Friday, November 17, 2017

Mid November Sky #SkywatchFriday

Mid-November, where I live in upstate New York, is a time when skies tend to be dark and gloomy.

But sometimes, the sun sometimes manages to peak out.  Yesterday, it did just that, soon after sunrise.
Minutes later, the sky colored up.
Meanwhile, the day before, birds gathered on a wire, against one of our more typical gloomy skies.

Join Yogi and other bloggers from all over the world for #SkywatchFriday, where you can see pictures of the sky from all over the world.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Talking Turkey with the Talk-Line

First, I have to make one thing clear.  It's not the Butterball Hotline, which I thought it was until yesterday.  It's Butterball's Turkey Talk-Line, and it has been giving turkey cooking advice to people in the United States since 1981.
Our 2015 turkey
Why would Americans need to talk turkey? Because on Thanksgiving, it is traditional to cook a turkey, and - well, there are so many ways to prepare turkeys.

I've wanted to call the Hot..I mean, the Turkey Talk-Line for years, but my spouse, the family cook, has never needed turkey advice.

Comedian Stephen Colbert has made it a Thanksgiving tradition to call the Turkey Talk-Line with prank questions for years.  But here, he turns the tables and take a phone call.

By the way, don't take his advice.

Tuesday, someone I know was concerned because she had purchased a 28 pound (12.7 kg) frozen turkey for Thanksgiving (November 23 this year, in the United States) and had tried online research to figure out how long to cook it.  She had never cooked that big a turkey before.

Why don't we call Butterball? I asked.  "OK, but you start the conversation" was her response.  And so I dialed 1-800-BUTTERBALL.  The phone was answered quickly by a woman.

Upon hearing of the 28 pound turkey, the woman exclaimed, "oh, you will have such a beautiful turkey when it is cooked.  It will be golden brown; it will look like something in a Norman Rockwell painting!  It will look wonderful on your table."  Obviously, she sensed our hesitation.  But she was totally prepared with advice.

She took us through the process.  "You need to take the turkey now, today, and put it in your refrigerator.  It will take that long to safely defrost." Then she explained how to pat the turkey dry, take out the giblets (these turkeys are prepped and almost ready to go).  She gave us the oven temperature (325 degrees F), the fact that after a couple of hours we were to tent the turkey with aluminum foil, and the total approximate coking time (4 1/2 hours) for the unstuffed turkey.  And, she recommended we use a meat thermometer and what temperature the breast, or the leg, should be before you consider the bird "done".

She talked with us as if she had all the time in the world (maybe, a week away from Turkey Day, she did have a lot of time. But, on Turkey Day, her and her co workers will field about 10,000 phone calls). And again, she told us how beautiful that turkey was going to look on the table. After our questions were answered, she asked for only one thing - what was our zip code (postal code)?

We answered, and she said "Binghamton, New York.  Oh, I grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania!" (that's about an hour south of us).  She closed by asking if we had any more questions (we didn't).

And so ended our conversation with the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line.

It did make me wonder who works for the Talk-Line, and if they enjoy talking turkey all day long.
So, an article about their experiences is quite fascinating, too, especially, when you get to the part about the 89 year old man cooking his first turkey.  It sounds like such a fun place to work, if you are a people person.

Have you ever used the Turkey Talk-Line?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - November 2017

This Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for November may well be the most amazing one in my years of participating in this every 15th of the month meme.

In my upstate New York zone 5b garden, our first frost came only a week ago.

Now, I don't have too much left outside.  Right after the first frost came the first snow and the first freeze and the first temperatures dipping down to the teens.  These flowers, such as this pansy, are all in hanging baskets I took in during the worst of the weather.  And now, the shorter days and my work schedule forced me to take pictures in the dark.
A geranium that was a Mother's Day gift from my son.

And, inside, my house, several of my Thanksgiving cacti are blooming.  I just couldn't get this picture right.
Here's a picture my "guest photographer" took of the snow squall on Thursday.
And, on October 28, I took this farewell photo of some of my outdoor begonias.

Thank you, Carol at May Dreams Gardens, for hosting this monthly meme.

Want to see what is blooming all over the world?  Visit the May Dreams Gardens blog and click on the various participants.

What is blooming in your part of the world?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mr. Softee #FlavoursomeTuesdays

A summer evening in Brooklyn.  I am visiting a childhood friend.  We've known each other for 50 years.  You can't get more nostalgic than that.

A familiar bell rings in the distance.
It's the Mr. Softee truck!

Mr. Softee was one of the staples of growing up in New York City, along with the Good Humor man.   But I hadn't had a Mr. Softee in - oh, 50 years?

I didn't even know they existed any more.

I had to have a Mr. Softee.  My friend's husband bought me my favorite, a soft vanilla cone. No sprinkles, no gunk, just pure vanilla pleasure.

I need to explain that Mr. Softee is a brand of something we call soft ice cream, or, sometimes, "custard".  I'm not sure how popular it is outside the United States, but, even today, it is popular where I live in upstate New York.  The soft ice cream is normally eaten on a cone, sometimes with sprinkles, or fudge topping (which freezes into a hard shell).  The favorite flavors are vanilla and chocolate, but, more recently, exotic flavors have joined the ranks.  And, for those lactose intolerant (as one of my childhood friends is), there are even milk-free varieties.

In the summertime (and this is still true today) ice cream trucks cruise residential neighborhoods, bells ringing, and stop every couple of blocks so the neighborhood children, clutching their money, can buy some spur-of-the-moment ice cream.

What happens when you try to relive your childhood memories?  Memories of food - taste, texture, and events surrounding the food are some of my strongest childhood memories.

So, I decided to go on You Tube, and, to my delight, I found I wasn't the only one who remembered Mr. Softee.  But, good news - they still exist.

This video shows the soft ice cream being served, and shows a vintage ice cream tune music box.

Sometimes, though, other things happens when you try to relive your childhood.  Like when I ate that ice cream cone above.

I had already eaten dinner, and I ended up with a stomach ache.

Why am I reliving childhood food memories?

Several weeks ago, I was invited by an Indian blogger, who goes by the name of Bellybytes, to participate in a weekly meme called "FlavoursomeTuesdays".  I promised her I would participate, and then life happened - more than once.

But I am finally posting today, and keeping the English spelling of (what we spell as "flavorsome") flavoursome, to keep the flavor.  So, if you have a food memory to share, why don't you participate, along with Bellybytes and Shilpa and me on #FlavoursomeTuesdays with "your droolworthy memories of food."

Tomorrow - Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Monday, November 13, 2017

Music Moves Me - One Hit Wonders of High School

Today, on Music Moves Me, the every Monday music blog hop I participate in, the theme is "one hit wonders of when you were in high school."

I am fascinated by one hit wonders. You sometimes just have to wonder - why didn't they make it with additional hits?  The songs can be so promising.

For me, my high school years were 1967-1970 (my high school started in 9th grade). 

1967 brought us a novelty song by "Whistling Jack Smith" called "I was Kaiser Bill's Batman".  The real name of Whistling Jack Smith was John O'Neill, and, sadly, he passed away in 1999.

1968 was so hard because there were so many wonderful one-hit wonders that year. I will not subject you to MacArthur Park by Richard Harris, as much as I would like to because I know so many people detest that (I'm a bit partial to the Donna Summer cover myself).  Instead, I feature a great talent, Mason Williams, whose hit of 1968, Classical Gas, nearly made my instrumental post of last week.

For 1969, I picked a favorite of my spouse's - Hot Smoke and Sassafras by the Bubble Puppy.  I rocked so hard to this song, I almost bounced the laptop right off my lap.

Finally, for 1970, I picked a song that technically I should not have picked, because it was a hit after I graduated high school in 1970, but I love this song so much, I made an exception.  Miguel Rios sings "A Song of Joy". (Note, some images at the beginning may be disturbing).  This song was more popular in Europe than in the United States, where it peaked at #14.

What one hit wonders of your high school years are your favorites?

Join this #MusicMovesMe blog hop every Monday - here are the people responsible for it:
X mas Dolly is the Conductor of this trip, and the other Conductors are her fellow bloggers Callie of JAmerican Spice, ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥  and Cathy from Curious as a Cathy.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Rest of the Story

I first blogged about this in 2013, and decided to see what had ended up happening.  It is a fascinating story with a twist at the end that couldn't have been foreseen when I first blogged about this in 2013.

To every city comes its 15 minutes (or more) of fame.  We here in Binghamton, New York may be about to get ours.

Back in 2013, someone I know was sent a DVD by her daughter.  It was a DVD of a documentary movie called "The Queen of Versailles".  It co-starred a woman by the name of Jackie Siegel.  Married to a timeshare billionaire, David Siegel, this documentary started out with the purpose of filming the building of what was intended to be the largest house in the United States - their house - in Florida.  It was to have been modeled after the Palace at Versailles.

Quoting from the Internet Movie Database:

"Rather than going the been-there-done-that route of a rags to riches story, director Lauren Greenfield accidentally (yet exquisitely) delivers a riches to rags tale with the intimate glimpse into the wealthy lives of David and Jackie Siegel. As the president and CEO of the largest timeshare corporation in the country, David is the epitome of the American dream...While the film's initial purpose was to document the development of their 90,000 sq. ft. home (the third largest in the United States), once the financial crisis of 2008 impacted banks globally, David soon finds his entire empire in jeopardy."

In fact, things went so sour that David Siegel decided to sue the filmmaker.  He eventually lost.

Back in 2013, the house was on the market.  It was on sale for a mere $65,000,000.  After all, it has 13 bedrooms and 26 bathrooms. (All full bathrooms have jacuzzis).  Let's not forget the rock grotto with the 3 spas, the indoor roller rink or the "family wing" for the Siegels' eight * children. 

So, what did this have to do with Binghamton, a city of about 47,000. in upstate New York?

Jackie Siegel is a native of Binghamton.  This 47 year old woman grew up in the middle class, still has childhood friends here, and graduated from RIT (the Rochester Institute of Technology), which one of my cousins went to. 

In interviews, people who knew Jackie as a young adult remarked on her beauty.  As far as whether that beauty is only skin deep you, my readers, will have to determine for yourself.

So what ended up happening?

The house, finally, may well be completed, thanks to a reality TV show.

*But, since I wrote the original blog post in 2012, tragedy struck the Siegel family, as their 18 year old daughter (their oldest), who suffered from anxiety, died in 2015 from an overdose of prescription medication.

The "lifestyles of the rich and famous" have rarely interested me, but, they are only one of millions of families in the United States who have had to struggle with addiction to prescription drugs.  Being rich and famous (or infamous) does not spare you.  It does, perhaps, enable you to do things many of us can not due, such as setting up a foundation.

So the house is no longer the full story, although you can see some of it in this video with the "queen" herself.

So this tragedy? It could have happened to any one of us. 

And that, folks, is reality.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The 11th Hour of the 11th Day

The 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, we pause to commemorate (what we call in the United States) Veterans Day.  My father was a World War II veteran (non combat) as was my father in law, but many others have paid the ultimate price to defend their countries.

Sometimes, that price isn't death, but something the veteran lives with for the rest of his/her life.

Monuments are nice, but they don't tell the whole story of the suffering of those men and women.

Many years ago, when we were a lot younger and my spouse was serving in the military, we befriended a younger single man.  At the time we were stationed in Kansas.  This young man had grown up in Missouri.  One day he invited us to his parents' home in rural Missouri.

I got the feeling this invitation was quite a leap of faith for him.  That
he didn't do this kind of thing very often.    We accepted the invitation and spent a weekend with his family.

His father was a Korean War veteran.  It was a Saturday night and,we were warned, the father was going to overindulge in alcohol.  And so he did.

It was obvious that this inebriated older man was reliving his experience in war.  He was in the middle of a battle.  He shouted out commands.  He fought demons only he could see.  Finally, he was carried to bed.

Our friend's mother explained this happened every weekend.  Long ago, the father was young and in battle.  His commanding officer was killed.  The Dad received a battlefield promotion and he was suddenly in charge.   It did something to him, hurt him in a way he was never able to recover from.  Every Saturday night he would seek solace in the bottle. Although he relived the battle and was obviously suffering, in the morning he would remember nothing.

I have never been in war.  I know people who have.  I know people who were civilian casualties of war, too.  But this Korean War veteran has stuck in my mind over many years.  We never received another invitation.  We drifted apart when our friend, sadly, became more interested in drugs than in our friendship.  In his own way he fought demons too.
War claims many victims and I wish we treated our veterans with the respect they deserve.  Not just lip service.  It's improving over the years but we have a long way to go.  It isn't just about free breakfasts and discounts on mattress sales.

I wish I could tell our friend today we were not ashamed of what we saw.  I wasn't mature enough then to understand.  Now maybe (maybe) I am.  My friend's father passed away in 2015. I hope that he has found peace at last.