Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Spring is finally here in south central Nebraska!  After several false promises in the form of spring snowstorms and hot weather followed by freezing temps, I think (hope) we're finally out of the clutches of Old Man Winter.  Everything is about 2 weeks behind schedule as far as blooming, but it finally looks like spring now.  :)

I've decided that this is the year I make our yard PRETTY.  I've always put a few annuals in the front yard and have a couple of pots of geraniums or petunias, but this year, I really want to go at beautifying the yard with a plan.

The front flower patch

I've always enjoyed working outside, but have historically been a REALLY lazy gardener.  The extent of my knowledge ended at petunias ( my "go-to" annual) and tulips.  If I had to put a lot of effort (read:  maintenance) and research into gardening, it was out of the question.  

I've been slowly branching out though, the last couple of years have seen me buying potted hanging geraniums, and marigolds.  This year I'm trying some Asiatic Lillies (along with the uniform petunias, of course).

I've had perennials growing in the front flower patch since we bought the house (planted by a previous owner, goodness knows how many years back) and have never bothered to find out what they are, exactly.  I just saw them come up, said "Those are pretty" and waited for them to die back before planting my annuals.  

This year I want to know what they are!  Because I'm more interested now (funny, this age thing), and also because a few of them really need to be relocated.  Thanks to some help from my friends on Facebook, and some sleuthing on my own, I now know the following:

This is an Autumn Joy Sedum

Jury's still out on this one, but we think it's a Statice

This is Scilla Hispanica, or Spanish Bluebells

I'm also branching out into my backyard, too.  In the past, I just wanted the grass to look nice and didn't bother with "beautifying" the backyard.  For a few years too, I tried to be uber-crunchy and have my own "urban homestead vegetable garden" until I had to admit sad defeat that 1).  I'm just not cut out to be a vegetable gardener, and 2).  neither is my yard.  Our backyard is extremely shady, and we have a black walnut tree which doesn't want ANYTHING edible to grow around it.  

So this year, I'm tired of looking at the ugly bare spots full of weeds.  I'm learning to work with what I have - a shady yard - and am slowly cleaning things up and making it pretty.

strip along side the garage that used to be full of weeds, now holds shade-tolerant impatiens

area by the backdoor that used to be either weedy or just bare, turning into a perennial shade patch with a hosta, and astrilbe

(these top two shots are what it looks like today)
(this is what this area looked like 4 years ago, with the old birdbath and landscape rock that was buried under the dirt)

One spot that does get fairly decent sun is this bricked round area that used to have a bird bath, that we think may have originally been a fountain or fish pond because if you dig down deep enough, you don't hit dirt, you hit a rounded cement bottom.  Three years ago I took out the crumbling bird bath and all the horrid white landscape rock and filled it with dirt, but didn't really do anything with it afterwards.  This year though, I've cleaned it up and planted a hosta and marigolds.

Step by step I'm going to turn our backyard into a place I enjoy being in, with pretty things to look at.  I'm enjoying getting to know new plant varieties, and learning what will work in our yard and what won't.  I have lots of ideas for other spots in the yard, but I'll have to take those areas on as energy - and funds - allow.  In the meantime though, I think I"ve taken a good first step into reclaiming my yard, both front and back.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Nebraska's Own: Fred Astaire

You all know my love for Ginger Rogers, but I need to throw some extra love towards her most famous dancing partner, Fred Astaire.

Fred was born right here in my home state of Nebraska, Omaha to be exact, in 1899.  His father worked for Storz Brewery, an Omaha legend in beer (and which is currently being revitalized and made again!)  It was rumored that Fred, in the early 1920's, was a salesman for Storz in between tours of the vaudeville circuit with his sister Adele.

Nebraska Life magazine recently had an article listing the 17 most legendary Nebraskans, and our Fred was #17.  Interesting how they included Fred, but totally left out Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett, two other legendary Nebraskans!  Unfortunately, the article is not available online.  But another interesting tidbit it included was the address of Fred's birthplace!  2326 South 10th Street in Omaha.  So of course I went to Google maps and used streetview to look at it, and took a screen shot of it to share here. :)  I rather doubt the current inhabitents know or care that this was the birthplace of a famous Hollywood legend (I can imagine them saying, "Fred who?"), but it would be nice to have a plaque on the house indicating it, like the house in Missouri indicating Ginger's birthplace.  But we can't have everything, can we?  The next time I'm in Omaha, I'm definitely scoping this out.

Fred Astaire's birthplace, Omaha, NE

Now I admit that I've never read his autobiography, Steps In Time, so I don't know if any of his relatives and descendents still have any ties to Omaha.  But wouldn't it be cool if they did?  Well, cool to me, as a lifelong Nebraskan. :)

Enjoy some Fred and Ginger, in Cheek To Cheek from Top Hat:

and a more uptempo gem from Damsel In Distress:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

History Up In Smoke

I am sharing this from another blog, Ken at Passion for the Past, regarding a situation in North Carolina.

In brief, a whole roomful of old historical documents, some dating back to 1840, were found in a North Carolina courthouse and in the process of trying to archive and save the documents, some government agency swept in and destroyed everything.  Legal records, land titles, photographs, personal correspondence, everything was put into the county incinerator and obliterated.

Read more about it here:  http://stumblingintheshadowsofgiants.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/160-year-old-documents-intentionally-destroyed-in-franklin-county-n-c/

As a lover of history, this makes me sick!  Some may argue that everything in that room was useless, had been hidden in the basement for decades without anyone knowing about them, so why care if they're destroyed?  Here's why we should care:  it's a record of our past.  If no records of the past exist, there is no way to learn about it.

It was hinted that the records were destroyed intentionally in order to save present day prominent people embarrassment over how they acquired their family wealth.  Reconstruction and carpetbaggers, anyone?  Even if that is the case, what a stupid, flimsy excuse to destroy history.  Even our less than salubrious past should be preserved, to study and learn from......and hopefully not repeat.  It's why, in the debate in Europe over whether to continue preserving the Nazi concentration camps or tear them down, I'm in favor of keeping them.  It is a painful, stark reminder of how evil humans can be.....and we frequently need to be reminded of that, lest we allow something so evil to occur again.  It unfortunately does still happen, look at what is going on in Sudan and other parts of Africa these days.  All the more reason why we need to look to the past, in order to move toward the future.

And those wealthy, prominent, politically-connected folks who want to pretend that their family wealth didn't come from scam artists and rascals?  Get over it, own up to it, and humbly apologize for your ancestors' actions.  Donate some money to a worthy cause, and keep your nose clean going forward.

Of course none of this will be covered in the news, and the public outrcry is nonexistent, even at the local level.  We're all too concerned about our new smartphones or who will be picked on The Bachelor to care about a bunch of old moldy papers that were burned up.  And that is a shame.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 Goals

I'm late in getting up a "New Years Resolutions" list as it seems everyone did theirs last week.  :)  But that's OK.  I actually hate the term "resolution" because it sounds like something you have to go to court over.

Now....what in the world do I want to work on this year?  Here's some thoughts:

  1. Health.  No fad diets or extreme workouts, thank you very much.  My focus is on health, not weight.  I'm concentrating right now on incorporating more fresh fruit and vegetables into my diet, eating a wide variety of things, and watching portion sizes.  Also, getting more exercise, and better sleep (always elusive).  If I lose weight as a result, yay!  In fact, I already have.....six pounds over the last two months.  But my goal is overall improved health, for the long term.  I'll expound on this on a later post.

  2. Reaching Out.  I'm very introverted by nature.  Not a bad thing per say, but it does cause me to miss out on a lot life has to offer.  I'd like to work on stepping outside my comfort zone and connecting with people more, and try new things.  One thing I did last spring that has helped me start on this path:  a return to singing in a choir.  I was scared stiff, but I'm so glad I did it!

  3. No Fear.  I'm tired of letting fear prevent me from going forward in life.  Whether it's fear of failure, or of being judged, or a fear of investing a lot of myself into something to find out it's not for me (wasted effort), it's time to get over myself.  All of those "Someday, I'll do this (insert activity here)" wishes are lined up and ready to be explored, because Someday is here.  I'm not getting any younger, after all.
Just those three things cover a lot of areas, baby.  Here's to 2014, and what a new year, and a new outlook on life, have to offer. :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Well, Hello 2014!

It's almost been one entire year since I've posted anything.  *hangs head in shame*

No worries though, I feel the need to jump back into blogging.  Really!  I mean it.  Beware.  :)

I'm going to approach things differently this time, however, which will make me more inclined to write on a regular basis.  Instead of trying to copy other people, or feeling pressured to stick with one topic only, I'm going to ignore all of that and write about whatever I want, when I want.

Instead of writing for other people, hoping to attract readers or comments, I'm going to write for myself, and if anyone likes it, great!  If not, oh well.

I've lived my life far too long overly pre-occupied with what other people think of me.....and I want that to change.  2014 is going to be a year that I start to accept myself as who I am, not as who I think other people want me to be.

I hope anyone still following has had a happy new year so far.....what have ya'll been up to?  :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Television Time

Happy Valentines Day to all you lovers out there!

And now for the real post! :)

What are your favorite TV shows?  I have quite a few that I'm hooked on, much to my husband's chagrin.  And I try to get him to watch them all with me, to his even greater chagrin. :)  To his credit he does watch a few, and we enjoy discussing and analyzing them together.  The rest though, he leaves me to my own devices.

We spent 2011 with no TV because we decided we could no longer afford cable, even the most basic option.  So we canceled it and just relied on DVDs for our entertainment.  We found a few things we could watch online for free, but that wasn't the best option because we don't have a laptop (nor a fancy new TV that can hook up to the internet), so we'd have to get as comfortable as we could in chairs huddled around the computer desk.  Not fun for extended periods of time.  

For awhile, we enjoyed getting DVDs of old TV shows from our library, like All In The Family, Father Knows Best, and The Andy Griffith Show.  I even actually bought the first season of The Donna Reed Show, probably my favorite old TV show of all time.

Around this time last year, I got fed up with not being able to watch ANY programming on TV and bought an indoor antennae to hook up to our dual DVD/VCR player, which has a digital TV tuner in it.  We can't get a lot of channels, but what we can get has been a sanity-saver for me.  I'm sorry, but I LIKE television, and refuse to be made to feel guilty over it!  We can get three PBS channels, CBS, ABC, and FOX.  I'm sad that we can't get NBC because that's where all of the figure skating is shown, but I'm content with what we do have.  

We love PBS.  One show that we're hooked on is Downton Abbey.  It's total soap opera, but it's soap opera in gorgeous Edwardian clothes and decor.  

Other favorites on PBS are Antiques Roadshow, History Detectives, and Call The Midwife.

We really don't watch much of anything on CBS, except Wheel of Fortune.  Yeah, we're old nerds.  CBS is sort of crime-drama central, and neither of us enjoy that genre.

ABC though has a lot of our favorite shows.  We LOVE Once Upon A Time, The Middle, The Neighbors, Modern Family, and Nashville.   Well ok, I love Nashville.  Husband is usually in bed by the time it's on.  

We both enjoy Touch on Fox, as well.  I liked Fringe, too, but discovered it too late to be able to watch it in real time on TV.  By the time I was all caught up with the seasons on DVD, it had been canceled.  :(

There are quite a few cable shows that we like as well, but have to wait for them to come out on DVD to watch which makes waiting unbearable sometimes.  For me, anyway.  Can you tell yet that Husband is not quite the TV enthusiast as I am?  

Mad Men and Game of Thrones are two that come to mind that we devoured on DVD.  Literally, like watching a whole season in one weekend.  

I truly, truly, lament the loss of TCM when we canceled cable.  So many of those old movies aren't available on DVD nor can they be seen anywhere online.  As we were leading up to our cable cut off date in 2011, I was recording movies like a mad woman on our VCR.  Yeah, we still use our VCR.  No, we don't have a DVR.  Wanna make something of it?  :)  (we don't have cell phones either, but that's another blog post)

What are some of your favorite TV shows?  Or have you eschewed TV altogether?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mary Ingalls In The News

The other morning as I scanned the headlines on various internet news sites, I came across this:


"Doctors Explore Medical Mystery in Little House Books."

The Laura Ingalls Wilder (LIW) geek in me began mentally jumping up and down.  Something LIW-related is making mainstream headlines?  How cool is that!?

The real Mary Ingalls, college years

Let me back up a bit.  Yes, I am a LIW geek.  All my life I've loved the Little House books, even re-read them as an adult on a regular basis.  I read biographies and essays about her real life, and belong to various online LIW communities that are devoted to discussing, analyzing, and nit-picking over everything to do with the books and the author's real life.

The real Laura Ingalls, around age 17

*Please note that I have not mentioned anything about the television show, Little House on the Prairie.....nor will I ever.  Enough said.  Ahem.*

So naturally, when I saw a news headline regarding her sister, Mary Ingalls, I was thrilled.

Basically, a med school student who read the books growing up became curious about what caused Mary's blindness.  If you've read the books you'll automatically say, "That's easy, scarlet fever caused it!"

Well, not really.  Those of us in the LIW community have known for years that scarlet fever was not to blame....basically because Laura herself, in her unpublished memoir Pioneer Girl, said so.  In that memoir, she said the doctors at the time diagnosed it as "brain fever" and that it had a long name she could no longer recall.  "Brain fever" was a catch all term in those days (circa 1879) used to define spinal meningitis.

Why then, did Laura say it was scarlet fever in the Little House books?

The book where Mary goes blind from "scarlet fever"

William Anderson, long-time LIW biographer and researcher, thinks she used scarlet fever as a literary device, since it is an illness readers of historical fiction are familiar with and readily associate with dire seriousness.

Carrie, Mary, and Laura as children.  There is HUGE debate in the LIW community on whether this photo was taken pre-or-post blindness for Mary.

Back to the article, this med student began researching everything she could find about Mary, using the unpublished memoir and actual local newspaper stories from the time to study the symptoms available to us, and determined that the most probable cause of her blindness was meningoencephalitis.

Meningoencephalitis is a "cousin" to meningitis....so the doctors back then were sort of right with their call, and meningoencephalitis fits the "long word Laura could no longer remember as an adult."  It's nice to have a real bonafide diagnosis, finally, after all these years of speculation.  Well, as bonafide as we can get 134 years after the fact.

Mary went on to the Iowa College For The Blind in Vinton, Iowa.  You can read about her years there here.  It's a fascinating read.....and no, Mary never married, you lovers of the TV show. :)

If you're interested in learning more about the real family behind the books, check out these sites: