Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tomorrow Will Take Care of Itself

On December 31, 2012 I posted the below post about a blogger in her 20's, Bridget Spence, who fought a long fight against breast cancer.  I had just discovered her blog, too late, and it made such an impression on me.  Bridget Spence accomplished so much in too few years.

Today, we ring out 2013, but Bridget Spence is not here to ring it out with us.  She died, from breast cancer, on April 4, 2013, at the age of 29.  Her blog was taken down.

Several people in my life (co workers, neighbors, friends, relatives) battled/are still battling cancer in 2013.  For at least three of them, it was not their first cancer. As 2013 ends, they are my inspiration, as they live each day with courage and dignity.

I think about all of them today, as this year ends, and want them to know that.  I hope that 2014 treats those I work with, live near, or love a lot better than 2013 did.  May we all have a better 2014.

Happy New Year.

An End and a......?

It's New Years Eve.  A time to say goodbye and, hopefully, a time to look forward towards a fresh slate.

I could talk about some changes I want to make to my blog for the coming year.

I could talk about the joy I felt in shopping for clothes today, prompted by a gift card from my mother in law, and finding that I could fit into a size I thought, just a mere three months ago, that I would never fit into again.

I could talk about having to fight again to have that sidewalk near my house, in front of a 800,000. flood-ruined building, cleared of ice and snow by the county that has taken possession of the property.  The battle against winter gets harder each year.

But I won't.

Instead, I want to talk about a blogger in her 20's, who fought a battle against breast cancer for almost all of her adult life.  She was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer when she was 21. Her name is Bridget Spence and she lives in Boston.  The end of her journey through life is near. She asks the blogging community to let her go, so she can complete her journey.

I had just found out about her, via another blogger, and now I must say goodbye.  Four days ago, she wrote her final post.  If you go to her blog, don't just read her final post.  Read the comments.  This is one woman who impacted many, many lives with her courage, her spirit and her dignity.

I rarely get religious in my blog entries. Bridget thought of this portion of Matthew 6 when she wrote about her sister in law getting ready to give birth, knowing she might not live to watch her niece grow up.  This is taken from Matthew's description of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount:

          “That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life
           And what you are to eat, nor about your body and what you are to wear.
           Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing!
           …Can any of you, however much you worry, add one single cubit to your span of life?
           And why worry about clothing?  
          Think of the flowers growing in the fields;  they never have to work or spin;
           Yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his royal robes  was clothed like one of these.
           Now if that is how God clothes the wild flowers growing in the field…
           Will he not much more look after you, you who have so little faith?

           So do not worry;
           Do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear?”
          " So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself.  
           Each day has enough trouble of its own. “

I was humbled by reading portions of her blog.  It was a good way to end this year.

May the upcoming 2013 be good to the world.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Pondering the New Year while Binghamton Sings

The last couple of days of 2013 are here. Seems like New Years Eve 2012 was only a few hours ago. 

2014 is going to bring various challenges into the lives of some of my loved ones, and also into my life. I am going to participate in the January Ultimate Blog Challenge but I do not know if I will be able to keep with it - I may have to put this blog on "automatic posting" for several days in January, and if I do, I will choose some of my older posts that I think you will enjoy.  There are lots of posts my current readers have never read.  They will be new to you but not in the spirit of the Challenge.

You'll probably be hearing more about my elderly mother in law, and my brother in law who has autism.  He is going to stay with us for several days in January, which should be interesting (in a good way, of course!).

I still plan to do my once a day postings, which I have done since the end of April, 2011.

So, today, in the spirit of the season, I bring you an annual tradition that happens every year in Binghamton, New York.

Every year, there is public caroling right before Christmas in one of the office buildings in downtown Binghamton.  For the past several years, I've attended along with my sometimes-guest photographer. These pictures are mostly hers.

The lobby is decorated for the occasion.
The beautiful marble lobby produces amazing acoustics, as people who work in the building sing various Christmas songs - everything from "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree" to more religious songs.  People play guitars, a banjo, a flute.

Ceiling - isn't it beautiful?
Binghamton has undergone hard times recently, but we persevere.

Happy New Year to you!

Do you have any New Year's resolutions?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Civil War Sunday - Christmas Bells

As we close out 2013, I ponder whether to continue my Civil War Sunday posts into the New Year.  Like many in the United States/Confederate States of America in December of 1863, I am weary of the war, even if it was fought 150 years ago.

Unlike the people of 1863, I know what is to follow. As horrible a turn as the Civil War took in 1863, it was not going to get any better.

Civil War prison of war camps such as Camp Douglas, Elmira, Ft. Sumter (better known as Andersonville)....The Battle of Ft. Pillow...Spotsylvania Court House and the Bloody Angle....Sherman's March to the Sea. Should I give up, knowing the horrors to come, and leave the writing to the historians and the true Civil War buffs?

What helped me decide? A Christmas carol written in 1863 that I never realized, until this year, had a connection to the Civil War.  The Christmas carol is called "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day".

The poem the song is based on is "Christmas Bells", written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  His son Charles had been seriously wounded in a Civil War skirmish in late November,1863.  This poem is the anguished result. 

Tragedy was no stranger to Longfellow.

Longfellow wrote, in part:
"And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Longfellow could not withdraw from the tragedy of the Civil War, a tragedy that still echoes in our United States 150 years later.

Perhaps, I shouldn't either.  I will keep on going, at least for now, although I may not be able to do a Civil War post every Sunday in January.

And yes, Longfellow's son Charles survived his injuries, and the war.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - The Surprise at the Farmers Market

At last Saturday's bi-monthly Winter Otsiningo Park Farmers Market in downtown Binghamton, New York, I found something I had never seen before at a farmers market.

This is what caught my eye.  The book cover was so colorful - I might not have stopped otherwise.

A local author, Jill Shultz, was selling a science fiction novel she had written.  I stopped by and there was the author, ready to talk. The e book gift card was in an insert with a sample of the first chapter, so I knew the genre right away.  It was available both in paperback and in e book (gift card) format, and the price was right.  I knew the right person for it - if the writing was good.

It doesn't surprise me that much that someone would try to sell their book at a farmers market but this is not a book I would have expected.  But, the author was local, so why not?

I wish Jill Shultz all the best, and I hope to have the guts to follow her in putting myself out there in the near future (more on that soon).

My giftee, incidentally, enjoys farmers markets, and also writes and edits professionally (but not in a book context). I told her I had not read the book.  I looked the book up on Goodreads and it got four stars.  It was basically a stocking stuffer so I took the chance.

I look forward to her reading the book, and letting me know what she thought.

You will always be surprised at a farmer's market. I came for eggs, crackers, farm made bread and perhaps a couple of holiday gifts, and also ended up with a book.

What has been your most surprising purchase at a local farmers or crafts market?

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Multiple Englishes of the United States

Back in my college days, too many years ago, I majored in cultural anthropology.  One of the courses I took was Linguistics - specifically, the study of culture and language.

One thing our class had us do was to go out on our campus, flag students down and ask them to take a short quiz asking what they called certain things and how they pronounced certain words.

Most people who live in the United States know that we all don't talk the same.  We have different words for different things - for example, a carbonated drink might be called either soda, pop, or soda pop.  We pronounce words differently - in New York we call the thing on top of houses a "roof" and in the midwest they call it a "ruuf".  We call the thing you put groceries in at the checkout a "bag". They call it a "sack".

The differences between New York and, say, England, are even wider. A recipe published by a British blogging friend called for "chocolate hundreds and thousands". We call them sprinkles.  Others in our country call them jimmies.

So, if you live in the United States, do you want to know which English you speak?

It's easy-take this quiz.  Just 25 questions.  Some were the same questions I asked students some 40 years ago.  Others were new to me. 

Right now, this quiz is so popular that several people have posted their results on my Facebook timeline.

My personal results were a blend of New York City (in the southeast part of New York State), Yonkers (a city that borders New York City about 2 miles from where I grew up in New York City) and Buffalo, New York (in the western part of the state). Since I've lived the past 25 or so years in the Southern Tier of upstate New York maybe a bit less than halfway across the state, this makes sense.

If you take this quiz: was it accurate for you?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Beauty of Nature on Christmas Day

People can light up their houses, and they can decorate their shopping centers.  But, sometimes the most beautiful thing about Christmas is provided by nature.

Yesterday, we woke up about 40 miles from New York City, and found that we had a White Christmas.

Later, that day, we were in Yonkers, New York, a city just north of New York City.  We had a very nice visit with some of my spouse's relatives.   One of them lives in the house my spouse spent part of his childhood in the house where we had dinner.

Between dinner and dessert, a few of us walked to the Cross County Shopping Center.My parents used to take me shopping there (a two-bus ride) when I grew up in the Bronx. (The Bronx, the northernmost borough in New York City, borders Yonkers.)  
Cross County is an outdoor mall, built in 1954, not that long after I was born.  It still thrives.  Its center is decorated for the seasons.  This is Santa's House in Cross County.

Walking to Cross County has become a Christmas tradition for us, and their flowering kale (including in front of Santa's House) never disappoints.
As we were getting ready to leave, we saw the most beautiful sunset.
I will show some more of the man-made beauty of Christmas before year's end in this blog. But, for Christmas Day, nature put on the show, and reminded mankind of what really matters.

Thank you, nature.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Obsolete Christmas Eve Surprise and the Wreaths of Christmas

We are together with my grown son, and my mother in law, for Christmas.

My son has been interested for years in obsolete technology. Years ago we had told him of how I purchased a Sony reel-to-reel recorder back around 1971. We left it behind in Arkansas when we moved in the mid 1980's. The tapes, though, recorded from about 1971 to 1974 and even later, had been in storage at my mother in law's house for years.

He wanted them, and he volunteered to go into the attic to get them.
We had sent them from our apartment in Tampa, FL shortly before my spouse joined the Air Force in 1976 . In 2006 we had returned to Tampa for the first time since then and had tried to remember the address - we couldn't. But now, here it was on the return label.

My son, who is in his mid 20's, got such a kick out of the box. Black and white television. Imagine!

We opened the box, and this is what we saw.  After all these years, the tapes looked like they were still in good condition.  (If they are playable, though, it might be a minor miracle.)

I had forgotten how meticulously I typed up lists of each song - name, artist and year.  He got a true Christmas Eve gift. It's fine with me if he keeps the tapes.

Now my son is looking for a reel to reel tape recorder to buy, or another way to test one of the tapes.

Today it is Christmas and, to get readers who celebrate this holiday into the spirit, here are some wreaths made locally in upstate New York.  Many of these pictures were taken in Owego, New York during the annual November O Tannenbaum fundraiser in The Coolest Small Town in America, Owego, New York.

This was one of my favorites - dried fruit, perhaps on a grapevine?
Cardinals (no, not real ones).
A snowman.
And, pink and white poinsettias.

And a final collection of wreaths at Country Wagon Produce in Maine, New York.

A Merry Christmas to my Christian readers.  And to all, a good day.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Whose Christmas Is It, Anyway?

Today, I am rerunning (with some tweaks) a blog post from several years ago about Christmas songs written by Jewish song writers.

My little quest started when I read a NY Times Op Ed.  There are a number of these songs, it turns out, and other bloggers and writers have done the research for me:  I thank them, including the wonderful people at Mental Floss and this article. (a must read).

Some may argue that these are NOT Christmas songs, but rather songs about what I would now call the "secular Christmas". True, these are not hymns.  But it is true that the American celebration of Christmas incorporates many aspects of non-religious symbolism - this ground has been covered by other writers.

I consider them Christmas songs.  I think, in particular, few would argue that "I'll be Home for Christmas" isn't one of the most heartfelt Christmas songs every written.

(Note, I have not done any of this research myself from original sources, just from Internet articles.  I am not a musician or a music expert, just someone who likes to listen to well written music.  So if I end up spreading wrong information, I apologize.  I did try more than one source, but - as you well know- you can't trust everything you read on the Internet.)

1.  White Christmas:  Irving Berlin lived to 101, married a Catholic woman back when that type of intermarriage was extremely scandalous (to both families) and defined Christmas for entire generations of American Christians.  (Incidentally, he also wrote "Easter Parade" and "God Bless America".) The next time you wonder if you will be having a white Christmas, and if you can't figure out exactly why that should be so important, blame Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin.

2.  Silver Bells:  this one is another movie song, and talks about the bells of the Salvation Army "in the city". (I always assume it is New York City.)

3.  Winter Wonderland: the author of this song was a Jewish man from Brooklyn.  The air must have been a lot less polluted in those days.   When I grew up in New York City in the 1950's and early 1960's, a snowy day was more like a Black Crusted Snow Wasteland.

4.  The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire):  The Nat King Cole version is one of my favorite songs ever.  This brings back so many memories of the holiday season in the late 60's in midtown Manhattan and the vendors who would sell roasted chestnuts.  The fragrance carried for blocks.

Jack Frost would certainly nip at your nose in NYC.  The climate there is so damp, it feels way colder than it really is.

5.  Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow:  the duo, both Jewish, who wrote that song, also wrote "The Christmas Waltz".

6.  I'll be Home for Christmas.  As an almost-history major in college, this song makes me think of my aunts and uncles during World War II.

And last but not least, something I picked up in my research:  Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  It would seem that Johnny Marks, the author of that song (and also "Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree" and "A Holly Jolly Christmas")  was Jewish.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Winter Wonders - The Defrosting

Every Wednesday this winter, I hope to have a Winter Wonders feature, spotlighting scenery in upstate New York (or, wherever I am at the time).  Since this Wednesday is Christmas Day, I'd like to show you the first winter wonder of the season today.
Many times, where we live in upstate New York, this is what it looks like on December 23.

But yesterday, it got up to a record 65 degrees (18.3 Celsius).  The snow is mainly gone now after two straight days of above normal temperatures.
Fast moving stream, Vestal Rail Trail, Vestal, NY

Saturday, everything was defrosting.

Some ducks were enjoying the snow melt near the Vestal Rail Trail.
Yesterday, we even saw a dandelion starting to bloom on the West Side of Binghamton.
There was some (dead but still attractive) ornamental grass to admire.

While we were enjoying heat, parts of New York State, Canada, and New England were hit by an ice storm. But we, fortunately, were south of the ice/great weather line.

Later today, winter weather will return. Right now it is 45 (7 Celsius) and we are at our high temperature of the day.  Our expected low tonight is 21. Tomorrow night our low is forecast as 8 above. But whether we get a White Christmas will depend on if we get lake effect dustings Tuesday.

What is your weather like today?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Civil War Sunday - Christmas 1863

Christmastime is a lonely time for men and women fighting wars.  They are hundreds or thousands of miles from home, missing their families, tired of the carnage they must experience, and, sometimes, just plain homesick and/or bored.

It was no exception for the soldiers of the Civil War that was fought in our country, the United States, between 1861 and 1865  as a number of states split off from our Union and formed another country, the Confederate States of America.

What was it like, that Christmas in 1863, as we approach the Christmastime of 150 years later?

In North Carolina, a Soldier's Christmas 1863.

Various Civil War letters and diary entries, 1861-1864.

Thomas Nast (this artist is responsible for how we view Santa Claus in modern times) did a number of Civil War Christmas illustrations, including one for Christmas of 1863.  When viewing Thomas Nast's work, be aware his sympathies were firmly with the Union and against the CSA (although his anti-Confederate tone softened as the war progressed).

One view of the Christmas "Legend of Abraham Lincoln" (his son Tad, according to articles I've read, sent gifts to various Union soldiers during the Christmas of 1863). 

This Santa, not strictly a "Nast" Santa, was made to depict a "Civil War" Santa holding period toys.

And finally, a display of Santas of many years ago.

Were you or a loved one a soldier during a past or present holiday season? What would you want my readers to know?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sustainable Saturday-We Wish You a Merry Farmer's Market

It's the last farmer's market of the year in Binghamton, in upstate New York, and the first day of winter. Right now, it's an unseasonable 47 degrees (8.3 Celsius), with melting snow and the threat of flood.  Tomorrow, it is going to be even warmer, and we are supposed to get heavy rains.

At the Indoor Otsiningo Park Farmer's Market, goods reflected the holiday season.

I was attracted to one vendor, who had gluten and dairy free fudge and truffles.  She made these from chocolate and coconut milk. The truffles were either orange flavored or rolled in more coconut.  She had free samples. 

Of course, after tasting, I had to buy a couple of gifts.
Freshly baked cookies also beckoned.

Some lucky people, in the very near future, will feast on this farmstead Italian style bread, topped with herbs and studded with pieces of garlic.

Some vegetables were still being offered.  Root veggie mixtures, carrots, garlic,winter squash, potatoes were all available.  But that isn't as much fun as fudge, truffles, or cookies, is it?

There was one more item for sale - something I had never seen at any farmers market before.  It deserves its own post, which it will get next Saturday.

What's happening with local food where you live this season?

Friday, December 20, 2013

When It's Not It the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I was mentally exhausted last night.

A challenging day at work. A conversation with a dental surgeon's office that left me feeling at loose ends, unsure what to do next.  I am trying to juggle a pending dental problem with the fact that I will have caregiving duties for a relative with cancer in the near future, causing me to be away from home for a few days.

After work, spouse takes me to pick up new glasses.  We crawl through holiday traffic.  After glasses, a trip to Sams Club to pick up food for Christmas Eve. Another crawl through holiday traffic. Upon arrival at Sams Club we see a number of registers closed, and long lines have gathered at the other registers.  We pay for the privilege of shopping there - why can't they afford labor to shorten the lines?

Tired, stressed people look at each other as they wait patiently to be checked out. We make our selections and join the line. Finally, after a million years or so, we are free to leave.

Still another crawl through holiday traffic, only to find, when we get home, that we missed a call from the oncologist's office. We needed information, some information had conflicted with other information we had gotten from a different person in the office, and person #2 had asked person #1 to call us.  Now we had missed person #1's call and #1 person was going to be off tomorrow.  Try again Monday....

My new glasses hurt.

It's all part of what we call The Holidays here in the United States. The Holidays are that time between Halloween and New Years Day when we are supposed to be happy but instead, too many times, we are just plain stressed.  I will tell you what I would like to do with the man who sings "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!" (it involves termination with extreme prejudice, in particularly inventive ways.)

But I read a blog post after I got home with various tips on how to reduce stress during the Holidays.  And I thought - I needed to think about what else had happened yesterday.

I thought about the nurse at my family dentist's office and the good news she gave me after I didn't know what to do after talking to the surgeon's office.

I thought about the woman in front of us on that long Sam's Club line and how she insisted we, with our four items, go ahead of her. She must have been just as tired as we were.

I thought about the people at the oncologist's office, who have been patient with us as we try to learn the ropes of dealing with cancer on a closer level than either my spouse or I (neither of us have ever had cancer) have ever experienced.

I thought about the co worker I wouldn't see until after the New Year, and when I wished her a Merry Christmas, she hugged me.

I thought about my spouse cooking dinner for me.

Not that we have a whirl of parties and other events to begin with (that isn't our style)but we are trying to take care of ourselves in small ways.  Perhaps buying premade and not making ourselves.  Asking a family member to shorten Christmas dinner and make the start time a little earlier.

We will try to care of ourselves, and take it one day at a time.  And those glasses? I've put them aside for now. I will get them adjusted, but all in good time.

Do the Holidays stress you out?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Coolest Small Town Christmas 2013

Today, a little treat brought to you from a Coolest Small Town in America.

Every November, the small upstate New York village of Owego hosts a Holiday Showcase.  The jewel of the celebration, at the Tioga County Historical Society, is a fundraiser called O Tannenbaum.

You can bid on the trees (or the decorations), done in all different themes.  In 2011, after a major flood, this celebration was used to help Owego recover. 

The bidding for 2013 is over, but these are some of the decorated trees.  This year's theme was A Victorian Christmas. 

Like this topper, for example.
I love purple.
Pink isn't bad, either.
I love these old fashioned decorations.
And last but not least, a closeup of one of the trees.

There was even one tree partially decorated in Civil War commemorative stamps.  Guess what's going to be in a future Civil War Sunday post.

Do you decorate some kind of holiday tree? What is your favorite type of tree decoration?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fall Fancies-The Blue Path

I apologize - I am having a problem with the font on my blog today.

I took this picture early yesterday morning, not long before sunrise. I wanted to pick up the beauty of how the snow sparkled like diamonds in the 9 degree F (-13 Celsius) cold. But, instead, I got this.

When I looked at the picture later, I was so surprised to see how the path cut through the snow looked blue.  How glorious, I thought.

She walked the glorious path, fallen snow sparkling like diamonds in the weak predawn light.  The path stretched out forever, crunching beneath her feet, as more falling snow caught in her eyelashes and covered her coat.
She didn't think about how far the path stretched before her, just took it one cold step at a time. Step after step, crunch after crunch, she walked as the snow continued to fall. 
Each step brought her closer to a place she knew would be warm and fragrant with the scent of coffee.  She also knew a member of her spouse's family would walk the last few feet of her path today.  She had that on her mind a lot.

 Eventually, she would feel warm again. For now, it was only her, the snow, and the cold.
The glorious path seemed like it would never end.
She trod on.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Best of AM - Tis the Season - for Sadness

This is a blog post I originally wrote in December of 2009, updated slightly at the end.  This is not going to be a happy Christmas for my spouse's family, which brings back a memory of many years ago.  The subject of Blue Christmases came up in a family conversation yesterday, with a family member feeling guilty because she hasn't sent any cards out this season.

The holidays are not a happy time for everyone, and this post is dedicated to everyone in that situation this year. 

I will ask only one thing from my readers: If you know someone in that situation, reach out to them, even in a small way.  It will mean so much to them.

Tis the Season....for Sadness

Happy Holidays!

No, that's not true.

The holidays are not happy for everyone. 

11 years ago December 25.....  Spouse and I were at my in-laws on Christmas Day.  They live about 150 miles from where we live.  We had a nice day with other family members, and settled down to watch "It's a Wonderful Life"  with my mother in law and father in law.  Then we went to bed.

My father in law never woke up.  He died during the night of a massive heart attack, his third.

Imagine my mother in law, spending the day after Christmas arranging for the funeral of her husband of nearly 50 years.    The decisions that had to be made quickly, oh so quickly.  The little things, like flowers being almost impossible to come by (flowers being a part of their culture's funeral tradition).  Or us having to borrow clothes for the funeral-most people don't visit for Christmas with black clothes in their suitcase!  Those little details, in a sea of all the major details, on a holiday weekend.

The family gathered again but this time for a much sadder occasion.  Many people came to the funeral home, and it was a great comfort.  But then everyone had to go home, including us.

And then the next Christmas rolled around.  It was not easy.  But we survived, and each year it became easier.  My mother in law has established her independence, and enjoys Christmas with family.

It never goes away but it does become easier.  Although, I have never watched "It's a Wonderful Life" again.

Years ago I worked with someone whose husband died from cancer on Thanksgiving.  In my youth I couldn't understand why Thanksgiving was so hard for her.

Now I understand.

"Blue Christmas" is more than an Elvis song.  For those who have experienced loss:  loss of a loved one, loss of a relationship, loss of a job, the holidays can be so hard to survive, whether or not you are a Christian.  Wherever you go, you are surrounded by smiling Santas, by holiday decorations, by endless carols blaring at work, at the supermarket, at the mall, by constant reminders that everyone is happy.  Except you.

But, you are not alone.  And you will get through it, although it may take a long time.

Time is your friend.  It was for me, and my family, after the events of 2009.  It will be again.

I just need to tell that to myself, again and again.

Monday, December 16, 2013

There's No Place Like Gnome For the Holidays

Here in the Binghamton area of upstate New York, we got about seven inches (18 cm) of snow on Saturday.  For some, it puts us in the holiday spirit.  For others (like me) it puts me in the mood to utter words that can't be reprinted in this blog. I'll really get into that feeling when I head out to work tomorrow morning and find myself navigating the not-always-exactly-cleaned off sidewalks.

Thankfully, my spouse was able to clean off our walks and driveway all right - the snow, thankfully, was not heavy.

On the other hand, winter weather can be beautiful.

I blogged earlier this year about a little "gnome house" someone in Binghamton erected on a tree on their property.  Now, it's been decked out for the holidays.

Someone parked yesterday in a supermarket parking lot in Johnson City has really gotten into the spirit of Christmas. (the white dots are falling snowflakes).
I took this picture yesterday in Westover, near Binghamton.
And this is what those bushes looked like this morning.

It's beginning to look a lot like...well you know.

More later this week.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - December, 2013-Winter Wonderland

December.  Time for the holidays, and for indoor flowers, here in the Binghamton, New York area.  And, it is time for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, brought to us by May Dream Gardens, where gardeners from all over the world gather to show what is blooming for them on the 15th of each month.

The May Dreams garden in Indiana is covered in snow. So is mine, near Binghamton in upstate New York.

 So it is time to bring the flower focus inside.
Technically, this gerbena daisy is not in my house, but it is my plant.  It was a gift this spring from an in-law. It sat in a pot, in my back yard, all summer and didn't bloom, not one time.  I brought it inside when frost threatened but it wasn't happy in my house.  I transported it to my office and it loves it there.  I came back to work one Monday and found that, almost overnight, it had produced two flower buds.  One started to open about a week ago.  Here it is, now, in full bloom, as of Friday.
We bought this lenten rose plant during a "holiday showcase" on November 16 (along with the Christmas cactus in the background) and decided to have it as a houseplant, at least for right now.  If we have a few mild days in a row (mild for the winter, that is) my spouse will plant it outside.  In the meantime, it is blooming nicely for me.

I almost killed these poinsettias from last year when I forgot they were on a new windowsill and didn't water them. Now, the leaves are growing back in with the colored flower bracts - one plant is white and one is red.
I still have geraniums in a hanging basket.The plants are still alive and well, and flowering.

One of my houseplants, an airplane plant, has a bloom where a new airplane "baby" will eventually appear.

Switching the focus to outside...

This is what my garden outside looks like.  One thing I wanted to show you was our blackberry lily.  After blooming, the pods developed and opened and the "blackberries" have lasted such a long time.  I love this plant, and I intend to get more of them.

Finally, these are a couple of our hanging baskets.

Now, please visit some of the other sites that participate in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and see the beauty of this December 15.

What is blooming in your house, or garden, this December 15?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - To Live in Hearts We Leave Behind

This morning, it is snowing here in upstate New York. Everything seems peaceful, but, for our country, that peace only seems to be right on the surface.

Three to five inches expected today

Every Saturday, I have a Sustainability Saturday feature but today I am going to deviate from my normal theme. Sustainability is more than farmer's markets and buying local.  Sustainability is also living in respect of each other, and insuring that a community and its family are nourished in times of need.

Today is the first anniversary of the Newtown, CT school massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The city of Newtown is commemorating this anniversary quietly, with a Day of Service.

Yesterday, Littleton, Colorado had its second brush with a school shooting. I came close to cancelling this post, but I decided I needed to continue.

We here in Binghamton, New York, are connected to Newtown in a couple of ways.

We lost one of our own in the Newtown massacre.  The school psychiatrist, Mary Sherlach, was one of the casualties.  She went to high school in Vestal, near Binghamton, New York.

Newtown isn't the first time our community lost a teacher or a school employee in a mass shooting.  On April 3, 2009, we suffered our own mass shooting, in Binghamton, with 14 (including the shooter) who died in a classroom in the American Civic Association.  So we in Binghamton know what it is like to have a mass shooting in our community.

One of the dead was the teacher, Roberta King, a 72 year old mother of ten and grandmother of 17.

The dead of these tragedies are not just statistics, and I'd like you to experience some of Bobbie King's legacy.  I know someone who knows the person who Bobbie King took the place of on that day.  She hadn't been scheduled to work - she subbed for a teacher who wanted a special 40th wedding anniversary of her husband.

I don't have information on the other dead from the ACA shooting but they deserve our remembrance, too.  If you knew any of them, I welcome your comments on my blog.

Our community enjoys a yearly seasonal museum called Hanukkah House. Bobbie King would display her collection of dolls, and a beautiful custom built dollhouse she owned, at Hanukkah House each year, and her family continues the tradition.

I love this furniture - don't you?  It's so hard to believe these are miniatures.

These are a couple of pictures of the interior of the dollhouse I took last Sunday.  The detail is beautiful - the hours Bobbie must have spent on this.

These are some pictures I took last year.

I love the crocheted coverlet on this dollhouse bed.
Some of Bobbie King's dolls.
And finally,
Roberta King's memorial plaque, ACA Memorial, Binghamton, New York.

It's a hard thing, recovering from this type of tragedy.  Today, as the peaceful snow comes down, my thoughts are with the people of Newtown, Connecticut and Littleton, Colorado.