Friday, December 31, 2021

Bye to 2021 Skies #SkywatchFriday

Doesn't it seem like January 1, 2021 was just yesterday?  Now the year is ending and another year of skywatching is now history.

Where I live in New York State, December skies are generally dreary but can also be unpredictible.  One day can be sunny, the next foggy, the next just plain blah.

Here are some December sky moods.

December 17, the sky was full of contrails.

This picture was taken December 28 on a rare sunny day, and this reflection on the walking path includes some tree branches and some shadows.

The sky December 28.

December 29.

Meanwhile, on Christmas (yes, I know, I'm out of order), one could almost imagine a baby tree next to its parents.

Finally, yesterday, it was foggy, and the hills were barely visible.

Wishing all of my readers a Happy New Year! Thank you for stopping by and commenting; it makes my day when you do.

Joining Yogi and other sky watching bloggers for the last Skywatch Friday of 2021.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

My 2021 Reading List

I love reading.  I always have.  Now, as I approach the age of 70, I read but I seem to be so distracted that the day slips away, and I find I spend more and more with magazines and Internet reads.

It isn't for lack of opportunity.  I own many books.  I also take books out from our local library, and hve ebooks on my Kindle. (I way prefer physical books, however.)  I also regularly take out e-books from the New York (City) public library, which, thanks to the pandemic, I have access to as a New York State resident.

What I decided to do this last week of December is compile a list of books read, or books I started and did not finish, for whatever reason.  I've included reviews  (some taken from a blog post I wrote in July of this year, and shortened):  I've assigned "stars" on a scale of one to five.

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby.  I generally do not get into thrillers, but this book had so many good reviews, I decided to pick it up.  It's a harrowing book, but I am so glad I read it.

Two ex-cons, one black, the other white, team up to find the killer(s) of their sons, who were married to each other.  Both the fathers had rejected their gay sons,  and are propelled both by the need for vengeance and their guilt over how they treated their sons.   There is blood and violence, all of which rings true.  Be forewarned!. There's not much more I can say without spoiler alerts.   The plotting and the writing are both first class.

Five Stars.

The Auschwitz Photographer - The Forgotten Story of the World War II Prisoner Who Documented Thousands of Lost Souls by Luca Crippa and Maurizio Onnis   This is the true story of photographer Wilhelm Brasse, a Polish/Aryan gentile who refused to swear allegiance to the Nazis after they conquered Poland. He was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1939 and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner.  Because of his background as a professional photographer, the SS chose him to take intake photos of the prisoners. He was forced to take other types of photos, too, and we are not spared the details.

As the war ended, Brasse was ordered to burn the photos he took. He started to, but changed his mind as a final act of defiance.  We have him to thank for many of the Auschwitz photos that survived the war.

Five Stars. 

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. 

Dystopian literature is one of my preferred genres.  I had already read Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, a chilling story of an alternate present where human clones are bred to be used for organ donations. That book has never let me go - like all good books, it continues to echo in my mind from time to time.  Klara does not echo in the same way.  It is a deceptively simple story of a solar powered AF (Artificial Friend) who is purchased as the companion of a girl who has been genetically modified to increase her intelligence, and is slowly dying as a result.

Don't be fooled.  This is not a simple story and Klara is far from a simple AF.  Ishiguro provides the exact amount of information at the exact right time.

Five Stars 

Zero Fail, The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service" by Carol Leonnig. The United States' Secret Service is tasked with many duties, the most important of which is the 24 hour day protection of the President and Vice-President of the United States and his/her family.  Carol Leonnig, an investigative journalist with over 20 years experience, wrote a well documented (and scary) book of triumphs and failures taking place mainly from the Kennedy administration to right after the end of the Trump administration.  

You learn a lot about our various Presidents.  It's not always pretty.

Five Stars

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan tells the story of four women competing in a British cooking contest in 1942.  The prize: being a co-host for the BBC's cooking show, The Kitchen Front.  Their task?  Create the best edible recipes with food readily available in the food rationing system.  The contest is fictional but the radio show was real.  I loved the historical details and the strong female characters, which is why I gave it the rating I did.  But I also feel the book fell short in character development and the ending was somewhat unlikely.

Four Stars

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.  This is a retelling of Homer's The Iliad from the point of view of a female character, Briseis, a Trojan queen taken captive and enslaved when the Greeks take her city and sack it.   I don't read much historical fiction but this intrigued me because I have never read The Iliad. 

On the whole, the book was well written. However, the British slang threw me out of the story more than once (minor quibble - certainly the soldiers couldn't speak in Greek for the English audience).  Just yesterday, I found the sequel in the library and took it out.

Four Stars. 

The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan.  I enjoy dystopian literature and (some) zombie literature.  I love a good zombie apocalypse, and looked forward to a good read.  The book disappointed. Stilted writing and one of the weirdest love triangles I've ever run across in dystopian young adult literature ruined the book, although I did finish it.   I won't be seeking out the sequels.

The End of Men by Christa Sweeney-Baird.  This book was written not long before before the COVID-19 pandemic.  So, one could compare and contrast the reactions to the pandemic in the book (a virus that kills only males, and kills most of them) to what happened "in our "2020 and beyond" reality. The book is presented to us as written by an (initially) unknown author some years after the pandemic struck, telling the story of various survivors.

The book also ponders many questions, some of which we will need to answer for ourselves as we move towards our future.

Five Stars.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan 

This started out great, but after about 75 pages, I just couldn't get into it anymore.  A Did Not Finish.

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Similar to She Who Became the Sun, it started out great, and then, it wasn't. However, I feel that I may have failed the book.  I may give it another try in 2022.   Another Did Not Finish, for now.

These are the books I am currently reading.

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (just started the other day).  So far, I'm finding the several interwoven stories interesting.

The Dressmakers of Auschwitz by Lucy Adlington.   The author did not start out intending to write this book, but found the story while doing research on fashion and was fortunate enough to be able to interview the last surviving dressmakers.  What I love is that this is the first comprehensive look I've found of the daily life of women in a concentration camp. It's a slow read - lots of detail. Well worth your time.  This is shaping up as a Five Star read.

The Bird Way - A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, by Jennifer Ackerman. I've read this on and off.  My spouse may read this more than I will.

There's more, but I don't quite remember.

So, do I try to make a New Years's Resolution to read more?  No. I haven't done resolutions in years. But I need to go back to my roots, and start reading more in 2022.

Are you an avid reader?  What were some of your favorite reads? (If you blogged an end of year reading post, please feel welcome to drop a link to it.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Amaryllis #WordlessWednesday

In the fall, I purchased two amaryllis bulbs.  I stagger planted them.  Both of them are growing, each with two flower buds.

One of the plants started to open its blooms and I brought it down to the dining room this afternoon.

Here's a picture.

I have quite a history with amaryllis.  Almost every year I buy one or two bulbs ready for planting.  They bloom.  They go dormant.  I start them up again, and then...nothing.  They grow leaves.  They don't bloom.

Well, one or two times, they've rebloomed.  Here's the story of one of those times. 

I am now trying to restart two bulbs from previous years.  Last year; the one amaryllis I bought (from a clearance rack) never bloomed.  That's one of them.  The other is from two or three years ago which I've never been able to rebloom, either.

I'd love to know the secret to reblooming. 

Amaryllis are the only bulbs I try to bloom indoors.  I have a problem with the scent of paperwhites.  I know there are varieties other than the Ziva that all the stores here seem to sell, but I never remember to order until it's too late.

It's too late. 

But I'll be enjoying my amaryllis.

Joining Sandee at Comedy Plus for #WordlessWednesday.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Day's Not Over Until the Cardinal Feeds

It's been a while since I've blogged about my backyard birds.  Well, no, they aren't "my" birds.  They are Nature's birds.  They are just on loan to us for us to watch and listen to, and their presence enriches my spouse and me.

My spouse, especially, has gotten into birds, spending hours pouring over bird guides.  His knowledge and skills have way outstripped mine, but I don't mind.  His vision is better than mine and he has an eye for detail.

This is our first winter with a bird feeder up, and it's fascinating to see the winter behavior of our local birds.  The birds that summer here to breed are long gone, back in their balmy warm homes.  Now, it's just our hardy locals: black capped chickadees, tufted titmice, white breasted nutnatches, downy and red breasted woodpeckers, and black eyed juncos.  We are hearing black crows and fish crows more and more.

We've seen the change in color in American goldfinches.  Their beautiful summer yellow gold with black and white barred wing feathers are gone, replaced by a sort of olive green brown drab body, but still with the distinctive black and white wing feathers.

Until we really started to look, listen and learn, we never knew we were surrounded by those feathered friends.  How many of us go through life half asleep?  I'm still far from the most observant person, but I'm trying to increase those skills.

Take, for example, the Northern Cardinals.

You can't help but notice these beautiful red birds.  Various cultures have similar beliefs as to what they symbolize.   Many believe that loved ones who have passed on are close when one sees them.

In the summer, they were frequent visitors to our yard.  We had a mated pair, and they would visit the feeder together and feed each other.  Cardinals, in general, mate for life although, like humans, they don't necessarily stay faithful to each other.  Also, unusual to Northern songbirds, both males and females sing.  They will sing to each other, in a type of call and response.

The male cardinal is brilliant red, with a black mask around the red beak.  The female is a pale brown, with streaks of red in the wings, tail, and crest.  It lacks the black mask around the red beak.  

Either is a welcome sight on a drab snowy day.

Once fall came, the female disappeared and the male would only visit as night fell.  This once daytime bird would visit our feeder about 10 minutes after the sun set. By then, on days I work, I had commuted from my upstairs home office and was eager to see something other than my computer screen.   We would watch Mr. Cardinal, through our dining room window, take a final meal of safflower seeds before flying away to wherever it slept. 

We started thinking "the day's not over until the cardinal feeds".

But, on Christmas Eve, he came in broad daylight.  (Yes, I still have my iPhone SE first edition, which doesn't zoom in well.  We had an unexpected large expense, and a new phone is temporarily on hold.  Again. So, sorry for my not great bird photos.)

A few minutes later, he flew off and...the long awaited female appeared.  Every day since, both have shown up during the day and right after sunset.  Although they show up close to each other, they do not feed together.

They come later and later each day, and by that we note that the days are slowly starting to get longer.

Male Cardinal, December 27

The day I was to receive my first jab back in February, we took a walk around the neighborhood, and saw a red cardinal.  It seemed to be telling me everything would be all right.

We aren't there yet, but we have hopes that 2022 will be the year that things start to turn around.

There's such a wonderful world around us, if only we look.

For inspiring me to look, I thank our birds.

They will help carry me through the coming winter.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Another New Year #MusicMovesMe

Guess what?  It's our last Monday of the year, and it's time for music!

Who are the Music Moves Me 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-meaning at least one music video, please!)   First, there is XmasDolly.  Her co-hosts are: Stacy of Stacy Uncorked, Cathy from Curious as a Cathy, and me. 

I want to thank those who have joined us for our weeks of holiday music. We'd love more music lovers to join us.  It's easy! All you have to do is join the linky above with a music post that contains at least one music video (there must be a music video).

Each month, except December, we have a guest conductor. For December, our own Xmas Dolly asks that we feature music of the season.

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a happy one.  Now, we look forward to New Years Eve.  And I do mean look forward - how many of us are hoping that 2022 will be a much better year than either 2020 or 2021?

Let's spend some time with music about New Years Eve or the New Year.  Prepare for some oldies but goodies.

Let's go back to 1942 for my first song.  Let's Start the New Year Right was from the movie "Holiday Inn" - written by Irving Berlin and music by Bing Crosby and his Orchestra.

Happy New Year! by Spike Jones and his City Slickers dates from 1948 and is the "B" side of their more familiar "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth".

I found this song from 1952 called New Year Song, by Nicola Paone and his Gang.  Not sure about the song, but the video was interesting if you like the 1950's.

Let's jump to something more modern:  2000, to be exact.  The Eagles and Funky New Year is more the story of a New Year's hangover than the new year, but let's go with it.

I can not ignore 1983's New Years Day by U2.

There's only one way I can end this post, with Rod Stewart singing Auld Lang Syne.  I posted this last year, too, and it's a fitting way to end a New Years themed post.

That's a 2021 wrap.

See You in 2022!

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Ghosts of Christmas Past and Ebanana Scrooge

Yesterday, Christmas Day, I went on Facebook.  Facebook has a "memories" feature that brings back posts from the same date in previous years. You then have the choice of sharing it (or not) with others.

Back when I started on Facebook, I did a lot more personal posting, so I wasn't surprised when a post from December 25, 2011 presented itself.

Ten years ago yesterday, we went down to visit my mother in law (since deceased), as part of a holiday tradition.   We then drove about 30 miles to a cousin's house, who hosted Christmas every year.  The Facebook post consisted of some pictures of that gathering.  It wasn't that big, which suited me just fine.

Memories.  Ghosts of Christmas past.  The first photo Facebook presented was of two relatives.  Both have since passed on.  In fact, of this small gathering, three of the participants are no longer with us.  It's a fact of life, that nothing is forever, that sometimes you have to build new traditions.

Since then, we have built some new memories and started some new traditions.  One of our newer traditions is something a little strange.

In our area, there is a supermarket chain called Aldi, which is headquartered in Germany.  They have stores in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, China, the Netherlands, and Australia. Last year, celebrating Christmas all by ourselves, we decided to entertain ourselves by finding ads in the English speaking countries.  We concentrated on England, Ireland and Scotland.

What an education!  We discovered the Scottish celebration of the New Year, Hogmanay.  We marveled at all the types of gin available in England.  We drooled over (sorry, vegetarian and vegan readers) turkey crown roast and three fish roast.  

So this year, we did it again.  This time, we learned about Irn-Bru, the "other" national drink of Scotland.  We wondered if haggis tasted good.  We learned more about Boxing Day.  Best of all,  we listened to an Aldi ad takeoff on A Christmas Carol. 

It's fun, seeing how people in other countries live.

We can say, "when this pandemic is over...." but will we?  I've never been overseas, although spouse and I got passports in 2019 because we were finally going to "do it".

Let's hope that 2022 is the year we can finally keep that promise to ourselves.  A country that can produce a video like the one above deserves a good visit.

Perhaps we can start a new tradition.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Christmas Villages and Songs

Merry Christmas to all my blog readers who celebrate!

It's time for a couple of videos.

 Last Christmas by Wham! has become one of those classic Christmas songs.  It was written, produced and sung by George Michael, who, perhaps ironically, died on December 25, 2016.  The song, incidentally, was not intended as a Christmas song (it's more a breakup song) but it has become one.  The video is well worth watching.

For my Jewish readers, let me offer Christmastime for the Jews, originally shown on Saturday Night Live in 2005, has become another classic.  The song is sung by the great (and still performing at age 80) Darlene Love, lead singer of the Blossoms, who was also lead singer in "He's a Rebel" by the Crystals.

Finally, for your viewing pleasure, some Christmas Villages.

These are from Binghamton's Roberson Museum and Science Center's "Home for the Holidays".

No matter what your religion, may your day be merry and bright.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Transition to Winter Skies #SkywatchFriday

It's now winter in this most surprising of years.

As the sun set on the last day of fall, we took a walk by the Susquehanna River.   We didn't have our normally gloomy skies.  It was time for a seasonal transition celebration.

The last sunrise of fall - I missed it again, too busy with getting ready for at home work.  So this was taken too late, but I liked the clouds.

Before I knew it, it was time for the first sunset of winter.

A nice place for a bench.  But I was too uncomfortable to sit and watch.

After I watched the sun disappear and the clouds start to pink up, I was ready for home and a hot drink.

So guess what?  It snowed yesterday (although not much accumulation). It's snowing again right now.  Yes, winter is really here.

Merry Christmas to all my readers who celebrate Christmas.  

Joining Yogi and other skywatchers for #SkywatchFriday.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Festivus vs. Decorated Trees #ThursdayTreeLove

Today is Festivus.

Festivus may be the only holiday created by a TV show, a Seinfeld episode from 1997 called "The Strike".  I don't formally celebrate it, although I used to know a couple of people who do. But this year, for some reason, it doesn't appeal to me.

Festivus is a secular holiday for the "rest of us". Turns out it was based on a "holiday" celebration celebrated by the family of one of Seinfeld's writers, Dan O'Keefe.   It's something that people needing an alternative to Christmas can turn to.   Christmas, for me, has not been the happiest of occasions for a lot of years.  But even years ago, I never bought into the pressure many people put themselves under, and I certainly don't want to start now. 

For those not familiar with Festivus:  Festivus is celebrated every December 23.  As outlined in the Seinfeld episode, it has several rituals.

First is the Festivus pole, always made of aluminum.  It is undecorated, as opposed to a Christmas tree.  But strong.  It should have a "high strength to length ratio".  No tinsel is allowed.

When spouse and I went to the Roberson Museum and Science Center's Home for the Holidays display, there were no Festivus trees.  Not surprising, as no one is interested in an aluminum pole.

Next comes the Festivus dinner.  At the beginning of the dinner is the Airing of Grievances.  "I've got a lot of problems with you people, and now you're going to hear about it!" is how it begins.

Each participant then tells each family member and friend how that person disappointed him/her.  However, if you extended this to other aspects of life...well, again it may just be pandemic burnout, but I could really dump on some aspects of my daily life. The airing of grievances is a welcome change from the constant "be grateful for your life!" refrain you hear every day.  Things wrap up, after a dinner of meatloaf and peas, with "Feats of Strength" where the host of the dinner is pinned to the ground.

But this is where I part company with Festivus.  Maybe in some years we need an airing of grievances and a wrestling match. This year, though, is special.  We need to be kind to one another, because too many of us seem to have abandoned all attempts at civility.

This year, too, we need our decorated trees.  Although these trees (I am assuming) are artificial, I'd like to post them for Parul at Happiness and Food and her Thursday Tree Love.  

These, like others I have posted recently, can be found at Home for the Holidays at the Roberson Museum and Science Center in Binghamton, New York.

So many of our trees at this time of year, where I live in the Southern Tier of New York State, are bare.  So many days are cloudy.  It's snowing today.

Trees decorated by nature are just as pretty, are they not?  Here are a couple of pictures from this morning.

A little hard to see but there are several trees here.  The bare one in front with the red "berries" is a native cherry tree.  There's a mix of evergreen and bare in back.

The trees patiently endure our winter and come back from their sleep in the spring, ready to give us another year of pleasure.  If only we had their patience!

Perhaps we will wake up, one day, and find that the pandemic and the breakdown of so much we hold dear was just a bad dream.  I doubt it, though.

Festivus is for the rest of us.  But maybe not this year.  Instead, let's love and give thanks for our trees.

Joining #ThursdayTreeLove, hosted by Parul at Happiness and Food every second and fourth Thursday.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Upside Down #WordlessWednesday

Doesn't life, sometimes, feel like looking at this Christmas tree?

Roberson Museum and Science Center, December 2021

The other day, a cousin's husband sent me this meme:  "2022 is pronounced 2020-two".  I guess we shouldn't have been too optimistic about 2021 because the year we are in is pronounced 2020-won.

Right now, it sure does feel, at least where I live, that 2020 has won and 2022 may be somewhat of a repeat of 2020.  Let's all hope not!

But I'm not giving up on the Holidays yet.

We can't help but be cheered by the lights and optimism of this season even as we are entering the third year of this pandemic.  One day, things will get better.  

I wanted to wish each of my readers a happy Holiday Season for whatever holiday they have or will be celebrating. Thank you for your readership, your comments, your listening.  Please stay safe.

Joining Sandee at Comedy Plus for her #WordlessWednesdy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Feeling Grinchy?

Every author dreams of writing the book that gives us something timeless.  It could be a character, a catch phrase, or just something that sticks in our collective psyche because it expresses a universal truth.

Charles Dickens did this with his story "A Christmas Carol".  Just think - ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.  A character named Ebenezer Scrooge who is now the definition of a miserly person.  "Bah Humbug!" Tiny Tim. The story is just as relevant today as it was in 1843 and you know the story, whether you think you do or not.

As great as A Christmas Carol is, there is another story that I love.  "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" was written by Theodore Geisel aka Dr. Seuss.  The character first appeared in a poem published in Redbook magazine in 1955.  A book was subsequently published in 1957, illustrated by the author. 

The plot is simple: the green Grinch, a bitter, Christmas hating creature with a heart two sizes too small, decides to ruin the Christmas of the loving Whoville village whose holiday celebrations have bothered him for the previous 53 years. But, partially thanks to the tiny Who called Cindy Lou Who, the Grinch comes to find out what the true spirit of Christmas is.  He ends up joining the Whos for their Christmas feast and there is a happy ending.

In 1966, the story was made into an animated cartoon which I could watch multiple times during the Holidays if I had the opportunity.  I've owned it in VHS and I think I have it "somewhere" in the house in DVD.

For some reason, Grinchy decorations have become part of our celebrations of the season.  Here, at the Roberson Museum and Science Center in Binghamton, new York, I found a tree with both a Grinch decoration (top right) and Cindy Lou Who (bottom center), the heroine (so to speak) of the tale.

 In Punta Gorda, Florida, I found a Grinch wrapped around a palm tree in January, 2020.

And, at Oh Tannenbaum at the Tioga County historical society, there was a Grinchy Christmas wreath displayed this past November.

Finally (not shown) at a holiday lights display at a local park, we even have an inflatable Grinch.

Yes, it's every author's dream.  It's a type of immortality.

What's your favorite holiday character from literature?

Monday, December 20, 2021

Christmas Music of Recent Decades #MusicMovesMe

Hark, it's the last week before Christmas, and it's time for Music Moves Me!

Who are the Music Moves Me 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-meaning at least one music video, please!)   First, there is XmasDolly.  Her co-hosts are: Stacy of Stacy Uncorked, Cathy from Curious as a Cathy, and me. 

I want to thank those who have joined us for our weeks of holiday music.We'd love more music lovers to join us.  It's easy! All you have to do is join the linky above with a music post that contains at least one music video (there must be a music video).

Each month, except December, we have a guest conductor. For December, our own Xmas Dolly asks that we feature music of the season.

Christmas music comes in all musical genres.  It can be religious, it can be songs about Christmas memories, or it can be just plain fun.  Some songs date from hundreds of years ago.  Some are a lot more recent.

For today, I decided to take a song from each decade, from the 1940s to the 1980's.

From the 1940s: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  The original song was in the 1944 movie Meet Me in St. Louis and was sung by Judy Garland.

From the 1950's, 1958 to be exact, Brenda Lee and Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree.

Christmas wouldn't be complete without this 1966 hit by the Royal Guardsman - Snoopy vs. The Red Baron.

1970's?  Let's rock it out with The Kinks and Father Christmas, from 1977.

The 1980's have so many good ones that I am going to end with two Christmas songs from that decade.  The first song, perhaps an unlikely candidate for a popular Christmas song, is The Pogues with Fairytale of New York.  I've had this on my blog before, and all I can say is that this song grows on me.  (Warning: obscenities and inappropriate language). 

I'm going to wrap this up (pun intended) with the 1982 classic from The Waitresses, Christmas Wrapping.  This has all the major music food groups needed for good nutrition and musical happiness - good lyrics, good singing, horns, and a killer bass.

And that, dear readers, is a Christmas style wrap!  Join me again same time, same place, next week.

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you and your family have a merry, wonderful Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Dr. Sam

Too many years ago, my late next door neighbor of many years was walking when he suddenly didn't feel too well.  Up ahead was a doctor's office.  

He went in.

The doctor dropped everything, examined him, and told him the news.

"If I don't do a bypass on you immediately, you will be dead in a few days."

The doctor was a cardiologist.  My neighbor underwent the procedure and lived many more years under the care of Dr. Abdelazim, the doctor he came to know as "Dr. Sam".  He loved to tell the story of how Dr. Sam saved his life.

In turn, when I started having heart palpitations that literally stopped me if I was walking, I came under his care for a time. (My issue ended up being something that normally wasn't serious.)  My spouse also was under his care for a time.  Dr. Abdelazim said to my spouse, "You aren't a race car anymore.  You are a vintage car.  Slow down."

Dr. Sam was..shall we say, a little flamboyant?  He was also a pioneer who brought modern cardiology into our community.  He was definitely one of a kind, and one of the most caring men you could ever know.  Our community was the richer for him having picked our community for where he would practice.

Here is his obituary.  I invite you to read it.  We can all strive to make a difference in others' lives.  Dr. Sam did just that.

Dr. Sam died earlier this week after a long struggle with Alzheimers.

He was not Jewish, but I think the Jewish expression of sympathy fits here:  May his memory be for a blessing.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Blue Christmas 2021

Today would have been my mother in law's 94th birthday.

This throwback is from December 9, 2009, the first time I wrote about "Blue Christmas".  Repeating this post has become a holiday tradition for this blog, because not everyone has a happy holiday season.

We've had several instances of deaths around the holidays in my family.  My father in law died overnight on Christmas, 1998.  In 2015, our family (inlaws) experienced holiday death in the family again when brother in law's mother in law passed away right after Thanksgiving.  In 2018, my mother in law died the day after Thanksgiving.  Two weeks later, a first cousin passed away after a brief hospitalization.  Needless to say, we aren't the only ones sharing in this type of trauma.

But none of us ever dreamed we would spend almost two years in a pandemic.

Now this sorrow is shared by the families of over 800,000 people in the United States. Not only that, but there is the "hidden pandemic" - all the children who have lost one or both primary caregivers due to COVID-19.

The secular Christmas, the Christmas of shopping, spending, decorating, and eating seems to be more intense this year than in a long time.  For those left out, it is more painful than ever.  What my family went through pales in comparison.

My writing has become more polished over the years but I am not going to do any editing.  This voice from the past is speaking to me, and I hope its message will help some of my readers.

Here's the post from 2009.

Tis the Season....for Sadness

Happy Holidays!

No, that's not true.

The holidays are not happy for everyone. 

11 years ago December 25.....  Spouse and I were at my in-laws on Christmas Day.  They live about 150 miles from where we live.  We had a nice day with other family members, and settled down to watch "It's a Wonderful Life"  with my mother in law and father in law.  Then we went to bed.

My father in law never woke up.  He died during the night of a massive heart attack, his third.

Imagine my mother in law, spending the day after Christmas arranging for the funeral of her husband of nearly 50 years.    The decisions that had to be made quickly, oh so quickly.  The little things, like flowers being almost impossible to come by (flowers being a part of their culture's funeral tradition).  Or us having to borrow clothes for the funeral-most people don't visit for Christmas with black clothes in their suitcase!  Those little details, in a sea of all the major details, on a holiday weekend.

The family gathered again but this time for a much sadder occasion.  Many people came to the funeral home, and it was a great comfort.  But then everyone had to go home, including us.

And then the next Christmas rolled around.  It was not easy.  But we survived, and each year it became easier.  My mother in law has established her independence, and enjoys Christmas with family.

It never goes away but it does become easier.  Although, I have never watched "It's a Wonderful Life" again.

Years ago I worked with someone whose husband died from cancer on Thanksgiving.  In my youth I couldn't understand why Thanksgiving was so hard for her.

Now I understand.

"Blue Christmas" is more than an Elvis song.  For those who have experienced loss:  loss of a loved one, loss of a relationship, loss of a job, the holidays can be so hard to survive, even if you are not a Christian.  Wherever you go, you are surrounded by smiling Santa's, by holiday decorations, by endless carols blaring at work, at the supermarket, at the mall, by constant reminders that everyone is happy.  Except you.

But, you are not alone.  And you will get through it, although it may take a long time.

Time is your friend.  It was for me.  I hope it is for you.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Finally a Sunset #SkywatchFriday

The United States, including my area, is experiencing unusual fall weather.  A year ago today, where I live in the Southern Tier of New York had a 44 inch snowfall (111.8 cm).  Meanwhile, yesterday it reached 63 F (17.2 C).  Go figure.

As part of this warm spell, we got to see the sun several times this week.   Mostly clear skies!  Not that common for us.

I missed a lovely sunrise the other day, but I got to see a couple of sunsets.  Let's go down by the Susquehanna River.  We need to hurry!

The sun gets ready to disappear behind a hill.

Just in time for a bit of afterglow.
But wait, the show isn't over yet.

Even after the sun disappears, its last rays linger.
And to all, a good night.

Joining Yogi and other sky watching bloggers for #SkywatchFriday.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

In the Hidden Rooms

Please enjoy some more pictures of my visit to a Home to the Holidays (mostly) Christmas exhibit last week.

The Roberson Museum and Science Center in Binghamton, New York was once a mansion owned by Alonzo Roberson, a lumber magnate, and his wife Margaret.  Some claim the mansion is haunted. It certainly is full of history.

The International Forest I showed you Tuesday is from the main museum.  But now we will go into a different part of the building .

At Christmas time, visitors can enter the mansion portions that are not used for museum exhibits and enjoy some of those decorations.  In fact, we nearly missed this entire part of the exhibit.  It's only by accident (next time, we really should read the brochure you are given when you pay your admission) that we found these hidden rooms.

Shall we enter?

Announcing our entrance to the red rooms.

One of the main fireplaces.  And, to the right, a room with white curtains...
Let's leave the red for a moment.
Back to the red.

Finally, a detail of the walls.

More beauty from this exhibit in the following days.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day December 2021 and Wordless Wednesday

It's the 15th of the month, and time for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  It's also Wordless Wednesday, and I welcome readers of both features to today's post.

Like much of the Northeast, we've had unseasonably mild weather.  Yesterday and Monday it was sunny and near 50.  I think Nature has swapped our weather for someone else's and we are going to pay dearly for this soon. Saturday, our high was 60, although it came with high winds - the remnants of the horrific storms that hit Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Illinois on Friday night.  My heart goes out to all those who suffered loss of homes, injuries, or worse.

Despite all that, it is still December in my zone 5b Southern Tier of New York, and outdoor flowers are almost nonexistent.  

I found a couple of violas blooming in a basket I've kept outdoors.  It's gotten down to 24 F (-4 C) so these, fortunately, are hardy.  I also have buds on my early blooming Lenten Rose, buried under leaves.

Indoors, an amaryllis bulb I purchased already forced is getting ready to bloom.

Some impatiens I took a cutting of from my outdoor garden in late October is potted and blooming. 

I bought this Calandiva (a relative of the kalanchoe) at a nursery open house the end of November.

At the same open house, I bought the Thanksgiving cactus on the right.  The one on the left is from the same nursery but from last year. 

Another of my Thanksgiving cactii. I think I overwatered this one.  It's several years old and is ailing but it gave its all producing this one bloom.  This photo is from last week; I just wanted to show it to you.

Speaking of kalanchoe, my two kalanchoe, after having been on strike the last couple of years, have decided to bloom.  They are still in bud.  These plants are several years old.  I took cuttings this year and replanted in new soil.

I am one of those soft hearted people who can't let plants just die.  These poinsettias are from last Christmas.  I had them outdoors in a large pot, and we brought them in before frost.  They don't seem to be that happy (losing a lot of leaves from the bottom) but they are trying to color up.  You can't see the tiny, tiny flowers trying to corm in the center of the reddish brachts.

And that's just about does it for December.

Thanking Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day each 15th of the month.


Also joining Sandee at Comedy Plus for her #WordlessWednesday

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The International Forest

It's time to spread some joy and beauty of the season to counteract the grim news we've all been hearing recently.

Our community is fortunate to have the Roberson Museum and Science Center.  This is not a large museum but, then again, this is not located in a big city.  Spouse and I go several times a year, as some of the exhibits change.

Treasure what your community offers. 

Our Roberson Museum has a yearly exhibit called Home for the Holidays.  Besides the decorated Christmas trees (I'll be showing you more in other posts) it has an exhibit called The International Forest.  Members of various ethnic groups who live in our area share their customs in each exhibits, with artwork, a decorated tree, and food.

Here are some of the highlights.




I cut off the sign announcing this nationality.  Can one of my readers fill me in?

Finally, there were exhibits from the Jewish community (above) for Hanukkah and one on Kwanzaa. The latter, unfortunately, did not come out.  I've been having a problem with my iPhone camera occasionally blurring the entire picture, and I really need to look into it.

Tomorrow, I will be having a combination Wordless Wednesday/Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post.  I'll blog more about Home for the Holidays sometime in the coming days.

I'd love for you to join me tomorrow for some more beauty, the beauty of Nature.