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Sunday, January 31, 2021

A Grimmer 76th Anniversary

I'm late again working on an anniversary post.  But perhaps it's a good thing, because some historical events should be remembered, even on the days not devoted to their remembrance.

Last year, I blogged about the 75th anniversary of the January 27, 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, which is now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

This year, many observances were online.

This year, the 76th anniversary was even grimmer, because of COVID-19.  Survivors, now all elderly, are dying.  When they are all gone, then what?

Who will be there to remember them, in an era where schoolchildren are not taught anything about what happened to various populations during World War II?  Or when elected officials even deny it ever happened, or if it did happen, it's been way exaggerated? 

I thank the Twitter account @FacesofCOVID, for devoting January 27 for tweeting out obituaries of Holocaust survivors who succumbed to COVID-19.  

Right now, there are only about (estimated) 20,000 Holocaust survivors left alive in Europe.

In Israel, it is estimated at least 900 Holocaust survivors have perished from COVID-19, and about 17,000 survivors died overall in 2020.

It's true that what we call the Holocaust is far from the only time mankind has shown just how much evil it is capable of.  It gives us all the more reason to remember this period of history and to cry out its modern rallying cry.

"Never again".

Saturday, January 30, 2021

35 Years and 73 Seconds

On Friday, January 28, 2011, I wrote the blog post "Another 25 Years Ago Moment".

Now, 10 years later, it is the 35th anniversary of the defining moment for an entire generation.  For me, who grew up with the space program, it is a sad anniversary in so many ways.  I missed it because of a couple of prescheduled blog hops, so I am late (with apologies).

On January 28, 1986 the U.S. space shuttle Challenger exploded, on live TV, 73 seconds after its launch.  All seven crew members, including a civilian, were killed.  Tragically, the explosion was caused by an O Ring failure - something so small caused something so big.  A local company, IBM (yes, IBM originated locally where I live) helped with the investigation as they built the computers on the flight.

At one time, the space race was an extension of what we called the Cold War between the United States and the then-Soviet Union, which is where some irony came in.

For years, we had to pay Russia to transport our astronauts to the International Space Station.  Now, only in the past year, we are able to do it ourselves once again, thanks to SpaceX.

We mourn all those who died, but Christa McAuliffe, the teacher from New Hampshire, is the one I really think about the most.  She was selected out of 11,000 applicants for the opportunity to participate.

I will always remember this day, January 28, 1986, for another reason.  My father had died suddenly the week before, and I was numb with grief.  I was back at work. My office got a call from a client, telling us of the disaster.  None of us could believe it - and this great grief cut through the grief and numbness of the last week.  I cried.  I mourned.  I mourned for my father, the astronauts, and our country.

Ronald Reagan's address to the nation after the Challenger explosion.

Here's some recent information on the husband of the late Christa McAuliffe, the one civilian on that 1986 flight.

Here, three of her students (who became teachers themselves) are interviewed.  Would they have gone into teaching if they hadn't seen their teacher die, live on TV?  I wonder.

One of my readers (who lives in Florida) told me of the Florida commemorative license plate (some call them "tags") issued after this tragedy, and sure enough I found it online.

It's ironic in a way - in a way the Challenger explosion (which put a two year pause on the space program) led to the eventual creation of SpaceX.  So, in a strange way, we have gone full circle.

Now, 35 years later, let us rededicate ourselves to getting back into space, pandemic and all.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Nostalgic Untermyer Sky #SkywatchFriday

Today - temperatures with wind chills below zero where I live in New York State.

This weekend - more cold weather.

Monday - maybe another bad snowstorm.  We lucked out of the last one (Tuesday for us) but a lot of the United States didn't.

White skies at sunrise white skies at sunset.

Enough!  Time to reminisce. 

I looked on my phone the other day, and found 79 photos taken during two visits to Untermyer Gardens in Yonkers, New York.  I am so tired of winter, and so tired of this time of isolating, so I am taking us on a little trip down my memory lane (as the old saying goes) today.

A view of the Hudson River and, beyond the Palisades in New Jersey.  I had at least the first of these pictures on my blog before, but I honestly don't care right now.

Flowers and skies.
Let's take a short walk to an overlook.

And a closer look at this tower.

Finally, a possibly a butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) but I'm not sure. 
Vitex agnus-castus, or chaste tree.

Will we ever have beautiful fall like weather again?  Or will we have snow in May with chilly temperatures, like last year? (yes, I'm whining).

It's nice thinking of that beautiful day (September 9, 2019) when we were visiting Yonkers - and we hope we can go back one day to see this amazing (and free!) city of Yonkers historic garden again.

Joining up with Yogi and the sky watching bloggers at #SkywatchFriday.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Crows and Trees #ThursdayTreeLove

One interesting thing about the winter and living in an area with many trees that drop their leaves for the winter is the changing behavior of birds as the winter progresses.

As a beginning birder during this pandemic, I have witnessed behavior I never paid attention to before.  Today's post considers a common bird in the Northeast United States where I live:  the American crow.  

These large black birds may be common throughout most of the United States, but that doesn't make them less interesting.  Their attraction to trees in the winter fascinated me.  I have seen them flocking at sunset, and heard them disbanding near sunrise.

Why do crows flock to trees around sunset?  This newspaper article explains.

Basically, it's a matter of protection, as crows are nearly helpless at night.  The crows gather in large numbers, sometimes in the hundreds, and jockey for nighttime position.  The unfortunate ones who are in the outer parts of the cluster are more vulnerable to night hunting birds such as owls.

One such roost took place in my back yard less than a week ago.  See all those dots?  Those are the crows flying.


You can see a couple of the clusters forming in the lower half of this photo.  I took these pictures from the inside of my house with my old iPhone SE first edition - I didn't want to disturb them.  Unfortunately it doesn't have much of a zoom.

I love the trees for the shelter they give birds - plus food, and places to build their nests.


 Snowy bonus:  for the many who join with Parul's #ThursdayTreeLove who rarely get to see snow - I decided to include an after snow picture from Tuesday's storm (which happily dumped much less snow on us than the original prediction a week ago) showing both evergreen and deciduous trees in perfect harmony.  Call them the guardians of this dead end street.

See you February 11 for more tree loving photos.

Before I leave, I want to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986.  May the brave astronauts who perished that day forever Rest in Peace.  Here is a post I wrote several years ago on the topic.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Number 4100 #WordlessWednesday

Welcome to my 4,100th blog post, and I thank everyone who commented on my post yesterday.  I treasure every one of my readers and I am absorbing your suggestions now.

Untermyer Gardens is an urban garden located in Yonkers, New York, a city that borders New York City.  It is owned by the city.  If you visit my link you will discover some of its fascinating history.

My spouse and I have visited it a handful of times - once in the early spring of 2019, and once in September of 2019 , when it was in full color.  It was closed much of last year but is open again, with mandatory mask wearing and one way signage.  No timed tickets are required at this time.

Enjoy some beauty on this (almost wordless) Wednesday as I join Sandee at Comedy Plus for her #WordlessWednesday.


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Happy Almost 4100th Post - Stuck

Tomorrow, I will be publishing my 4100th post.  This journey has taken me from April of 2009 to tomorrow - 12 years, almost.  

I've been blogging daily since late April of 2011.  At that time I participated in a 30 day blogging challenge (the challenge:  blogging every day for a month), which was hard at first, but after a couple of weeks, I caught the blogging bug. I just kept going.

But now, I'm wondering where I want to go with my blog.   I'm coming up on my 10th anniversary of blogging daily.  Also, April is the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, which I have taken (and completed) several times now.  I'm not sure I want to participate again this year.  My thoughts are elsewhere.  

I admit it - I'm stuck.

I still find enough in my daily world (as closed in as it has become due to COVID) to blog about, but I'm needing to offer the world more than that.

Right now, I admit, I'm in a bit of a funk. 

Without going into details, I know someone dying from cancer, and others who have close family members (including elderly parents) with COVID.  We all are, in our own ways, in bad places.  So:

What should I be doing with my blog?  And with life in general? 

As they say, these times are both a blessing and a curse.  We've been forced to pause and to think.  We want to think our existence means something.

That's what winter in a pandemic does.  A snowstorm is predicted for today.

He's happy but winter is not my happy time

For me, maybe it's just figuring out the journey.  And getting unstuck.  And even working on a couple of crochet projects that need finishing up.  Maybe even purchase some history DVD's I've had my eye on for a while. And finally, maybe watch some birds in Nature's free show. (I was going to write a post about crows today, but I'm postponing it.) But first, I need your help to get unstuck.

Today, I reach out to my readers. 

One simple question:  "What do you enjoy the most about my blog?"  No essay required.  Just one or two sentences.

I'll go from there.

Join me again tomorrow, for my 4100th post.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Guess the True Lyrics #MusicMovesMe

 


Welcome to Monday!  It's time for #MusicMovesMe.

Who are the #MusicMovesMe bloggers? We are bloggers who blog about music each Monday and if you have music to share with us, you are most welcome to join! (Music Posts Only , please!)   First, there is XmasDolly,   Her co-cohostesses are: Stacy of Stacy Uncorked, Cathy from Curious as a Cathy, and me. As Xmas Dolly likes to say, "Applause!"  Xmas Dolly had to miss some of January and I hope she'll be able to join us soon.

Each month we have a guest co-hostess who picks themes for the month, and this month it is Cathy at Curious as a Cathy. Thank you for your great January themes, Cathy!

If you are interested in our themes for February (we'd love you to join us) you can find themes for 2021 here.  Thank you for this list, Cathy!

Cathy's theme for today:  You Pick

I wish I didn't have to pick this because we have lost another great artist this past week:  Jimmie Rodgers, who died January 18 at the age of 87.  In fact, I had featured one of his hits (Honeycomb) last Monday, not realizing that he would die later that day.

Since I posted Honeycomb last week, I will choose two other songs for my tribute.

The flip side of the Honeycomb 45 was another hit, "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine", a. song originally recorded by The Weavers (co-written by Pete Seeger) in 1951.




The other song was more of a hit in Great Britain, English Country Garden.

Now, a couple of the songs I meant to post today, using a theme I wanted to return to since I haven't blogged about it:  mondegreens (or, misheard lyrics).

There are entire websites devoted to funny (or strange) misheard lyrics.  But I am getting these from a desk calendar I purchased back several years ago.  Wednesday, while our cable was down and being repaired, spouse and I entertained ourselves reading the calendar, which had somehow ended up behind the furniture our TV sits on. 

This calendar asks you to consider the misheard lyrics and try to guess the actual ones.  Shall we begin? (Note, these misheard lyrics are in several places online so I don't think anything here is copyrighted.) I've tried to choose lyrics videos to make it easier if you aren't familiar with the song.

 Misheard lyrics:  "I got no thumb, but it grew back again."

The song is "Tubthumping" by Chumbawumba, and the lyric is the opening one after the intro "I get knocked down..." This song was popular when my son was finishing up elementary school and it seemed to get played at every event.  I actually got the album because I enjoyed "Tubthumping" so much.

Misheard lyric "There's nothing that a hundred men on Mars could ever do".

The song is one I love "Africa" by Toto. No worries - no Martians here.

Misheard lyric:  You made the rice, I made the gravy, but it just may be the tuna fish you're looking for."


Anyone else think those lyrics are so good someone should use them in a song?  Really...anyone?

But that's not what Billy Joel's "You May Be Right" says  (although it's a relief that no tuna fish were harmed in the making of this song.)

Now I'm going to kick it up a notch, as the saying goes.

Misheard lyrics "I'm a little man!  And I'm also evil!  Also into cats!  Also into cats!"


The song is "This Ain't a Scene, It's An Arms Race" by Fall Out Boy" in the chorus starting "I'm the leading man..."

Let's get a little mellow for our last one and "Gimmie the Beach Boys to free my soul". Actually, true confession, this is what I thought was being sung.  For the last forty some years.  Ah well.

The final song for today is Dobie Gray's Drift Away.

And with that, I will drift away until next Monday.

Join me again next week, same time, same place.


Sunday, January 24, 2021

Gardening Surprise

 We have never had enough cabbage from our community garden plot to store.  But this past year was a good year, and we had several heads my spouse tried to store.

He went to get one for soup this afternoon, and this is what greeted him.  There is another head left that hasn't done this, although outside leaves are dried out.

He had been storing the cabbages wrapped in newspaper in a cool place.  Obviously, not cool enough.

Amazing to me, I tried to look online but couldn't find anything about cabbage bolting in storage in a quick search, except here (a third grade cabbage educational page posted by a plant wholesaler.)

The brown base is what is left of the cabbage.  Also amazing is that the cabbage itself does not smell bad.  It is not spoiled, although, obviously, the cabbage plant itself really isn't edible any more.

This is what the bottom looks like.


Another view of the stalk.  You can barely see some flowers beginning. The plant is yellow because of lack of light.  From the page I found about bolted cabbage, it might be edible.

My spouse tasted one of the flowers and said it tasted like raw broccoli, not like raw cabbage.

I did find this about proper storage of veggies without a root cellar (which we don't have).

So, submitting to other gardeners:  has this ever happened to you?

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Hank Aaron and the Unreliability of Memory

Today, a blustery winter's day, reminds me of the night I listened to Hank Aaron hitting his 715th home run.

Or did I?

A couple of times while I was going to college, I went on camping trips, where my spouse and I tent camped - once with friends and once on our own.  On the second trip, which occurred during spring break in 1974, we found ourselves in a beautiful state park in Pennsylvania - right after a snowstorm.

That's what youth is all about, after all - making mistakes.

But we also knew that Hank Aaron was playing that night, and was due to hit a record breaking home run. So we brought our radio into the tent.

Why should anyone care about Aaron breaking a home run record?  The answer is simple and interwoven with the United States and the history of race relations.

Simply put, the home run record had stood for years, and was then owned by one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Babe Ruth.  At the time Ruth played, however, people of color were not allowed to compete in the major leagues.  So, we will never know how Ruth would have played if he had to face great African American players during his dual careers as a pitcher and an outfielder. That discussion is outside the scope of this blog post, but it was enough to say that Ruth was white.

"Major League" (i.e., white) baseball was integrated between 1947 and 1959.  Prior to 1947, and even for a while after, talented baseball players of color were forced to compete in their own professional league, the Negro Leagues.

In fact, Hank Aaron played briefly for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro League before he was acquired by the Major Leagues Milwaukee Braves.  Aaron, at the time of his baseball retirement, was the last active Negro League player.

But Aaron break Ruth's home run record?  That didn't sit well with all baseball fans.  Aaron received hate mail and death threats and, in fact, had a bodyguard in the stands the beginning of the 1974 season, "just in case".  I've seen one of these letters, posted on Twitter, complete with a childlike diagram of how the letter writer planned to shoot Aaron.

But here I was with my spouse, shivering in an ice cold tent in Pennsylvania.  And my question is:

That night, the Braves were playing at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  How could I be listening to the game happening hundreds of miles away?

Maybe it was a rebroadcast, but both my spouse and I remember hearing the play by play as Aaron hit the record breaking 715th home run against former Yankee pitcher (the same team Ruth was playing for when he set the home run record) Al Downing.  Downing, in turn, was the first African-American starting pitcher for the Yankees.  In 1961.

So, returning to Aaron, is this a hallucination or did spouse and I really hear it that night?  Maybe we can never be sure.


Today, people of all races mourn Aaron's death yesterday at the age of 86. He was a legend.  It appears 2021 will be just as unkind to the great players of baseball as 2020 was.

One last thing.  Do you know what I also remember about April of 1974 and that camping trip?

The beauty of that park.  We were there all by ourselves.  I even have pictures of the park I took somewhere in the house.

History can be beautiful.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Celebrating White and Blue #SkywatchFriday

Where I live in New York State, blue skies and the sun are infrequent visitors.  Any appearance of either is usually accompanied by bitter cold, unpleasant weather with even more chilling breezes.

But not on January 9, and my spouse and I decided to take a walk on the Vestal Rail Trail.

Snow on either side, the sky looks like a painting.

Bare trees have a special character.

A sumac bush (see red things on the left) still displays its cone shaped clusters.


Along the trail, water flowed.  Imagine that, free water (and not frozen solid) in January.

One more view. 

When will we see this again?

Joining up with Yogi and the other sky loving bloggers over at #SkywatchFriday.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Unsung Technician Heroes of the Pandemic

Along with the health care workers, the first responders, those who keep us safe, the grocery store workers, the farmers, the people working in meat processing plants, post office employees, teachers, and so many more....

....there are the technicians who keep the services we take full advantage of without thinking running.

Our cable TV signal was deteriorating.and our internet WiFi kept dropping my laptop, so we called the cable company.  When you call the cable company, you are greeted by an automated system that tries to solve your problem.  If it can't, you get switched over to a live person.  This person made an appointment for the next day, which was yesterday.

During the pandemic, there are certain rules set down by the cable company, for safety.  Both the technician and the occupants of the house must wear masks.  The technician does outside work as much as possible, limiting time inside the house.  If anyone in the house isn't feeling well you are supposed to reschedule.

As soon as he knocked on our door, he knew the problem -  the outside line had to be replaced.  That involved the tech working outside during a day of intermittent snow showers.  It was windy.  He had to end up climbing two different ladders in two locations in our front yard (including by a utility pole), and working some in our basement.  

Not today and not our home, but it gives you an idea

He stayed until the job was done.  He told us our line was, possibly, 20 years old.

Our job wasn't his first of the day and it wouldn't be the last.

We take techs like him for granted, not knowing the hard work they put in until we need them at our house, and we see them in action.  They are so necessary now, for those of us who work at home or otherwise depend on the Internet, and we depend on them to keep us safe in their own ways.

I remember, so many months ago (April), when my developmentally disabled brother in law was hospitalized with COVID, we would call the hospital twice a day for an update on his condition.  The nurses were good about taking our phone calls and reporting his vitals, his medications, his oxygen situation, and his spirits.

One day I asked them "what can we do to help you?" and the nurse's response was "stay home!"

Except they couldn't stay home if my brother in law was to recover, and so can't too many other people.

So this is the part where I am supposed to say something inspirational.  But I just can't. 

I'll be thinking of that technician for a while.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

One Smile #WordlessWednesday

Taken at our popular Vestal Rail Trail, where many people walk, bicycle, or skate for exercise.  Before the pandemic, many road races were held there, too.  My spouse and I walked two senior races there in the past.

So of course it has mileage markers.

But this one is my favorite.  Couldn't we all use one smile in our lives today?

Let's find something to smile about today, as I join Sandee at Comedy Plus for her #WordlessWednesday.



Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Golden Birthdays

Sunday marked the birthdays of two greats in the acting fields.  

James Earl Jones turned 90.

He has one of the most recognizable voices in movie history.  Who would be Darth Vader's voice if he wasn't?

Then, Betty White, actress (and so much more) beloved by so many, turned 99 on Sunday.  

What a life.


Here's a little documentary on her, if you have the time.  Think of Betty White being a pioneer at a time when women weren't expected to have careers - yet she co produced TV comedies, competed on game shows, sang, and more.  I remember her from my childhood, my teenage hood, my young adult hood, my middle age....and beyond.

I have to admit this totally off-color performance is one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits.  You'll never think of muffins in the same way again. (Definitely not suitable for work.)

For a change, it's a pleasure to pay tribute while these two greats are still with us.  Long may they continue to thrive.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Hunny Honey #MusicMovesMe

Welcome to Monday!  It's time for #MusicMovesMe.

Who are the #MusicMovesMe bloggers? We are bloggers who blog about music each Monday and if you have music to share with us, you are most welcome to join! (Music Posts Only , please!)   First, there is XmasDolly,   Her co-cohostesses are: Stacy of Stacy Uncorked, Cathy from Curious as a Cathy, and me. As Xmas Dolly likes to say, "Applause!"

Each month we have a guest co-hostess who picks themes for the month, and this month it is Cathy at Curious as a Cathy. 

Cathy's theme for today has to do with today being Winnie the Pooh day.  Cathy provided a link explaining this celebration and asked that we use it to generate ideas for today's post.

I remember Winnie the Pooh, a character originally dating from 1926.  There was a time when my son was around five where he loved to watch Winnie the Pooh VHS tapes.  Before that, he would wear Winnie the Pooh pajamas.  Sweet memories, right?


Sweet = sugar.  Or, thinking of what Winnie the Poo loves, hunny.

Why not use a topic of honey today?  We need a lot more sweetness in our lives.

A Taste of Honey - Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.


From 1957, Jimmie F. Rodgers and Honeycomb - a nice song from my childhood.  I didn't realize until researching this post that the song was a cover.   Fun fact, the B side of this single was "Kisses Sweeter than Wine", which was also a hit.


Carl Perkins wrote a song called "Honey Don't", which originally was the B side of his "Blue Suede Shoes" (a big hit for Elvis Presley when he covered it).  Honey Don't has been covered by many artists.  Here is a cover by the Beatles, from 1964.  The Beatles were big Carl Perkins fans.


Speaking of the Beatles, here's another song mentioning honey in the title "Honey Pie", from the 1968 White Album.  I enjoy the early 20th century vibe of this song, complete with record crackles.


Honey, Bobby Goldsboro, from 1968.  The singer sings about his young deceased wife.  Some call this one of the worst songs ever.  Others can't listen without crying. But consider this:  this charted #1 on both the country and rock charts.  And also adult contemporary.  You can't beat that.


While researching this, I found that the original was recorded by a South African, Peter Lotis, first in 1962, and then released as a single, also in 1968.  So we can have an official "battle of the singers" here, if you wish.  Goldboro or Lotis?  I'm not even sure if I can call Bobby Goldsboro's version a cover as these both seemed to be released at about the same time.


For my next to last song, I will deviate a little from my honey theme.  Winnie the Pooh was a teddy bear owned by a little boy by the name of Christopher Robin.  The stories inspired a song by Kenny Loggins, first recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1971.


And finally, one last video, if you'll permit me.  I wanted to give a shoutout to our national treasure Betty White, who turned 99 yesterday.  Yes, she's still working, as far as I know.  And, well, she's never been afraid to speak her mind - and what a mind it is.  This musical clip is from 1954.  Nevertheless (I'm In Love with You).  Betty, I'm in love with you!

That's a sweet wrap!

See you again next week, same time, same place.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Two Views of Victory

 I don't often show the aged and decrepit side of the village of Johnson City, New York, but today I feel I need to show a contrast of past and present.

The major industry in this area, back in the early to mid 20th century, was shoe manufacture.  In fact, the Village of Johnson City was named for shoe manufacturers - twice.  First, Lestershire, after the Lester Brothers Boot and Shoe Company.  And then, the village became Johnson City, renamed in 1916 in honor of George F. Johnson, who was originally hired by the Lester Brothers Boot and Shoe Company and eventually became co owner of the shoe company with another man, Henry Endicott as the Lester Brothers sold out to them.

The story is a lot more complex, but for today's purposes you should know that Endicott-Johnson, at one time, was the largest shoe manufacturer in the United States and employed thousands in Johnson City, in nearby Endicott (yes, named after Henry Endicott) and other nearby communities.

The Victory Plant was built in 1921, and named Victory after our victory in World War I.  Just think, at the tail end of a pandemic which killed some 50 million people worldwide, this shoe manufacturing plant was state of the art.  This is what it looked like at one time (third photo down on the page this links to).

A view today of the defunct Victory Plant, Johnson City, New York

Today, it lies in ruins, closed up in the 1970's.  


But, within walking distance is CFJ Park (named after another member of the Johnson family), and near that, tents have gone up near a closed newspaper printing plant.  A vaccination facility is supposed to open there tomorrow.

Hopefully, thousands will receive COVID vaccines there in the coming months.

Two view of victory - past victory from 1921, and what we hope is eventual victory over COVID in 2021.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

It Can't Take That Away From Me

It can't take everything away from me.  I won't let it.

I (along with millions of others) have lost freedoms and/or livelihoods to COVID.  Many have lost businesses or jobs.  Many are depending on food banks for food.  Others (right now that includes me, a senior, with rates climbing where I live) don't feel comfortable going into stores except for the necessities.   And, maybe soon, not even that.  The UK strain is in our state already. 

But Rona, or COVID or whatever you want to call "it", can't take gardening away from my spouse and I.  The other day we sent our renewal in for our one "in ground" plot and the one raised bed I use, due to my bad back.

2020 raised bed
We've sent in our seed orders.   We did them all online because already there seem to be some shortages.

This year, we aren't as adventurous as in past years.  One herb I am going to try to grow is Zaatar marjoram, an ingredient for a Middle Eastern herb mixture called za'atar.  I already have the other ingredients, thyme and oregano, growing in our home herb bed.

We are also going to try to grow spring-planted garlic, something you apparently can do with softneck garlic with a degree of success.

I'm splurging on some fancy zinnia and cosmos seeds.

Today is another day of snow flurries and white sky gloom where I live.  It's so nice to dream.

No, Rona, you can't take that away from me.

What can't Rona take away from you?

Friday, January 15, 2021

Plants and Skies January 2021 #SkywatchFriday #GardenBloggersBloomDay

This month I am combining two memes, Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and SkywatchFriday, so if you are here for Skywatch Friday, I'll have sky pictures towards the end of the post.  I hope you enjoy the blooms in my zone 5b upstate New York home and yard, because I have so few of them.  

I do have a blooming plant outdoors - joy!  At Christmas time, we had a record snowstorm with some 40 inches of snow.  But it has been melting, and one of my two Lenten Rose plants is exposed in the snow melt.  

 

Fortunately, it's an early bloomer, and, in fact, was trying to bloom before the snow fell.  The snow has protected it ever since and it was blooming under the snow.  I hope, when winter returns in earnest (it's been a bit mild lately) the blooms will survive.  Some years, they don't always.

I bought this primrose plant the day after Christmas.  It's been blooming since, but is on its way out.  I will plant it outside come spring (if it survives) but I don't have a good track record with these supermarket plants.

I took a Persian shield cutting before frost, and I have it in water.  I've not had good luck transplanting them so I am keeping it in the water.  It surprised me yesterday with blooms.

Indoors, I did something that caused most of my Thanksgiving cactus to start to die.  I don't know what I did wrong.  I've grown these for years.  (My one Easter cactus is fine, so far.) I have one that survived whatever I did but it's only had a couple of blooms.  Now, it has a bud that hasn't quite opened yet.


 Well, buds are flowers, right?


I have my two poinsettias from the holiday season.  Still not sure if I want to keep them but they are looking good, so why not?  Here is one of them - the beautiful red and white "leaves" are actually bracts and the flowers, which are mostly dead, are in the center.


 And the other.

My million bells, in a hanging basket, is hanging on.  The bacopa, which was still blooming in December, has about had it. The million bells is blurry because my iPhone SE first generation doesn't do macros well.


Thank you for your patience, skywatchers, and it's time for some sunsets.  These were taken in the past week, on two days where the sun made a brief appearance.  


These were taken in a local park, and we probably won't be able to use its walking trails until a spring cleanup.  Mud from our December flood still is all over them.

Thank you for joining me for Yogi's #SkywatchFriday and Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, hosted by Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens.  Please visit some of the other fine bloggers who have linked to both posts.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Snowy Tree #ThursdayTreeLove

Welcome!  Let's start 2021 off right.

Snow is an everyday sight for me, living in New York State in the Northeast United States, but I know that many of the wonderful bloggers who participate in Thursday Tree Love every second and fourth Thursday of the month do not live in climates that receive snow in the winter.

So I like to bring snow to them.  Actually, I would love to ship snow to them, given that we still have piles of our record 40 plus inch (101 cm) snowfall from December.

I'll admit, snow is pretty when you don't have to shovel it, walk in it, or drive in it.   So here's a tree after a snowstorm we had after that snowstorm.  The white sky (yes, that's a white sky) is just a bonus.

And the tree?  It's in its winter sleep, awaiting the secret signal only trees know, that tells our trees it's time to wake up, stretch and pop their buds, and unfurl leaves for a new summer.

It's not time yet.  It won't be for another three months.

Joining Parul and other tree lovers at #ThursdayTreeLove.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Dunedin Brewery #WordlessWednesday

I'm living off some of my iPhone photo memories.  This is from the last pre-pandemic trip we took, from New York State to Florida in January of 2020.  We've only been, at most, an hour and a half from home ever since.

Both my spouse and I have always wanted to visit Scotland.  We spent a few days in Dunedin, Florida to scout out snowbirding opportunities. Dunedin, Florida is so proud of their Scottish heritage.   

While we were there, we visited a brewery, the Dunedin Brewery. And it was decorated in...what else?  Scottish symbols.

The beer was good, too.

I've never been off the North American continent, but my late childhood best friend had another school friend who married and moved to Scotland as an adult, and visited her and her family there several times.  How wonderful that must have been.

Joining Sandee at Comedy Plus for her #WordlessWednesday.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Nok Hockey and other Nostalgias

The present can be so painful, I just want to retreat into my memories sometimes.  No, not the violent memories of growing up in the 50's and 60's.  I want to go back to my playground days.

The other day, on Facebook, I saw one of these "do you remember?" pictures.  It was a picture of a nok hockey game.

At this point, either you are going to leap up and say "Yes!" or ask "what the heck was that?"  If it was the former, chances are you grew up in the Northeast United States.  Or maybe not, as my spouse (who grew up in a city just to the north of New York City, had never heard of it.)

Yes, nok hockey was a "thing".  In fact, it's still "a thing".  

From the company that introduced Nok Hockey in 1942. 

Nok hockey is basically a board, a puck, and two sticks.  Two players.  Nothing electric.  No special skills, unlike something like jumping rope (or, worse, Double Dutch). 


This is what playing it looks like.   We didn't have plastic hockey sticks, though.

In my 1950's youth, we went to the local playground (in my case, across the street from the housing project where I grew up in the Bronx) and asked if the nok hockey board was available for takeout.  Chances were it wasn't.  So we'd wait patiently.

Then, when we finally could get a board, we faced off. The rules were simple: drop the puck onto the center circle.  We would hit sticks together, chanting "Hockey One, Hockey Two, Hockey Three".  On three we would try to gain control of the puck. There are variations but we would take turns trying to hit the puck into the "goal".  

Playing it is all about angles. And once you can get into it, you could play for hours (except on the playground, because people were always waiting eagerly for you to finish.)

With all the pandemic shutdowns, I wonder how many modern families have discovered how much fun nok hockey is.  It's perfect for indoor play, unlike something like hopscotch or potsy, or the Indian Stapu.

It made me wonder how many games of the past have regained popularity during our pandemic, and how many will continue to be popular after it is over.

Do you have any childhood game playing memories you'd like to share?  I'd love you to comment below.  It might take your mind off what is happening today for just a few minutes.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Comforting Songs #MusicMovesMe

It's time for #MusicMovesMe.

Who are the #MusicMovesMe bloggers? We are bloggers who blog about music each Monday and if you have music to share with us, you are most welcome to join! (Music Posts Only , please!)   First, there is XmasDolly,   Her co-cohostesses are: Stacy of Stacy Uncorked, Cathy from Curious as a Cathy, and me. As Xmas Dolly likes to say, "Applause!"

Each month we have a guest co-hostess who picks themes for the month, and this month it is Cathy at Curious as a Cathy.  Welcome again, Cathy!

I have a feeling a lot of people all over the world may need comforting today in these difficult times so I am offering some songs today in case any of us could use these.

From Simon and Garfunkel's last album, Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970), the title song.  I'm using a live version from The Concert in Central Park.

 


Simple Man, a 1973 hit for Lynyrd Skynyrd from their first album, contains words of wisdom.


Mariah Carey rerecorded her 1993 hit "Hero" for the shutdown last March/April.  

Folk and Americana are not normally genres I listen to all that much (although I was exposed to folk music by camp counselors of the sleep away camp I went to.)   But I think you will enjoy this song by folk artist Carrie Newcomer. 


From 2016,  Lean In Toward the Light.

Last but not least is a song that I played a lot after 9/11.  Not sure it's considered a "comfort" song but it did that for me.  There's an interesting controversy about this 1990 song claiming that it was written by the CIA as a tool to influence peoples' emotions to end the cold war.  I truly don't care.


The Scorpions and "Wind of Change".

And that's a wrap!  See you again, same time, same place, next Monday.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Reimagined 2021 Tournament of Roses Parade

With so many grim things going on, I wanted to post something positive today to give us a breather. 

The 2021 tournament of Roses Parade was mainly cancelled (with the exception of a virtual performance of bands that would have performed this year ).  The organizers had to depend on documentary type "past history" type video reruns, prerecorded music, and a guest performance of Kermit the Frog.


Here are some highlights.  I'm happy to report that the seniors who couldn't march are invited to the 2022 Parade.

Additionally, I found this online video that can reinforce the belief that there are still good people out there.

This video tells the story of a 10 year old girl, Francine, whose organs were donated after Francine died in a 2019 car accident.  Her heart, her kidneys, her pancreas, were donated to a total of four people.  Francine was honored at the parade.

I love that parade.  Like many, we only have our memories - like these.  It was nice, I admit, to watch the documentaries about the history of the parade and all the work that goes into building the floats, but I am hoping the parade will be able to return next New Years Eve.

In grim times, we must hang on to hope - not at all ignoring what is happening to our country now, but also realizing there will be an end to this.

See you tomorrow for some music.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Once Before He Goes

The last episode of Jeopardy aired last night.

It was just like any other episode.  Alex Trebek was still lively, using every ounce of his remaining strength to do what he loved - host a game show, an institution, that has been on Ameican TV with him MCing for 37 years.

As it turned out, Alex Trebek had intended to tape a farewell message for his final show, but, at the time this last show taped, he didn't realize it would be his last - that's how sudden his final days were.

So we got this instead.  In a way, I was happy.

Because otherwise, I would have cried all night.

The song this clip is set to is called "Once Before I Go", written by the late Peter Allen. 

This is the backstory of the Broadway show this is from, The Boy from OZ, about the life of Peter Allen.


Prepare to cry to the song that was the background to Alex Trebek's goodbye montage, sung by Hugh Jackman.

One last coincidence.  I've blogged that I went to high school and college with a woman who became a Jeopardy champion. We remain friends.  Yesterday, in the Memories feature of Facebook, her picture taken with Alex Trebek showed up.   Coincidence?

Farewell, Alex.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Beautiful Sunsets #SkywatchFriday

I saw something on Facebook yesterday that sums up this first week of the year: "I'd like to cancel my subscription to 2021.  I've experienced the 7 day free trial and I'm not interested."  Instead....

It's time for another day of beauty.    It's another day of white skies here so I am digging into the archives.  Let's go back in time a million years ago, to January of 2020, for today's Skywatch Friday.

Near Dunedin, Florida on the causeway to Honeymoon Island.  My phone says "Ward Island". 


Even birds like a good sunset.

Now, let's get back in the time machine and travel back still another year, to January 2019.

Boynton Beach, Florida 

Madeira Beach.

Joining up with Yogi's SkywatchFriday.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Talking About Beauty is Obligatory

After the events of yesterday at our Nation's capital, I stayed up late to see some of the debate in the Senate.  I was inspired by the speech given by Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska (no worries, this isn't a political post, but I just wanted to show the context of this quote.)

Senator Sasse said, in part, "It turns out that when something [the events of yesterday] is ugly talking about beauty isn’t just permissible, talking about beauty is obligatory at a time like that"

So. 

We take a deep, cleansing breath.  We think of a peaceful place - let's say, Florida, just about two years ago today.

Think of the ocean and its sound.

We look at a butterfly, a work of Nature.

Lighting up a palm tree, St. John's Pass.

Humankind's art at its best (John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Sarasota).


One last look at the beauty of our country.  It's still out there, if we look.

Exhale.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Flood Mud #WordlessWednesday

We've all seen pictures of floods (or been in them, as millions throughout the world have been).

How many of you have seen a closeup of frozen flood, though?

I took this picture after a Christmas Day flood in our area, as the flood waters receded and what was left froze.  


Here, it froze onto the mud it left.  To me, it was a fascinating picture.  But I hope I never see anything like this, ever again.

Joining Sandee at Comedy Plus for her #WordlessWednesday.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Kinder Gentler Society of Alex Trebek

If we, existing one year ago today, had a machine that allowed us to see one year into the future, none of us would have understood much that is going on today.

Not understanding the pandemic, we would still be saddened seeing that the iconic game show Jeopardy was showing the last week of shows hosted by the late Alex Trebek.  

This week's five shows were supposed to be shown the week ending in Christmas Day, but a decision was made to postpone the showing until the holidays were over. 

I fear I will totally lose it on Friday evening, when I see the last show, taped 10 days before he passed away.  I will cry and cry when I hear the farewell message Alex Trebek taped for his final TV appearance.

Last night we saw what was intended to be his pre-Christmas message.  This was not long after he had surgery for the last time.

In this short message, Alex Trebek mentions COVID-19 and then says "We're trying to build a gentler, kinder society. and if we all pitch in, just a little bit, we're gonna get there."

Take a look at this man. Does he look like he was 10 days away from death?

He was running on pure grit and courage when he taped this message, and his final week of shows. This was pure strength of will.  He looks so dignified.

I am in awe.  And, Jeopardy champion Cindy Stowell, who was dying from colon cancer when she competed and never got to see her show aired, would have been so proud. 

Why not honor Alex Trebek by working towards building that gentler, kinder society?  Can we do any less for the man who gave us so much?

 

Monday, January 4, 2021

Music Trivia and Another Tribute #MusicMovesMe

Guess what time it is?

 

It's time for the first #MusicMovesMe post of 2021.  It's going to be a rockin' year.

Who are the #MusicMovesMe bloggers? We are bloggers who blog about music each Monday and if you have music to share with us, you are most welcome to join! (Music Posts Only , please!)   First, there is XmasDolly,   Her co-cohostesses are: Stacy of Stacy Uncorked, Cathy from Curious as a Cathy, and me. As Xmas Dolly likes to say, "Applause!"

Each month we have a guest co-hostess who picks themes for the month, and this month it is Cathy at Curious as a Cathy.  Welcome again, Cathy!

Today's prompt is: "Music Trivia - tell us a piece of music trivia about a song and share the song!"

This is such an interesting prompt - I realized I already had a number of these songs on my blog.  So I shouldn't cheat - and I won't, except for my "bonus".

But sadly, I can't begin with the song I wanted to - because yesterday, Gerry Marsden, lead singer for Gerry and the Pacemakers, died at the age of 78.

So, how about a little trivia about the group?  Well, like the Beatles, they originated in Liverpool and, in fact, had the same manager as the Beatles - Brian Epstein.  Gerry and his older brother Freddie's first band was called the Mars Bars, but they had to change the name after the Mars candy company threatened to sue them.


One of their first hits was "You'll Never Walk Alone" (more on that song below), which was adopted by fans of the Liverpool Football Club, and achieved new popularity during the 2020 worldwide lockdown.


 Stevie Wonder was the youngest artist to reach #1 on the Billboard Charts with his "Fingertips Pt 2" in 1963.  He was only 12 years old when he recorded this and 13 when it reached #1.  (And yes, there is a "Fingertips Part 1".)

Oh, why not?  (I have no reason why the 45 shown on the video isn't this song.) Here's "Fingertips Part 1".

One of my favorite songs is "Barracuda" by Heart, a band led by two sisters, Ann and Nancy Wilson.  The lyrics aren't talking about a boyfriend of the Wilson sisters, but something different..  The song was written in reaction to a rumor that their record label decided to spread, that Ann and Nancy were - shall we say, engaging in inappropriate sisterly love.  When Ann was confronted by a music promoter after a concert asking about this supposed relationship, Ann was so outraged that she went to her room and wrote this song.


The oldest artist to reach #1 in the United Kingdom?  We can thank the pandemic for this hit.  Captain Tom Moore reached #1 not long before his 100th birthday with his recording "You'll Never Walk Alone" in 2020.  In fact, he achieved age 100 while the song was #1 on the charts.  This was a fundraiser for the NHS (National Health Service). OK, Sir Moore will not win a Grammy for his singing, but Captain Moore fought in both World War I and World War II, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for service to his country.  Not too many recording artists can say that.

Yes, the same song as Gerry and the Pacemakers also covered -a cover of a song from the musical "Carousel". 

More trivia about songs themselves.  The Canadian group Rush released an instrumental called YYZ in the year 1981.  I wondered for years where the name came from - it comes from the ID code for Toronto's Pearson International Airport.  I knew that much, but not the rest of the story.

The beginning of the song is a musical rendition of "Y-Y-Z" in Morse code.  Members of the band had heard a Morse code transmission from the airport one day flying into the airport. As a side note, my spouse had to learn Morse Code as a Boy Scout but says he doesn't remember any of it.  He certainly didn't pick the code up in this song. 

 

Let's move into the past.  Way into the past.  Did you know that King Henry VIII of England (famed for his multiple wives) was an accomplished musician and composer (although, contrary to some popular opinion, he probably did not write the song "Greensleeves".)

One piece of music he did write was "Pastime With Good Company".

Next, those of us with children probably recognize the name Shel Silverstein, who wrote a number of famous children's books, including "Where the Sidewalk Ends"


But he was also a talented songwriter, and wrote "A Boy Named Sue", a big hit for Johnny Cash.


For my final selection, we are going to go back to (possibly) 200 B.C.E. and what is believed to be the oldest complete musical selection preserved in records - a song called the Seikilos Epitaph - Song of Seikilos.   

The date of composition is disputed - some scholars are thinking it was written more in the 100 C.E. era.  The lyrics and music were carved on a tombstone in present day Turkey - fortunately we have knowledge of both the language and the musical notation system used by the ancient Greeks.  Some scholars believe this music was a love song written by a man who had lost his wife.

BONUS: One more, but I'll let this blog post tell the story of Meredith Wilson and President John Kennedy's 60's initiative to promote physical fitness, and the song created as a result.   I've had this on my blog a couple of times in the past. 

And that, my fellow music lovers, is a wrap. Why not go to some of the other sites on the linky and see what trivia they have for your entertainment?

See you again same time, same place, next Monday for another episode.