Amy, Jon, and James
Speaking of New Year’s traditions…
Way back in 2004, these folks invited us over for what Amy described as a low-key, casual New Year’s Day party. We had known them for a few years, when Dorothy and Jon went to Kindergarten together and by this time they were in second grade, James was in Kindergarten and we were carpooling to school together. We had a great time and were very happy when Amy made the same offer the following year. She made that same offer every year through 2011. We had two years off after that but for the last three New Year’s Days, we have had them over to our house. The other guests change as we like to mix it up a little, but Amy, the boys (and fondue) are the constants. What a nice time we had together.
Maria, Cathy, Jean, Lexi, and Dorothy
We had Jean, Maria, and Lexi over for dinner this evening and I roasted a goose. That’s something I’ve never done before and I was a little worried it wouldn’t turn out well, but it did. I may have overcooked it slightly so the meat was a little tougher than it should have been but the flavor was great. It released a serious quantity of fat, in which I cooked some potatoes and beets. The potatoes were creamy and rich and the beets (if you like that sort of thing) sweet and luscious. Better than the meal, however, was the company. What a nice evening we had. There was much merriment and laughter.
Ceramic Doll’s Head
Dorothy has been home and today she was going through a bunch of stuff. For one thing, she went through a huge number of pens, both felt tip and ball point, and got rid of those that didn’t work. It’s always frustrating to need a pen and not be able to find one that works. The odds are now much more in your favor if you need a pen when you are at our house. She also started to go through papers from middle and high school and got rid of a lot of those. One thing she found, and I have no idea where it came from, is this head. It is made of ceramics and I thought it would make an interesting photo for today.
Jacob, Kendra, and Dorothy
It’s been a pretty busy holiday season for us and we’ve had people over for dinner more than in any similar period in a long time (not necessarily more people in total, but more separate events). This evening we had Kendra and Jacob over for dinner and then we just hung out talking. They are heading back to college tomorrow and it was very nice to get an entire evening with them. I took some pictures through the evening but then at one point asked them all to sit together for a more posed picture, and this is the result.
My Right Eye
Some of you know that I’ve had some eye problems over the last seven and a half years. About seven years ago I had cataract surgery in my right eye (pictured here). Then in 2014 I had the left eye done. Both procedures went well but in both cases I tore my retina in the weeks following the surgery and had to have a laser procedure to ensure my retina didn’t detach. I had another follow-up appointment with the retina specialist today and for the first time since 2009 I don’t have a follow-up scheduled. I’ll only go back now if I have any further problems. At the bottom of my eye in this picture you can see the edge of the lens that was implanted in my eye.
Frost on Sedum
It has gone from temperatures in the 60s and even 70s for a couple weeks down to about 10°F this morning. It’s noticeable. Yesterday is was cold but without much frost. Today there was quite a bit of frost and I decided to spend a little time in the back yard taking pictures. This is a small sedum plant growing in a container (thus the terra cotta color in the background) on the back patio. As you can see, it’s nicely rimed with tiny ice crystals.
Julia and Dorothy
Julia came over this evening and she and Dorothy cooked with me. We made some yogurt that is taking longer than expected to “yog” but we also made some pretty wicked mac and cheese. After an enjoyable dinner, the girls (including Cathy) helped me narrow a collection of pictures to something manageable for a slide show for church on Sunday. We paused part way through and I took a few pictures (which I know will surprise you).
We have some really good friends. In fact, we often wonder how we have so many friends, because we’re somewhat antisocial at times and we have a hard time getting to know people. But somehow, it happens. Way back when Dorothy was in first grade, there were two first grade classes at the school. Dorothy had Erin as a teacher. The other class was taught by Krystal. Although we didn’t get to know Krystal well that year, in the few years that followed we did. We also got to know Krystal’s husband, Mike, pictured here.
Since getting to know them, they have become two of our very favorite people in the universe (and possibly beyond). We take every opportunity we can to see them, which isn’t nearly enough (life happens). We went with them to a newish Peruvian restaurant in Olney this evening and I took this picture of Mike, which I think is really good.
It’s been a fairly busy time and with the weather turning cold, we haven’t been out and about as much. Because of that I’ve had a harder time getting out to take pictures. This evening I asked Dorothy and Cathy if I could take their pictures and they both let me.
I’m going with one of Cathy that I think is pretty good. She’s not dressed up, wearing a soccer jersey, but I don’t think that matters at all.
After The Rain
We had a pretty strong rainstorm this afternoon. It had been drizzling pretty much all day and then at about 3:00 it really came down. We heard that there was a rainbow and I saw some pictures that were amazing. We didn’t see it where we were, though.
I took some pictures while it was raining. I love the soft colors during a rainstorm. I also lover the sound of rain. If it isn’t too cold, I love being outside when it’s raining. Today was cool but not cold and it was quite warm inside so I enjoyed being outdoors in the rain.
It didn’t rain too long and as the rain stopped, the clouds started to clear and the sun was shining through and reflecting on the water in the parking lot at church. Quite a different feel from when it was raining. But pretty in a different way. A change from soft, muted colors it became dramatic with bright and intense colors.
Dorothy is packing up to head back to school tomorrow and one thing she has to take back with her is a small box with a half dozen plants, including two Thanksgiving cacti. Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti are similar and related, both being cultivars of plants in the genus Schlumbergera. Christmas cactus are Schlumbergera x buckleyi, a hybrid between S. truncata and S. russelliana, while Thanksgiving cactus are S. truncata. There are a few distinguishing features of the Thanksgiving cactus, besides the earlier bloom date. The stem segments (those are stems, not leaves) have pointed teeth, their flowers are not symmetrical (the top is different to the bottom, the technical term being zygomorphic), and they have yellow pollen. The Christmas cactus has rounded stem segments, symmetrical flowers, and pink pollen. They are both native to the Organ Mountain range north of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Home For The Challahdays
It’s a sort of stale joke, I suppose and it certainly isn’t original, but I couldn’t resist. Dorothy was home for the challahdays and we really enjoyed having her here. Of course, having her here means getting used to having her gone again when she goes back to school.
Well, that’s today. We left home at 5:40, met Peter and Porter and loaded Porter’s things into the car and by 6:15 or so we were on our way to the North Shore of Massachusetts. It’s about 480 miles and a little more than half way is the Rockland Bakery. I have posted pictures from there before, on August 23 and again on October 04, 2015. If you are ever in the area around Nanuet, New York (just west of the Tappen Zee Bridge) then I recommend you stop in for a visit. The bagels by themselves are worth the effort, if you can get them as they come out of the oven, so hot you can barely hold them.
I brought cream cheese as well deli meat and sliced cheese for making sandwiches and we made a late lunch at about 2:30, after we arrived at the school.
Coy Pond, Gordon College
As mentioned in my last post, also from Tuesday, January 12, I drove Dorothy back to school today. It was a mostly cloudy day, quite good for driving, actually. After we got to the school, Porter and Dorothy took their things to their dorm rooms. I was going to see Dorothy for dinner but she wanted a little time to settle back in, so I went for a short walk. I headed towards the library and then went down to Coy Pond, where I took a few pictures. I like the shape of this tree, as well as the drama of the clouds in this picture.
Dorothy, Bobby, and John
Here’s one more picture from Tuesday, January 12. After a short break while I walked around the campus and then went and checked into my hotel, I went back to the school and picked up Dorothy and two of her friends, Bobby (center), and John (right). We went to Nick’s Famous Roast Beef for dinner. We weren’t sure they would be open, because in December the owners were indicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States (i.e., they are accused of hiding receipts from the IRS to avoid taxes). We were happy to find that they were open for business and we enjoyed a nice meal. When we left, it had begun raining and by the time I was back at my hotel, it was snowing a fairly wet snow. I wasn’t sure what that might mean for the drive home tomorrow.
I drove back from Boston today, having returned Dorothy to school for the spring semester. There had been mixed rain and snow overnight and there was ice on the parking lot when I got up. Once out on the roads, there were no real problems with the weather, though. The sky was clear in the morning and once I got away from Boston and the stop-and-go traffic on Interstate 95 things were fine. Late in the day I was driving directly into the lowering sun, which was tiring, but it meant that the sunset was directly in front of me as the sun sank into the west. It really was quite magnificent.
Lake Needwood at Dusk
This evening the sunset wasn’t nearly as spectacular as last night but it was still quite pretty. I happened to be coming home via Needwood Road and stopped at Lake Needwood to take a few pictures. It was a bit darker than I would have liked and the sun was just hitting the tops of the trees on the far bank, but the sky was a beautiful blue and the wispy clouds over the lake were really nice. This was taken from right beside the road, standing on the low guardrail to give me a tiny bit of extra height.
It was cool this morning, below freezing but not bitterly cold. Yesterday morning it was 24°F when I got up north of Boston and it didn’t get above freezing all day. Today the forecast is for a high well into the 40s if not up to 50°F. But it was cool when I went out and there was a good coating of frost on the windscreen of the van. Before I turned on the heat and started the process of clearing it off, I pulled out my camera and took a few pictures.
Sunset Over 270
I was out today running a fairly wide assortment of errands. I happened to be on Shady Grove Road and decided to run into Wonder Books (I still call it the Book Alcove in my mind but at least I’m finally remembering that that’s wrong and has been for a long time). When I came out the sun was setting so I looked for a place where I could see the sunset, which promised a bit of color. I found a parking lot overlooking Interstate 270 and took a dozen or so pictures through a chain link fence. It’s not the most spectacular sunset I’ve seen (even this week) but it was still pretty intense.
Snow on Monarda
We had our first snow of 2016 today. It wasn’t much to speak of. It came down fairly hard for a while but was more pretty than annoyance. The ground wasn’t cold enough and it didn’t snow long enough for much to accumulate, except where it was kept away from the ground by plants, etc. I went out in the yard and took quite a few pictures. Snow is tricky to photograph because your camera’s exposure sensor wants to make your photo a middle grey while most snow scenes are much brighter than that. So, you have to override the camera. Then, if you make the dark things in the scene a proper exposure, the snow loses it’s texture and detail. In this photo, snow flakes have accumulated on a seed head of beebalm (Monarda didyma).
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
I had occasion to walk over to the other building about midday today. On the way back to my office I noticed a heron down in the stream below the path. I had my camera bag with me so I was able to get some pictures. I set my bag down, switched to my longer lens and headed into the woods below the path. As I was taking them I heard an exasperated voice from the path, which said, “where in the world is your jacket?” It was a bit cool out today and if I had known I’d be stopping to take pictures I would have preferred to have a sweater on, or at least gloves, but I survived. I think this picture was worth it.
Moon Through The Trees
As the sun was getting low in the western sky last night, the tops of the trees were beautifully lit. A picture of trees lit by the setting sun, though, isn’t really all that interesting and even the color isn’t as impressive in most pictures as it is in real life. So, I moved until the moon was in the frame and hope that helps enough that you won’t walk away for good. I found it interesting that even as far away as the tree branches are, at 300mm and f/11, they are not within the depth of field with the moon. I could focus on the branches or the moon. I opted for the moon.
Wil, Ben, and Grace
We were over at Ben and Erin’s this evening for a prayer meeting and Bible study. Before we got started I took a few pictures of various people. The I let Wil and Grace both take some pictures with my camera (with decidedly mixed results). When I took my camera back, I got this picture of Wil, Grace, and Ben (in the middle). I think it’s a pretty decent picture, especially of Wil and Ben (sorry, Grace, you looked down just at the crucial moment). But then, I think they are pretty decent people.
Tsai-Hong, Ralph, Steve, Dot, Brady, Seth, Iris, Cathy, and Maya
Since last summer we have been trying to have a somewhat regular family dinner. Those who can get together on a Thursday evening at a local restaurant. We can’t all come every week but when we can, we do. It’s been a very good thing and I only wish we had started it years earlier. Over the Christmas and New Year season our weeks get quite busy with other things so it’s been a while since we were all together. Tonight we had a nice meal at El Mariachi. The meal was secondary, though, it’s always the people. So thankful for this funny old family of ours. It isn’t a great picture but at least you can see everyone.
The Storm of the Century (Again)
It’s just over 15 years into the twenty-first century and we’ve already had two “storms of the century” (2003 and 2010, some might also count 2006). All the forecast models say that we will have our third over the next two days. Considering how many storms of the century I’ve seen, I must be ancient. I’m so old that I remember when they were just big snow storms (and there was significant fear in some quarters that we were entering another ice age!). The news media is having its usual hysterics. It started snowing early this afternoon. When this photo was taken, there was barely an inch on the ground. By the time we went to bed at about 11:00, there were about six inches with considerably more due overnight. Let the Hunker Games begin.
Cathy, Waist Deep In Snow
When I got up this morning there was just about 20 inches of snow on the ground, give or take an inch depending on where I measured. The wind was blowing it around a fair amount and while there weren’t many drifts in the yard, there were around any large object (car, house, tree, that sort of thing). I shoveled about half way down the drive but of course much of that work will need to be repeated tomorrow, once it stops snowing.
In the early afternoon we went for a short walk out to Norbeck Road. Our street hasn’t been plowed although something had driving down it and there were two large tire tracks we could walk in. The main road through the neighborhood had been plowed once but still had quite a bit of snow on it. We managed to get out to Norbeck, which was quite passable, if you could get to it (which I don’t think we could, even in our four-wheel-drive vehicle.
But it was nice to get out. Of course, after an hour or so in the snow, particularly on the way back when the wind was in our faces, it was even nicer to get indoors again. We did stop to enjoy watching our neighbor kids sledding on a hill their dad had made with a picnic table and piled snow. It wasn’t Vail or Stowe but for little kids, it was just about perfect.
After the snow we had Friday evening through late last night, you were probably expecting me to post another snow picture for today. The snow was 25 or 26 inches deeps in our yard (depending on where we measured and avoiding obvious drifts). That’s a pretty good snowfall for here and I’m getting old enough that a snow blower is starting to look very attractive. Still, we got dug out and went for a walk (well, we went for a walk yesterday while it was snowing, so, what would you expect?). On the way back, I hear this flock of geese calling as they flew overhead. The sky was beautiful all day today, an intense blue with occasional (but friendly) clouds.
Cathy and I could actually get out of our neighborhood today, which puts us ahead of much of our neighborhood. For the most part, it’s only the primary neighborhood arteries that have even seen a plow. Our street was cleared by someone how lives near by who only did it to rescue a vehicle of his that was stranded in our neighbor’s driveway. Nevertheless, we worked from home today, mostly because we could and the roads still need a lot of work. We took a nice walk in the evening to Bauer and Norbeck. The outbound walk was on cleared roads. Coming back, we trudged through snow up to our knees, which was tiring work, but we enjoyed seeing things buried in snow. I really like shadows on snow and the patterns cut into the snow by wind. That’s what this is, the surface of the snow near the local elementary school, sculpted by the wind.
Cathy and I worked from home yesterday, although we could have gotten out without any trouble. We figured we might as well, since we could. Also, I needed to shovel the sidewalk from our driveway to the front door. We have been going in and out through the garage, which is fine, but at some point, it’s nice to have the front door back. Today we went to the office and with the exception of two lanes covered with huge piles of snow at Gude Drive and MD 355, we didn’t have any trouble. The parking lot at work still needs a lot of attention. As you can see, the spaces on the right are only about half way cleared. That’s where I usually park, but not today.
Solomon Edward Parrot
Better known simply as Solomon, our pet parrot turns 30 this month (more or less). We’ve had him since October, 1986, when he was something like nine months old so we consider his birthday sometime in January or that year. Hard to believe so many years have gone by. Solomon was born in California, lived with us in Alaska for about a year, then flew to Chicago to live with Cathy’s brother for a few years (and boy, where his wings tired). Sometime after our trip around the world in 1988, he came to live with us in Maryland and he’s been here ever since, first in our apartment in Gaithersburg, then in our first house and now in this house in Rockville. Happy birthday, you old bird, you.
I have fallen behind in posting to my blog again and this picture is from a week ago. I stood out the back door and watched the sunset progress this evening, lighting up the scattered clouds with bright orange. I tried to get a few with the snow in the foreground but they didn’t really turn out all that well. It was cool today but the forecast is for it to get warm over the weekend and the snow should start to melt. I’m not bothered, one way or the other, but I know quite a few people are getting tired of it. I enjoyed the sunset, regardless.
I walked over to the next building early this afternoon for a meeting that turned out to have been cancelled. That’s life. It did give me a chance to be outside, though, and that’s usually not a bad thing. It was quite chilly today with a fairly strong wind coming out of the northwest. As I walked back to my building, though, I noticed this wasp nest up in a tree. It’s coming apart, as you can see, but still quite interesting.
We had one of our family birthday evenings today and it was very good to see everyone, have dinner, and then just hang out together. There were two dogs there, D’Argo and Bean. Luna didn’t come because she’d have had the other two for dinner, but these two get along well enough. I took a few pictures of everyone, as I usually do, but I thought I’d post this one of D’Argo, Steve and Maya’s corgi.
He’s been featured here before, back on September 01, 2013. This one was taken with the camera held down at my side while sitting on a chair, but it turned out reasonably well.
As I post this, much of the snow that fell two weeks ago is gone. But this picture is from last Sunday (relative to when I’m writing it), January 31. There was still quite a bit covering most everything all around. Our bird bath heater had become unplugged (the weight of the snow on the cord pulled it out of the socket) but I plugged it back in and it became an attractive destination for birds and squirrels. I’m not an expert on birds so I asked my brother to identify this sparrow. He’s pretty sure it’s a song sparrow (Melospiza melodia). Anyway, it was taking advantage of the open water and seemed to be enjoying itself splashing around.