Monday, February 29, 2016

Taking Down the Seed Feeders

We finally gave up and took in all the seed feeders that we have hanging over our deck.  Now we have suet feeders and the water but no seeds of any kind.  Fortunately, most of our backyard birds can eat the suet.  I grabbed the camera to take a few shots.  Unfortunately, after only a few pictures a Cooper's Hawk decided to look for a meal.  That always ends the bird watching and photographing for a while.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is well suited for picking out the suet

 The White-breasted Nuthatch, also a member of the woodpecker family has no problem either.

 Some of the birds we are missing and will miss until we hang the seeds once more are the Northern Cardinals and the American Goldfinches.  Neither of them have the right bills and not the right feet to cling and eat from our suet feeders.  The Eastern Towhees cannot eat from the suet feeders either but they don't come to the seed feeders very often anyway.  And we will still have the Pileated Woodpeckers, the Wrens, the Tufted Titmice, the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, the Carolina and Black-capped Chickadees.

So what, you may ask, prompted us to remove all the seed feeders?  Two words.  Pine Siskins.  We have suffered an irruption of Pine Siskins for several weeks now.  They have given no indication they are planning to leave.  They are noisy and scatter far more seeds than they actually eat.  They push the other birds aside and take over the feeders, pushing and shoving each other as well.  In short, they are not fun to watch and they keep us from enjoying our resident birds.

 Fewer in number, they still drop by for water.

We will leave the feeders down for at least a week until we can assume the dreaded Siskins have moved to better feeding grounds.  The cardinals and the goldfinches will return since they live here.  And all will be much more peaceful, at least in the bird world outside.

I wish all of you could be enjoying the same weather we have enjoyed for the past three days.  You can tell from the first two photographs taken in the trees that the sky is truly Carolina Blue today.  Gives me hope that Spring is indeed just around the corner.  Yes, we are headed for more bad weather but there will be less of it and it will not last as long.  I can manage that.

Friday, February 26, 2016

We Love Lucy

What a week this has been.  We had a very large very severe storm system rage through bringing us the gamut of unpleasant weather.  High winds, rain, hail, and even bits of snow.  Lots of folks are still without power as downed trees have interrupted the lines.  But today it is sunny and calm with warmer temperatures.

Fortunately our Lucy does not pay much attention to outside weather.  She hates the rain when she has to be out in it, but she loves to watch the rain through the windows.  She was fascinated by the sight of the hail "popping" on the deck.  She does not mind thunder at all, thank goodness.  She especially loves to be outside on windy days.  She stands and turns her head in all directions with her nose uplifted to catch the scents.  She especially loves it when we are out in the yard and she can be off leash.

I'm not sure exactly what has caught her eye, but it's clearly not me and the camera.
Not ten minutes after being carefully groomed she looks so unkempt.

So once again we mourn the loss of lives and the injuries from yet another shooting in our country.  While not all of these despicable acts are preventable, we must take more measures to keep our citizens safe from shooters with rapid-fire guns.  Don't tell me (as my brother often does) about the Second Amendment and the rights of hunters.  NO private citizen needs to own an automatic weapon designed for the battlefield.

Tomorrow the Democrats in neighboring South Carolina will hold their primary and hopefully the political rhetoric will slow down for a while.  Bernie has already ruined one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs.  I must admit that I loved what SC Republican Senator Lindsay Graham had to say about the Republican debate and presidential race.  (Graham was among the many originally running for President this year).  He laughingly said his party had gone bat-sh*t crazy.  He followed that with the fact that he would vote for the GOP candidate no matter who it might be.  Said he felt almost as if he had bought a ticket on the Titanic and that was even after he saw the movie.
The best way to get your audience larger and more consistent is to be more divisive and more radical and criticize those who cater to or kowtow to other forces. Norman Ornstein
Read more at:

 Journalist Norman Ornstein gives us our quote which indicative of this election year gatherings:
  "The best way to get your audience larger and more consistent is to be more divisive and more radical and criticize those who cater or kowtow to other forces."
he best way to get your audience larger and more consistent is to be more divisive and more radical and criticize those who cater to or kowtow to other forces. Norman Ornstein
Read more at:

Too bad we can't follow the advice of Euripides, author of ancient Greek tragedies:
 “In case of dissension, never dare to judge till you've heard the other side.

I'm far too often like this:


Monday, February 22, 2016

Seven Random Facts

I usually don't pay much attention to memes and awards.  But this one was from Ginnie (here) and I love Ginnie so here goes...

Instructions are to 1)  link to the blogger (done); 2) List seven random facts about yourself (coming right up); and 3)  Nominate seven other bloggers (Nope, but grab the award and join in if you wish. All my readers are beautiful bloggers).

Here Goes:
1.  As a young Registered Nurse, I was the Head Nurse of the Dickson Heart Unit of Charlotte Memorial Hospital.  I loved this high-intensity atmosphere and left only because I married and moved away.
The following photographs will demonstrate:  1.) how long it's been since I worked there; or 2.) how very fast health care facilities have grown; or 3.) both.
A postal card of Charlotte Memorial Hospital circa the time I worked there

An aerial view of the hospital now as part of Carolinas Medical Center Charlotte
(If you look closely, you can see the original hospital directly above the very center of the photograph, about half the distance from the center to the top)

2.  I love to drive.  I loved driving when I got my first driver's license and I love it just as much now.  Last year my husband nagged and nagged me to get a new car.  (I figured that just because my car was ten years old didn't mean it wasn't still the perfect car for me.)  Eventually I gave in to his logic.  I got a bright red BMW with all the bells and whistles.  Had to wait for it but it was well worth the wait.  The interior is black leather with bright red stitching. Classy indeed.  But more importantly, the engine has three turbo speeds in addition to the regular "comfort" setting.  The turbo speeds should be called fast, faster, and watch out.  I thought my old car loved the mountain roads, but this one hugs these mountain curves like a lover.  It's the first BMW I've owned and I'll drive it until I can no longer drive.  Who would have thought a heated steering wheel would be so great?  Special thanks to my husband for being persistent.  I'm totally in love with this car.  But I still won't let it parallel park itself.  Too many disclaimers in the owner's manual about ending up on the sidewalk or hitting pedestrians.

3.  I do a lot of knitting but I did not learn how until 2009 when I joined a neighborhood knitting group called the "knitwits."  I was told it didn't matter if I didn't knit, that I should come just for the company.  I decided that if I were going to join a knitting group then I would learn to knit.  So I taught myself to knit with the help of a book and our local yarn store.  My mother did not knit, crochet, or sew and did little cooking.  Martha Stewart she was not.  So I learned those skills on my own.
Red alpaca shawl
The first tricky thing I made.

4.  I listen to music pretty much all the time.  I have three iPods and use each one every day.  I still have the first generation iPod like the one pictured below.  It no longer holds a charge and I don't even have the iTunes library that programmed it.  (That was about four laptops ago.)  It came with a disc for installing and does not connect to WiFi.  The music is digital, but it is cumbersome to navigate except for the playlists.  It still works just fine and has great music and playlists on it. I keep it on the Bose dock and the beautiful sound fills the air, softly in the background when we have guests and booming when I'm here alone.  It was my first iPod and I got a bit carried away with making playlists for all occasions and activities.  You should hear my playlist for housecleaning.  It will keep you moving for certain.
My second iPod is a much more recent version of the iPod Touch which is rather like an iPhone except that it has no camera or phone.  My car has a dandy USB port in the center console, so I keep this one tucked in there and play it through my car sound system.  The third is the latest generation iPod Touch which does have a camera and takes a fairly good photograph or video.  I listen to podcasts, music, and audible books and exchange messages with friends.  (We don't get cellular phone service here at the house.)

5.  I am a voracious reader and have at least three books in process at any given time.  Right now I am reading "M Train" by Patti Smith, Diane Rehm's new memoir "On My Own," Stephen King's "Finders Keepers," a sequel to "Mr. Mercedes," and for book club Timothy Egan's "The Worst Hard Time" about the Dust Bowl.  I recently finished Elizabeth Strout's "My Name is Lucy Barton" and was terribly disappointed.  I loved her other books so perhaps my expectations were a bit too high.  But  after all, she is a Pulitzer Prize winner for "Olive Kitteridge" and this one didn't seem to have been written by the same person.  By the way:  one of the books was a Christmas gift and I bought the others from our local bookstore.  None are on a Kindle.

6.  I really love books.  I love holding them in my hands and flipping the pages back and forth.  But I also love electronics, so it should come as no surprise that I have three Kindles and use all three.  I use the really old one for reading in the den.  I like it because you can click to "turn" pages forward or backward from either side.  It is so old it does not connect with the Amazon Cloud but the books load directly on the Kindle itself.  I use a Paperwhite for reading upstairs and outdoors.  And I use the Kindle Fire to watch movies or play games.  Despite having three e-readers as well as the Kindle App on two of my iPods, I read far more "real" books than e books.  My Kindles are loaded with poetry collections, short stories, anthologies, etc. as well as some books that would be huge and heavy in print.  (Think "Don Quixote,"  "Autobiography of Mark Twain," Ken Follet tomes, complete works of Shakespeare, etc.)

7.  While I love electronics,  I'm not so easily impressed by new gadgets or apps anymore.  Seems as if there is an app for almost anything.  But I must admit that even after all this time, Siri continues to amaze me.  She can find me answers to almost anything although I don't like it when she gives me sports scores and tells me my team got "clobbered."  She could be a bit more diplomatic.  One of the best things about Siri is her ability to recognize music.  On several occasions, I have been watching a recorded show (we rarely watch anything live anymore) and heard a song I liked in the background.  So I can ask Siri to tell me the name of the song.  Immediately she says in a rather joyful voice, "Oh, I know that one."  Then she not only gives me the name of the song and artist, she flashes the album cover on my iPod and tells me to click on the icon to listen to the entire song and learn more about the album.  If I want to buy the song or album I can click and make a purchase.  In seconds the song (I rarely purchase the entire album) is there for me to listen to for 99 cents.  And the next time I sync my iPod, it is loaded in my iTunes library and I can download it to my car iPod or the Kindle Fire.  Now, how cool is that?  I think Siri will give me a lot of comfort when I am old and senile.  I can envision my elderly self sitting there and talking with Siri.  Or perhaps she will be incorporated into a little companion robot.  Who knows?  But with audible books and Siri, I'm sure I will be happy.

So there you have seven fairly innocuous things you might not know about me.  If you're so inclined, grab the award and use it to tell us more about yourself.

Friday, February 19, 2016

We Love our Lucy

Another week of whirlwind weather, finally ending with bright sunshine and warmer temperatures.  We have sun more often than not here in the NC mountains.  Very unlike the gray days that dominated the winter weather in WI.  And we do take advantage of those sunny days.  Our house is oriented so that the most frequently used living spaces face the south and east.  And oh, how I love the morning sun.

Lucy is a sun lover as well.  She finds the sun and follows it along during the day.  She would prefer to lie on the hardwood floor in a sunbeam to lying on a comfortable bed in shadows.

This was taken on a sunny day when everything was golden.
The ground cover, the sunshine, and (of course) the dog.

The SC GOP primary is tomorrow so the constant Republican political ads will slow down after being ramped up to warp speed the past week.  Strange things are happening today.  The Chicago Circuit Court has agree to hear arguments regarding the status of Ted Cruz's eligibility to be President based on his birth in Canada to only one American citizen.  Hillary Clinton was kept waiting at a rally by her Secret Service because of a suspicious drone overhead.  DJT has actually dissed Pope Francis.  Jeb Bush has his 90-year-old mother campaigning with him.  And Marco Rubio has received some really important endorsements although many are saying they are so late in coming they were forced by GOP party leaders.  What a ride.  And thank goodness at least the GOP primary will be over and the analysis of the results will eventually end.  Hopefully we will hear more about the Democratic caucuses in Nevada tomorrow than the SC upcoming primary next Saturday.  But locally that won't likely be the case.  So that means more time for movies and reading.

I hope you are enjoying some sunshine this February wherever you are.  Today's quote is from William Cullen Bryant, poet, journalist, and once editor of the New York Evening Post.

"The February sunshine steeps your boughs and tints the buds and swells the leaves within."

It's only a bit more than three weeks until SPRING!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Forty Years of Fun

Today is our son's birthday.  He is forty years old today.  And those forty years have been filled with joy.  Well, most of the time.

He was born three years after his sister who had been without doubt the easiest infant and toddler you can imagine.  She was so adaptable and good-natured.  And never once had a temper tantrum.  She seemed to have come into the world, looked around, and thought, "Now what do I need to do to adapt?"

Our son seemed to have come into the world, looked around, and thought, "Now what do these people need to do to adjust to me?"  Even as an infant he was determined his make own schedule. We learned quite early about toddler tantrums.

He continually surprised us.  We were visiting in another state when he was barely 18 months old.  The people there gave him a little truck to play with.  He amazed everyone in the room by spelling out "T-E-X-A-C-O," and then said, "Texaco."  We had no idea he could recognize individual letters much less sound them out and read words.

He was very difficult to discipline because he seemed to make all of it fun.  He was such an active child, we tried to make the discipline include things that made him sit still for a while.  He quickly memorized anything we gave him---Presidents, Preamble to the Constitution, Rudyard Kipling and Longfellow poems, etc.  He could amuse himself forever if sent to his room.  If he was made to sit in a chair for a time out, his imagination took him far away from reflecting on what he had done.  His father assigned him to read Robinson Crusoe when he was six.  (Yes, he could read that well.)  So his escape was to read in the den and then run to find me to question every single word he did not understand. So he was reading for a few minutes and then jumping up to run to find me. That ended that.  We finally discovered that he hated the simplest of yard work.  So discipline revolved around picking up sticks, raking, weeding, etc.  Active as he was, he still hated forced physical activity.

His quick wit earned him lots of praise from certain of his teachers, and lots of scorn from others.  One teacher at conference would tell me "what a delight he is.  So clever and bright."  The next teacher would tell me, "that boy has an attitude and a smart mouth and needs to be kept in line."  Seriously?  They were both talking about the same child?  In the same grade?

When he was three he had a very favorite tee shirt.  He wore it almost every single day, much to the chagrin of his grandmother.  ("You shouldn't let him get away with telling you what he will wear."  To which I would reply, "What possible difference does it make as long as the shirt is washed and clean?"  And if we were going somewhere he would change. But he put that shirt back on the minute we got home.  I kept the shirt all these years, and sent it to him with his other gifts for his 40th birthday today.  He remembered it of course, and was so surprised that it was in such good condition considering how often he wore it.

He's just about outgrown the shirt.
But he was still proud of it.

His Senior picture.
The clean-cut preppy look disappeared in college, never to return.
His curly hair was never again so tamed by a short haircut.

Our son has grown into a wonderful man as well as a terrific son.  A person I would love meeting and talking with even if he were not my son.  He is a compassionate husband and a dutiful son-in-law.  He is tolerant of all sorts of different lifestyles and religious beliefs.  He is a loyal friend.  He is a gourmet cook who now cooks delicious meals for us when he visits, and sends me recipes to try.  He loves to entertain and cook for his friends.  He is a marathon runner who is willing to slow down to partner and pace with a friend who is a novice runner.

He is one fine human being and we are proud to call him our son.


Monday, February 15, 2016

What a Mess

From Northeast Georgia to Maine, the latest winter storm is bringing ice and snow all over the Eastern states.  It started here on our mountain with misty freezing rain that quickly left a solid sheet of ice everywhere.  The rain and sleet will turn to snow later today.  Great.  Snow on top of layers of ice.  And temperatures below freezing.  Yet, we are ever so thankful.  Thankful that we have a well-stocked pantry and freezer.  Thankful we have steel spikes for boots so we can walk up the driveway and along the street.  (Although there will be a minimum of that.)  Thankful we have a London Broil simmering in the slow cooker.  And especially thankful we live in a community with such wonderful services.

So while I sit by the fire, I am thinking of some of the reasons we are living in the best place I can imagine.

Every Tuesday evening during summers, the town closes off the main street for dancing in the streets.  Local bands play and folks of all ages come to dance.  Volunteers are available to help those who have difficulty with the square dancing calls.  The sidewalks are lined with lawn chairs and onlookers.  A local gelato parlor and several stores remain open and everyone has a great time.  While tourists are certainly welcome, the dances are for the local folk.  Not so many tourists on a Tuesday.

Young and old alike come to dance in the street.
And many of them DO "dance like nobody's watching."

 Our local community is located about nine miles up the mountain from the town of Brevard.  It has so many diverse activities that there is a club for everything you can imagine.  And if there isn't already a club and you can find enough interest you can start one sanctioned by the community.

Every fall the Gardening Club sponsors The Great Divide.  Local gardeners who are dividing their perennials bring the newly potted plants to share with others in the community.  Local artists and craftsmen/women bring their work for sale at bargain prices.  We also have several art shows each year.  And the dining rooms at the clubhouse are filled with art for sale by local artists.  There are so many talented artists, potters, and crafters in our community.

 A small section of the Great Divide

Extensive trails wind all through the hills in our community.  They range in difficulty from a walk in the woods to extremely difficult trails.  We have clubs that do regular maintenance on the trails and every so often they cut a new trail.  The new trail is opened with great fanfare and hundreds of residents come to hike the new trail.  And what awaits us at the end?  Why champagne of course.  And all sorts of delicious hors d'oeurvres.

 They may be plastic but they are better than Solo cups.

 We live in the forest and occasionally see a bear wander by.  Deer are quite common as they have a trail to our little creek out back.  Skunks make regular appearances under the bird feeders as do the usual raccoons, chipmunks and tree rodents (squirrels).  We've cornered an o'possum in our garage as well as a couple of black snakes.  We often see wild turkey hens walking along with their poults.  And we've had flying squirrels on our deck, drinking the hummingbird nectar.  There is a three-legged coyote that we've seen occasionally and sometimes a fox with her little ones.  We've even seen a bobcat wander down our driveway and into our woods.  We don't see as many rabbits as we used to, perhaps because of the increase in coyotes.  And sadly, on our walks we do see bunny fur and coyote crime scene evidence of a kill.

 Our bobcat that wandered by.
I was standing safely in the garage.

 Our county is known as The Land of the Waterfalls, and we have some gorgeous falls right here within our community.  Connestee Falls (for which our community is named) is a lovely twin waterfall.  The view in the following photograph is available only from our community.  It's quite a hike down but well worth the trouble with lovely views of Batson Creek and wonderful flora along the way.  And a big payoff at the end.

 Looking up at the majestic waterfall.
The landing we are standing upon is opposite the falls we can see.
We're standing at Lower Batson Creek Falls, the one visible from the public side of the twin falls.

We have four lakes in our community for fishing, swimming, boating (no motors), stand-up boarding and all sorts of water sports.  There are paths around several of them and it is so pleasant to simply sit and look out at the water.

Lucy is totally amazed by Canada geese.
These two geese made a lot of noise which intriqued Lucy
I suspect they had a nest nearby and didn't like her being so near.

So we won't be doing anything today to enjoy our community outside our own home.  My monthly book club and most other activities were cancelled yesterday in view of the coming storm.  Ice is forming on the trees and the streets are impassable for traffic.  It will be a while before it gets better.  But we are thankful we are safe and warm.  And that we live in such a wonderful community.

We have a plaque that reflects our feelings perfectly:


Let us all think of those in the path of this storm.  And hope they are safe.

Friday, February 12, 2016

We Love Lucy

We had an unwelcome surprise this morning.  About half an hour after my husband set out on his weekly trip to Fresh Market in nearby Hendersonville, a totally unexpected snowfall began in earnest.  Huge snowflakes filled the sky.  In no time at all the already frozen ground was covered.  And it kept snowing.  After a white-knuckle drive back from Hendersonville my husband arrived at the gate of our community.  The guard advised him to park there and wait for security to drive him up to the house.  The roads were already that slick and several cars had already slid into ditches.

Then like a miracle the sun came out and the temperature rose above freezing.  The snow melted away almost as quickly as it had come.  By 2:00 I was able to drive my husband down to the gate to pick up his car.  We saw several cars still sitting on the sides of the road and in ditches.  Fortunately, none had plunged over the edge into the valleys below.  At least not on our street.

Lucy heard the security vehicle stop at our driveway so she ran to the window.  She couldn't believe my husband got out of the vehicle with two grocery bags and a bouquet of lovely flowers.  I went out to help with the groceries but made Lucy stay inside.  The driveway was slick and I certainly didn't want her to trip either of us in her excitement.

We don't use the front door unless we happen to be out in the yard, but that is where the packages are delivered if we're not here.  Lucy seems to know when there is a package at the front door.  Perhaps she glances toward the door every time we come back.  At any rate, she must investigate if there is one there.  Most of the larger deliveries are from Chewy and contain dog food and assorted dog stuff.

Lucy stands in front of the box waiting for someone to bring it inside.

I've mentioned before that two of our local affiliates (CBS and NBC) are stationed in nearby South Carolina.  And with the SC primaries coming up next, the airwaves are full of political ads.  Thank goodness we don't watch much network television.  But it would be nice to see the local news without having to keep the "mute" button at the ready.

Today's quote is from Claude McKay, early 20th century author and poet:
"Idealism is like a castle in the air if it is not based on a solid foundation of social and political realism."





Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Water Over the Falls

Last week I mentioned the tremendous amount of rain we had in a very short time.  That, along with warmer temperatures and melting snow led to swollen rivers and flooding all over the county and in several neighboring counties as well.

Much as I wanted to drive out to see the waterfalls, I wisely heeded the advice of officials and stayed home.  Fortunately our local newspaper published a photograph that shows just how much water filled the rivers and overflowed the falls.

The first photograph was taken by me in 2008.  The popular waterfall is Looking Glass Falls located in our county.  The name "Looking Glass" comes from its proximity to Looking Glass Rock, a granite monolith rising in the mountains nearby.  The sides of the sheer rock faces reflect sunlight like a mirror when water or ice forms on its sides; thus the name Looking Glass Rock.

Looking Glass Falls is the most easily accessible waterfall in western NC. One need only to park in a space near the falls and walk on the sidewalk to view the waterfall.  There are steps going down to the base of the falls.  With its sixty-foot plunge, Looking Glass is one of our most majestic waterfalls and is located in Pisgah National Forest.

The normal fall from this plunge-type waterfall
Notice how placid the water is at the base of the falls.

 The following photograph was taken on February 2nd or 3rd after the heavy rains and melted snow.  Notice the railing in the lower left of the photograph.  The landing at the base of the falls is underwater.  Only the top railing is visible.

Photograph from the local newspaper
Notice the turbulence in the water at the base of the falls

One wonders just how much more water is falling over the waterfall and in the river below.  On summer days people wade in the area at the base.  The water that was there when this photograph was taken would surely have made it impossible to stand against the powerful current.

Quite a wonder to behold.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Regional Differences

Things were a bit different for our family when we first moved to Wisconsin.  Our children learned very quickly that manners were less important there.  Loud laughter filled the classroom when my son promptly stood and said, "yes ma'am?" when the teacher called his name.  Children were on a first name basis with parents of their friends.  The water fountain was called a "bubbler."  And so many little things, unimportant to adults but crucial to a middle school child.  But being adaptable kids, my children soon learned the ways of the region.  But they still had to say "please" and "thank you," "yes ma'am" and "yes sir."  I insisted on that.

My husband and I learned new things as well.  That hardly any restaurant served grits for breakfast. That people ate more brats than hot dogs.  That every bar and most restaurants had a fish fry every Friday.  That a popular Milwaukee appetizer at parties was called a "cannibal."  Made with raw freshly ground steak mixed with raw egg, it was served with onions, capers and seasonings and served on rye bread.  BTW:  there were at least three major e. coli outbreaks linked to eating cannibals while we lived there.  And no, I never once wanted to try one although they were often served at parties we attended.  That the break rooms at work were often filled with hard rolls and butter.

And in February the office was abuzz with everyone talking about punch key [sic] day.  Folks looked rather amazed when I asked what on earth punch key day was.

It seems that the word that sounds like punch key or pontch-ki is actually the Polish word "paczki."  I always thought of myself as well-read but somehow I had never encountered that word.  But you won't live in Milwaukee during February without learning all about pacskis.  They are heavy, luscious, deep-fried pastries,  usually filled with a jam and/or custard filling.  Glazed with icing or powdered sugar they often are decorated with orange zest.  Paczkis look like filled doughnuts but are made with a much richer dough.  They are a special treat on Shrove Tuesday, the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday.

They originated in Poland in the Middle Ages and became a popular way for Christians to use up their remaining sugar, lard, and fruit, all of which were forbidden during the Lenten season.  Unlike many metropolitan areas, Milwaukee still has large numbers of small local bakeries, especially on the South Side.  The bakeries opened no later than six on Shrove Tuesday (some as early as 4:30) to allow workers to purchase paczkis to take to work.  So people in the office would pick up a dozen of them (plural is pronounced "poonch-ki"), filled with their favorite jellies and bring them to work.  The tables were laden with these delicacies on Paczki Day, otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.

Photograph taken from Wikipedia
(This bakery spelled paczki incorrectly)

Fat Tuesday is appropriate for the folks who overindulge in paczkis.  The average filled paczki has about seven hundred calories and 50 grams of fat.  The most popular filling is prune.  Fortunately I never cared much for them so they were easy to resist.  But I have seen people eat three of them at a time.  I have no idea how that would sit like a heavy burden in one's stomach.  I fear no amount of coffee would keep me awake after eating even one paczki.

I must admit, it was such fun to learn the regional differences between the South and the Mid-West.  And Milwaukee was such an ethnically diverse city, one could find almost anything from any country.  It was a great place to live although I would not like the winters there as much as I did when I was younger.

[Non football fans, you don't need permission, but you might want to leave this post now if you wish:]

You will be pleased to know that despite the results of the Super Bowl yesterday, the sun did indeed rise over North Carolina this morning.  I was delighted with the game.  The sassy upstart was sacked six times, went 18 for 41, threw an interception, did not make a touchdown, and made two critical fumbles each of which led to a Bronco touchdown.  I was hoping he might learn a bit of humility after playing so poorly, but he once again showed his lack of maturity by walking out of the post-game press conference.  A reported asked about his disappointment with the outcome.  The quarterback, face almost obscured by a hoodie got up and replied, "I'm done" and rudely left the podium.

If you celebrate Mardi Gras, have a wonderful Tuesday.  And if you don't celebrate Mardi Gras, have a wonderful Tuesday anyway.

Friday, February 5, 2016

We Love Lucy

We've definitely had a strange first week of February.  We started with deep snow on the ground.  And then the rain came down.  And came down.  And came down.  The triad of milder temperatures, lots of snow to melt and heavy rain resulted in flash flooding all over western NC and especially our county.  Many roads were closed because of the high water.  Fields along the river basin were flooded with water so high the fences were not visible.

The following photograph is from our local newspaper and shows a flooded campground along the Davidson River in Pisgah National Forest.  The distant area in the middle of the photograph shows the normal size of the river.  The steps do not normally lead down to the river; they lead to the picnic area.  The tables are either underwater or have been washed away.  Curious as I was and as much as I wanted to go see the swollen rivers and waterfalls, I knew it was better to keep off the roads.  Most forest trails were closed for safety of visitors and for protection from further damage.

My husband drove Lucy downtown to the groomer and otherwise we stayed here on the mountain.  As I've mentioned before, Lucy hates the rain.  She doesn't seem to get the message that the longer she takes to potty, the longer we have to stay out in the rain.  She was still damp when she got to the groomer.

On rainy days she spends a lot of time among her pillows.  Who knew she would love them so much?

 You're not going to make me go out in the rain again, are you?

Sunday is the High Holy Day of football.  The Carolina Panthers are playing and you might think I would definitely want my State's team to win.  But you would be wrong.  I hope Peyton Manning leads the Denver Broncos to the biggest win in Super Bowl history.  Perhaps that might take a bit of sass from the NC quarterback.  He is indeed a great player, but a bit of respect for other great players might be nice.  He is without a doubt this year's MVP and I love his habit of giving the touchdown ball to a kid in the stands.  But that does not wipe out the bad taste in my mouth after watching his outrageous post-touchdown celebrations, often designed to try to humiliate his opponents.  So much for gracious winner.

[Note to the aforementioned quarterback:  Contrary to what you seem to believe, you are not criticized or disliked because you don't fit the model of the stereotypical white-guy quarterback.  I don't like you because you are a jerk.  It has nothing to do with the "white guy quarterback" thing.  You don't have to be white to be a jerk.

You said, "I'm an African American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven't seen nothing that they can compare me to."  Well, sorry Cam.  We've seen the likes of Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson of the Seahawks, Terrelle Pryor with Raiders, Josh Freeman with the Buccaneers and others.  They manage to be African American quarterbacks without the flash and glamour you seem to need.  So contrary to your own words, you are not the Prince of Football.  Not by a long shot.]

All right.  Rant over.  Kudos to this quarterback for his excellent playing skills.  And more kudos for his off the field involvement with underprivileged kids and his foundation.  There are some things I greatly admire about him.  But I'd like to see Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos teach him a little humility.

It is fitting that as a lover (and one of the millions of team owners) of the Green Bay Packers I have selected today's quote from the great Vince Lombardi:

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand,
And the determination that whether we win or lose,
We have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.

Whether you like the football, the commercials, the halftime performances, the companionship of friends, or simply the snacks, enjoy Sunday's game.




Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Little Break from the Campaign Rhetoric

Folks closely watched the Webcam  as Masai giraffe Autumn headed into the last weeks of a very long pregnancy.  (Average gestation period for giraffes is fifteen months.)  Yesterday morning they were not disappointed as Autumn successfully delivered her little baby.  The little one immediately got on its legs and found its mother's milk.  And everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The birth occurred at the Greenville, SC zoo and gave folks a brief respite from the non-stop coverage of politics.  The healthy baby was especially welcome considering that Autumn's last calf was stillborn.

Mother Autumn and father Walter touch noses as the little baby balances on wobbly legs.
Look at the growth chart on the wall.
The "tiny" baby is six feet tall.
(Courtesy photo from the Greenville Zoo)

We live in the mountains only 30 miles from Greenville so it's an easy day trip for us.  The drive is especially beautiful as it runs down the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment with its dramatic drops in elevation and some gigantic rock formations.  The road is winding with lots of switchbacks so we don't drive it in winter.  We take the long route on the Interstate.

The following photograph is one I took at the Greenville Zoo in 2013.  It's a photograph of Kiko, Autumn's firstborn.  He was a year old at the time and now resides in the Toronto Zoo.

I stood there a long time waiting for Kiko to stand up but he was soaking up the sun.
Didn't even look our way.
Paid as much attention to the camera as Lucy does.

A contest is already underway for naming the little calf.  The zoo has not announced whether it is male or female so contestants are asked to select one name for each sex.

You can watch the Webcam of the three giraffes in the barn and paddock here

For those of you who might be interested, Pisgah Pete predicted an early spring.  After stopping to munch on nuts for a while he also predicted that the Carolina Panthers would win the Super Bowl.  As for me?  I don't trust squirrels of any kind.

Today we are getting another little respite from campaign "news."  It's pouring rain so there are breaking weather reports with the ubiquitous videos of news reporters standing by flooded roads.  More than 2 and a half inches have fallen overnight and it's still raining.  What with the still lingering snow, the heavy downfall has flooded streams and roads.  I'm making a big pot of minestrone soup and we'll hunker in for a while.  Oh, we do have to go out one more time today.  Lucy is at the groomer so we'll run down to pick her up and THEN we'll hunker down.  But it will be for a shorter time than when we got the major snow.

Monday, February 1, 2016

No Groundhog for Us

Here in Brevard we do it differently.  Tomorrow, while eyes across the nation turn to view their resident groundhogs, Transylvania County citizens will turn their eyes to Pisgah Pete, our county mascot.  Pisgah Pete is one of our famous* white squirrels.

Since squirrels are fast little devils animals, Pete will not be released from the cage that transports him from his home to the town square.  Thus, he will have no opportunity to see his shadow.  But not to worry.  The town officials have figured out a way for Pete to forecast the weather.  Two signs will be placed, one on the left side and one on the right side of his cage.  One sign will read "yes" and the other sign will read "no."  A designated official will then ask Pete, "Will there be six more weeks of winter?"  Eventually Pete will go toward one side of the cage or the other and that movement will constitute the answer.

Because Pete is so reliable, citizens have been asked to submit "yes or no" questions and a select few will be asked of Pete.  Who knows?  Pete might even tell us who will be the next President.  But I'm going to vote anyway.

Pisgah Pete at last year's gathering
(photo from the local newspaper)

There is no way Pete could see his shadow today.  We still have lingering snow on the ground and much warmer temperatures.  That combination makes for a very foggy day.  And we're expecting rain tomorrow so I don't think he will see a shadow even if that were his preferred prognostication method.

*Famous white squirrels
Florida, 1949.  A carnival truck carrying animals overturns in the town of Madison.  A nearby resident rubs his eyes in disbelief when he glimpses two white squirrels in his pecan grove.  He is impressed by them and thinks they must be albino so he captures them.  He is surprised to find that their eyes are black.  They are not albino at all.  The man gives the squirrels away to a friend.

Here comes the Brevard connection.  The friend had relatives in Brevard and decided the cute little white squirrels would make a nice gift for his niece.  So he brought the squirrels to NC and gave them to his niece.  The niece named the squirrels "SnowBall" and "Frisky."  She loved the squirrels and was disappointed they did not mate.  She kept them for a couple of years and then married and moved away from home.  She did not take the squirrels with her.

Eventually one of the squirrels escaped from the enclosure and ran into the woods.  Fearing the loneliness of the remaining squirrel, her uncle gave the squirrel its freedom.  Released from captivity Frisky and Snowball met up with the native gray squirrels and, as squirrels are wont to do, created many little baby squirrels.  A surprising number of the newly birthed white squirrels began appearing all over the town.  The white squirrels so endeared themselves to the citizens of Brevard that the City Council passed a protection ordinance in 1986.  The ordinance established the city limits of Brevard as a white squirrel sanctuary and made it illegal hunt, kill, trap or otherwise capture any white squirrel within the city.

The squirrels have prospered and at last count, (yes there is an annual count of white squirrels) the white squirrels made up 45% of the squirrel population within the city.  The squirrels have expanded their territory and we occasionally find them here, more than 10 miles up the mountain from Brevard.  In fact, we have seen them in our woods.  They tend not to stay around our house, but some adoring neighbors actually feed squirrels so we will likely see more of them.  We don't even need any ordinance to protect them.  Our community protects all wildlife of any kind.

I snapped this shot of a white squirrel right in our own back yard.
Don't be deceived by its looks.  It's still a tree rat just like its gray kin.

So go ahead and watch your own groundhog or videos of famous Punxsutawney Phil.  Around here folks will be watching Pisgah Pete, the Brevard white squirrel make his prediction.  Any of them will take you away from the Iowa caucus results for a brief instant.

Truth is, spring will come no matter what any animal predicts.  And that makes me happy.