Monthly Archives: October 2013

Solomon Visits Kindergarten

Solomon with Angie's Kindergarten Class

Solomon with Angie’s Kindergarten Class

Today, our bird Solomon visited Angie’s kindergarten class for the second time (the first time was on Septermber 25, 2012). This year we got a little bolder and the children each got to pet him on the head. He’s a little shy and you have to approach him in just the right way or he screeches at you, but they were all very good, being quiet and moving slowly. We also took a class picture with all the children, Angie, and Solomon.

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Assorted Coins

Assorted Coins

Assorted Coins

We started working on the basement in my mom’s house today and will continue for the next few days. Don’t worry, I’m not going to show anyone “before” or even “after” pictures of the basement. No one wants that. These are some coins that were in one of the drawers in my dad’s desk. They vary considerably in age and are mostly English and French, although I see a few Austrian and one Finnish 10 markkaa piece from 1958 and two Belgian 5 franc pieces. There is also a medallion with a Delta Sigma (ΔΣ).

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Mike’s Retirement

Mike at His Retirement

Mike at His Retirement

I have three pictures to post for today. I’m going to start with how I spent my morning. My boss of about 11 years is retiring and tomorrow is his last “official” day. He will be in the office from time to time but won’t be working full time any more and is done supervising me.

Kathy planned a farewell breakfast for Mike this morning for those of us working on the current project with him. It was a nice time of visiting with coworkers whom I also consider friends. I’m not much for “the best this” or “the most that” but I don’t have any qualms about saying that Mike has been a great boss and a great coworker. I’m going to miss him.

Thank you, Mike.

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Fiona Grace

Fiona Grace

Fiona Grace

Her big brother Orion has appeared here, almost a year ago (October 26, 2012) and now I’d like to introduce Fiona Grace to you. She was born less than four weeks ago and I got to meet her for the first time today (at Mike’s retirement breakfast party). She actually slept most of the time, which most will agree is a good trait in a baby. But she woke up long enough for me to get a few pictures of her with her eyes open. This photo doesn’t really do her justice. What a beautiful little thing she is.

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Camellia sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua

My third post for October 3 is of some camellia flowers in my mom’s yard. This is a sasanqua and it is almost big enough to be called a small tree. Kids probably couldn’t climb in it, so I’ll still call it a large shrub, but it’s pretty large. The flowers, of which there are many, are such a pretty pink and having them out this time of year, when everything else is starting to turn brown is such a wonderful thing. This is why I planted a Camellia sasanqua ‘Cleopatra’ this spring.

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Hazmat

Hazmat

Hazmat

We continued working on mom’s basement. Rather than showing a picture of the basement itself, here is a photo of mom’s van with a load of hazardous materials, bound for the county transfer station. There were cans of paint, stain, and ink. There were solvents and some pesticides. Of course, this load was a mix of things, including electrical parts and wire, scraps of wood, and quite a few bags of rubbish. This was one of four loads that we took over two days.

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Scraped Face, A Sketch by Dot

Bob's Scraped Face

Bob’s Scraped Face

In my mom’s basement, we found a large pad of paper that had writing on it saying it was art done with Stephen and Iris (my nephew and neice, respectively). We were looking through that this evening and towards the end came across this sketch.

It’s an interesting sketch for a few reasons. First of all, it is both a profile and a front view of a face, sort of like what Pablo Picasso did in Girl Before A Mirror and The Dream.

Second, there are those odd red marks on the nose, upper lip, and chin. Those, it turns out, are fairly easily explained. There is some writing ont he page, not included in this photograph. It says (in mom’s handwriting), “Bob after he fell + scraped his face – Feb. 7, 1990.” For some reason, and this is a little unclear, mom decided to sketch dad after he had fallen and scraped his face. I suppose I would have taken a picture.

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Making Chili

Making Chili

Making Chili (click to show labels)

A year ago tomorrow I posted pictures of making chili and described the process. Today I made chili again but didn’t take pictures of the whole process. Here are the ingredients, though, and as far as a recipe goes, “chop everything up and cook it until it’s done” just about covers it. I cut the meat into larger pieces this year and that made a difference to the finished product, in terms of it being chunkier, which I think was good. I also added three cayenne peppers and increased the spices a bit. I doubled the powdered pepper, although part of that is paprika because I ran out of ground cayenne. I thought I had dried habanero peppers and would have added one or two of those but I’m out. I also used meat from the other end of the animal, round instead of chuck, but I don’t think that made much difference (except it was on sale for about 60% of the cost of chuck).

Chili Ingredients

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Woolly Bear

Pyrrharctia isabella, the Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Pyrrharctia isabella, the Woolly Bear Caterpillar, Isabella Tiger Moth

This woolly bear caterpillar was speeding across my driveway this afternoon. I got out my bean bag and got down at his (or her) level to take some pictures. He (or she) was moving so fast that the first few pictures were blurred! Seriously. I touched him and he stopped and played dead for about a minute. I was able to get a few close pictures and then he took off again. The woolly bear is the larva of the Isabella Tiger Moth, Pyrrharctia isabella. According to folk lore, the wide brown strip on this little fellow indicates a mild winter ahead. Of course, what it actually means is that he inherited the trait for a wide brown stripe from his parents.

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Engine, Please Start

Chrysler Minivan Engine

Chrysler Minivan Engine

It didn’t though. We were the last to leave church today because I had “door duty.” I walked to our car as the last two cars other than ours pulled out of the drive. I got it and “click, click, click, click, click.” The car wouldn’t start. I expect this sort of behavior from our oldest car. Even the middle car, which has over 229,000 miles. But this is our newest car. Of course, new is relative. It’s a 2000, it’s a Chrysler, and at 190,000 it’s not exactly a low-mileage car, either. Fortunately, our friend and one-time house sitter Tim came to our rescue. Turns out all it needed was a little more juice and a jump start got it going. When we got home I attached a charger and we shold be fine.

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Willow Oak Leaves

Willow Oak Leaves

Willow Oak Leaves

I like the colors of fall, and that generally inclucdes the less showy colors of the brown leaves collecting in corners of the yard or against the curb in a parking lot. There are willow oaks (Quercus phellos) planted in the parking lot at work and their leaves are starting to fall in significant numbers. The leaves on healty specimens turn a lovely yellow but because of their constraints on their roots, these trees are not particularly healthy and their leaves mostly turn a simple brown as they fall, somewhat prematurely, to the ground.

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Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

There was a beautiful sunset this evening and I took some pictures from my back yard. One nice things about having fewer trees is that we have a much better view of the evening sky from our kitchen and dining room. This sky was the sort to make it worth while. In addition to the vivid oranges in the sunset, even a clear, deep, blue sky at dusk is beautiful to me. I think that’s one of my favorite colors, the blue that’s almost black.

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Another Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

I love it when there are beautiful sunsets on consecutive evenings. Same with sunrises on consecutive mornings. I was at my mom’s this evening and hadn’t taken any pictures today when I got there. I was wondering what I should take and started looking around. It wasn’t long, though, before I realized I’d have a good view out the front door of the house. This was taken from the front steps of mom’s house. Pretty nice, eh?

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Dead Woodpecker

Dead Woodpecker

Dead Woodpecker

My apologies to those of you who are a bit squeemish. As I left work today, this is what I found on the sidewalk outside the back of my building. I’ve posted pictures a few times of the mirrored glass on the back of my building — January 31, April 02, and June 20, 2012. I have to assume this fellow (or lass) saw an ideal perch in a tree that was simply a reflection in that glass. I felt sad, of course, but that didn’t stop me from taking a few pictures. Have I been doing this too long, do you thing?

Update: I labeled this as a flicker without really stopping to think. It is, as Albert so quickly pointed out, a red-bellied woodpecker, not a flicker. Thanks, Albert. I hate it when I do that.

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Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Somehow I missed posting this and didn’t notice until more than a week later. Sorry about that. I took a few random pictures around the house today, none of which will win any awards. I like the reds of these tomatoes, although I should have turned them so that the stem was behind them instead of out in front. I also have an acorn squash, which you can see on the right, and need to do something with some evening soon.

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Lake Needwood In the Mist

Lake Needwood

Lake Needwood

It rained pretty steadily starting Wednesday evening and continued pretty much all day yesterday. This morning was continued to have rain. I went to the school to have some fun with the first graders (shhhh! they aren’t supposed to know it was me) and I got good and soaked walking around the school dressed as a cowboy (a sheriff, actually). On the way to work, when I was done, I passed Lake Needwood and decided to stop for a few pictures. It’s not as impressive a view on an overcast day but the colors, particularly the grass and weeds in the foreground, are quite vivid in the gloom. The trees are a bit late in turning this year, it seems, but it should be here before long.

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Banquet Performance

Peace, Karol, Maggie, Olivia, and Dorothy

Peace, Karol, Maggie, Olivia, and Dorothy

The annual WCA Banquet was this evening and we had a great time visiting with friends. Dorothy played piano and provided vocal accompanyment (along with Peace, Karol, and Maggie) for Olivia who did a great job singing for us. One thing that’s difficult when Dorothy is performing is that I want to get both still photographs, because that’s what I do, and video, because a recording is so nice. I can’t do both at the same time. Well, I can take a still photo while the video is recording but it will drop about a second from the video, which is annoying. I could also use frames from the video as still images. In this case, I took the photograph as they are just about to start playing and then switched over to video quickly and recorded the song.

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Begonia Flowers

Begonia Flowers

Begonia Flowers

This afternoon I was sitting on my front stoop enjoying the fine afternoon. The roses, which have been battered a bit lately by the rain, were filling the air with a wonderful sweetness. It was a wonderful place to be. There is a little pot of begonias sitting on a concrete bench opposite the door and, since I happened to have my camera with me (aren’t you surprised?) I took a few pictures. They are not so showy as the roses and they don’t have the heavenly fragrance but they were pretty and deserved some attention. As Dorothy and I would say, “sometimes we should love the little dome.”

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Phalaenopsis Orchid

Phalaenopsis Orchid

Phalaenopsis Orchid

We’ve had a few orchids for a long time but they were not doing all that well. They got watered irregularly and probably not often enough. More recently, since early this year, I think, I’ve been watering them regularly, every Saturday. I put the four that we currently have in the kitchen sink and fill it up, letting them soak for about 20 minutes or half an hour. They seem to like that and are all growing and looking pretty healthy. I think that having the trees down in the back yard has helped, as well, because there is more light in our kitchen, which is where our houseplants are gathered. There is a fifth that was nearly dead when I started paying more attention to them and it has two small shoots, although if it is growing, it is growing very slowly and it may not recover.

This is the largest of the plants and it has been in bloom for about a month now, which is very nice. I suspect it had a variety name but if it did, it’s long since been lost.

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Dorothy at Maureen’s

Dorothy at Maureen's

Dorothy at Maureen’s

With Cathy away for a few days, we had to make special arrangements for Dorothy’s after-school pick-up for some of this week. Tuesday’s, however, are relatively easy. Starting sometime last year, Dorothy would go to her friend Julia’s house after her piano lesson on Tuesday and they would work on homework together. Well, this year, Julia is away at college. Also, Dorothy isn’t taking piano this year, because she needs as many evenings free as possible for homework. If you think these changes have altered Dorothy’s schedule significantly, you’d be wrong, however. Julia’s mom, our wonderful friend, Maureen, has been picking Dorothy up many Tuesday’s and she spends the evening with her other family, working on homework, ready assigned reading, and otherwise enjoying herself. So, this picture is of Dorothy when I went to pick her up later this evening.

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Donna and Preston

Donna and Preston

Donna and Preston

When the only pictures I have for a particular day are taken at church or school or another “gathering” event, I often go through them with Cathy and Dorothy to select the best picture to post here. It’s fun, of course, to take pictures of people making funny faces but in general (and this isn’t a hard and fast rule) I try to post pictures here that are not going to embarrass anyone. That’s not to say that the people in them are going to like the pictures, of course. If that was my criteria, I’d often have a hard time posting pictures of some people because some (or many) people don’t like pictures of themselves as a matter of policy.

Donna generally doesn’t like having her picture taken but was happy to pose with Preston her son, who is one of those people always happy to have his picture taken as long as he can make a face or strike a pose. In this case, they were both relaxed and happy and I think you’ll agree, it’s a pretty good picture.

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Evening Sky

Evening Sky

Evening Sky

There was another beautiful sky this evening. It didn’t turn as brightly colored as it has on occasion but it was still quite dramatic. I found a place to pull off the road where there was a reasonable view of the sky to the westward and took a few pictures. I love these blues.

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Dahlia

Dahlia

Dahlia

Back on Memorial day weekend Cathy and I visited the wonderful Heritage Rosarium in Brookville. Nick and his lovely wife Roseanne share their garden but it’s also about visiting with them. For a while now, in addition to Roses, Nick has been growing dahlias. This year, they had packaged up some dahlia tuber and gave each of their visitors one. Cathy planted ours out back and it is starting to bloom. This picture was taken in the evening, so the light is not terrific, but as you can see, the flower it a wonderful, rich, saturated red.

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Hannah!

Hannah

Hannah

On Thursday I got a text message from Dorothy at school asking me (in all caps) why I didn’t tell her she was in town. I played dumb and pretended that I didn’t know what Dorothy was talking about. Dorothy isn’t a big fan of surprises. Still, it isn’t always about her and I had been asked to keep it quiet, so I kept it quiet.

On Saturday we were fortunate enough to have Hannah visit us for a while. Not long enough for Dorothy, but we’ll take what we can get. During the day I decided the red leaves of this dogwood tree would make a good backdrop for Hannah’s flaxen hair. She was nice enough to let me take a few pictures of her and this is one of my favorites.

It was nice to see you, not-daughter.

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Mushroom

Mushroom

Mushroom

Our back yard has a lot of mushrooms right now, mostly in a ring around the trees that were taken down this summer. I assume this means the roots are rotting nicely. The mushrooms are certainly happy enough. This is one of them from an ant’s eye view (or I suppose a bird’s eye view, if it’s a small bird and it’s standing on the ground next to the mushroom). I like the light from the afternoon sun shining through the top of the mushroom.

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More Amur Honeysuckle

Amur Honeysuckle

Amur Honeysuckle

On Wednesday, September 25, 2013 I took a photo of Lonicera maackii, the Amur honeysuckle. As I mentioned at the time, it’s an invasive weed and not something that needs a lot of encouragement. Still, it has sweet smelling flowers followed in the fall by wonderful red berries that, I assume, the birds enjoy. As the days start to shorten and get cold, the leaves also start to turn a deep red-green mix that is quite lovely. So, here’s another dose of Amur honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii, berries and leaves.

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Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea

I really should have more than one of these. I think it would make a nice, open screen along the front edge of a portion of our yard. Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is a native to the south-eastern United States and does quite well here. The large, lobed leaves are attractive all year and are particularly beautiful when they turn a deep claret (or bordeaux, if you prefer). They bloom, but their flowers are not particularly showy, at least not compared to some of the other hydrangeas.

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Moon After Sunrise

Moon After Sunrise

Moon After Sunrise

Looking out our back door this morning I enjoyed the view of the moon, as it slowly descended into the west. The sky was a beautiful blue with a few scattered clouds. By the time I left for work, the sky was totally covered with clouds and the moon was no longer visible. It wasn’t as spectacular as a colorful sunrise but the moon suspended in a clear blue sky was still quite lovely.

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Henry and Calvin

Donna and Calvin

Donna and Calvin

Gretchen and Henry

Gretchen and Henry

Katie and Calvin

Katie and Calvin

Greta was at church this evening and had her two boys with her. Henry and Calvin have appeared here before but I couldn’t resist adding a few more of them.

First we have Donna with Calvin, then Gretchen and his older brother, Henry, and finally Katie with Calvin again. As you can see, Calvin hasn’t quite got “smile for the camera“ figured out, but it won’t be long, I’m sure.

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Squash Seeds

Squash Seeds

Squash Seeds

I got home this evening and hadn’t taken any photographs at all today. Some days it’s easy to take pictures and other days, not so much. Today was a not-so-much day. I got home and started fixing dinner. I had an acorn squash that I had been meaning to cook for a while and decided tonight would be as good a time as any, so I cut it open and cleaned out the seeds. I don’t know of Solomon will get them or if they’d go outside for the wild birds, but they won’t go to waste, I can promise you that. Anyway, it was something to photograph.

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Fritz

Fritz

Fritz

Dorothy was going out to our friends’ farm this evening and rather than let her get a ride, which would have made a lot of sense, I took her myself. Mostly it’s because I like the excuse to visit the farm. We got there just before dusk, which wasn’t the best time for pictures, but I took a few anyway, including this one of the youngest farmer, Fritz. Like most very young people, he didn’t know what to make of me at first but after a few pictures, and after I showed them to him, he warmed up to me a little. Enough for something of a smile, anyway.

I took some with Anna in them and a few with Dorothy holding Fritz but none of them are as good as this one, which I like.

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Female Cardinal

Female Cardinal

Female Cardinal

Outside our dining room window is a small garden bed that doesn’t get a lot of special care. It’s partially under the eaves so the back is fairly dry but that doesn’t seem to deter the things growing there. We have a clump of maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) that came from our old yard in Gaithersburg and before that from my parents’ house. There is a big clump of blackberry lily (Iris domestica) that blooms wonderfully through the middle of the summer. There is also a huge butterfly bush (Buddleja) seedling that would be nicer if it were not so huge. All the spare space in the bed is taken up by Virginia Knotweed (Persicaria virginiana var. filiformis ‘Painter’s Palette’). That has loads of very tiny red flowers followed by brown seeds (achenes, technically). Apparently, and I didn’t realize this, the birds love the seeds. I’ve noticed cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) and white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) on them a few times over the last few days and managed to get a few decent photographs through the dining room window. So far, only the female cardinal has sat high enough in the them to be clearly visible.

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Floating Leaves

Floating Leaves

Floating Leaves

These leaves are floating in a bird bath on our back patio. The colors are so intense, partly because of the late afternoon light. I really like the intensity of fall colors. In the spring I like pinks and pale yellows as well as anything but in the fall, it’s the zing and pow that I’m looking for. Sort of nature’s fireworks. It’s finally gotten cold and we’ve had frost on the ground the last couple days. To me, the temperature and the colors go together perfectly.

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Small Sunset

Small Sunset

Small Sunset

Some sunsets are grand affairs, filling the sky from east to west with brilliant color. Others, most, in fact, are simple and forgetful, with the sun dropping below the horizon without any special color or fanfare. Tonight was somewhere in between. There was a little color right down on the the horizon but most of the sky was clear and an ordinary blue. But with a longer lens, looking between the trees and our back yard neighbors’ houses, there was still a colorful sunset to be seen. Actually, for about two minutes some very thin, wispy clouds all across the sky lit up with a very pale pink, but the picture of them wasn’t as beautiful as the reality, so this is a picture of the horizon.

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And The Roses Keep On Coming

Rose 'Perle d'Or'

Rose ‘Perle d’Or’

I’m really happy with this rose bush. I don’t know that there has been a time since May when there wasn’t at least a rose or two and right now there are more than a dozen. It’s the last week of October and we’ve had a frost and it’s still blooming. It hasn’t really gotten bitter cold yet and I know it has to end soon but for now, I’m still enjoying the fragrance of roses when I come out my front door.

How awesome is that?

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Willow Oak

Willow Oak

Willow Oak

Outside my office windows, in an island in the parking lot, stands a willow oak (Quercus phellos). It isn’t a particularly healthy tree, which isn’t surprising when you consider the limited space for its roots. The top and outer ends of the branches have mostly lost all their leaves by now, but the central part of the tree is a beautiful, golden color. Particularly in the afternoon, when the sun hits it, it lights up like a torch and is quite lovely.

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Henry and Greta

Henry and Greta

Henry and Greta

Last Wednesday I posted three pictures, two of Calvin and one of Henry. All three pictures had other people with these beautiful boys. I know I’ve already posted a photo for today but I can’t resist posting this one, of Henry and his mom, Greta. It’s just too good a picture to pass up.

Generally I’ve been trying to fill this space to the left of the photograph. It isn’t necessary, I know, but it’s forcing me to write a bit more as an exercise. In this case, I’m just going to let the photo speak for itself.

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Trick or Treat

Katie and her Kids

Katie and her Kids

We only had 32 trick or treaters for Halloween this year. Of course it started to rain about the time the kids started to appear so I suspect that kept the numbers down a bit. Katie came by with her three, and they stayed at the door long enough for me to get their picture. I got another one, later, of Porter and Joseph, which is good but not nearly so cute.

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