Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Little Chickadees

Today I’m happy to say goodbye to January, which often seems like the longest month of the year. The holidays are past, it’s cold outside and it seems a long time until spring. Sitting by a cozy fire, wrapped up in a warm blanket sipping tea and reading books will get you through for only so long. You long for warm days when the sun hits your back, the feel of the good Earth in your hand.

Today we’ve had sunshine, but tonight there’s a chance of snow flurries. Oftentimes the weather reports predict them but they “miss it” many times. On the other hand, we may wake up to 5 inches of snow (it has happened before when it wasn’t predicted).

When I need a reminder that spring will return, I place my little oil painting of a Carolina Chickadee in plain view. The Chickadee happens to be my favorite songbird, and this painting with its sunny yellow background was a gift many years ago from my sister. It’s been a source of much enjoyment.


Speaking of Chickadees, I bought a bird feeder two weeks ago and hung it outside my kitchen window where I could have the best view from inside. Five days passed and not a single bird visited. I decided the feeder was hanging too low and moved it onto the limb of another tree. Three days passed and still no birds.  I finally decided it was too near some evergreen foliage and moved it again.

Finally, I have small birds, including chickadees. They visit the feeder daily while some of the larger birds such as Blue Jays, Mockingbirds and Doves eat seeds that spill to the ground.

Chickadee Size
The Chickadee is a tiny bird (4-5 inches; 11.5–13 cm) with a distinctive body shape – a short neck and large head. They have a black cap and bib separated by stark white cheeks; the back, wings, and tail are soft gray.

Chickadee Feeding Behavior
The Chickadee is an inquisitive and acrobatic little bird. When outdoor feeders aren’t available, they hop along tree branches searching for food, sometimes hanging upside down or hovering. I’ve read they may make short flights to catch insects in the air. Insects form a large part of their diet, especially in summer; seeds and berries become important in winter. They sometimes hammer seeds on a tree or shrub to open them and also will store seeds for later use.

Except in the breeding season, associates with other Carolina Chickadees and a variety of other small species in feeding flocks that roam within a fairly large area. Despite being a flocking species, they normally space themselves fairly widely while eating.

Chickadee Habitat
These birds prefer forested areas, urban and suburban yards or parks with large trees. Their breeding habitat is mixed or deciduous woods in the United States from New Jersey west to southern Kansas and south to Florida and Texas; there is a gap in the range at high altitudes in the Appalachian Mountains where they are replaced by their otherwise more northern relative, the Black-capped Chickadee.

They are permanent residents here, not usually moving further south even in severe winter weather.


Chickadee Call
The most famous call is the familiar “chick-a-dee-dee-dee,” which gave this bird its name. This little call is music to my ears! Its song is “fee-bee-fee-bay.”

Coping with Cold Weather
Now here’s something interesting I learned: Carolina chickadees are able to lower their body temperatures to induce an intentional state of hypothermia called torpor. They do this to conserve energy during extremely cold winters. In extremely cold weather conditions they look for cavities where they can hide in and spend up to fifteen hours at a time in torpor; during this time they are awake but unresponsive; they should not be picked up and handled at this time, as the stress of being held may cause their death. I don’t know if other birds are capable of entering torpor or not.

Seems the Chickadees have found a way to cope with the cold weather! I'm sure they, like me, are happy to say goodbye to January and hope February weather will be somewhat nicer!

My sister has found a way to cope. She emailed me a picture of a new project she has begun -- a needlepoint canvas imprinted with Carolina Chickadees in a Pine Tree. Won't this be lovely in shades of blue and green?

I complain about the winter; she finds a constructive way to pass the time while being trapped indoors! I have decided to turn over a new leaf beginning tomorrow. No more whining; just get myself involved!

Are you tired of winter? How does your winter routine differ from other times of the year?

Do you place bird feeders outside your windows? If so, what kinds of birds do you attract?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


The better known definition of the word “holler” is “to call out in a loud voice.” But here in my part of the world, the word has another meaning --   a small valley containing a creek between mountains or small hills. It may be (correctly) referred to as a "hollow" elsewhere, but around here it's a "holler."
Grist Mill

Early settlers to the area sought out these prized locations, which conveniently provided the water needed to sustain life and conduct commerce. In many instances, they built grist mills to grind corn and operated blacksmith shops. Often, entire villages developed and thrived at these sites.

Here in the Southeastern United States the word is capitalized and follows a proper noun, a surname. For instance, hollers were named for the families that lived there. Thus, we have the “Goodman Holler,” “Ingram Holler,” “Nugent Holler,” and “Belue Holler.” There are many others, but these are just the ones I am familiar and have an association with.

The Goodman Holler is no more than one-quarter mile from where I live and is the location where my great-grandfather was killed in 1885. Read the account of the events surrounding his death in my previous post on Thomas Berry Howard.


Another holler just up the road from me is known as the Ingram Holler. The following entry in The Journal of Muscle Shoals History’s Bicentennial Edition, Historic Muscle Shoals, gives the following account of the location:
William Franklin Ingram moved this house from Calicoa, Tennessee, to Anderson while the Indians still occupied Anderson Creek Valley. He built a dam across the creek and established a grist mill, saw mill, woolen factory and blacksmith shop. William Franklin Ingram II, who inherited the house and mills from his father, moved the house a second time from its conspicuous spot on the hill to the edge of the stream in order to get away from Federal soldiers who frequently passed that way on the Lamb’s Ferry Road. Mr. James Ingram of the sixth generation owns the house today.

Other hollers near me include the Belue Holler, Nugent Holler, Corum Holler, Perry Holler and Blowing Springs. The latter is located in a holler but is known only as Blowing Springs. I have a really interesting story to tell about that location but will save it for a later time.

Other well-known hollers:

Country music singer Loretta Lynn's birthplace in Butcher Holler, Kentucky.

Butcher Hollow (Holler) - a coal-mining community located in Johnson County, Kentucky. Its claim to fame is being the birthplace of country music legend Loretta Lynn, who paid tribute to the community in the song Coal Miner's Daughter.

Ichabod Crane pursued by the Headless Horseman,
by F.O.C. Darley, 1849.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a Halloween-themed short story by Washington Irving contained in his collection The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, first published in 1820. With Irving's companion piece "Rip Van Winkle", "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is among the earliest examples of American fiction still read today. The story is set in 1790 in the countryside around the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town (historical Tarrytown, New York), in a secluded glen called Sleepy Hollow.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Downton Abbey Blues

An apology to readers not following or not fans of Downton Abbey, Season 3 of which is currently airing Sunday nights on PBS:

I am “in mourning” today that Lady Sybil died in last night’s episode. I’m so sorry she’s been written out of the script, as she was one of my favorite characters.

Now, what will happen to Branson and his motherless newborn daughter? Will he return to Ireland and take the baby, or allow the child to be raised by Lady Sybil’s family at Downton?

Did we see a foreshadowing last night that Mary and Matthew will not be able to have a child of their own? Will they adopt the baby?

Will Lady Cora ever be able to forgive Lord Robert for not listening to the village doctor who could have perhaps saved Lady Sybil?

Does anyone else wonder if Bates did after all kill his ex-wife? And what would happen to Anna, his oh-so-nice-and-sweet current wife?

Will Lady Edith ever be able to find her place in the world?

Are Lord Grantham and Matthew headed for a showdown over the estate’s management?

Will Ethel work out as a cook in Mrs. Crowley’s house?

And what's next down in the servant quarters? Will Daisy ever find true love? Will Mrs. Patmore ever start being nice to Daisy?

And what of Thomas and O'Brien? Will Thomas' secret life be exposed? Will O'Brien turn into a nice person?

I didn't think I would become so hooked on this program. As others have said, it's a soap opera. Ah, but the costumes, the historical background, the scenery. Each episode leaves me longing to see the next one!

With any luck, though, we'll continue to be entertained by the the Dowager Countess of Grantham's sharp and pointed one-liners:

Do you have any thought/opinions/predictions on the points above? Please share!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cinnamon and Honey: Cure-All or Hoax?

Maybe you've read information going around the Web about the amazing powers of cinnamon and honey to cure whatever ails you.

I’m always intrigued by such information, conscious as I am about eating right and staying healthy. So my first stop in investigating this claim was at the Website devoted to verifying the accuracy of various information that often circulates,

It’s interesting that snopes, in this instance, only says this information is a “mixture,” of truth and untruth, but doesn’t distinguish between the two.
Another Website reports that is “still researching this to decide whether it’s truth or urban legend.”

Here are the conditions honey and cinnamon are claimed to cure (go to snopes link above for more details):

  • Bladder Infections
  • Toothache
  • Cholesterol
  • Colds
  • Upset Stomach
  • Gas
  • Immune System
  • Influenza
  • Pimples
  • Longevity
  • Skin Infections
  • Bad Breath
  • Infections
  • Weight Loss
  • Cancer
  • Fatigue.

Wow, that's quite a list!

The truth is that cinnamon and honey have been used to promote health for centuries. They are a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Folk Medicine. It HAS been verified that honey possesses natural anti-bacterial properties. But the efficacy of the two products is part of a larger picture that consists of lifestyle choices: energetic activity and whole foods, I think we all would agree.

As for me, I love both cinnamon and honey in the first place so I will continue to consume them. I have been regularly using cinnamon daily for at least two years. It gets sprinkled on top of brewing coffee grounds and into plain yogurt for my morning breakfast. Honey also goes into my yogurt and I use it sometimes to sweeten tea. I love it mixed with peanut butter and spread on whole wheat bread for a quick lunch.

One more thing. I found this blog Katerina's Journal which claims honey and cinnamon are good for sick animals as well. I'll index this for possible future use.

Honey And Cinnamon Remedy For Dogs:

Put 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (powder) in a cup
Pour over about half a cup of boiling water
Stir well and let cinnamon swell for a few minutes
Add 1 table spoon of honey, stir until honey dissolves

Feed 1-2 table spoons per dog per serving, for example as part of a healthy morning feeding, mixed into 100g of plain yogurt with probiotics, or just blend into the dog's food at least twice daily.

Use the honey and cinnamon mixture as a remedy for tired, sick, weak animals, especially those with respiratory disease. You can put it in a syringe and slowly feed it in intervals to your animal patient. For very weak dogs, administer 5-10ml every hour to a medium sized dog. Double or lower the amount based on your pet's size.

Serve it warm (not hot!) or at room temperature.

Have you heard of the cinnamon and honey cure? Do you consume the two?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Who Remembers Buster Brown?

It’s a standard joke from me: Each time I have my bangs trimmed and they turn out too short for my liking, I say I look like Buster Brown.
Buster Brown and his dog Tige.

Younger people may ask, “Who is Buster Brown?”

Buster Brown was originally a comic strip character created in 1902 by Richard Felton Outcault, who was associated with the Brown Shoe Company. Buster, with his pageboy haircut, was based on a small child in Outcault’s hometown.

Brown Shoe Company

Another small child named Richard Barker played Buster Brown in the Brown Shoe Company advertising campaign. Midgets were hired to play Buster in tours around the United States. These little people, accompanied by a Pit Bull dog named Tige, performed in department stores, theaters and shoe stores from 1904 until 1930.

The Buster Brown character went on to a career in comic strips, the theater, radio, television and comic books. But to me, Buster Brown only meant shoes; back to school shoes. Those ugly lace-up numbers that meant you were a mere child; not old enough to wear grown-up shoes.

Childrens Size 8 vintage Buster Browns for sale at

No more sneakers and sandals of summer. No more bare legs. It was Fall and time for the shopping trip for sturdy shoes. The kind with which you had to wear socks. That meant Buster Browns.

A Buster Brown Shoes sign like this was outside Kaye's Shoe Store.

I was dragged into Kaye’s Shoe Store, where you were met at the door by a stuffy man who escorted you and your mother --  with all the formality befitting being taken to meet royalty -- to the back of the store where resided the fluorescent X-ray machine.

Fluorescent X-ray Machine used in shoe stores to ensure the proper fit.

Little feet slid into the machine, which was a big box resembling a floor-model radio. As the formal salesman adjusted the controls, X-rays penetrated shoes and feet and struck a fluorescent light, resulting in an image of the feet within the shoes. The machines were a big selling point for stores, which advertised that a proper fit would make for longer-lasting shoes and the need to buy fewer pairs.
The fluorescent image was reflected to three viewing ports at the top of the cabinet, where you, the salesman and your mother could view the image at the same time. (Radiation hazards associated with shoe fitting x-ray units were later discovered and the X-ray machines were no more).

After the proper fit was determined, the salesman went to shelves that lined the wall, selected the correct size, brought the box, opened the tissue-type paper that covered the shoes and presented the brown things with a flourish. 

For my mother, it was an event that proved she was doing the right thing by purchasing footwear that provided proper support for growing feet. It was the kind of shoes all little girls should wear!

My little tantrums and incessant begging to be allowed to wear “slip ons” or loafers, like some of the other little girls, fell on deaf ears. Later, when you're older, she promised. I had to wait a few years before I got my first pair of Bass Weejans.

But one benefit of buying shoes at Kaye’s was receiving the card each year on my birthday for a free present. Now that was something to look forward to! Some of the gifts I remember are the The Game of Cootie; Old Maid and Authors playing cards; and a miniature doll with a dressmaking kit.

Recent research about Buster Brown indicates the Brown Shoe Company  celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011. Still making shoes after all these years! And in the most stylish way! I guess not all little girls have to wear lace-up brown oxford shoes anymore. Read more about the history of Buster Brown.

Brown Shoe Company
Did you ever wear Buster Brown shoes? What are your memories associated with them, or with other shoes you wore as a child?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Former Needlework and Crafts

Walking around to tidy up a bit this morning I became aware of how much needlework done by me and others I have on display.

In a "former life" I was a needlework junkie, that's for sure. I tried it all  -- or at least MOST of it. It was a challenge to learn as many of the crafts as I could.

That was then and then there's now. I wonder if my desire to do needlework shall ever return. During my recent downsizing/decluttering I have lingered over unfinished projects and supplies bought for endeavors never even begun. I wistfully think, "I should finish this one." 

But alas, I put it back and think "someday."

Should I ever decide to return to my needlework passion, it certainly won't be because I need a piece to display in the house. I thought I'd show you some of what's already here.

Canvaas Work/Needlepoint

This is one of my favorite needlepoint pieces. As often is the case, it was begun in the 1970s and completed in the 1990s. I have a companion canvas that I started -- years ago, of course -- and never completed. It would look great hanging alongside this one in the living room.

Close-up of the detail in the above piece.

Bargello was my "thing" in the 1970s. I couldn't begin to count how many pillow tops I made and mostly gave away as gifts. This is a detail of the work in the framed picture below.

The green is more accurately reflected in this photo than the blue-green in the detail above.

Another favorite. I love Oriental needlepoint.

Needlepoint bell pull hanging in the family room. 1980s

Detail of the bell pull.

Completed in the 1970s, when nasturtiums were my favorite annual to grow in the garden. 

Nasturtiums detail. 

Needlepoint picture, 1990s.

Needlepoint country scene by my mother-in-law, Rose Martel. 

Old woman at the spinning wheel, a needlework picture by Rose Martel.

Crewel Embroidery

I think this was my first venture into crewel embroidery. I first made a pillow of it and a few years ago, decided to have it framed.

Crewel embroidery/cross stitch sampler and tree of life, designed by Elsa  Williams. I always loved her designs and have several of her kits -- uncompleted of course!
Close up of my crewel embroidery work in the above sampler.

Another Elsa Williams design. I have the matching pillow top/stool cover that really would look nice displayed alongside this bell pull.

Crewel embroidery (one of four). Hummel figurine designs.The handwork was not done by me, but were gifts. 


A beautiful quilt that I pieced and mother and I hand-quilted. It's completed except for binding the edges. Why don't I just do that and call it done?

A "baby" quilt (in size). Patchwork from Laura Ashley fabrics. Still needs to be quilted. Maybe I'll complete it should a girl grandchild arrive one of these years!

My Christmas quilt.  1990s.

This is a "weird" project. Called Hawaiian quilting, I think. The crab-looking thingy is trapunto, where you slit the back lining and stuff with cotton and then restitch it. I don't like it so much, which is probably why I never finished it. Stitching a small section of the binding is all it needs to be complete. But what would I do with it???

Above and below, details of trapunto piece. 

A stylized flag.

A quilt storage cabinet hold many quilts mother made and gave me.
Counted Cross-Stitch

A gift from my sweet sister when we built the house in 1993.

A gift from my sister-in-law Annie.

Combination counted cross-stitch and some kind of paper-cutting.

Counted cross-stitch by Rose Martel

(This was mother's craft of choice. I can't even begin to tell you how many doilies and other crocheted things she has given me over the years. Drawers and drawers full.)

A pineapple design crocheted by mother

Christmas tree skirt around which I crocheted a border.

Storage cabinet where I keep crocheted afghans, mostly made by mother.
China Painting

I started china painting in the 1970s. This was my best piece.

Poppies in the above plate.

I tried china painting again in the 1990s. This dogwood plate is not nearly so nice as the poppies. I must have lost my touch!
I think that is quite enough -- no, more than enough - for today. And I didn't even venture into knitting, or show you the decoupage, or the ceramics.......

Tell me about your craftiness and what of it you display in your home.
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