Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Six Things I've Learned in Eight Years of Blogging

It is the final day of #blogboost The Ultimate Blog Challenge.  What have I learned during my almost eight years of blogging?  What tips would I give to new bloggers?

First, I would say, APPRECIATE YOUR READERS.  There are millions of blogs out there (I've seen a figure of 152 million).  You've come to my blog.  You've gotten to the second paragraph.  Thank you!

I've published some of these observations before, but good advice never gets old.  Here are six things I learned (expressed as wishes) from all my years of blogging.

 1.  I wish I knew there was such a thing as blogging challenges when I started.  If you want to grow your readership (and who doesn't want followers, for either personal or business reasons?), this is one of the fastest ways to increase your readership.  In turn, by reading the blogs of those in your challenge, you will quickly learn what works - and what doesn't.

I blogged for over two years not knowing about challenges, and I would not be blogging today if I hadn't been told (by a friend who is a writer) about them.

2.  I wish I knew that consistent posting is key.  I highly recommend daily posting, at least for the first month or two of your blog.   Once you establish yourself, what becomes necessary is not daily posting, but, rather, consistent posting.  If you don't want to post daily - and many bloggers don't want to, or can't - then it helps your readers to know that you have a schedule. Then stick to it.

3.  I wish I knew there is no such thing as a perfect blog post.  Perfection is not necessary.  Passion IS necessary.  If you don't like what you write, your readers won't, either.

 If you love something, work that into your blog posts.  If you couldn't care less about that topic, don't bother.  Blog about something you love.  I can't emphasize this enough.  That dislike/boredom/lack of passion will show right through your writing.

4.  But, you must know what your readers want.  A blog is not all about you.  It is about your readers, too. My readers seem to love pictures of snow (in the winter) and flowers (the rest of the year).  I've been a bit distracted recently, but if you stick around until tomorrow, I promise you some snow.

5.  I wish I knew how important blogging comments are.  Those comments are more valuable to a blogger than breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even good chocolate.  For example, a couple of years ago I wrote a post about fall.  Where I live, fall is a big deal - it is our premier season. A couple of my readers gently reminded me that much of the world does not experience quite the same fall as upstate New York (where I live).  My sin?  I had taken my readers for granted.

Even now, when things get busy in my life, I forget to respond to my commenters - not a good practice.

If you do disagree, which is fine, please, please, please, be respectful. There is a person, a living, breathing human being with feelings, on the other end of that blog post you like or dislike. If you lurk, please comment on some other blog posts today!

6. Be real. Be you.  It's not as easy as you think, but it is worth the effort.

Did you enjoy this challenge?  Will you do another one?

Some flowers for you, my readers
Day 31 (the final day!) of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Music Monday - Their Generation (And Mine)

This past week has been another week of loss in the rock world.

Allman Brothers founding member and drummer Butch Trucks dead at the age of 69, a result of suicide.  Here, the band performs "Whipping Post" live in 1970.

Geoff Nicholls, formerly of Black Sabbath, dead at 68 from lung cancer.  When I was trying to find clips of Heaven and Hell, an epic album that Geoff Nicholls performed in, I kept seeing tributes to the late Ronnie James Dio, who grew up in Cortland, New York (about 40 miles from where I live).  I will have to leave finding videos of Nicholls playing to more knowledgeable music bloggers.

In pondering these deaths, another thought occurred to me, and I want to share that with you.

Will 2017 be another bad year for music icons?  Based on the aging of rock stars, I think it will be.  It's so easy to think of ourselves as aging, but, at the same time, everyone else is frozen in time. (If you've ever gone to a high school reunion, you know what I mean).  So, we baby boomers may think of the music stars of our youth as still being in their 20's, but, in reality, they've aged along with us.

Here's a sample.
Chuck Berry is 85. 
Little Richard is 79.
Jerry Lee Lewis is 76.
Paul McCartney is 74.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are both 73.
Pete Townshend is 71.

Yes, it's only a matter of time. As it is for us all.

One more song, with a famous line.

Day 30 of #blogboost The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


In July of 2009 (the first year of my blog) I blogged about an incident where Amazon.com "disappeared" Kindle copies of the book 1984 by George Orwell.  This book, written in 1949 by the late George Orwell, was a warning against totalitarianism and the ability of governments to manipulate information.

In the world of 1984, there was no Internet.  But there were telescreens in each home that had to stay on constantly and they were two way - you watched them but Big Brother (yes, that was where that name came from) watched you, in turn.  There was constant emotional manipulation in a daily ceremony called the Two Minute Hate, where Party members had to watch a film about the Party's enemies and scream out their hate in a period of two minutes.

Constant surveillance.  Information manipulation.  Sound familiar?

Now, 1984 has climbed to the top of the best seller charts once again.  Yes, this has happened before, notably in the early 1980's, and again in 2013.  This isn't a brand new phenomenon.

Think about our modern world for a minute.  Websites and their contents can disappear or change in a minute.   We ponder these questions:  Are our virtual assistants, Siri and Alexa (among others) secretly listening to our conversations?  Recording our questions? (The answer to this last one, incidentally, is "yes" for both Siri and Alexa.)  Is there tracking software that can follow what we say on Facebook or Twitter, ready for the future use of a totalitarian leader?

There was the incident late last year where an Amazon Echo in the state of Arkansas may have been a digital witness to a murder.

What does privacy mean anymore?

Here's my post from 2009:

Doubleplusungood, dudes

This is not new news. For all that I love buying from amazon.com, this gives me a bit of that Big Brother feeling.

For all of you lucky enough to study the book "1984" in high school back in the 1960's, there are certain things in this book that stuck with you forever. The present generation would not be impressed but this book was absolutely chilling in its depiction of a world where a dictatorship totally controlled all sources of information, complete with a Ministry of Truth whose bureaucrats labored to continuously revise all written records to reflect the current Party line. To control thought, a new language called Newspeak was introduced. Words and thought were so short in Newspeak that one could spit sentences out without giving a thought to what one was actually saying.

Of course, nowadays we manipulate photos with ease via programs such as Photoshop and can manipulate electronic records with just as much ease.

And, apparently, we can buy an electronic book and download into our Kindle, and Bi...I mean, Amazon.com, can take it back for whatever reason.

When's the last time your local bookstore knocked down your door to grab back a book you legally paid for?

How ironic (not that this is exactly not my original thought) that the book they "vanished" was....1984. (Along with another Orwell classic, "Animal Farm".)

For the record:
1. This was due to a copyright infringement issue, not censorship and
2. Amazon.com duly refunded monies paid to the customers affected.

However, when they sent emails with the refund notices, some customers claimed Amazon never bothered to explain what was going on. (Disclosure: I do not own a Kindle and was not affected by this.).

But still. This gives me a very big sense of unease especially as I've been thinking about getting a Kindle. Not any more. Who would have thought of a Kindle as a two-way device quite like this? If you buy anything via Kindle, is it really yours? Can amazon.com take stuff back whenever they want? Maybe we should just stick to the old fashioned books that clutter up the house?

If not Big-Brotherish, it is certainly creepy.

Day 29 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Local Saturday - Loving, Remembering and Escaping

Fake news has struck again.  Or at least, bent-into-a-pretzel news.  Both left and right, I find that I am thinking once again of abandoning Facebook.  But, instead, I thought about what I did know to be true.  I decided to become serious for a few minutes today.
Virginia Welcome Center, I-81
But first, a picture.  Such a simple word.  Too bad it is in such short supply in our world, as we seem to veer closer and closer to war.

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Our country remembered it by...oh, I am coming too close to becoming a political blog.  But someone on Twitter did not forget. 

What happens when the last of the Holocaust survivors die, I wonder?  

Today is the 31st anniversary of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

With two astronauts dying in the last month,  wonder if we in America will ever walk on the Moon, Mars, or anywhere else.  

So, I decided, with news overload to turn to other matters.  Perhaps it was a mistake.

Originally, I was going to blog today about the 81st birthday of actor Alan Alda, who, like me, is from the Bronx.  He is a good topic for a "Local Saturday", just one of many famous people from the Bronx.
M*A*S*H , a TV series Alda starred in, is considered one of the greatest shows of all time.

Here is a list of some of its best episodes.

But it is his after-M*A*S*H work he should be more noted for, and be continued to be noted for.

But then, yesterday, two actors died:  Mike Conners of Mannix fame, which was one of my spouse's favorite shows. 

And, Barbara Hale, perhaps most noted for playing the secretary of attorney Perry Mason, dead at 94. Along with Mary Tyler Moore and Noel Neill, Barbara Hale's Della Street character was a role model for me.

And then, this afternoon, I heard of the death, at age 77, of actor John Hurt.

So there is only one place where I can escape to.  My blog, which, in turn, leads me to a decision.

I am so close to becoming more political.  But I've resisted so far (well, mostly resisted - it gets harder and harder) because these times demand that we all speak out.  So, I may do just that, on one scheduled day of the week (perhaps Sunday).  I haven't made up my mind yet.

But, we also need a place to escape to.  And I believe, for many of my readers, my blog has become a few-minutes-of-the-day refuge.  We need that, too, just as much as we need those who speak out and put themselves on the line.

Which is why I've decided, for now, to keep trying to find the beauty in our world, and (mostly) stay away from politics.  I will try to concentrate on love, hoping that it will, in the end, trump hate.   I hope you will continue to join me, as my blog would not exist without you, my readers.

Thank you, every one.

Day 28 of #blogboost the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Skywatch Friday - Mountain Clouds

The first part of this week was foggy and then rainy, and I despaired of every seeing blue sky where I was visiting.  But finally, the clouds started to break up.

First, this.

Then, the mountains appeared.

Still later, a golden sunset reflects against a "Gold's Gym".

Finally, Thursday, I said goodbye to Central Virginia and returned to my home in upstate New York.

Back to the gloom.

Thank you to #SkywatchFriday for hosting this weekly meme.  Please visit others posting their pictures of the sky.

Day 27 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.#Blogboost

Thursday, January 26, 2017

We're Going to Make It After All

Since late yesterday afternoon, I've been thinking of this song.

Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it's you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it

Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can have the town, why don't you take it
You're gonna make it after all...

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/marytylermooreshowlyrics.html
Mary Tyler Moore is dead at age 80.  I found it interesting that her death was the lead news item on the NBC Nightly News last night (one of our major networks), crowding out the latest activities of our new President.
Mary Tyler Moore started as a dancing elf in a Hotpoint appliance commercial and ended up, as they say, "An American Icon".

She went on to TV fame in several series.  The one I remember the most (because I was already grown) was the Mary Tyler Moore show of the 1970's, a pioneering show where Moore played a young, single career woman trying to make it in Minneapolis.  Moore was an inspiring woman, fighting to be paid equally, and fighting to be treated with equal respect by her male peers.

She was also so funny. Here is a clip from one of the funnier moments of the series.

(If you have the 25 minutes to watch the entire episode, here it is).

Here's an article explaining the importance of The Mary Tyler Moore show.

Mary Tyler Moore took the world on with great courage.  In real life, she suffered most of her life from Type 1 diabetes, and struggled with a drinking problem.  But, despite all that,she made a difference in a lot of lives, inspiring us to bigger and greater things.

Now, it's our turn.  And you know what?  We may just make it after all.

Thank you, Mary Tyler Moore. 

Day 26 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Winter Wednesday - Majesty

Cedar of Lebanon, Montpelier (Virginia) January 2017

What is more majestic than a huge tree on a winter morning.  This historic tree dates from the time of James Madison, possibly dating from the 1820's.

Although we didn't walk through them due to weather, the forests on this property are a National Natural Landmark.

Day 25 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tourist Vs. Resident

I had started to write this blog post last year, so the Carnegie Deli I write about below is strictly a mail order operation now.  But other than that, I totally agree with what I wrote about, and left in my drafts.

I have a sister in law who can not believe that, after growing up in New York City, I would rather not live there.  And, in fact, I haven't lived there in over 42 years.  And I try to explain to her, each time we talk about this, that visiting a place is not the same as living there.  Hence:

The Carnegie Deli, the deli in midtown Manhattan famed for its thick pastrami sandwiches, has announced it will close at the end of the year.  Several of my co-workers, aware that I grew up in New York City, asked how many times I had eaten there.  My answer:  zero times.

You see, there is a big difference between living in a big city and visiting a big city.  If I wanted a pastrami sandwich, I went to the local deli in my Bronx neighborhood.  Why would I travel 40 minutes on the subway just to have a pastrami sandwich?

Similarly, I never went to visit the Empire State Building until I was 16, and that was only because I decided, one day, to be a tourist in my home city.   I might have visited the Statue of Liberty on a school field trip (I know they made me go to the same museum each and every year, and it got boring after a while. 

Yes, boring, in the City of Awesome Museums.  I've never been to Ellis Island, either, although I would love to go.

I only visited the World Trade Center (this was back in 1973, before it officially opened) because the bank near my summer job on West Broadway had a branch in there, and that was back in the days before Direct Deposit was invented.  Imagine that, walking to the bank to deposit your paycheck.  That should be a post for another time.

Macy's in Herald Square was a place where my Dad and I went to people-watch during holiday shopping season.

I think you get the point.

When you live in a city you are commuting back and forth to and from work (or school).  You have to buy food, prepare food, shop, and do all those things that take up time.  Trust me:  most New Yorkers aren't making daily visits to any tourist attraction.

We are just trying to live our lives.

This isn't to say that residents never go to Broadway shows, or visit a museum, or eat in a famous restaurant.  But, even as an adult, if I went to "the City" I was there to visit friends or family.  If I ate out, it was most likely in an affordable restaurant or in a diner.  Or, I ate takeout from the local Chinese restaurant - something I did a lot with my late best friend from childhood and her spouse.

So, if you go to New York City, and I am there, you will sooner see me at the local diner than at the Carnegie Deli.  You'll see me walking on the street and not in a carriage ride near Central Park.

And that is the greatest part of visiting a big city - when you can visit it with the knowledge of someone who lives there, and go to where the locals go. Those are the luckiest tourists of all. 

That beats the biggest pastrami sandwich that a person can build.

Have you ever lived in a place that was a major tourist attraction?  Did you live like a tourist?

Day 24 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Music Monday - Songs Of a Turbulent Time

Today, a post with some songs for our times.

Respect - Aretha Franklin.   This is something we need a whole lot more of.

This is a song I blogged about last year:  "You Don't Own Me" as sung by Leslie Gore.

Janis Ian "At Seventeen".

And, a song from the 1960's, that in a way, seems just as relevant today.

The more things change....which is why I leave you with this song.  It has lyrics thousands of years old, but, again, is still relevant today.

Day 23 of The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Tale of Two Cousins

Today, a tale of two cousins.  Both are teachers and both live in Florida.  One is my first cousin, and the other is my spouse's first cousin.  One is a native of Florida.  One grew up in New Jersey.  One lives in the Orlando area and the other is near Ft. Lauderdale.  One teaches elementary school and the other teaches high school.

One voted for Trump and proudly declared her support of Trump on Inauguration Day.

For the other cousin, she does not declare her political views on Facebook, but made it clear, after Trump's inaugural speech, that she was not pleased at his remarks about children and education.  She is a devoted teacher.  In fact, many, many years ago, when she first started to teach, I helped her set up her classroom one year, during a visit.

Two cousins.

Two backgrounds.

Two opinions.

But there are things these two cousins have in common.  They were able to get an education, and pursue a career.  They were able to choose whether to have children or not have children.  They both had the right to vote (although one of them had to wait until she was 21 to get that right. The other received that right at 18).

The "Lawn" at the University of Virginia, January 2017
Now, consider this.  When the buildings you see in this picture (not the columns in the front, but the buildings you see on either side, designed by founding father Thomas Jefferson) were built, slavery was legal and even the wives of faculty members were barely tolerated.  This university was not fully co educational (i.e. women did not have an equal ability to go to this college) until the year 1970. 

That was also the year I enrolled in a college.  It's sobering.

Back then, women attending college were still called "co-eds".  Now, they are called "people".

It was a way different world back then.  I, personally, do not want to go back, as appealing as nostalgia can sometimes be.

We have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure that never happens.

Day 22 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Local Saturday - Human Wormholes

The woman pictured below was born five years before women got the right to vote, in 1917.  What better woman to write about, on this special day in the United States?

This post was originally written in 2014.  What I didn't know, at the time, is that someone had written a detailed article about the woman in this picture, who turns 105 this month.

Yes...105.  And her life has been a most fascinating one.

She is also my spouse's aunt.

Many things have changed since my original post.  Later in 2014, after this post was written, this 102 year old woman fell, broke her hip, and underwent a partial hip replacement.  Although she survived the surgery, and she remains mentally sharp, her health never totally recovered.  She rarely leaves the house now.  I wish I could give you, my readers, a happier report but, as they say, "it is what it is".

Won't you comment below, and wish my spouse's aunt a Happy 105th Birthday?

Come, now, to happier days when I blogged about "Human Wormholes".
She is what some call a human wormhole.  And I hope she'll forgive me for saying so, because she knows I love her very much.  It's not the most elegant name, the "human wormhole" but if you think about it a little, the name is a bit catchy.

Yes, I know she looks like a woman of a certain age.  To be exact, she's 102 years old.  But she's so much more.  She's a treasured relative in my spouse's family.

She is a link to the past.  She may be physically frail, but her mind is as sharp as the day she was born. Maybe even sharper.

She's a living link to the past, the past that, for all but a handful of us, exists only in textbooks.  When I touch her, when I talk to her, I am touching history.

She was alive when the Titanic made its maiden voyage (1912).

She was alive when our country enacted a constitutional amendment permitting the income tax (1913).

She was alive during the post World War I flu epidemic (1918-1919) and vaguely remembers wagons traveling from house to house where needed to pick up the dead (what a childhood memory).

We are fascinated by human wormholes.  I've blogged about some of them myself, from the living grandson of a U.S. President who served from 1841 to 1845 to a man who witnessed Lincoln's 1865 assassination and lived to tell the story on a late night game show in 1956.

One story has an interesting twist.  It is said that Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who fought in the Civil War, shook hands with both former President John Quincy Adams (born in 1767) and a young/future President John J Kennedy (whose life was cut short by assassination in 1963).  I can not find any firm evidence for this having actually happened (there is a fascinating discussion online about whether it might have been possible, though). However, Holmes did have a link to more than just the Civil War, where it is said he once saved Lincoln's life.

Holmes, who lived from 1841 to 1937, had fond memories of his grandmother, who could remember red coated English troops marching through the streets of Boston at the beginning of our Revolutionary War. When she was five. In 1776.

If I live long enough, I might be a human wormhole, too.  I don't know if that makes me happy - or scares me a little.

Do you know anyone who would qualify as a human wormhole?

Day 21 of #blogboost The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Skywatch Friday - Gathering Clouds

Friday, January 13, 2017 in upstate New York.
We are close to sunrise, but the clouds look pretty grim.
It starts to brighten.

Finally, the sun is about to appear, about four miles down the road.

Visit #SkywatchFriday for more pictures of the sky, the sun, and more.

Day 20 #blogboost of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Collective Holding of Breath

"It’s the time to buckle down and work positively as much as you can,” she says. “Just think, ‘All right, there’s nothing I can do about that right now. But I can do my best in my little circle. So if I do that, maybe you’ll do your best and we’ll get through this." Actress Betty White, in an interview with Katy Couric, talking about division in the United States and staying positive. 

There has been so much hate flying around on Facebook this last year or so.  I came so close to blocking people (I did block someone whose posts were non stop hate.  I don't block people just because they don't support my candidate)  I knew for years.  I knew most of the people venting (on both sides) were decent, hardworking people.  I also knew that many of them were scared.  But it just got to be too much for me to read.

A reader of my blog recommended that I just "scroll on by", and that has kept my sanity.

Now, on the eve of the inauguration of the new President, many are pausing to consider what the future may be holding, for better or for worse.   What kind of world?

I don't mean the Trump-Inauguration-As-Twilight Zone-Episode article appearing in a Scottish newspaper.

Or the internet meme started over a comment by Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos in a discussion about if firearms had any place in schools.  

(For the benefit of my readers outside the United States, yes, there are places where students must be protected against wildlife. Grizzlies are no joke.)

No, this world:  A world, for example, where Jewish community centers all over the country are being targeted by bomb scares. 

Or a man accused of harassing a black family is said to have quite an arsenal in his house (and, by the way, his elderly parents were living in that same house.)

Hate crimes in general are on the increase.

But others are happy that their voices are being heard - voices they feel have been ignored by people on both coasts of our country. 

Division, with no unity in sight.

Recently, I have pondered my future actions, and what I will do on January 20, and thereafter. I fear, based on how history has gone before, that the divisions in our country are only going to get worse.  Love will not trump hate.  

Will I be able to work in my own little circle? Will I choose right?  And will it make a difference?

Day 19 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Winter Wonders - She's Golden

Yesterday, actress Betty White celebrated her 95th birthday - by working.

Yes, she is still actively working on television. She's been working for over 75 years.

Perhaps age is more than a number, but what a number Betty White has.

Three years ago, she did a spoof of a famous music video.

But I remember her from the early 1960's, when she would star on a game show called Password.  She married the host, Allen Ludden, who died in 1981 from cancer.  He was the love of her life (she was married twice before).  Betty White never remarried.

Betty White was on TV long before that - here is a clip from 1953. She acted in this show but she was also a producer - a producer, in the 1950's, when that was almost unheard of for a woman.

And then there was the 1970's, when Betty White played a recurring character on The Mary Tyler Moore show.  Sue Ann Nivens had men very much on her mind and it was so funny.  Be forewarned, a lot of White's humor is not on the clean side. 

Then, in the 1980's (1985 to 1992 to be exact) there was the Golden Girls (shown, here, with the late Bea Arthur).  For a 95th birthday present, Betty White was interviewed, and asked for a reboot of this series.

Nowadays, Betty White appeared on a series called Hot in Cleveland,which left the air in 2015.  This clip is from 2014.  Betty White played a 90 year old woman who had quite the life - an escape from the Nazis in World War II, and, yes, she still went after men.

Perhaps that is the secret of youth - never lose your zest for life.  Stay golden, and be outrageous.

We hope you have many happy (and healthy) birthdays ahead of you, Betty White!

Day 18 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Living Mobius Strip

Travel, as they say, is a broadening experience.  And, sometimes, a frustrating one.

In 2010, we found a living Mobius strip.

It is called Asheville, North Carolina.

Asheville is famous for a lot of things, including its"New Age" population.  Some of these people believe that Asheville has special energy fields.  Upon feeling these fields, people have been known to move to Asheville immediately, and never leave.

The really strange thing about visiting Asheville, for my spouse, was that normally he can find his way around nearly anywhere.  He can drive somewhere once and (even years later) can find his way around thereafter. 

Not in Asheville.  He was so scrambled up (and of course wouldn't ask for directions) that he kept getting lost.  And even I felt somewhat disoriented, and I have no sense of direction at all.

Spouse kept saying his ability to tell direction was totally not working, and, for him, it was so frustrating.

At one point, trying to navigate I-40, I-240 and I-26 in a vain attempt to find a Wal-Mart we never did find (confession: yes, we sometimes shop at Wal-Mart), spouse remarked that Asheville was one huge Mobius strip. 

If you don't remember Mobius strips from science class, check them out on the Internet.

We still don't know why that is, but we have never experienced that before.  And maybe never will again.

When we visited Asheville again, in September of 2012, I owned a smartphone.  This time, thanks to Google Maps, we did not get lost, but my spouse continuously argued with the app - although it was right every time.

We kept meeting people from New York State (our native state) in Asheville.  Maybe they were lost, too.  Maybe Asheville is full of lost souls who gave up trying to find their way, and decided to retire there.

So, what is so great about Asheville?  Many things.  Great shops, great food, the greatest Farmers Markets..excuse me, Tailgate Markets ever.

That's what makes a city great.

To me, the coolest thing I saw in downtown Asheville were the Woolworths and the Kress's.  But wait.  Didn't these go out of business years ago?  Well maybe they did worldwide, but not in Asheville.  There is that "other dimension" again for you.

Take a look.  There's a simple reason why downtown Asheville has so many of its historic buildings.  It was simple - in the 1970's, when urban renewal ended up claiming so many historic buildings throughout the United States, Asheville didn't tear theirs down.

They couldn't.

They were bankrupt.  By the time they had dug themselves out, what was old was now desirable.

It still is.

Woolworths and Kress's are fixtures of my childhood, living forever in my memory on Fordham Road in the Bronx.  And now, in Asheville, North Carolina, the buildings remain - although these have been converted to indoor shopping malls.

But it was nice thinking we had gone back in time, if even for a few minutes.

Day 17 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost

Last But Not Least

"Don't count yourself out - you never know what fate has in store."  - Eugene Cernan, in 2016.

Eugene Cernan died yesterday, surrounded by his family.   He was 82.

Didn't we just do this in December?

Sometimes, it is important to be last.

Eugene Cernan was the last man to walk on the moon. 

What kind of man was he?  
Eugene Cernan left his daughter's initial in the moon's dust before he climbed on board his ship for the return to Earth.

We study the first words spoken on the moon, by astronaut Neil Armstrong.  But how many of us remember the last words?  Quoting:

"...America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow," Cernan said. "And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus- Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17."

Except that we never did return.  And, of the twelve men who walked on the moon, only six are left now.

Except that both peace and hope seem to be in short supply nowadays.

Except that few of us could dream of what happened to the space program.  Americans can't even get into space on their own anymore.  We have to pay the Russians.

It wasn't supposed to end like this.

The last of the original seven astronauts gone.  Now, the last man to walk on the moon.


Day 17 of #blogboost the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Music Monday - A Long Time Comin'

Friday, a new President takes office in the United States.  This man, who is replacing the first President of color in our nation's history, will take our country in an entirely different direction. (Note, this is a non-political blog so opinions about that will not follow.)

Today is a federal holiday honoring Civil Rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  What interesting timing, as the President-Elect is embroiled in a war of words with another Civil Rights icon, John Lewis, who marched with Dr. King.   If Dr. King was alive today, he would be 88 years old.

What would Dr. King be doing and thinking right now as we prepare for this peaceful transition of power?

In 2015 I blogged a story about the young Dr. King.

Many things have changed since that snowy day, but there is still work ahead.

Today, some music related to the Civil Rights movement and race relations in general, in memory of Dr. King.  Some of these videos contain clips of historical events and conditions that existed "back then".

A  Change is Gonna Come - Sam Cooke

Abraham, Martin and John.  This song, performed in 1968 and sung by Dion (Dion Francis DiMucci of the Bronx, in New York City), is a favorite of mine as I grew up in this time.

We Shall Overcome, as sung by Pete Seeger.

 Eyes on the Prize - Mavis Staples

To end this post, I would like to point to a blog I enjoy.  Recently, this blogger published a poem written in 1937 by American poet and activist Langston Hughes.   It is well worth reading.

#blogboost Day 16 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - January 2017

It's been another strange winter.

As an example, we woke up Wednesday to ice.  Then the next day it rained, with a high of 52 (11C).  Parts of the country are having a serious ice storm right now, including the Wichita, Kansas area (where I lived for a time).  We are supposed to have icy conditions on Tuesday.

But meanwhile, in my zone 5b garden in upstate New York, I actually have flower buds to show you, now that snow and ice has melted.  Helleborus niger.  This plant  started to bloom last year, then the temperatures plunged, and that was the end of it for 2016.  Now, it's trying again.

There isn't that much in my house, either.  I bought this primrose in lie of a bouquet on my table.

Yesterday, I also bought a forcing hyacinth in a vase.  I didn't need the vase, but that is how they were being sold.  When this blooms, the bloom will be pink.

The last of my Christmas (actually, Thanksgiving) cactus flowers faded in the last day or so.  This is what it looked like earlier this week. when the sun was shining.

One African violet flower remains.  This is what it looked like on that same sunny day.

Finally, I have an indoor flower treat for you.  I have a dracaena (corn plant) that is over 20 years old (I've had it for 20 years and got it from an office that no longer wanted it).  On March 7, I noticed (it was behind a window shade) that the plant had bloomed almost eight feet up.   The blooms are mostly dead now, but I wanted you to see this.

Come on over to May Dreams Gardens, which hosts this monthly 15th of the month meme, and see what is blooming all over the world.  Carol, an Indiana blogger, finishes up her 10th year of hosting this meme with this month's post, and asks us to reveal how long we have been participating.  So, here's my first GBBD post ever - May of 2011.  And I've posted every 15th of the month since.

It's a sneaky way to create a monthly garden journal.  Thanks, Carol!

Will you join us?

#blogboost Day 15 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sustainable Saturday- The Bear News

I'm a bit "under the weather", so I am repeating a post.

In September 2014, I had an interesting experience on a "rail to trail" walking trail a handful of miles from where I live in upstate New York.  

While researching another post, I came across this post from September 9, 2014.  I've had a couple of "close encounters" on the trail - including sighting a bobcat (possibly) three years ago.  But the following sighting may have been a little too close for comfort.

Enjoy this throwback post for day fourteen of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

September 9, 2014 - a Supermoon is rising tonight, but it is cloudy so we will not see it. So instead, I'll give you a picture from two nights ago, as the moon rose over the Chenango River near downtown Binghamton, New York.  Not that it has anything to do with my post - I just wanted to start with this picture.
Nature is on my mind, and the impact it continues to have on our lives is something I think about often.

We were walking three or so Sundays ago on the Vestal Rail Trail, a walking trail we try to frequent at least once a week where we live in upstate New York.

We approached a bridge carrying elevated traffic that crosses over the trail. My spouse suddenly stopped, and seemed reluctant to continue.  He was acting so strangely, in fact, that I wondered if he was in some medical distress. It scared me for a minute.

"I'm not sure if I want to keep walking", he said. "I heard a strange sound - maybe it was a motorcycle, I don't know".  I hadn't heard the sound but my hearing isn't the best - so I told him "if you have an instinct not to go any further, let's not."

We turned around.

This was so different from how my spouse normally behaves, and I wondered what he had heard or seen as we walked back to our car, cutting our walk short by about a mile.

When we got to our car he said "I thought I heard a bear."

Where we live, in the "Triple Cities"of upstate New York, this is not a joke.  Vestal has been seeing a lot of black bear sightings, and one of the recent sightings (May, I think), in fact, was on the Vestal Rail Trail near to where my spouse was spooked by something.

And then, last weekend, we found this on the sidewalk of the trail near to where spouse heard the noise. Let's just call it what animals leave behind after the digestive process is complete.

I hope it was a deer.  Anyone know for sure? 

It's small consolation to know that bears may be more afraid of us than we of them.

Someone at work set up an automatic camera in her yard, and showed us some amazing footage of bears in her back yard.  And, my guest photographer (who lives out in the country) takes in her bird feeders at night.  One night she was a few minutes late and had her own close encounter with a bear.  The bear ran off.

But they don't always run.  Sometimes they attack.  A high school friend who lives in Florida had her neighborhood make the national news for bear attacks.  

It isn't only bears.  A fox that may have been rabid attacked three members of an Endicott family earlier this summer (2014).  And, last year, we had our own close (or not so close) encounter, again on the Vestal Rail trail. We were alone, right after a rain, and are fairly certain a bobcat ran out and crossed the trail right in front of us.

You never heard about this kind of thing when we first moved to upstate New York in the 1980's.  But it is definitely becoming more and more common.  Increasingly, we know we are sharing our lives with wildlife.

It isn't just squirrels and sparrows (and the occasional skunk or raccoon anymore.

Do you have any wildlife sighting stories of your own to share for Day 14 of #blogboost the Ultimate Blog Challenge?

Tomorrow, I participate in a monthly meme - Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - and you are welcome to return for pictures of what is blooming in my house.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Skywatch Friday - The Office

Sunrise, upstate New York, Monday, January 8.

Traveling to work, I knew it was going to be an amazing sunrise.  When I got to my office about 7:15 am, this is what greeted me.  It took my breath away.

But there were blinds, and reflections.  I tried to get closer.  I knew I faced a race against time. That beautiful pink sunrise wouldn't wait for me.  I ran over to my cubicle, and raised the blinds.

And this was the result.  Nice color (none of these pictures had color adjusted, by the way) but too much reflection.  But, nothing unlucky for this Friday the 13th post.

I still have a lot to learn about iPhone photography and fixing circumstances like these.  A research project awaits.

Visit Skywatch Friday for other sky pictures from around the world.

Day 13 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


For your entertainment, let me present two stories.  Just coincidence?

This first story was circulating around the Internet yesterday.  I have not personally verified this information, but an urban-myth debunking website called Snopes (some don't trust it but I do, and have trusted it for many years) has confirmed it.

 In a 1958 Western TV show called Trackdown, a con man by the name of Walter Trump tells townspeople that only he can save them from meteors that will destroy the world at midnight - by building a wall around their homes.

At one point in the clip above, Trump threatens to sue someone opposing him.

At the end of the episode, Trump is arrested for grand theft by a heroic Texas Ranger.  Note, at the end, the show says it was based on an actual case in the Texas Rangers files.

Trump and a wall? Coincidence? (as this is not a political blog, I will leave the rest to your imagination.  I'm not trying to make a political point - only time will tell...)

2.  A book called Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan, was published in 1898.  The novella told the story of the fictional unsinkable ocean liner Titan, which, on an April night, struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic on its starboard side and sank.  There weren't enough lifeboats.  And, oh yes, in case this sounds vaguely familiar, the real-life sinking of the "unsinkable" Titanic in April, in the North Atlantic, after striking an iceberg on the starboard side, happened.  In 1912. 14 years later.
(Incidentally, the book is available for free online - it is no longer in copyright.)


I think both are just coincidence.  With everything that is written, some scripts or books are going to "predict" history.   But, sometimes, truth and fiction can be equally strange. 

What do you think?

Day 12 #blogboost of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Winter Wonders - Soup Is Good Food

Every Wednesday, I post a "Winter Wonder"
Yesterday, I was wondering when winter would end.

The sidewalks were full of sleet and it was starting to ice over.  This morning it is still hazardous.  But tomorrow, it will be near 50F (10 C).

What a wonderful day for soup.  I was reminded of a post from January 25, 2014 when someone asked if I had any posts with winter recipes.  Indeed, I do.

I am happy to say that my mother in law (the person my spouse made the soup for) did recover from the condition that necessitated her surgery.

Here's my post, for day 11 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Sustainable Saturday- Marrying Soup

My mother in law, recovering last week from surgery, wanted comfort food - a couple of her favorite soups.  She is of Italian heritage, and so my spouse decided to make a soup that was fed to him when he was young.

Many Americans know a version of this soup as "Italian Wedding Soup".  (The "wedding", incidentally, refers to the marriage of the ingredients, not marriages of people.)  However, in my spouse's childhood, they knew this soup as Escarole Soup.

This is how my spouse and I made Escarole/Italian Wedding soup last week.

First, earlier in the day, spouse had roasted a turkey breast.  Now, he took the carcass, and made bone broth.  But, because we didn't have loads of time, he "cheated". We added some commercial chicken broth to the bone broth. (Whose broth? My mother in law's local store had Rachel Ray's broth in retorts but spouse has started to use organic free range broth in retorts sold at our local Aldi.)

Spouse strained out the bones and fat. He set aside the remaining turkey meat set aside for the other soup we were making.
Next, it was time for the meatballs.   First, spouse prepared a ground meat mixture.

Spouse made these from part organic ground turkey and part ground beef.  As my mother in law had some Italian seasoned bread crumbs, we added that, too. The meatballs will cook right in the soup.
Next came kale, one of the most nutritious greens there is.

Next, escarole.
Finally, sliced organic baby carrots (non-organic are just fine) went into the soup.  My mother in law had some spinach that was a tiny bit out of date but still good for cooking, and that went in, too.

Finally, pearl couscous. You can cook these right in the soup, too.
If you wanted, you could add some orzo (risoni)instead.  

Time to marry the flavors!

We cooked it until the greens were wilted and allowed some extra time for the flavors to blend. Then, it was eating time, with some Italian bread.

So easy, so nutritious. And, it tasted so good.  My mother in law is a good cook and she gave the soup a thumbs-up.

I hope it sped my mother in law's recovery.  Soup is the most sustaining food you can serve on a snowy winter day.
A snowy tree in my mother in law's yard
What is your "go to" food when someone is not feeling well?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


I have some problems with mishearing song lyrics.

I think it's just the nature of the rock n' roll music that I like. Mumbled lyrics that don't make any sense don't stop a lover of this music - just create something that does make sense in your mind, and move on.
I am far from the only one who mishears lyrics. In fact, I read a most entertaining post on the topic yesterday.    There is a technical term for mishearing lyrics, one of the surprising things you will learn in this post. If you don't get anything else from what follows, you would have increased your vocabulary by one word.

I am, therefore, going to repeat a post from several years ago.

Hold Me Closer, Tony Danza

Have you been guilty of mishearing song lyrics, to sometimes comic results?

I have.  I bet you have, too. A number of websites exist for the purpose of discussing song lyrics and allowing people to discuss lyrics that other people have misheard, sometimes with quite comic results. 

There is even a name for this - mondegreens.

Take the song above: "Tiny Dancer", by Elton John.  I love that song.  I have several of the earlier Elton John albums, such as Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboys, Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player and Yellow Brick Road.  Plus, I also own one of his greatest hits albums.

I've spent countless hours, since the early 1970's, listening to these Elton John songs. (I will also admit I am not partial to his later work.)  I clearly hear "Hold me closer, tiny dancer". But somehow, I never realized that young Tony Danza had crept into the lyric when I wasn't looking.

"Tiny Dancer" came out in 1971. Tony Danza was born in 1951. The show "Who's The Boss" started in 1984.  So, Tony Danza must have been pretty young - about 20, to be exact - when he appeared in the lyric, only 13 years after the song came out.

For the record, I never have watched the TV show Friends (the show that immortalized the "Young Tony Danza" lyric), so no wonder I was the last to know.

Until yesterday, that is. A tweet led me to the website Mental Floss (a wonderful magazine, by the way) which rated the "Ten Most Often Butchered Song Lyrics".

And "Tiny Dancer" was #1 on the list of most misheard lyrics!

Now, my personal most misheard lyric is the Bruce Springsteen/Manford Mann's Earth Band classic "Blinded By The Light.".  Someone even devoted a web page to the various misheard lyrics reported to him from that song.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Atlantic, the BBC has had its own fun with mondegreens.

I must admit, in more than one instance, that the wrong lyric makes more sense than the right lyric.  Like poor Lady Mondegreen, who never appeared in a 17th century ballad, but should have.

Do you have a favorite misheard lyric?  Or have you been singing the wrong lyric of a particular song for years?

Day 10 of #blogboost the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Music Monday - Suspicious Minds

Yesterday would have been the 82nd birthday of Elvis Presley.

In some ways, Elvis is timeless.  Although he died in 1977, he is still beloved.  I remember that my former next door neighbor's son, who is in his mid 20's now grew up as a big Elvis fan.

A music group I belong to on Facebook posted Elvis videos all day yesterday, so I decided to take a little informal poll of my readers.

Are you an Elvis fan?

If you are, what was your favorite Elvis song?

Here's mine.  "Suspicious Minds" was Elvis' last number one hit in the States, released in 1969.  It's interesting to note this wasn't even his original song - it had previously been recorded by its writer, Mark James, who also wrote "Hooked on a Feeling", a hit by B. J. Thomas, among other songs.

So, I decided to look up Mark James' version of the song - and, here it is.

It's a good song, but Elvis nailed it.  The song is a universal song - about a dysfunctional relationship.  It begins "We're caught in a trap/I can't walk out..." and, indeed, Elvis knew what the song was talking about.

But time goes on.  Elvis would have been 82 yesterday, and his ex wife, Priscilla, who is still alive, is 71.

Day nine of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Potato Parsnip Pancakes

It's January.  Holiday excess is over, at least for now.  But you still want to eat something substantial and tasty.  In fact, as I write this blog, we are having a snow squall.  Why not enjoy being indoors and try some potato/parsnip pancakes?

In my tradition, potato pancakes are called "latkes".  And latkes don't have to be made from just potatoes.  If you look online, you will find variations made with sweet potatoes, with carrots, and even with zucchini.

I'm not sure when my spouse first started adding parsnips to latkes (although he doesn't do that on a regular basis), but you can find recipes online with that combination, too. 

Some even add Indian spices to latkes (although we don't).  I think it is a natural. Maybe one day.

Yesterday, while shopping at our local farmers market, we saw some nice looking parsnips, and pat of dinner was born.  This is what my spouse did.  Noting that we follow the old "Points Plus" tradition of Weight Watchers, I am not putting point counts here.  You are welcome to do whatever you wish to this.  This is not a food blog, and I will not call the food police on you if you don't call them on me.

Calorie Reduced Potato-Parsnip Pancakes - serves 2

3 potatoes (9 oz), peeled.
1/2 parsnip
2 egg whites
1 heaping tbsp whole wheat matzoh
handful of parsley
salt and pepper to taste
green onions to taste


1.  Grate potatoes and parsnip.  Squeeze water out - my husband puts into a colander, and presses down. Others use cheesecloth.  Do what works for you, but you should squeeze the water out.  And, you don't have to use blue potatoes, either, but spouse uses them because they cook nice and crisp.  If you want to use a russet potato, the latkes will be a little lighter.

2.  Chop onions and parsley and add.  Add eggwhites, matzoh meal, and mix all together.  Form into patties.

3.  Normally, these would be fried.  But, what spouse did was take a saute pan and spray it with non stick cooking spray. 

4.  Flip and saute the other side.

5.  Here, the golden brown latkes are ready to serve.  Many serve with sour cream, but I prefer homemade unsweetened applesauce.

What kind of food does cold weather inspire you to make?

Day eight of The Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost