Thursday, March 31, 2016

Blogging from A to Z Eve

I am spending some time trying to finish up Blogging from A to Z posts so today you get a short post. Tomorrow, the Blogging from A to Z Challenge begins, and I hope you will continue to read through my blog as I blog about "Days of Our Lives" (not the soap opera, but - well, days of our lives.  Meaning, my life, and the lives of loved ones around us.)

The last several days have brought surprises to our lives.   And, a post from a woman who helped me and my son long ago (concerning her 89 year old mother) reminds me of how transient the days of our lives can be.  Thinking of a woman so self-sufficient, who raised six children, and what old age has done with her, is enough to make any caregiver philosophical.

So, I'd like to cheer myself up by blogging about - what else, spring.  After all, my word for 2016 is "determined". Or something like that.

Bloodroot, my yard, March 30
Just one little problem.
Binghamton, NY, March 30
Spring is going away, just as we see the last flush of crocuses.

Violets blowing in wind, March 30
On Sunday, Monday and possibly Tuesday, winter is going to return to upstate New York.  Just as I feared, climate change is striking again.

But for now, it is pleasant (and windy) and I will leave you with one more flower picture - magnolia blossoms coming out of their protective buds.

Let's hope the weather forecasters are wrong.

Tomorrow, please join me for Blogging from A to Z.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spring Things - Chia

Renewal is what spring is all about.  With spring, comes the urge to garden.  To plant.  Anything.

Ooops, I did it again.

Here I am, with my latest attempt at Let's Hope It Grows gardening.  You know us gardening types.  We have to tinker and experiment.

Spouse and I took a pre-Easter trip to a local farm store called Frog Pond, an indoor farm market in Bainbridge, New York.
And there, I bought these plants.

Chia seedlings.  Yes, the chia of "chia pet" fame.  Many people, nowadays, use chia seeds to add valuable nutrients to their diets, especially Omega 3's.

I had no idea what I was going to do with these plants, but I bought them, anyway.

So I bought, and then I researched, and this is what I found.

Chia plants are an annual in the mint family  Lamiaceae (and they do have mint-y like stems).  They are native to Mexico and Guatemala.  Their botanical name is Salvia hispanica.  Its flowers are purple or white.  It does not like especially wet ground.

The problem is going to be, apparently, that chia is a short day flowerer.  To those who do not garden, a crash course:  some crops are day neutral.  Others depend on either long days (like in northern latitudes here in the Northern Hemisphere or the reverse in the Southern) or short days (being closer to the Equator) i.e. they react to day length to produce their crop.  For example, onions come in either long day or short day varieties.  So do some sunflowers.  Cucumbers and tomatoes, on the other hand, tend to be day neutral.  So, length of daylight is just one factor in determining what plants you can grow successfully.

Chia wants short days.  The long summer days of upstate New York will not result in seeds.  By the time the day length shortens enough, it will (I'm guessing) be time for frost.  If I want seeds, I'm out of luck.  But maybe I will get to see some flowers.

We'll just have to see. I'll be disappointed if I can't, at least, grow these for the flowers.

Do any of you have experience with growing plants that aren't supposed to grow where you live?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Drill Me, Floss Me....

Another trip to the dentist.

This time, it's fallout from a wisdom tooth extraction done two years ago.  An impacted wisdom tooth (tooth #1 in dental talk), at the ripe old age of 61  started to rot, like my body was attacking it.  The dental assistant said she had never seen anything quite like it.

It was not an easy time, both before and after that extraction.  I will spare you the details.  You're welcome.

(In case you are wondering: No, I never got them out as soon as they started to erupt, like people usually do nowadays. In my childhood they didn't believe in taking them out when you were in your late teens- at least, my dentist didn't.)

Now, that #1 wisdom tooth, long gone, has become the gift that keeps on giving. The tooth (what dentists call "tooth #2) next to the late wisdom tooth had developed a cavity before the wisdom tooth was pulled - blocked in a way that it couldn't be treated.  After the wisdom tooth was pulled, they were able to treat the cavity, but the damage was done.

So, about two weeks ago, the area became infected, and the infection had to be treated before anything else happened.   Now, it appears, the reason behind the infection was a chip from that two years old wisdom tooth extraction.

So yesterday, I was back in the dental chair again, getting drilled, scaled and worked over in an effort to get that wisdom tooth chip out.

It reminded me of this Weird Al song, a parody of a U2 song called "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" .  Although, come to think of it, I was never flossed.

And I may not be done with this, either.

Many people fear dental work.  I don't- not yet, anyway.

So, dental work - does it scare you? Or do you treat it as a part of life?

Monday, March 28, 2016

First Forsythia and Other Scary Things

Many gardeners keep a garden journal.  I do not - not officially.  But I have my blog.  When you've been blogging daily since late April of 2011, you have created, knowingly or not, a journal.

What my blog posts are saying is that this has been a most unusual spring so far.

Saturday, I blogged about the maple syrup harvest that ended weeks before it should have.  Last March 25, I blogged one of my favorite posts, although the photos were not taken that day.  It showed my delight with spring - spring, that is, hundreds of miles south of where I live.  Yes, I had to travel hundreds of miles to see a forsythia in bloom.

This is last year's end of April in the Binghamton, New York area. 

Contrast that with what this March 26 and 27 looked like.  No Zombied Snowcopolyse this year.  But, as much as my heart wants to rejoice, it's also a bit disoriented.
This is not supposed to be happening yet.

Small daffodils in my front yard.  I am not sure if these are true jonquils as it is sometimes hard for me to smell scents.


The last of our crocus opening (our other ones are mostly done.  On March 27.)

Vinca in our back yard.
I saw our first primroses in our yard March 26.

Then, we took a walk several miles away.
More things were blooming on the West Side of Binghamton.
Not our Yard
After a few minutes of walking, we saw them...forsythias.  No seven hour trek this time.  More like seven minutes.

And (didn't take picture) we even saw magnolias starting to budding out.

"This is not normal", my small inside voice told me.  "Upstate New York is going to pay for this."  I thought about another year, 2012, when late frosts hit our apple crop (something our local farmers depend on greatly) and almost destroyed it.

"Yes", I responded, "but for now, I will enjoy every flower and every sign of spring.  We won't know what will happen until it happens."

Are you fearful about a return to winter?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Blog Roundup #11 -Easter Sunday

Easter is relatively early this year.  Here in upstate New York, an early Easter usually means cold, dreary weather.

Not this year.

Today, in the Christian world, it is Easter Sunday.  To celebrate, I will feature some links to blog posts that discuss Easter from various viewpoints.

D. Parker blogs "Are you hungry for more?"  It's actually a lot more than Easter that she talks about - it's more about a relationship with food.  In fact, I've read that, in the United States, Easter has become the 2nd largest candy-buying holiday, second only to Halloween.

 Dr. Danny Simon blogs about an Easter theme from a religious point of view, but he asks a question that resonates no matter what our religion is.  It boils down to a discussion of mercy.

Mercy is also a topic of Alice's blog post about what she did on Good Friday (this past Friday).

If you celebrate Easter, I hope you have a wonderful day spent with friends and/or family.

This will be my last blog roundup until May, as I will be participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge next month. I hope you will join me and over 1,000 other bloggers in this annual event.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Local Saturday - How Sweet It Was

In the last two weeks of March, upstate New York hosts a couple of Maple Weekends, where we can visit local farmers who produce maple syrup.  You get to see the process and have some maple samples.

Normally, the maple syrup process is in full swing, or nearly so.

Not this year. 

We went to a maple syrup producer in Harpursville, New York, Bush's Syrup House, on March 19.  One of the owners greeted us and other visitors.

The equipment laid quiet. And empty.

After a record strange winter, the maple syrup season shut off in mid-February after a mild, near 80 degree day.  It's been happening more and more, this truncating of the season.

Maple syrup can only be made during a small window of opportunity.

So, without the delectable boiling or bottling in progress, we looked at equipment.

We sampled (and bought) some dark syrup - to me, the best there is.  (Here are the grades).

I can only hope the maple syrup industry is not something that will go away with continued global warming.   We continue to find out more and more about the health benefits of maple syrup.

There may even be surprising health benefits to come.

Has the weather affected food production in your area of the world?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Pizza Rustica

It's Good Friday in the Christian world, and I was off of work.  I had the time today to make a homemade Pizza Rustica, the second of two Easter pies my spouse's family enjoys.

The first, Torta Pasqualina, or Grass Pie, was the subject of my Pi Day post on March 14.

Pizza Rustica is a savory meat and cheese pie. Like Torta Pasqualina, it has many variations.  Some put both sausage and ham into it.  Some will put hard boiled eggs into it.  Some people use a yeast dough for the shell, some a pie crust.  I'll be using a store made pie crust, since I am not noted for my pie crust making abilities.

But, as my regular readers know, I am not much of a cook.  So I enlisted my spouse, the family cook, in what turned out to be a lot more of a project than we had bargained for.

This is the recipe I used for the pie.  Sorry, metric readers, you are on your own today.
Some of the ingredients
This is how it would have worked for anyone who knew what she was doing.

First, ingredient assembly.
1 package (2) store made pie crust - unwrap,  Line a 10 inch pie pan with one crust.  Prick dough with a fork.

Now the filling:
1 1/2 pounds cooked ham, diced
2 lb ricotta cheese (we used part skim)
12 ounces mozzarella cheese, diced
5 farm fresh eggs
1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian flat leaved parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated romano cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella. 

Add eggs one at a time.  Beat with a wooden spoon. 

Add the other ingredients and stir well.  Now, pour your mixture into the pie pan and top with the second crust.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes in preheated oven, then lower the temperature to 325 and bake for about

Now, for what really happened.

I made the ricotta cheese mixture, after spouse chopped all the ingredients.

Then, I took the pie crust package out of the fridge and I unrolled the pie crust.  Or, I tried to.  It started to immediately crack and crumble.  I turned to my spouse. "It's all dry!" I cried. "We have to take it back to the store."

Having worked a long day (unlike me), spouse disagreed.  Instead, he read the directions.  "Take package out and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Then roll out crust...". So what we ended up doing was putting the box on the stove top, nice and warm from the preheated oven. 

That did the trick...sort of.

Then he looked at the bowl of ricotta cheese mixture I had prepared. He looked at the pie pan. He looked at the bowl of ricotta cheese mixture again. "That's never going to fit in that pie pan", he observed. "There is way too much."

He took out a springform pan and said "This will probably work".

So, after much fumbling and patching of holes, we (and it was "we") got the first pie crust in.  I poured in the mixture.  After more fumbling, got the top crust in.  Brushed it with egg mixture.  Put it in the oven, followed the directions.  The hour of baking ended.

It wasn't anywhere near ready.
So we ended up cooking this a lot more, until the crust was a bit past golden brown.  Right now, it is cooling on the counter.

Some of this will go to my mother in law, and some of it will be tomorrow's supper with a salad.

Hopefully, I'll let you know tomorrow how it turned out.

Are you a good cook?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Remembering Joe Garagiola

I was a huge baseball fan in my 1960's childhood, a time when girls were not encouraged to follow the game of baseball.  Neither of my parents were baseball fans and I have no memory of how I grew to love watching the game.  My love of baseball, in fact, helped attract my spouse of over 41 years.

I stopped following major league baseball years ago.

Now, like many baby boomers, I mark (it seems, almost weekly) the deaths of the musicians and the baseball players I once loved.

We baseball fans and former baseball fans mourn the passing of Joe Garagiola, dead yesterday at the age of 90.  At least now, he is reunited with the great Yogi Berra, who grew up in the same St. Louis, Missouri neighborhood that Garagiola did.  They were childhood friends. Yogi went on to become a Hall of Fame catcher.  Garagiola, also a catcher, played in major league baseball, but earned his fame in other ways.  Of his baseball career, he once said I went through baseball as "a player to be named later.".

Where Berra was noted for his twisted sayings that somehow made perfect sense, Garagiola was the ultimate in baseball broadcasting.  For so many, he was the voice of baseball.  He loved to make fun of himself.  It seemed that everyone, in turn, loved him.

Garagiola also hosted a number of game shows and appeared on NBC's The Today Show. 

Yes, I enjoyed Joe Garagiola - his manner, his sense of humor.

For the baseball fans among my readers, I have another memory for you.  This is a longer clip featuring David Letterman and the great late Ted Williams.

 Goodbye, Joe.  Another great gone. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spring Things-Joy In the World

Please, allow me one more post about spring.

Sometimes, I feel guilty about enjoying the beauty of nature in peaceful upstate New York when, half a world away, horrible things are happening.  I don't even need to name those places.  We know of them.  Well, some of them.

Too often, we forget about those places, until something happens to wake us all up, like the terrorist attacks yesterday in Brussels.  Meanwhile, too many others, in Africa, in the Middle East, in other places, go unreported in our media.

But no, I'm not posting a political post today.  That's not the purpose of this blog.

I came close to cancelling my Spring things feature to blog more about our world today, but decided to go ahead and blog about spring instead.  In this world full of terror, nature pays little heed to the suffering of humans.  The seasons progress.  Today, I force myself to take a deep breath and breathe nature in for just a few minutes before I return to the news.  I hope you will take a small break, too, before you return to the schedules of your world.

Spring budding in upstate New York is about a month or more ahead of normal schedule.

Trees bud along the Chenango River in downtown Binghamton, New York.

March 20
Along the Vestal Rail Trail they bud.
March 20

White birches blooming.
Crocuses in my yard easily survived Monday's snow squalls.

Winter may be returning soon (snow showers forecast for next week) but in the meantime, we can enjoy what is out there for the viewing.

What season is it for you?  Are you able to enjoy nature where you live?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Snow in Spring

Sometimes pictures say it all.

A dusting of snow in my backyard on March 21 during a first full day of spring snow squall.

A dusting of snow on my camilla, my experiment to try to grow this most beautiful of southern flowering plants well outside its normal zones, in my zone 5b back yard.  At least the blooms have not started to open yet.  This most hardy of camillas, my treasured April Rose, has not been fooled by the mild weather of earlier this month.  Good thing.

Snow on March 21 isn't normally news in upstate New York.  But this year, it is. 

The winter of 2015-16 is probably going to be our least snowiest year ever, according to the weather records.

Goodbye, winter.

Has your weather been strange, too?

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Great Reveal 2016

Drum roll.

Dim the lights.

This is it.

Today, I, along with hundreds of other participants in the Blogging from A to Z challenge, reveal my theme.

Last year's theme was America the Beautiful, and it would have been so tempting to repeat it.  After all, I have an iPhone stuffed with photos.  Over 3,600 of them.  I'm a digital hoarder.  My son says I am, and I must admit it.

But I wanted to do something a little more personal this year besides shower you with hoarded photos.

So my theme is.....
No, not the soap opera. Just "Days of our Lives".

I never was a soap opera watcher, but my late mother loved them.  In 1965, the year she died, a new soap opera debuted.  At the beginning, a man intoned:

  Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.
In this, my 64th year of existence, I feel more and more like my sands are pouring through the hourglass at an ever increasing rate.   Days of our Lives is my theme for 2016, as I relive events from my life, both past and present.  I'll also blog about some of those I love who are, or were, in my life.

I have 26 posts prepared, nearly prepared, or incubating in my imagination, all for your enjoyment this April. My blog, Ramblin' with AM, concentrates on life in upstate New York and some of my amateur photography and occasional travels.  I've been blogging since April of 2009; daily since late April of 2011.

I can promise you that April 1 will feature a post on autism.  My brother in law, who is in his 50's, has this developmental disability.  It has shaped his life, and all the lives of people who love him.

April 2 will feature a post about an event in Binghamton, New York, a city I have worked in for many, many years, that my spouse somehow got caught up in.  In a good way.

For the rest of my posts, you'll need to visit throughout the month of April.  Some will be posts about my travels.  The April 3 post is always a commemoration of a tragic mass shooting that occurred in Binghamton on April 3, 2009.  And, I will even show you a cemetery in New York that was once the nation's second most popular tourist attraction.  Yes, tourist attraction.

I look forward to this, my second A to Z, and hope to meet some of my favorites from last year's challenge, along with new blogs.

Which reminds me of another saying from my childhood, from when I belonged to the Girl Scouts:
  Make new friends, but keep the old/one is silver, the other is gold.

I treasure all of my readers, past, present, and future, for having confidence in my writing.  Thank you for the time you take visiting and commenting on my blog.

I hope you will use the link for others participating in this Reveal and find new blogs to read and enjoy.
This will be the schedule I and other participants will be following for the #A to Z challenge.

Again, welcome!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Some A to Z and Blog Roundup #10

Welcome to my 10th weekly Blog Roundup of some of the blog posts I enjoyed this past week.

I am one of over 1,000 bloggers signed up for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge that starts on April 1.  At the end of this post I'll share a post that gives some useful advice about participating (and surviving) that challenge.  But first:

Shari blogs about living with tinnitus - and I realize that I've had it nearly all my life.

Alice explains why we should not be afraid of change. 

Corinne blogs about The Blessing of the Irish. 

A therapist, Dr. Margaret,  blogs about how to confront your own insecurity.

My father was stationed in India during World War II and always wanted to go back.  I wonder if he had ever seen Lake Pichola, as described by Ami Bhat.

Now, one final link. Tomorrow is Reveal Day for those signed up for the Blogging from A to Z challenge. Tomorrow, we reveal our themes. I am one of a large group of  bloggers posed to blog about something beginning with A on April 1, B on April 2, and so forth for the 30 days (no Sundays) of April.
If you are planning to participate, this blog post full of tips is a must read.  And, may I mention, I am one of those giving advise (shameless plug!)  But all the advice is worth a good read whether or not you are participating.

I hope you are, though, because it will be (as we said in the 60's) a "blast".

Are you going to participate?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Local Saturday - Almost Spring

Spring is here!  In our time zone, it arrives tomorrow at 4:30 am.

I'll hopefully be asleep.

Here in upstate New York, we are usually only starting to melt. But not this year.

Crocuses in my Binghamton, New York area yard say:  it's spring!
A budded out tree on the Vestal Rail trail says:  it's spring!

And, in New York City, things are already blooming.  These pictures were taken by a relative who lives in New York City earlier this week, at Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan.

In its famous Heather garden, heather is blooming.

Hellebore, also called Lenten Rose.

More of these lovely blooms later this week.

Special things will happen tomorrow on the Vernal Equinox. 

Many religions treat this equinox as a time of birth, of renewal.  Let's hope so - our Earth needs a lot of renewing, as we humans try more and more, it seems, to destroy it.

Whether spring or fall begins for you tomorrow, I wish you a happy Vernal Equinox.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Soaring and Sinking

My heart soars.

Our yard in upstate New York is in a tiny cold pocket, so our bulbs bloom a little late.

But yesterday, the crocuses opened.  By the time I got home from work, they had closed up, but I was able to take this beautiful picture.   They aren't green, but the Luck of the Irish was with us.

The famous Almanac was so, so wrong about our winter, possibly the most amazing in my approximately 30 years living here.

In contrast, last year, the crocuses didn't bloom until April 23.  That's one of the beauties of blogging daily - it become a little diary of sorts.

I look back at March 18, 2015 and am so glad today isn't that day.

But now, Dear Diary/Blog, my heart is sinking. Because we may be having a major snowstorm by the first day of spring (March 20).  Say it ain't so.

A part of my heart was suspecting it all along.  Nature was not going to rest without reminding us, one last time, of her power, and fickleness.

Especially her power.

It had to turn back into winter one last time.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Pie Report and St. Patrick's Day Crochet

Today, I repeat a post from years ago.

May the luck of the Irish be with you this St. Patrick's Day.  But first, I need to (as the expression goes) tie up a loose end.

Remember the pi, I mean pi, my spouse (with encouragement from me) made for Pi Day what some Italians call "grass pie" but is also called Torta Pasqualina?

I promised I would tell you how it tasted.  And then, I wrote two posts about my flowers.

So, in case you were wondering...

It was delicious!  The crust, made from pizza dough, was perfect.  It was even Weight Watchers friendly.  And here's a picture of the final result.  We gave some to my mother in law, and I hope she and my brother in law "B", who lives with her, enjoyed it, too.

Not quite a St. Patrick's Day dish but part of it is green.

And now for traditional St. Patrick's Day post.

St. Patrick's Day Crochet

I've been crocheting for some 45 years now.  I don't do as much as I used to, for various reasons, but I still crochet a gift or two each year. I also work on crochet projects when I am on the road, since my loving spouse does the driving.

I haven't blogged much about my crochet hobby, but crochet has been a treasured part of my life.  My Mom wanted to teach me to crochet but rheumatoid arthritis robbed her of her ability to do any needlework by the time I was old enough. Instead, a high school friend taught me, and I've never looked back.  But although she didn't teach me, I still feel a link to my Mom whenever I pick up a hook.

These are both projects I worked on 20 or more years ago.  I got the afghan pattern from a magazine that no longer exists, I believe.

I have no idea where I got the pattern for the Christmas stocking.  But there is a special reason why the stocking has shamrocks on it.
This has a special meaning for me and a certain family member.  I made this for his first birthday.

So, today, although I am not Irish, I will wear some green. And wish family member a happy birthday.

Is St. Patrick's Day special to you?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Winter Wednesday- Last and Perhaps Least

Today, on the last Winter Wednesday until December, I have a special treat for you.

Today I present the first blooms where I live in Binghamton, New York.  In a normal winter, we would probably still have snow on the ground.  I live in a place that commonly gets 80 inches (203 cm) of snow, or more, in a winter. 

Instead, we have - flowers.  And bushes budding out.

Vinca on 3-12. (Mine haven't bloomed yet).


These aren't in my yard, but still...crocuses on March 15.

One of my first daffodil buds at my house.

Contrast this to last year on the first day of spring.

Meanwhile, in New York City, they got more snow this year from just one storm than we, on the edge of the snowbelt, did all season. Our official total so far is 22.3, but we got less where I live.

How does this even happen?

I would be willing to bet that we in the Southern Tier will have forsythias and Bradford pears in bloom by the end of the month.  Let's see if my prediction comes true.

Will we ever have a winter like this again?

Next Wednesday, my Spring Things Wednesday feature.

How is your weather today?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - Ides of March 2016

What ever happened to winter?

Was it in real life?  Or are we still in a weather fantasy?

Welcome to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, hosted each 15th of the month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens, an Indiana blogger.  Sneakily, she has made us write our own garden journals (something I, for one, never get around to doing) by posting what is blooming in their homes and/or yards once a month.

So I know that this is the most amazing March ever.  In yards, crocuses and snowdrops are blooming.  Daffodils have buds.  Some bushes have green buds.  Nary a trace of snow on the ground.

In contrast, here was my March 16, 2015 post.

Our Lenten roses are up, but not yet blooming.  And, I will be truly surprised if Bradford pears and forsythias aren't in bloom before months end.  Only once has this happened before in my 30 years of living in the zone 5b area near Binghamton, New York - in 2012.

In my yard, I am so close to blooming. The crocuses are up.  My earliest daffodil has buds.

But, unlike last March, I did not have to scrounge for blooms at all, although they are all indoors (or outdoors, in pots).

My wonderful, wonderful moth orchid, a Mothers Day 2015 gift, reblooming.
A Thanksgiving cactus, still blooming away. Actually several of them are.

A primrose I bought earlier in the year, kept in a pot, and it is reblooming.

My trusty several years old kalanchoe.

My overwintered Million Bells, also a Mothers Day gift.

And finally, my overwintered begonia, a clearance plant, which has done more of its share of thanking me for saving it from the discard pile.

Thank you, Carol, for hosting this meme once again.  Hop on over to her blog, and then check out what is blooming all over the world.