Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Winter Wonders - The Rock

Imagine being born in a shopping center.  And imagine asking someone to take a picture of your birthplace turning into a history lesson.

That is the story of my last blog post of 2014.

What started as an after dinner Christmas walk has become a holiday tradition for my spouse and me.

This year, it also became a lesson, all because of this rock.
In Yonkers, New York, there is an outdoor shopping center. Both my spouse and I shopped there (well, our parents did - we were just along for the ride) when we were small.

Back in the early 1960's this outdoor mall, the first in Westchester County, New York, contained large and small stores, a play area, and even a hospital.

It was called Cross County Center then, and Cross County Shopping Center now.  It opened in 1954 and is still going strong, unlike many other malls of the era. 

My parents would take two buses from our apartment in the Bronx (the northern borough of New York City, which borders Yonkers) to Cross County just to shop there.  I loved those outings.

Several months ago, I was chatting with a co worker where I work in Binghamton, in upstate New York.  I don't remember how we got on the topic of our childhoods, but I discovered that she had been born in the Cross County Hospital, and spent her early childhood in Yonkers, before moving away, eventually to Binghamton.

Small world.

Then, when I shared the fact that I had Christmas dinner every year in walking distance of that same shopping center, she asked me a favor: would I take a picture of the hospital for her?

I had to break the news to her that the hospital had closed in the 1980's.  The good news was, the building was still there.  I told her I would do my best to get a picture.

So, last week, after Christmas dinner, my spouse, my son and I walked to Cross County.

On the way, we saw flowers valiantly trying to stay alive in the cold early winter weather. (You knew I would try to sneak flowers into this post, didn't you?)
Red and white building on the right, once a hospital, is soon to be a hotel
 I took the picture she asked for. 

But then, walking further, we saw a rock.  A rock with a  historical plaque.  A rock neither my husband nor I remember from our childhoods.  But it must have been there.

It turns out that the land Cross County is located on has been a trading zone for hundreds of years.  First, Native Americans traded here, by a rock which became known as the "Trading Rock". Later, European settlers carried on the tradition.

My family and my in laws were simply carrying on a tradition already hundreds of years old.

Here is one more picture of Cross County to end my blogging year.

Can you imagine, one day visiting the city of your birth and staying in the building where you were born in?  In a small way, I envy her.  (Why, I may blog about next month).

Tomorrow, 2015 begins - a year which I hope will be kinder to us all than 2014 was.

Happy New Year to my readers.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Year in Review in Pictures

It's time to look back.

Today, on this next to last day of 2014, I want to share some photos that I took throughout 2014.  At my age (62) time seems to fly so quickly.

But when I look back, I realize just how much I've been blessed with - the health to be able to travel, the income that permits me to own an iPhone, and you, my dear blog readers, who brighten my life daily.  When I look back, time seems to slow down.

 I'm pleased to bring these photo highlights to you, for your enjoyment.

Charleston, South Carolina, early April, 2014, at sunset.  The palmettos above are symbolic of South Carolina and a palmetto is featured on its state flag.

Summerville, South Carolina, April, 2014.  This is a picture of a house I walked past. So appealing on a Monday in early April, this yard invites you to sit and visit.
Thayer House, Skaneateles, New York, June 1, dating from around the 1830's.
Fall color in downtown Binghamton, New York, late October.  The building to the left is the Security Mutual Life building, built in 1904.

And finally, a snowy morning on Skaneateles Lake, mid December.

Why did I choose these particular photos?  Perhaps because they all spoke to me in some way.

I hope they speak to you, too.

Thank you, readers, for sharing 2014 with me.

I will leave you with one more picture.  Right now, much of the plant world is in its winter sleep here in upstate New York.  In fact, as I write this blog post, it is snowing.

But one day next year, the landscape will green up, flowers will bloom again, and the promise of renewal will be kept.

I am counting the days.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Last Chance?

On Christmas Eve, a cousin called me, and we got to reminiscing. Another cousin had recently been hospitalized with health issues, and it is clear to all of us that time is passing much too quickly.

We had tried to see this cousin twice in recent years as he lives about three hours from us, but circumstances intervened and we had to cancel both visits.

We talked about the possibility of a family reunion next year, especially as one cousin is moving out of the New York area (I live in upstate New York, but was born in New York City) probably to Texas, and we would want to do this before he moves.

It may be a last chance for a reunion of the New York area branch of my "cousins". 

Maybe it isn't strange at all that, this weekend, I took advantage of a free offer on a normally pay-genealogy site.

This reminded me of a couple of posts I've written - one, this summer, and the other, in August of 2012.

Have you ever organized a family reunion?

Two Reunions (July 2014)

Two years ago, on the first Friday of August.  It is two years since some first cousins and their families gathered at my home in Westover, near Johnson City, New York for a mini family reunion.  We haven't had one since and I don't know if we ever will have one again.

After the reunion was over, I wrote this blog post.  It's hard to believe two years have passed since the reunion, and almost three years since a flood that devastated my neighborhood, and other parts of the Triple Cities of Upstate New York.

It's been a time of recovery and a time of hope. A time of memory (the topic of the August NaBloPoMo),  A time of ReUNION.

Slowly, the flood ruined houses are finally being demolished. Much (not all) of the land will be turned into green spaces, never to be developed again.
Former BAE Industries, Westover, NY, July 3, 2014

The ruined factory I speak of (still not demolished) once occupied by BAE Industries and 1300 workers, still waits for its date with the bulldozer.  At one time it was the largest wood framed structure in the United States.  Its history is forgotten by so many.

But on the other hand, since I wrote this, at least one new business has started where another one had closed - a seed of hope.

And our town, the town of Union, has been planning a gigantic planning project, the ReUNION Project 2020.  There are a lot of high hopes for our area.  Time will tell what positive things will come out of this disaster.

This is the post I wrote after the cousins reunion, on the eve of the first anniversary of the flood.

On the Cover of the Rolling....Flood Book (August 2012)

It is said that everyone has their 15 minutes of fame.  Sometimes, that fame is a welcome thing.  Don't you want to be famous?  Doesn't everyone?

Sometimes, it is your neighborhood that becomes famous.

Many times, you just as soon wish it had never happened.
That's what I wish, every time I leave my house near Johnson City, NY and walk or travel more than about three or four blocks.

I pass buildings that became vacant 11 months ago today, and are still vacant.  Some don't have interior walls.  Some are still filled with debris.  Some have "For Sale" signs.  Some still have bushes encrusted with flood mud.

There is the former credit union building.  The former day care center.  The former doctor's practice. The former 600,000. square foot factory building that once held 1300 workers.  The former adult day care center.  The sagging houses that will never be occupied again.  One entire street is almost devoid of occupants, with just a handful of hardy souls trying to reclaim their lives.

The out of business and for sale tire store whose mechanics nourished my son's love of car repair especially touches my heart.  The former.....the former.....

Many businesses have reopened.  The Home Depot.  The Ollies.  The window contractor.  The Aldi.  Our local pediatrician. A dentist.  A massage therapist.   My beloved Unicorn Electronics.  Wild Birds Unlimited.

We must look towards the future and I usually do, but today I look back one last time.

This past weekend, I had several cousins visit from the New York City area, Pennsylvania, and (by Skype) Florida, the midwest and Texas.  We had a lot of fun, and we talked about many things.  Still, a certain book I had taken out of the library drew a number of fascinated readers.  They paged through the pictures while my young adult son provided the narration.

One of the cousins graduated last year from Binghamton University.  She looked at pictures of places she knew. She had graduated in May of 2011 and the pictures were taken during the period of September 7, 8 and 9, 2011 during the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee,  It was a book about the flood.  If she had still been going to the college, she may well have volunteered at the Events Center, which became one of the evacuation centers.

My neighborhood is on the cover of the flood book.  My house is even visible (no, not telling you which one) in the aerial photo.

Our neighborhood of Westover, along with several other areas (some of which suffered much worse than we did) have become a symbol of the flood.  Let us name them:  Owego. Castle Gardens.  Twin Orchards.  The Southside of Binghamton.  There are others.  I really don't know why our neighborhood was chosen for its 15 minutes of fame, but it was.

When I first found out our neighborhood would be on the cover, it was emotionally very hard.  It was just a couple of months after the flood, and my feelings were still too raw.  But, when I saw the book at the library this past July, I knew it was time.  Time to put the flood where it belonged, in the past.

Time to read the book.  Time to move on.

So we looked at the book, and then went on to much happier things. We had such a good time that my sides ached the next day.

I wish the flood had never happened.  I wish I could have had the power to prevent the storm from doing what it did to our part of upstate NY and parts of several other states.  But wishes have no power.  Only actions.  We have come so far, and we should be proud.

Next month will be the one year anniversary.  I will write about the flood recovery one last time.  And then I hope to move on permanently to other blog topics.

It is time.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Civil War Sunday - The Descendents

Today, a major genealogy website,, is offering free searches of various databases for its non-paying members.

I decided to take the opportunity to do a little research on my mother's side of the family, one that I don't have that much knowledge of.  I am more fortunate with my father's side, as an uncle did extensive research years ago.  I quickly found I needed skills I did not have enough time to learn, but spent an interesting hour or more stumbling around the site.

Then, I decided to satisfy some curiosity today - do major figures of the Civil War have living direct descendents? Years ago, I had met a man who had claimed George Armstrong Custer (although best known for his death in the famous Battle of Little Big Horn,  he was also a Civil War general) as one of his ancestors. What other people related to the Civil War had descendents, and what had those descendents accomplished?

What I found would take me many days to read about.

Many people who know they are descended from historical figures in the Civil War are proud of that fact, but many also have the philosophy of "don't depend on your ancestry".

It turns out there are a number of famous Civil War related figures who have living descendents- Confederates and Federal figures, abolitionists, and slaves.

Reading through their stories is fascinating, and there are thousand of more stories waiting for the reading - civilians, soldiers and others who lived through the war.  It is estimated that one in 17 people in the United States have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War.

The story of Kenneth Morris, Jr, in particular, inspires me.  A descendent of both Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, he fights to abolish modern day slavery- just as his great-great-great grandfather, Frederick Douglass, fought to abolish slavery in our country.

Then there is Ulysses S. Grant's great-great grandson, a native of Syracuse (a city about an hour from where I live) who is a museum curator and art expert.

There is Bertram Hayes-Davis, who preserves the memory of his ancestor Jefferson Davis, best known as the President of the Confederate States of America. 

Confederate General Stonewall Jackson (who has a number of ties with New York State) has living descendents although he did not survive the war- his granddaughter, who passed away in 1991, was 104.

Meanwhile, Dennis Chamberlain, a direct descendent of Union General and Battle of Gettysburg hero Joshua Chamberlain, is the latest of a long line of Chamberlains to service in the military.

The Lee family of Virginia also has had a distinguished history, although many of them were not direct ancestors or descendents of the famous Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

There is one missing name, though, from people alive today.  Abraham Lincoln.  The man who was President of the United States during the Civil War, has no direct descendents alive today.  This is his genealogy.

Do you have a famous person or historical figure in your family tree?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Local Saturday - Neighborhoods

Who or what is your neighborhood named after?  Do you know?

I read an article on Mental Floss's website yesterday, about the origin of neighborhood names in Brooklyn, New York. 

Today, sadly, Brooklyn is very much in the news, as two NYC police officers murdered in cold blood in Brooklyn last Saturday, as they sat in their patrol car, are buried.

Brooklyn is one of the five boroughs of New York City, and the seventh most populous county (the entire borough of Brooklyn encompasses Kings County, New York) in the United States.  I have not ever lived in Brooklyn, but my father was born and spent the first 30 or so years of his life there, and around the last 10.

Recently, in doing some research, a cousin and I discovered the apartment house where my father spent his childhood had (apparently) burned down sometime around the turn of the century - the 21st century, that is.  
Beautiful architecture in Brooklyn

In November, I started a manuscript during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) called "Gravesend", taking place in a Brooklyn of the mid 21st century.  Gravesend is one of the many neighborhoods in Brooklyn. 

Avenue P near MacDonald Avenue, near the border between Gravesend and Midwood
Part of the story takes place in Gravesend, part in another neighborhood of Brooklyn (where I once had relatives, although they are all now deceased) called Midwood, and part of the story takes place - well, I am not going to give away the entire story, will I?

Will that Brooklyn carry a legacy of hate, or will it be a different place all together?  I'm still trying to figure that out.  It is a major process, trying to build a future world that makes sense.

But today is a sad day in New York City, the city of my birth and childhood.

Legend has it that one in seven Americans can trace their ancestry to someone who lived in Brooklyn. Are you one of them?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Don't Take it for Granted

We take so many things for granted, until they are gone.



Our ability to communicate....

Even something as basic as the sun.

We just returned from a visit from our home near Johnson City, New York, downstate to relatives.  This included my husband's aunt, who will turn 103 next month.  A couple of months ago, she had fallen and broken her hip. She is back home after surgery and a stint in rehab, but has lost her independence.  She still has a zest for life, though, and a hardy appetite.

We had a nice visit with her and other relatives.

It made me appreciate the ability to travel and even to go outside to enjoy the outdoors.  And, today, something wonderful happened.

Our part of upstate New York has been covered by thick clouds for most of December.  We had snow on the ground.  The snow gradually melted and was not replaced, but the gloom remained.  Then, suddenly, today, the sun came out and it got into the 40's.

On a day like this, everything glows.  Things you took for granted a couple of months ago suddenly bring such joy.
West Side of Binghamton 12-26
Things such as a dandelion.
West Side of Binghamton, 12-26
The last of someone's mums.
Westover, 12-26
The sun going down over the Susquehanna River

And sunset today near my backyard.

How many more years, I wonder, will I be granted to see marvels such as these everyday sights?

Learn the lessons of life - it is fleeting, and it should never be taken for granted.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Historic Caroling

A short post today, as the pictures and music will tell the story.

I have stories of two different holiday music performances.

Each December, Security Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, located in downtown Binghamton, New York, opens its lobby doors to the public for holiday caroling by their employees.

Holiday decorations in the historic lobby.
Singers and musicians on the balcony.

On one of the two staircases, employees sing both religious and secular holiday songs, ending each year with "Feliz Navidad"
More photos here.

The other music is from the Joybells of Melmark, a handbell choir organized by an organization that "serves 1,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities, autism, brain injuries and genetic diagnoses in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts."  They performed yesterday on The Today Show but have given performances in other places.  You can click on the link above for some of their music, again, both secular and religious.

To my readers who celebrate Christmas, a Merry Christmas to you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Winter Wonders -The Scenery of the Season

Today, on a dreary, rainy, foggy, upstate New York morning, it is time to bring some color into our lives.  It could be worse - a lot worse - and wetness will not be permitted to ruin this holiday season, at least on my blog.

No snow today, but I will have plenty of snow pictures from my guest photographer to feature in the coming weeks.

This is what awaits you in upstate New York.

In a Wegmans supermarket, some holiday cookies await the shopper.

A beautiful poinsettia (or two).

This morning, the NYC Ballet, dressed for The Nutcracker, opened the stock market.

Inflatables have never been my favorite holiday decoration - but this Santa beckoned. 
In downtown Binghamton, New York where two buildings once stood, a lone little tree stands in a tiny city park, lighting the pre dawn darkness.

Finally, a Thanksgiving cactus (late, but appreciated) and African Violets bloom in my house.

Now that I have brought you this beauty, I want to mention one more scenery of the season. I tried hard to find a blog post I had written years ago on "Blue Christmas" to rerun it, and I could not find it.

The weather we are having deepens depression for many - and, for many, Christmas is not a happy season.  In my family, we've had two deaths right around Christmas, one last year, one back in the 1990's.  A good friend is waiting out results of a biopsy today, and we all pray for positive results. A fellow blogger in Great Britain writes about this a lot better than I ever could, though.  

If this holiday season is blue for you, my wish for you is better days ahead.  And, if all you need is an infusion of color, I hope my blog did a little something for you today.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's Been Said Many Times, Many Ways - by Jews

This has become one of my favorite seasonal blog posts, which I try to update a little each year.

Why do Christians in the United States dream of a White Christmas?  Why is it so important that snow is on the ground?

Why does White Christmas have its own official website?

It could be because White Christmas (the song, as sung by Bing Crosby) is the best selling single of all time.

It may surprise you that White Christmas was written by a Jewish song writer.

It may also surprise you that Jews are responsible for many other beloved Christmas songs.

My quest to find out more started in 2010, reading a NY Times Op Ed.  There are a number of these songs, 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, based on extensive research).

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.  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, well....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 the New York City of the 1950'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.  For this song, we thank the Jewish songwriter Mel Torme.

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 who served during World War II. 

And last but not least, something I picked up in my research:  the other day I blogged about 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.

Here is another list for your enjoyment.

Think of the themes of these songs:  Missing your home.  Childhood nostalgia.  Enjoying a season of lights and happiness. The different child (or reindeer), scorned by others, who becomes the best of all.  These are universal themes, and this is why these songs, I think, are so appealing.  No matter who wrote them.

This leads me to another question:  why aren't there a bunch of popular, best selling Hanukkah songs if Jews are so good at writing Christmas songs? Well, there are reasons for that, too.

Perhaps I should blog about that next year, instead.

Do you enjoy any particular holiday songs of the December season?  Which is your favorite?

Monday, December 22, 2014

It's A Wonderful Town

What is your favorite holiday movie?
Vintage TV and Radio. TV is showing - what else?

For many in the United States, it is a movie starring James Stewart and Donna Reed that was made in 1946 - "It's a Wonderful Life".

This movie takes place in a fictional small town in upstate New York called Bedford Falls, and tells the story of a man, George Bailey.  George owns the Bailey Savings and Loan, inherited from his father.
No, this isn't the Bailey Savings and Loan, but we can imagine
George is an ordinary man leading an ordinary, but, in some ways heroic, life.  When young, he saved the life of his brother who broke through the ice in a sledding accident, but lost his hearing in one ear as a result.

George wants to leave Bedford Falls and see the world, but life decrees otherwise.  George is disqualified from military service due to his deafness -the brother he saved goes, and becomes a war hero and winner of the Medal of Honor.  Meanwhile, George marries and has four children, including a daughter, ZuZu. George sacrifices again and again for the people of Bedford Falls and his family and friends- until he finally became so discouraged by a series of personal downturns that he decides to take his own life by jumping off a bridge.  He feels he is worth more dead than alive.

An angel named Clarence shows him what Bedford Falls would have been like without him, and tries to convince him not to jump off that bridge.  George decides to live, after seeing the impact his life has made on so many people, and the movie has a happy ending, as Clarence earns his angel wings.

Many fans of the movie have asked - is Bedford Falls fictional?

It may just be based on a real place - the small city of Seneca Falls, New York, where, in real life, a hero died in 1917 by jumping off a bridge and saving the life of another, drowning in the process.

Seneca Falls doesn't need the association with the movie to have a place in history - it has a strong place in history for many other reasons, such as being a birthplace of the women's suffrage movement.  But, there are many similarities between Bedford Falls and Seneca Falls.

So many people love this movie, and fans flock to Seneca Falls each December for a festival celebrating this movie. Before they leave, many pick up a bell or two to ring. That's how you know an angel got his or her wings.

One building that I immediately fell in love with was the post office and its Art Deco styling.

The day was foggy, drizzly and miserable, but few seemed to care.

When I look through my photos, I found that Seneca Falls fascinated me for so many reasons other than the movie - and I want to go back, in better weather, to investigate its history further.  I had managed not to take pictures of the historic sites, the mills, the canal or the famous bridge.

But if I ever implement an "obsolete technology" blog feature, I found myself a goldmine.

So, I don't have much to show you of the festival. But I do have a memory, and it's of the daughter, ZuZu, who, in real life is an actress named Karolyn Grimes (she was six when she played ZuZu Bailey).  Karolyn was at this year's festival, signing autographs, along with the daughter of the late Donna Reed (George Bailey's movie wife).

An older woman walked up to me on the street and wished me a Merry Christmas, and when I saw her picture later, I'm certain that woman was Karolyn Grimes.

Maybe not, as there were many people playing characters from the movie interacting with visitors, but I would like to think so.  From what I understand, Karolyn has had a sometimes tragic, but always inspirational life.

Karolyn feels Seneca Falls "might" be Bedford Falls, and invites you to visit to decide for yourself.

Do you have a favorite holiday movie?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Civil War Sunday - Georgia on His Mind

Today, when you visit Georgia, there is a sign welcoming travelers.

Georgia is glad it is on your mind.  At one time, they even gave away little bags of peanuts to arriving visitors at the visitor's center where you entered the state.

Feel free to drive down to Savannah, which welcomes modern tourists, both from the North and from the South. 
This is the Comer House, built in 1880 so it is post Civil War,  but isn't it beautiful?
 Jefferson Davis, the former President of the Confederate States of America, once slept in the Comer House.  OK, it was in 1886, way after the war was over, but he slept here.

Savannah is full of beautiful architecture, beautiful squares, and the one of a kind Byrd's Famous Cookies.

Byrd's, Home of the Best Little Cookies in the U.S.
I fell in love with Savannah, just passing through, in 1974.  I have visited twice since.  Savannah and Charleston, the other southern city I love, are two totally different places, and I treasure their differences.

I love the squares of  Savannah - there are 22 of them (plus two "missing" ones). They make you slow down and ponder history, as you can't walk (or drive, which you shouldn't be doing anyway) far without having to slow to go around one.  Many have statutes - at least one even has a person buried there.

With apologies to any lawyers reading my blog, Savannah, at one time, banned lawyers, as its founder detested them.

I love the trees of Savannah, dripping with Spanish moss.

Bonaventure Cemetery, in Thunderbolt, near Savannah
 But there was a time when Savannah did not welcome visitors from the North.

In November and December of 1864, Union troops, under the command of General William Tecumsah Sherman, marched their way through Georgia, starting at Atlanta, burning and destroying various targets and cities as they traveled.  By December 21, they reached Savannah, a major port and strategic target.
Confederate grave, Bonaventure Cemetery
On December 21, 1864, 150 years ago today, Savannah surrendered to Sherman, who elected not to burn the city.

Instead, on December 22, Sherman telegraphed President Lincoln:

"I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton."
Green-Meldrim House, Savannah
A man by the name of Charles Green, a wealthy cotton merchant, offered his house to Sherman to use as his headquarters.  The house, now known as the Green-Meldrim House, still stands today, near Madison Square.

While Sherman stayed in this fancy house, his troops camped out in the various squares.

In Madison Square, there is now a marker commemorating the end of Sherman's March to the Sea.
It really wasn't the end, though, as the March lives on in Southern memory to this day.

Although the people of Savannah didn't know it then, the Civil War would be over in a little more than three months. 

Today, Savannah, a city of about 143,000 people, is the fifth largest city in Georgia and worth a visit to explore its history.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Local Saturday - Sweetness and Crackers

The year is almost over - less than two weeks left. 

It's a busy time of year for many.  My spouse and I try t keep it low key.

Today, we visited a farmers market for the last time this year.

In Binghamton, New York, our farmers market has gone indoors.  Our growing season is long over, but that doesn't stop our farmers.
These are some of my favorite crackers.  Seeds, olive oil, and whole wheat flour make an unbeatable combination.
Honey - so colorful - lines these shelves.  There is light colored spring honey, medium colored summer honey and dark fall honey.   The mix of flowers varies by season-everything from sumac, locust, then the later flowers- buckwheat and hardy Japanese bamboo (knotweed).

There were some apples and root veggies left, too.

Today, after the market, I potted up three amaryllis.  Of the three, only one bloomed this past year.  We'll wish them a more productive 2015.

Do you still have local farmers markets open?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy December Natal Anniversary Baby

This card is going to look familiar to a reader of my blog, who is also a family member.

That's because we have something in common.  In fact, our birthdays are only a day apart.

We are December birthday babies. Or, as a friend calls birthdays, our "natal anniversaries".

Not only that, our birthdays are close to Christmas, as are a third family member's.

I'm only following a family tradition.  My father's father, deceased for many years now, was born on December 26.

So, I know what it is like to have your birthday swallowed up in what our country calls "The Holidays". And I do mean swallowed up.

I decided to google "having a birthday near Christmas" and Google gave me 65,300,000 results.  So I can't be the only person who wonders about this.

Many of the returns were along the lines of "why Christmas birthdays are the worst", but there are two schools of thought here for us in that situation, which depends on your family and personal traditions.  (In this, I include people of all religious faiths, as there are other religious holidays besides Christmas in December.  But in our country, the modern Christmas is - face it - rather overpowering.)

1.  It really stinks.  You get a combined gift for your tradition's holiday and for your birthday, and your birthday is swallowed up whole, never to be seen again.

2.  Wow, everything is all decorated, and people are celebrating, and it's really a wonderful time, isn't it?  It's an honor to be born on or around a sacred holiday.  And, the best part of birthdays means that you are alive, and there are a lot of people out there fighting daily for that privilege. 

I have bounced between #1 and #2.  In fact, for several years, I asked my job (which will have a little gathering with cake or whatever with your co-workers) to celebrate my birthday in January.

One thing having a December holiday birthday does is teach you that life, and birthdays, are a lot more than gift giving occasions. I am grateful daily for the opportunity to wake up.  But, when you are young, it can be tough.

As I age, though, I find this birthday dilemma matters less and less.  In some ways, age becomes, more and more, just a number, especially when one candle for each year of your life would require a full sheet cake.  With a fire extinguisher.

So, regardless of your religious faith, if you have a birthday today, or in the next several days, I wish you all the most wonderful birthday possible.

Are you a December birthday person?  What have your experiences been?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Best of AM - When It's Not The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This has been a strange holiday season. We were late getting cards out, and I've talked to other people who have been late.  We have only gotten a couple - like everyone is waiting to see who has sent them one.

Or, perhaps, everyone is using Facebook and we've reached some kind of "tipping point".

It doesn't seem like people are decorating the way they usually do - or maybe it's just a local aberration.

Today, I am bringing you a post from last year.  I re learned an important lesson right before Christmas last year, and I wanted to share it with my readers again. 

What we call The Holidays are not a happy time for everyone.  We had a death in our family a week before Christmas last year and it was a stressful time for other reasons.  We need to be gentle with each other and with ourselves.

Update:  the relative with cancer had a good outcome - it was caught early and tests show she is now cancer free- something we are all grateful for.

When It's Not 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 pre made 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?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fall Fancies-To Make the Season Bright

This is the last Wednesday of fall here in upstate New York.
Wild Asters September 2014
In the past three months we have transitioned from beautiful fall wildflowers....
Red Leaves October 29 the season of leaf changing...
December 10
and, finally, to snow.

Now we settle into winter. I sometimes envy the trees that lose their leaves and go dormant.  They don't notice the ice, the snow, or the cold winds.
Office building, downtown Binghamton, NY
We humans decorate for the holidays "to make the season bright".  But soon, it will be the New Year.  The lights and the decorated trees will come down, and we will be left with only the beauty of nature to sustain us in the coming hard months.
Owego, New York

What will we go through before the days lengthen and the breezes blow warmly again? That will be the story told by my Wednesday winter feature, Winter Wonders.  Join me every Wednesday in winter for something related to the season.

One day, the first outdoor flowers will bloom and the cycle will begin again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Dolls of Memory

Today, at sundown, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins.

In Binghamton, we have a Hanukkah House museum in a historic mansion near downtown Binghamton, run by a local synagogue.

Hanukkah House has  a different theme every year. This year, it is a theme of local history - the history of the family that once owned the mansion, and it is a fascinating history.  But, for me, one of the highlights has always been a collection of dolls and dollhouses.

The late owner of these dolls and dollhouses, Roberta (Bobbie) King, was a teacher and a mother of eight. Her life was tragically ended on April 3, 2009 when a gunman entered her adult education classroom and killed her and twelve other people, before ending his own life.  

During her life, she owned thousands of dolls.

Mrs. King was involved in our community, and with Hanukkah House, and her family honors her by containing the tradition..

Today, in what has become a tradition on my blog, I share some photos I took this year at Hanukkah House to honor her memory.

This year, the display was smaller than usual.
Here are two pictures of rooms in the dollhouse displayed this year.  In the midst of our most gloomy time of the year, I can always depend on the sun shining on the day I visit Hanukkah House. I love this doll sunroom.
And I just love this miniature room.  Would you know it was a miniature if I didn't tell you?

Mrs. King refused to retire, and she died doing what she loved.  What an example she set for all of us, with her love of family and community.

A true heroine.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day Dec 2014-Rain and Clouds

It's December 15, and we all know what that means.

It's cold!  It's dreary! There's snow on the ground!  And it's time, here in my upstate New York garden, near Johnson City, for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, brought to us the 15th of each month by May Dreams Gardens.

By December, we in the cold climes of the Northern Hemisphere are dreaming of May, every one of us, thinking of warm breezes and outdoor flowers and the actual sun shining in the sky.

I want to be thinking of white flowers...

A couple of months ago, there was a tomato plant in this pot
....instead of this kind of white from earlier this month.

It has been so cloudy and drizzly, I am just grateful we haven't had much in the way of freezing rain these last three days.

But let's move indoors, shall we, and see what is blooming in my house just as fall ends.

The African violet I purchased in November at a garden center open house is blooming its little heart out.  And, I have no idea why my iPhone rendered the colors the way it did.  The ones in back are the true color.

I have one geranium flower left on the plants I took indoors.
My Thanksgiving cactus don't know it isn't Thanksgiving anymore.  My yellow cactus, which seems to be somewhat shy, decided to open up over the weekend.

And, the pink cactus I bought at the same open house as the African violet just finished its last blooms.  A poinsettia I purchased on Black Friday at Home Depot is in the background.

My kalanchoe has buds, but it isn't going to bloom today.  Threatened by whiteflies, I hope it makes it through winter.

If you click on the link above to May Dream Gardens, you will be able to click links for gardens all over the world and see what others have in bloom today.

Do you have flowers indoors or outdoors today?