Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Long Time Ago

Tonight snow is falling all over New York State, from Middletown, where I was born, to Saratoga Springs, where my father was born, to Utica and New York Mills, where my mother was born.  My father loved to tell me how he sledded down a big hill smack into where the  Northway Super- Highway is now.  Back then, it was wilderness, wild country, right outside of town.  The boys would drag their toboggans and sleds to the Big Hill (which he would point out to me when we were driving on the present Northway to Saratoga, and I'd have to try and picture  no road and just snow) and down they'd go.

My father has passed into eternity, but because I'm human and still stuck here, I like to imagine he visits the scenes of his youth.  About a month before he passed, as he lay helpless in bed 24/7, I whispered to him., "You'll be back in Saratoga soon" while stroking his soft gray hair that still held a slight wave, and he opened his bleary, foggy eyes and looked at me, but I know he did not understand.  Now he is unfettered.  He can walk through Congress Park now, like he dreamed when he was unable to walk.   How he loved his home town and the memories he made there. 

Tonight the snow is falling and blurring the line between the present and the past.  The sky is white with reflected snow, and the air is hushed.  Lights and the present are hazy and blurred, and it could be 1921, when my father was 2 years old.  84 White Street might not look so modern with it's addition and paint. 

That is what I would imagine if I were there, walking the streets in the midst of the heavy snowstorm.  Cars are unable to get down the unplowed roads and remind you of what year is it, and the black tree branches hold inches of snow, like icing, while the lights of the present appear haloed and dim through the snowflakes, and it's easy to travel back in time while I walk.   The air is hushed, every sound is blunted by the low hanging clouds;  it is very quiet and I can imagine my young and handsome father, just a young man, striding with his long legs down the sidewalks to home.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Saturday my husband and I decided to go away from civilization into the Everglades.  It's been so long since we've not had responsibilities and jobs that just couldn't wait.  Weekend after weekend came and went this fall and we made no escapes into nature. 

Finally, Saturday, we made it.  The weather was nothing special.  Not cold, which we prefer above all else, just average.  Some rain showers over the city and partially cloudy out over the Everglades.  It didn't matter;  being able to get free, especially after the news on Friday, was essential and healing.

We saw birds doing what they do every day while we are working;  they were flying gracefully through the air, or perched in the water looking for breakfast.  Their "clothes" were their everyday ones, but far more beautiful than the finest attire money can buy for humans.

Here are some pictures we took, just enjoying being away from the human race and it's creations:

Above was the average scene.  No people - that was the charm.

Below - a Dainty Sulfur butterfly.  Beautiful, but very tiny.

A hawk looking for breakfast.  They don't spook like most birds do when you point your camera at them......

A water bird that is not all that common - a Limpkin.

A Great Blue Heron:

This tiny little purple butterfly is called a Ceraunus Blue.

The Ceraunus Blue - gives you an idea of it's size.

The Ceraunus Blue's outer wings.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Darkest Evil

All my life my favorite season has been fall.  Because of the new coolness in the air (I grew up in upstate New York in a small town, much like Newtown, Ct.), because school was starting again and that meant new uniforms, new socks, underwear, shoes, books, pens, paper.......everything brand spanking new.  It was almost like being born again, getting a new start.  If I didn't like the way the last year of school panned out, here came a new one with all my familiar friends.  I could start off new and do everything right.
My favorite memories are of my pre-pubescent childhood.  Everything seemed so safe, so predictable, so solid.  And even though the world was a dangerous place, societal norms and standards were Judeo-Christian and made sure that Total Chaos never broke loose on a regular basis in any given place.  That is no more.
What breaks my heart more than anything else about the shooting at Sandy Hook School today is that it took the lives of small children.  Innocent, living in a small town, waiting for Christmas and most probably still believing in Santa.  Shattered.  That's the only word I can think of for all the children that survived.  School, childhood, beautiful innocence will never be the same for them again.  And because I remember how wonderful it was to be that age and safe, secure, red-cheeked and buried in winter gear playing outside in the snow waiting for the supper call,  it brings me deep sorrow, more than any public or school shooting has ever done.
I guess the gauge of evil is Nazi Germany.  Because the Germanic people had one of the highest civilizations on the earth along with Britain and the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries, the horror to which they fell and the diabolocal detail they gave to their murder is more shocking.   If the people leave their Judeo-Christian heritage and beliefs behind, then evil steps into the vacuum.  Germany was also the home of the progressive Christian movement and theologians who began to teach that Jesus was just a great man and the Bible a collection of myths.  This "scholarship" began in the mid 1800's in Germany and, by the time of the 1920's, after a lost war, the utter destructive power of which had never been seen before, and a worldwide depression, evil surely walked right in the door in the form of Hitler and his henchmen.   And then the unthinkable began to occur slowly but surely.  Starting with harrassment, then prohibitive laws, then violence (of course) which eventually led to mass extermination of the Jews, Gypsies, mentally ill, physically incapacitated and any other "undesireables" that didn't measure up to the "high standards" of the Teutonic Aryan. And the shame of the 20th century occurred.
And now, we are devolving again.  In a different way and for different secular reasons, but the underlying cause is the same.  No God, no civilization.  And then everything and anything goes.  As it says in Judges, "every man did what was right in his own eyes", which, to me, defines Total Chaos.
Western Civilization is falling apart, and, if adults want to kill each other, while that is horrible, it is not unthinkable.  It has been going on since time began.  If adults maul, mistreat, sexually abuse and ultimately murder children, too small to do more damage than get on someone's nerves, it is a sign of pure evil having entered in.   1930's deja vu with a little Clockwork Orange and 1984 thrown in.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Best Songs

There are some songs from my past that really affected me and bring back memories almost as powerfully as an odor like cut grass (my favorite smell in the whole world).  The lyrics to this one are pure poetry:

Another one from the 60's.  I don't know much about the movie, except that Sidney Poitier was in it, he portrays a black teacher, and there is a young girl who is affected in a positive way by his example.

I loved the theme from Georgie Girl, but when I had the chance to see the movie a few years ago, I couldn't sit through it - so depressing, so indicative of the type of thinking that has led to where our civilization is today. But the theme song was so nice when sung by The Seekers.

Japanese Sandman

I love this old song.  It is so whimsical and lovely.  It became popular in the early 1920's, when my father was a tiny baby.  I can picture him lying in his crib in that old house in Saratoga Springs on 84 White Street.  Perhaps it is summer, and in the front bedroom where he is napping, the towering, graceful elm trees, long gone now, shade the house.  The breeze lightly wafts the sheer white curtains as they flirt ever nearer to the sleeping baby's skin.

I imagine that close by, the radio is playing this song, as my grandmother goes about her chores or naps next to my father.

I took this picture earlier this evening.  I thought the candlelight would add some magic to the old tin decorated with Asian scenes from long ago.  Listen to the song and imagine a baby many years ago asleep on a lazy summer afternoon.

Catching Up

Thanksgiving this year had to be different since my dad was gone and my mother needs a rest.  My oldest sister is an interior decorator and hostess deluxe.  She has a beautifully decorated home in Naples, FL and she picked up my mother a few days before Thanksgiving and brought her there.  No cleaning, no chores, no laundry - just relax.  My husband and I joined the "party" on Thanksgiving Day.  It is less than a 2 hour drive to the other side of Florida and we took off early.  We would have dinner with our family, then stay overnight in a nice hotel and sightsee around Naples for a while before we headed back east to the Atlantic side of Florida.  It was absolutely beautiful weather - cool and dry and brilliant.  My sister's house has a huge screened in porch that looks out on a preserve, so it is wild behind her house - and so beautiful and restful.

We ate dinner out which saved lots of work and extra calories.  No leftovers - no extra fat.  When we retired to our hotel room, it was so comfortable.  We could have stayed at my sister's, but I'm an oddball in that I'm SO much more comfortable NOT staying with people in their homes.  I need my space and my husband is the same way - I'm so very much more comfortable in surroundings of my own choosing.  

Next morning, we went into the preserve - called the Rookery - to enjoy the brisk breeze and bright sunshine.  I took a few pictures of the birds and a beautiful raccoon who thought perhaps we might have a snack for him.   

First - a tiny blue-gray gnatcatcher in flight:

Below - a Phoebe flycatcher waiting for breakfast to fly by

A tiny warbler- not sure what species.....such a sweet face

Some pretty Florida Holly to celebrate the season

And a big 'ole fish under the crystal clear water

Last but not least, the hesitant raccoon as we were leaving the Preserve.

Once we got home, it was mornings in the back yard to view the birds and butterflies as usual:

The Sparrows are crowding in and sometimes one pushes another off temporarily.

One morning there were two of these within inches of each other, fresh from their chrysalli

I think she looks a little surprised below.....

Finally, I was playing with my camera trying to take some pretty shots of parts of my Christmas tree and other decorations:

OK - this is downright silly, but what the heck.....

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Does this song bring back memories for anyone out there like it does for me?

So redolent of young teen love in the mid 60's. Walking home from school together, and then, suddenly, it doesn't work out, and even today I can remember the exquisite pain of unrequited teen love.  Sounds corny, but really?  It isn't. 

And then there's this one.....Abraham, Martin and John.  Unfortunately, embedding has been disabled for this video so I can only list the url, but it is the 1968 Dion original:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Practical Housekeeping 1881

I belong to a Yahoo group of people (mostly women) who read and enjoy Grace Livingston Hill books.  They discuss the recipes, the clothes, the history evident in the housekeeping descriptions and social mores. That is one of the charms of GLH books - the reader gets a view into a long bygone world.  That and the fact that the books often incorporate real places and real people, such as famous Evangelists and/or pastors of the past, makes them all the more attractive to me. Each book has the gospel message somewhere, along with words to old hymns, old popular songs, old recipes and more.

In the midst of one of these discussions, the founder of the Yahoo group mentioned trying to locate an authentic recipe for real buckwheat cakes, "light and fluffy and delicious" as described in one of the GLH stories.  She found an old fashioned recipe in a book called "Practical Housekeeping" from the late 1800's, and I immediately looked the title up on  I found a copy and bought it.  It was a little pricey for me, being about $45.00, but I knew it would be an interesting reference book.

The copy I ordered came from the U.K., and it arrived today.  Imagine my astonishment when I opened the front cover and discovered an inscription from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to her daughter, dated 1881.  I vaguely remembered that name from history as someone who fought for women's rights in the 19th century, and, after consulting Google, I found I was correct.  She was BFF's with Susan B. Anthony and had quite a long, interesting life.

Here is a picture of what she wrote to her daughter:

As usual, click on the picture to get a bigger, better view.  I believe it says.,
"Presented to my daughter Marguerite (sp) Berry Stanton by her loving mother, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
When we remember how entirely the action of the brain depends on the chemical knowledge of the Professor (?) who prepares materials for that great laboratory the human stomach, we may in a measure appreciate the responsibility of those who feed the human family.
New York, June 5th, 1881."

Imagine that!!  Elizabeth did indeed have a daughter Margaret, but perhaps this was a wife of one of her sons? I'll have to do more research.  I must say the book doesn't look much used.  I have a feeling that Elizabeth Cady Stanton's views on women's rights and their equality to men rubbed off on family members, and so a cookbook or a housekeeping book might very well not be consulted much.  ECS (the great lady's initials) came from a well to do family, and her father owned one or more slaves.  One of them stayed with the family after the abolition of slavery in the North in the late 1820's. I'm sure her children, when they acquired their own homes, had servants.  In that case, the "housekeeper" would still be the wife, but she would only oversee the servants, not do the work herself.

Here is the title page of the book, where it was published and the front and back of a doodled on piece of paper that was tucked into one of the pages:

I'll be looking up the precursor of this housekeeping book called "Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping".

I have to figure out what the little paper says in French under the doodles.  Meanwhile, an autograph only of Elizabeth Cady Stanton is worth $450.00, should anyone want to pay that for a little scrap of paper:

What a surprise for this Monday afternoon!!  I have to believe that the shop in the U.K. that sold me the book didn't know who Elizabeth Cady Stanton was or the book would have been considerably more.  I don't want to sell it - it's just a really neat experience for me.

I Haven't Written In Forever

The last time I posted here was May 2012.  As you can see.  Since that time, my father passed on (October 4, 2012), my mother and oldest sister and I and our Significant Other or Husbands have celebrated Thanksgiving, and now it is becoming Christmas.

When my father first passed, it was such a relief for all of us.  He had been slowly deteriorating for years between his dementia and his neuropathy.  To know that he was no longer trapped in his earthly body that had failed so completely was like breathing after holding your breath for too long. 

Now, I look back and, in the realization that it is over and he is gone, I have achieved another milestone in this roller coaster ride called life - or life has achieved it for me.  I did nothing but continue to exist and take what came.  My father's funeral was very beautiful and very comforting.  I was looking for assurance I would see him again in heaven, and I believe I received it that day.  My sisters and my mother felt the same way.

On a different note, the painted buntings are back.  Cheeky Boy, the Common Yellowthroat, has not shown up.  The show off Catbird was around for about a week in November and I haven't seen him in a while.  The Spot Breasted Oriole is back chomping on Cape Honeysuckle flowers.  The territorial Mockingbird and the pair of Red Bellied Woodpeckers never left. 

The population of Blue Jays has swelled and the one that knows how to catch peanuts in mid-air returns now and then, holding his beak slightly open as a signal that he's ready to catch.

I started another veggie garden and it is better than last year so far.  I've had some green beans that are quite yummy, but appear to be drying out a bit.  I'm watering them a lot since this is the dry season, but chlorinated water is not nearly as good for them as good old rain.  A couple of cucumbers have popped out of their yellow flowers, but that plant is even more dry than the beans.  I'm not sure now many I'll get, although the few I've had so far were delicious. 

There have been a few salads made with the lettuce I planted, and, since it grows back, it looks like there will be more salads to come. 

The tomato plants - 2 of them - are just beginning to get flowers.  I also threw some herb seeds - literally - into one of the raised beds - and various herby things are growing wherever the seeds landed.  The wild birds plant sunflower seeds all the time and they are always growing.  Only sometimes do they achieve the huge, showy yellow head with the large seed center that represents the quintessential sunflower.  Most of the time a yellow flower does indeed appear, with a small dark center, but it isn't big or symmetrical or impressive.  But the bees and other pollinators don't care - and that's what counts to me.....making the wildlife happy.

We've had a temporary raccoon visit.  I say temporary because I haven't seen him/her in about a week.   Mr./Mrs. Raccoon would show up about 2pm, coming down the center path in my garden, that leads to the right side of the back yard, saunter toward the porch door, taking a left at the path to the veggie garden and the overgrown east side of the house.  He/she would go back and forth several times, although I couldn't see clearly enough to ascertain whether anything was being carried in it's mouth.  My husband and I searched the east side of the house and found no evidence of a raccoon habitat, so perhaps it was just passing through to somewhere else.  The house on that side is recently vacant and there were pit bulls outside in the back yard there all the time.  Perhaps now that there is no one there, animals feel freer to come and go through there.  I'm nervous about who may move in - it was so quiet even with the big dogs there.....

Well, I will be blogging again on a more regular basis, but right now I have to go to a meeting at work, so I will sign off for now.  Pictures to come sometime this week when I get a chance-of the garden and it's denizens.