Saturday, February 28, 2015

Live Long and Prosper

It was September of 1966.  I was in junior high school (what middle school was called back then) and I lived in a New York City housing project in the Bronx.

I was a young teenager who loved science fiction.  Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Frederick Pohl were some of my favorite authors.  I was also a huge fan of some of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Our TV set was a black and white console.  Our shows were broadcast over the air, and there were three major broadcast networks to choose from in my native New York City, along with several independent stations.

The school year had just started and, with it, a new TV season was about to start.

One of the new shows was a science fiction show called Star Trek.  I watched it from the very first, and fell in love with it.  So did, over the years, millions of other people.

Part of my childhood died yesterday with the death of actor Leonard Nimoy, who played a character, Mr Spock.  Spock, a human looking man with pointed ears and strange eyebrows,  had a human mother and an alien father, a native of the planet Vulcan.

Leonard Nimoy, and his fellow actors and actresses, made science fiction accessible to people who, otherwise, may never have been exposed to it.  The original Star Trek series only lasted three years. But what a three years it was.

I made a friend, someone who recently moved into my apartment building.  She loved Star Trek.  And, her family had a color television.

Starting with the second season, I sometimes went to her apartment on the 13th floor of our building to watch the show.  That friendship lasted through high school, even though we ended up going to different schools.

The stories of Star Trek captivated me and fired my imagination.  So did the character of Mr. Spock.

To many people, Leonard Nimoy was the face of Star Trek.

He was the accessible alien - and we could all identify with his struggles to keep his human emotional nature in check. Vulcans believed in logic but there was that pesky humanity of his.  It showed up at the most inconvenient of times.  We loved him for it.

We loved the alien side of him, too - his Vulcan nerve pinches and mind melds that would save the day in a hopeless situation.

Yesterday, I went to lunch, turned on my phone, and immediately found out Leonard Nimoy had died, at the age of 83.  The tributes were already pouring in, from actors and actresses, from fans, from scientists, and even from the President of the United States.

I watched on Facebook as tributes scrolled by.  It seemed like everyone on Facebook was saddened.

Before long, a hashtag #LLAP was trending.  Facebook friends were posting "Live Long and Prosper", which is a Vulcan blessing.

The response is "Peace. And long life."

Leonard Nimoy, the actor, always had mixed feelings about the Mr. Spock role, but he always loved his fans.  And his fans loved him.

Leonard Nimoy gave us hope about the future, a future where Earth was united, and interacted with other species under the umbrella of a utopian type United Federation of Planets.

Maybe one day, it will come true.

He lived long.  He prospered  And we will all miss him, here in the world that Star Trek made possible.

I wish each and every one of my blog readers a long, prosperous life.  May you live long and prosper!

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Wintery Walk

I sometimes don't understand why some of my blog readers seem to have an endless appetite for m me blogging about winter and snow.  Either misery loves company, or some people enjoy my whining about winter.

Or, they are tired of those endless, sunny days some of them experience (at least, my Florida friends on Facebook seem to experience those days) and want a break from their happiness.

Well, folks.  I live to serve.

Sunday it got up to the high 30's F (about 3 C) before it plunged down again to the lowest temperatures in many years.  I donned my snow sneakers (would you like me to blog about them?) and spouse and I headed out to the Vestal Rail Trail in the Triple Cities of upstate New York to enjoy the heat wave.  And trust me, when you've had several nghts plunging into the below zeroes, 38 degrees above feels Florida.
The sumacs are still holding on to their berries.  Have you ever eaten sumac berries in some form?  That could be the subject of another post.
Another nature photo.
A bench, almost buried.
The edge of the trail.  The sign facing the camera invites you to a business at one end of the trail that sells food and drink, saying "Exercise your right to refreshment!"

Finally, icicles have formed on many buildings, including this one.  Not Boston massive, but they can still do enough damage.

Although these pictures look dreary, they were actually taken in early afternoon.

So what keeps me going?
Otsiningo Park, Binghamton on a July day
Knowing that, someday, one day, a walk in the park will look like this, and I can shed my snow sneakers.

We may have a major snowstorm on Sunday.  But after that, I think (I hope) we have finally turned the corner towards spring.

How is your weather today?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

When It Is Good to Complain

Is complaining bad for you? That's our common wisdom.

 Some people say "yes", and add that we should replace complaints with gratitude.  Be positive, and you and your body will both benefit.

 I've been keeping track of some of my complaining recently.  For example, my spouse did me a big favor by taking me to work the other day.  It was wicked cold (as we say, here in the Southern Tier of New York State) and the sidewalks were a bit icy from a thaw the day before.

So, I try to open the car door, and it is blocked by the tall snowpile next to the path leading from our house to the street.  So the first thing my spouse heard, instead of "thank you", was somewhere along the line of "*&#@ snowpile!". It also could have been "*($@ salt!" when I got road salt dust (it is on everything, including cars, trees near highways) on my coat. 

When I got to work, everyone was complaining about the temperature, when people weren't trying to one-up each other about just HOW COLD it was at their house.

So yes, I complain.  And so does everyone I know.

Because I majored in cultural anthropology, I wondered if complaining, in certain circumstance, can be a form of bonding.   (Gossip also is a form of bonding, but we all know how damaging gossip can be, too)

In the midst of my complaining, I found a recent article in The Atlantic of interest.

It turns out that sometimes, complaining may be beneficial.  That is not to say we shouldn't practice gratitude.  But, if complaining is done right (knowing when to complain, knowing who to complain to, and complaining for a purpose - to accomplish a purpose), complaining can be good, even providing us with positive health benefits.  And, some types of complaining can actually improve the light in which others see you.  That one really surprised me.

I can see myself, in a fancy restaurant, complaining about the wine, and people around me being impressed. (Or not, because I don't go to fancy restaurants.  Or, drink wine in any restaurant.)

Complaining, in some circumstances, can provide sympathy (if it is not overdone), and human connection.  The trick is, knowing when to stop, before it turns into whining.

Complaining can help you focus and organize negative feelings.

So complaining, it turns out, can be negative (and often is) but can also be a positive thing, if done right.

Now, about those snow piles...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Winter Wonders Of a Below Zero Sunrise

This is not what you want to wake up to, as my son did yesterday (the bottom temperature is the outside temperature.)

This is -30.8 C, for those outside the United States.

Only the brave throw back the colors to face the day without complaint, when your thermometer reads that low.  In upstate New York, we wonder at people who deal with these temperatures for much of the winter, and admire them.  Then we go back to complaining about the weather.

At my house, it was only -8 F (-22 C).  It hasn't been that cold for us, we figure, in about 15 years.
The birds were singing, as I took a picture of the sunrise.  Birds singing in the early morning is one of the first signs of spring.  At this time of year, bright sunshine usually comes only with ice cold temperatures.  The birds know something we don't know - yet.

Streaks were in the air, as the sun appeared.
Smoke does funny things in the below zero air (this picture taken on a different below zero day).

Spring, right now, is invisible.  But soon, sap will start to flow in the trees again.  The tips of their branches will glow with a bright red.  If we are fortunate, we will have a good maple syruping season as March progresses.

But for now, the only signs of spring are those singing birds.

The rest of nature is still locked in ice and snow.

One day it will be spring, but not just yet.

What is your weather like today?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What A Man Did For His Son

Why must individuals with autism suffer with an unemployment rate of 90%?

Why, indeed. As the sister in law of a man in his 50's with autism, who has spent much of his working life in a sheltered workshop environment, I ask that question a lot.  At some point, my brother in law may be facing unemployment, with the closing of these workshops in New York State due to withdrawal of funding. 

A father and a brother decided to take matters into their own hands.

They caught the Rising Tide.

The son of a friend sent me a link on Facebook a couple of days ago - a link to a video about a car wash in Florida - a car wash called Rising Tide.  

This car wash employs mainly individuals with autism.  In other words, this venture came out of the love of a father for his son, and the love of a brother for his brother with autism.  The two brothers work there together at the business.

I hope that their "CanDo Business Ventures" doesn't mind if I quote from their website, as I feel their message is so important.  People with autism, in the correct environment, have a lot to contribute to our society.  And, why should my brother in law's disability be such that he ends up in a job where he, and his co workers, make less than the minimum wage?  How can someone ever strive towards independence if they are kept down by the inability to earn a living wage?

The owner of Rising Tide asks, on his website:

"Is someone in your family affected by Autism? Have you ever asked yourself the question,“What will my family member with autism do when I am no longer around to take care of them?” If you’re like us, this question has not only crossed your mind but is a concern that keeps you up at night. This simple fact is the inspiration behind CanDo Business Ventures.

John’s son, Tom’s younger brother, Andrew, has autism. ...Although a vibrant, light hearted young man, Andrew’s disability is a clear competitive disadvantage when it comes to securing gainful employment. We believe that Andrew and others like him have difficulty getting a job, not because people don’t want to help, but rather because businesses are simply not set up to accommodate the needs of people like Andrew."
 This is their philosophy:
" More than just a job, our plan is to have the businesses we build be a cornerstone to create supportive communities of individuals with autism where we teach them the skills needed to live independently and self advocate."

I wish them much success, because I believe this father and son duo can help to transform the world of employment for people like my brother in law.  And, we could sure use a good carwash with all of our salt-encrusted cars in New York State.

If you live anywhere near Parkland, Florida - why don't you catch the Rising Tide and give them a try? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Six Flag Raisers

You could say it's only a photograph.  But it is also a story, a tragic story, a story that will be getting some attention in the United States today, on the 70th anniversary of the taking of the photo.

On the surface, it's a simple photograph, six men raising an American flag - five Marines and one Navy man - on top of Mt. Suribachi, on the small volcanic island of Iwo Jima.

February 23, 1945.  We are at war with Japan, and are fighting for control of Iwo Jima.

The story of this photograph, which won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for photography, was not without some controversy, but what I want to blog about today is what happened to the six men in the photograph.

Three of them died within a month of the taking of the photo: Franklin Sousley, Michael Strank, and Harlon Block.

The fourth, Ira Hayes, a Native American, drank himself to death at the age of 32, and was immortalized in a song sung by Johnny Cash.

The fifth, Rene Gagnon, died at the age of 54.

Only one man lived into old age - John Bradley, who owned a funeral parlor after the war, married and had eight children, and died at the age of 70 in 1994.  He is buried, perhaps ironically, in a cemetery called "Queen of Peace".

One of my husband's uncles was wounded at Okinawa.  I was born after the war, but the war movies were a staple of weekend movie entertainment on the local TV stations in New York City, where I grew up in the 50's and early 60's.

I could wish we could never have to send 18 or 19 year olds to die on a small volcanic island in the Pacific, but now we are fighting a different kind of war.  We must never forgot what has come before if we are to understand what is happening now.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Civil War Sunday - Slavery's Ellis Island

 Charleston, South Carolina (where the Civil War began in April of 1861) was a center of the slave trade.  It is said that as many of 40% of the enslaved people of the United States entered the United States through Charleston.

If Charleston was the Ellis Island of Slavery, this building (built in 1859) was part of its Castle Garden. The Old Slave Mart building above was part of a complex where slaves were sold in the years immediately before the Civil War started.  Except for this building, the complex no longer exists. 

The Old Slave Mart Museum is a museum of and for African Americans.  Many of the staff are descended from slaves who were bought or sold in the Charleston slave trade.  It is not a museum of artifacts but a museum of facts and requires a lot of reading. It is not a five minute stop.

Which brings us to February 21, 1865, 150 years ago yesterday. the 55th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry, an all-black Union regiment, entered Charleston, with other black regiments.  Charleston, after a long multi-year siege, had been captured by Federal forces.  The soldiers were hailed by the large slave population of Charleston as liberators.

Some of the Union soldiers had, themselves, once lived in Charleston - as enslaved men.

Now they were free.

Fountain in Marion Square, April 2014, with Farmers Market in background
On March 21, 1865, a huge parade was held.  A crowd of about 10,000 gathered at Citadel Green, which today is known as Marion Square, where Charleston's Saturday farmers market is held.
King Street, 2014 - Seeking Indigo is a Day Spa

The parade started around 1pm and went down King Street to the Battery at the tip of Charleston (and then back to Citadel Green).
The Battery, 2014
Celebrations followed, throughout the year 1865.  As the New York Times put it yesterday, "The capital of slavery had become the citadel of freedom."

Looking as a tourist at these scenes of peace today, I feel awe once again, having walked in the footsteps of history.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Local Saturday - The Once Loved Book

The book was lying there, in our library  It was old, stained, and starting to fall apart.  But once, it had been one of our most beloved books.

I had bought it back in the late 1970's, when we used to dream of self sufficiency.  It followed us to Arkansas, where we lived on 34 acres of land in the 1980's.

The recipes were so inspiring.   We learned that the world of pickles was so much broader than those pickled cucumbers we bought in the supermarket.

We had three gardens on our land, and a lot of our summer (when we weren't working at paying jobs) were spent growing, harvesting, and preserving.  Sometimes, at the height of summer, we would be up to midnight, canning, freezing or refrigerating.

We made mustard pickles, pickled eggs (from eggs laid by our hens), jardiniere, marinated mixed vegetables, and carrot pickles.  We made (and still make) salsa. We never did make the pickled fish, though.

Now, it was over 30 years later.

My spouse and I were decluttering - going through our library to see what we should dispose of.

My spouse put the book in a pile for the garbage.  I took it out.  It had been years since we had made any of the recipes, but there were too many recipes in the book.

I don't know if we will ever do anything with the book again, but I did look it up online, hoping to get a better copy.  It turns out the book has been out of print for many years.  I saw some sellers offering the book for $70 (or more), so it is unlikely we will ever be able to replace it.

I don't know if all the recipes would be considered safe, using current canning guidelines.  And, pickling recipes are just an internet search away.

But this book is a part of my life, and I just can't throw it away.


Have you ever thought that way about an object?

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Power of Compassion #1000Speak

I am a private person. 

Today, I could not write a blog post.  I was blocked, and had no inspiration until I read one of the most powerful blog posts I have ever read.

You really have to watch those women from Nebraska.  They sneak up on you.

So, I learned today there was a project called "1000 Voices for Compassion", where bloggers were encouraged to " write posts about compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, non-judgement, care for the environment etc, and ALL PUBLISH ON THE SAME DAY (Feb 20th) to flood the Blogosphere with GOOD!"  

This young woman from Nebraska talked about her fiance.  She is in an interracial relationship.  She talks honestly about some of the "ugly looks" that have been directed in their direction.

So let me tell you a little bit about myself that I have never told my readers about before, and tell you about lessons in compassion that I never fully realized until recently.

In 1970, when I was 17 years old, I started dating a boy who was going to the same college as I was.   We were of different religions.  I am Jewish.  My husband is Catholic.  In 1970, that mattered.

It mattered a lot.

Some members of my family were less than thrilled.  I have had no contact with my mother's side of my family in many, many years.  Some members of my future husband's family were less than thrilled, too.

But there were the many people who had compassion, who saw past the religious differences, who accepted us for who we are, and I owe a great debt of gratitude to every one of them. Until tonight, I've never thanked them publicly.  Some of them, sadly, are no longer with us, having moved on to the next level of existence.  But I want to say to each of them, "Thank you".  My grandfather.  Cousins.  A childhood friend. My husband's next door neighbor. Some Aunts and Uncles on both sides of our family.  And this is just for starters.

Meanwhile, we, my husband and I, have been married for nearly 41 years.  Our love is deep.   I hope that young woman in Nebraska can say the same about her and her Warrior Man, 41 years from now. (Too bad I won't be around to help her celebrate.)

Times have changed tremendously.  I owe a debt to those who went before me, who helped pave the path of compassion that my husband and I walked.   I haven't done enough to extend that path to the generations that have followed me.

You never know what one small act of compassion will do, until you are on the receiving end.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Shack That Lost Its Way

Once upon a time, there was a store called Radio Shack.  They had been in business for something like 90 years.

You could buy so many things there.  One nice thing about Radio Shack was that it was a chain, but they had local neighborhood stores.  You could find one close to your house, and get supplies you needed for hobbies and more.  My father was an electronics hobbyist when he was young.  My son, who never knew his grandfather, followed in granddad's footsteps.  Radio Shack sold educational kits, amateur radio supplies, solder, transistors, and more.

My son played with a primitive educational device I bought there.  He played with their RC cars.  He built a crystal radio from one of their kits.

Their commercials are part of our living history.  Have a listen.

Cell phones, 1985 - only $1,399. ($3,078 in 2015 dollars).

The cell phone, circa 1990.  Things had gotten a little better, it would seem.  
Home computers from the 1980's.

So many historic commercials and catalogs to learn from.

I used to be one of their customers, many years ago.  But, somewhere along the line, they lost their way. They stopped doing what they did well, and became indifferent to their customers.

I haven't been in one of their stores for years, except to buy specialty batteries.

Earlier this month, Radio Shack declared bankruptcy.

Several days later, most of our local stores were closed.

Another "icon" of my childhood, lost forever.  Except, it's been gone for years.

This just made it official.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Winter Wonders - No Whining Please

The polar vortex has returned, and millions in the United States are in its grip.

Here in upstate New York, things are not that much out of the ordinary.  (I want to assure my readers that what you've been hearing about Boston is NOT happening here.  Crossing fingers that it doesn't, either.)

Remains of basil peek above snow.
Ho Ho Ho, Merry February.

But winter has become serious business for many.  Boston is buried - 90.5 inches of snow (almost 230 cm) since January 24.  As I live on the edge of the snowbelt, I've seen that kind of snow (and more), but not all in a three week period.

People are going to war over parking spaces that took hours to clean out.

The mayor is asking people not to jump from their windows into snowbanks, saying "This isn't Loon Mountain".  Swim suits seem to be a uniform for that activity.

Weathermen are starting to apologize every time they must forecast snow.

The elevated trains have shut down and commuters face up to four hours commutes. 

On Saturday, thundersnow (yes, thunderstorm) was predicted by 1pm.

The resulting thundersnow video fascinated a baby who, apparently, hasn't learned to hate snow yet.
Sign in Brooklyn after the Boston Marathon bombing - it's been a bad two years for them

Boston is buried, and may not be found again until summer.  In the meantime, Boston has asked points south to stop whining about shutting down during smaller snow totals.
Sanibel Island March 2013
It does make me think fondly of Florida.  It made Ithaca, New York think of Florida, too, as a tourism website promoting Ithaca encouraged visitors to visit Key West, Florida instead.

No doubt about it.  In the Northeastern United States, we are tired of winter and the polar vortex.

For the second day in a row, I beseech spring:  please come back.  Soon.  Whatever we did wrong, we're sorry.  We won't do it again, ever. We miss you.

Not that I'm whining, Boston.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Season of Renewal

By the time Easter comes, spring would have (I hope) arrived even where I live in upstate New York.
Snow falling, downtown Binghamton, New York
Right now, spring seems like it is thousands of miles away.  Snow is piled outside.
Glaciers have formed on the roadsides.
Not my yard

One day - oh please, let it be one day soon - I will see this instead when I walk outside.

30 more days until the first day of spring.

Spring is the season of renewal.  Part of this, for the gardener, is preparing for the growing season.  Seed catalogs have been arriving since November, and we've been reading, dreaming and planning.

Our hour of decision is now upon us.  It is time to take the leap of faith that gardening demands.

The outspoken CEO of Burpee, George Ball, once wrote an essay called Easter in the Garden.  I invite you to read it. It does have a religious slant, but I think there is a universal message in this essay.

Spring. The return of warmth and green. Peeps marshmallow candy, and baskets full of goodies can be nice, but what we celebrate is the reawakening of nature after the sleep of winter.  It is the season of forging ahead to meet the future, and to be grateful we've been permitted to see another spring come.
Ice on the street side near my driveway

Until then, we lower our heads, grit our teeth, and dream.  And, putting our faith of the return of spring into action, we start filling out our seed orders.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Mixed Up Holiday

Today, I am repeating a post from February 2013.  It's a bit amusing that I am off from work today due to a Federal holiday here in the United States that is a lot more than it appears on the surface.

This holiday is actually a sensitive subject in some parts of our country, proving (to me, anyway), that we are still fighting a war that ended 150 years ago this spring.


What's in a Name?

Today, in the United States, we are celebrating a holiday called - well, it depends on where you live.

When I was growing up, there was a holiday, Washington's Birthday, which was celebrated on - imagine that, his birthday. February 22. We'll ignore the fact that Washington actually was NOT born on February 22.  He was born on February 11, 1732, under the old Julian calendar.  When Britain switched over to the Gregorian calendar we now use, his birth date was renumbered.

(Can you imagine the chaos today, in our computer-driven world, if they renumbered the calendar?  More proof that our ancestors were more adaptable to change in some ways than we moderns are.)

February 22 became a Federal holiday in 1885. Washington's Birthday, honoring George Washington, our first President.  The beloved "Father of our Country." 

Well, that meant that sometimes the holiday could not be celebrated as a three day weekend.  We couldn't have that, could we?  In the early 1970's it was decided that Washington's birthday, and several other holidays that were celebrated on specific days, would be moved so we could have three day weekends.

So, this holiday was moved to the third Monday of February.  Ironically that also means it can never be celebrated on February 22.

After all these years, most people here no longer call the holiday "Washington's Birthday", although that is still its official name.  It is called either "Presidents' Day" or "President's Day". (Sometimes, Presidents Day with no comma.) And herein lies the power of a comma.

Presidents' Day:  honors all Presidents. President's Day: honors one President.  George Washington. Or maybe not always.

Adding to the confusion, states have passed their own laws specifying what the holiday is called, and the honoree(s) thereof.  Some states honor Washington.  Some states honor Washington and Lincoln (Lincoln was the Federal president during our Civil War 1861-1865). At least one Southern state honors Washington and another President, Thomas Jefferson, as most of the states that seceded during the Civil War still choose not to honor Lincoln in any way, 152 years after the fact.

So, if you are in the United States, happy....uh, whatever your state calls it.

And if you are not from the United States - does your country have something as confusing?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - Feb 2015 Heart of Winter

It's the day after Valentine's Day here in upstate New York.

It's the heart of winter.  And winter is having no heart.

Today, we are not supposed to get out of the single digits. It is 6 degrees F (-14.4) with lots of wind right now. We had snow squalls last night.

I was fearful I would not find any indoor flowers for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  My one blooming African violet had finally quit after blooming for almost four months.  My primrose's last blooms have faded.  The one petunia plant I was able to save from the summer (it had bloomed last Bloom Day unexpected) was now in Petunia Heaven.

What would have happened if I found myself empty flowered for the first time in almost four years of GBBD posting? found a couple of flowers, for your pleasure.
A kalanchoe, still alive after a run in with mealybugs, blooms in a southern window.

The Alternathera I had had been sold as a "narrow leafed coleus", another outdoor plant I brought indoors, is still blooming.

I had one more surprise awaiting me.

I have a dracaena that is almost 20 years old.  It is tall, and its upper part is hidden by a window shade.  But I happened to lift the window shade....

....and to my surprise, I found this. (OK, it's dried up, but it counts in February!)  I wonder when that happened!

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day never ceases to amaze. Carol at May Dreams Gardens is  right - if you keep a garden journal, you learn so much.  I don't keep an official journal, but I have been keeping an informal, online one by posting my blooms the 15th of each month since mid 2011. (Carol, you sneak!)

If you want to see what is blooming all over the world today, visit May Dreams Gardens, who hosts this monthly meme, and join the fun.

Is anything blooming for you today?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentines Day Easy+Light Chocolate Mousse

It's Valentine's Day! 

Love is in the air, everywhere (especially in retail establishments).

Love is big business.  But today I want to feature a simple recipe - it doesn't matter if you have a partner, a friend, a spouse, or a child, that you want to show some love to.  This is a simple dessert and not too heavy.  It would make a nice parent and older child project, too, if you use something other than the bourbon or rum.

Valentines Day Easy and Light Mousse. (Sorry, metric folks, I did not convert). Note, this does have eggs in it.

Take three eggs - we use free range eggs from the local farmer's market - and separate them.  Reserve the yolks for another use.  Put the whites in a clean bowl.

Mix a scant 1/4 cup sugar and 1/3 cup bourbon or rum. Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved.  Let cool. 

In the meantime, melt 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in microwave.  They will still look whole, but they are melted.  Stir them.  Then, combine with the liquid well.  If desired add 1 tbsp of "Just Great Stuff" (powered peanut butter).

Beat your three egg whites, with 1/8 tsp cream of tarter, until stiff peaks form.

Then, gently fold in the chocolate mixture.

Divide into two (or four) dessert glasses, chill until nice and firm (perhaps two-three hours), and serve.

Yes, I know.  I am using raw egg whites!  Well, if this bothers you (one reason why I am using farm esh eggs from a small farmholder), you can use  pasteurized egg whites  But it won't turn out as good, in my opinion.

Do you have a favorite dessert for Valentines Day?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Do Wine and Chocolate Go Together?

It's the day before Valentine's Day and it's Friday the 13th. The pressure is on - I should be coming up with a post about love, or romance, or at least wine.

Ah, wine.  Either I've just gained a lot of readers for this post, or lost their interest.  So, up front, let me admit - I am no wine expert.  Or even close to it.  When people swirl a wine in their mouths and gush about the notes of peach, blackberry, tobacco, leather, heather, or whatever, I say "um, this tastes like - uh, wine."

So let's talk about chocolate, instead.

What goes better with Valentine's Day than chocolate? Wine.  The problem is, they usually don't go together.  Wine and chocolate don't mix.  Or do they?

Last night, we went to a wine and chocolate pairing seminar at a local liquor store.  I had low expectations but it was the promise of free chocolate that drew me in.  My previous experiences with pairing wine and chocolate had been disappointing.

Last year, for example, I decided to try a New York chocolate/grape wine, Chocolate Lab wine. I never did write my review of it because I was so disappointed.

This time, though, I would be trying something paired by a wine expert.

I sat next to a large wine glass, and six items arranged on a napkin.  There was (clockwise) a raspberry, a wafer of white chocolate, a chocolate covered almond, a piece of dark chocolate with raspberry flakes, a small piece of 72% cacao chocolate and a piece of dark chocolate infused with cinnamon.

The six pairings began.  The first wine was prosecco, a sparkling white wine from the eastern part of Italy.  It is sparkling wine, NOT Champagne.  The really nice thing about prosecco (besides its price) is that it is approachable  - a good beginner's choice.  I love prosecco.

This wine just isn't good with chocolate (told you so!), and, instead of chocolate, it was paired with the raspberry.  By tasting this combo, I learned why my previous experiences with wine and chocolate hadn't worked.  The wines were just too acid. And the chocolates were wrong.

Last night, I learned that chocolate can be paired with wine.  It's hard to do but, like all hard things, it has its rewards.  Above are my notes from my tasting.  (One note - the port "from 1727" - it was the company, not the port, that dated from 1727.)

In the past year, I've decided to be DIFFERENT (my word for 2015).  My early close encounters with wine were of the Manischewitz/Boone's Farm/1970's sangria kind, and, during the 40 years of my adulthood, I had never progressed past super-sweet.  I had never learned how to pair wine with food, either.

Last year, I decided to learn more about wine, and I've had a good time doing so, even taking two trips into Finger Lakes wine country for that purpose.   I've learned a little about wine (just enough to be dangerous), even though my drink of choice with food continues to be - believe it or not - flavored seltzer.

Still, I've just begun to learn just how complex the art of wine is.  I live just about an hour outside New York's wine country.  As our wine expert said last night, you could fling certain types of grapevines on the ground here, and they would grow.  Catawbas, Niagaras and Concords do quite well here.  Other grapevines need a lot more care, but wineries are popping up everywhere around some of the Finger Lakes.  On parts of Seneca Lake, you can almost literally walk from winery to winery, if you don't mind dodging cars.

This weekend, some wineries are doing chocolate and wine pairings.  Now, if only we could start growing cacao in the Finger Lakes, we would be all set.  Just think.  Native New York chocolate.

New York - The State of Romance.

Imagine that.

What food or beverage does your home area specialize in?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dining with Abraham Lincoln

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever met a famous person, or a person who became famous later in life?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Winter Wonders - Banned in Boston

Step right up, my blog readers - ladies and gentlemen.  I have some soon to be banned (maybe) pictures to show you.

Do any of you remember the expression "banned in Boston"?  Do you remember a time when the city "fathers" banned books, movies, plays, and magazines for being suggestive, impure (in the moral sense), or containing adult content?

I remember it well, as this was still happening when I was growing up.

Works banned in Boston, the capital of the state of Massachusetts, include the books Elmer Gantry, by Sinclair Lewis; Oil, by Upton Sinclair, (the book the movie There Will Be Blood was inspired by), and A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway.

Times have changed in the great city of Boston, but if there was one thing they could ban from their city today, it would be snow.

Right now, they have a lot of snow.  Measured either in Gronks (one Gronk = 6 feet 6 inches) or smoots (one smoot = 5 ft 7 inches or 1.7 m), the 73.9 inches (187.7 cm) Boston has received is a lot of snow.

I have no pictures of Boston buried under massive amounts of snow, but I will leave you with some pictures of snow from my home in upstate New York.
Enjoy the pictures while you can.
They may soon be Banned in Boston.

What is your weather today like?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Why I Might Live Forever

I know I'm going to live forever, and here is the proof.

Several times a month, I get them in the mail.

I get them from my credit union.  From my other credit union.  From AAA.  From AARP.

"Statement of Acceptance We Invite You to Apply Today!" one says.

One even enclosed a free "Family Keepsake". It was a little pamphlet with facts that I could write down.  Facts that could help the person charged with writing my eulogy.

Yes.  All of these mailings are solicitations for life insurance.

They must think I am going to live forever.

At the very least, they must figure I'm not going to die anytime soon.  I imagine they wouldn't make much of a profit if I did.  And, if I never died, they would probably make a whole pile of money.  One of these solicitations offered "term life" for only (only!) $158.50 a month.

One of the recent solicitations admitted I was going to die, because the insurance was for "final expenses".  And they don't mean chocolate I will take into the afterlife, either. 

I can remember this, going back years, many years.  I remember my father, entering his "golden years", getting constant life insurance solicitations in the mail.  There must be something about becoming a senior citizen (some would consider me one, already, at the advanced age of 62) that triggers these mailings.

But maybe they know something I don't know.  In that sense, it's reassuring.

Perhaps I'll start worrying when the mailings stop.

Do you get these mailings, too?

Monday, February 9, 2015

My A to Z Theme

I've signed up for an April challenge called the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  On every day except Sunday, I have to blog - on April 1 on a topic beginning with A, on April 2 a topic beginning with B, and so forth.

After I signed up, I had a moment of doubt.  April, 2015 is the 150th anniversary of a special month in United States history.  In fact, some historians consider April, 1865 as a turning point in our history - the fall of Richmond, Virginia (the capital of the Confederate States of America, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's surrender to Union General (later President) Grant, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and so much more.  Lots of human interest.

But I've made my decision about what to do for A to Z.

I've played around with different themes.  Some people have written stories on their blog, 50 words at a time.  Others post photographs. The challenge asks that we write at least 100 words a day. This post is a tiny bit more than 250 words.

Just think - photos (and just a few words) from my 3,600 plus photo library on my iPhone. (My son, who calls me a digital horder, would be so proud!) could be another idea.

Different flowers
Places I have visited.  
Photos from my guest photographer
Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (April 15) and yes, I've found a way to fit it in.
The ending of the American Civil War.

I've made my decision, looking through my photos.  My theme will be Charleston, South Carolina, with a selection of other posts.

Do you plan to join the challenge?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Civil War Sunday - Too Racist to Enjoy?

The United States Civil War ended (officially) in April/May, 1865, 150 years ago this year.  But, in some ways, it has never ended.

It certainly had not ended on February 8, 1915, when the silent movie The Birth of a Nation was released. The movie is still controversial today, 100 years later.  

It is rarely publicly screened in its entirety. Why?

It was a groundbreaking movie in many ways.

In an era where movies normally didn't run more than 20 minutes, this was the first movie "blockbuster" - at 3 hours and 10 minutes.

I am not a film expert, but it pioneered many film techniques still used today, including techniques used for battle scenes.

It was the first movie ever screened at our President's residence, the White House.

It was the highest grossing movie ever until Gone with the Wind (another Civil War movie, and a movie celebrating its 75th anniversary this year - it was released in January, 1940).

Theaters charged admission of up to $2 - or, $47, in 2015 dollars.

It has been referred to, in some way, in many movies, including Forrest Gump.

So you would think we should all go out and see this movie.  And perhaps we all should, but not just for those reasons.

When seeking to understand history, we must explore the influence of books and other media in shaping our perceptions.  Think of the book Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  This book, published in 1852, horrified many with its depiction of American slavery.  It changed the world for the better.  It is still in print today.

The Birth of a Nation did just the opposite.  It was one of the most racist movies of all time.  I have only seen clips, but they were enough to turn my 2015-era stomach.  Black legislators in South Carolina eating fried chicken and taking their shoes off as they laugh and pass legislation demeaning to white people. (Footnote, major black characters were portrayed by whites in blackface.) White women endangered by former slaves, and saved by the Ku Klux Klan.  No surprise; it was used as a recruitment tool for racist organizations.

Many people suffered and died, indirectly, because of this movie.

It is rarely screened, but it can be seen, in its entirety, on You Tube.  It is in the public domain.

So what should happen to a movie like this?  Should it be censored, hidden away and never seen again?  What do you think?

I do not think so.  Evil must be understood, and faced head on.  As troubling a movie as this is, I believe it does need to be seen, and considered in the context of 1915.

In my high school history class, we screened portions of the Nazi classic propaganda film  Triumph of the Will.  Why not this movie?

Here, in 2015, we should not be too proud.  We can see the progress we have made since 1915, but we still have a long way to go.

We must finally end our Civil War.

Footnote:  I encourage thoughtful comments, even if they disagree with me.  But, if I end up getting any hateful or off topic comments as a result of this post - well, they would have just proved my point.  Those WILL be deleted.)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Local Saturday - The Long Slog

It's so easy to become depressed on a blah Saturday in upstate New York.

It's cloudy.  We've had snow flurries on and off all day.

It's full of slush.  Cars are coated with crusty white briny road yuck.  Piles of snow lie everywhere.

I thought about putting some kitchen scraps in my compost bin, but when I looked at my back yard, I changed my mind.   The compost bin is barely visible in the top middle next to the fence, mostly buried.  Perhaps I should run a contest to see how many readers can find it.


This was what my son's car thermometer showed on his way to work yesterday. -27F works out to about -32.7 C.

But then I thought back to just yesterday, when it was so cold, and my spouse volunteered to take me to work.

I stepped outside, and there was the sunrise. No, this is not photoshopped.
And then, on the way to work, the sun made its appearance.

We are far from seeing the end of winter. Our forecast for the next few days is not encouraging.  It's going to be a long slog to spring. 

Today, we are doing a seed inventory, having ordered our two community gardening plots.  Then, we'll see what we want to buy or order for our garden.

As for the weather- I will always remember that sunrise.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Photos and Memories

Recently, I blogged about the dying art of letter writing.

Yesterday, I read a post about a blogger and his visit to his maternal grandmother.  She had kept a treasured photo of her childhood.  She showed it to him.  The photo was about 75 years old, and was of a 10 year old girl, dressed formally, with a frown on her face.

You guessed it - the elderly grandmother was the young girl in the photo.  He marveled at how many details of the taking of the photo his grandmother remembered.

So he took a picture of his grandmother, and other pictures during his visit. He promised to give a photo to his grandmother.  He didn't print one of of vacation photos, though, not one.

 I have over 3600 pictures on my phone.  My son (my 20 something son!) calls me a "digital hoarder".  He's right.  I have even more on a computer I don't use that much.

Number of photos printed out from my phone = zero.  What do they include? Well, pictures of my spouse's now 103 year old aunt.  Pictures of my mother in law, my son, my spouse, a family reunion from 2012, and several vacations.  Lots and lots of memories.
And this photo I took at the house of one of my spouse's cousins.  It's a photo of an old family photo.

Think about it.

How many of us have spent treasured times with elderly relatives while they showed us pictures of our families from years ago?  How many memories were passed on?  How many stories were told?

Here's a personal memory.  Years ago, in an album, I ran across a photo of three young girls.  It was in black and white.  One of the girls looked just like me (almost exactly like me!) but the dresses they wore looked like something out of the 1920's.  They posed, formally.

Fortunately, someone had written on the back of the photo.  The photo was of my mother, and two of her sisters.  And yes, it was taken in the 1920's.  I looked at this photo and marveled, just as the blogger had done. Except my mother was long dead, and could not share her memories of the day.

Will I be sharing photos with my yet-to-be-born grandchildren one day?  Or will those photos languish in a landfill somewhere, in a computer long discarded?

Do you print out your treasured digital photos, or display them in a digital photo frame?  Or are you a digital hoarder, like me?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Locked and Snow Loaded

Winter has upstate New York locked in.  It could be worse, though.  I could have lived in Boston, with the giant mounds of snow on their narrow streets.

February is the most predictable month of winter for us.  We can have mild weather intervals in January.  In March, we can also.  But one thing you can depend on - February will be harsh.
In the country, a deer (taken by my guest photographer).  All you can see is the head, just to the ight of center of the photo.   I love the shadows in the snow.  Looks like ripples, doesn't it?
This is what five degrees above zero F looks like.

In the city, trees in front of an abandoned BAE Industries building near Johnson City, New York glisten with snow in the minutes before sunrise today. This building was abandoned after a flood in 2011 and is scheduled for demolition later this year. (We'll see about that).  But today, it looks beautiful.
In downtown Binghamton, the county courthouse still has decorations up from the holiday season.
And, a snow loaded tree, also near the county courthouse.

If the weather forecasts are correct, we may get up to 24 more inches (nearly 61 cm) of snow by Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the temperature is supposed to drop through the day, bottoming out at about -7 F (-21.6 C).

Spring, please come soon!