Friday, October 31, 2014

Facing our Fears Through Holidays

When I was young, I trick or treated in my apartment building in the Bronx.  The apartment house I called home for almost all of my childhood was 14 stories tall and we went from floor to floor collecting candy almost as soon as we got home from school.   Some of us even trick or treated for UNICEF.

Many of our costumes were home made - ghost costumes made from sheets, firemen costumes made from rubberized raincoats, clowns in makeup, pirates in black with an eye patch, Little Red Riding Hoods dressed in - what else, red.

For decorations we had carved pumpkins, we had bowls of candy corn (which, to this day, I detest) and other simple decorations.

Now, Halloween has started to rival Christmas as a decoration opportunity.

Here are some house decorations I have found on my travels, and here in Binghamton, New York.

Today, taken in Binghamton.
I visited Yonkers, NY (a city bordering New York City on the north) in 2012, and saw this in a neighborhood near the iconic Cross County Shopping Center.
Here is another view.  Strange that this tableau includes a clown, but I know they are objects of fear for a lot of people.

And what is Halloween, in a way, but a way of facing our fears?
One more from Yonkers

Instead of Ebola, we think of the living dead.
Binghamton, New York, 2014
Instead of terrorists, we think of witches and flowers.
But this innocent yard might be the scariest yard of all.  Green plants and blooming dahlias, all on October 28.  In years past, this Binghamton area yard might have been covered in light snow by now.  It certainly wouldn't have had thriving dahilas.  And this isn't a fluke. Our weather gets scarier and scarier. (Full disclosure, my neighborhood was nipped by frost this morning).

Sometimes, beauty can be the scariest thing of all.

Do you celebrate Halloween?  If so, what do you do?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Hydrangea and the Bee

It's the waning days of fall here in upstate New York.  But don't tell this bee.  She (see right side of photo) was buzzing around this hydrangea Tuesday as I tried to take its picture.  It's almost doomsday for Ms. Bee, but she keeps on buzzing and was enjoying what might be the warmest day of the rest of the year. (Just don't tell her the killing frost is just around the corner.)

Another hydrangea nearby, in the garden of the Broome County Library in downtown Binghamton, New York, was showing the colors of fall.  Don't you love those stripes?

As unbelievable as it is for plants to be blooming on October 27, even more unbelievable is the fact that November begins on Saturday.

And, with November begins NaNoWriMo, a 30 day non stop writing journey. It's 30 days of uninhibited writing, no editing.

No plot? No problem.  No idea where your story is going? No problem. No muse? No problem.

NaNoWriMo is a lot of sweat, coffee, and more sweat and coffee.  The forums are full of discussion and strange people. I'll be in good company, as I am strange, too. There will be pep talks by famous writers.  And at the end, I'll have a manuscript I didn't have on November 1, to do whatever I want with.

During NaNoWriMo, there's a lot of wondering about personal sanity.  There's my long suffering spouse, sadly shaking his head as his spouse disappears into writing land.

This is my third NaNoWriMo, and until last night, I didn't think I was going to do it.  I have other manuscripts on my computer-never revisited, never edited, never again seeing the light of my laptop screen.

My muse? Never had one.  She's probably lying unconscious somewhere, OD'd on chocolate.

So this year, I am going to be like the Binghamton bee.  I am not going to question why there is a flower to feed off of on October 27.  I will take what I am given.  If I have time to write, I will.  If I don't, I won't.  If something happens in my life, it will become part of my book.

I can always edit the rants out later.

And, with the sweet pollen of what is left, I will make honey.

That's the plan, anyway.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo?  I'd love some company.  My "pen" name is RamblinWritr.  If you ask to be my buddy, I'll be yours.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Small Town Tragedy

(My Wednesday Fall Fancies feature returns next Wednesday).

I grew up in the most populous city in the United States, New York City.  And, over 25 years ago, I moved to the Binghamton area of upstate New York.

So many people think "New York City" when they think New York State, but so much of New York State consists of these small rural towns, where everyone knows everyone else.

Monday, after work, I was browsing Facebook. A business near Bainbridge, New York (another small town, near Afton, and about 35 miles from Binghamton) that I follow called Frog Pond posted about the "tragedy in our town today" and asked for privacy for the affected family, who they (of course) knew personally.

I immediately went to local media websites.  At the time, there weren't many details. There are more details now, but enough still remains a mystery - including the main question - why?

It was apparently an incident of road rage, which ended in a parking lot in Bainbridge, with a father and son shot and the son dead. The family suffering the loss lives in Afton.  The father, who is in a hospital a mile or so from where I live, ignored his serious wounds and tried to perform CPR on his dying son.

The shooter? A retired New York City policeman.

Afton mourns.  Bainbridge mourns.  They are in shock. A woman is widowed, a daughter is without a brother.  Things like that don't happen in an instant in small towns some 35 miles from Binghamton. 

Meanwhile, people in Binghamton, which suffered one of the largest mass shootings in American history back in 2009 (14 dead), feel a small part of the pain we felt that day.

This has happened too many times in our country.

Another day in the life of an American town.

Tomorrow, back to happier posts.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Bearer of Hope The Stinker of Stink

Nature is always beautiful, but sometimes, it plain stinks.

Today, I took a walk in a part of downtown I rarely walk in. It's not the most scenic area, but I got the surprise of the week.

Gingko trees, glowing in the midday sun.  I only wish my iPhone 4S camera could have done them proper justice.
I entertained my friend with a dissertation on ginkgo fruits, and how cities would try to plant male trees (ginkgo trees are either male or female) since they would not fruit.  Trust me, you do not want to smell a crushed ginkgo fruit. 

And then, I stepped on one.

Had I found a male, turned female?  And, better yet, how can such a beautiful tree have such a...well, smell?

Many cities wonder if the stink is worth the beauty.

So, I wanted to repeat a post from last November on

The Dilemma of the Ginkgo

Last year, some streets in downtown Binghamton, New York were rebuilt and re landscaped. This spring, I noticed that some of the young trees planted were ginkgos.

Ginkgoes are not extremely popular here in Binghamton.  I see more of the trees up in Ithaca, and I saw a good number in Iowa City when I used to visit my late aunt.  This was back in the 1980's and 1990's and I can remember them on the University of Iowa campus.  I've also seen them in New York City.

The ginkgo tree is also called the Maidenhair tree.  It is an almost indestructible tree.  In Japan they are known as the "bearer of hope" as a number of them survived the 1945 atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. One of the surviving trees is some 200 years old.
The leaves turn a lovely yellow in the fall, too.  But before you rush out to buy this wonderful tree, there is something you should know.

The females produce a seed, surrounded by a pulp.  Fortunately, there is no such thing as "smell o blog" because you would be gagging just about now.  Some people say the smell resembles the smell of vomit.  Others say dog poo.  I tend towards the dog poo camp.

That patch of fallen leaves on the West Side of Binghamton, to be accurate, reeks.

This is what the offending (bare) tree looked like in early November, the offending fruits barely visible.

Yes, dear readers, this is the same Gingko Biloba that some claim enhances your memory, and may have other medicinal qualities.

Many cities were playing it safe by permitting only male trees.  But nature has a way, folks (as anyone who has seen the movie Jurassic Park knows), and it would seem that some of those male trees are now - well, they aren't males any more.

And these cities who planted these wonder trees now wonder what to do.

I wonder if the tree I photographed on the West Side of Binghamton started its life as a male.

Will the City of Binghamton have to face that dilemma in a few year when those small downtown trees mature and perhaps....well, stink?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fans of Global Warming

I overheard a conversation between two women in downtown Binghamton, New York today.

Woman #1: do you remember when snow fell on Halloween and was still there on Easter?  I do.  And I don't miss it at all!

Woman #2: I love global warming!


I've seen snow flurries plenty of times in October. But, so far, not this year.

And, I remember taking my son trick or treating one year in the early 1990's with the hills above us receiving some 13 inches of sloppy snow. For us in the valley, we got less, but it was one miserable night.  I led my little superhero, bundled up underneath his costume (his choice!), from house to house, where he was showered with enough candy to open a store. (Mom ate well that night).
West side Binghamton, NY Smoke Tree
We have plenty of trees just starting to change color here in the Triple Cities.  In the past, I was raking leaves earlier than I do now.

Now, we still have leaves on some of our trees past November.  Other trees are peaking out now.

Global warming (or climate change, as I would rather call it) has been a mixed blessing for the Binghamton area.

I am loving the 70 degree weather (21 C) forecast for tomorrow.

But, wait.  In the forecast for Saturday...

...yes, you guessed it.

What's in your weather forecast?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Civil War Sunday - The Invasion of Bayshore Boulevard

If my spouse and I visit a city, we always like to take one (or more) walks through neighborhoods,  just to get a feel of the city.

It's a little different when we visit a place we used to live in.  Forty years ago, we lived in Tampa, Florida (on Florida's west coast) and rarely took advantage of what is one of longest (if not the longest) continuous sidewalk in the United States.

Last year, we decided to change that.  So in March of 2013, we found ourselves visitors in a city where we used to live.  It was time to be tourists and not residents.

Walking along Bayshore Boulevard, at Hawthorne Road on that bright March day, we saw this historical marker.

There had actually been a small battle in Tampa, back in 1862, but this marker was not for that.  Rather, it was for something I had never heard of, a skirmish on October 17, 1863 - a small Federal invasion of the city that failed. 

But, this isn't the only trace of the Civil War in the waters near Tampa. Indeed, Civil War era wrecks are being located, including one called the Scottish Chief and a "blockade runner" called the Kate Dale.

Indeed, Tampa, and Florida (a Confederate state), played a role in the Civil War, one that was vital, but isn't that well known.

I found more historical info on Tampa which I might save for a snowy winter day.

You can see a list of historical markers across Florida online.
Near Downtown Tampa
History.  You can find it wherever you walk.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - It's the Turn of the Season

To everything, there is a season.
Sunset over the Susquehanna River 10-24-14

Today is the last outdoor farmers markets here in the Binghamton area of upstate New York.  After today, the cold  drives the one market that stays open year round indoors.
Binghamton Downtown Farmers Market, 10-17-14

In some ways, it is so hard to believe that the growing season is over.  In some years, we would already have seen snow flurries and, in fact, snow has been seen less than an hour away from us. Yesterday was mild but windy, with a chill. But this year, it is possible we may have highs in the 70's (21 C) next week.

Farmers have picked whatever is left in frost-killed fields and are selling it.

Our community garden closes Sunday. Our chard is picked.
The peppers (pictured above, "Fooled You" jalapeno peppers) are done.  Tomato plants are a frost-bit memory, lying in brown tatters.
We've said goodbye to our basil.

The last of the trees are now turning color.

The season continues to turn.  The sun turns its face from us, as the days grow shorter.

Soon it will be time for snow, wind and below zero temperatures (sometimes) as the now dormant trees sleep. Some people enjoy winter sports and can't wait.  Others call snow the "s" word as they dread the slipping, the sliding and the shoveling.  That is the order of things in upstate New York.

What is the order of things where you live?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Can Men Get Breast Cancer?

I walked up to the pink booth at the health fair.  You know, the one decorated with pink booklets about breast cancer, pink cancer ribbons and non stop pink, pink, pink.  After all, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States.  And its color is pink - pink for women.

My spouse's mother is a breast cancer survivor - times two.  A couple of her sisters had breast cancer. One of his cousins (other side of the family) is also a two time survivor. That's one heck of a lot of breast cancer.

I walked up to the woman manning (sorry) the booth, and asked:

Is my spouse at risk for breast cancer?

YES, was her response.

And not only that, this breast cancer support program, Encore, had several clients who were men.

I am passing along what this woman  told me.

Listen up, men in this situation, and the women in their lives. (I am not a health care professional, and this isn't health advice - just passing along what this breast cancer advocate told me.)

Men, I have a feeling you aren't told this by your doctors, but I am here to tell you this today.  If you have female relatives who have had breast cancer (especially more than one) you may be at risk.  (And, even if you don't).

-There aren't male mammograms, but males can and should do the same self examination as women, paying special attention to the nipples and under the arms. You must learn what your "normal" breast feels like.

-Breast cancer in men tends to be more aggressive than in women, so if you find something suspicious, get to a doctor right away.

Tell your doctor if you have a family history. He should include this in your exam, along with the "male" areas.

-And don't be put off by that pink.  Although Encore may be run by the YWCA, it accepts men, too.

Sometimes, pink is good.

And education is even better.

Breast cancer isn't just for women.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

In Those Very Halls

I've visited Ottawa, the capital of Canada, twice.  The first time was not long before I became pregnant with my son.  It was May, and the tulips were blooming.  The second time, we had our son with us, and he was in elementary school.  I can't remember where we stayed,  but I remember it had a waterslide.  And they had day care.

We were able to leave our son in the hotel, and take a tour of the Canadian Parliament building. I loved the history and the differences between our politics, there in Canada, and here in the United States.

I loved the Peace Tower, in particular, which is the building you see on Parliament Hill with the clock.  But it's so much more than a clock, or a bell tower, or an observation deck with a wonderful view, although it does have all of those.

An elevator takes you to the top.  A guard stays with you at all times.  Only seven people can be up there at a time.

There was a memorial chamber paying tribute to the Canadians who gave their lives in time of war.  Many (not all) people from the United States tend to be self centered, barely aware of that large country to the north of us. (As I am an American, I can say that.)  I've found that Canadians, on the other hand, are quite aware of the United States.

I lingered in the tower.  My father was a disabled veteran of World War II. One of my uncles was a civilian casualty of World War I (yes, I'm that old). 

There was several Books of Remembrance in the Memorial Chamber., with names of war dead.  The walls tell a story, a story that humbled my spouse (a veteran, although not a war veteran) and me.

Canada has paid a heavy price in various wars.  World War I. World War II.  They have fought at our side in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Just the other day, they were offering air combat jets for the fight against a terrorist group in Iraq.  That offer may be the reason for what happened yesterday.

Yesterday, the tours of the peace tower were cancelled, as shots rang out in Parliament after a man shot and killed a soldier at the Canada War Memorial, and then opened fire in Parliament.  The shooter was shot and killed. 

Finally, the American media is paying attention.  As I write this post (the night of October 22), some networks are providing extensive coverage - and discussion.  We hear a recording of the shots, over and over.

In the Peace Tower, there are various poems on plaques in the walls.  One of them is "In Flanders Field".

But, sadly, this is not a time for poetry.  It may well become a time of war for us, as it for so many people in the world already.

Tomorrow, a (hopefully) happier topic.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fall Fancies - Over the Rainbow

This past weekend, we made a trip from our home in upstate New York to a New York City suburb.

We pass through mountains called the Catskills. Many of the trees in the mountains were already bare.

We were greeted by this sight soon after getting to our destination.  You can't see it too well, but starting about at the center tall tree and then going upward and to the left, there is a rainbow.

I wanted to treat you to some other photos from that day.

This is the Hudson River, the mighty river that runs some 315 miles long, mostly through eastern New York State, before it ends in New York Harbor. 

On a nice day the river would have been lined with sailboats enjoying the fall foliage.

In grade school, we who grow up in New York City learn about the Hudson, and how, for part of its length, it is actually a salt water estuary.  And, it is a lot cleaner than it was when I was growing up in the 50's and early 60's.

Along the Hudson are many historic river towns, some of which I have visited, and others which I need to.
This was taken on the historic Taconic Parkway.  This portion was built in the 1930s.

Another view, the fall colors muted due to the clouds. On the left side, in the distance, you can see some of the historic stone walls that line portions of the parkway.

So many people think that New York State is New York City, a city noted more for its tall buildings and cultural heritage than its natural beauty.

There is so much more to New York State than New York City, although New York City is well worth the visit.

And, although I don't always like making this trip due to my back problems, I must admit that the scenery can be inspiring.

How did you spend this past weekend?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Do They Care About Others?

Today, I'd like to tell you a story - a true story.

Once upon a, wait, this happened on Sunday.

My spouse and I were driving "B", my brother in law who has autism, to the supermarket.  He was out of lunchbags and we needed to pick up something for a quick lunch.

"B" isn't big on idle chatter.  If something is on his mind, he blurts it out, whether or not the moment is appropriate or not.  At least, it was an appropriate moment.

"What are you doing for C's birthday?", he asked.

We've had so many things on our minds recently.  And, with my mother in law's recent falls, it most probably was not on her mind.

But "B" knew better.  He only has one sister, "C", and that sister was going to celebrate a milestone birthday later this year.

And all of us had forgotten.

"What should we do, "B"? I asked him.  I was curious about how he would answer.

How about having it on ______, so we can also celebrate "A"'s birthday?, "B" responded.  The date in question was a milestone birthday for my son.  Trouble was, the date was several months in the future, way after my sister in law's birthday.  But "B" was keeping track of everyone's birthday, no doubt about that.

After a couple of more questions, I realized that "B" had it all planned.  The date.  The restaurant.  Even who should be invited.

I don't know why I should be surprised.  Why do we, as a society, underestimate (and undervalue) people with autism?  And, furthermore, why do we feel they don't love anyone?

They may not show love the ways we neurotypical (people without autism) folks think love should be shown.  But that love is there.  And, in the midst of us worrying about so many things, "B" was thinking of his sister first.

Now, for an announcement.

This is my 1800th post.  No giveaway.  Just a big thank you.
Thank you, dear readers for making my writing of this blog worthwhile.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Would You Let Your Child Play in Hot Lava?

I'm taking a little mental break today - this post was inspired by one of the most awesome people on Facebook, the actor and activist George Takei.

It's been a long time since I've visited Seattle, Washington.  I was there before I had my son, and my son is grown now. Until I become a grandmother, I won't have much reason to visit a playground, because I have no nieces and nephews.

But if I did need to visit a playground, I might just visit this one.

I wonder if this is for real.  Readers?

According to a post on Reddit, a playground (Cascade Playfield) in Seattle, Washington has a "Hot Lava Survival Game" posted on the playground equipment.  So, if a child gets bored of the swings, slides, and other regular equipment, they can play "Survive a Mt. Rainer Eruption!" Yes, when there is an active volcano in your city's backyard (and it is an awesome view if you've ever flown into Seattle on a sunny day-which I had the pleasure of doing once, many years ago), you might as well turn that scary fact into a childhood game.

Strangely, though, the website for the City of Seattle parks does not feature anything about the Hot Lava Survival Game. 

At least, there is no real lava on the playground - not yet, anyway.

Another blogger even took pictures of some of the "landmarks" in the instructions on how to play the Hot Lava Survival Game.

Here are some facts about Mt. Rainier, which is about 60 miles from Seattle. 

It is the fifth tallest peak in the 48 "lower" United States (not counting Alaska and Hawaii) and the tallest mountain in the state of Washington.  It measures some 14,411 feet tall.

It last erupted in the 19th century, in 1894.

It was first climbed (that we know of, of course) in 1870.

And, it is expected to erupt again, someday. When it does, it really isn't hot lava, but a mud flow called lahar, that may spell doom for thousands of people, if they can't get out of the way.

Considering its proximity to Seattle, a city of about 650,000 people, "when" becomes an important question.  There is a lahar early warning system in place, but we may only find out how effective it is when the volcano erupts.

In the meantime, I do wonder about that playground.  Is it in the path of the expected lahar flow? Do children really play that hot lava game?

Do you have an unusual playground near you?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Civil War Sunday-All Ignored at The Western Front

Many of my blog readers know me as someone who was raised in New York City, and ended up living much of her life in upstate New York, near Binghamton.  But there is another part of me.

I spent my early adult life in what many consider the midwestern portion of the United States (Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, and Iowa ) and, when I study the United States Civil War as someone interested in history, I sometimes like to blog about that part of the country.

Missouri, a border state whose citizens fought on both side of the war, suffered greatly. However, many of its battles are relatively unknown to the casual follower of Civil War history, who concentrates on the battles along the East Coast.

And, some of the ugliest events of the war happened in Missouri.

Arkansas?  Nearly 30 years ago, I lived near two Civil War battlegrounds, one of which has never been honored with an official park.

I  never really investigated the history of that area until I returned last year, for the first time since I left in the mid 1980's.  I was amazed at what I found out about ruins (a mill and an abandoned college) I passed on the way to work every day for nearly four years.

And Kansas?  Some of us remember "Bleeding Kansas", as Kansas became a battlefield overrun by pro and anti slavery combatants, some seven or so years before the Civil War began officially.  I lived in Kansas in the late 1970's, due to my spouse's job.   I enjoyed my time in Wichita.

Yesterday, a battlefield in Kansas, Mine Creek, held its 150th anniversary commemoration (the actual battle took place October 25, 1864).   It's a battle, unknown mostly to those of us who live on the East Coast, and one of the best preserved Civil War battlefields.

The Confederates had invaded Missouri in August of 1864 in an attempt to disrupt the 1864 Presidential election, when President Lincoln was running against-well, you would have to read it to believe it, and I just may have to blog about that election in the next couple of weeks. (Hopefully, I'll have the time).   Missouri, a slave state, had remained in the Union, and capturing it would have been an impressive victory for the Confederacy. 

After a number of victories in Missouri, the Confederates headed into neighboring Kansas. Their destination was Ft. Scott, Kansas, a major supply depot.

But at Mine Creek (also known as the Battle of the Osage), the Confederates were turned back.  After the Union victory,the rebels were chased back into Missouri, and then, pushed back either further into Indian Territory (now the state of Oklahoma).

I only wish I had known about Mine Creek when I had lived in Kansas.  I didn't have time to go there during my Arkansas vacation last year.  It was just a handful of hours away by car.

How many people showed up at the 150th Mine Creek commemoration yesterday?  About 400, I understand from Mine Creek's Facebook page.  It made me a little sad, with better known battle commemorations on the East Coast drawing thousands more.  In fact, some 30,000 are expected in a small town in Virginia next April, for the 150th commemoration of General Robert E. Lee's surrender.

Have you ever studied lesser known history?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - The Other End of Life

Part of sustainable living is thinking of, and honoring, the "other end of life". 

My spouse was talking on the phone to his sister, who is several years younger than he is. (He is in his early 60's).  He was talking about going through the various seasons of life. 

We are entering a portion of life, my spouse and I, too often devalued in our Western society.  That should not be. In some societies, the elderly are honored as keepers of wisdom.

Several months ago, I blogged about "human wormholes" and my spouse's last living aunt, who was alive when the Titanic sank and when millions died in a worldwide flu epidemic.

Today, I have something sad to report.  My husband's aunt, at the age of 102, fell and broke her hip while plumping pillows.   She is hospitalized.  Surgery is scheduled for Monday.

But we all know what usually happens when people that old fall.  We may be losing her wisdom in the not too distant future.

Her son, who lives with him, has to make some very hard decisions now, about where and how his mother will spend the rest of her life. 

When I told my son the news about his beloved great aunt, he exclaimed "what was she doing [making a bed] at her age?"

Well, she was doing what she was doing.  Living life.  She knew the day would come, no matter what she did - the day that will come to us all, no matter what we do or try to delay that day.  We can't be afraid to plump a pillow, so to speak.  But too many of us, me included, can be.

I am reminded of a fellow blogger who lives in Great Britain, Francene Stanley.  She and her husband are both older than me, and she gave me these words today, in reference to another elderly relative I have.

"Beauty is fleeting, to be enjoyed, to be embraced, to be hugged close, and then, let go."

To honor Aunt T, I rerun this post:

Treasured Links to the Past - Or Human Wormholes?

She is what some call a human wormhole.  And I hope she'll forgive me for saying so, because she knows I love her very much.  It's not the most elegant name, the "human wormhole" but if you think about it a little, the name is a bit catchy.

Yes, I know she looks like a woman of a certain age.  To be exact, she's 102 years old.  But she's so much more.  She's a treasured relative in my spouse's family.

She is a link to the past.  She may be physically frail, but her mind is as sharp as the day she was born. Maybe even sharper.

She's a living link to the past, the past that, for all but a handful of us, exists only in textbooks.  When I touch her, when I talk to her, I am touching history.

She was alive when the Titanic made its maiden voyage (1912).

She was alive when our country enacted a constitutional amendment permitting the income tax (1913).

She was alive during the post World War I flu epidemic (1918-1919) and vaguely remembers wagons traveling from house to house where needed to pick up the dead (what a childhood memory).

We are fascinated by human wormholes.  I've blogged about some of them myself, from the living grandson of a U.S. President who served from 1841 to 1845 to a man who witnessed Lincoln's 1865 assassination and lived to tell the story on a late night game show in 1956.

One story has an interesting twist.  It is said that Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who fought in the Civil War, shook hands with both former President John Quincy Adams (born in 1767) and a young/future President John J Kennedy (whose life was cut short by assassination in 1963).  I can not find any firm evidence for this having actually happened (there is a fascinating discussion online about whether it might have been possible, though). However, Holmes did have a link to more than just the Civil War, where it is said he once saved Lincoln's life.

Holmes, who lived from 1841 to 1937, had fond memories of his grandmother, who could remember red coated English troops marching through the streets of Boston at the beginning of our Revolutionary War. When she was five. In 1776.

If I live long enough, I might be a human wormhole, too.  I don't know if that makes me happy - or scares me a little.

Do you know anyone who would qualify as a human wormhole?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Days of Red and Roses

It's the last hurrah of summer.  All things come to an end. 
My dahlias, earlier in October

The growing season, the season of green, is ending, soon to be replaced by bare trees, snow, and ice.

Where I live in upstate New York, many areas have received frost.  Right where I live, we haven't had our killing frosts yet, but we probably will on Sunday night/Monday morning.
So, it is time to say goodbye to our days of red and roses, with some parting pictures taken recently in the Binghamton/Johnson City/Ithaca area of upstate New York.  Fall beauty is fleeting, to be enjoyed, to be embraced, to be hugged close, and then, let go

At my job, we are already talking about what we call the "s" word - snow.

Can you tell I don't like winter?

But it isn't here yet, as I show you the progression of fall color here.

Red bushes in early morning fog, by an abandoned factory building in Westover, near Johnson City.

Rose hips.
Roses in Ithaca, New York, were still in bloom on Sunday, but for how long? (Their climate, moderated by Cayuga Lake, allows for a longer growing season. But it is still upstate New York.)

Every day, the sunrises are later, and the sunsets are earlier. 

These clouds proved the "red sky in morning, sailor take warning" folk saying - we had heavy rains later that day.  But it was mild.

In another week or less, that mildness will be a memory.

Do you have seasons where you live?  Which is your favorite?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Love Potatoes? Try This

Do you think that cauliflower is bland, white, and boring?

It doesn't have to be any of those. 

It's time to think of cauliflower in a different way.  And, as a bonus, I am going to blog about a recipe I love.
For example, in a purple way. (the only drawback is, when it cooks, it doesn't turn green like many other purple veggies - rather, it turns a blah purplish grey.)
Tried to show the orange and it got too blue

Or an orange way.
Or a green way. (the green cauliflower is on the left and the right, with brocolli in the center.)

We are so fortunate in upstate New York, where cauliflower grows well, and it grows big.

And it is nutritious.

Don't just think white!

Now, I have a recipe for you.  This is a variation my spouse makes on a famous "South Beach Diet Cauliflower Mashed 'Potatoes'"  recipe that was so popular a few years ago.

I interviewed my spouse, the family cook, for this recipe.  He is a "feel" cook, i.e. he doesn't measure, and he can't tell you exactly what he does.  He just does it.  So, you may want to refer to the above link if you need more exact directions.

Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes" a la AM's Spouse

One Head cauliflower, cut up into the florets.  Of the various types, spouse likes the orange best. (I wouldn't use the purple kind.  White works, though.)
Light butter, to taste
Parmesan Cheese, to taste


1. Cook cauliflower in microwave or steam until fork tender.  Microwaving preserves nutrients. Spouse does not use chicken broth - rather, he uses water.

2 Puree in blender until smooth, adding just enough cooking liquid so it will come out as a thick puree. As you puree, add 1 tbsp light butter in to taste, along with 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Salt to taste. 

4. Warm in microwave before you serve it.

5. And that's it. Enjoy!

I truly like this better than mashed potatoes.

Do you have a favorite "mock food" recipe?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - October Summer

From near frost conditions in my garden near Johnson City, New York on Saturday morning, to mild temperatures yesterday (76 degrees F! - 24.4 C) to rain today - all that is certain that this will be the last outdoor Garden Bloggers Bloom Day in my zone 5b garden until next spring.

Brought to you by May Dreams Gardens, gardeners from all over the world gather on the 15th of each month to show what is blooming inside or outside their homes.

Where do I begin, on this October day full of rain?

This year, I managed to overwinter a scented geranium, so this is the plant's second summer.  These plants are grown for their scented leaves, not their small flowers.  But I like the flowers - so small and dainty.

Not like these ivy geraniums.
In my back yard are Japanese anemones.  This looks so much like the photo from my October, 2013 GBBD but I assure you it isn't. Bought about three years ago at a clearance sale, these have become one of my favorite fall flowers.

I have some newbie flowers to show you.
 I finally bought a toad lily plant - and it is flowering. It did surprise me a little - I thought the flowers would be larger.  But, it has been blooming for over three weeks - a pleasant autumn addition to my shade garden.

I bought this sage in April, at Plantasia in Charleston, South Carolina. We had no idea this event even existed - we visited Charleston in mid-April, saw the signs, and visited this annual plant sale.

I've blogged about my bad habit of buying plants in my travels like souvenirs, taking the gamble that they will survive my upstate New York winter.  The vendor felt this sage might survive.  As usual, the name of this sage plant exists only in the mists of time and my bad memory, as my spouse (yes, I'll blame him) once again got rid of the tag.
My white marigolds are still going strong.
My perilla (the purplish plant to the right of the reddish plant) is blooming, although the picture didn't come out that great.

My pansies are reblooming, but they look a bit eaten - not good enough to show my blog readers.

Please, now that you have seen my beauties, visit the May Dreams Garden website, and click the links to other gardens from all over the world.

What is blooming where you live?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Beauty is Just Around the Corner

Today, I wanted to treat you to some pictures I've taken in the last several days in upstate New York.

Beauty is just around the corner.  All you need to do is look.  And, mid October treats us, not only to fall color, but to special sun angles that just seem to make everything glow.

Maybe it's just a tree in my neighborhood - but peek a boo, do you see the window?  (Hint, the lower right of the photo).
A sunrise near an abandoned factory building in the Westover neighborhood near Johnson City, New York. We have had some amazing sunrises in the past few days.
Outside the Ithaca, New York farmers market, as a tour boat leaves the dock on its way to a cruise around Cayuga Lake, one of the Finger Lakes.
And finally, roses still in bloom yesterday.  Many places have had their first frost, but many areas around Ithaca, thanks to Cayuga Lake, have been spared. 

Soon enough, though, the remainder of the green trees will start to turn color. And, before month's end, the last of the leaves will be falling.

The chill is already in the air.

Enjoy the beauty just around the corner.