Thursday, April 30, 2015

Zone of Twilight

Z - the final letter in the alphabet. It's the last day of April, and the last day of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

It's the last day of writing a post based on the day and the letter of the alphabet it represents.  The last day of repressing my almost-boiling-over desire to blog about Spring.

But wait.  There's one more post needed, for a word beginning with "Z".

The choice is obvious.  It's time to honor the Zone.

The Twilight Zone, that is.

As I write these words, I wonder how many people reading this post (given that I have a number of international readers, and readers who weren't born when this show aired on U.S. network TV) remember Rod Serling.  How many would recognize these words:  "Submitted for your approval".
Rod Serling on the cover of a classic TV Guide
We remember him well in Binghamton, well enough to have a local museum partially devoted to him.

I want to submit this post about a TV show called The Twilight Zone to you for your approval, because I have come full circle in my theme of America the Beautiful.  But don't expect me to show up at the end of this blog post, smoking a cigarette.

On the last day of this Challenge, I mention Binghamton, New York, the city where I work, the city where I lived for a brief time many years ago..  This was where Rod Serling, the man responsible for The Twilight Zone and other TV shows, grew up.  I've blogged about Rod Serling's childhood neighborhood and the junior high and high schools he went to.

This and above photo taken at Bundy Museum of History and Art Binghamton, NY, with permission
I've blogged about the park he played in, which Serling incorporated into several Twilight Zone episodes.   I can even show you an old library circulation card with his oldest known signature.

But I haven't blogged that much about the Twilight Zone TV series itself.  These shows, first broadcast between between 1959 and 1964, had a big influence on me.  Even as a child (I was born in 1952), I knew there was something special about this TV show that was unlike the normal run of Westerns and variety shows filling TV schedules in those years.

And, somehow, Serling kept coming back to the beautiful Binghamton and upstate New York of his childhood again and again in these shows.

There was always a twist in the story.  They were stories that made you think, made you question, made you angry, made you wonder.   Nothing was ever what it seemed, in the Twilight Zone.
The original Cobra Phone featured on the Twilight Zone, Bundy Museum
 Many featured actors and actresses who were either already famous or would become famous played roles on The Twilight Zone.  Burgess Meridith.  Cloris Leachman.  Charles Bronson. Elizabeth Montgomery.  Robert Redford.  William Shatner.

Here is a sample of episodes for your approval. (Note, if you click links, you will find full length videos. Some are 30 minute shows and others 60 minute shows.)

Eye of the Beholder: A deformed woman is awaiting the results of her plastic she hopes will make her beautiful, like the people around her....

The Hitch-Hiker - a young woman survives an incident with her car and continues a drive cross country, where the same hitchhiker keeps trying to hitch a ride with her, over and over...

It's a Good Life - I still get chills when I see a cornfield.

Living Doll - why you should never mess with your children's toys....

The Monsters are Due on Maple Street - if you think you live in a neighborhood where everyone cares about everyone else, think again...

Time Enough At Last - what would you do if you were the last man on Earth?

Walking Distance - what happens when a harried man tries to return to his childhood?  (People who know Binghamton will recognize a certain park and carousel...)

The Midnight Sun - the Earth's orbit has changed, and the Earth is heading towards a fiery end - or, is it?  This is one of my personal favorites.

This is a Zone you may or may not want to enter. But if you dare (I've included links above to several full length episodes available on IMDb above), you will be richly rewarded.

Tomorrow - back to my regularly scheduled blogging except for May 4.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ybor City

For Y day at the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I want to show you some of the beauty in a neighborhood of Tampa, Florida that is one of only two National Historic Landmark Districts in the State of Florida.  And, since my theme is America the Beautiful, and my secondary theme is using photos buried in my iPhone, this Y day was not a challenge for me at all.

Ybor City was not a desirable neighborhood when I lived in Tampa, but it has been transformed over the past 40 years, with the history and the Latin vibe shining through.  Daytime, it is family friendly.  Nighttime, more of a party atmosphere.

Here are some pictures of Ybor City, including a Saturday market I went to in 2013.

One of the highlights of Ybor City (named after a cigar manufacturer) is the Columbia Restaurant, which opened in 1905.

Here are some pictures taken near or at the restaurant.
A closeup of the tile work.
If you can't have living flowers, these are the next best thing.

It's been many years since I last ate at the Columbia, so I can't endorse the food, but I'd like to try their "1905" salad one day.  You will get some good Cuban food here.

And it is even more beautiful inside.  Maybe, I'll eat there the next time I visit Tampa (next year, perhaps?)

Ironically, for a neighborhood named after a cigar maker by the name of Vincent Martinez Ybor, the cigar industry Ybor City was once known for is fading away.

But, despite that, Ybor City is well worth the visit.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Ah ha, fooled you! Bet you many of you were waiting for me to come up with the name of an American city or town beginning with the letter X, and then come up with photos from my camera. 

Dear readers, there are such places, but I have never been to any of them.  Well, I was within 20 miles of one such place once, but I have no photos.

So, for X day in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I am not going to blog about a place, but rather a practice that more and more residents of the United States are being forced to learn, due to continuing droughts in part of our country.  As my theme is America the Beautiful, I think this word is appropriate:


So, what is xeriscaping?  Put simply, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, xeriscaping is:

"a landscaping method developed especially for arid and semiarid climates that utilizes water-conserving techniques (as the use of drought-tolerant plants, mulch, and efficient irrigation)."
The word "xeriscape" comes from the Greek word xeros, meaning "dry" and - well, landscape.  It was most probably first used in this modern sense by a special task force of the Denver Water Department in 1978, following a drought in 1977. Now, with a major drought in California, where a lot of food consumed in the United States comes from, water conservation is a must on farms, and in residential and commercial landscaping.

It is said that some 50% of household water is used to maintain landscaping.  We can no longer afford to use water wastefully for that purpose.

Years ago, I lived in Wichita, Kansas.  Our first friends were a couple originally from West Virginia.  This man had tried, and tried, and tried, to grow the bluegrass he loved in his native West Virginia.

Here's a tip:  don't try to grow a bluegrass lawn in Wichita, Kansas, a city that gets less than average rainfall, and gets hot in the summer. 

The purpose of xeriscaping is NOT to create a landscape full of white rock.  No, far from it!  Rather, the purpose is to create a landscape that has water conservation as its major priority.  It is a landscape with plants that are grown in harmony with the environment.    You don't have to give up lawns, but you minimize lawn grass, and use clumping grasses that don't need lots of water.  You grow plants that do well in your area, instead of growing a landscape full of "exotics".  You use mulches effectively.  Pruning and weeding are still needed - this is not a "plant it and forget it" method.

Many plants we are familiar with are suitable for the xeriscape: juniper, lilacs, lavender, butterfly bush, catalpa, day lilies, iris, sedum, creeping phlox, daffodils, lily of the valley, sweet woodruff, hyssop, gazania, alyssum, sage, grapes, hens and chickens and potentilla.  There are lists online for specific climates, including those intended for California.  (If only I could grow rosemary as a perennial.  Sigh...)

Yes, we can keep America beautiful, while conserving water.

We can even grow plants on our roofs, and I actually have a picture of one here in Binghamton.  Yes, this is also a form of xeriscaping.  Imagine, one day, growing food on your roof?  Or even sedums?

Are you in one of the drought affected areas?  How are you coping?

Tomorrow, for the letter Y, I return to Florida, and some man made beauty.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Wilson Park

We're winding our way to the end of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, and I'm sorry, in some ways, to see the finish line.  I've had so much fun planning the posts, but I also am eager to get back to my normal blogging topics. (I still plan to post daily, which I have done since late April of 2011.)

Today, W day, I'm continuing my theme of America the Beautiful and rescuing some more photos from the depths of my iPhone.

Back in the 1980's, my spouse and I lived in the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas for a brief time.  I worked in Fayetteville for nearly five years.

Years have passed and Fayetteville has grown tremendously.  When we returned for a visit in 2013 for the first time since leaving, we had a list of places we wanted to revisit, or visit for the first time.

Wilson Park, a park almost at the middle of Fayetteville, was towards the top of the list.  Let me show you why.
The Castle is perhaps the most beautiful part of the park.  But it has plenty of competition.
Another view.

How about these gardens?
A bench.

One of several mosaics.

Finally, a plaque tells the story of the park.

Wouldn't you love to spend time in this park?

Only three posts to go, and tomorrow is the hardest day - the letter X. What do you think I will pick for my theme?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Civil War Sunday -Worse than the Titanic

It took more lives than the sinking of the Titanic, but many people today have never heard of this disaster.

And we still don't know exactly why it happened.

What was this secret disaster that was related to the United States Civil War?

It barely made headlines on April 27, 1865, because this disaster took place during April of 1865.  So much had already happened in this incredible April, perhaps the most incredible April in the history of the United States.  But April, 1865 was not yet done with our country.

Let's recap:

The Civil War had effectively ended.  Richmond, the Confederate capital, had fallen on April 3.  On April 9, General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Union General U.S. Grant.  On April 14, President Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head while watching a play, and his Secretary of State, at a different location, was seriously injured. The President died early the next day, changing the course of our nation post-war.  Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, escaped, but was cornered in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia on April 26, and was mortally wounded.  And, also on April 26, the largest Confederate surrender occurred at Bennett House, near Durham, North Carolina.

Meanwhile, hundreds of miles from North Carolina, Vicksburg, Mississippi had become a gathering place for former Civil War soldiers in transit.  Many of them were released prisoners of war, some survivors of one of the most notorious POW camps, Andersonville (Camp Sumter) in Georgia. All were eager to go home.

The Mississippi River was at flood stage. Many levees had been destroyed during the war.  In the best of times, the Mississippi was a treacherous river to navigate.  Riverboat pilots were well trained.  The best known perhaps was Samuel Clemens, who later became famous as author Mark Twain.

Under the circumstances, the river was even more dangerous than usual.

With the crush of soldiers waiting for transit, a luxury steamboat called the Sultana was pressed into service. Built in 1863, it had a legal capacity of 376.  But when it left Vicksburg it was crammed with over 2,100 soldiers.  Many were weakened by their recent POW experiences.

On April 26, the Sultana arrived in Helena, Arkansas, having successfully navigated the flooding river.   Perhaps the last known photos of the ship was taken there, clearly showing the overcrowded conditions.  From there, the next stop was Memphis, Tennessee.  The Sultana arrived in Memphis around 7pm on April 26 and left Memphis about midnight.

Around 2am, the Sultana, by then only about seven miles north of Memphis, exploded.  Many survivors were just too weak to save themselves.  Others were severely burned, or suffered from hypothermia in the ice cold river.   Hundreds went down, clinging to each other.  Others survived by clinging to trees jutting out of the flooded river.

The exact death toll is not known, as some bodies were never recovered, but the official death toll stands at 1,800 (mostly men, but also a handful of women).  Some survivor accounts are available online, if you are interested, and there are other resources available online, and on Facebook.

Why did the Sultana explode?  Was it due to the overcrowding?  Or, was it, as some believe, sabotage? Or was it due to the design of the tubular boilers that powered it, a design known to be dangerous?  There has been speculation over the years, not only about the explosion, but why the Sultana was so overcrowded.   Who benefited financially from the overcrowding? There are many online sources filled with information about this disaster - I invite you to read more (and the purpose of this blog post is not to speculate.)

Why is this disaster not well known today?  I speculate that, in the four years prior, we in the United States had become inured to massive death tolls in Civil War battles.   Gettysburg.  Chickamauga.  Spotsylvania Court House. The Wilderness. Chancellorsville. Shiloh.  Stones River. Antietam.  When you have 51,000 casualties (dead, injured, captured) in one battle (Gettysburg), what is 1,800 in comparison?

And, with the war basically over, people were still dying.  On the Sultana, some 1,800 humans died, not due to battle or POW camp, but because of a maritime disaster unknown to many today.

Perhaps the 150th anniversary tomorrow will change that.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Vandalia, Illinois was not even on our trip itinery when we passed nearby in late August, 2013, on the way to Arkansas.   We were in a hurry, trying to make a nearly 1,300 mile  (2,093 km) car trip in only two days.  But then, we found out the importance of this small city of 7,043 people to the history of the United States.

We were going to take another route home but circumstances forced a change - and, suddenly, we were traveling near Vandalia again. 

For V day at the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I want to talk about a road almost not taken, and what happened when we did take it and took the detour to Vandalia.

For example, we found the Madonna of the Trail statue.

I was amazed to discover that,by 1909, the old Santa Fe trail used in the 19th century for transportation purposes between Franklin, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico, was disappearing.   Eventually, a plan was formed by the Daughters of the American Revolution to both honor the old trails but also the pioneer women who traveled those trails, sometimes with young children in hand.

This is the Madonna of the Trail statue in Vandalia, Illinois, one of twelve such statues erected along the old "National Road".

Nearby, you find this sign.  Of course, being lovers of Civil War history, we had to spend some unscheduled time in Vandalia.
Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President and the President during the Civil War may not have slept here, but he began his political career in Vandalia, in the building that preceded this building.

No tours were scheduled on the hot afternoon we walked into this building, but a knowledgeable woman talked to us for some time, before we had to leave.

Lincoln, she told us wanted to move the state capital to a site more in the center of Illinois and eventually succeeded.  But first, Vandalia built this structure above, trying unsuccessfully to convince legislators to keep the capital in Vandalia.

For years, Lincoln was not a popular person in Vandalia, but all is forgiven.  Now, they honor their link with him.

I was so sorry to leave- I could have listened to her all day.
If only this staircase could talk,what tales would it tell us.

I highly recommend a visit to the Old Statehouse if you are in the area of Vandalia, or St. Louis, Missouri.  I wish I could let the woman who talked to us know how much I enjoyed listening to her.

Tomorrow, is my Civil War Sunday feature. Monday, the Blogging from A to Z Challenge resumes with W.  And, for W, I have a treat in store for you.

Friday, April 24, 2015


On U day in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I want to talk about a town in Kansas I passed through several times in the four years I lived there, but never stopped and investigated it.  Nor did I ever take any pictures.  But this town is part of America the Beautiful.

When I moved to Wichita, Kansas, after growing up in New York City (my husband was stationed there by the Air Force in the mid 1970's) I quickly learned about the power and terror of tornadoes.  I learned about tornado sirens.  I learned to recognize the signs of hail and possible severe winds in the color and look of a sky.

I learned this lesson well enough to warn co workers, back in New York State, moments before an F1 tornado touched down a couple of blocks from our office in 1991.  Fortunately, no one died in that small tornado.  But the tornadoes that hit the middle of our United States get much larger and powerful than an F1.  Sometimes they wipe out entire towns in a fury that is unimaginable except to people who have lived through like storms, or through wars.

Beauty isn't just in scenery or in artwork.  Beauty is within the people of a city, a town, a village. It is in their resiliency, the ability to pass through crisis and emerge stronger. 

I have no pictures of Udall, but I can offer you this video.  This man explains he survived a tornado in the small town of Udall, Kansas, on Memorial Day, 1955.  This tornado killed 89 out of the 610 residents, including one of his brothers.  It is rated an F5, and is considered one of the 25 most deadly tornadoes in United States history.

Why would I want to talk about Udall when my theme for this month is "America the Beautiful"?

Because Udall lived through their trauma, and came back better than ever.  They aren't the only town in Kansas to come back stronger from a tornado, either.  In fact, another small Kansas town, Greensburg (another town I was through a time or two) was hit by an F5 tornado and came back - green.

Perhaps, if green had been "in" in 1955, Udall would have gone "green", too.  And THAT would have been even more beautiful.

But, in my memory, those small Kansas towns built around large town squares survive in my memory - and, one day, I may be back.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Terra Studios

One day, a young glassblower and his wife moved from Colorado to a rural studio in Arkansas, and there they.....

...made glass bluebirds. Lots of bluebirds.  Little glass bluebirds of happiness.  And then they started to sell them, a few at a time, and, eventually, over nine million of them (here are a few hundred more).

For T day on the Blogging with A to Z Challenge, I bring you to Terra Studios, in rural Washington County, Arkansas.  Arkansas is not a normal tourist destination for many where I live in the Northeast United States. However, I lived in Arkansas for four years in the 1980's and  can tell you it is well worth a visit.

This post for my America the Beautiful series is about an art glass studio.

In 1982, while I was living there, the glassblower started to sell his Bluebirds of Happiness at the then-semi annual War Eagle Fair. Eventually, he expanded and opened his studio to the public.

Each bluebird is individually hand blown and dated.  I packed away the two bluebirds I bought in Arkansas in the 1980's - I'm not sure if I bought them at War Eagle, but by the time I left, they were being sold locally in some other places. 

Of course, nothing has prevented other people from making their own glass birds, and this has been a challenge for Terra.  So now theirs are called the Original Bluebirds of Happiness.

The original glassblower is retired, and his son runs the business now.  If you visit their 160 acre studio you will see sights like this.

And this.

And this.

But the star of the show is still the bluebirds.  Now, they've been joined by birds of other colors - pink Bird of Hope, rainbow, green (some of these are limited edition colors) and birds with candle holders, but my favorite is still the bluebird.  They come in various configurations, now, and I purchased this little guy in 2013.  I hope I can return one day.

Tomorrow - what will I pick for U?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sanibel Shell Show

For my S post in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I couldn't resist the opportunity to keep blogging on my theme of America the Beautiful, and work in three, not just one, word beginning with "S" into today's title. (AM pats herself on back while catching breath from writing run-on sentence).

Sanibel Island is an island off the west coast of Florida, near Fort Myers.  It is oriented east and west, instead of north and south, and for this and other reasons is considered one of the best if not the best shelling beach in the United States.

Beautiful indeed.

Every March, Sanibel holds an Annual Sanibel Fair and Show.  I've been fortunate enough to be able to attend twice, in 2009 and again in 2013.    A large part of the show consists of some of the most beautiful art you have ever seen - all featuring shells.

These pictures were taken at the 2013 show.
Just think of how much skill it took to create this award winner. (Incidentally, although I usually don't take pictures at art shows, everyone was snapping away - so I am assuming this was permitted.)

I loved these.
An orchid.  Remember, these "flowers" are really shells.

And, an award winning bouquet.

Oh, this makes me want to go back.  It's too late for this year's show.  But, maybe next year.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ravenel Bridge

The Blogging from A to Z Challenge is a challenge for many bloggers. But, in 2012, I faced other challenges.  A body flirting with obsesity.  An arthritic knee that was limiting some of my mobility.

I vowed that, one day, I would walk across the Arthur J. Ravenel, Jr Bridge, which connects Charleston, South Carolina with Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. 
Taken from our car, March 2015
Today, on R day in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I want to blog about that bridge, the bridge I lost weight for, the bridge I conquered in 2014, the bridge I walked on (although not all the way this time - I just didn't have enough time in a short trip to Charleston) again this year.

This is what it looks like when you are walking the bridge, if you look up.

If I could, I would fill my phone with pictures of sunset near the Ravenel Bridge.
If I could lasso the moon, I would lasso it from the Ravenel Bridge.

I know there are more beautiful bridges.  I know there are more most-photographed bridges.  But, for some reason, I just can't get enough of the Ravenel Bridge.  And neither can many other people.

Some people fear bridges, but, for me, they are a source of delight.

What part of the Americas will I visit for the letter "S"?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Queen (Street)

Today is Q day at the  Blogging from A to Z Challenge, and I continue to blog using the theme of America the Beautiful.  My personal challenge is also to use photos on my phone, and on my computer, and not let them languish any longer in cyberdarkness.

Today, I return to Charleston, South Carolina to show you a little of Queen Street. (If you are wondering - yes, there is also a King Street.)

Queen Street is located in the historical French Quarter neighborhood in Charleston.
I love the street signs installed in the curbs of some intersections in Charleston.

Queen Street is indeed a royal street, full of history, restaurants, ghosts, and architecture.

This is the Mills House hotel (picture taken in 2011) on the corner of Queen and Meeting Street. And this building has a little secret.  (Some say it is also haunted).

You would think that, looking at this lovely building, it was one of Charleston's historic buildings.  You would only be partially correct.

The site is quite historic, but the building(for the most part) is a duplicate of a building that was there for many years.  The current hotel's website states the building was built in 1853 but another site says it was demolished in the late 1960's.  There are elements of the old building within the newer building, however.

There is a restaurant across the street that is also said to be haunted.
Here is another building on Queen Street - Queen and State street, to be exact.  I love those palm trees.  So many old, historic buildings in Charleston - I don't know the history of this particular building.  But, you can take a self guided tour of the historic French Quarter - including a portion of Queen Street - online.

So, what will I blog about for the letter R?  If you guess Charleston again you will only be half right.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Civil War Sunday - Will the Nation Survive?

April, 1865.

One hundred fifty years ago, the United States was in the midst of an April it would long remember.  The first major Confederate surrender on April 9 signaled, to many, the end of the war (although, that really wasn't true.).  The April 14 assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the first President of the United States to be killed in office, stunned the nation..

Lincoln's killer, 27 year old actor John Wilkes Booth, became the subject of a nationwide manhunt.  After shooting Lincoln in the back of the head while Lincoln was watching a play at Ford's Theatre (just six blocks from the White House), Booth jumped onto the stage, breaking his leg.

Before fleeing, he shouted either ""Sic semper tyrannis" (thus ever to tyrants) or"The South is avenged.".  Eye witness accounts vary.

As a point of trivia, one eyewitness to the 1865 assassination lived long enough to appear on an American game show in 1956, shortly before his death.

Now people were afraid.  The last four years, our country has been at war, with well over (estimated) 1,100,000 casualties (dead/injured/captured). If we used the same percentage of today's population, this would have been over six million people. 

Additionally, recent evidence has come to light that the generally accepted casualty figures were understated - some of this research done locally, where I live (Binghamton University).

Parts of the nation were in ruins. Our President was dead, our Secretary of State seriously wounded and Lincoln's assassin was on the loose. (As part of the plot, the Secretary of State was also attacked in a different location, but survived.)  People asked: Will our government, will our nation survive?

The New York Times, a major New York City newspaper that still publishes today, said YES.  And the newspaper was right.

But the month of April, 1865, was not yet over.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


Prince Edward Island, in Canada.

Bottle Houses, PEI, July 2008
On a day where we are supposed to blog about P in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I assure everyone I am not deviating from my theme of "America the Beautiful".

Too many Americans (as in "people living in the United States") think "America" refers to the United States.  However, the word "America" can mean the United States, North America, Central America, and South America. 

So today, what may be my only post on Canada, just because I don't have too many digital pictures of that wonderful country.  Of all of Canada, PEI has a special type of beauty.  It's a slow beauty.  It doesn't hit you in the face.  Instead, it calmly waits for you to come and appreciate it.  And, if you are a fan of the book Anne of Green Gables, visiting PEI is a must.

My spouse and I visited PEI briefly in 2008 and I want so much to go back.

To get to Prince Edward Island, you must either
a. Fly;
b.  Take a ferry; or
c.  Drive (or take a bus).
Refrigerator magnet
If you drive, you use an engineering marvel called the Confederation Bridge, which is some 8 miles long.  Their slogan is "take the high road".  And it is.  High, and long.  My biggest disappointment was the barriers that prevent you, as a passenger, from looking down at the water.

Once you touch land, it's time to exhale and relax.

Visit a potato farm. Eat some diver scallops.  Buy some crafts, such as these quilted potholders I've displayed in my living room since this trip.  Drink some JJ Stewart soda. 

Or some raspberry cordial.  (Don't know about now, but Cows made some wicked good, as we say here, ice cream, back then.).

But if there was one thing I would recommended to the visitor, it would be visiting the Bottle Houses.
Let me give you a sample.  This attraction consists of three houses built from bottles, along with beautiful gardens.  For me, it was a must see.
And one more picture.  Most of my pictures weren't electronic - I left my digital camera at home.  I was still transitioning from film photography at the time.  But I did put several on a CD.

I have to admit, writing this post brought back such good memories.

Tomorrow, Sunday, is a day off.  I usually blog about the United States Civil War on Sunday.  Join me again Monday for the letter Q.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Today is the day to blog about the letter O in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  My theme is America the Beautiful.

I thought I would be struggling but instead, I am having such a great time that I want to talk about a typical day here in upstate New York.  What could be more beautiful than an ordinary day?

You're alive.

And you can find the extraordinary in ordinary.
Like these crocuses from last weekend.

Let's take a peek at a recent day, shall we?
The sun rose in a neighborhood near Johnson City, New York.

Minutes later, it shone on a building in this neighborhood.  Once the biggest wood framed structure in the United States, it has stood vacant since a major flood in September, 2011.  I've taken many photos of the building's front since then, and will mourn (a little) when the building is demolished.  Supposedly, demolition is to begin later this spring.
A bicycle rack in downtown Binghamton, New York in the shape of our skyline.
A giant copper beech. (It actually has its own plaque).

Finally, an iris in bloom.  Well, that wasn't too typical.  We had snow on the ground not that long ago.

Such beauty in the most ordinary of objects.

So - what will I feature tomorrow for the A to Z?  Here's a hint - it won't be Ordinary.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


It is the day for "N" in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

My theme is America the Beautiful, and today, I return to South Carolina.

Do you have a favorite neighborhood? I should say my favorite neighborhood is the one I live in, but that's not entirely true.

In my dreams, I wander the neighborhood of Ansonborough, the first suburb of the small walled village of Charles Town, South Carolina, dating from 1696.  It was named after George Anson, who won the land (so it is said) in a card game in 1724.  Now, this neighborhood is on the edge of downtown Charleston.. This neighborhood, like too much of Charleston, South Carolina, was rundown once, but thrives once again.

In my dreams, I walk along its narrow streets, past houses built in the 1850's. (Some of the streets are quite narrow, and you are better off walking than driving.)
I walk on Meeting Street, past the areas where the tourists congregate, past a historic engine company with a dalmatian statue and dalmatian fire hydrant .  Not too far away, I walk on a sidewalk in front of a locksmith's store.  The sidewalk is studded with keys.
I pass a beautiful house on George Street.
Detail on a door.
I shop at the Charleston City Market, established in 1807.  I dream of visiting the outdoor Charleston City Farmers Market in nearby Marion Square.  It's outside of Ansonborough but in walking distance.

It's hard, in just a couple of pictures, to explain my love of Charleston.  Why would a city in the South enchant a native of New York City so?  Yet, it does.  I've visited Charleston four times now, and I always return to Ansonborough.

Charleston has hooks in my heart but so does a certain bridge that connects Charleston with another city, and I just may blog about that bridge in a few days, too.

If you could choose, where would you want to live?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Monthly Meme (Garden Bloggers Bloom Day)

We have passed the halfway mark in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  Today it is time for the letter M.  My theme is America the Beautiful and today I feature - well, my yard.

Each 15th of the month, there is a monthly meme that gardeners all over the world participate in:  Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  I've been participating since mid 2011 - each and every month.  Sneakily, I've been led to create an online garden journal. Look up posts on my blog tagged "Garden Bloggers Bloom Day" and you'll see.

Hosted by an Indiana blog, May Dreams Gardens, the purpose of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is for the blogger to show what is blooming in their garden - or, house or apartment.  During the winter months, it can be a challenge for those like me who live in four season zones.  And, our winters seem to last forever.

May Dream's Indiana garden is in full spring bloom.

And, in my zone 5b garden near Johnson City, New York, it is SPRING.  Finally, I can show you flowers. Actual. Outdoor. Flowers.
On April 13, my first crocus bloomed.  Today, others in my lawn will join it.
I have one Lenten Rose in bloom.  Here's a close up.
My other should start to bloom tomorrow.  Its blooms hang down, so they aren't as visible as the white one.

My kalanchoe houseplant, whose blooms took me through most of the winter, is still going strong.  It's been outdoors most of the last two weeks, finally (maybe) rid of whiteflies.  Let's hope.
My regular readers know how much I love camillas.  But, you just can't grow them where I live (not hardy enough).  Or can you? I blogged, several days ago, about purchasing a camilla in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  Later this spring, we will plant this camilla, the hardiest this nursery sells (the variety has survived to around -8 F) in an effort to grow it in upstate New York.  It is called April Rose.  This is the fourth bloom this plant has given us in the pot, so at least we will have memories if it doesn't survive our next winter. Why not dream an Impossible Dream?

Meanwhile, my houseplants have put on a spurt of flowering.
One of my African violets started to bloom yesterday. It was a surprise.
One of my Thanksgiving cactuses started to bloom again last week.

Finally, in the best news of today, although I lost one of my two Phalaenopsis, the other has two flower buds on it. 

If you want to see what is blooming all over the world, go to May Dreams Gardens, click on some pictures, and enjoy the beauty our world has to offer.

What's blooming for you?