Cathy and I took Darius to Meadowside Nature Center late this morning and into the afternoon. We enjoyed the exhibits inside for a while, particularly the cave that Darius enjoyed crawling through. We also liked seeing the albino corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) and the large, black eastern rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis). We also enjoyed seeing the raptors out back, including a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and turkey vulture (Cathartes aura). We walked down and around a pond and then I had fun driving off an leaving Cathy and Darius to run after me. Darius thought that was hilarious. While I waited for them to find me, I took this photo of the dried petals on a hydrangea shrub.
Cathy’s brother and nephew arrived late Saturday evening and we will have them with us until Friday morning, when they will head back home. Darius has gotten quite a bit taller in the 15 or so months since we saw him last. I suspect he might appear in another photo before the week is out but in the evening today I realized I hadn’t taken any photos so asked him if I could take a few of him. We’re really glad to have David and Darius here for Christmas.
Last year was a very different Christmas because both of her grandmothers were no longer in the houses Dorothy grew up going to for Christmas. We did our best but it simply wasn’t the same. She came up with a plan to ‘Make Christmas Fun Again’ as she put it. This involved inviting all her out of town cousins and other relatives here for the holiday. As it worked out, there were fewer than there might have been, but it was still a big deal that David and Darius came, driving from New Mexico in two days. We’re still expecting another cousin, Maggie, to come for ‘Second Christmas.’
In our neighborhood, Santa makes a pre-Christmas visit, just to be sure he knows where everyone lives. For all I know he does this everywhere, but we don’t live everywhere, so we only know about here. He doesn’t keep as low a profile on this visit as he does on Christmas eve and morning. In fact, he makes a fair amount of noise, with Christmas music blasting from speakers on his ‘sleigh’ and an occasional “ho, ho, ho“ thrown in for good measure. He and his helpers had bags of goodies for the children in the neighborhood, as well and a good time was had by all. Now, to wait for his second visit in a few day’s time.
Some of us got together for dinner this evening at mom’s. Iris, Seth, and Silas were still out of town. We were waiting for David and Darius to get here but they expected to be after 10:00 (they got here at about 11:20). After dinner, as we usually do, we went up to mom’s apartment and talked. Kai played on the hobby horse. Mom had pictures of him and of Silas on this in her Christmas card, as well as pictures of her and her sister on the same horse, over 80 years ago. As you can see, Kai is doing a pretty good imitation of someone enjoying himself.
There was a heavy frost this morning and I took the time before going to work to get some photos. That meant lying on the ground which was a bit cold and decidedly damp, but I knew I’d dry out before I got to work, so I wasn’t worried. I think ice crystals are pretty cool (no pun intended) and these are pretty nice. I’d like to have gotten closer but I didn’t have the time to get out the ultra-close-up equipment, so this was about as good as I could get.
We put our Christmas tree up this evening. I know a lot of folks have a tradition of putting their tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving and I have no problem with such a tradition. Nevertheless, we’re not quite so organized and in any case, the tree was in the storage unit and I didn’t get it until early December. It’s been in the back of my car for a while and this afternoon I brought it in and we set it up. Dorothy and Cathy brought up some boxes of decorations and began decorating the tree, although it isn’t done yet. There are a few boxes that were in storage and I will need to stop there and pick them up before we can consider it finished. Nevertheless, the living room is finally starting to look a lot like christmas. The large nativity scene will also need to be set up, probably on the top of the piano. Dorothy is also planning to make a wreath to hang on the front door. Note that in the past, our tree has stayed up until it really begins to lose needles. Now that we’re using an artificial tree that we brought from Margaret’s, that’s not an issue any more. We’ll probably take it down in early January, anyway. Note in this photo, the traditional peanut butter in front of the tree.
We had our group’s Christmas party this afternoon and evening. It’s technically a holiday party, since we aren’t allowed to mention Christmas at work, for fear of offending someone (and not everyone celebrates Christmas, of course). Bue we all know what it is. Our group, which is made up of mostly technical people who provide programming and computer support to project teams, is something over 100 people and it was a pretty good crowd this year. We went to Dave & Buster’s new location at the Rio and had a surprisingly good buffet meal. We all got game cards and this is a photo of Terry, one of my coworkers, playing Space Invaders.
Dorothy left Juneau yesterday and arrived here a few minutes before 6:00 AM this morning. I got to Dulles a few minutes early and had time to take some pictures of the lighting of the main terminal building. I assume this is for the holidays but I don’t actually know for certain. Whatever the reason, it was really nice. It was rainy this morning, possibly to help Dorothy feel more comfortable being here, as this is what she’s gotten used to in Juneau. Needless to say, it’s great to have her home and we’re looking forward to having here here for a while.
This little creche is made with bits and pieces from the kitchen. Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus are peanuts with Halos made from Cheerios. The magi—or maybe those are angels, it’s in some dispute—are made from Hershey’s kisses. The sheep are pumpkin seeds with broken toothpicks for legs. I’m not entirely sure what is in the foreground. Perhaps that’s food for the animals (and the baby didn’t fit in this manger so he’s next to it instead. The yarn person, which is perhaps a shepherd, is not to scale but is definitely part of the composition. The frog, however, is almost certainly apocryphal.
I took photos of various seeds in the yard this afternoon. First I took pictures of seeds of the Euonymus japonicus. From there I moved on to these Rudbekia seed heads. I think their form and subtle brown colors. I took photos of blackberry lily Iris domestica fruit, which do have a pretty blackberry-like appearance. I also took a few photos of the tops of Monarda and of the feathery seeds of the Clematis terniflora. None of the photos were wonderful but this one is my favorite. I also took a photo of a robin in the holly tree by the driveway.
We happened to be down in Bethesda this afternoon and we went to a few different stores. We started at American Plant Food, which is an interesting combination of plants and “decor”. I put that in scare quotes because I’m a bit scared by their idea of decor but I guess it’s what some folks want, or they’d carry something else. I really enjoyed their small but impressive houseplant section, particularly their orchids, which are beautiful. We went to a toy store and spent some time there but didn’t buy anything. Finally we went to Whole Foods were we only bought a few things. I used to shop there from time to time because I could get proper, dry-cured bacon but they don’t carry any cured bacon any more, so I have no real reason to go. As we came out, the color in the sky was amazing. We figured there wouldn’t be time to drive anywhere with a better view and in fact, in the sort time it took me to get the camera and walk about 40 yards, most of the color was gone from the sky. So, it’s still a sunset but not what I was hoping for.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a photo of our prime pet, Solomon. Since I’ve just posted photos of Cathy and of myself, I thought I’d round out the collection. If Dorothy were home I’d post a photo of her, but she’s not (but will be soon, if all goes to plan). Solomon will be 34 years old in January. Although he was hatched in California, he spent most of his first two years in Juneau, Alaska. From there he flew (with some help) to Chicago, where he lived with Cathy’s brother. After our trip of 1988, he returned to us on the east coast and has been here ever since. He lived in the kitchen in our first house and then in the family room here until he moved to the breakfast room a couple years ago. It’s great unless you want to have a phone conversation in the kitchen, when he really gets animated and makes it pretty difficult.
I published a photo of myself a couple days ago. Today you get my better half. Cathy’s usually very kind to let me take her photo if it’s late in the evening and I haven’t taken anything that day. This evening she was relaxing on the sofa and we had been watching an episode of Time Team on YouTube when I got my camera out. The first two she was reclining and though they turned out well enough, she liked this one better, after she sat up straighter.
She’s only just smiling with her mouth, but her eyes are certainly smiling. After more than 35 years together, we often don’t need to actually speak to be able to communicate. We’ve become that old couple that just looks at each other and laughs. I guess there are things a lot worse that that to be accused of. Anyway, we’ve become accustomed to each other’s faces, with the subtle changes they’ve each gone through over the years.
We had our first snow of the winter overnight. It wasn’t anything that was going to snarl traffic, melting on roadways and not amounting to more than a thin covering on the grass, but it was snow. Early morning after a snow is often quite pretty, especially if the clouds that brought the snow have cleared and it’s sunny. That was the case today. I took a few pictures in the front yard, including this one of the holly near our driveway. The robins generally come at some point in the winter and devour all the berries from this tree. They congregated in another holly a couple days ago and have pretty much stripped that one.
I don’t often post pictures of my self (the so-called ‘selfie’) but I figured if I’m going to, it might as well be done on an occasion such as this. I was going to title this post “A Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man” but decided that was a little pretentious. Also, I’ve never read anything by James Joyce and if I’m going to mess with his title, I should at least know what he was about. So, “Self-Portrait” will have to do. I don’t particularly like photographs of myself and I recognize that it’s unfair of me to force others to let me take photos of them when I don’t like to let others take photos of me. Part of it is that they tell me to smile when I’m already smiling. Part of the problem is that the mustache makes it harder to see my mouth. Another part is that while I smile with regularity, it’s hard to do when called upon and make it look natural. But I think this one turned out well enough.
This dried orchid flower, a Phalaenopsis, is on a plant in our kitchen. I’m a big fan of orchids but sadly haven’t been able to give those we have the attention that they rightly deserve. We’ve lost a few although a few others are getting by. In a perfect world, I’d water them more regularly and pay them more attention but we don’t live in a perfect world. Some things that I’d like to get to are passed over for more pressing matters. Maybe one day I’ll have the time to devote to them again. In the meantime, I’ll try to at least keep them alive. Inevitably I’ll fail for some of them. But then, they’re just plants and easily replaced.
I wondered around the yard early this afternoon. It was overcast and cool but I found a few bits of color. The Euonymus japonicus is in fruit, which are small, red arils coming out of pink capsules. There were also the deep burgundy red leaves of Epimedium × rubrum. But I decided to go with these leaves of a rugosa rose called ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’. It died back quite a bit last year but there is a core that’s still alive and it’s holding onto many of its leaves, as they tend to do. I’m hoping the worst is past and that it will come back next spring. It’s generally a pretty strong grower, so I have every reason to be confident.
Dorothy ordered something from India and it came recently. From “Rupsa, Near Fish Market Hatiadiha, Barhampur, 756028 Balasore, India” to be more precise. On the package was this orange label saying it was X-Ray Screened. It took me a little while to figure out what that shape was to the left of the text. It’s the tail of an airplane with a sunburst pattern on it. Anyway, I liked the label and took some pictures of it this evening. Not, perhaps, the most interesting subject for a photograph but I was fairly busy the rest of the day and it was something that caught my eye.
I went with Cathy, Aaron, and Alice to the Operation Christmas Child processing center this evening Cathy’s annual evening of processing boxes. She’s been many times but this was my first time. Aaron has also gone with her a few times before. We had a good time and got a fair amount done. Along with the hundreds of other volunteers today, we processed 64,795 boxes going to Malawi and Togo. That’s a pretty respectable number. It’s a fairly loud and hectic place but everyone is generally in a good mood and there is plenty of laughter. We were impressed by a few large collections of boxes filled by individual groups, especially one where each box had a hand knitted item, obviously made with much love.
We met Jean for dinner this evening in Falls Church, at a place called Fava Pot. It’s quite good and the servings are generous. We’ve only been twice, as it’s not really in our neighborhood, but it was a good meeting place between our two homes. Jean starts a new job on Monday and is a little anxious about that but we’re looking forward to hearing about how well it goes. Naturally we also talked about our children and what they’re up to. It was a good time and we were certainly glad to get together with her before she’s busy with the new job. Sorry for the exposure. I decided to not use flash for this, so the lighting was a bit rough.