Friday, December 26, 2014


Holey socks! It just occurred to me that this is my mother’s birthday. The Writer’s almanac reminded me that today is St. Stephen’s Day – he of Good King Wenceslaus looking out on the Feast of Stephen.  
Mom has been gone almost 20 years, and I still miss her terribly. Not just for her presence in my life, but these past few years for the answers to so many family history questions. 

I do have other photos of my mom, ones in better condition, but her smile in this one pleases me the most. It is one I remember best. She was perhaps 20 here. Not bad for an old lady!

Happy Birthday Mom, if ever you are wherever you are.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014



It’s very handy to have Blogger count things for me. They do say I’ve just four followers, but I know that they don’t count the ones who get my blog by email. They say my most popular blog is A Hairy Tale. Why that one would be so popular is beyond me, but there it is. They’ve counted the ‘hits’ on my blog since I started near the end of 2010. On Saturday, that count hit 57,000. Amazing - at least it is to me.

When I started blogging, I followed over a dozen other bloggers, most of whom posted every single day. Now only one posts every day – the gal who has been posting every day, sometimes more than once a day, for nine years. Many now post only sporadically, some have even stopped blogging altogether. I believe that for most of them, as it is for me, posting on a regular schedule has almost become a chore, probably because blogging has led them to other things that are beginning to take up more of their time. Getting to a blog is so easily forgotten.

Blogger says this will be my 400th posting. Four hundred! A lovely number! I must admit that I have re-posted several pertinent essays, but always with revisions or up to date comments so they don’t get stale. I admit to posting less frequently than when I began. I once posted two or three times a week. Now, I usually post only once, but always at least once a week. I hope to keep up with this schedule I've set for myself.

Thank you to all my loyal, supportive readers – you know who you are, and, more importantly, I know who you are too! Zen Hugs to you all.


Friday, December 19, 2014


What better way to welcome Christmas week than with a bunch of red. I went tiptoeing through Google Images and found more red than I could have imagined.

Red – can you imagine what targets those Redcoats were for the homespun-clad American revolutionaries?  Red – what would we do without it in “the red, white, and blue”? Red – “Better red than dead”, but that’s a thing of the past. “What’s black and white and red all over?” See red. See red and stop. See red and stop all this nonsense.

Corey Amaro's poppies

And speaking of poppies, here are
many more  - 888,246 of them - and Red coats too.

Ah, the permutations of red: cardinal, carmine crimson, ruby, poppy, not to mention fire engine, rust, barn, and blood. Lots of shades of difference there. Then we go to the salmons and magentas and pinks – but no, we won’t go there. We’ll stick to red.

Red is now my favorite color. Once it was purple, and though I am still quite partial to purple and all its shades, red is now it.  In her old age, my grandmother always wanted a red Jag-u-are. I can just see that silver-haired gal tootling along the highways in something like that – something much snazzier than her staid, white Nash. Today I know exactly how she felt: I want my very own 2012 SLS-AMG Mercedes Benz – in red. It’s Christmas time – I do think everyone in the family should chip in and get one for me.

 p.s. - here are some more of the pictures I collected for the RED article:

The Duchess of Cambridge. What? You didn't recognize her?


Cardinals of another sort - but not of a different color.

And I am unanimous in this!

For more on color see Roy G. Biv.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014



I had a small laugh this morning, and a great sense of “I’m glad I’m not young anymore.”  This morning’s BBC Headlines email, one always full of interesting topics, offered this one: “At the office, who gets a gift?”

Awkward at work: from bosses to colleagues, who to buy for and what to give at the holidays.” That was the topic of the BBC article. Boy, they have every situation covered. Times sure have changed sing I was in the work force. I was lucky to be able to retire in 1980, way before the holiday season ‘traditions’ got way out of hand. I never had these problems. I do know the big boss gave always gave a lovely present to his secretary. I know she never gave one to him. None of the rest of us ever had to think about giving or receiving – and receiving can be just as fraught with problems.

Christmas at the bank consisted first of getting out the hundreds of Christmas Club checks in November – a real chore in the days before we computerized the process. Soon there were tasteful decorations in the public areas of the bank. Profit-sharing bonuses came next. (Oh, the stories I could tell about that time of year, and who wailed and moaned because they expected more, and who already had it spent.) In mid-December we were treated to a lovely dinner with our spouses and significant others, though then we didn’t call them that then, at a wonderful local restaurant. Every one of us looked forward to that dinner because the menu was basically the same, and delicious, every year. Oh, I remember the lobster bisque was divine, and it has been a favorite of mine ever since. For dessert we always had the big boss’s favorite: Peach Melba. But I digress!

Gifts? Not really like it is today. The salesman for one of the companies that printed checkbooks always gave elegant gifts to all the platform secretaries. They, of course, were the ones who handled account openings and could direct sales. This man himself was elegant. Dressed handsomely, drove an elegant open saloon car. When I was a teller, I loved to seem him arrive at the bank. My window faced the front door, and that’s where he usually parked. I even remember his name after all these years. But I’ve digressed again!


Perhaps a depositor customer would bring in a box of candy or a plate of cookies. Perhaps the Head Teller got a few personal gifts. And, of course, the bank gave out those little desk calendars – almost useless, but hey, they were a freebie. But that was the extent of gifts at the office. I suppose some real go-getter somewhere started the gift giving circus. Perhaps it was happening all those years and I was lucky to work where I did. I’m really glad I’m not young any more.

Friday, December 12, 2014


On December 6, I read in The Writer’s Almanac, that it was the date of the first publishing of the Washington Post and the Encyclopædia Britannica.  The year for the Washington Post was 1877. That’s an impressive run. But the Britannica started, one section a week, in 1768. Now that’s really impressive.

One of my mother’s working mottoes was “When in doubt, check it out.” She did keep a large dictionary on the shelf right by her place at the kitchen table. That was our handy-dandy reference for Scrabble games played right there. (And I still remember my brother’s brilliant use of his letters: ‘quipu’. By jingo netties, there was such a word!)  Otherwise, if something came up in daily conversation she’d just give us ‘the look’ and we knew we had to get up and go check it out. In our home we had quite a nice library where we could find the answers to most questions. Atlases, thesauri, things like Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations or Bullfinch’s Mythology, even an Emily post, and, of course, the Encyclopædia Britannica. (Spellcheck doesn’t like ‘encyclopædia’, but it’s Brit therefor it is encyclopædia. So there!)  I believe my parents purchased their set of the Britannica shortly after their marriage in 1939. I purchased my own set, on time of course, in the late 1960’s when I moved in to my own digs. I had that set for ages.

Today, of course, it’s Wikipedia. What would I do without it? Much as my mother did with her dictionary in the kitchen, I keep my backup laptop right by my chair in the living room. When we want further information on something intriguing on the TV, I can bring up Wikipedia and learn more. I consult it almost every day. I think my fingers would be raw if I had to do as much flipping through the Britannica or other references. December is the month where folks with inquiring minds like mine are asked to donate to keep Wikipedia’s pages advertisement free. I’ll drink to that! Anything to get to one of the few and far-between websites without those annoying ads. And I’ll donate too – as I’ve already done this month. Why don’t you go and make a donation too?

I don’t know if you’d call it a ‘section’, but my favorite volume of my parents’ Britannica was always Musk-Ozon. Don’t ask me why I remember that particular volume, but I do. Perhaps because, to me, musk was a funny word – as in “What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage!”

Friday, December 5, 2014


Orange you glad I'm reposting this one from 2012? Of course you are! I stocked up this morning on our favorite brand of orange juice - Florida's Natural, in case you're interested - and had a brief thought that I should write about orange juice. Then I recalled that I had already written a blog about oranges. See that!?

Behold the orange.  Orange by color, orange by name.

Orange from the Spanish naranja. Naranja is a very bold, strong word.  In French it is orange, but pronounced with a French twist.  In Italian it is arancia. In German and Norwegian we sense a bit of confusion with some other fruit: apfelsine, and appelsin. 

I must admit that orange juice is one of my comfort foods. As with eggs (usually several dozen) and cheese (several varieties) and onions (no cook should ever run out of onions) - and always some bacon or ham - my fridge is always overstocked with orange juice. Doesn’t that all suggest to you that breakfast is my favorite meal?  Honestly, I could have breakfast any time of day. 

Orange, our favorite citrus fruit, blends with most flavors - not with pea soup of course, but only think about pairing it, even in a small way, with things like steak or a chop, chicken, fish, or maybe shrimp, and the idea isn’t repulsive at all.  Of course orange goes with sweets of all kinds.  Next to the wild cherry, my favorite Life Saver is orange. You’ve noticed, of course, that the Life Saver folks canned the lemon and lime in their five flavor roll in favor of raspberry and watermelon – but they didn’t touch the orange!  Oh, they tried for a while to replace it with blackberry, but it didn’t do too well and the orange was quickly brought back out of retirement.


And, speaking of candy, do you remember from eons ago when relatives would bring back from Florida those miniature wooden orange crates with the tangy orange candies inside?  I’ve even got an even tinier orange crate for my silver charm bracelet.  I do love oranges – in any form.

One of the nicest ways to eat an orange is to peel and slice it, remove any pits, arrange it nicely on a plate, and sprinkle it with lots of sugar.  That’s how my Mom sometimes prepared them for us, and we thought it was just elegant.  Food memories are good memories.

I once heard it said that you could live nicely on a diet of milk, chocolate and oranges. Not that there’d be much crunch there.  I once went on the Atkins regime and I really missed crunch. I think I’d have to add some walnuts or pecans, but the diet does have an appeal.  There would be all the necessary things like protein, carbs, fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and all that.  I can visualize myself enjoying this diet while stranded on a desert isle - with proper hut and hammock of course - after my one-woman cargo ship, carrying the requisite food stuffs and a small library’s worth of books, had foundered on a nearby coral reef.  I say if you’re going to dream, dream up a good one.

Does an orange a day keep the doctor away?  Couldn’t hurt! How ‘bout an orange in every Christmas stocking? Orange you glad I wrote this essay?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


In December I will be a baubled bangled Christmas tree
 with soup bowls draped all over me.
     Merry once
     merry twice
            merry chicken soup with rice.

In this month's Chicken Soup With Rice, Maurice Sendak's idea isn't so far-fetched to me.  At a museum exhibit of Christmas trees I once saw a fabulous tree laden with dozens of different tea cups. No saucers, just the cups. Picture them tied on to the branches with matching ribbons, and all these interspersed with glass balls of different colors, and lots of little white lights. It was spectacular. 

Friday, November 28, 2014


I have to smile every time I come upon this picture I took ages ago in Devon – or was it Cornwall? No, it was the North Yorkshire moors. (I checked.) In Britain you have your numbered Motorways, you’re A Roads, and your B Roads. I sought out the NN Roads: No Number. Being the navigator, I had Frank driving on all the navigable back roads I could find as we drove around England. If our car could pass through the stanchions at the beginning of some country roads, it meant we could drive on through. Topping a rise on one of these wickedly narrow roads we came upon this sign. Danger!

Such signs usually warn of hazards and threats to the driver and passengers. It could only mean, we decided light-heartedly, that we were entering the realm of the Attack Sheep.  Yes – there they were, milling about all around us as we drove slowly up the road: all those sheep, ewes to be specific, with their wee ones usually tucked in beside them. A brave one or two lambs would stray, but as soon as they recognized us as a threat they scampered back to their mothers’ sides.

Many’s the time since then we’ve seen a flock of sheep and asked ourselves if they were Attack Sheep. Two were the times we were delayed on a country road behind a flock of sheep being moved from place to place. Both times we surprised the shepherds by not tooting our horn to get them to hurry, smiling as we watched the action.  Take your time. After all, we were on vacation and in no hurry. I must say though that sheep rank (and rank they are!) just above pigs in my estimation of the smelliest group on the planet.  If the wind is in the right direction you’d better breathe through your shirt.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


And what are you doing reading my blog today when you should be having some Thanksgiving fun – either cooking or eating a bountiful feast? Mmm? And what and I doing here this morning? I am killing time while I wait for Harris Teeter to open at 7 a.m. I did a big shopping last week. Looking ahead, I really stocked up. But what I forgot was that I’d have to go anyway to get my perishables for the week – fruit, veggies, milk, and such. Teeter is open until 2 this afternoon. Many other supermarkets are closed all day – I’m happy I regularly shop at Teeter.

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving – go easy on that stuffing, you hear? And, as I tuck in to a wonderful meal this afternoon at our son’s house (dinner by them, two tartes baked by me!), I will think fondly of you, all my regular readers, and wish you a wonderful day.  

While I think of it, go over and visit Jacqueline Donnelly’s blog Saratoga Woods and Waterways, and her posting yesterday called Snow!.  You will be pleased that you did.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Our first stile - near the home of friends we were visiting in Surrey

I’ve been going through my photo albums – now over forty years’ worth – and getting some of my favorite photos saved digitally. For a while I was scanning them into my laptop, but that was time consuming: take out the photo, scan it in, tape it back into the album.  (Yes, I use tape, double-sided tape. I am not Margaret Bourke-White, none of my photos (well, maybe one or two really good ones) will stand the test of time. So, tape it is.) But now I just take a picture of a picture. Oh, I do sing the praises of digital cameras.   

That's Frank slipping through in Penshurst, Kent

But, as usual, I’ve digressed. So - In saving the photos I came upon several pictures with a theme I thought of on our 1984 trip to England.  You don’t see many stiles in the United States – in fact, I’ve never seen one here - but you do see them all over England because of their public rights of way system and all the footpaths through the country. I think stiles are a marvelous invention.

A then rather new installation at Bodiam Castle, East Sussex

At Battle, East Sussex

This stile at Tenterden, Kent, is really more of a gate, like the
one at Bodiam, but the livestock don't know that.

At Laycock Abbey in Wiltshire

And this beauty is at St. Anthony Head in Cornwall
That's Frank up there, ahead of me as usual because I was always stopping
to take pictures. That trip? Exactly 1000 photos. Just think of all that film!

Friday, November 14, 2014


Canterbury Cathedral

Are you old enough to remember the Jackie Gleason show? Remember how he’d exit the stage and cue: “Maestro, a little travelin’ music”? Well, travelin’ music is what this blog is all about.   

Corey's Picture from Notre Dame

On January 21st this year, the wonderful Corey Amaro whose daily blog, Tongue in Cheek, is a must-read for me, wrote about their visit to Notre Dame in Paris. The orchestra of Radio France was there practicing Berlioz’s Requiem and the practice was being filmed. Her serendipitous happening upon a concert, especially one in a church, is one we’ve also experienced in our travels. I thought I’d write a bit about it – for old times’ sake.

The Arctic Cathedral

We heard our first church concert in 1981 at the Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø, Norway. To walk in to this very modern cathedral and hear very old organ music was quite surprising and delightful. After the next unexpected concert, this one in the crypt under Canterbury Cathedral, we began to expect music wherever we went. It began to seem logical: we came various churches, large and small, at a quiet time during the week when the organist, or in once case a pianist, was practicing for the next Sunday’s service. Strangely enough, we never heard choral practice. I really would have liked that.

Grieg in Bergen

Though most of our concerts have been in churches, 1982 was the year we came upon the Norwegian Army Band playing Grieg in an open air court at the SAS Hotel in Bergen. I am a sentimental fool sometimes, and hearing such lovely music, they began just as we rounded the corner, well, it gave me a lump in my throat and a tear or two. It wouldn’t have been the same if they’d been playing say Debussy, now would it?  The Debussy happened when we listened to a violinist in the streets of Carcassonne. 

Troubador - Cagnes-sur-Mer, France

 Through Norway, England, France, Italy, we’ve been serenaded and delighted. 

 So many free concerts – what could be better.

Friday, November 7, 2014


Due to a very busy weekend ahead - and the chores to be done to prepare for it - I am reposting an entry from November four years ago. One update though: it looks like the NASCAR drivers have matured their stubble and are now sporting beards. I still think they would be itchy under all that gear.


        Should you consult an on-line list of commemorative Months, and follow that up with a visit to the Urban Dictionary web site, you will find No-Shave-November, Decembeard, and Manuary. Truly! Googling each month will net you quite a few sites on the subjects. I suppose that the some men grow in this winter coat to help them keep warm in the winter. By February and March, the coldest months, their faces should be well covered.  It is ironic that the men who could most benefit from facial hair in the winter cold have so little of it. The Eskimo, Inuit and Sami men are relatively hairless. 
      Evidently, facial hair must be grown for several months before it can be fashioned into something dashing. Quite a bit of growth is needed to fashion a neat goatee or a Van Dyke. Growers of the former sport just a beard; the latter add a mustache to that. Most men in these modern times will sport no more than this.
        The nineteenth century saw a great growth in beards. Our Presidents, to use them as an example, were, with the exception of Lincoln who was exceptional in many ways, fairly clean shaven (barring some mutton-chops and side burns which went out with Elvis) until Grant came along in 1869. Hair was there, in beards and mustaches, until McKinley in 1897. A bit of a backslide with Roosevelt and Taft, but it was clean shaving after that.

        Alexander the Great was clean shaven, Peter the Great sported a mustache. These days many young bloods, thinking themselves great, sport stubble. Many NASCAR drivers sport stubble. It’s nice to think back several years ago when many of them were in a razor manufacturer’s ad campaign. These days you can always tell when they’ve been making commercials for any of their sponsors - they’ve had to shave! It must be wicked to have to wear a balaclava under the driver’s helmet along with all that stubble, and it must be even more of a joy peeling the thing off. Ah, what men go through to look great.
        This new trend is called “Designer Stubble”. Can you believe that?! There is a name for it!! An article on the Men’s Flair web site, where there are instructions for maintaining it, describes the look as, among other things, rugged, romantic, sophisticated, cool. Were I a twenty-something female I’d probably think the look romantic or rugged. Being a seventy-something female, I call it lazy! It reminds me of a vacationing man who lets his beard grow for a week, and then regrets it because he has a nasty time shaving it off at the week’s end.  It reminds me of a newly retired man who is delighted to leave the razor in the drawer - for a while! Eventually, he too will regret it.

        So, men, now that November and the winter are upon us, you can begin to grow your beard. Do you grow it out, or do you grow it in? Oh, just let it grow, let it grow, let it grow - but be sure to sport a sign along with your SCCL Resident I.D. Badge that will let the rest of us know that you are a serious beard grower, and not one of those stubbly scruff-balls!

I had to add these pictures of the ever-popular Dale Jr. In the last four years he's sported many looks - the beard is the latest. And if you are at all into car racing, you may have noticed how many of the drivers are redheads. Interesting!
                                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Even the Smithsonian has gotten in on the act – read about Peak Beard has to say about the topic. Very interesting.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Ah, yes: November!  My birthday month :-)  It started off being so busy that I forgot to post this month's Sendak offering on the 1st.  

"Spout hot soup" -  of course, this is the start of the serious soup season. So far I've made baked potato soup and burgundy beef. I'll soon me making other varieties, trying to organize space in my side-by-side freezer to store the extras. I've managed to downsize many recipes so that I have four servings for two: two to serve, two to freeze.  But some soups, like my shrimp bisque, are hard to downsize.

I wrote about soup in a blog in 2012. Soup of the Evening, Beautiful Soup. 


Friday, October 31, 2014


Halloween brings forth all manner of motifs, from the perky pumpkin patches to the creepy crawly creatures. Today I’m showing you something from the stars. Spiral arms and colliding galaxies – the stuff of sci-fi nightmares – this is Arp 272, some 450 million light-years away. 
Just think of how far that is. 
Boggles the mind, it does.

I first saw this particularly haunting photo on the 9/22/11 posting at APOD, the Astronomy Picture of the Day, NASA’s daily entry of fascinating photos.    Fortunately for us, unlike the botanists who classified and named living things in mundane Latin, the astronomers named things in the heavens using their vivid imaginations.  If you move your cursor over today’s APOD photo offering you will see just what I mean – the picture is chock full of spooky nebulae, (Ha! that’s Latin!) and Cousin Margaret is there too. You can check my blog posting, Sky Shots, for a glimpse of what APOD offers each day.

While your mind is being boggled at the distance of Arp 272 – remember that name, there’ll be a quiz later on in life – have a hauntingly Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Today’s The Writer’s Almanac gives us this entry:

It was on this day in 1886 that the Statue of Liberty was officially unveiled and opened to the public. It was gift from France intended to celebrate the two countries' shared love of freedom, shipped to the U.S. in pieces packed into 214 crates. Workers put it back together in New York. The day of the dedication was cold and rainy, but huge crowds came out for the celebration anyway. The statue was under veil, and the sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi was alone in the statue's crown, waiting for the signal to drop the veil. A boy down below was supposed to wave a white handkerchief at the end of the big speech. The boy accidentally waved his handkerchief before the speech was over and Bartholdi let the curtain drop, revealing the huge bronze lady, and gunshots rang out from all the ships in the harbor. The speaker, who had been boring everybody, just sat down.

That was interesting to me because I’ve written before about the Statue of Liberty, and written incorrectly. Where I got the nugget of knowledge that the statue was dedicated on the 18th I will never know, and how I ever remembered, three years later that there was something wrong with the dates, I will also never know. At any rate, she stands majestically up there in the harbor and I stand corrected down here.

I do wish I’d known before about the unveiling and the boring speaker. The details of the 1886 ceremony, like the details of the 1863 ceremony at Gettysburg, make it all a lot more interesting. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Today, according to the Writer’s Almanac, is the birthday of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Anne Tyler, she of The Accidental Tourist and Breathing Lessons.  Today’s entry included a quote from her: I want to live other lives. I’ve never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.”  Aha! That struck a note! Reading is my way of making other chances, of living other lives in other worlds, and, especially now when my traveling days are dwindling down to a precious few, of learning about those worlds.

Strangely enough, when I read another life, I don’t want to read it in the first person, and I don’t want to read it in the present tense. Before I choose a book I have to flip through to the first pages to be sure I’m getting third person, past tense. Nowadays, I can go to Amazon and “Look Inside”. Saves me a lot of aggravation.

When I read another life now, I have certain eras in which I’m interested. Years ago, when I was much younger, I was a Sci-Fi and Fantasy aficionado: Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey. I was looking forward. Although I do love a mystery from any age at all, today, l suppose, I’m looking back: anything Medieval, Renaissance, Regency, but nothing Victorian or later. 
Why? I’ll tell you: I don’t know! 

Friday, October 24, 2014


For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn? – Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice

I first read that sentence in a daily email from The American Scholar.  Then this sentence - source unknown -“what other people think of you is none of your business, it’s their business,” has been doing the rounds of what I call the Personal Betterment blogs.  It all seems to boil down to it being a good thing that we can’t read each other’s minds. I’ll say!

I’ve a Philistine neighbor who also prides himself on saving a buck. (I call him cheap.) I’ve another one who is usually found neatening up his property and who washes his cars at the drop of a hat, parading out there topless as he suds and rinses. (I call him anal.) I’ve one who, in this community with leash laws and scooping rules, regularly lets his dog out to do his business wherever it wants to. (I call this guy lazy.) (I think I’d call him thoughtless too.) They are all quite nice neighbors who would do anything for any one of us should the need arise. Somehow though, the fat in the milk of human kindness in me has been watered down to fat-free level.

After living more or less in the woods for over twenty years I am fascinated by neighbors. I am not just fascinated with them as neighbors, but also as couples and how they relate to each other. Sounds like I’ve had my head in the sand for years, but really, in my later inquisitive years, with the exception of family and close friends, I’ve seen little of how most of the rest of the nation’s couples go about daily life. It is fascinating. Who cooks, who doesn’t and eats most of their meals out, what gals have cleaning ladies, what guys call in a handy man just to change a light bulb, who goes to bed very early, who are night owls. I don’t sit at the window and watch the neighborhood happenings (really, over the years, I’ve missed most of the important happenings, like when the police came to the court to make an arrest!) but I’ve absorbed information over the last seven years or so. Very interesting. I’m sure Frank and I are very interesting to all of them too.
I'm looking at you! 

Love thy neighbor. Do I love them? No, but I’ll be there in a flash if they call.