story, and I hope my non-baseball fan readers will stick around and read this.

A young man defects from Cuba at the age of 15, successful on his fourth try.  During that fourth try, his mother fell overboard, and the teenager saved her.

Baseball has been a part of his life since his early childhood.  He goes to high school in Tampa, Florida, where I lived many years ago.  He becomes a star baseball player with the Miami Marlins.  At 24, he learns he will be a father for the first time.  He is popular.  He earns respect.

And then, he dies in a tragic boating accident Sunday, in the early morning when their boat rammed into a jetty.  Two other men die with him.  Speed was a factor.  No life jackets were on the boat, but they may not have helped.

His team cancels their Sunday game, something which is Just Not Done in major league baseball.

Monday evening, they play against "my" home team, the New York Mets, so the game is televised.  After the National Anthem is played, the members of the two teams cried and embraced.  Every member of the Marlins is wearing a shirt with the late ballplayer's name and number. The players gather around the pitching mound and inscribe his name and number in the dirt.

The Mets baseball announcers are holding back tears.  One wasn't entirely successful.

The Marlins come to bat, and the very first player hits a home run.  Afterwards the player breaks down in tears.  The Marlins go on to win, 7-3.

If Hollywood had made a movie from a fictional story, who know how many tickets it would have sold?

But it is no movie.  It was real life for a young man by the name of Jose Fernandez.

His child will never know him.  And millions of baseball fans, stunned, mourn the death of a man gone too soon.    A small thing, this death, compared to the going-on's in the world, but it reminds us that the end for each of us can come at any time, without warning.  We must make the most of the time we have on this earth doing what we love to do.

We must make a difference.

May his death be a lesson for all of us.

Would your demise be widely mourned?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Music Monday - Autumn

I had to travel this past weekend.

Living here in the Northeast United States, I realize that, by the end of September, leaves are going to start to turn.  And temperatures are going to start to drop.

So, on the drive from upstate New York to New Jersey, I was not surprised to see some trees starting to turn, both in Pennsylvania, and even northern New Jersey.  The changing trees have a long way to go at this point, though.

Because of a drought, our leaves are turning earlier than usual, so it is time to turn our Music Monday ears to songs about fall and autumn leaves, songs that make you think of fall weather or songs that mention leaves.

More Than This by Roxy Music.  "Falling leaves in the night...."

Autumn in New York, as sung by Billie Holiday.

Autumn Leaves, as sung by Nat King Cole.  More a song about love, but it qualifies, in my opinion.

November Rain, by Guns and Roses.  True, it isn't quite about autumn rain, and more about love, but I'm including it because - what it is about autumn and lost love, anyway?

Let us enjoy autumn while we can - the pumpkin spice, the apples, the falling leaves, the beautiful blue skies and everything else that comes with it, for all too soon winter will be here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Throwback Sunday - Unsolved Mystery of the Cheesequake

Today, I repeat a blog about a bit of a mystery.  It's actually partially solved, although I still don't know how the locals pronounce it.

It's a simple question - or is it?

The Unsolved Mystery of the Cheesequake

Today's trivia question:  What is a Cheesequake?  I originally asked this question in 2010, after attending a wedding out of town.  I never found out.  So, four years later, I am hoping you, my blog readers, can help me.

Is a cheesequake
a.  What Wisconsin natives yell when the earth moves under their feet?
b.  A San Francisco boutique cheesecake (now renamed) producer?
c.  A Washington State cheeseburger? or
d.  A New Jersey toll road service area?

If you answered "c", you've taken too many "How to Ace the SAT" review courses.

The correct answer, of course, is b, c and d.  And thereby hangs a tale.

b.  San Francisco Cheesequakes ("Cheesecakes that Rock")had the most intriguing sounding cheesecakes, not that I've ever had one, so this is not a plug.  Apparently, since 2010, the company has been renamed and is now called San Francisco Cheesecake Company - ah, well. 

c.  How about a Double Cheesequake at the X Earthquakes Biggest Burgers in Pullyap, Washington?  (And, are they still in business?)

d.  The New Jersey Cheesequake.  There is my mystery.

In July of 2010, spouse and I traveled to the Jersey Shore from the Binghamton, New York area.  This involved travel on the Garden State Parkway, known as the country's busiest toll road.  We had been warned about the traffic and we already knew how aggressive and high speed the driving would be, so neither came as a shock.  We proceeded through The Oranges and The Amboys when to our wondering eyes did appear, near exit 120....

The Cheesequake Service Area.


Spouse and I turned to each other simultaneously.  What was a Cheesequake?  We pondered various answers.  A strange New Jersey restaurant chain?  A former cheese factory that had exploded and was now a historical site?  Some kind of corrupted Native American word?

Our wonder grew as we passed by a sign for Cheesequake State Park.

Turns out spouse's guess of a corrupted Native American word was correct.  My spouse, however, speculated that "Cheesequake" came from the same word that Chesapeake (as in Chesapeake Bay) derived from.  That apparently is not the case, according to what I was able to research back then.  If my sources are correct, Chesapeake comes from a Algonquian word meaning a village "at a big river" while Cheesequake comes from a Lenape word for "upland village".

Drawing from my (too long ago) college anthropology courses, I recalled that the Lenapes (formerly known as the Delaware) are part of a much larger Native American group-age called the Algonquians.  So, there may still be some truth to this speculation.

At any rate the word has nothing to do with neither cheese nor earthquakes.

Cheesequake State Park does sound fascinating.  It may even help for me to learn how it is pronounced.

The service area, apart from the full service (mandatory in New Jersey) gas it sold for 20 cents less a gallon than Binghamton gas when we left, was not at all distinguished. 

But still, it left us with a desire to go back and visit the park.  All these years later, it is still a dream.

I have a partial answer since 2010, by the way, about how "Cheesequake" is pronounced.  Enough to know that this website, which postulates "chezquake" still may not be right.

Or, is it?

Dear reader, do you know?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Local Saturday - Finally A Happy Ending?

Years ago, I first blogged about the camp where I spent some time for several summers as a pre teen and a teen.  I've blogged about it several times since.  The below post is from 2015 and it's time to update it.

I grew up in a New York City housing project, and by the definition of a particular non profit, my family was considered poor.  So I was eligible to be sent to a sleep away camp in Sussex, New Jersey, opened in 1924, and run by a Jewish Fresh Air Camp association (yes, I was a Fresh Air child - of sorts). Its attendees were "orphans and poor children".  Mel Brooks, among a handful of famous people, went to this camp.

The camp closed in 2005, and has been extensively vandalized.

In researching this throwback, I found that the site was finally sold at auction earlier this year, and may be reopened as a nonprofit children's camp for children from Korea.

One can only hope that, by next year, this may not be a nostalgia backfire.

Don't you love a possibly happy ending?

Throwback Thursday - Nostalgia Backfire

On County Road 565 in Sussex County, New Jersey, lies an abandoned summer camp that I, and other low income children, attended back in the 20th century.  I first wrote the below post in 2010.  Sadly, this camp still lies abandoned.

No one seems to want to buy it.

Nostalgia sometimes backfires.

Do you have memories of sleepaway camp?

Another Reason Why I Can't Go Home Anymore

One more reason why trying out nostalgia can bite you in the you-know-where.

I sometimes surf around Facebook and type in stuff from my past, just to see what comes up.

Today I decided to type in the name of my sleepaway camp.  It wasn't just any sleepaway camp.  You see, as a child of public housing growing up in the Bronx in the early 60's, the fact that my parents didn't own a car, and their income made me a disadvantaged urban youth.  Luckily, I didn't know that growing up and I wouldn't have cared.

Through a elementary school friend, I found out about a camp in northern NJ called Camp Sussex.  My friend went there.  She lived in a different housing project so was disadvantaged, too. Since she was going, I wanted to also.  Three weeks away from home.  It would be my first time away from home, at this camp for poor kids.  So poor, we weren't even expected to bring our own clothes.  The camp provided them.  The camp provided everything, including transportation from Manhattan.

I went to camp and a couple of things happened that first day.

First, my friend treated me like I didn't exist.

The second was, I was massively homesick.  I ended up in the infirmary overnight, as I had somehow worked myself into a fever.  Literally.

I was shown a lot of kindness there, and reported to my bunk first thing the next morning.  I never looked back.  I survived being snubbed by my "friend" and made other friends.

This camp was located in a then-rural area of northern NJ.  It was surrounded by beautiful hills.  There was a lake.  There were hiking trails (rumored to contain quicksand pits and lethal snakes).  There was the opportunity to put on a camp musical.  Every dinner, before the prayer (yes, there was a religious element to this camp) we sang "Be Kind to Your Web Footed Friends".  I still remember the words.  We woke up to "Reville", made our bunks, had an inspection, watched the American flag raise, and listened to "taps" at Lights Out.

Many of the camp counselors were college students.  I became friends with one in particular, who went to Bryn Mawr.  We wrote to each other for months after that session but lost touch.

I had my first crush at Camp Sussex, and my first "boyfriend".

Years later, my cousin married someone who had gone to Camp Sussex.  And at work, for several years, I sat feet from a former Camp Sussex counselor.  Problem was, she was born the last year I went.  So we didn't speak about it much.  I wish we had.

Anyway, I had known that the camp had never quite changed its mission, but had closed around 2005.  There were hopes to turn it into a sports camp, an "education through sports" camp.  Derek Jeter's father was somehow supposed to be involved.

Well, on Facebook, I found out, as Paul Harvey used to say, "The rest of the story".

The closed camp has been severely vandalized.  It was alleged that the local police had never been too happy about the camp being there (I guess we disadvantaged kids polluted the place?).   Over the years, the rural area had become urbanized and the local youth had their way with my beloved camp.  The camp hadn't been secured, anyone could just walk in, and the police didn't seem to care too much. (in all fairness, I only know one side of the story.)  Bottom line, it would take over a million dollars just to get the camp fixed up enough to even begin about reopening.

There were pictures on Facebook showing the damage. (there's even a 3 minute short on You Tube documenting some of the damage.)  My heart broke, seeing those beautiful hills for the first time in over 40 years. And, on two Facebook sites, I saw discussions among some of over 400 people who belonged to a fraternity of former campers, counselors and even administrators.  They loved Camp Sussex.  I loved it in some ways, too, because it showed me there was a lot more to life than the streets of the Bronx.

Know what?  I wish I could find out how all of us "disadvantaged youth"of Camp Sussex turned out.  How many of us are professionals?   People who have made life better for others? (The talented Mel Brooks was one.)  And, for how many of us, did Camp Sussex make a difference?

I wish I didn't know about the vandalism, though.

Like my neighborhood, now a slum, now my beloved sleepaway camp.  Sometimes you just can't go back home.  How I sometimes envy people who can!

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Fall of the Spider?

My upstate New York backyard has been under a mass invasion all summer.

I don't mind spiders, but after having dealt with what I think was a spider bite on my knee earlier this month (all is well), I am not happy to see this mass takeover of my property.

In the almost 30 years we've lived in this house, we've never seen anything like this.  Last night, in the glow of what photographers call the "golden hour", webs shone in the sunset.   Please enjoy:

Spider and a web on the back porch. The spider was not white; the sunlight was glowing off of him/her.  I don't know about spiders and this website led me to believe the spider I saw is a "grass spider". I am sure one of my readers will figure it out.

If it is a grass spider, they are considered beneficial - a good thing.

Another view.

The spider (before it ran off) showing why I will never be a wildlife photographer.

Another web was nearby.

My clothesline has been taken over by spider webs, which you can not see in this photo.

I know I won't be complaining about it in a month, but right now, this is one part of early fall I do not enjoy.

But I am grateful for being to observe nature right in my backyard.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Last Leaves of Summer

Today, the sun rises on the last day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.  It will set tonight on the first day of autumn.

After today the plunge into winter begins.  Daylight falls under twelve hours.  The sun angles change.  

Since leaves turning are a big part of the enjoyment of fall in upstate New York, I want to bring you some variegated leaves from the flower gardens my spouse and I maintain in our small city yards.  these are ornamental, not tree, leaves.

I concentrate so much on the flowers, I forget about the leaves.  I took these pictures yestserday, on the last full day of summer.

I am grateful for these plants - iresene, in the front.

Calibrachoa (I think it may be Celebration Sun)

Lantana Stephanie - it loved our hot summer (and that is continuing into fall).

The bloom season of this euphorbia is more into the spring but the variegated leaves carry on all summer.
Last but not least - pineapple mint.

Farewell, summer.  Hello, autumn.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Why #World Gratitude Day #Everyday Gratitude


Imagine one day a year, where millions of people all over the world pause to think of what they are grateful for.  To thank someone in their lives. To perform one small act of kindness.

It would be a hard thing for many people - those in war zones, those starving, those in captivity, those ailing, those who are fleeing so that they may live free one day.

I am not one of those people.  I live in a comfortable home in an area of the world that is at peace.  That is exactly why something like World Gratitude Day - today, September 21, is so necessary.

I thought of some things that happened to me recently.

The other day, my spouse complained that there was too much food in the refrigerator.  There was produce from our garden, and leftovers from previous meals.  We were running out of room.

Can you imagine anyone complaining about having too much food? 

Every day for the past few years, I wake up thankful that I am alive.
Canandaigua, New York, August 31
Perhaps September 11, 2001, started it but I only started to practice this consistently the last few years. 

I am grateful for beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and the health to be able to travel to see them.

Having been raised in a New York City housing project, I am grateful for the ability to step right outside my door and find, in season, beautiful, colorful plants.
Tiffany Lamp and Stained Glass, Willard Memorial Chapel, Auburn, New York
I am grateful for eyesight, and the ability to see wonderful works of art.  For being able to afford an iPhone, which gives me so much pleasure through its camera.

But, then what else can I do with today's blog post, to show gratitude and improve the world in just a tiny way?  Many things.

I can blog quotes about gratitude.

I can thank you, each and everyone of my readers, for reading my blog.  Thank you - I am grateful for each and every one of you.

I can thank my relatives.

I can thank those few I consider close friends.  Friendship doesn't come easy to me.

I've been married to the same spouse for 42 years.  Thank you for putting up with me, dear one, and for all the good food and companionship you provide.  Among other things (even if you don't read my blog.  Which you should, because you missed this shoutout.  But I digress).

Thank you to my son, who helps my spouse and I more and more.

Are you an employer?  Today would be a good time to show gratitude to those who help in your success.  Why not?  Who would it hurt?

But most of all, I hope I inspire some of my readers to spread gratitude.  To feel gratitude. To live in gratitude.  Why?  Our world is terribly broken.  In some way, even a small way, each of us has a responsibility to help fix it.

The fixing can begin with one small act.  Say thank you today to someone.  Try to reconnect with someone you've missed, but you hadn't talked to for too long.  Perform one small act of kindness.

Who is with me?

Will you join in a day of gratitude?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Summer Ramblings - A Late Summer's Afternoon Walk

In about a month (give or take a week), summer, the growing season will be a memory. 

Our sunflowers have already stopped blooming.  The last of the late summer/early fall flowers are opening - asters, late hydrangea, sedum.

Yellow jackets seem to be a little less aggressive.  Hopefully, I'm right, as I've not had the greatest of years with insect bites. 

Trees are already shutting down, due to our drought.  I'll be able to share fall foliage pictures with you sooner than normal.

Today, let me take you on a quick summer walk through the West Side of Binghamton, New York.  I am moving my Summer Ramblings feature to Tuesday, this week, as tomorrow is World Gratitude Day.

One more summer walk, as fall starts Thursday morning.

Roses are still blooming, and not just Knockout types that keep blooming and blooming.  I don't think I've ever seen this plant blooming so late in the year.

Cosmos are thriving, too.  Yellow here.
Orange there.

And I don't even know what these are, but they sure are pretty.

So hard to believe that fall will start in two days, but nothing stops the changing of the seasons.  See you in our fall.  And, stay tuned for my post tomorrow for #WorldGratitudeDay.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Music Monday - Waiting and Remembering

Songs about waiting or remembering remind me of a cartoon series my then young son introduced me to years ago.

Years ago, I watched many episodes from a cartoon series called Futurama.  The plot revolved around a clueless pizza delivery young man named Philip Fry, who ends up accidentally trapped in a cryogenic freezer and awakens 1,000 years later.  The series documents his adventures in the far future of the 31st century.

Some of the episodes have become classics.

In one episode, we discover that Fry's dog, Seymour, waited at the entrance of the pizza store year after year (taken care of by Fry's boss), waiting in vain for Fry to return.  Remembering his master.  Keeping a forever watch.

During the final scene, the song "I Will Wait For You" by Connie Francis plays as we see the dog wait faithfully, year after year, ignored by passerbys.  Finally, the pizza parlor goes out of business and the dog finally lays down for (it is assumed) the last time.

In still another episode, Fry discovers the grave of his brother's son (born years after his disappearance).  Fry, who did not have a good relationship with his brother, discovers his brother named the son after Fry in memory.  The future Philip Fry, the nephew of the pizza delivery man Philip Fry, grew up to be an honored astronaut, a rock star, and a philanthropist.

At the grave, this song plays:  Don't You ( Forget About Me), by Simple Minds.

I can not watch either of these two episodes without crying.

But few of us experience a nostalgic remembering by traveling to the future by being frozen.  Most of us get to the future the old fashioned way - by aging.

And we find the past either wonderful, or sad, (or both), to remember.

The Kinks - The Village Green Preservation Society

The Boys of Summer - Don Henley

Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams - a story about love in the summertime, but so many people think it is about the summer of 1969, I am putting this in here.

And a personal favorite - (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding

Do you have a favorite song about waiting, or remembering?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Throwback Sunday - Pictures of the Dead

I don't know how many of my readers have experienced war, either as civilian or military.  I never have.  But if I had lived in certain parts of the United States 154 years ago, I almost certainly would have experienced war.

For four years, 2011 through 2015, I blogged most Sundays about the United States Civil War, 1861-1865.  I may occasionally rerun one of those posts for my newer readers.

Yesterday was the 154th anniversary of what was the bloodiest day in the history of the United States.    More casualties than Pearl Harbor.  More casualties than 9/11.

Take a minute to put yourself in the place of these people near Sharpsburg, Maryland, as the Battle of Antietam (as named by the North)/Battle of Sharpsburg (as named by the South) begins.

You are in a state that has stayed with the United States as the country has been torn apart - but, right on the border, and, so much is at stake on this day.

Let me bring you, for a few minutes, to September of 1862.  This post is from the 150th anniversary, September of 2012.

Civil War Sunday - "Pictures of the Dead"

A week ago, I was inside this church building near Sharpsburg, Maryland, along with a crowd of people visiting for a certain anniversary.

As we heard cannons booming nearby, a speaker spoke to us:

Imagine yourself inside this church, 150 years ago this week.  You are a member of the Old German Brethren, called "Dunkers" by the locals.  Things have not gone easy since the War Between the States broke out almost 1 1/2 years ago.  Your home state, Maryland, is under military occupation by the Federals.  And the Confederates have invaded.  Rumor has it that they are nearby.  Everyone is nervous, at the Sunday service.  If you say the wrong things, you can be arrested.

But you, and your brethren, are pacifists.  What can you do?

A few days later, the church is empty.  It is early morning. 

Suddenly there is gunfire and a battle is raging around your church.

 (Photos taken 9/16/12 at the Dunker Church, Antietam Battlefield near Sharpsburg, MD, courtesy of AM).

By the time darkness falls, there will be some 23,000. casualties on both sides (dead, injured, missing).  The name will live on in history....Antietam. 

We are so fortunate that this battlefield has been preserved (unlike so many others) and we can walk its fields.

Photographers were on the scene quickly and took pictures of the dead.  Mathew Brady exhibited the photos at his New York City studio in October of 1862.

For one of the first times, civilians could see the true horror of war.  One famous photo shows a dead Confederate gun crew with the Dunker Church in the background.

To quote from the New York Times review of the exhibition:
But there is a poetry in the scene that no green holds or smiling landscapes can possese. Here lie men who have not hesitated to seal and lamp their convictions with their blood, -- men who have lung themselves into the great gulf of the until own to teach world that there are truths [???] than life, wrongs and shames more to be dreaded than death. And if there be on earth one spot where the grass will grow greener than on another when the hunt, Summer comes, where the leaves of Antumn will shop more lightly which they fall like a benediction upon a work completed and promise fulfilled, it is these soldiers' graves.
The exhibition was called, simply, "Pictures of the Dead".

But it would not prevent the war from continuing.  Or, the issuing of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago yesterday, September 22, 1862, in the wake of that bloodiest of days.

That bloodiest of battles, that began at a church of people believing in peace.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Local Saturday - A Crocus Grows in Brooklyn

Why am I talking about crocuses in September?  And no, they aren't fall blooming crocuses.

Yesterday, I promised you a tribute post about my childhood best friend, who passed away one year ago today.  I am going to do a throwback post to February of 2012, when I visited my friend after her first round of chemo, after she felt well enough to have visitors.

It would be the first of several visits during her long cancer journey. I looked through some of them, trying to find one to republish today.  It was hard.  But does it surprise you that I chose one about a flower?

I would say rest in peace, dear friend, but you never knew the meaning of "rest". Perhaps somewhere you are giving lectures about hermit crabs (you were an elementary school science teacher) or dressing down someone who wasn't raising their children right.

You wanted so much to visit Brooklyn Bridge Park with me one day.  Perhaps, one day, I will return to Brooklyn and visit it with my spouse.  It won't be the same without you.  Neither will Fairway.

And now, my post of February, 2012.

A Crocus Grows in Brooklyn

February 20, 2012.  Crocuses are blooming in Brooklyn (an  "outer borough" of New York City.)  in a front yard.

What a winter we have had.  Crocuses do not bloom in New York State (usually) in February.  But now that they are, some symbolism, please.

Crocuses are a symbol of spring, of plants coming to life from their winter's nap, of recovery, of life.

If I hadn't gone to Brooklyn this weekend to visit a friend undergoing treatment for cancer, I never would have seen the crocuses in her front yard.

So how did the visit go?  It was wonderful, every minute of it.

We laughed - a lot.  My friend talked - a lot.  We went to a local pizzeria and ate pizza.  Her husband took the four of us (my friend, my spouse, her spouse and I) to Fairway, a "gourmet" supermarket in a neighborhood called Red Hook.  Once a slum, Red Hook (or parts of it, anyway) is on its way up.  You can see the Statue of Liberty from the patio.

I took nearly 90 pictures of the trip.  And one of my friend.

My friend is undergoing chemo.  This is her second round with cancer (the first was 30 years ago with Ovarian cancer) and she has been very involved in cancer fundraisers. She has always been physically active, but wasn't sure she would be able to participate in the Revlon Run/Walk on May 5.  She loves the energy of these events and really wants to do it.  But her energy levels are unpredictible.

One year she met Haile Berry at one of these events and got her cap signed. 

She is realistic but optimistic.  She talked frankly about the side effects of her chemo.  The cold that nothing can warm up.  The terribly dry skin.  The sudden trips to the restroom.  The days where walking down the stairs from her bedroom to her living room tires her out so much she needs a nap.

We also talked about ...oh, so many things.

(Postscript.   You are gone one year today. I am still here. You once told me "The best part of waking up is waking up." I am thankful for each day, knowing that life is precious and too short.

And I will return to Brooklyn one day.  That's a promise.)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Thinking of a Memory

By mid-life, so many of us have lost at least one friend. 

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the death of my best friend from childhood.  She was the same age (give or take three months) then as I am now.

I am going to a special ceremony later this month to honor her memory, and I've been thinking:  if I am asked to share a special memory of her, what would it be?

I can't say for sure, because there are so many.

I met her for the first time when she moved to my neighborhood in 5th grade, and she ended up in my class.  I don't remember befriending her, but, we somehow hit it off.   Those memories of knowing her in childhood and teenager hood are running in my mind like a feature movie.

Her parents were Holocaust survivors.  Needless to say, they didn't talk to anyone much about it, but you knew.  Children know, somehow.  And that has to have influenced the person my friend became. Loving. Faithful.  Determined. 

Her father owned a full service gas station that also fixed cars, as so many stations did in those days before the 1973 gas crisis, and the advent of self-serve gasoline.  She showed a flair for mechanics. I can still remember the time she fixed my vacuum cleaner.

After my mother died a month short of my 13th birthday, her mother showed me how to do laundry and how to do other household tasks.  Sometimes she acted as a surrogate mother to me, as did my friend.  My friend loved children so much; she took me right under her wing.  She even forgave me for getting a better score on the Math Regents (a standardized end of year test given in New York State) than she did, thanks to her tutoring.

I didn't tutor her in her weak subject.  Instead, her family hired a tutor.  She ended up marrying him. The marriage lasted 43 years.

Her grandfather lived in upstate New York with his disabled brother, in a house he purchased after World War II.  It was at that house that I encountered my very first vegetable garden.  I ate so many raw peas, amazed at the taste, that I became sick afterwards.  There were other aspects of country life her family allowed me to share with them, letting me stay with them for a week in between my last year of high school and first year of college.

There isn't enough room on my blog for all my memories.  53 years of memories, to be exact.

In November of 2011, my friend was diagnosed with lung cancer, possibly (we'll never know) caused or aggravated by exposure to 9/11 smoke.  She was already a cancer survivor (ovarian cancer) and, due to her having reached the lifetime exposure limit of the chemo she took for that cancer, she couldn't receive the normal first line treatment. What she did take caused so many side effects.  She fought back by hiring a personal trainer and didn't hesitate to share what she was undergoing with me.  She participated on online support groups and supported so many others.

We both loved flowers, and  I think she would have loved this hardy glad that bloomed in my garden at the beginning of September.

I want to remember my friend as one of the most courageous women I have had the privilege of meeting. 

I hope you will come back tomorrow, and share my tribute.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day September 2016

Welcome to mid-September in upstate New York,  and welcome to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, where bloggers from all over the world gather on the 15th of each month to reveal what is blooming in their yards, or in their homes. 

For us near Johnson City, New York (zone 5b) it's been a hotter than normal summer. Days over 90 are not that common here, and we've had several.  On top of that, we are in a drought.

Despite the drought, some plants are responding to the heat with bursts of flowers.

Like my cosmos, for example.  One plant (not this one!) is close to eight feet tall.
Another cosmos.

Garlic chives are steady performers, year in and year out.
So pleased with sunpatiens, which I have grown for the second year.  This year, I grew this in the sun for the first time.  Last year, I grew a hanging basket in part shade, and the plants were spindly.  I wasn't yet for the concept of impatiens in full sun.  And, the impatien blight has not hit, either.  Hurrah!
Between cosmos and dahilias, our one Mexican sunflower has been drowned out.

Our dahlias are having a record year.  This is my one dependable bloomer, given to me by a work friend many years ago.
I'm growing this one for the first time.

Also for the first time, we are growing lobelia.
The sedum are pinking up, a sure sign of fall.

As is the purple aster in my front yard starting to open its blooms.

In the back, the Japanese anemone, another fall perennial, has started to open up.
And finally, the turtlehead is in full bloom.

Fall may not be here on the calendar, but it has arrived in the world of flowers.  Soon enough, we in upstate New York will be saying goodbye to our flower gardens, as we are dragged (well, I am dragged) kicking and screaming into winter.

Thanks once again to May Dream Gardens, the host of this monthly meme. 
Now, please visit her blog and see what is blooming elsewhere - or, even better, participate. 

What is blooming in your world?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Summer Ramblings - New York Crepe Myrtles

I love walking around in places I am visiting, because you never know what you might find. 

Yesterday, in Yonkers, a city that borders New York City on the north, I saw a flowering plant that I had never seen before in New York State.   It was a plant that I remember well from living, years ago, in the Southern United States.

It's one of my favorite flowering plants, and I had not seen one in bloom since 2011, when we visited Virginia in July.
It's a plant I wish we could grow where I live in upstate New York, because it is so pretty and long blooming.  So may I introduce to you:

A New York crepe myrtle.

This plant's bark had been wrapped in something, and I just wasn't sure of what I was seeing.  But, a few hundred feet later on my walk, I saw another plant.  And when I saw the bark, there was almost no doubt.

But, since I never expected to see this plant in southern New York, I checked with someone I know who lived for years in the South, and my ID was correct.

You just never know what will happen when you take a walk.  And now, with only one more Summer Ramblings until fall starts next week, I treasure each and every flower I see.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Throwback Tuesday - North Carolina Moonshine

A post from 2012.  Apparently, Troy and Sons (which is what it was called when I took the tour in 2012) is now named Asheville Distilling, although Troy and Sons remains one of their products.

Since I first posted this in 2012, legal moonshine is now made in many states, including my native New York State.  I've had it in various places, but this product made in Asheville was probably my favorite.

This is edited slightly, to reflect the name change.

Sustainable Saturday - North Carolina Moonshine

A legal moonshine, distilled in Asheville, North Carolina, is made from a heirloom corn variety believed to be lost, in a distillery owned by a woman. 

"Moonshine", a.k.a. corn whiskey, has a very long and distinguished history in our country.  Made right, with high quality corn, and high quality water (and nothing else) it distills into a very smooth clear whiskey.  It can also be aged in barrels once used for bourbon - a type of recycling as bourbon barrels can only be used once.

Let's take a little tour of the Asheville Distilling  moonshine operation in Asheville.

Our tour guide, the sister of the woman who owns the distillery, walked us through the process of making "moonshine". (Incidentally, although I believe the term "moonshine" is a common description for the product of unlicensed liquor making, this product is marketed under the name "moonshine".)

First, a mash of a heirloom corn called "Crooked Creek Corn" and water, is allowed to ferment.  Up to this point, the beginning process is something like beer making.

Crooked Creek Corn is an open pollinated white corn with a high fat content.  It only produces one ear per plant, and the finicky plants are susceptible to wind damage. The tour guide assured us that they have no plans to genetically engineer this corn, which their operation will hopefully save from extinction.

This initial fermentation is done in the blue barrels you can see in back of the still below.

Unlike beer, however, no hops are added, and a distilling process is begun in this still.  The resulting 190 proof liquid is cut with water down to 80 proof.

The result is a very smooth clear whiskey that warms your stomach quite nicely - what locals would call a good "sipping whiskey".

I'm not that much into whiskey but I could definitely see this being added to certain mixed drinks.
The other variety Troy and Sons made in 2012 was amber colored, aged in these former bourbon barrels.

The ceiling of the tasting room is lined with wood from these barrels and the walls are nicely decorated, too.

Yes, we had to buy a bottle - in a North Carolina state owned liquor store.  I was pleased to see that these stores promote North Carolina products.

 A toast, to liquid sustainable agriculture.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Throwback Monday - How Not to Change a Watch Battery

Are you good at fixing things?

If you aren't, you will identify with this post from September, 2013.

How Not To Change a Watch Battery

I don't always try to fix things, but when I do, I make things worse.

I am the most klutzy person in the world.

So when the woman at the jewelry counter told me I could change my own watch battery, I should have run out of the store as fast as I could with my fingers stuck in my ears.

Instead, I have today's blog post.  That's the beauty of blogging (and writing in general) - nothing that happens to you goes unwasted.  Hence, my true, embarrassing, confession.

My spouse and I completed a road trip from upstate New York to Northwest Arkansas, and back.  Along the way, I began to realize that my watch didn't seem to be keeping the time any more.  I reset it a couple of times but at some point, I vaguely became aware that no matter when I looked at my watch, it read four o'clock.

Now, time should stand still in a good vacation, but I eventually figured out that having a great time on vacation (or my watch deciding it wanted to be on vacation, too) wasn't the reason for my watch's lack of time keeping.  Did I have the battery changed in Arkansas? Of course not.

So, yesterday, back home in the Triple Cities, we were exercising on the Vestal Rail Trail.  We were near Kohls, where we bought the watch last Black Friday.

So, rather than take it to the mall, where I normally have batteries changed, we decided to try Kohls.

We brought it to the jewelry counter, where the conversation with the sales clerk went something like this:

AM:  Do you change watch batteries?
Clerk: Only if you bought the watch here.
AM: I did (handing watch to her).
Clerk: (looking at some kind of list):  We are out of a lot of batteries.  Let me check.

So she checked, after prying off the case to see which battery I needed, and sure enough, they were out.  But, no worries!

"There's a Radio Shack down the road", the helpful clerk said.  "They will sell you this battery, number 377, for about $6.00.  And it's easy to put the back on - just see this little notch?  Fit it over the stem, and click it into place.  You won't need any tools."

So, fool that I am, I took her advice.

Now, I need to stop and explain that I have various talents.  Repair isn't one of them.  My father fixed things.  My son loves to fix things and earns his living using his hands.  But the "ability to fix things" gene skipped me.  It isn't lack of confidence.  My fingers just don't do what my brain wants them to do.

But here spouse and I were, at the Radio Shack, and sure enough battery #377, with tax, was about $6.77.

We got home and I - well, I turned to my spouse, who has a cataract in one eye (which will be operated on later this week) and said "I can't see the little notch too well.  Can you?"

That's another thing. When you are nearsided at age 60, you Don't. See. Little. Things. Well.  Like, my spouse, with his cataract, could see better closeup.  Believe it or not, he can.

So he tried and tried, and couldn't do it, and handed the watch back to me.

I tried and tried. Then I got a bright idea and went to You Tube to find a video on How to Change Watch Batteries.  We watched one and we seem to be doing everything right.  But the case won't snap back on.

Finally, spouse turns to me and says "Boscovs (downtown Binghamton, where I work, has a department store) has a watch repair place, RIGHT?" (insert glare here).

Right.  I can't wait to see how much they will charge and I will have to pay every penny, like the person who decides to fix his/her plumbing and messes the whole thing up.

Anyone want to make a house call?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Throwback Sunday-September 11, 2011 I Am So Grateful

I dedicate today's post to "Miss Norma", a woman in her 90's with terminal cancer who has been traveling the United States in a motor home with her son and daughter in law.  It has now become apparent that the end of being on this Earth is near for Miss Norma.   But the last year of her life has brought so much adventure to her - and so much gratitude for all that have been reading the posts of her family.

Godspeed, Miss Norma.  As your family wrote on Facebook yesterday, "We cannot control the wind but we can direct the sail.” —unknown."

Today, I rerun a post from September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of what we call "9/11" in the United States.  But September 11, 2011 had a different meaning for me.  This is the fifth anniversary of my returning home from vacation after a natural disaster hit my area of New York State.

My first post from September 11, 2011 was yesterday.  This, with minor edits, was my second post.

The events of September 11, 2011 gave "9/11" a whole new meaning for me and my spouse.  It is the anniversary of a homecoming.  The day before, we drove over seven and a half hours from Maine to upstate New York, knowing our neighborhood had been flooded September 7-8.  We weren't able to arrive in time to beat a curfew, and police would not allow us back into our neighborhood.  We had to drive another 35 minutes just to find a motel room.  But now, September 11, 2011, we are let in, and our not knowing is about to end.

We have come home and I write the below post from my home computer because - another miracle - we have power.

For my faithful readers, thank you for bearing with me during this week of remembering.  Is it strange that I returned to my flooded neighborhood with a feeling of - gratitude?

Sunrise 9-8-16

September 11, 2011 - I Am So Grateful

I am so grateful today.

 Some of you may be getting tired of my recent posts about a storm called Lee and the over 10 inches of rain dumped on the Binghamton, New York area a few days ago (on top of what we had received from Tropical Storm Irene), causing flash floods and then record river flooding.  But it is very real to me and to over 20,000 people evacuated from this area.  If I had been home and not on vacation, I would have been one of those evacuees. 

My son was one of the evacuees, told to leave his trailer park after a mudslide hit the area. Turns out about half the park was lost, trailers tossed everywhere.  His was not one of them.  The water stopped just short of his floor, so his contents remained dry.

He had a lot of problems fleeing on the damaged roads, but made it to our house in time for the river flooding to begin.  We have flood walls in our neighborhood, but they were fully breached for the first time since they were built in the 1930's (5 years ago there was some spillage but the rains stopped just in time).  Areas in easy walking distance of my house were totally under water, including a Home Depot and a major area employer.  Our house remained an island along with part of our neighborhood.  Other parts of the neighborhood, on the other side of Main Street, are still under water,I understand.

The evacuees returned between yesterday and today at least on this side of Main St.  Our local supermarket reopened yesterday.  Many, many basements were flooded.  No houses were swept away in our immediate neighborhood but there is a lot of damage.  There was a breach of diesel tanks several doors down from us at a municipal water pumping station so diesel also spilled into the water.  Frankly, it stinks of diesel everywhere.

Ironically we are no longer under a boil water order but the order remains in force several blocks from us.

So why am I grateful?
1.  The obvious - our house is here, and is livable.  Our immediate neighbors are here and their houses are livable.
2.  No lives were lost that I am aware of, although one neighbor had to be rescued from deep water because he tried to evacuate using a street that turned out to be the wrong street to use.  Ironically his house was probably the least damaged of those on our block.  His car is still under water on the infamous "other side of Main Street".  He got his share of ribbing today.
3.  Neighbors have pulled together, not that this is ever an unfriendly community.  We got offers of help from children of one next door neighbor (the one I wrote about in July when his wife died).  One neighbor cooked breakfast for my son while he was here.  I am told there were impromptu block parties last night along with a mystery fireworks show.  And gosh, we missed it!
4.  The firemen.  Yes.  Firemen from Throop, PA were here earlier yesterday helping to pump out basements.  (I don't know the exact distance from here but they are close to Scranton, which is an hour away.  And PA has its own problems right now!)  Also in our neighborhood were firemen from Moravia, NY, which is in Cayuga County, to the south and west of Syracuse.  One of their trucks was decorated with a 9/11/01 commemoration.
5.  My T-Shirt.  As soon as I got home I knew I would be getting dirty so I dug for an old T-Shirt.  And what leaped into my hands but a NYFD T-Shirt I purchased at Macy's right after 9/11, when I was visiting my downstate mother in law.  Proceeds from the T-Shirt benefited the first responders of that day.  And now they are up here, 10 years later, helping us.  For what it is worth, all or almost all of the 9/11 commemoration ceremonies in this area were canceled due to the flood.

I hope soon I can return to the "regularly scheduled blog programming" but for now, what is happening in my neighborhood deserves my time and blogging attention.  What you will not get is pictures of houses, as I will not document that kind of misery. But businesses are fair game and - well, I have to be able to get close enough first.

Tomorrow is another day....