Birthday Fire and Friends

Birthday Fire and Friends

Birthday Fire and Friends

It’s Cathy’s birthday today. She hasn’t been feeling well and I knew she would not agree to inviting people over today. Also, because of the construction (well, mostly because of that) out house is, shall we say, even more disorganized than usual. But for her birthday, I wanted to christen the fire pit that I bought her and wanted to do that with some of her best friends. So, I invited them without asking. At about 5:30, Jean and Lexi walked in the front door and called out, ȁHello, anyone home?” About a half hour later, Amy arrived. Then Julia, followed by Yvette. Maureen also came, although not until after this picture was taken. Cathy agreed that she would have said “no” but that she was glad they all came. And the fire pit was a hit.

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Bathroom Progress

Bathroom Renovation

Bathroom Renovation

We finally got the plumbing and electrical inspections needed so that the walls can now be closed up. I had a meeting this morning with Marc, our general contractor, David, who is doing most of the actual work, and Andy, our occupational therapist. We discussed and agreed on locations for grab bars, etc., so proper backing could be installed before the walls are closed. Needless to say, these things have to be done in the right order. Much of the progress over the last week and a half has been in the basement and in the walls. We now expect progress to be much more visible as the walls are closed and the tile is installed.

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Operation Christmas Child, Part 2

Operation Christmas Child, Part 2

Operation Christmas Child, Part 2

In the continuing story of this year’s Operation Christmas Child boxes, here’s a picture of Cathy amongst her six or seven (I mean twelve) boxes. They are mostly packed and ready to be closed up and delivered. She has a few more things to distribute to the boxes. Cathy is also signed up for two evenings working at the collection center in Jessup, processing boxes for shipment.

Hopefully Dorothy’s room will be back in order before she arrives next week on her Thanksgiving break.

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Operation Christmas Child, Part 1

Operation Christmas Child, Part 1

Operation Christmas Child, Part 1

Towards the end of summer Cathy does much of her Operation Christmas Child shopping. The back-to-school sales are a good time for it. I asked her then how many boxes she planned to do this year. She said six but quickly corrected herself, saying, “well, probably seven.” I think she honestly believed that’s how many she was going to make. That was a fiction, however. Her six or seven has quickly turned into twelve. Every year she ends up making more than she planned but this year she really went a bit overboard. She does like Operation Christmas Child. This picture is just a small section of the staging for packing boxes, which has taken over Dorothy’s room for the time being.

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Zamboni

Refreshing The Ice, Rockville Town Center

Refreshing The Ice, Rockville Town Center

I met the guys in Rockville Town Square this evening, getting there a little early so I’d have time to take some pictures before they got there. The ice skating rink had been set up and though we’re well into November, there have only been a handful of days that were actually seasonably cold. They can still make ice, of course, and I planned to watched a few people skate for a little while. Just as I got ready to take a picture of two, they cleared the ice to run the Zamboni, so I got a picture of that, instead. I don’t know if this is actually a Zamboni. Apparently there are two other companies that make ice refreshing equipment, but that’s the name that everyone recognizes. Like Kleenex, Band-Aid, and Jacuzzi, Zamboni is a registered trademark but it has become so associated with the product category, it is used in the vernacular for the product.

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Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus)

Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus)

Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus)

Our Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) is blooming right on schedule this year. It’s such a cheerful color to brighten up the kitchen and I’m happy for it. It’s a fairly unassuming plant most of the year but as with many cacti, its flowers are remarkable. We have a half dozen of them and some are doing better than others but they are relatively easy plants, not asking for a lot of attention, which is good, because they really don’t get much from us. And yet, this is what they give us.

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Mowing Up The Leaves

Cathy Mowing The Leaves

Cathy Mowing The Leaves

At our old house we had 6 oak trees all more than two feet in diameter and four more than three feet. We had a ridiculous amount of leaves to get up. To make matters worse, as anyone with oaks knows, they are among the later trees to drop their leaves. Usually the leaves would not all be down before Christmas and we often had to rake into January. A few years we rented a leaf vacuum and that actually was pretty useful but it would go once across the yard and I’d have to empty it. Still, it took less time than raking, which is what we did most years.

At this house we have two large oaks in the front (there was a third but it’s gone now and never had a lot of leaves while we lived here). In the back are two smaller maples, which I think I’ve mentioned before. The easiest way to get rid of the leaves is to run over them with the lawn mower. That would never have worked at the old house (too many of them) but here, as long as we don’t let it get too bad, it works quite well. This is Cathy, mulching up the leaves, and pretending to run me down. This, believe it or not, is Cathy trying to look fierce.

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Euonymus japonicus (Japanese Spindle)

Euonymus japonicus (Japanese Spindle)

Euonymus japonicus (Japanese Spindle)

The hedge. Along the north side of our property is a hedge of Euonymus japonicus (Japanese spindle, although I never really call it anything other than Euonymus). It’s pretty healthy and flourishes even in rough years. The deer seem to like it and when it’s in bloom, the entire hedge buzzes with hundreds of bees. The flowers are not at all showy, but they are quite sweet smelling and last for a few weeks. The fruit, shown here, is quite interesting, I think, and adds a small amount of color at a time of year when it’s very welcome.

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Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura)

Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura)

Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura)

I was outside for a little while today and took a few pictures. Most of them were of trees reflected in the windows on the outside of my office building. They are not as colorful as in some years but with the blue sky behind them and the slight distortions of the not-quite-flat glass, they made for interesting pictures. Then I noticed a vulture land in this tree. I took two pictures of the tree in reflection and then turned around to get a couple directly. There are three birds in the tree and just after I snapped one picture, a fourth turkey vulture flew through the frame and I grabbed one more shot. Actually, I’m not sure they are all turkey vultures. At least one may be a black vulture (Coragyps atratus).

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Bathroom Progress, Day 7

Bathroom Progress, Day 7

Bathroom Progress, Day 7

Today is work day 8 but this picture was taken in the morning before any work had been done today, so it reflects 7 days of work on the laundry room to bathroom conversion. As you can see, the plumbing is pretty much all done in the wall. The electrician came today and removed the 220 volt outlet that was used by the electric drier we had when we moved in (our current drier is gas). That’s right in the middle of this photograph. Another thing to notice in this picture is the joist that would have been directly under the drain in the shower pan. That required a little reworking of the supporting structure. The two joists on either side were doubled up and cross pieces put in to hold the end of the central joist, which had to be cut. The shower pan went in today, as well.

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Grass Seeds

Grass Seeds

Grass Seeds

We often don’t pay a lot of attention to grass that’s gone to seed. There are some grasses, though, that are specifically grown for the ornamental value of their seed heads. This is a relatively small one, growing in a small bed near the older parking garage next to one of the buildings across campus. I was there all day for a class (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week) but had a chance to get out during our lunch break. I also found some oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), an invasive species similar to our native American bittersweet (C. scandens).

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Maple Leaves On A Rainy Day

Maple Leaves On A Rainy Day

Maple Leaves On A Rainy Day

It was an absolutely beautiful day today but I was stuck indoors for almost all of it. I’m in a class today, tomorrow, and Thursday and that’s keeping me in the classroom. Nevertheless, we took a break for lunch and I used the opportunity to go outside. It was raining. Actually, it was raining fairly hard and I wasn’t really dressed for it. I still went out and enjoyed the colors. Overcast days are often the best for fall color. Add rain and it only gets better. These maple leaves are over a set of stairs down to the building I was in today and they were so beautiful. I love a rainy day.

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Fall Color In The Woods

Fall Color In The Woods

Fall Color In The Woods

I’m reasonably happy with my commute. On a good day it’s under 15 minutes and it’s pretty rare that it takes as long as 25 minutes. On the other hand, it isn’t the most picturesque commute you’re going to find. There’s are a few bits that are nice, though, including a stretch of woods on both sides of Rock Creek. In my homeward bound commute, that’s also the most likely stretch to have a back up. Today, I stopped part way along that stretch and was able to take a few pictures of the woods before we started moving again. The woods are quite lovely right now and I don’t mind a short stop if I have that to look at. Pretty soon it will be a lot less interesting, so enjoy it while you can.

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Bathroom Progress, Day 4

Bathroom Progress, Day 4

Bathroom Progress, Day 4

The difference between the beginning of day one and the end of the same day were more obvious than the difference between the end of day one and the end of day four. Of course, day four was Friday and it is now Sunday but of course the bathroom is in the same state today as it was at the end of the day on Friday. In the top of the picture you can see a black box in the ceiling. That’s the new exhaust fan. There are also two recessed light fixtures above what will be the shower. Another not so obvious change is the air duct that used to open in the floor in the far right and which now comes up in the wall in the foreground on the right.

The place where there was a door to outside is closed in, as it was on the first day. You cannot see it in this photo, of course, but the siding is up on the outside of that and if you didn’t know a door had been there, you might not be able to tell. There are a few signs left, but they are minor and will be taken care of in due course.

I picked out floor and wall tile yesterday and bought one of each so the builder could measure the thicknesses and get the transition from floor to shower nice and smooth. He needs that calculation before he can install the shower pan. Also, the plumber is supposed to come tomorrow and we should be able to do laundry again, which will be nice.

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Steve and Kai (and Photo 2,500)

Steve and Kai

Steve and Kai

We had a family dinner night today and it was great (as always) to see Kai (and the others, of course). Every time we see him, and it’s only been two weeks, he’s doing more and becoming more and more his own person with his own reactions and mannerisms. This evening he was in a good mood, as well, which is always a bonus.

We had Chinese carry-out and he had spaghetti squash and some other mushy something. Then he played on the floor for a while and of course he was held by many. He’s gotten old and sturdy enough to ride on his dad’s shoulders and as you can see, he’s enjoying it.

This is officially my 2,500 photo in my increasingly ill-named “Project 365.” Unofficially, I’m actually at 2,503 consecutive days with a photo, because I took pictures December 29, 30, and 31 in 2010, before starting my Project 365 on January 1, 2011. This is photo number 148,044 on this camera. I’m nearing the 150 thousand mark and expect to get there shortly before the end of the year.

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Zelkovas on Norbeck

Zelkova serrata

Zelkova serrata

Every year I get to enjoy the three lines of Zelkova serrata planted on either side and in the median of Norbeck Road between Rocking Spring Drive and Westbury Road. Other parts of Norbeck have Bradford pears, and they are nice in their seasons but are not, in my mind, nearly as impressive as the Zelkovas in their autumn orangeness. Some years it seems more rust colored but this year it’s a brilliant orange. They are particularly nice on overcast days but beggars can’t be choosers and I’ll take them as they come. I stopped on the way home and took a few dozen pictures, waiting for breaks in the traffic so as not to get run over.

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Confused Cherry Tree

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

For the last few days I’ve noticed this cherry tree in bloom. I’m afraid it’s been terribly confused by the mild fall we’ve been having and it’s going to be mightily disappointed when it gets colder rather than warmer. Well, it won’t actually be conscious of the weather. It’s just a tree. But I think it unlikely any fruit will come of this out-of-season blooming. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty little tree and gives me something to think about on an otherwise unremarkable commute. For a few days I’ve been meaning to stop to take pictures and today I did. Enjoy.

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Oak Leaf

Oak Leaf

Oak Leaf

I started walking across campus to an 11:30 meeting this morning but got a phone call while I was on my way, saying the meeting had been cancelled. At it happened, I had brought my camera with me so I walked back the long way, going through the woods and taking a few pictures. I got some of the yellow fruit on what we call “Cathy’s Hawthorn” (because she parks next to it most days). In the woods I came across an oak tree with beautiful leaves. The oaks haven’t been as spectacular, overall, as in some years, but there are individual trees that are worth noticing. I also love the lines of veins in the leaf, which are still visible in the partially eaten bits.

Unofficially, this is my 2,500th consecutive day of taking a picture. I officially started on January 1, 2011, so the official 2,500th day will be in three days. Nevertheless, I had taken pictures on the three days prior to my official start, so today marks 2,500 days.

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Laundry to Bathroom Conversion, Day One

Laundry Room, Before

Laundry Room, Before

As some of you know, we have been planning a little construction project for a while now. Initially the thought was that we would renovate one of the two bathrooms upstairs, making it more accessible. This is all towards having Cathy’s mom come live with us. Renovating an upstairs bathroom, which is all we thought of for a while, also entailed putting in something to help her get up and down the stairs. Currently she can do stairs but it’s not easy and it’s going to get less easy as time goes by. We had an occupational therapist out to consult and while he was there, the thought occurred to make a totally new bathroom in our existing laundry room. Once that idea was aired, it was clear that it was the right thing to do.

Laundry to Bathroom Conversion, Day One

Laundry to Bathroom Conversion, Day One

By putting a full bathroom on the ground floor and converting our family room into a bedroom, we eliminate the need for a stair-climbing chair. Of course, the conversion of the laundry room to a bathroom has some costs associated with it, but those costs are going to be reflected in our property value. An accessible bathroom is a valuable asset, after all. Also, there are some tax credits for this sort of home improvement. After a bit of planning and consultation with out contractor (http://mafortierandcompany.com/) we got the building permits and today, the work began. I’ll post updates from time to time, as the project progresses.

Note that the “before” picture was taken after we moved a lot of things out of the laundry room. There were two shelves on the wall above the washing machine and there was a big bin of bird seed under the sink, for Solomon. But it’s “before” in the sense that the construction hadn’t started yet.

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Lake Needwood Wood

The Woods At Lake Needwood

The Woods At Lake Needwood

I’m a fan of the woods. I love the colors, the sounds, and the smells. I won’t say there’s nothing I don’t like about woods but in general I’d say the things I like outweigh the things I don’t like. Of course, I’m happy that I live in a modern house with running water, central heating and air conditioning, a roof to keep off the rain, and electricity and gas to power all sorts of appliances. I do like a walk in the woods, though. In the autumn, with the colors in the trees, it is especially nice. A rainy day, practically any time of year but particularly in the spring when the leaves are various shades of green is also a wonderful time for a walk in the woods. But today was glorious and bright and cool.

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