Once again, we had our now traditional fondue party at Amy’s home. We had two pots for cooking meat and one with cheese and there were two wonderful salads. But of course, it’s not really about the food. It’s about being with people we enjoy. This was our fourteenth in sixteen years and Cathy’s mom was with us for the first time this year. Amy thought to extend her table so we were not quite as crowded while eating. We also stayed longer than we have in past years, getting home after 8:00 PM. It’s a really nice tradition and I was especially glad to have this visit with Rob and Susie, who we see for too infrequently.
Monthly Archives: January 2019
Dorothy uses this trunk to keep her keepsakes. Today she went through them and got rid of some things that she decided she no longer wanted. It’s good to do that from time to time and after our experience of the last year, going through all the things at our two moms’ houses it’s something we have a little more awareness of. We also watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, which is sort of fun at the same time it’s a little terrifying and voyeuristic. Anyway, this isn’t really a suitcase, although it sort of looks like one. It’s a relatively cheap fiberboard trunk made to look like a suitcase. But I like the color and especially the metal latch.
Margaret brought this poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) home from church last Sunday and it’s been brightening our dining room table since then. It’s a particularly nice specimen, although we’ve never had a lot of luck keeping them alive for any length of time. They need to be watered but not over watered and houseplants often struggle with the excessively dry air indoors in winter. Getting the leaves to turn colors again is enough trouble that it’s generally easier to simply get a new one each year and enjoy it while it can be enjoyed. By the way, contrary to what you might have heard, the poinsettia is only mildly toxic, although some people are sensitive to the sap and it’s not something you want to eat. But you don’t need to be terribly afraid of it, either.
I was looking around for something to photograph today and came across a jar of coins, mostly pennies. We have a few jars like this around the house and we really should turn them in for cash and be done with it. As someone who collected coins from my youth, however, it’s hard to do that without first looking through them for old coins. When I was a kid, wheat back cents were quite common, being produced up through 1958. Starting in 1959, the obverse was changed to feature an image of the Lincoln Memorial, as you see here. I still come across a wheat cent now and then, but it’s fairly rare. They aren’t all that valuable, of course, unless they are towards the older end of the run.
This is a fertile frond of a fern growing in a shady corner of our garden. I believe it’s an ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) but it may be something else. I know I have a few ostrich ferns in that part of the garden, but there are other ferns and I don’t remember what they all are. Anyway, these ferns are dimorphic, with deciduous, green, sterile fronds and vertical, brown, fertile fronds. These give a nice element of interest in the winter and then the spores are released in the spring.
I would like to add more ferns to this part of the garden this spring. Last year we did very little gardening except for some weeding early in the spring. During the late spring and most of the summer we were overwhelmed with a lot of other tasks and the garden got away from us, big time. This coming spring, I’d love to get back out and take the garden back, but it’s going to be a big task. Not quite as daunting as taking a piece of wild land and putting it into cultivation, but not as far short of that as I’d like. Parts of the garden really need to be dug up completely and started over. There are a few plants we’d want to dig up and put into pots to return to the garden when the time comes, but for the most part, it just needs to be started over.
After church today we had a nice lunch with some friends. It’s good to have friends and these are among the best. It was a nice day so when we left them, we decided to to to Lake Frank and take a walk. We started at the south end of the lake and walked across the dam. From there we went through the woods on the Parilla Path to the Gude Trail, which we walked to where it hits a parking lot on Gude Drive. The round trip was a little short of three miles and it was quite pleasant. Walking west (outbound) we had the sun in our eyes, so the return journey was nicer, I think. But these tassels on some ornamental grass were nice, backlit by the afternoon sun.
Dorothy flew up to Boston on Saturday to go to a wedding on Sunday. She had a busy but fun time visiting with friends and being, in her words, an emotional support animal. She flew home today and we picked her up at BWI at about a quarter past eleven. I took my camera with me because I hadn’t taken any other pictures today. This was taken from the top deck of the parking garage, looking towards the northeast end of the terminal building (Concourse E). I took a few inside, as well and none of them were really anything to write home about, but as I have to post one, here you are.
As I was driving home this evening the clouds were acting like there would be a wonderful sunset. By the time I actually got home, most of the color was gone, although there had never been nearly as much as there could have been. Nevertheless, I got my camera out and went into the back yard. This photo is looking basically southwards and I am pretty pleased with it. The colors are pretty accurate to what it looked like, with a lot of blue in the clouds themselves and three slashes of orange. I really enjoyed watching it until the orange disappeared and only the blue-grey clouds were left.
We aren’t entirely sure how this robe made its way to Cathy’s family’s house. Possibly one of her brothers brought it back from a visit to Peru, where their grandmother lived for more than 20 years. Or perhaps she sent it as a gift to one of them or brought it back herself, when she returned to the USA. In any case, it’s from Peru, possibly from the Machiguenga or the Asháninka, and it is made of cotton. The holes for the arms are fairly small and I was barely able to get my forearms through them. Cathy, with her mild claustrophobia, was a little worried when putting it on that she’d get stuck and need to be rescued, but it didn’t actually come to that. It’s a little long on her, coming to the floor, and the length is just about right for me. It’s in remarkably good shape, especially considering that it’s been hanging in a closet for at least 20 years. I’m not sure what we’ll do with it, though. In general I’d say it isn’t the sort of thing we’re likely to wear around the house or even to go out. But it’s a nice thing.
I worked from home this morning and a little before 1:00 PM Dorothy called me and said there were two red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in our back yard. At first they were a little hard to get a straight view of, because they were off to the side, but then they moved across to the middle of the yard. This one stopped and sat, while the other walked right along beside the fence. Eventually, this one joined the other and they sat in a sunny spot in the bushes at the bottom of the garden. It was a cool day, just above freezing, and fairly windy, but out of the wind and in the sun, I imagine it was fairly pleasant for anyone or anything wearing a fox coat.
As I was driving home this evening, I could occasionally see the clouds to the west starting to be lit up by the setting sun. There are very few places on my relatively short commute with a clear, unobstructed view of the sky. Unless the clouds are high in the sky it’s not really worth stopping to take a picture. When I got to Norbeck Road, though, with the sunset in my rear view mirror, I stopped and took a dozen or so pictures. By the time I got home, it was done, so I’m glad I stopped when I did. I love the orange flare coming up the middle of this photograph.
The local’s got together for lunch today, ahead of the winter storm that was headed our way. We had a nice time walking though the halls and enclosed, connecting breezeways between the buildings. I took a few photos of one of the long breezeways as well as some photos of mom’s artwork, on display in a case in one of the buildings. When we were back in her apartment, I took a few photos of Kai as he played with his trucks. Silas was asleep by then, so I didn’t get any of him, but I need to make a point to photograph him. He’s really getting big, sitting in a highchair at lunch.
We had our first real snow of 2019 starting early yesterday afternoon. It showed a bit earlier in the week but didn’t accumulate at all. This time we ended up with about six inches on the ground this morning. It was a few degrees below freezing and the snow was quite pretty, although it was fairly heavy when I shoveled it off of the walk and driveway. This is a view up into the trees in our neighborhood and I really love the lines of dark bark and the white snow. We were out yesterday evening driving in it, which wasn’t a lot of fun, but it meant that we got to see our good friend, Karlee, so it was well worth it. Today we’re pretty much sticking around the house. Hopefully the roads will be clear by tomorrow, when Dorothy plans to leave for school. There wasn’t much snow north of here, so the majority of her trip shouldn’t be affected, in any case.
We got about six inches from late Saturday until midday Sunday. At that point I shoveled the walk and driveway and the picture from yesterday was taken about that time. Then it started snowing and was still coming down until about 11:00 PM. This morning we got up at about 5:30 and Dorothy planned to leave at 6:00 to drive back to school. There was an additional six to eight inches on the sidewalk ramp, so we got between 12 and 14 inches, I’d say. I got everything shoveled and the snow off of Dorothy’s car. In the end she waited until the sun had come up and left at about 8:00. Happily there was not much snow to our north and she had no problems getting back to Massachusetts. The sun came out later in the morning and it was quite beautiful out.
I don’t want to get into a debate about nature verses nurture but photography seems to be a family trait in my family. I knew my mom’s father took a lot of pictures. My parents and brothers got the bug, whether through exposure (pun intended) or a natural propensity. The six cameras show here belonged to family members, although a couple of them I know nothing about.
The camera on the right, with the red bellows, is a Kodak camera (model unknown) which belonged to my (paternal) great uncle Ralph. We have some prints (and some negatives) from this camera taken during his time at Oxford and travels through Europe, Egypt, and Palestine between 1910 and 1913. Sadly, it’s lost most of the leather covering, although I do have the very worn leather case that the camera is stored in.
The Speed Graphic, on the left, belonged to my (maternal) grandfather. I’ve used it from time to time, although it’s a lot of work. Once, when we lived in Alaska, I took multiple exposures on a single piece of film during the Independence Day fireworks display over Juneau. My father-in-law had one of these, as well, and used it in the 1950s until he recognized the advantages of speed to be had with a 35mm SLR.
There is a Univex Mercury II, which is a half-frame camera. That’s the one with the semi-circular bit on top, which made room for the circular, rotary shutter. We have quite a few slides from that, taken in the late 1940s by my grandfather. It uses a standard 35mm film canister but the images are only 18×24mm.
I don’t know much about the other three, in terms of who owned them or where they came from. They were found in basements as we cleaned out the two parental houses. There is a Bolsey Model B2 (1949 to 1956), a Spartus “35” (made by Herold Products in the late 1940s), and another folding camera, simply labeled Vario, which refers to the leaf shutter, not the camera as a whole.
I have a few more, including a panorama camera made by Eastman Kodak between 1899-1928. That’s to say nothing of the various 35mm cameras I have accumulated over the years. None of them are worth very much and almost none of them are in anything close to excellent condition.
I found a new location for sunset photos today. It’s a little off my actual commute but not so much that it’s a real problem and I expect to be there again in the future. The sunset this evening was unusual, with both orange low in the sky (through the trees) and the bands of magenta a little further up, where the clouds were more dense. It was also more fleeting then usual. I took a total of eight photos and between the first and the last, less than two minutes, the magenta lines almost entirely disappeared. I’m glad I stopped when I did.
Until the end of next week, I’ve been moved to an office in another building. I’m working with a team of programmers in this building so it makes sense, I suppose. There are times when it’s a lot more efficient to walk down the hall and discuss a change or a problem than to discuss over email or even the phone. I can connect remotely to my regular desktop computer, so I have access to my normal suite of software, including anything I’ve installed that’s non-standard at the company. It’s a pretty bare-bones office. I do sort of like the semicircular window, although the view out of it is of another building rather than the woods that I’m used to. I only expect to be here through Friday of next week, though. That is until the next time, when I get moved back here again. I don’t know if this is a subtle ploy to get me into a different group. I don’t actually think so, but you never know. Time will tell, I suppose.
The original intent of this doll was that the owner could make clothes to fit it. Of course, making clothes that small is not as easy as it sounds. My mom, to whom it was given, says that it’s actually easier to make full size clothes for a person than it is to do the very fine, fiddly work necessary to make clothes for this doll. She doesn’t remember exactly when it was given to her but she knows it was when they lived in Raeford, North Carolina, where her father was the principal of the school. They were there during the second World War and her mother made this nurse’s outfit for the doll and it was displayed in a bank window along with a sign asking for donations for the Red Cross. There was a “thermometer” where they showed the amount that had been given by extending the red line up the middle. As you can see, the buttons are out of scale with the rest of the clothes, but putting scale buttons on something this small would have been pretty tricky. I know people who won’t sew buttons on full size clothes.
We’ve had a fair amount of rain lately. In fact, we had a really wet fall and winter so far. It normally rains more here in the winter months but, and I haven’t actually checked the specifics, this year seems worse than normal. There is still some snow, although the temperature has been above freezing. These two brass deer are in among Cathy’s potted plants at the top of our driveway. I like the way they are standing in the snow, looking out at the cleared portion of the drive. They seem pretty unconcerned by the cold. The forecast has a cold front moving in late tomorrow, with temperatures predicted to drop into the single digits tomorrow night.
It’s been a reasonably mile winter so far, with only a few really chilly days. The forecast had temperatures dropping this afternoon with a low in the mid single digits (Fahrenheit) tonight. In the last afternoon I went out and it was definitely colder than it had been. The standing water on the lawn in the back yard was starting to freeze and making some really pretty crystal formations. It’s not the easiest thing to photograph but I think this one shows it pretty well. This ice is very thin, less than a millimeter, but by the morning the water will almost certainly be frozen solid.
The temperature didn’t get as low as we had been led to believe overnight, but it was 10°F this morning, which is chilly enough. I wear a light jacket when it gets this cool out, although really what I needed was gloves. The steering wheel of the car was pretty cold. I took some pictures of the pond between my office building and the next early this afternoon. The water level has dropped a few feet from when the ice started to form, so there were large sheets of ice around the banks of the pond that were left behind as the water moved out from under them. There was also ice on branches that had been underwater but now were about a foot above. It was quite pretty.
It was significantly warmer today and the ice was starting to melt. I had to walk across campus to a meeting (well, I didn’t have to walk but I chose to). After the meeting I went out into the woods for a little while to take some pictures. There is a stream running through the woods and a very boggy area next to it with ice throughout. I took a few pictures of the ice, which to me looks a lot like contour maps, which I find quite beautiful. I think I’m drawn to things that are fleetingly beautiful. Their transient nature hurts because I know they will shortly be gone but perhaps that adds to their appeal at the same time. A sunset, a pattern in ice, a beautiful and dramatic sky, they all last for a moment and then are gone forever.
I posted a photo of the hardwood floor in our living room (see Sunday, October 28, 2018 ) after I took up most of the wall-to-wall carpet in the room. I had left carpet under a bookcase, the large, console television, and the piano. Last weekend I finally got those last pieces up and put this Persian carpet down in the room. It’s from Afghanistan and was brought from my mother-in-law’s house. It looks really good and fits the room quite nicely, with the edges just under the sofa on one side and the television and one piano leg on the other. I have a small rug over one end so that it isn’t a tripping hazard while it gets itself flattened out again after being rolled up for a few months. The pattern is called Bukhara, named for the Turkoman city of the same name.
On one shelf in the basement we have a bunch of old Bibles. Some quite old. In fact, when David was working here a little over a year ago he joked that it looked like we had some first editions. They aren’t that old, of course, but they go back a ways. The one on the left in this photo, the Scofield Reference Edition, come to us by way of Cathy’s family. It appears to have been owned by Cathy’s grandmother, with the date December 25, 1919 written in the front, and with the names and birth dates of Cathy’s mom and her siblings. The second from the left is a bit of a mystery, as I don’t recognize any of the names. The two on the right come to us through my dad’s family. The one on the right has the birth dates of my great grandfather and his siblings and with a date in 1876 written in the front (although my great grandfather was a teenager by then). The one next to it, with the fancy binding decoration, has an inscription to my great grandmother from her sister, dated 1873. The one lying on top was my mom’s mother’s and is probably from the second decade of the 20th century.
I posted a photo of a few old cameras recently, including a few that my mom’s father (one of my grandfathers) owned and used. In my knowing memory, however, he only ever used a Leica 35mm Rangefinder camera. When he died, his son, my uncle, inherited the camera and then when he subsequently passed away, his children let me have one of them (so I’m not sure which one this is). In any case, it’s a Leica IIIc, which was made from 1940 to 1951 and I’d guess this was from after the war. It needs a little cleaning but it’s in basically working condition. It saw a lot of use and it’s a pretty little camera which reminds me pretty strongly of my grandfather.
We had a Family Dinner Night today and it was a very nice time. After dinner, as usual, we gathered in mom’s apartment to talk and watch the kids play. Kai, at two and a bit, is really starting to communicate verbally and is a very relaxed, easy going kid. He has an incredibly cute smile and a twinkle in his eyes that reminds me of his grandfather, although he’s certainly his own person. Silas, as 7+ months is not really a brilliant conversationalist yet, but that will come. He’s already starting to show a personality, as you’d expect, and it very cute, as I’m sure his parents will attest. This evening he and his dad were wearing matching t-shirts with Papa Bear and Baby Bear on them. Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, if you will. The ties were a later addition but were a nice touch.
I’m a huge fan of witch hazel (Hamamelis species). They’re small trees well suited to the suburban landscape and wonder of wonder, they bloom in mid-winter! Many years ago my father, Cathy, and I went to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton Regional Park in February and I remember falling in love with witch hazel at that time. Now whenever I see them in bloom, I remember my dad and remind myself that this is a tree I want to plant in my yard. Now that I have a space in the front yard that needs a small tree, this may be the spring when one gets planted. There are varieties with red, orange, and yellow flowers and I think all of them are terrific. The yellow, perhaps, stands out as being the brightest but they’re all worth the effort.
How ’bout some color? This is a heavily embroidered pillow that’s in our living room. I don’t know anything about it beyond that and Cathy says it’s not old. Neither was it bought in some exotic land. Still, it’s quite pretty and in mid-winter, we can use whatever color we can find. After yesterday’s picture of witch hazel blooms, I’m a little more ready for spring. I actually prefer the cold over the heat of August, but we’re not going to do much gardening this time of year. I only took a few pictures today after taking quite a few on both Saturday and Sunday.
We had a little snow squall today, starting a little after noon. The temperature was above freezing when it started and when this photo was taken from my office window. The issue wasn’t really with the amount of snow that we were forecast to get, which ranged from two to four inches. The problem was that the temperature was supposed to drop to about 15°F (-9°C) and all the water and slush on the roads would freeze. When it snows at those temperatures, the snow isn’t nearly as slick as snow just below freezing. But ice is pretty slick regardless. Anyway, we’ll see what this does to tomorrows school closings. Not that we care so much about those now. The main effect they have on us is the reduction in traffic for our commute.
I’m a little late posting this but after yesterday’s snow squall, we had a nice cover of maybe as much as two inches of snow this morning. It was quite cool, down around 10°F (-12°C) and I put some salt down but being that cold, it’s not going to melt very much. I took some pictures in the yard before Cathy and I left for work. The sun was bright and was shining through the branches of trees that had some ice on them, which was lovely but hard to record very well. I decided to post this photo of snow on the branches of an Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) that is in the back of our yard. I planted four of them in the fall of 2007 and three survived. This is the tallest of them and is about 15 feet tall, I’d say. It’s starting to look like a real tree. The other two are doing fine but are not as tall, being about 12 and 7 feet tall respectively.
I happened to be a few minutes early for a meeting down the hall from Cathy’s office today so I stopped in to say hello. I had brought my camera with me, as I sometimes do when walking across campus but I didn’t take any pictures on the way. As I was chatting with Cathy I decided to take a few pictures of this small figuring of the Three Graces done as pigs. As you can see, Cathy has put ribbons around their necks and one of them is wearing a fluff of some sort, which I have to assume came from Solomon (our Amazon Parrot). They are sitting on her window sill near two plastic alligators and a gecko.