Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 2016 Flower Roundup

Today is the last day of July.   Another ending.

These words stare back at me from the almost-blank screen of my new blog post setup page.

Another month has flown out of my life.  Another month has brought us in upstate New York closer to the dreaded winter.

Another month of flowering beauty has passed, captured by my iPhone.  Here are some highlights (note, only the flowers that I say are mine are mine):
Lilies at a Finger Lakes winery July 2.

One of my lilies, July 10.

Bee Balm, Binghamton.

A petunia in my front yard, the third week of July.
A zinnia just starting to open up in our community garden July 24.

Our hostas in bloom, July 15.

Day Lily "Pink Monday", Cutler Botanic Gardens.

And finally, lilies from a walk yesterday in Binghamton.

Tomorrow, August begins.  A new beginning for us all.  May it treat you well.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Local Saturday - The Secret Wood of Syracuse

Yesterday, I blogged about a pair of salt and pepper shakers that I cherish so much, because they are one of the few things I have from my late mother.

My Mom, who died in 1965, and lived all her life in New York City, never told me their story.  But, I was able to do an online search and found they were probably made in the late 1940's, out of a material called "Syroco Wood".  They were possible manufactured in Syracuse, New York, a city about 70 miles to the north of where I live (the Binghamton, New York area).  The "Syroco" in the name stands for the "Syracuse Ornamental Company".  It came into being in 1890.  It finally closed in 2007.

Don't these shakers look like they are intricately carved?  So did I but the truth is stranger (and more fascinating) than that.  The story is worth sharing on my Local Saturday feature.

Quoting from the Syracuse University website:
Founded in Syracuse, New York in 1890 by immigrant Adolph Holstein, the Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco) specialized in decorative wood carving, especially for the local residential market. Products included fireplace mantelpieces and other types of interior decoration popular in late Victorian homes. To meet increasing market demand and sales opportunities Holstein developed a material looked and felt like wood but that which could be shaped, allowing multiple pieces to be produced through a molding process. The new product, which combined wood pulp brought from the Adirondacks [a New York mountain chain] with flour as a binder and other materials to give it strength, was extruded and then cut to fit compression molds, which had were made from original carvings in real wood.
The process favored shallow molds with little undercutting, and this served well for the creation of a wide variety of "carved" relief work to be applied to different sorts of flat surfaces such as walls, furniture and caskets. Production of this new molded product, known as SyrocoWood, was the mainstay of the company's production through the 1940s.

My guest photographer (a friend whose photos I feature from time to time) emailed me last night and sent me this link.  It is full of fascinating information about Syroco and other manufacturers.

So many gone now. 

And strange how, all these years, I owned a somewhat local product and never knew what it was.

Yes.  Isn't it good Syroco wood.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Isn't It Good Syroco Wood #CherishedBlogfest

Welcome to my entry to the Cherished Blogfest, a three day event where participants blog about our most cherished item. (A full list of participants can be found here).

My mother has been dead for 50 years.  I was 12 when she passed away suddenly.

One of my most cherished memories was when, as a young child, she allowed me to dust her knickknacks.  We had a steam radiator in our living room and she had had, a great extravagance for her perhaps (my parents were never affluent) a covering built for the radiator.  On either end, she had knickknack shelves.

I would take each knickknack off carefully, dust the shelf, and dust the knickknack.

Fast forward many, many years.

I don't have much that belongs to my mother.  That is why I cherish what I am about to show you as one of my most valued possessions.


It is a set of salt and pepper shakers.  Researching online, I found it is a set of "1940's Syroco Wood" Salt and Pepper shakers.

Reading even further I found out more about "Syroco Wood", which I will save for another blog post.  It was amazing, considering that these items may have been made only around 70 miles from where I have lived for nearly 30 years.  They are cracking, but so far, still all in one piece. I'd love to know how to take good care of them.

I will never know where my Mom picked this item up - perhaps in a souvenir shop in Ohio (in the left back, it looks like "OH 1/49")?  I know my Mom and Dad never had much of a honeymoon but perhaps they made it all the way from New York City to Ohio.

The pieces are cracking but may be in good shape, considering they may have been made sometime between 1949 and ? (I was born in 1952).  They aren't worth much (one Etsy dealer is selling these for $18. U.S.) but I don't care.

To me, they are priceless.
The Cherished Blogfest #CBF16

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Preparing for a Cherished Blogfest

Tomorrow starts an annual event called the Cherished Blogfest.

Do you have an item you cherish?  Would you like to share it with the world (photo optional) in 500 words or less?  Would you love knowing what your fellow bloggers cherish?

It runs July 29, 30 and 31.  You only need to post on one of those days, and it isn't too late to join in.  I am participating with...well, I am not going to tell you.  I will give you some hints, however.

It won't be about my day lilies.  (you knew I wanted to sneak in one more day lily photo).
Only the foreground.  The neat looking garden in back isn't ours, alas
It won't be about my spouse's vegetable garden.
It won't be about zinnias.  Or about you, my faithful readers.  (I would say "valued readers" but that sounds so - corporate.)  Or my houseplants. Or my piles collections of books.
Steamed clams
It won't be about my spouse's cooking.  Or, for that matter, my spouse.  Or my son.

So what physical possession do I cherish the most?  If I was decluttering, what object would I never get rid of?

You'll just have to come back tomorrow and see.

If you aren't participating, I would be curious:  what object of yours do you cherish the most, and why?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Summer Ramblings - Does Love Trump Hate?

Today is the last Wednesday of July.  Yesterday was another ugly day in world events, as hate showed itself.  People died. There is so much uncertainty, so much feeling that the world is going down a dark and dangerous path.

As the crickets chirp their late summer messages, I thought about a phrase that has been used many times recently here in the United States:  Love Trumps Hate.  You see it, on thousands of printed political signs.  You hear it in speeches.  But, I am not asking this question in a political sense.

It's (the pun in the expression aside) a good question.

If you google "Does love trump hate?", you get about 15,000,000 results.

But is it true?

It can even tear apart families, these political discussions.  Isn't hate busy trumping love?

So, to bring in a breath of fresh, positive, air, I present to you some of the flowers blooming in my yard.  Unlike many of my posts, where I also feature flowers found on various of my exercise walks, these were all from my front yard.

Some of my final day lilies.


Reddish, glowing after sunset.

And pure yellow but with a hint of white, again after sunset.

My tall phlox.

But not all beauty is in flowers.  Sometimes, foliage is what I admire.
Our three coleus plants.


I grew up in an apartment in the Northeast Bronx.  I am so grateful for every day I can walk into my yard.  I do not turn a blind eye to what is going on in the world, but I do have to take breaks from it. (And, for now, I continue my limited visits to Facebook.)  But, many times, I wake up thinking that hate, all over the world, is trumping love.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Radiation Biohazard and Other Garden Delights

For several years I have visited Cutler Botanical Gardens just outside Binghamton, New York to marvel at their day lily display.   Cutler is a hidden gem in the Binghamton area.  Actually it isn't hidden - Interstate 81 goes right past it, and there are signs for it.

It is not famous.  It is not large.  But it deserves more attention and the volunteers who maintain it (and dig it out of occasional floods) deserve a long round of applause.  Did I also mention that it is free?

I do have a teeny tiny complaint.

They have an annoying habit of numbering many of their plants. An explanatory booklet never seems to be around.  Last year, I even contacted them on Facebook to ask for some kind of online key.  No key to the numbers resulted.

This year, in mid-July, my spouse and I visited and - finally! There was a booklet in the booklet holder. (Fear not, I returned it.)
Overview of the lily bed
So now the mysteries of previous years are somewhat solved.

Let me introduce you to Lily #249 Radiation Biohazard. 

How about Lily #215 Two Part Harmony.

#228 Karen's Curls 

And Dr. Jerrold Corbett (this one may be my favorite) although it doesn't seem to look like its catalog picture.

I could post dayily pictures all day, but I suspect I might lose all my readers.

And, by the way, Cutler is worth visiting at other seasons, too. (and, I have solved the mystery of this door I blogged about).

What is your favorite flower?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Music Monday - Just Scroll on By

Just scroll on by - but please, not this post.

Thank you, everyone, who commented on my post of Saturday wondering if I should quit Facebook.

I was bemoaning the fact that my Facebook timeline had become a repository of political hate expressed by some of my Facebook friends.  I had, in fact, known some of them for many years and knew them to be decent people.  But this has been a political season, here in the United States, enough to bring out the worst in many.

You all had such helpful comments.  One of you, Lynda Grace, even helped me name today's blog post.  She suggested I "just scroll on by."  Ignore the hate.   Concentrate on the good.
Yes, this one is in my yard
Like this lantana flower cluster, Facebook is a mix of many colors, many opinions, many kinds of people.  It's up to me to curate my Facebook garden if I want to keep from feeling poisoned.

Another blogger, YTSL, reminded me that I majored in cultural anthropology in college.  I remembered, then, my training from so many years ago.  It enabled me to step outside my culture (well, never perfectly, and I never did field work) and examine things more from a distance.

I am still planning to spend a lot less time on Facebook - and doing a lot more blocking and "scrolling on by".  We'll see how it goes.  Already, if I had quit Facebook, I would have missed the news about my last original neighbor from back when I first moved to the neighborhood so many years ago.

I'm so glad I didn't just walk away.

Speaking of walking, since this is music Monday,  here are a couple of walking songs from my childhood.

Walk Like A Man - the Four Seasons

Walk on By - Dionne Warwick

And one from my adulthood - Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves.

Have you decided to Scroll on By on Facebook?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Saddest Day of Summer

I've used my seven years of blogging to track when I hear the first crickets chirping each year.

The chirp of the crickets is the first sign of fall coming, and it always makes me a little sad.  I like to think summer is endless.  What a fantasy (here in upstate New York.)

This year, I heard crickets, for the first time, on July 18.  The earliest ever, although I must add that I only heard them in one location.  But this morning, I opened my door to get the paper and heard the chirps. "C-Day" is official.

Here are some cricket milestones of the past:

July 29, 2009
July 30, 2011 
then, there were two dates in 2012, perhaps due to an early spring
May 21, 2012
July 25, 2012
August 3, 2014
July 28, 2015 

Actually, something similar happened in July of 2010, but they were here for good by July 22.  Incidentally, that's one reason why I like to blog - the blog becomes a kind of garden journal.  I'm no good at diaries or journals, but blogging is something I do keep up with.  At least for now.

In April of this year, I participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. My theme was (based on a soap opera theme)  "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of our Lives".  Crickets don't tend to have a long life span - different species may live anywhere from three months to a year, or so I've read.

The day lilies I love don't live long, either.  Each bloom only lasts a single day, teaching us not to live in the past or the future.  Live only in the present, and look at the beauty around you each day.  And speaking of which, sometime this week, I will post even more lily pictures.

Until then, enjoy the chirp of the cricket, if they are chirping where you live.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Should I Quit Facebook?

I'm not the only person thinking that.  I asked Google, and got back 3,590,000 results.

Why would I ever want to quit Facebook?

I would miss being able to post pictures of my day lilies trying to teach us some life lessons.
Enjoy each day., says this lily.  Be true to yourself.

Well, to tell the truth, nowadays when I get on Facebook, what I stare at is hate.  Lots and lots of hate.  Mainly from friends in the United States, but some from overseas.

Name calling.

People wishing harm on other people.

People saying things that would have gotten their mouths washed out with soap had they grown up in my Mom's apartment in the 1950's.

I feel like I am slowly being poisoned.

I am not talking about normal political discussion.  I don't mind my Facebook friends being of different political persuasions.  What I do mind is the tone this discussion has taken on in the past few months.  Yes, we in America are scared, are frustrated, and are looking for answers.  I get all that.  I am frustrated and looking for answers, too.  And, I am scared of various directions my country, and its citizens, are taking.

I visited with some of my spouse's cousins the other day.  They have different political beliefs from my spouse and me.  But they are willing to listen and to ask questions, to find out where the other person is coming from.  One gave me some advice, and recommended I go through my timeline, and hide the posts that make me feel the way I do.

For some, it will need more than hiding. So far, I've blocked one person (several months ago - almost every post one of pure hate) and am seriously thinking of blocking a couple of more.

It's a shame.  What is happening on my timeline makes me think that I am now interacting with strangers.

I like some of these people who do these postings.  I know they aren't evil.  Perhaps  a form of temporary insanity has taken over.  I don't want to give Facebook up, I tell myself, over that.

I get a lot of news from Facebook.  Remember Friday's post, where I blogged about a young cousin of my spouse's?  I found out about his birth on Facebook.  Earlier this week, I found out the mother of someone I had known here locally (she has since moved) had passed away.

I found out a relative lost his job recently on Facebook.

I found out about Munich and Orlando from Facebook.

I find, more and more, businesses are on Facebook and don't update websites.  I depend on Facebook for farmers market happenings and more.

A lot of my blogging contacts come via Facebook.  The challenges I occasionally participate in require membership in Facebook.
I could wish we all could still discuss things without considering those who disagree with us as our mortal enemies.  Take these lilies, for example.

These day lilies are not your usual lilies.  But they co exist with the lily above, and the lily below.

Wishful thinking for a perfect world. But maybe not.  This lily, showing its beautiful peach color,  teaches us a lesson:

Life is too short.  Give life everything you have, and don't waste the time allotted you.

So this is my decision: Life really is too short to read my timeline without massive hiding of posts, although I may try it starting today.

What I have decided to do is mainly concentrate on some special interest groups (music, crocheting, blogging) I belong to.  I may not spend much time on my timeline. I will look for DMs, though, in case someone wants to contact me.

We'll see how it goes.

How do you feel about Facebook?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Falling Friday - The Grandma Discussion

Yesterday, a couple of cousins from out of town visited my mother in law.  One brought with her her young daughter and her month old baby boy.

My mother in law, who is in her late 80's, was so happy to have these two children in the house.

My son came over for dinner.  Over sandwiches and salads, the "Grandparent" discussion commenced.

You know the one, if you are of certain ages.

I have not been in a hurry to be a grandmother. My mid-20's son (I only have one child) is not in a committed relationship, so the discussion doesn't happen all that much.  But I know two things.  One is that my son loves children.  And the other thing is, I remember when my Dad burned with Grandparent fever.  (Sadly, he didn't live to see his grandson.)

For me, the urge does not burn.  Not yet, anyway.  All around me, people I know are becoming grandparents.   I work closely with someone who has TWO pregnant daughters right now.  They are on opposite coasts (of the United States), and are due at somewhat the same time, and I don't envy her the travel.  But it is nice to think about.

I don't dread being called "Grandma". Or "Nana" or anything like that.  Not at all.

Around me, people are retiring because they have become grandparents.  I am not ready for that, either.

But I was ready for this.

Little J. was in his fussy part of the day.  And, when I held him, he cried for a couple of minutes. But I rubbed him like a grandmother, and felt love in  my heart.

And you know what?

He stopped crying, and smiled at me.

Watch out, world.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday - It Wasn't Supposed to End Like This

July 20 (or 21st, depending on which time zone you lived in) was the 47th anniversary of mankind's first steps on the moon by astronaut Neil Armstrong- unless you are someone like my father's father, who went to his grave thinking it was a Hollywood fabrication.

My personal memories, growing up in the Bronx? That day, July 20, I went with my Dad to see a space exhibit in midtown Manhattan - and late that night, we watched Neil Armstrong take his step on a flickering black and white TV picture in our Bronx apartment.

Who would have expected the space program would end (as far as I am concerned, it has ended) the way it did?  With a whimper? With the United States dependent on other countries to propel us into space?  It's true, NASA doesn't say the space program has ended.  Not publicly, anyway.

Now, also, there is Space X.

Is there hope?  We'll have to see.

In July of 2011, I wrote this blog post, and I would like to repeat it today.

Fly Me to the Moon....

I interrupt the normal programming of this blog to bring you this special announcement.

The United States space program ended today.

Today has left a large hole in my heart.  And perhaps one in our country's heart.

I was a child of the Space Race.  In October of 1957, Sputnik 1 was launched.  Ever hear of it? Or the Soviet Union?  Well...

The Soviet Union was a "union" of Russia and a number of other nearby countries.  Their government was "communist", committed to the destruction of the capitalist system - and our country.  Or, so we were told.  Those were scary times.  When I was a toddler, being called a Communist could be enough to cause someone to lose their job.  There were special congressional hearings.  Blacklists.

The Soviets had "The Bomb".   We and they fought what was called the "Cold War".  If they won and took us over, all would be lost.  The Soviets were totally evil- that is what I was taught, as a schoolchild growing up in the 1950's and early 60's.

When the Soviets launched the first satellite in October of 1957, our country was thrown into a panic.  We needed to get our children educated in the sciences, and quickly, so we could get into space with our satellite before the Communists took space over.   This drive accelerated even more quickly when the Soviets put the first man into space in 1961.

We as a country committed ourselves to reach the moon in a speech given by President Kennedy in May of 1961. 

50 years ago, we decided to go to the moon.  We would beat the Soviets there.  We knew they were trying to get there, too.

Competition is the heart of the capitalist system.

I saw some of the various launches in school.  Others, on our black and white TV at home.  First, we blasted one man into sub-orbit.  Then, one man into orbit.  Then, into many orbits.

And then, the Soviets took a walk in space. So we had to also.

To make a long story short, we made it to the moon first.  Several more missions got to the moon and then in the 1970's we totally changed direction.  We decided to have a program with partially disposable space crafts.  We haven't been to the moon since that decision and, in fact, no one else has been, either.

In the middle of all this, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.  Probably a lot of the urgency disappeared with the Soviets.  We no longer had an enemy to compete with.

And then we realized it was way too expensive for the government to keep up the space program.  Private industry would have to take over, and that is part of the reason for what happened today.  The entire story is complicated, and this is a very shallow telling of the tale.

Today, several generations know of the space program mainly for Tang, and freeze dried ice cream.  But, in reality, it enriched our lives in so many ways we can't even imagine - everything from MRI technology to cell phones (have you ever seen the first Star Trek series?) to - well, there is an entire NASA Spinoff website that explains this.

Think about this.  We won the space race, right?  And now -we won't have a way to get into space on our own, for now.  We will have to depend on....

The Russians.

Now, that's irony.

We can ask  "so who cares?  Why is it important to keep exploring space?  (No, the answer isn't going to be to fight the space aliens traveling right now to our planet to conquer us....but who knows, maybe they are.)  No, the answer is not about being able to resist our future space overlords.  (Or...just think of this nightmarish thought - terrorists launch a satellite....)

It has a lot to do with the human spirit.  Humans are explorers.  The drive is built into us.  In every generation are born people without fear (or maybe, people without common sense).  The wider our horizons, the wider our thinking.  Our acceptance of new ideas, our flexibility, our ability to roll with change, depends on this. 

Will we lose our spirit?  If we do, our country is lost.

I fear this has already happened to our country, and we must fight it.

I rarely write serious blog posts, but this is one of them.

Be it by government, or be it by private industry, we can't give up space.

After posting this, I read an awesome post on the subject.  I am linking to it, so you can read it too.  (This blog is no longer active, but she has a different blog, also worth reading.)

What are your memories, if any, of the space program?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer Ramblings - Moon and Wildflowers

Today is the anniversary of the 1969 landing of man on the Moon.  I will blog more about that tomorrow.  We also had a full moon last night.

Instead of looking up in the sky, I am directing my gaze today to a building in my neighborhood known officially as Air Force Plant 59. When first built in 1942, near Johnson City, New York, it was one of the largest (if not the largest) wood framed structures in the United States.

 Rendered unusable by flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee on September 8, 2011, it is in the process of being demolished.  Its last tenant was BAE Systems, and it is called the "BAE" building, or even the "GE" building (a tenant of many years) by locals.

In early August of 2013, I took this picture of the moon over the former BAE building.  (It's the white dot between the two trees).

Now, much of the building is gone, but the wildflowers on the property are doing quite well because no one is mowing what used to be the lawn anymore.  Probably little need, with the drought we are in.

Chicory, its blue so comforting, grows here and there.
Queen Anne's Lace is flourishing everywhere.
In the shade, earlier this month, catmint bloomed.

There is a tall thistle plant near this catmint, but in the sun.

As man abandons the property, nature has its way.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Good Old Days of FarmVille?

Pokémon GO.  No, I'm not playing it.

No, I don't intend to play it.  And yes, there was this little privacy issue about it.  Surprised?

I learned my lesson several years ago,when I ended up becoming addicted to an online game played on Facebook called FarmVille.  I was addicted to it for some three years.

Yes.  I said it.  Addicted.  As in "spending hours on it".  As in "timing my life around certain crops maturing".  As in "my friends knowing when I was on vacation because my fields would lie fallow".  As in "reading blogs about".  Yup.  That was me.

I was so addicted that I even filtered the news through FarmVille, as the below post I am repeating from January of 2011 shows.

What broke my addiction was the fact that the game got glitchier and glitchier.  If it hadn't become so frustrating with all the outages, freezes, and other things that made it more and more difficult to play, I might still be playing it.  It took me a while to quit, even after several Facebook friends quit it.   But, until earlier this year, I still got occasional game-generated messages from people I used to play with.

Since then I have not accepted one game invite from anyone and do not ever intend to.  No Words with Friends.  No Candy Crush Saga (I think a friend of my mother in law, who is in her late 80's, is still trying to get her to play Candy Crush Saga). 

So, while I am thinking about FarmVille one last time as I ponder Pokémon GO, enjoy my post from the time of my addiction.

Do you play Pokémon GO?

Tracking the Revolution using FarmVille

The last 24 hours or so has been a surreal experience.

Yesterday evening I was on Facebook when a relative contacted me.  I have a cousin stationed in Tunis, Tunisia, and this relative had asked for everyone he knew to pray for the safety of the cousin and family. (If you haven't been following the news, do so:  there is quite an interesting political situation going on there right now.)  He gave me some updates and I decided I would try to friend the cousin's husband, who was posting several updates daily regarding their situation. His posts were pretty scary, especially the part about sleeping on the floor the night before with their children because of nearby gunfire.

So, while my spouse was on the phone with his family about a situation in his family, I was chatting with someone in Texas and trying to friend someone in Tunisia.

Anyway, I sent a friend request and when I came home from work tonight, I found he had accepted.  Now I can read his posts directly instead of getting them through the other relative.

I also had a pleasant surprise.  The cousin's husband plays FarmVille.  And, he had recently planted some 12 and 24 hour growth crops.

Farming during a revolution.  Now I will be able to track how stable his everyday situation is through how he plants his crops.  Or, maybe he is just an optimist.

Gives a new meaning to social gaming, doesn't it.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Music Monday - Murder on the High "C"s

I had never heard of Florence Foster Jenkins until seeing a feature on an upcoming movie starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.  The story is hard to believe, but it is absolutely true.

Florence Foster Jenkins, to summarize her life quickly, was an amateur soprano and a millionaire.  That, combined with her being prescribed injections for syphilis (contracted, apparently, from her first husband)  containing mercury, created a story you must hear (literally) to believe.

Ms. Jenkins, who died in 1944, was the daughter of a banker from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (about an hour and a half drive from where I live near Binghamton, New York). As an adult, she moved to New York City with her mother, and joined many social clubs.

Ms. Jenkins, as a child, was considered a piano prodigy, and, in fact, earned her living as a piano teacher in her early adulthood.  But the medications left her with a case of tinnitus (commonly called "ringing in the ears").  She could no longer stay on key.

But no one was going to tell her that.

These social clubs gave rich women of the period an outlet for their energies and a way to do charitable works.  By all accounts, this woman was a bit quirky but also did a lot of charity work.  If she wanted to give private performances for charity, well, no one was going to say "no".

Not only that, but she designed her own costumes.  She loved wings, and lots of tinsel. 
Some people...well, they just loved hearing her voice.  Others...well, you decide for yourself.  It won't take long. 

Mozart's Queen of the Night

Adele's Laughing Song

Some more Mozart.

Now, the story finally turns tragic for this woman who "lived for music".  Because, in October of 1944, due to public demand, Jenkins finally gave a performance,at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan.  It was sold out for weeks in advance.    And now, she would be subject to reviews by music critics working for newspapers.

The music critics were scathing.  The performance, they said, was beyond terrible. She was the worst singer in the world, they wrote.

Sadly, she was no longer performing for fellow socialites, and she could not bear the blistering reviews.

Two days after the concert, Jenkins suffered a heart attack.  She died a month later, at the age of 76.

And, in case you were wondering:  yes, her recordings are still in print, and are still available. There aren't too many of them, but you can find them in an album called - yes, Murder on the High "C"s.

Sometimes, it is good to be bad.

What do you think?  (the movie trailer is above). Would you see a movie about her?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

My Not-Elusive Butterfly

There is a B&B owner in Americus, Georgia (I highly recommend her B&B, by the way) who takes photos of wildlife around her B&B - butterflies and other insects.  She then posts them on Facebook.  I have come close to envying her skills, because pictures of wildlife elude me.

I don't have the patience, and I don't have the reflexes.  I also have an iPhone which is cyberbursting with photos - meaning that, at the most inappropriate times, I run out of space.

Like today, at the community garden we garden at in Binghamton, New York.  Spouse was planting, and I was picking beans.  We ended our chores, and spouse was cutting some zinnias for our dinner table, when along fluttered this butterfly.  I had my iPhone on me, whipped it out - and no room for a picture.

Deletedeletedelete.  Still no room.

Reboot. while my spouse smiled and shook his head (after 42 years of marriage, he knows better than to say anything.)

The butterfly, in the meantime, fluttered all around the zinnia patch, stopping here and there to feed, waiting for my phone to reboot.

Finally it had room, and I got the first picture before I ran out of room again. Deletedeletedelete, and I got one more before she flew off (I THINK it was a she-see below.) Thank you, my patient friend.  At least I got a picture of one wing.

I only have one question.  What kind of butterfly was it?  It looked like a yellow monarch, sort of.

You see, I know next to nothing about butterflies.  As far as I can tell, after some research, it may be an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.   

In size, I would say it is close to the size of a monarch, one of the few butterflies I do know.  And, from my memories of the tail area, I don't think it had the color spots of a male.

If you can tell me anything more about my not-elusive butterfly, I'd love to hear from you.

I wanted to finish by sharing a recipe from the owner's blog - she, incidentally, is a fantastic cook, and, since she follows a gulten free diet, she can easy accommodate gluten free guests. 

I just wish she could teach me wildlife photography.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Local Saturday - Blueberry Hill (And a Recipe)

It's blueberry time in upstate New York.

Blueberries have to be my favorite fruit.  They are nutritious, they last a long time in the refrigerator, and, if you live in blueberry growing country (which we do), they are so easy to pick.

Here's how.

Yes, I've blogged about picking blueberries before.

But we didn't know how good the crop would be.  Between a late freeze after a mild winter and a drought, we just didn't know.  So we visited a U Pick farm, not too far up a hill, and were delighted to see the berries.

I never get tired of blueberry picking.  Very little stooping.  No thorns. Friendly to the knees.  And you can really get into a rhythm, especially when the berries are abundant, as they were today.  The berries were ready to pick, with the white "bloom" that indicates full ripeness.  This bloom, incidentally, rubs off with a lot of handling.  But it is abundant on berries you are picking fresh off the bush.

The farmer spoke to us as he weighed our picked berries and said he didn't know how long he would be picking because the birds were attacking his fields.  Worse than ever, the attacks were, he said.  Nothing seemed to be discouraging the birds.  I wonder if that is related to our drought.

So, I hope we get another picking done later this month.  This time, we will be sharing with my mother in law, who we moved up here from downstate New York last August.

And maybe I'll even get her interested in some blueberry muffins.

Here's how I made them.  Spouse and I agonized over them for a while, as we wanted to make a low fat version, but we didn't have the ingredients handy.  So finally we settled on this (almost) tried and true recipe.  The coconut oil (instead of regular veggie oil) and unsweetened cashew/almond milk (I don't keep dairy milk in the house anymore, although I still eat dairy) were new, and we hoped the substitutions would work. I've substituted

Blueberry Muffins (with Cashew Almond Milk and Coconut Oil
Note, my substitutions are in ( )

As always, I apologize to my readers using the metric system. You'll need two bowls.  If one is larger than the other, use the larger one for the dry ingredients.  Also, prepare muffin tins (about 18 regular size) with either cooking spray or muffin liners.

2 cups flour (I used white whole wheat, which is a light colored whole wheat flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon (I fresh grind mine)
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used unsweetened cashew-almond; I suspect you could also use almond)
3/4 cup sugar (I decided to use light brown sugar)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used unrefined coconut oil)
1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
1.  Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in bowl.  Mix well.
2.  In other bowl, beat the two eggs lightly. 
3.  Stir in milk, sugar and oil.
4.  Quickly stir egg mixture into dry ingredients. You should only stir until blended, DO NOT OVERSTIR, DO NOT BEAT.  The less handled, the better the result.

5.  Carefully stir in blueberries.   Spoon into the tins.  Recipe called for 18 - I got 15, but I think I overfilled a little as some bubbled to the oven floor when I baked. (It's been a few years since I last made muffins.)  If you have empty tins, partially fill them with water so they don't warp.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-17 minutes, until they spring back to touch.  Let cool.

Verdict:  I liked them.  Tender.  Not sure if a diehard muffin fan would, because (to me) they came out a tad bit oily.  I have a dirty oven floor now, so I would put a little less in the tins. 

Calorie count?  Well, these aren't weight watching type muffins - if you want those, you may want to investigate this site.  And, their regular blueberry muffin recipe.
Do you bake muffins?  What is your favorite?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day July 2016

Wasn't it just June 15?   Why does the short summer speed by so quickly?

Welcome to this edition of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, where gardeners and flower lovers from all over the world post pictures of what is blooming in their houses, and yards, that day.  Hosted by Carol from May Dreams Gardens each 15th of the month, every photo in this meme is posted with love by each blogger, hoping to refresh and inspire you.

In my zone 5b garden near Binghamton, in upstate New York, some of my flowers are enjoying our hot weather - others, not so much.  But I love every one of these flowers.  For so much of the year, it is too cold here to have outdoor blooms.  Perhaps, if I had year round flowers, I would appreciate this time of the year so much.

My daylilies are in full bloom.  Every year for the past three years, I've bought one or two new plants.  Enough of them were "we don't know what they are" type plants, which were a lot cheaper.

Here are some of my lilies.

This is my latest day lily.

This short yellow lily, which I got at a closeout at a local nursery, is such a prolific bloomer.

This is one of my oldest lilies.

I took this one a few days ago (but it is still blooming) after a rain shower.

More and more each year, I fall in love with daylilies.
This one, in a semi shade area, still blooms despite not being in full sun.  This one, I believe, is my oldest lily, bought from a mail order nursery and still blooming after all these years. 

My hostas are blooming merrily in the hot weather.  Since I don't seem to be too good in remembering names, here they are, anonymous just like my daylilies.
I've had this one for years. We've divided it into a small patch.

My last astilbe.  Some contractors working on our house stomped several of our astilbes into - well, we'll know if they come up next year.  We only had two this year, this white one and a red one.  This one is fading away just in time for GBBD.

One of my two lantanas.  I love variegated plants - I also have a variegated petunia in a basket with lovely small pinkish flowers.  But the pink flower in this picture is one of my geraniums.

A hanging geranium basket given me for Mother's Day by my son.  I love how it glows in early morning light.

Here's another. 

At this time of year I marvel at how many flowers I had to keep out of this posting, while, by the end of winter, I am hunting through my house for a tiny flower to show.

Today is day Six of Write Tribe Festival of Words #6, and I welcome all my new (and returning) readers.  I hope that seeing my flowers gives you as much pleasure as taking and posting these pictures gave me.

And now, please visit May Dreams gardens and click on other linked blogs, and visit gardens from all over the world.

What is blooming in your neighborhood or yard today?