Monday, April 28, 2014

Somebody Save My Basil . . I'm a Plant Murderer!

♥ My Sweet Basil ♥

It's a very good thing there is no law against killing plants or I would ber serving several life sentences. It's not that I want to kill them, but I kill them with good intentions. I do read all the instructions on how to care for them and try my best to follow through, but it always ends the same way . . . dead plants.

I have never been able to keep a plant a live for as long as I can remember. My failed attempts over recent years have been French lavender plants. I absolutely love the smell of French lavender and so my brother surprised me (a couple of different times) with a beautiful plant he found at a local nursery. I did my homework and found out all I needed to know. However, in due time they withered away leaving me sad and disappointed. I feel I have a "black thumb." It's a shame though, because my father was a farmer in Italy and everything he touched grew like Jack's beanstalk. Obviously I didn't inherit any talent from him in this department.

I think my main problem---no, I know my main problem is overwatering my plants. Hell, I even killed a couple of cactus plants, somrthing that I thought was impossible. I have a black thumb. Nothing in the plant kingdom is safe if I am responsible for it. Which is why I am a little worried now.

For the past couple of years I have wanted to get myself a nice basil plant. I love basil in my sauce and I always pay too much money at the vegetable store for a couple of sprigs. In any case, whenever I thought about it it was already too late in the season to find a plant. But this year I spotted one at Home Depot and in fact bought two of them, figuring if I killed one the other might survive. I've had them just a week and they were doing well. This morning, as I was preparing breakfast, I gave them each just a little water. The top of the soil felt dry. Then I went about my business until I heard my husband say, "Something is happening here." I went over to the counter and there was a nice big running puddle of black water on the counter running from one of the pots. Of course it managed to hit my pad filled with "to do" lists and soaked all the pages. I filled several paper towels . . . using Bounty, the quicker, picker-upper, and then tipped them to the side as more and more water spilled out. I don't know how many paper towels I filled, but I swear, as God is my witness, I did not add that much water to these plants. Anyway, I got out all I could and a roll of paper towels later, maybe they will be dry enough to survive.

Two of the 9 planters that will go up on the wall

Now I also bought 18 thriving hosta plants for the front of the house. Friends tell me they are virtually impossible to kill. That remains to be seen. As much as I admited my guilty past crimes, they don't see the ruthless plant murderer in me. I didn't tell them I even killed cacti, who would believe it? I plan to leave the hostas to the care of Mother Nature. If it rains they will get fed and if not I will not interfere unless they look wilted. I also have two azaleas out there now too. They are a nice size and healthy looking right now. I got Miracle grow potting soil because it will take a miracle to keep them alive as long as I am around.

The doomed Azaleas

If my basil survives I am going to freeze some leaves a few at a time. My mother used to wash them, dry them and package them in plastic wrap by portions. Then, when she made sauce she would add a package and they were as good as fresh. Come to think of it,  I better start taking off a few leaves now, while they are beautiful and fragrant, and freeze them before I have nothing at all to show for all my well intentioned ways. It's the curse of the "black thumb" that keeps me for having anything that grows in dirt. By the way, does anyone know how I should pick off leaves without killing them?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Family Tree . . . The Next Generation

I wrote a blog back in 2011 about how my brother and I were inspired by the 1977 mini series Roots, by Alex Haley, to do research on our own famiy tree. It was a great hobby and we learned a lot. After working on it for a good couple of years or more, we reached a dead end. When I married my husband in 1983, we picked it up again. My husband wanted to try and find out what he could about his family too. We wanted to do it to share all we could with our own children when they were old enough to appreciate it. If we hadn't taken the time to collect documents and oral history much of it would have been lost today because our parents and their generation are all but gone.

The past two years, my older daughter has picked up where we left off. She has been subscribed to ancestry onine, checking cenus records, old newspapers, and looking into any resource she can find for any new pieces of information. She has also become slightly obsessed with collecting all the very old family pictures and scanning them into a computer to later save on flashdrives for everyone in the family so they will never be lost. It's a monumental project to say the least and she devotes much of her free time to gathering and preserving information. This past Christmas she asked for gifts all related to this new passion of hers: books, folders, file boxes etc. She enjoys the detective work and discovering things we didn't years ago. She found a picture of her great grandfather's model ships that were on display back in 1940's on Long Island. We knew his hobby was making ships out of tuna cans because my mother in-law had told us that when she asked her a million questions. Her father worked for a tuna company and I guess he had access to the cans they were packaged in.

My mother in-law also told us she was engaged to another man, before she married my father in-law, who had been killed in the war in 1944. My daughter researched his military records. She cross references information she finds in the census records with the little information we have, to dig for more information. One day she was looking through some things my mother in-law had saved and she came across something very odd. It was a picture of my mother in-law, was wearing a wedding dress, posing with, who we suspect, is her "fiancee." She was shocked and I was speechess. All I could tell her was that no one I ever knew of posed with a fiancee in their wedding dress for pictures . . . maybe they were married and she never said anything about that to us? It definitely peaked our curiosity. My daughter noted that she was wearing the same wedding dress as the one she married my father inlaw in, but the veil was different. We still don't know what to make of it. My daughter has been trying to find out if there is any record or proof of a marriage. This may remain forever an unanswered question and mystery. We also had a picture of my husband's uncle, who was a well known priest. He had an usual name and my daughter was abe to learn some things about him. One day, a church contacted her. They had seen the blog she was writing about her journey "Tracking Them Down" and her post about this priest. They asked her for his picture, they needed it for something they were preparing to honor him. Of course she told them they could use it.

You just never know what you are going to turn up when you start digging. You can interview your relatives until you are blue in the face, somethings will never come out. I remember we questioned our inlaws about both sides of the family. They had stories to tell, names, dates, a few old pictures. My husband sent away for death certificates, birth certicates and even baptismal certificates, like my brother did. We got the death certificate on my husband's grandmother. It turns out that my father in-law's mother died of asphixiation. She committed suicide by leaving the gas stove on. No one ever mentioned it, even decades later. She had been depressed. We would have never known had it not been for that document.

I'm glad my older daughter has picked up the torch and is carrying on the research. For one thing, all of our work from almost 40 years ago wasn't in vane. She appreciates what we were trying to do. For another, I know she will do a great job organizing and preserving our family history for the present and future generations of our family. She is trying her hand at colorizing some pictures and removing the age worn creases and cracks in an attempt to restore others. It will take her years to accomplish all she would like to do. I just hope her future children will take the same interest and appreciation in all of it that she has.


My daughter is journaling her experiences in her own blog, "Tracking Them Down" which can be found at

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Rants on Old News...

Governor Christie's Bridge-Gate investigation continues even though he spent one million dollars of taxpayers' money to hire his own people to clear him of any knowledge and wrong doing. Seriously? Even if it were true, who in their right mind is going to believe it? That was a waste of money that his state so desperately needed. If it was that easy to clear him the other investigating agencies would have done it already. But some people just don't want to turn over their emails and other documents. And more people are resigning and retiring. Anthony Sartor, a Port Authority commissioner appointed by New Jersey decided it was time for him to retire. In the meantime, Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, is launching his own investigation on several projects concerning Christie and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, among others. I believe where there is smoke, there is fire. The fact of the matter is that Christie's internal investigation wasn't very thorough at all. They didn't go over a massive amount of documents, they didn't bother to interview key people involved in the scandal such as Bridget Kelly, Stepien, Wildstein, Baroni and David Samson, the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and former state attorney general or anyone at the Port Authority. They did, however, interview Christie, who claimed he was innocent in all this mess.

Unfortunately for me, I thought for the first time in a long time I was going to be able to vote for a Republican for President in 2016. I liked Christie's no nonsense attitude, his moderate views, the way he handled the crisis after storm Sandy. So needless to say I am very disappointed that he may be guilty of being involved in such a ridiculous act that could potentially kill his chances of running in 2016. An act that had heads rolling and wasn't at all necessary or legal. An act that has the potential of now opening up other cans of worms in three independent investigations concerning him and the Port Authority. Let the chips fall where they may, I hope they get to the bottom of it all soon.


Oscar Pistorius, "Blade Runner," accused of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in South Africa, has been on the witness stand for five days crying a river of tears. The proscutor had been vigorously arguing his case that Oscar killed his girlfriend intentionally and then altered his story to fit the evidence found at the crime scene. I always thought he was guilty from the start because Reeva may have been planning to leave him and that set him off. That is what the evidence seems to indicate. Neighbors heard arguing just before shots were fired. He has made several mistakes in his testimony, during all his sobbing, and the inconsistencies are adding up. South Afirca doesn't have jury trials, just a judge. The judge will hopefully be able to see through his tears to the truth of what occurred the night Reeva's life was violently cut short.

Recently, while my daughter was watching Nancy Grace for fun, I heard about a southern politician, Louisiana CongressmanVance McAllister, who was caught on video with his lips interlocked with employee, Melissa Peacock. Really there is nothing to be shocked about. It seems that it is almost a pre-requiste that politicians cheat and wives support them . . . hence my favorite television show The Good Wife. This story is relatively new, but what I think makes it a hot topic for the media is Vance has 5 children and ran on a Christian way of life/family values platform. His ads featured him with his wife and children around the kitchen table. The hypocrisy is hard to swallow. On top of that, he asks for forgiveness from God, his wife, his kids and his constituents because he has "fallen short." Fallen short is an understatement. Meanwhile, he is still holding office, he hasn't resigned. But guess what? That poor staff member, Melissa, is long gone. Her husband says Vance apologized to everyone except him and he is filing for divorce. Seems to me there is more to the story and why wouldn't there be. And here it is . . . the two also have some sort of business connection. The congressman used his own money to get elected in a special election and was planning to run in the fall for a full two year term. Good luck to him.

I wonder what happen to Anthony Weiner?  I hear he is looking to downsize his appartment from one costing $12 - 14,000 per month, to one costing $8,000. The cost of texting selfies?  Boo Hoo.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Say "No" to Chicks and Bunnies for Easter!

I don't know what possesses people to buy chicks and bunnies for Easter? Sure they are cute and sweet, but do all these people realize these babies will grow up eventually and sooner than they think? A person has no business buying these animals unless they have farms and are prepared raise them for the rest of their lives. Rabbits, by the way, have a pretty long lifespan.

I am and always have been a city girl . . . New York City to be exact. When I was a kid, about 50 years or so ago, there were stores that sold fresh chickens. I hated going there with my mother because she would pick out the chicken she wanted and they would butcher it and defeather it right there. The smell was nauseating. At Easter time the same place would sell baby chicks. I saw the little yellow balls of fluff and pleaded with my mother to get us chicks. They must have been really cheap because she bought my brother and I six of them and off we went. My brother and I were delighted.

Now where are you going to keep six chicks in a four room railroad apartment already occupied by four people? Well, we kept them in a cardboard box in the bathtub. They were adorable to watch, we named them, we played with them, we loved them. And then, one day, the chicks were getting bigger and the yellow fuzz we loved started turning into white feathers. The chicks were growing up. Still we didn't know what we were going to do with them. The box they were in was surely too small for six growing chicks. My parents didn't seem concerned and we didn't know any better.

One morning we awoke, and as was out ritual, we would peek in on the chicks. We found one pecked to death. It was horrible. We didn't understand why. My parents disposed of the dead chick and life went on. Except, every morning after that we found another dead chick. They were killing each other during the night. I didn't know why, I was just a city girl. It was heartbreaking. One by one our darling little healthy chicks faced a brutal death. And then there were none.

That's the memory I have of Easter chicks. Maybe it's the memory most city kids have when it comes to chicks they got for Easter? I don't know. What I do know is we had no business buying chicks and bringing them home to die when we had no place for them to live a long and happy life. Sure we had a few happy memories from the first few days, but the horrible aftermath was certainly not worth it. I would hope, had my mother known what was going to happen, that she didn't go ahead and buy the chicks anyway. I never thought to ask her, so I guess I will never know.

What I do know is don't buy chicks for Easter if you can't provided an adequate place for them to grow and thrive as nature intended. That goes for bunnies too!

P.S. Here is what happens to a bunny who over stays his welcome . . . may he rest in peace

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Going Back in Time to the Old Neighborhood

One day, while fiddling around searching for soomething or another, I stumbled upon a Facebook page started by people who lived in my childhood neighborhood. The page had almost seven thousand members and I was intrigued enough to read what was being posted. Although I was late to the party, I immediately recognized many of the subjects and pictures people were sharing. I hadn't thought about so many of these things for years and it really took me back in time.

There were posts about the old stores on Knickerbocker Avenue, the main street that ran through Bushwick. Both sides of the street were lined by stores and you could buy anything you need within that 10 block stretch. They were naming all of them and I started contributing a few that I remembered too. Circo's Italian bakery was by far the favorite of just about everybody who lived there and it's probably the only original store that is still there today. The pasteries are just as delicious as I remembered them and we enjoyed them on every holiday after a big meal. There was Morris Toy Store, where my mother bought us all our Christmas presents before Toys R Us ever existed. And Moe's Record Store where I bought my first 45rpm and many more records thereafter. There were clothing stores, hardware stores, grocery name it, it was there.

There were posts about all the restaurants too, and there were plenty of them. Most of them were German or Italian restaurants reflecting the immigrant population that settled there in the decades before and after I was born. My favorite restaurant back then was caled Villa Maria because their food had an authentic, homemade flavor to it. My family didn't eat out often, but if we did, we would always end up there. I remember I would always order the roasted half chicken with the side of sauteed spinch in oil and garlic. I ordered that mostly for the spinach, but the chicken was good too.

It's amazing what people remebered. Their posts went on to mention movie theaters, bars, churches, schools, and with many of their posts came pictures of the good old days. We lived a very short distance, not even a half block from Knickerbocker Park and I have fond memories of my father bringing my brother and I there every weekend and pushing us on the swings when we we just three or four years old.

On top of that, because we run out of things to post, there were topics like old television shows that went back even before the 50's and we watched in reruns. Some posted about old toys. I posted some very old commercials with the jingles. Others mentioned the old street games that occupied us all summer, like hop scotch and skellzies. We sat on stoops (the front steps to our houses) and listened to transitor radios. It wasn't a fancy neighborhood, but everyone loved living there.

And to make things a little exciting, we also had mobsters living amongst us. The mafia was alive and well and living in Bushwick. Every now and then we would hear about a mob hit. I remember seeing bullet holes in the window of the furniture store down the block from me. There was a big deal about the whacking of Carmine Galante, at Joe and Mary's restaurant on Knickerbocker Avenue in 1979, the unofficial boss of the Bonanno family. There were other murders too. I onced asked my mother about these "mobsters" and she said we had nothing to worry about, they only kill people who have dealings with them. So that put my mind at ease.

Now for the people I used to know. I wasn't there to reconnect with anyone, just to reminisce about my childhood. But I happened to post a pictire of my old house and address on Willoughby Avenue, off Knickerbocker. A couple of people came out of the woodwork saying they also lived on Willoughby Avenue and just a couple of houses away from me. One of them I knew very well, but unfortunately she didn't remember me at all. She didn't even remember my mother, who as you all know, is no wallflower! Her house was next to mine and occupied mostly by members of her family, all of whom I remember with some pretty specific details. My house was occupied mosty by my family, the only one she remembered was my cousin, Paul, because he was friends with her cousin John.  Her name is Cathy. I posted several of my memories of her family and she was amazed by it. But what I didn't post was my recollections of her.

Cathy and I were friendly back in the day. She had just moved into the house next door and didn't know anyone. We chatted, but we were a couple of years apart, her being older. There were two other girls on the block, both named Carol. One of them was friendly with me too. However, when the two Carols made friends with Cathy, none of them were friendly with me any more. I guess those couple of years made a difference back then. None of them spoke to me because now they had their own click. I'll be the first to admit I would not have fit in anyway, but it's funny how, out of 6,500 people, she would be reaching out to me. Anyway, she started dating a nice, quiet clean cut guy, named Walter, who also lived on the block. One winter, during a snow storm (when I used to love snow) my cousins and I were outside playing in the snow. Along comes Cathy and her two friends, Carol and Carol, and they decide it would be fun to pummel us with snowballs. We tried to defend ourselves, but we were taking a beating and decided to go inside to warm up and dry off. I really don't think that was "friendly" fire, but they must have been bored and knew we were easy targets. Kids will be kids. But I do recall being hurt that these girls would just stop talking to me altogether when I had done nothing wrong.

Cathy eventually married Walter and maybe she lived happily ever after. Maybe we will pursue our dialogue about the past during the next few days or she will let it drop. In any case, I am enjoying my trip back in time and being reminded of so many details I had long forgotten.