Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Einstein's Riddle: Can You Solve It?

It is said that solving puzzles keeps our brains exercised and young.

I happen to like puzzles of every variety. This is one I ran across recently and last night I attempted to solve it.

I have to tell you that I could not! I worked on it for about an hour and came close. Perhaps if I'd stayed with it I could have filled in the missing parts. However, I just gave up and decided to share it with you.

If you decide to try, here's a hint: You must chart it out and use the process of elimination to fill in some blanks. I knew this because I have a similar puzzle, not attributed to Einstein, that I have kept many years and I solved that one by charting it out.

If you're curious and want to know the answer, find it here.

If you solve it, congratulations -- you are said to be among two percent of the people who can solve it.

Also, if you Google "Einstein's Riddle," you'll see there are other versions out there.

Good luck!
Credit: themetapicture.com

Monday, February 24, 2014

Don't Put Away Your Winter Coat Just Yet

It's almost March, and I thought surely the worst was over -- that the coldest ever winter was behind us -- and I could safely clean my warmest coat and store it away until next year.

The weather warmed into the 70s over the weekend, and I enjoyed time outdoors.

Found a few daffodils emerging from among the leaves. They are almost two months behind their normal blooming schedule this year.

The goldfish seem to have survived the freezing temperatures unscathed. All 10 fish were spied swimming happily about after a completely frozen over fish pond a few weeks ago. They are fat and active.

Taking advantage of the nice weather yesterday, I potted up five rosemary cuttings I kept in the kitchen window all winter.

And having taken the cuttings last fall was a very good thing, as all my many rosemaries planted in the ground are dead after 5 degree temperatures a few weeks ago. It's a chance one takes -- planting them in the ground in our Zone 7 -- but it's a chance I take. I can count on having to start over again every 10 years or so.

It is now predicted that we'll get a new blast from the Polar Vortex this week, with temperatures dropping into the teens once more. Possibility of snow as well.

So I'll dig out the scarves and mittens once more!

Winter has been a challenge for most of us this year, in one way or another. So we'll just have to look at the bright side of things and enjoy what we can.

For me, that means enjoying the early morning and evening sky, as in this photo from yesterday.

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant."
-  Anne Bradstreet

Enjoy your week! How is YOUR weather?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014



A small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase (such as a 13th doughnut when buying a dozen). More broadly, something obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure. (The word entered English from the Louisiana French adapting a Quechua word brought in to New Orleans by the Spanish creoles. It derived from the South American Spanish phrase la yapa (referring to a free extra item, usually a very cheap one).

This word has not always been a part of my vocabulary. One hears it used primarily around the Gulf Coast in the United States - places such as New Orleans, Mobile and the Florida Panhandle.

But it's a good word. I like the sound of it. And while the definition doesn't strictly fit the contents of my post, I'm using it anyway. Because these are a few small gifts I gave to myself today.


At times, one must be frivolous, even (or especially) in the small things. Like buying a few stems of lilies because they are so beautiful and you need a bit of cheer inside until winter passes.

Such was the case when I saw these gorgeous white lilies. Of course, the added benefit -- and perhaps the main reason for bringing them home in the first place -- is their divine fragrance.

Place a vase of lilies on a table and they'll perfume an entire room. What could be better than drifting off to sleep breathing their intoxicating fragrance? 

And then there's tea. Finding and bringing home a new one you haven't tried before is an experience to be savored. I enjoy rooibos teas very much so getting this one was a no-brainer. The vanilla enhancement makes it swoon-worthy.

Frames. I need to buy several new ones. Finding the perfect one can be a challenge. This one seemed just right.

These gadgets might have been around for awhile, but it was only today I became aware of them. What a novel idea, if you'll pardon the pun!

 Here's how it works:

And I happen to have a picture that fits my new frame perfectly! Our Valentine from Katie!

How do you reward or treat yourself? Chocolates, a new lipstick, book, movie? Oh, there are so many and I'm guilty of most of the ones mentioned. But life is short. Enjoy it!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Big Fish

"Remembering a man's stories makes him immortal" - Edward Bloom

Today's book for discussion at my book club group was Big Fish.

Here is a description from the book cover:

"In his prime, Edward Bloom was an extraordinary man. He could outrun anybody. He never missed a day of school. He saved lives and tamed giants. Animals loved him, people loved him, women loved him. He knew more jokes than any man alive. At least that’s what he told his son, William."

This is not a book I would have chosen to read on my own, and I can't say I thoroughly enjoyed it. But it was interesting and innovative.

It's about a son (William) trying to understand his elusive father (Edward), as the father is dying. Using the few facts he knows, William re-creates Edward’s life in a series of legends and myths, through which he begins to understand his father’s great feats and his great failings. The result is hilarious and wrenching, tender and outrageous.

The book has been made into a movie and is also a Broadway play.

What interesting books have you been reading?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Quick, name the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

How many did you remember? (I only got two correct!)

How can it be that something we once knew can be forgotten?

Here's the answer:

The Great Pyramid of GizzaThe only ancient world wonder that still exists.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon
A 16th-century hand-colored engraving by Dutch artist Maarten van Heemskerck with the Tower of Babel in the background

Statue of Zeus at Olympia
A fanciful reconstruction of Phidias' statue of Zeus, in an engraving made by Philippe Galle in 1572, from a drawing by Maarten van Heemskerck

Temple of Artemis
This model of the Temple of Artemis, also known as the Temple of Diana, in Istanbul, Turkey, attempts to recreate the probable appearance of the first temple
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
Scale model of a reconstruction of the Mausoleum, one of many widely differing versions, in Istanbul.
The Colossus of Rhodes, as depicted in an artist's impression of 1880.
Lighthouse of AlexandriaA three-dimensional reconstruction based on a comprehensive 2006 study.

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World 
was the first such list to be compiled
 and was based on guidebooks popular among Hellenic sightseers
 and only includes works located 
around the Mediterranean rim.  The number seven was chosen
 because the Greeks believed it represented perfection and plenty.
Many additional lists have been compiled 
from antiquity to the present day, 
to catalog the world's most spectacular
 natural wonders and man-made structures.

Various other lists include landmarks such as Stonehenge (England); Colosseum (Rome); the Catacombs (Egypt); Great Wall of China; Leaning Tower of Pisa (Italy); Taj Mahal (India) and others.

Images and information from Wikipedia

Were you made memorize this list in junior high school? I was, but I suppose it didn't stay with me very well!

    Friday, February 14, 2014

    A Valentine's Day Wish from Valerie

    Smiles to you from Darling Val
    Dear Readers:

    Five years ago today, I found a new home. I had a real home once before, but I can hardly remember it now. I do recall, however, that I became lost and some people found me and locked me in a cage in a big room with other dogs in cages. I was scared and wanted to go home.

    Then a nice lady came and took me away to a doctor, where I was poked and prodded. Then I was bathed and brushed and my hair was trimmed. I caught an image of myself in the mirror and I thought I looked pretty. I thought they might take me home now.

    But the nice lady took me to yet another place. While I was comfortable and safe, I still had to stay inside a cage. She fed me, and played with me occasionally when I was allowed outside, but I was quite lonely. And scared.

    One day soon after, she and another lady placed me in a vehicle and we went on a long car trip -- maybe for an hour or two.

    When I was finally removed from the car, I was led along a sidewalk. I sniffed but nothing smelled familiar.

    We entered through an unfamiliar door. Two strange people were standing there and I could tell by their voices they were friendly. But I was scared. So many changes over the past few days had upset me and I just didn't know what to do. 

    The four people sat down, and since there was space on the sofa between where the two new people were sitting, I hopped up. They didn't seem to mind, and both started touching me and speaking in soothing voices.

    I think I fell asleep for a long time, because when I awoke the two ladies who had brought me were gone. Throughout the day the new people sat beside me and hugged me.

    They took me outside but never ventured far away. I liked that. They fed me but mostly they let me sleep.

    I slept on that sofa for the better part of three days. I think I needed the time to heal myself of the mental trauma I had endured.

    When I recovered from my healing rest, I woke up and knew I'd finally found my way home. My forever home.

    Life is good. And I hope your Valentine's Day is as good as mine was five years ago.

    P.S. My brother Kris became very jealous (that's his nature) when he learned I am wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day. He's a "me-too" kind of guy so I asked Mom to include a photo of him so he won't be harass me the rest of the day:

    He can be so silly at times. Like this morning when he rolled around in the snow!


    When she was rescued from the pound by the Golden Retriever Rescue group, she was given a name. Introduced to us as Valerie, and we didn't see fit to rename her, as she had experienced quite enough changes over the past weeks. And besides, it seemed such an appropriate name, since she came to be a member of our family on Valentine's Day.

    A Poem
    Author Unknown

    When God had made the earth and sky, the flowers and the trees.

    He then made all the animals and all the birds and bees.

    And then His work was finished, and not one was quite the same
    He said I'll walk this earth of mine and give each one a name.

    And so he traveled land and sea, and everywhere He went
    a little creature following him, until its strength was spent.

    When all were named upon the Earth, and in the sky and sea,
    A little creature said, Dear Lord, there's not one left for me.

    The Father smiled and softly said, I've left you to the end,
    I've turned my own name back to front
    and called you "Dog" my friend.

    Happy Valentine's Day from Valerie

    Wednesday, February 12, 2014

    Two Years of Blogging, a Hat for Katie and Snow

    This post was to have appeared yesterday but was prevented due to computer updates in progress.

    Two years ago I posted my first blog. Has it really been that long since I began this journey?

    Writing this blog has been, and continues to be, a rewarding pleasure. Sharing my interests, passions and opinions has been an outlet for me and a way of connecting with like-minded people.

    Thanks to those who have chosen to follow me, to those who regularly or occasionally read my posts and especially to those who engage in a two-way dialogue. I feel I have come to know you and I do appreciate and enjoy the friendships that have ensued.

    A glance at the stats provided by Blogger reveal:
    Here are posts that have received the most page views (all time history):

    Who knows why some posts more viewed than others?

    But on other topics.

    As mentioned previously, I've been knitting. I made a hat and two headbands for Katie:

    This was my first attempt at making a hat and the first baby item I've ever knitted. I'll definitely be doing more! They take so little time compared to knitting for adults. I have started a little sweater, but have had to put it aside for a few days due to soreness that developed in my right arm. Sitting for too long and performing repetitive movements has caused pain and inflammation. Have you ever had a similar problem?

    And the weather! This is a view at the back of the house yesterday.

    It snow melted by midday yesterday but much more was predicted last night and today. It didn't arrive until late this afternoon and it's still falling. I expect I'll have nice snow pictures to post tomorrow.

    I hope you are having a good week. All comments are appreciated!

    Monday, February 10, 2014

    The Old Homeplace

    Sorting through old pictures, I found a photographic print of a painting done a few decades ago of my grandparents' house. The oil painting was reproduced onto postcard-size photo paper and given to family members.

    I had actually forgotten I had this and am so very glad to find it.

    It's not the place where my father and his siblings grew up. The house and surrounding acres were purchased after my grandparents' children had gone on to establish their own lives with wives, husbands and children.

    But it's the house known to their grandchildren as we grew up. My grandmother died in 1960, my grandfather in 1963. Our maiden aunt lived on in the house until she moved into an assisted living high-rise in town at an advanced age. The house was sold and eventually torn down to make way for an apartment complex.

    I often drive by where the old home place once stood and try to picture it in my mind's eye. If perchance I stopped and and listened carefully, I might hear again the sound of squealing children in the yard, or through an open window, my aunt and grandmother talking or arguing in the kitchen as they jointly prepared the midday meal -- the good cooking smells drifting out the open windows.

    Going deeper and further back in my memory bank, the wicked chuckle of my grandfather resonates as he jokes with his grandchildren. A witty Irishman to the core -- tall, slim, and a full head of red hair that didn't gray until he was a very old man -- he liked nothing more than to tease his grandchildren. In a kindly, grandfatherly way of course.

    I remember the time he gave me a plug of tobacco and encouraged me to chew it. I was about 5 years old at the time. My mother was not amused.

    Or when I was 14, he teased and embarrassed me by saying the retarded boy in the village was my "boyfriend." Oh, he really got a rise out of me on that one!

    He did love his chewing tobacco and I have a picture in my mind of him and grandmother sitting before the coal-burning fireplace in winter, he chewing his tobacco, she dipping her snuff or alternately, chewing Wrigley's Spearmint gum, which she adored.

    Our gatherings there on Christmas Eve are a large part of my memories of Christmas Past. The feast on the long dining room table, the buffet full of delicacies such as fresh coconut cake, banana pudding and pecan pie. The cedar tree in the front room, bedecked with blue lights and silver tinsel and waiting for the gift exchange. Millinea leading the group in a round of Christmas carols after gifts were opened. Uncle James handing out sparklers and firecrackers to the children for entertainment on a cold winter's Christmas Eve. The ride home with Sugar Plums dancing in my head knowing that Santa Claus would soon arrive.
     I also found this photo made one Christmas. That's my sister and me on the back row.  Front row, from left, are cousins Debbie, Renae and Jeannie. That's David Earl trying to hide behind Jeannie.
    In case you're thinking the above should have been part of a blog post at Christmas, I'll now reveal that summers there were best. 

    The deeply shaded porch was a respite from the heat where we could lounge and read a book while beans were snapped by the adults. Or we might go to the gnarled old pear tree that stood at the back of the house and eat the juicy fruit until our hearts were content. 
    If I linger long enough there on a summer day, I'll see Grandaddy sitting on the front porch, legs propped up on a red brick column, tobacco spit can nearby. 

    The old dinner bell just outside the kitchen door once alerted field workers that it was dinnertime, but it was no longer in use during our childhood. Instead, granddaddy would call us to march inside the cool, dark house that always had a slightly musty smell to sit down and eat the big midday dinner Lela and Grandmother had prepared.

    My little picture reminds me of all these things, and I cherish it.

    Friday, February 7, 2014

    Feb. 7, 1964 – The Day the 60s Began

    Fifty years ago today, on Feb. 7, 1964, the British rock group the Beatles arrived in New York City for their first visit to the U.S.

    Photo Credit
    They were greeted at the airport by 3,000 screaming teenagers, and their two-week stay in America would change rock music forever.

    The band from Liverpool had been gathering momentum in the UK and other European countries for several years and they were featured on package tours across England. They caught fire in the UK in 1963 with their first album. “Please Please Me.”

    However, their hits in Britain had tanked in the U.S. Their arrival in America on Feb. 7 would change that. 

    The Kennedy assassination a mere eleven weeks earlier left young Americans hungry for something to feel good about. And we got with those four lovable, witty mopheads whose British accent sounded so good to our ears. And they were so cute!

    As John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr stepped off the plane that day, they likely had no idea they would change popular culture forever.

    I think of the Beatles’ arrival in America as the day the first of the Baby Boomers officially came of age; when the 60’s officially began.

    Their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show two days after their arrival has been called "a night that changed the course of American culture." More than seventy million television viewers - the largest-ever audience for an entertainment show - watched the Beatles' performance.

    Photo Credit
    Photo Credit
    They performed the songs All My Loving, 
    Till There Was You, 
    She Loves You, 
    I Saw Her Standing There and
     I Want To Hold Your Hand 
    during their first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

    The band appeared twice in two weeks on the Ed Sullivan Show and their performances still rate as the second and third most-watched programs in the history of US TV, surpassed only in 1983 when the  final episode of the Korean war comedy MASH aired.

    Reportedly, their performances led to a dip in the crime rate to a 50-year low, as 73 million people or 40% of Americans tuned in to watch.

    They also performed in concerts in New York and Washington, D.C.

    At the time, newsmen (and yes, at the time they all were men) dismissed the group and their music as a fad. But teenagers knew better.

    Photo Credit
    This photo of  teenage girls watching the Beatles during their performance on The Ed Sullivan Show says it all!
    Today, the Beatles are considered the most influential band in the history of popular music, having sold more albums than any other artist on the planet. Their music transcends generations, with young fans jamming along to Beatles, and both rock bands and contemporary artists covering their classics.

    Their arrival in the U.S. fifty years ago was a pretty big deal. And it feels like it was only Yesterday (written by McCartney and one of the Beatles biggest hits). The song has been covered by other artists more than 3,000 times, the most covered song in history.

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

    Angel and Furry Friends Art

    Here’s a little watercolor/collage print by Patricia Eldridge, a gift from a cousin at our annual reunion last November.

    The print immediately appealed to me, with its angel/moon/stars motif.

    After a bit of research on the artist, I found out some interesting background on this local artist.

    Phantom's Guardian Angel illustration, "Angels Unaware"
    by Patricia Eldridge
    Eldridge’s illustrations are included in “Phantom's Guardian Angel,”  a children's book about animal rescue. The artist’s website states the purpose of the book is “to teach kids how to treat animals with kindness.” Most of the proceeds from book sales are donated to animal charities.

    What a great combination, beautiful art that benefits four-legged creatures and teaches children how to respect them!

    A series of her prints depict Guardian Angels with different dog breeds. A large portion of the proceeds of each print are donated to the different breed rescue groups.

    Aren't these just the sweetest ever?

    Black Lab
    by Patricia Eldridge

    Multiple Cats
    by Patricia Eldridge

    Blonde Cocker Spaniel
    by Patricia Eldridge

    by Patricia Eldridge
    (This one's for you, Judith)

    Golden Retriever
    by Patricia Eldridge 

    Chocolate Lab
    by Patricia Eldridge
    (A Big Ben dog, Sissy!)

    Yellow Lab
    by Patricia Eldridge
    (And this one's for Darry)

    See prints of all breeds here
    Learn more about the artist here

    I'm off to get my little print framed. It will occupy a special place in my house.

    Tuesday, February 4, 2014

    Morning Music

    Early today, as I was listening to the Symphony Hall channel on Sirius, the haunting notes of Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto for piano and orchestra stopped my coffee cup dead on its path to my mouth.

    The second concerto has a wealth of melodies and is one of the most beautiful compositions ever written, in my opinion. Its musical architecture, its effortless unfolding, its sincerity makes it the favorite among many discerning listeners.. 

    While the beautiful melody so effortlessly unfolded, it struck a chord deep within myself that I had some personal connection with the piece.

    Then I remembered I once played the concerto's closing theme in the last piano recital in which I ever participated, when I was about 15. After that, I gave up piano lessons, a decision I have lived to regret.

    I still have the sheet music. Note the price: 40 cents!

    But my association with the concerto doesn't end there. When I was a college sophomore, my Music Appreciation class professor informed students they could be exempt from the class final exam by performing before the class -- either singing or playing a musical instrument.

    I was game! I'll play the Rachmaninoff Second, I naively thought. Never mind it had been years since I'd even touched a piano. But since the announcement came at the beginning of the quarter, I had weeks to prepare.

    I dug out the sheet music and several time each week I'd stay on campus after classes to practice in the music room. It was tough going, but persistence paid off.

    On the day I was to perform in front of about 50 fellow students, I was as nervous as a mouse in a barn full of cats.

    But play it I did. I wasn't altogether happy with my performance, and I once "messed up" but quickly recovered.

    There was the requisite amount of polite applause after I was finished. But hey, I got an A in the class so it ended well.

    If you aren't that familiar with the Rachmaninoff 2nd Concerto, do visit You Tube and listen to the complete piece. I think you'll love.


    The song "All by Myself," a ballad written and performed by Eric Carmen in 1975, is based on the second movement of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto. The song also was covered by Celine Dione in 2008.

    Life is full of associations with music? What are some of yours?

    Saturday, February 1, 2014

    One Down, Eleven to Go

    Where did it go? The first month of 2014 is now in the history books.

    I don't make New Year Resolutions, but I do set goals - albeit "loose" ones - for myself. Sometimes I commit them to paper, sometimes not.

    You know, the "I'll exercise more, eat healthy food, read more, complete unfinished projects, do more for others" kind of thing. Check. I've done quite well on these goals.

    These are the five books I've read in January. All images from Amazon.com.

    I've even taken my sterling silver charm bracelet, purchased almost one year ago, to the jewelry store to have charms I've purchased attached.

    I want to fill up the bracelet up with things I love - a Golden Retriever, cats, charms to signify cooking, gardening, knitting, a piano -- well, you get the idea.

    Then there are the things I want to accomplish that seem to evade me -- Yoga, regular journal entries, listening to quality music.

    But there are 11 months left in the year. I'm working on them!

    How was your January? Do you feel good about what you accomplshed?

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