Thursday, December 31, 2015


I lied to you, my dear readers.  Instead of using an already published post as the basis for my last post of 2015, I am creating a brand new post, which I wrote last night.

West side of Binghamton, New York
It's time to sparkle.

I am blowing off the dust from my blog, which hasn't been refreshed in a while.  I updated my blogging template, as my regular readers (thank you for coming!) will note.

I joined a blogging challenge for the first time in several months.  I read several older posts for inspiration.  I went to a sparkling wine tasting, and tasted, for the first time, Dom Perignon, Cristal, and even the Pol Roger Champagne served at William and Kate's wedding reception.


DETERMINATION will be my word for 2016.  (My word for 2015 - DIFFERENT - well, 2015 was different, all right).  I'm being more careful with my word for 2016.  I am:

DETERMINED that I will attain certain goals, which I will not reveal to my blog readers.  (Why?  It is said you are more likely to succeed if you don't announce them.)

DETERMINED that the essential "me" will not be swallowed up by the need to help with the needs of my elderly mother in law and my developmentally disabled brother in law.

DETERMINED that I will grow my writing, and my photography, no matter what my personal challenges are this year.  Even if it only grows a little, it will be a victory.   Even if, at some point, I decide to no longer blog daily, the fact that I have for nearly five years is a victory.

This past year, I learned once again just how precious life can be. The 39 year old son of someone I went to high school with died in a freak accident, leaving a young child and a pregnant wife.  My best friend from childhood died from cancer. A former co worker is gravely ill as I write this, and probably will not survive her illness. It would be a terrible thing to waste the opportunities I have been given.

Of course, it could be just the Champagne talking, but I don't think so.  I was buoyed by a couple of recent comments on my blog, one by a reader who said she would miss me if I stopped blogging, and another one who extended an invitation. (That second person has no idea how introverted I am in real life but...hey, one can grow in ways other than blogging, too.).

I know I have something of value to share with the world.  I am determined to make a difference, small or large.

So....please join me tomorrow as I start a new year of blogging, and a year of determination.

Will you be choosing a word for the coming year?  If you are, come link with Laurel at Alphabet Salad

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Winter Wonders -The Still Unsolved Christmas Day Photo Mystery

The Still Unsolved Mystery of the Historic Wartime Photo

I originally published this post in May of 2011, and repeated it in August of 2014.  I have never had this mystery solved, so I am republishing this post in hopes that someone will read this, and know something about this photo.

The Mystery Wartime Photo

On my almost daily walks through downtown Binghamton, I frequently pass a number of historic buildings, among them the Security Mutual building.

Several weeks ago, scaffolding appeared around the building.  Some window work is being done. Two or three weeks ago some banners appeared, strung between the supports of the scaffolding.  One of them features a photo it says was taken of employees, right outside the front entrance, on Christmas Day 1943.

It's hard to see the photo (I had to stand in the street to take this and I tried to get the entire banner into the shot) but the photo contains mainly women.  There are only a few men, and they are old.  This tracks with the fact that this photo was taken during World War II.  The young men were fighting overseas.

How many Security Mutual employees went off to war?  Did they all return safely?  I don't know.

Were all of these women working there before the war?  Or did some take the place of the soldier employees, to disappear into the home again after the fighting was over?

Then, I had still another question.  Right now I have no answer to this question, either.

What were they doing there on Christmas Day, 1943, instead of being with their families back at home?

Did Security Mutual ask them to come in for a company sponsored Christmas dinner?  Or, because of the war effort, did they have to work?

Why the photo, to begin with?  Was it sent to soldiers overseas?  Was it done to boost morale?

I would love to know the story behind this photo.  Do you know?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Why Would I Want to Do That?

Although I'm usually not a fan of looking back, there is one time of year I like to do that - right before New Year's Eve.  Like so many of us, I like to review the year right before it ends.  But don't worry, I am not going to bore you with a bunch of statistics and memories.


"I am thinking about discontinuing my blog", I announced to my spouse as we were exercise walking.  Incidentally, he rarely goes online, so (as far as I know) he doesn't even read it.

He looked at me.

"Why would you want to do that?", he asked.

My spouse is a simple man.   If you enjoy something, you do it, and that's it.   He loves to cook.  He will spend hours in the kitchen if given the chance.  If I like blogging, he reasons, why would I want to stop?

Lately, he's had fewer chances to do what he loves.  He doesn't want to give up what he loves, and he doesn't think I should, either.

I know I must get on my spouse's nerves sometimes.  We take a walk and I am there with my camera "taking a picture for my blog".  I fill up my camera and he waits patiently for me to delete photos so I can take some more snapshots.  We get irritated at each other sometimes, too.  But, after 41 years of marriage, he's gotten good at putting up with me.

At the beginning of the year, I chose a word to represent 2015: "Different". 

Well, yes, 2015 was different.  His 2015 was, too.  It featured his elderly mother developing a condition requiring surgery.  The surgery took a lot out of her (she's in her late 80's and you don't heal quickly at that age.)  She ended up with two hospitalizations (including the surgery) and weeks in rehab.  We ended up having to downsize her and move her some 150 miles to be closer to us and another relative in the area.

My spouse is also guardian for his developmentally disabled brother, a saga in itself.

So, about my blog, why would I want to do that?.

I've been blogging since 2009.  I started to blog because I loved to write when I was younger, but gave it up.  Blogging has allowed me to write daily and pursue my love of taking snapsnots.  I think I have come to the end of the original goal of this blog, however.  I think I've done all I can to improve and practice my writing with just plain blogging.  If I am serious about developing writing skills, blogging will not be enough.

If I want to learn more about photography, I am going to have to take a course or two.

For writing, I am not sure what the next step is.

So, I ask myself, am I serious about giving up my blog? 

Several months ago, I joined a blogging group for bloggers in mid life.  Some of the members are professional bloggers and/or writers (HuffPost, published writers) and the difference between their writing and mine is immense. Some of that may be innate talent but I think more of it is good, hard, work, and the willingness to let others critique your work so your writing can improve.  I have always been scared to take that first step into the hard, cruel world of people looking at your work and stripping away your soul.  But, without that, I can't grow as a writer.

I have never been good at setting goals, either.  With 2016, I will (no "think", just "do") set goals for my blog, for the very first time.  I need to walk the tightrope between personal obligations, professional obligations, and my blog.

And, in between all that, maybe even complete an afghan that was supposed to be my son's Christmas gift in 2013.

So, I will be thinking, planning, and deciding what I want to do next with this blog, my writing, and my photography.  And no, I don't plan to give any of them, although I may have to cut back a little.

With that, I want to thank my loyal readers - your comments help inspire me, and help keep my spirits up.  I don't comment back as I should, but I do read, and appreciate, all of your comments.  I won't change anything, not right away, but change is part of life.

The next two days will be "Throwback" posts - I hope you will enjoy them.

May all of us have a happy, healthy, productive 2016.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Music Monday - Christmas Bells and a New York New Years Eve

Christmas and New Years, just a week apart. 
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is more than just a Bing Crosby classic.

This song was based on a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, written on Christmas Day in 1863.  

Longfellow had lost his wife in a tragic fire two years before.  His son then went off to fight in the Civil War, and was injured (he recovered).  This is the poem Longfellow wrote, in the midst of his grief.

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
In 1872 the poem was put to music.  Even today, its lyrics remain powerful and timely.
 "For hate is strong, and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men!"

Now, for a memory of my early childhood.

In just four days, we say goodbye to 2015.  When growing up, there was only one band to listen to on New Year's Eve-Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.  There was only one way to mark the end of the year - the dropping of the ball from the Times Tower in New York City, narrated by Ben Grauer. (I could devote an entire blog post to him.)

This is part of the New Year's Broadcast in New York City, New Year's Eve 1957.   The quality is terrible (it is a kinescope), but it gave me chills.  I may have been allowed to stay up late to see this very broadcast.  "May you have a happy and prosperous 1958"!

Do you remember Guy Lombardo? He's been dead for many years but a New Years custom he originated still lives on.

In the United States, we still ring in the New Year using a music show.  And, a ball comes down the same building once known as the Times Tower (now known as One Times Square), which opened New Years Eve 1904 with a fireworks display.

How will you celebrate the New Year?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Flowers of December

I should be saving this for my Winter Wonders Wednesday feature, but Wednesday may be too late.  Monday night into Tuesday we are supposed to have our first storm of the season, and these flowers may be gone.


Outdoor flowers.

In upstate New York.

Imagine that.

My spouse and I took a walk and a drive yesterday and this is what we found. 

An aster, in front of an old factory building scheduled for demolition next year.

A viburnum, at Cutler Botanical Gardens in Binghamton, New York.  The white flower didn't want to come into focus, but it's there in the middle.
This is a normally spring blooming Lenten Rose in my back yard.  The ants are loving it.  I don't know if the ants are responsible for all the holes in the flowers.

The crocuses in my yard are up (not flowers, but the foliage), and our daylilies have resprouted.  Ours aren't the only daylilies resprouting - this is at Cutler Botanical Gardens.

And finally, a blurry mystery - a plant with buds, and small white flowers.  My iPhone 4S just wouldn't cooperate, but I suspect this is a different variety of viburnum.

I don't know whether to be overjoyed, or frightened.  Meanwhile, other parts of the United States are paying for our mild weather -the ultimate price - tornadoes, floods, and death. 

What will happen next?

And here I am, chronicling it on my blog.

What has your weather been like?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Local Saturday - Historic Caroling

A holiday tradition in downtown Binghamton, New York now in its 21st year - caroling in the lobby of the historic Security Mutual building in Binghamton, New York.
Taken December 23, 2015
The Security Mutual building, one of the treasures of our part of upstate New York, was built in 1904.  Normally, it isn't open to the public unless you have business there, except for this one time a year.  Right before Christmas, at noon, employees and area musicians sing Christmas music to the public.

Carolers line up on the twin staircases in the beautiful marble lobby.
The beautiful decorations and the matching marble staircase on the right.

I took two clips of the caroling - it is hard to hear the music in the crowded lobby.  This first carol, I am told, is several centuries old but has recently become popular again.
This longer clip is a flute solo of "What Child is This".

A professional video  features part of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer".

This beautiful building is a historic treasure in our downtown.

Do you have a public singing event like this where you live?

Friday, December 25, 2015

An Owego Christmas

Today, in the Christian world, it is Christmas, the day celebrated as the birth day of Jesus Christ.
Christians go to Mass at their church of choice, decorate their houses, gather with their families for exchanges of presents, and feast.

Here are some Christmas pictures, for your enjoyment. 

These pictures were  taken at an event called O Tannenbaum held every November-December in the small town of Owego, New York.

Christmas trees are decorated, and put up for auction.

The event started before the Paris attacks, but I visited right after - and admired this tree that paid tribute to Paris.
Curious George.
An ode to the 50's.

Finally, a Victorian tree.

To my Christian readers, have a most Merry Christmas. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Manicotti and New Beginnings

We never thought it would end this way.

But we also have hope for a new beginning.

Last week, I blogged about my in law's traditional family Christmas.  We would all travel downstate, some 190 miles (305 km) to a city near New York City, and visit my mother in law's in laws.    Not too many of them are left - my spouse's aunt who will be 104 early next week, the son she lives with, and another of my spouse's cousins who lives in the same neighborhood.

We can't come this year.  My mother in law, in her late 80's and home bound, can't travel far.  The 103 year old aunt, can't, either.  She is basically home bound, too.

The "other relative" has hosted the dinner for years.  Even during her two bouts with breast cancer, she insisted on hosting.  She made her specialty.  She told me she timed it around her bouts of tiredness and other side effects of the medication she was taking.


"I am not an accomplished cook." she told me once.  "But all you need to do is learn to make one dish, and make it well.  Make it better than anyone".  And so, she developed her specialty.

Manicotti.  The kind of manicotti that is pronounced "mon-i-gaut" (accent on the final syllable). Perish the thought anyone in that family would ever pronounce it "man-i-cotti".

I hate the lighting in my house sometimes - gives everything a yellowish cast.
No, manicotti is not the stuff served in pasta tubes in some clueless Italian restaurants (and you know which ones they are).  No.  Monicottis start with light as air crepes, each painstakingly cooked by hand, spread out.  Then they are filled with a pillowy mixture of ricotta, mozzarella, eggs, parsley, and love. Covered in homemade tomato sauce simmered with meatballs and Italian sausage, they are a dish worthy of Christmas dinner.

The thought of missing her manicotti hurt us almost as much as the fact that we would not see their maker or the other family.

So I begged my spouse to call, and get the recipe from her.

I didn't know if she would reveal the recipe. But she likes us.  After some hesitation, she gave the recipe to us  She emailed it to us.  But first, she cautioned that my spouse (the family cook) really had no business making it.  Perhaps she would come up and visit us, one day next year.

And no, we can't reveal it.  But we can show the result.

My spouse promised he would not embarrass the family.
He cooked the crepes.
He mixed the ricotta filling.

He assembled the manicotti.

Tomorrow, surrounded by our small family up here (me, my spouse, my son, my mother in law and a brother in law) we will eat this product of love.

Yes.  It will be a new beginning.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Winter Wonders - Melted Santas and Chill Hours

Everything is so confusing, in this strange first week of winter in the eastern United States.

Lawns across our area of upstate New York are normally either buried under snow, or temporarily showing their brown, dormant, color.

We should be having snow squalls like this. And actually, on Saturday, we did.  I took this picture about 12:30 pm Saturday, when I was out shopping.
But now this is our forecast for tomorrow (that's 20 C). 

The five day forecast.  The one concern here is all the rain - which, normally, would have been snow, because with trees dormant, the ground can't soak up rain the way it usually can.

But no snow for us, except perhaps for Monday.

Instead, we have a new phenomenon - melted Santas.  On green lawns.  Some of which have been recently mowed.

Meanwhile, one of my spring blooming Lenten Roses has flower buds.  Taken in the dark, I hope to see a better show, in the light, on Christmas Day.

This isn't all good, though, as much as snow and ice hating me is loving it.  After the last two harsh winters, I think to myself, we deserve this.

Not so fast.  "Be careful what you wish for", a small voice in my head tells me.

My spouse said to me, while driving the other night, "what if it NEVER gets really cold this winter?"  He's right.  The thought gives me...excuse the expression...chills.

We grow a nice apple crop in this area.  Apple trees need chilling.

Our area maple syrup crop will fail without the right combination of warmth and coldness in the early spring.

There is a concept known as "chill hours".  It has nothing to do with chillin' around the grill.

Rather, chill hours refers to the need of many plants grown in the North to go dormant for a certain amount of time.  Not only that, but if there is a sudden late frost, the plants will get confused at best, and not be able to adapt at worst.  Apples need just about the most chill hours of any plant, although there are low chill apple varieties.

We need snow cover, too.

In other words, plants where I live in the Southern Tier of upstate New York need winter.

Maybe, in a way, people do, too.  Many have just not been able to get into the holiday spirit.  Our internal calendars are dazed and confused.  We don't know what time it is.

In a way, we northerners need chill hours, too.

I hate to admit it.

But for now, I am enjoying the unseasonable weather, and lack of ice and snow.

Just don't melt our Santas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Dolls of Tragedy

The dolls look so innocent, in their display case.
And the dollhouse with its rooms decorated in the fashions of time past seem so fascinating.
You look at the detail and smile at the girl in her room.
But then you look a little closer and the smile disappears. 

Look especially at the girl on the left, who has something on her coat right under the color.

It's hard to see, but if you know anything about the Holocaust, you know what it is.

It's a yellow Star of David, with the word "Jude" (German for Jew) written across it.  All Jews six and older in Germany and almost all other territories later occupied by the Nazis had to wear this badge, or a variation (including the word "Jew" in the language of the occupied country. 

A religious group, singled out, and made to dress in ways that immediately identified them to their persecutors.  The persecutions started out small.  Eventually, it grew into a horror that could not have been imagined by the citizens of our world.  A horror that is even denied by various people today.

But the tragedy doesn't end there.

These dolls, and the dollhouse, were owned by a woman, Bobbie King, a mother of 10, and the member of the congregation that runs Hanukkah House, a museum open every December in the city of Binghamton, New York.

Bobbie King, a woman who taught English to immigrants as one of her post-retirement careers, died on April 3, 2009, along with 13 of her students, gunned down in cold blood by a former student of the organization where she taught.  She was the oldest of the 13 victims.

Her doll collection was well known in the community.  She would sometimes give dolls to the children of the community.  Small portions of her collection are now displayed in the Hanukkah House museum thanks to the generosity of her family.

Bobbie King knew well that we must remember the lessons of history.  There are many lessons in the life and death of Bobbie King, and the others who died at the American Civic Association on April 3, 2009.

It's obvious we have not learned those lessons.  Will we ever?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Music Monday - Christmas Songs Written by Jews

Happy first day of winter (or summer, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere), to you.

Tioga County, NY Historical Society "O Tannenbaum 2015"

This has become one of my favorite seasonal blog posts, which I update a little each year.

Why do Christians in the United States dream of a White Christmas?  Why is it so important that snow is on the ground?

Why does White Christmas have its own official website?

It could be because White Christmas (the song, as sung by Bing Crosby) is the best selling single of all time.

It may surprise you that White Christmas was written by a Jewish song writer.

It may also surprise you that Jews are responsible for many other beloved Christmas songs.

My quest to find out more started in 2010, reading a NY Times Op Ed.  There are a number of these songs, and other bloggers and writers have done the research for me:  I thank them, including the wonderful people at Mental Floss and this article. (a must read, based on extensive research).

Some may argue that these are NOT Christmas songs, but rather songs about what I would now call the "secular Christmas". True, these are not hymns.  But it is true that the American celebration of Christmas incorporates many aspects of non-religious symbolism - this ground has been covered by other writers.

I consider them Christmas songs.  I think, in particular, few would argue that "I'll be Home for Christmas" isn't one of the most heartfelt Christmas songs every written.

(Note, I have not done any of this research myself.  I am not a musician or a music expert, just someone who likes to listen to well written music.  So if I end up spreading wrong information, I apologize.  I did try more than one source, but - as you well know- you can't trust everything you read on the Internet.)

1.  White ChristmasIrving Berlin lived to 101, married a Catholic woman back when that type of intermarriage was extremely scandalous (to both families) and defined Christmas for entire generations of American Christians.  (Incidentally, he also wrote "Easter Parade" and "God Bless America".) The next time you wonder if you will be having a white Christmas, and if you can't figure out exactly why that should be so important, well....blame Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin.

2.  Silver Bells:  this one is another movie song, and talks about the bells of the Salvation Army "in the city". (I always assume it is New York City.)  Another Bing Crosby classic.

 3.  Winter Wonderland: the author of this song was a Jewish man from Brooklyn.  The air must have been a lot less polluted in those days.   When I grew up in the New York City of the 1950's, a snowy day was more like a Black Crusted Snow Wasteland.

4.  The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire):  The Nat King Cole version is one of my favorite songs, ever.  This brings back so many memories of the holiday season in the late 60's in midtown Manhattan and the vendors who would sell roasted chestnuts.  The fragrance carried for blocks.  For this song, we thank the Jewish songwriter Mel Torme.

Here's a version sung by Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.

Jack Frost would certainly nip at your nose in NYC.  The climate there is so damp, it feels way colder than it really is.

5.  Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow:  the duo, both Jewish, who wrote that song, also wrote "The Christmas Waltz".

6.  I'll be Home for Christmas.  As an almost-history major in college, this song makes me think of my aunts and uncles who served during World War II.  For this, I chose a version sung by Frank Sinatra.

And last but not least, something I picked up in my research:  remember Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  It would seem that Johnny Marks, the author of that song (and also "Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree" and "A Holly Jolly Christmas")  was Jewish.

Here is another list for your enjoyment.

Think of the themes of these songs:  Missing your home.  Childhood nostalgia.  Enjoying a season of lights and happiness. The different child (or reindeer), scorned by others, who becomes the best of all.  These are universal themes, and this is why these songs, I think, are so appealing, no matter who wrote them.

This leads me to another question:  why aren't there a bunch of popular, best selling Hanukkah songs if Jews are so good at writing Christmas songs? Well, there are reasons for that, too.

Perhaps I should blog about that next year, instead.

Do you enjoy any particular holiday songs of the December season?  Which is your favorite?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Days of Their Lives

People come into your life.  People pass out of your life.

Sometimes, you find out how the story ends.  Sometimes you are left wondering.  Sometimes you find out.  Sometimes, I don't know what is worse.

Yesterday, I read a story about a teacher and a student, a true story that made me, so much, want to know how the story of this young man's childhood ended.  Did the young man grow up and find stability in his life?  Was he a wonderful husband or father? Or, did he go down a wrong, bad path?

I am 63 now.  Many people have entered and exited my life in many ways.  We grew apart.  We moved apart. We changed jobs.  Some of us...well, entered the ultimate separation.

I have a little story of my own to share today.

When I was a young adult, I lived, with my spouse, in several places. A couple of the moves were due to my spouse being in the military.

In one of those places, I met her.

She worked at the company where I found one of my first full time jobs.  In fact, she trained me into a profession I followed for most of the next 20 years.  She was not always a pleasant person - in fact, at times, I found her to be rather arrogant.  Of course, I was a bit rough around the edges when I was in my 20's, too.  But she did a good job of training me, and for that I am grateful.  She gave me a career, whether she knew it or not.

Her name was a little bit unusual (for names I had heard up to then), and I remembered it, too.  I remembered her husband's name.  We worked in a small office, and many of the husbands had that same first name. 

At the time, she was childless.  But, one day, that changed.

She worked all through her pregnancy.  She gave birth to a boy, and I loved the name she gave him. 
Once she came back to work, though, it was clear she didn't want to be there.  Her heart's desire was to be with her baby boy, and, eventually, she quit her job to stay home full time.

Then, my spouse and I left the area.  We have never returned.

Recently, an impulse caused me to look her up.  I get those impulses from time to time - wanting to know the rest of the stories of the people of my youth.  From time to time, a person enters my mind, and I am driven to find out the days of their lives.  Enough times, I find that the people I want to find never left the community where I knew them. Facebook sometimes aids me.

In this case, it didn't take long.

I found her.  She was mentioned in an obituary.  No, it isn't what you think. It wasn't her obituary.

It was her granddaughter's, who died last year.  A two year old granddaughter, her first, the daughter of the son she had quit work for to raise.

Several days later, I found my former co worker on Facebook.  Her profile was public, and I gazed upon her face for the first time in 35 years.  I wouldn't have recognized this middle aged woman, and who knows if she would have recognized me.  I saw her young baby boy from 35 years ago and what he looked like as a man in his 30's.

There weren't too many photos on her timeline, but most all the photos were of her small granddaughter.  It was obvious she was born medically fragile and had eventually succumbed.  Tubes.  A puffed up face.

A family full of love.

I found her husband's obituary, too.  He had died two years years before their granddaughter was born.

I gazed at the computer screen, wistful.

Sometimes, we just don't know the directions our lives will take.  Perhaps, that is why we aren't given any peeks into the future. 

Perhaps the moral of these stories is that I should not spend too much time in the past.  There is a saying - the rear view mirror is small.  The windshield is large.  That teaches us we must look ahead.

Not behind.

So go the days of our lives.

Have you ever done research and found something you rather would not have known?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Local Saturday - It Was Different, All Right

January 1, 2015 feels like a million miles away now.

On January 1, I broke with tradition and decided to have a year that was DIFFERENT from any year I had before.

I succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. Nature even heard my call for being DIFFERENT and complied.  But not always in a good way.  Floods throughout parts of the world.  Severe drought in other parts of the world

You would think that a snowless winter would be a great idea here in the edge of the snowbelt, but, as I will explain shortly, it may not be.

Today, winter finally caught up with the good folks of upstate New York.  Some places have gotten well over 14 inches.  Lake effect snow warnings are in effect in many places.

This is what one of these looks like, in a parking lot here in Johnson City, New York about 12:30 this afternoon.  Earlier, there was ice.  Accidents.

There was snow on my camilla, my April Rose, the southern plant I am trying to grow in my zone 5b back yard.

But it could be worse.  Take this warning,  in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Warning Description: Lake Effect Snow Warning
Warning Date: 10:14 am EST on December 19, 2015
WarningSum:...Lake Effect Snow Warning Remains In Effect Until 10 Pm Est
This Evening...

Warning Message:* timing...occasional heavy lake effect snow showers will be
  likely into the afternoon hours. The snow will slowly taper off
  late this afternoon and evening.
* Snow accumulations...6 to 10 inches.
* Winds...west 15 to 25 mph.
* Impacts...snow will accumulate rapidly where lake effect snow 
  bands persist with very poor visibility. Blowing and drifting 
  snow will occur in open areas. 
Precautionary/preparedness actions...
In lake effect snow the weather can vary from locally heavy snow
in narrow bands to dry weather just a few miles away. If you will
be traveling across the region be prepared for rapid changes in
Road and visibility conditions. Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio
for further details or updates.
They aren't kidding about the "rapid changes in road and visibility conditions" either.  Winter here is a challenge.

I try to be nostalgic.  This was our weather forecast on December 13, just a week ago.  It was nice while it lasted.

It's supposed to warm up still again, after this weekend.  So why isn't that good?

Because there is a natural order of things.  In upstate New York, that natural order in the third week of Cecember is winter weather.

Which, as every reader of my blog knows, I hate.

But our ecology depends on winter.  We shouldn't have confused plants not knowing what to do. People shouldn't be mowing lawns. Washington DC shouldn't have cherry blossoms blooming.

When the winter weather finally comes, it will probably be sudden, and plants won't have time to adapt.  Just because a plant is cold hardy doesn't mean it doesn't need to adapt to the coming cold weather.  If it can't it may just die.

Last summer, after our harsh winter, beautiful blooms awaited in the spring.  We had a bountiful apple crop.  They were protected by snow.  Now, uncertainty rules.

I fear for my April Rose camilla.

But what will be will be.  So for now I enjoy my indoor poinsettias and my one blooming amaryllis. Maybe I'll even enjoy a nice cup of tea.

One thing I promise - I will not, ever, choose a word for the coming year like "different".

What kind of day did you have today?

Friday, December 18, 2015

To Tell The Truth

Does anyone out here in blogger land remember the game show To Tell the Truth?

It premiered (here in the United States) on December 18, 1956 - 59 years ago today.

This was its theme song when it first came on the air.

The premise was simple:  two imposters, and one "real" person, were questioned by a panel.  The panel would ask questions to try to determine which of the three people were telling the truth. Then, the panel had to guess the "real person".

One of the most improbable To Tell the Truths, broadcast in 1972,  featured someone who turned out to be a serial killer, Edward Wayne Edwards.  This segment is about eight minutes long but it is well worth seeing.  Watch how the panel, including a young Alan Alda, used their own brand of logic to guess who the "real person" was.

Mr.  Edwards died in prison, in 2011. 

If serial killers don't interest you, Dr. Seuss, the famous children's author, might.

If you watched the segments through, did you guess the real people?  How well did you do?  (I'm proud to say I guessed the correct Dr. Seuss - most of the panelists didn't.)

Did you live during the golden age of game shows?  Which ones did you like?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The End of Tradition

This coming Christmas will be the end of a tradition for my in laws.

For the first time in many, many years, we will not be having Christmas with relatives in Yonkers.  Earlier this year, due to health and other issues, we had to move my mother in law up here, and about 150 more miles (approximately 241 km) away from those relatives.  My mother in law, who is now in her late 80's, can no longer travel.

One of the relatives down there will be 104 years old early next year.  She can't travel, either.

Fortunately, a family member living in New York City will be able to spend Christmas with the Yonkers branch of the family, but it won't be the same.

Especially for "B", my brother in law with a developmental disability called autism, who lives with my mother in law.  He wants to continue the Yonkers tradition, because change is upsetting to him.  And we all know there has been a massive amount of change in his life last year.  He had to move from the house he had lived in for almost all of his life. He had to witness two hospitalizations of his aging mother, and weeks in rehab.  His entire routine was disrupted.

But he managed (and I still need to blog about that).

He will manage this change, too, although he came up with a couple of schemes (he's good at that, too, by the way) to try to get himself down there while his mother spent time with - well, he doesn't understand about social relationships and the fact that his schemes would not work for that reason.

But we are not going to let her be alone for Christmas.

So, this will be new for all of us.  I will miss my cousin-in-law's manicotti tremendously, but look forward to a quiet Christmas free of travel this year.

Have you had to let go of a tradition?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fall Fancies - O Tannenbaum

This is the last Fall Fancies Wednesday post for 2015.

Next Wednesday I begin, I mean, Winter Wonders.  Never mind the unseasonable temperatures we've had in upstate New York. Yesterday, it got into the 60's F (17 C).  It will cool off by the weekend (we may have snow Saturday) but, by Christmas Eve (December 24) it will be back in the 60's.

And, on December 21, winter begins.

Or, so they say.
When you live in an area that normally has snow on the ground in December, it can be hard to get into what we call the Christmas spirit.

But the Tioga County Historical Society is going to help us.  Located in the small town of Owego, New York, they hold a fundraiser every November and December called O Tannenbaum.

Here are some highlights.

A display called "Memories".

A nutcracker.
An overview of some of the wonderfully decorated trees, each up for auction.

Is it a holiday season where you live?  What does it look like?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day Dec 2015- Warm! Warm! Warm!

Today is the most unusual Garden Bloggers Bloom Day ever since I joined this monthly meme hosted by May Dreams Gardens, an Indiana blogger.

In the entire Northeast United States, fall never ended, and winter weather never quite began. 

We had a couple of snow events here in upstate New York back in early November, enough for a dusting but then the snow stopped.   This was my post for December, 2014, a harsh winter - now we have just the opposite.  I have never seen anything like this, and I have lived in upstate New York for almost 30 years.

Here in zone 5b, we have green lawns.
And I still have...drum roll - outdoor flowers! 

This lone alyssum was planted by seed, and until recently, had some company - a purple alyssum.  But alas, the purple alyssum gave up.  But not this hardy specimen!

 A rosemary plant, in a pot (they are not hardy here), blooms - and has been outdoors except when the temperatures dropped below freezing.
My two remaining hanging baskets, brought in when frost threatens but otherwise, outdoors.

An aster seems to be still blooming, frozen in time, although I am sure these are not new flowers.

This past March we had purchased an April Rose Camilla, our experiment in camilla growing where they say it is impossible.  If the weather stays the way it has been, it won't be impossible.

"If only I had known", I would have protected a lot more of my annual plants.  On exercise walks, I have seen calendula in bloom in several yards.

But wait!  There's more!

If I take this blog post indoors, I can show you some pink African violets.

And, here, purple African violets.

Finally, my Thanksgiving cactus are still giving thanks for something, blooming away the most vigorously I have ever seen.

Every one of us basking in the 60 degree weather (it was 64 F or 17.7 C yesterday at my house near Binghamton, New York) thinks with dread of how Mother Nature intends to make us pay for this most wonderful fall ever.

Or, will she?  Could this continue, an endless fall?

Come visit May Dreams Gardens,  and visit other blogs linked to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day to see what is blooming all over the world today.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Music Monday - White Christmas

If you listened to our American weather channels, you would think everybody in the country was hoping for a White Christmas.

It got me to thinking about the song White Christmas....which may well be the number one best selling "single" of all time in the world, with more than 50 million copies sold.

The song was written by a Russian Jewish immigrant to the United States, Irving Berlin, homesick for his family.  It premiered on radio shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941.  This is one of many, many versions of the song - I enjoyed this rendition more for the dancing.

In 1942, the song was featured in a film called Holiday Inn, and in my opinion, there is nothing like the original.  Ah, Bing Crosby.  The rest, as they say, is history.

We shouldn't be surprised that the most popular Christmas song of all time was written by a Jew.  Next Monday, please come back and enjoy my annual post about some other popular Christmas songs and who they were written by.  You may be surprised.

After listening to White Christmas, I got to thinking.  Here in upstate New York, this was the weather forecast as of yesterday for this week.

We may well be dreaming, not of the normal white Christmas of a city on the edge of the snow belt of upstate New York, but of something we never thought we would ever see without heading for Florida.   Green lawns.  And maybe even some outdoor flowers blooming.

And now to prove I am no Irving Berlin, here is what I am dreaming of.
Binghamton, NY, December 13
I'm dreaming of a green Christmas
Just like the ones I never knew...
West side of Binghamton, NY, December 13

Where the flowers still bloom
And there is no gloom
As ice doesn't coat the streets.

Binghamton, December 13
I'm dreaming of a green Christmas
With each passing day like like fall.

May your trees all shine with a sheen,
And may all your Christmases be green.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Hanukkah House Binghamton Part 1

Today, on the last day of Hanukkah (the Jewish "Festival of Lights"), I made my annual visit to Binghamton, New York's Hanukkah House museum.

Hanukkah House is a teaching museum inside of Temple Concord in Binghamton, in upstate New York, about 150 miles from New York City.   It exists to teach both the Jewish and non-Jewish community of Binghamton about Jewish culture, and more about the holiday of Hanukkah (there are several alternate spellings), which commemorates the rededication of the Temple in 165 BCE (Before the Common Era, which corresponds with the Christian BC, "before Christ") in our common Western calendar.

Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, commemorates both the ending of a war for religious freedom and a miracle that occurred when the temple menorah was lit.  With only enough oil to last one day the menorah burned for eight days, until more oil could be located and brought to the Temple.

The museum features an exhibit of Hanukkiyah, the candelabras used in Jewish homes to hold Hanukkah candles.  (these are commonly called menorah, but a "menorah" is a specific type of lamp different than what the usual Jewish household would use.)

Some of the hanukkiyah in the museum are old, and beautifully decorated with religious symbols. (This one, also, instead of the nine candle holders normally found- one for each day of the miracle and a "helper candle" that is used to light the other candles) has 10.

Hanukkiyah don't have to be decorated with religious symbols.  Instead, especially for those used by children, they can be whimsical.

Or, they can commemorate, as this summer camp made menorah does.  This commemorates the New York City of pre-September 11, 2001.  (My finger blocked out the raised "helper candle" holder at the upper left.)

Later this month I will feature Part 2 of this year's post about Hanukkah House - a special collection by a special woman whose life (and death) holds much meaning for the future of our nation.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Local Saturday - Fog and Frost

One more seasonal post for the week.
Normally, at this time of year, we would have snow on the ground.

Instead, this is what we have.  Fog.

And frost.  We should have had hard freezes two months ago.  Instead. we are still in the realm of frosty, green vincas, rimmed with frost.  How beautiful!
Tuesday afternoon, walking with my "guest photographer" in downtown Binghamton, New York, I saw this plant blooming against a wall.

Yes, you heard me right.  Blooming.  Never mind that this is a sheltered location.  This should not be happening.

Remember when I blogged about my neighborhood bionic goldenrod?  It's still blooming.
Normally, it would look more like this.

My guest photographer, who lives in the countryside near Binghamton, New York, has been enjoying the lack of snow - so totally unlike last year, when we endured The Zombied Snowcopolypse.  (the pictures in that blog post are hers, too, except for the blooming forsythia.)

And never mind us.  Boston.  Buffalo.

Now neighborhoods that were buried in snow last year at this time are buried in green grass instead.

How long can this last? 

Life is full of surprises.  Let's hope our local surprises remain good ones.