Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunrise

We actually had both a beautiful sunrise and a beautiful sunset today. The sunset was prettier than the sunrise but I was driving during the sunset and getting a picture was a bit difficult. I did take two while stopped in traffic on 270 but then traffic started moving again so I let it go and just enjoyed it. The sunrise was while I was home and it was a simple matter of walking out front to take a few pictures from the driveway. It wasn’t as colorful as some we’ve had but it was still pretty.

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Amaryllis Bud

Amaryllis Bud

Amaryllis Bud

I know I’ve already done amaryllis recently but I’m afraid it’s going to be a repeat of sorts today. The picture is different enough, fortunately. The one I posted two days ago was in full bloom. This is another that Cathy bought and planted at the same time, but it’s at least a week behind. It’s also six or eight inches taller. Finally, I think this one is solid red where the other was (and is) pink or red mixed with white.

Dad used to grow an amaryllis most years for Christmas so I associate them with dear old dad. That’s a good thing, of course, but it does have a tendency to make me a little melancholy from time to time. I guess that’s one side effect of getting older. When we are young, if we are fortunate (as I certainly was) we don’t have a lot of loss in our lives and things we consider terrible are usually relatively mild in retrospect. As we get older, it’s almost inevitable that we will have significant loss. I’m not sure if I deal with it in a good way or not, but I do it my way (as Paul Anka might say). Having things that remind me of the loss is, for me, part of how I deal with it. I don’t want to forget, even though it’s painful.

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Schefflera arboricola (Umbrella Plant)

Schefflera arboricola (Umbrella Plant)

Schefflera arboricola (Umbrella Plant)

It rained pretty hard all day today and I didn’t get out to take any pictures. I met a few guys at Dogfish Head Alehouse after work but didn’t really have an opportunity to take any pictures there, either. So, when I got home I took some pictures of houseplants that are growing in pots in our kitchen. Many of them move out onto the back patio in the summer (or we move them, anyway) but they spend the colder months vacationing in our kitchen. There’s a pretty good amount of light from the afternoon sun so they seem reasonably happy there. They’d probably do better if the air in the house were not so dry, but they get through it. This is a Schefflera, an umbrella plant, and a fairly common houseplant. In the tropical climate of its native Taiwan it grows to 10 to 25 feet tall but as a houseplant it rarely exceeds 6 or 7 feet.

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Amaryllis

Amaryllis

Amaryllis

Cathy grows at least one amaryllis pretty much every year. This year she has two and although they were both growing their flower stalks at the same time, this one opened well ahead of the other, coming into full bloom before the other even started to open its buds. I took a few pictures of it this evening, doing my best to eliminate the harsh shadows on the wall behind it by bouncing my flash off the ceiling. Generally she tries to get them started early enough that they bloom around Christmas but this year didn’t get them into their pots until January, so we have them now. No complaints from me.

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Daffodil ‘Tete-A-Tete’

Daffodil 'Tete-A-Tete'

Daffodil ‘Tete-A-Tete’

It was a fairly busy day today, with church as usual and then a fellowship lunch with Crusader Baptist at 2:30. I made a big batch of qaubili pilau with braised beef and we enjoyed a huge meal and a wonderful time of sharing. I took a few pictures but they will mostly be of interest to those who were there. When we got home I took a few pictures of our early daffodils, a variety called ‘Tete-A-Tete’, which have started to bloom along the side of our front yard. There will be many more to come and since it turned cool today, they will slow down a bit, but spring is definitely in the air. ‘Tete-A-Tete’ is a small daffodil classified in division XII (Miscellaneous Daffodils) and I’m quite fond of it, not least because it comes out so early and lasts quite a while.

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Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis)

Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis)

Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis)

Another early bloomer, if your in the market for such things, is the Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis). The genus name comes from the Greek words bora meaning food and helein meaning injures/destroys in reference to the plant’s toxic leaves, stems and roots which are poisonous to humans if ingested (source, Missouri Botanical Garden). There are various cultivars in a range of colors and we have a few light colored varieties in the yard. Nevertheless, I really prefer this deep wine color. The blooms are not terribly conspicuous, being mostly downward facing and often covered by the new leaves, but what you see of them makes it a plant worth growing.

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Yellow Crocus

Yellow Crocus

Yellow Crocus

I went over to Ralph’s this morning to drop off something with mom. While we were there I took some pictures of things blooming in his yard. In addition to this little, yellow crocus, there was winter aconite still in bloom (but mostly done). Also, a winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) was in full bloom with its lovely, yellow flowers all along its green stems. I also took some pictures of winterberry berries. Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous holly, native to eastern North America and is known for its profusion of bright red berries on bare stems that last throughout the winter.

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Cattails (Typha latifolia)

Cattails (Typha latifolia)

Cattails (Typha latifolia)

It was another spring-like day, well into the 70s, and mostly sunny. I took a walk on the other side of W. Montgomery Avenue at lunch time, hoping to find things to photograph and generally enjoying the fresh air. Although it feels like spring, the woods are still in their mostly brown, winter garb. There were a pair of geese that seemed to be protecting a nest and they didn’t want me to get too close. I caught sight of a king fisher and small woodpecker but wasn’t able to get pictures of either. There is a small drainage pond with what appears to be a beaver lodge in it. The pond is surrounded by cattails (Typha latifolia) and that’s what is featured in today’s picture.

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Galanthus nivalis (Snow Drops)

Galanthus nivalis (Snow Drops)

Galanthus nivalis (Snow Drops)

There have been some snow drops out in our neighborhood for over a week now. Outside the building where I work are two large areas covered with them and they are in full bloom, as well. These are on the north side of the building, on a protected slope below the parking lot, leading down to a stream. I wasn’t able to get pictures but I saw two butterflies and one very large wasp of some sort on them. I don’t think about there being many flying insects about this time of year but if there are flowers, there are bound to be pollinators. It’s been quite mild out, but this is just about when the snow drips (Galanthus nivalis) normally blooms.

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President Lincoln For A Day

Self as Honest Abe

Self as Honest Abe

It’s that time of year again. Way back in November I ran into the kindergarten teacher from Dorothy’s old school and she asked me if I was up for coming to her class in February as Abe Lincoln. As you can probably guess from the accompanying photo, I said yes. This was taken as I got to work in the morning, using my cell phone camera.

I don’t often post photos of myself, partly because I don’t take very many and partly as a public service to you, my loyal readers. There are much nicer things to look at than my visage.

I don’t really make a particularly good Lincoln. I’m not anywhere near tall enough and my build is much too heavy. But this is for kindergarteners, remember. They aren’t terribly demanding and to them, even I am tall. It helps that their teacher is fairly small, also, so in comparison, I’m tall. The top hat and the beard are really all it takes. The first question I got from them was, “Are you the real Abraham Lincoln?”

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Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite)

Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite)

Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite)

It’s a bit over a week earlier in the year than the photo I posted of this last winter, but having it bloom in February isn’t at all unusual. Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) got its name for a reason. It’s a native of Europe, from southern France to Bulgaria and it’s also adapted to grow under black walnut, which produces the natural herbicide juglone (a.k.a. 5-hydroxy-1,4-naphthalenedione) that inhibits many plants from growing too close (and thus competing for resources). Eranthis is a pretty little things, lighting up an otherwise brown garden in the depths of winter. Even if this winter hasn’t been all that deep so far.

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A Walk Around Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Cathy and I went up to Baltimore to see Ralph and Tsai-Hong this afternoon and it was such a beautiful day that we took a walk around the block where Johns Hopkins Hospital sits. It’s a largish block and including a bit of wandering in an urban garden and into the front of the hospital itself, we walked almost a mile. On the left in this picture is the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building, the cancer center. The curved, glass-front building at the right is the Bloomberg Children’s Center. You can just see the top corner of the main hospital building, the Sheikh Zayed Tower, above the right hand corner of the Weinberg building.

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Lacey and Daniel

Lacey and Daniel

Lacey and Daniel

Taking pictures of newborn babies is a bit tricky. Typically they are lying down or being held that way. If they are being held, the person holding them is often moving, meaning the good angle for a picture changes from moment to moment, assuming there is a good angle at all. Newborns don’t generally make interesting expressions and asking them to smile doesn’t help very much. When they do make a good expression, the chances of them being turned away from you are fairly high, or the person holding them is talking or has his or her eyes closed or something. That isn’t going to stop me from trying, of course.

I’m pretty pleased with this picture of Lacey and her three week old son, Daniel. It isn’t the greatest picture of Lacey, who is laughing at something someone said, but perhaps she’ll forgive me that, since it’s a pretty nice picture of Daniel, who seems quite happy and content. We can’t ask for a lot more than that. Congratulations to Lacey, Gil, and big brother Tim. What a beautiful addition to the family. Thanks for letting us intrude on your domestic life for a little while.

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Sunset (and Venus)

Sunset (and Venus)

Sunset (and Venus)

We got a proper, colorful sunset this evening and I enjoyed watching it come on. Every now and then, as dusk was approaching, an airplane would fly across the sky and when it got to the right point, it would reflect the light of the setting sun and turn into a bright star for a few seconds. After a while I noticed one that seemed to be standing still. At first I thought it was just very far away and therefore seemed to move more slowly but it didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t moving at all. Turns out it was Venus, appearing about twenty minutes before sunset (which was at 5:47). This picture was taken about fifteen minutes after that. If you cannot see Venus in the picture, you may need to view it on a larger screen, or zoom in. It’s right about in the center from left to right, about 1/6 the way down from the top edge of the photo, at the upper edge of the clouds. (Of course, all it is is a tiny, white speck.)

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Winter Weather

A Fairly Light Snowfall

A Fairly Light Snowfall

When I got up this morning I didn’t realize at first that it had snowed overnight. I glanced out the kitchen door but didn’t see it at first. A little later I saw that there was something white scattered on parts of the patio table and it was only on closer inspection that I realized that it was snow. I decided I should document our winter weather, even if it was only a light dusting. The snow seems to have formed clumps or pellets and they were evenly scattered over the lawn (but not enough that it didn’t still look green at a glance). Where oak leaves were lying in the garden, the pellets of snow gathered into larger amounts, and that’s what you see here. So, winter, we’re still waiting.

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Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

Well, it looked as though I’d finally get the sunset I’ve been looking for the last few days. Each day the clouds seemed perfect for something spectacular as the sun approached the western horizon. Each day the sun would go down without any particular light on the clouds. Today seemed the best opportunity of all. Although they covered most of the sky, the clouds were more scattered and I had a real feeling that this time they’d get the setting sun’s final light. They did, too. The only problem was that the 20 minutes or so leading up to the sunset saw all the clouds move off to the south east. The only clouds left in the western sky where low, just over the horizon. Looking through the trees between the houses behind ours I got a small but of colored clouds. That will have to do.

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Clouds at Dusk

Clouds at Dusk

Clouds at Dusk

I was hoping for a spectacular sunset this evening. As the sun sank in the west, the clouds seemed just about right for something with a lot of color, covering the entire western sky with orange. As it turned out, we didn’t get anything very bright. In fact, it just got dark. Not to say that a daily sunset isn’t something for which to be thankful. We’re so used to the daily cycle we take it for granted, but it’s still a gift and it’s beautiful in its own way without the bright color we sometimes get. So, I like this picture, even though it isn’t what I was hoping to have.

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Emergency and Trauma

Emergency and Trauma

Emergency and Trauma

Sometimes I think if I had twins I’d name them Emergency and Trauma. Maybe not. But if I had two dogs I could probably get away with it. I’m not sure what nicknames I’d come up with for them, though. I suppose Emergency could be shortened to Em. May Uma for the other one. But all seriousness aside, Cathy and I were here for a little while with Cathy’s mom. She’s fine and is home again. She probably didn’t even need to go, but better safe than sorry, we always say (always, some people find it a little annoying). As I was leaving I stopped to take a few pictures of the outside of the hospital. It isn’t the most inviting place in the world, but then, when you need it, you’re glad to have it. And this is a good one.

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Dramatic Afternoon Clouds

Dramatic Afternoon Clouds

Dramatic Afternoon Clouds

The clouds were quite beautiful this afternoon. There was no colorful sunset to speak of but before that, they were rushing across the sky in a very impressive display. I really like clouds and could sit outside or (when it’s a bit warmer) lie on the grass and just watch them for hours. It’s cool out now. Not cold as it probably should be, but cool, so I didn’t stay out a terribly long time. Also, I was barefoot. But I enjoyed the changing patterns and the contrast between the clouds with the sun shining on them and those that were in shadow, both set against the brilliant blue sky.

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Robins and Sparrows

Robins and Sparrows

Robins and Sparrows

February is generally the deepest part of the winter around here but it’s been relatively mild so far this year. We’ve still got enough time for cold weather to come but today was really spring like. There were birds all over our back yard, including robins, starlings, sparrows, blue jays, and juncos. I waited at the kitchen door and took some pictures of the birds on the bird bath on the back patio. We keep it free from ice all winter and the birds really like that, although this year there has not been more than a week together when free water was frozen. Still, they were on the bath in fairly high numbers all morning.

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