Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Not Too Early Anymore for Holiday Insanity

Every time I see Christmas decorations in a store, I make a little "hrrmph" sound to let whoever is in charge know that it's way too early for those displays.

Well, that's not exactly true. Thanksgiving could have been this week, and I think we have all been sort of expecting it to be. Turkey Day is late this year, and that means the holiday hullabaloo will have a shorter shelf life in general unless the stores start early.

It is after all past the mid-point of November which I can't believe. In my head it's still summer, although a bit chilly.

And with one less week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there is a mad scramble to get people out there buying, no matter what.

The "what" is that stores are now opening Thanksgiving night and making all of their employees push back from their dinner table to go to work. That doesn't seem fair. We could have waited a bit longer to begin the buying binge. We would have survived.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Seaside, FL, the dream of two men

We had an opportunity last month to visit Seaside, FL, a beautiful town in the panhandle of Florida.

I wanted to see the town because it had been featured in an exhibit at the Carnegie International this year, near my home. This particular exhibit showed photographs of "social experiments", or ways that people tried to establish alternative lives to how "normal" people lived..

The Seaside photo featured the post office above, so I had to get a photo of it to share. The town was the dream of one man that was realized years later by his grandson. To learn more about this beautiful spot,  visit here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Some Horses Gotta Run

These carousel horses at the Pittsburgh Zoo (PA)  will soon be taking a long winter's break, even though the zoo is open all year. The sun was shining on the horses so brightly earlier this month that I couldn't resist taking a few shots. 

I love any and all carousel horses. A long time ago my husband Larry bought me a beautiful carousel horse that was created out of  fiberglass (I think) by a local artist.. This horse, which sits in our front hallway, probably elicits more comments from visitors to our house than any other possession we have.

This one is as close to a real horse as I guess I will come. When I was younger, my cousins and I prayed hard to own a horse. Didn't happen even though we had a barn and that made it a given to us.Our parents had other, more practical thoughts.

It would have been nice though.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Books Keep on Giving with Inscriptions

My mother was a fanatic about writing in books she gave as gifts, something she taught my dad over the years. As you can see from this fairly poor (I apologize for the quality) photo, my mom wrote a note to me (signing Dad's name) in a $1.00 book which has retained its value for more than 50 years.

The inscription  written on the flyleaf of Cherry Ames Student Nurse reads as follows:

To Teresa, from Daddy, (on the occasion of your) Tonsillectomy, July 2, 1960

I have several books inscribed by my mom her and each is a treasure. I try to follow in her footsteps by writing in books I give as gifts, but I know I am not nearly as devoted to it as she was.

I do remember the tonsillectomy very well, but with this inscription, I remember my mom and dad even more.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Macbeth and the Theater

Last night we went to a theater a little drive north of us to see the first program of the full season we had bought.

The theater, located at a community college, features shows by local singing talent, musical programs and plays. We decided to sign up for all of them since the cost for each was only about what a couple of lattes cost.

Our first show of the season was Macbeth, maybe not the easiest of Shakespeare's plays to visit. The play was set in the present day, so the actors wore garments that you might see walking down the street, although maybe not in that small town.

The acting was good too, but it was a lot of hard work to follow their dialog. I think I only understood about half of what they were saying.

Preparing for our evening out, we had read a synopsis of the play to refresh our memories about what happens in the play about ambition run amuk.

We talked about the play on the drive home, so that in itself is good. All told, we decided that the season tickets were a good idea for several reasons including that the small theater is beautiful and comfortable, we  have aisle seats and it's close to home with easy parking.

What more could a Baby Boomer want?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New Pasta Choice for Low Carb, Diabetics

Last night, as part of my nutrition class at our local grocery store, we spent some time walking around the perimeter of the store. This is essentially where we should be doing the majority of our shopping. Here's where you find the vegetables, fruit, whole foods, lean fish and meats, and low fat dairy products.

After we had worked our way around the building, we went to the "inside" aisles of the store to visit the pasta section where I learned about a new product that sounds like something I should try.

Dreamfields Pasta is designed to be low-carb and can be enjoyed by diabetics who have a lower blood sugar response after eating this pasta.

It also has added fiber (five grams per serving) so that makes it a great choice for pasta all around.

To learn more, visit the Deamfields Pasta website.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hummingbirds Fight Constantly

Two hummingbirds fight over nectar at a backyard feeder.

This is not a great photo but it does show a little of what we have been witnessing on our backyard deck for the past couple of weeks.

Two to three hummingbirds at a time will try to get to the red nectar feeder to eat. But no matter which one is eating, the other one or two will fly it off, which looks sort of like aerial dog fighting.

No one is getting any calories -- or rest -- here.

Since we were having our deck cleaned last weekend, I had to move the feeder from its regular place. I hung it from the upper deck and was happy to see that the birds found it. But the fighting didn't stop then either.

So, just like a parent of two children, I thought we could get another small feeder and see if the hummers could each have one -- or most of one -- that they will leave each other alone.

Naw, that didn't happen either. They are still fighting, but now have two places to mount their attacks. One bird is so territorial it just sits on top of the wrought iron hanger holding the feeder for minutes at a time. Whoever said humingbirds don't stay still long hasn't met this guy.

I know we are nearing the time when the birds will begin their migration south. I worry that they will not have built up their bodies enough for the long trip since they are interrupting each other at the feeders all day long. Nature usually finds a way, so I am hopeful they will all be OK for their trip. I hate the thought of them leaving for months. Even when they fight they are still magical to watch.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Taking Care of Mom

(Editor's Note: Guest Blogger Henry Peter Gribbin has written about taking care of his mom for several times in the past. His mom, Angeline M. (Krotec) Gribbin died on June 9, 2013 at the age of 91.)

By Henry Peter Gribbin

I took care of my mother for the past ten years. I quit my job over three and a half years ago to take care of her full time. I never considered myself a hero or super son for doing so. It was just something that I knew I had to do, and it just felt right. We had many ups and downs over the years, but all in all we had a good time.

When my mother died this past June I had some time to reflect on certain things. I did everything myself, and I made some mistakes along the way, but I was a quick learner. The one thing about me was that I was never shy in asking knowledgeable people advice on how best to take care of her. The one affliction that bothered my mother the most was dementia. It is a truly horrible disease that attacked her memories and thus stole a piece of her soul. Through talking to people I was able to get a grasp on how this disease affected her. This knowledge helped me understand what she was going through.

On the other hand, my mother helped me, too. I wasn’t aware of this till after she died. In taking care of someone with a myriad of afflictions one has to learn extreme patience and kindness. This is especially so when dealing with someone with dementia. After years of taking care of her I believe I have become a better person. Of all the wonderful things she has done for me over the many years this is probably her greatest gift.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Swallowtails, others come a'calling

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

New visitors to the backyard

I bought a butterfly nectar feeder this spring, hoping to expand the visitors to my backyard this summer. I hung it right next to the hummingbird feeder, which is still being used independently by a male and female hummer.

The bright yellow butterfly feeder is hard to miss. It sorts of glows where it is hanging. To assure success, I bought a pink butterfly bush to grow near it. Finally, the pink blossoms on the bush have emerged. We have been delighted to see that butterflies are now attracted to it for long visits at a time.

I caught sight of this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, a female, the other day, and soon after noticed a male of the same species stopping by. I also spotted a Great Spangled Fritillary (photo below) today.

None of them has used the nectar feeder, so I may eventually take it down and store it in the garage, next to the Baltimore Oriole feeder which has never gotten a nibble from those beautiful birds.

But I will keep putting the the feeders out and hope to be rewarded with stunning visitors like these.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Be Careful Out There: Avoid Falling

Watch out!
By now I am sure you know that I broke my arm last winter by falling on the ice on my driveway while shoveling.

The funny thing is that I heard about SO MANY other women who had fallen and broken their arms, too, this past winter, most of which were worse than my situation.

At my book club meeting last night, we had seven members in attendance. Of the seven of us, three, count 'em three! of us had broken our arms during the winter. Whoa. That sounds like way too much of a coincidence.

I find this very scary. Yesterday as I was walking along a main street in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood, where a lot of our medical services are located as well as the University of Pittsburgh, I noticed a large gouge in the cement smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk. I moved around it, but I thought to myself: Someone could fall! And it could have been me!  

I also noticed while walking around our high school that several other holes in the cement had been marked with spray paint. Hopefully that means they will be repaired soon.

The only advice I can give is to keep your eyes on the ground when you walk. I know that doesn't help us "smell the roses", but it might just keep us safer.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Calm Before the Storm

Caught sight of this robin mom at a local conservatory while some friends and I were taking in the beauty of the summer flower show.

This lovely lady was non-plussed to have her picture taken, and basically refused to even acknowledge the visitors who one-by-one spotted her sitting in a bird feeder off the path.

The robin was so still that we had to ask ourselves if she was real, but realized pretty quickly that she was.

Just sitting around, taking care of her eggs, resting a little before the chaos begins when her baby birds break through their eggs and demand to be fed.

Rest, mama, rest.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spring Late, But Finally Here

This is how spring has been here. The green leaves and buds would pop up through the cold ground, but then would pause as snow covered them, several times over.

This photo, though taken indoors, shows the dichotomy of spring: Bright, beautiful flowers with snow in the background.

I hope spring is bursting through where you are and that you are enjoying it. I am waiting for the lilacs, my favorite to mature and flower. My mom and I picked a bunch of them to decorate tables at my wedding reception in mid-May years ago. The lilacs always evoke that beautiful memory.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!


There is nothing sweeter than vintage Valentine cards. I found this charmer in an antique store recently. I can't seem to resist buying these for an unspecified project that never happens. But that doesn't mean I don't want more.

I still have a heart-shaped box of Valentines I received when I was in grade school. (I suppose that makes them vintage, too?) I remember decorating shoe boxes to put all of our treasures in, the parties at school and what a nice ray of light the day was in the middle of winter.

My mother used to buy us small gifts for this day, something I have tried to continue in our family. Nothing big, just a reminder that the day is worth celebrating with everyone you love.

Wishing you a beautiful, Happy Valentine's Day and many gifts as the year continues.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Avoid These Fire Hazards in Your Home

Here are 20 ways to prevent fire hazards in your home. You probably do a lot of these things already, but it never hurts to get a little reminder sometime on safety.

I especially was interested in No. 8: I often walk out of the kitchen with something on the stove and forget all about it as I sit in another room. Setting a timer makes good, safe sense!

1. Keep heat-generating items like computers, TVs and cable boxes well ventilated.
2. Switch them off (and unplug if you can) when nobody is going to be around.
3. Store flammable items securely (locked if possible) in a cool area, away from flames.
4. Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.
5. Know which clothing and furnishing fabrics are flammable and keep them away from flames.
6. Use fireguards to protect against accidental contact with flames.
7. Avoid loose clothing, especially sleeves, when you're using the stove.
8. If you leave items cooking, set an audible timer to remind you to check back.
9. Have the gas company check your appliances regularly.
10. Regularly inspect appliance wiring and plugs for signs of damage or heat.
11. Don’t use extension cords with space heaters (actually, always avoid them where possible).
12. Don’t plug too many items into one outlet or too high wattage a light bulb into a restricted fitting.
13. Avoid storing stacks of combustible material like paper that sometimes ignite by themselves.
14. Put a proper fitting over an exposed closet light bulb and don’t store items too close to it.
15. If there are smokers in the house: no smoking in bed or when they/you are sleepy.
16. Ensure all fire and dryer vents are clear and regularly cleaned.
17. Monitor all outside burning (yard fires, BBQs etc.) and extinguish them fully.
18. Position barbecues at least 10 feet from walls and fences when in use or cooling.
19. Don’t set electric blankets too high when you're not there, or allow pets to sleep on them,
20. Workshop tools that throw out sparks should be used away from all combustible material.

This list kindly provided by D. Aaron Buhl of the  Buhl Insurance Agency Inc., Gibsonia PA.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Grow Your Brain by Walking

We all know that walking is good for us, but did you know you can actually prevent shrinkage in the memory retention part of your brain by walking?

According to an item in a national magazine, middle-aged adults who took three 40-minute walks a week for a year saw a two percent increase in the size of their hippocampus, the part of the brain that deals with memory.

The article goes on to say that "preventing shrinkage could improve a person's retention for years", something that should be worth walking for.