March 14, 2018

A year ago, on March 14, 2017, I wrote a post about a blizzard we had on that date and a robin who was desperately hungry. Now, a year later, we had another bad storm…wet, heavy snow that bent tree limbs way down and broke many of them off.


I had been watching for the robin before the storm’s arrival but didn’t see him. I thought I had heard him call in the early morning but no visual. I was sitting in my usual chair in the den around dusk the day of the storm. He landed on a branch of the yew outside the window and gave me a piercing look like “Aren’t you going to feed me?”

I jumped up and ran into the kitchen. I was prepared. I had bought a package of fresh blueberries the day before. I pulled on my boots, grabbed a shovel and trudged through the snow to the base of the big holly tree. I cleared a spot and placed some blueberries there. I watched from the kitchen window but didn’t see him. It was almost dark and I had done all I could do.

The next morning I could hear his call. I watched the spot where I had deposited the berries and, no surprise, a bluejay was scoffing them down. But a little while later, the robin appeared.


I brought more blueberries out and placed them there and also at two other locations.  And it was a good thing that I had purchased a large box of blueberries as there was not only that one robin, there were a least a dozen of them out there eating up those berries.


I’ll be picking up more berries today.




The Tree and I

The view outside my kitchen window has changed dramatically within the past 24 hours. This time yesterday there was a huge, old white pine looming over the house. This was a tree that was estimated to be around 100 feet tall, or more. But the tree worried me…with good reason.

One windy day earlier this year, when daytime temperatures were only in the single digits, a branch from that tree broke off, landed on the electric wire coming into the house, and ripped it off.  I called the electric company. I called an electrician. And I rented a generator just in case it took a while for the electric company to show up. The electrician added an outlet off the circuit board which would allow me to plug in the generator to the furnace ( which was all I was concerned about…I could do without lights and water but I felt heat was a necessity when the temperature was hovering around zero ). The problem was, the generator I had rented didn’t work; the pull cord wasn’t catching. The electrician went back to his house and brought his own portable generator over, plugged it in to the outlet he had installed and the furnace came on! The electric company did arrive later that night and reattached the wire to the house.

But now I knew that tree had to come down. On windy or breezy days I’d stand at the kitchen window and watch it’s branches swaying back and forth. I would wake up on windy nights, lying in bed, waiting for a crash. Not a good thing.

I called a local tree service who had done other work for me but they suggested another tree service who had the equipment to reach the top of a tree that tall. That tree service was Mountain Tree Service of Somers, Connecticut. They were extremely responsive and professional. A week after my initial call to them, the tree was down.

Yesterday morning, before the tree guys arrived, I took the following photo of the tree.


We had a little snow the night before. The crew arrived on time and went right to work. This tree was surrounded by a huge old rhododendron and mature hemlocks that I didn’t really want damaged. There were electrical wires on two sides. It was a tight and tricky location in which to manoeuvre.


But they did fine.


I stood at the kitchen window watching as the tree was very carefully taken down. It really is an art form.


By late afternoon, the following photo shows my new view.


The was no damage to the surrounding shrubs and trees and the area was very nicely cleaned up. It’s hard to believe that tree was gone in a matter of hours.

The only reminder is the stump which was cut low to the ground.

wp-1520335698637.jpgI estimate its diameter at around 3 feet.

wp-1520335720740.jpgThere are many rings.


Another winter storm is on its way but at least I don’t have to worry about that tree thanks to Mountain Tree Service. What a relief!



Prohibition Presentation Cocktail Shaker

I have a great interest in, and fondness for, antique bar tools. I’m always on the lookout for the rare liquor mixer, the unusual julep strainer and the hard to find cocktail shaker.  So when I came across the following shaker, I had to take a second look.


The sterling silver shaker was monogrammed “C. J. M” under which was the date “December 8, 1928”. That immediately got my attention as this was during Prohibition. But that, in and of itself, is not that unusual. What really piqued my interest was the list of engraved signatures on the opposite side. (I’ve added the names to the right of the signatures as some might be difficult to decipher).


Those of you who follow my queenofsienna WordPress blog know I’m really “into” research. I want to dig and find the story behind an antique, assuming there is a story to be told.  So I did a little research on the names engraved on this shaker. And I got lucky.

I picked “Culbert Palmer” first, as the name “Culbert” was distinctive and I thought I might have some success researching it. And, boy, did I!  I found the following wedding announcement for Charles Jeremiah Mason, Jr. (C.J.M) to Polly Wallace, wedding date December 8, 1928.  This article stated that J. Culbert Palmer was a groomsman (usher) at that wedding as were all the other signatories on the strainer with the exception of J. Murray Mitchell.  This grouping of friends gave this strainer to Charles as a wedding gift.


So now I was hooked; who was Charles Jeremiah Mason, Jr. and who were his friends?

Since I had success with J. Culbert Palmer, I thought I’d investigate further. And what did I find? I found an obituary for Katharine Post Palmer Mason who had been married to both Charles Jeremiah Mason, Jr. as well as J. Culbert Palmer. What????


Researching further, I found J. Culbert’s and Katharine’s wedding announcement.  Note that Charles was an usher at Culbert’s wedding.


Then I found that Polly Wallace Mason had died in April of 1975. And J. Culbert Palmer had died in 1972.  And so, widow and widower, who had been friends for many decades, married. What a lovely story!

Looking at the other names on the shaker, I started at the top: John K.Starkweather and found that he was an investment banker, Governor of the New York Stock Exchange and Mayor of Scarsdale. This is his obituary:


Frederic W. Wallace was Polly’s brother.

John T. Bradlee was a prominent attorney and founder of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

John G. Winchester graduated from Harvard and became a well known banker.

J. Murray Mitchell, who was not in the wedding party, had been a banker, former assistant secretary general of NATO, served on the staff of the National Security Council and Colonel in the U.S. Army.


And that leaves Otis Barton, who was a deep sea diver, actor and inventor of the bathosphere. This is his Wikipedia page:



Charles Jeremiah Mason, Jr. was a graduate of Harvard, banker and officer of the Brooklyn Trust Company.  The following came from a website regarding the Brooklyn Trust Co.:


And now this thoughtful and touching gift to Charles J. Mason from his friends has found its way to eBay.  This is the listing:

I hate to think this will be sold to someone for scrap. It certainly has a story to tell.

March 14, 2017

Yesterday we had a blizzard. Normally I wouldn’t write about a blizzard, but because it was so late in the year, March 14, I think it merits mention.

The fact that we had a blizzard a week before spring is notable in and of itself…and the fact that I had taken a robin under the wing (so to speak) added to the drama (at least in my mind). This robin showed up a few weeks ago. It had been unusually warm back then for that time of the year and the ground was starting to thaw. I saw the robin out on the lawn doing his little robin thing…running a few steps, turning his head and listening, over and over again. I didn’t give it much thought.

But then it got cold. Bitterly cold. The ground that was starting to thaw refroze and was hard as a rock. The robin was smart enough to not even bother with his running and listening routine. I would see him in the trees and wonder what he was eating. Then I thought “Maybe he’s not eating.” That did it, blueberries were on my shopping list.

So the next day I put some of the fresh blueberries on the ground near the big holly which would provide some protection. I watched and waited and after a while he showed up and ate them. Success! I fed him those blueberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day since then.

But then the blizzard arrived. I could have worried about losing power or having the big old pine tree blow over on the house or something fairly rational. But no, I’m worried about feeding the robin.

The snow started very early in the morning. I brushed a path out to the holly and deposited the berries. I watched from the window and saw him eating. But then the snow became heavier and the wind was howling. I didn’t think he had time to eat many berries before conditions deteriorated. And he didn’t get his usual lunch. At about 3 PM the snow let up and I shoveled a path to the holly and cleared an area. I didn’t see him or hear him. I put the berries down and watched from the window…no robin.

Then it started to rain and the rain switched back to snow.  It was now after 6 PM and I was sitting in my chair by the window in the den. I saw a movement out the window and turned my head and there appeared the robin on the sill knocking on the window. He had a frantic look on his face and panic in his eyes! I jumped up, grabbed the berries, and headed out the door.

A robin is rather an aloof type of bird. They do their own bird thing and really don’t pay attention to humans. In contrast, the chickadee is a very sociable little bird. He comes over to greet you and sing his little chick-a-dee-dee-dee to you. The catbird follows you around the yard, almost complaining that you are intruding on his personal domain. The hummingbird who comes every year shows up at either the window in the kitchen or den to tell me she’s here and thereafter when she needs more nectar.

I wondered how the robin knew I’d be at the den window? He must have been desperate to do something so out of character.

I put the blueberries down and watched from the window. It was getting dark and usually the robin would be bedded down for the night by now. No robin appeared.

I saw him early the next morning by the holly. I grabbed the berries and by the time I got outside he was singing up a storm. Things are back to normal. And normal is good.

March 14, 2017 snow:


Photo of his berries:


Shipping and Handling

Shipping charges are pretty much fixed. Oh, sure, you could add insurance and other services to the postage but at the end of the day you know how much it cost to ship an item. Then you’d have to include the cost of the packaging…the box, tissue paper, bubble wrap, peanuts, tape, labels, note card and whatever.  But again, you can arrive at a proximate cost.  The handling, ah the handling, that is another matter.  Do you establish an hourly rate, estimate how long it will take to pack something and arrive at an appropriate handling fee?  I pack all kinds of antique, vintage and other items that have been sold at my Etsy shop.  I don’t include a handling charge because, in some instances, it would be exorbitant to the point of ridiculous.


I sell a good deal of silver plated items.  Most are antique from the late 1880s. I take care in packaging these items but it really doesn’t take that long.  I’m not really worried about the package (and item) getting damaged, I’m concerned that it will get lost somewhere in the system.  It’s really a leap of faith to leave a package with the USPS and hope that it reaches the recipient.  I have lost sleep over a rare antique julep strainer that didn’t reach a bartender across country for days after its expected delivery date.  Although it was finally delivered, I think of it as a reflection on my service.  I know I shouldn’t, but I do.

Packaging more delicate items is not so simple.  An antique transferware plate is not extremely difficult. But packing a coffee pot does present challenges.


The spout and handle have to be carefully protected, as does the top. Constructing three sided cardboard protectors for the handle and spout works well. It takes thought and time. Double boxing is a good idea.  You can write “FRAGILE” all over the box. But you never know, do you?  The word “fragile” might provoke playfulness with those whose care you have entrusted it.  I can see it being tossed across a sorting room… I have to remove those negative thoughts from my mind somehow.


Antique paper is another nightmare.  Paper that is 130 years old is fragile.  It crumbles if you just look at it. Carefully rolling it in tissue paper and inserting in a plastic bag (to protect it in case it is left in the rain) before you place it in a shipping tube is nerve wracking.


As some of you might know, I sell pieces of wood from my yard.  Yew is popular.  And you might think it has to be a piece of cake to package a stick.  Well, if it is a nice, straight stick that easily slides into a tube, it is!


The following photo shows a root end of a piece of yew.  It might not look that large in this photo but it was. It was huge.  I’m lucky I had a box big enough to hold it.  And it had to be well packaged so that it didn’t bounce around inside the box and break through one end.  The buyer of this piece of yew paid a good deal in shipping but the handling was free.


Another sort of wood that I sell is hawthorn.  It is bought mainly for the thorns which can be up to two inches long and sharp as you know what.  Not only do you have to be careful to not impale yourself in the process of packaging it, you have to be very gentle with it as the thorns are fragile and can break.


Moving right along to the harder substances, I sell antique bricks as well. Certainly, you might think, bricks have to be simple to pack.  But they’re not.  These four bricks had to be individually bubble wrapped and then separated by a cardboard grid to keep them from bumping up against each other.  The exterior sides of the box had to be protected by a double layer of cardboard as well.  Antique bricks break easily. I wrote “FRAGILE” all over the outside of the box too. They have to be protected.  And carrying that box into the post office wasn’t easy either! (Talk about handling!)   “What do you have here, lady, a box of bricks?” Yup.


And lastly, I also sell some unusual rocks from my property. wp-1486299618053.jpg

The heart shaped rock above was purchased by a woman who said she had just gone through a very difficult time in her life and this rock was perfect. She was so looking forward to receiving it.  Broken rocks are fragile and crumble easily.  I wrapped it in tissue paper and bubble wrapped the heck out of it.  “FRAGILE” was written on this box as well. It arrived safely and she was so happy.  I was happy too.



Manuka Honey

A few weeks ago my sweet little cat, Graycie, spotted the neighbor’s cat in the yard behind me as I was coming in the door.  Graycie made a run for the door and I put down my hand to stop her.  In her frenzy to get out the door she attacked my hand and arm, biting and clawing, almost as if I were the neighbor cat herself.  At least I had managed to keep Graycie inside and away from doing any damage to “Fluffy” as I call her.  But she sure did damage to me.



I washed the cuts, cleaned them with peroxide and then soaked them in epsom salts. I applied neosporin and then continued periodically soaking the hand and arm in epsom salts.  I knew cat bites and scratches were bad and cpi;d ;ead to a serious infection. I had cellulitis a few years back from a bite from another cat which resulted in a trip to the emergency room and antibiotics.

It looked like I had the situation under control for the first few days.  There was what appeared to be a deep puncture would and deep scratch on the back of my hand that were still bleeding and draining; they were the worst of my injuries.  The general area was slightly swollen and a combination of black and blue and red. I had to keep my hand elevated as it was less painful that way and I slept with it elevated as well.

But the morning of the fourth day I awoke not feeling well. My hand seemed to be a little more red and my blood pressure was higher than usual.  I hated to do it, but I called the doctor.  She saw me and prescribed Azithromycin tables for five days, which I took. 

Little by little the redness seemed to lessen but the pain was still there.  At the end of the fifth day the two deep puncture / scratch wounds were still draining a clear liquid (exudate). (This is now nine days after the “incident” as I shall call it). They had pretty much scabbed over except for those areas that were draining. The edges were red and puffy.  I tried not to use that hand as the movement would open up those wounds as the skin was pulled tight. My blood pressure was still elevated during this time.

I had read before about using honey for wound and burn care.  I got on the internet and searched and sure enough, honey’s praises were being sung even by doctors. The best honey to use appeared to be Medical Grade Manuka from New Zealand.  My local Vitamin Shoppe had it in stock and I picked up a jar.  It was rather expensive…close to $60.

Manuka Honey

Manuka Honey

I applied the honey both to the wounds and to the gauze pad with which I covered it. My hand immediately felt better.  I could bend the hand without the pain and tightness. wp-1474890935174.jpg

The article shown above and below is from and was extremely helpful. wp-1474890946476.jpg

I changed my dressing twice a day. wp-1474890955615.jpg

I applied the honey for at least ten days as I could see it was pulling exudate and also debriding the wounds.  At the end of that time I could see the swelling and inflammation was gone. My blood pressure was back to normal.wp-1474890963678.jpg

What I found interesting is that the article above states that when honey is diluted by wound exudates, hydrogen peroxide is produced via an enzyme reaction.  This is released slowly to provide antibacterial activity but does not damage tissue.  From my experience that is exactly what it did.

It is now twenty five days later.  I still have scabs but no inflammation, draining or pain. 

And I pet Graycie with the other hand now.

Cooking Pasta in a Drought

We here in north central Connecticut are in a severe drought.  This is becoming somewhat of the norm in recent years.  I have a well and I’m constantly thinking about ways to save water.  I have a rain barrel to collect some of what comes off the roof.  I capture the water that drips from the window air conditioner and water the umbrella pine with it as the pine likes water and was severely stressed (better now that it’s getting buckets of water from the air conditioner).  And I use the water captured by the dehumidifier in the basement to fill the birdbaths.  There are other ways I conserve water but I won’t go into that. 

Drought Monitor Map CT

Drought Monitor Map CT

The map above shows the severe drought we are experiencing in our part of the state.

I have been planning meals with an eye towards less water consumption and pasta has been off my list for quite some time now.  The recommended cooking method for one pound of pasta requires boiling it in 4 to 5 quarts of water and then draining and rinsing with even more water.  Too wasteful as far as I’m concerned so it was off my menu.

The National Pasta Association facts and figures shown below state that Americans consume 6 billion pounds of pasta each year.

Pasta Consumption in the U. S.

Pasta Consumption in the U. S.

If you use 4 quarts of water to boil one pounds of pasta, then we Americans are using at least 24 billion quarts of water to cook our pasta annually and even more to drain it. That 6 billion gallons of water. 

I had a half box of Barilla gluten free ziti in my pantry for quite a while and I had some really ripe tomatoes that I wanted to make a sauce with.  I wondered if I could cook the pasta directly in the sauce?  I searched the internet and found quite a few articles about cooking pasta in very little water.  The claim was that pasta doesn’t need 4 or 5 quarts of water to cook; the job can be done, and done very well, in much less water.

There were variations of suggestions as to how to do this. Some said to cook 8 ounces of pasta in 1 and 1/2 quarts of boiling water. Some said to put the amount of pasta you want in a pot and add cold water to just cover it.  Starting this way with cold water prevented the pasta from sticking together.  Some said to cover the pot and some said to just stir it occasionally uncovered.  I figured what the heck, I’ll go for starting with cold water in an uncovered pot. I added a little salt to the pot.  Remember, this is gluten free Barilla. I wasn’t sure if it would work as well as regular pasta.

I put the heat at medium high and once the water started to simmer I turned it down to medium.  I stirred it every minute or two and let it continue to simmer.  In about 12 minutes it looked like this and it was very al dente.  I didn’t want the pasta to get mushy so that’s when I took it off the heat.

Al Dente

Al Dente

After standing for about three or four minutes, and a little stirring, this is what it looked like: wp-1473267004026.jpg

Not a drop of water to drain out.  The pasta was cooked perfectly.  I added it to my sauce and voila, a perfect meal with no wasted water. 

This method of cooking works with the shorter cuts of pasta like my ziti. The pasta has to be submerged under the water without sticking out to cook properly. Stirring helps to assure that each piece is submerged.

I could see making macaroni and cheese this way by combining some butter and cheese with the cooked pasta. One pot and no wasted water.  Love it.