Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree

I think I mentioned a while back that we put up our Christmas tree earlier this year than normal. We put it up on the weekend after Thanksgiving, which for a lot of folks is traditional. For us, we generally would cut a tree and putting it up that early is asking for a lot of needles to be down by Christmas. For the last three Christmases we’ve used this artificial tree, so that’s really not an issue. The plan is to keep it up a little while longer, but of course, it won’t have the wrapped presents under it after tomorrow.

We may have gotten the tree up early but we didn’t really do as well buying gifts this year as we generally do. There are a lot of packages under the tree but a lot of them are food gifts. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but we generally try to do better. Still, we’re together and looking forward to our two Christmas meals (breakfast and dinner with enough to eat that we won’t be hungry between them). We also plan on having video calls with our two families tomorrow.

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Frost on Fern Fronds

Frost on Fern Fronds

Frost on Fern Fronds

It hasn’t realle been that cold yet this winter. We did have snow last week but it was only down into the upper 20s at night. It was chilly this morning and the forecast is for continued cold for a while, with lows around 20°F. Still not frigid, but colder. I took some mail out to the box this morning and noticed the frost on these fern fronds so I got my camera and went out a second time to take a few photos. The frost didn’t last long, melting shortly after the sun hit it. But I wasn’t going to stay out too long, anyway. I was in a t-shirt and barefoot. Bracing.

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Knicknacks

Knicknacks

Knicknacks

I’m nearing the completian of ten years taking at least one photo every day. As you know if you’ve been following me far any length of time, I started this on January 1, 2011, posting the photos on Facebook. I started this blog with my second year (and have posted some, but not all of that first year’s photos, as well). I’m pretty sure that I will stop taking a photo a day at the end of the year. I’ll still take plenty of pictures but perhaps you won’t be subjected to pictures of knicknacks quite so often.

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Foggy Morning

Foggy Morning

Foggy Morning

I love foggy mornings. I suppose if I had to drive in them I’d like them somewhat less. Otherwise, and definitely from the comfort of my yard, I like them pretty well. This photo was taken looking up the street through the large red oaks that were planted along the road when the neighborhood was first built in the late 1960s. I love the atmospheric feel of trees in fog. We don’t get it a lot but somewhat more in the winter than other times of year. Even then, it generally burns off pretty soon after the sun is up.

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Potomac River from Turkey Run Park

Potomac River from Turkey Run Park

Potomac River from Turkey Run Park

As I think I’ve mentioned, we’ve been looking for new trails to walk on lately. What with working from home and not being able to go to church or to visit friends much, we really like getting outdoors. Turkey Run Park, on the George Washington Parkway in northern Virginia is one that I’ve seen signs for over the years but we’ve never actually been there. The walk was about 2 miles in total but felt like more than that. Parts of the trail were a bit muddy and slick and there were a few places where we had to scramble over rocks (scramble may be too strong a term, but you had to watch what you were doing, anyway). There were two places where we had to cross a stream on rocks. And coming from the river back up to the Turkey Run Park parking areas was quite a climb. There are wooden stairs where we made that ascent, which helped quite a bit, but it’s fairly steep. Anyway, we had a nice time being out and seeing the river.

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Poinsettia

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

We got this poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) from our next door neighbor and it’s really nice. We have it on our dining room table, except when we take it to the kitchen to be watered. In the past we’ve tried to keep them going from one year to the next and while they aren’t that hard to keep alive, we’ve never had them perform that well in future years. It’s really not worth the trouble, when new plants look so good. As most people know, the red parts are leaves rather than flowers. The actual flowers are quite small and not particularly significant in terms of the ornamental value of the plant. But the leaves really are spectacular.

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Tiny Nativity

Tiny Nativity

Tiny Nativity

A days ago I posted a picture of a somewhat odd, folk art Christmas carol singing figurine (see Friday, December 11, 2020). In that post I said that I’d post a photo of a nativity scene that Margaret’s housekeeper made for her quite a few years ago. Well, here it is. As you can see, most of the people in the scene are made from peanuts, although one is made differently to the rest. The sheep are made with pumpkin seeds and toothpicks. They look a little like pigs to me, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt, because this is an scene in Bethlehem and pigs would be out of place. The angel (on the left) is a Hershey’s kiss.

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A Leaf In The Snow

A Leaf In The Snow

A Leaf In The Snow

As usual when it snows around here, I took pictures of the snow. They really aren’t all that interesting and I know it’s cliche, but there you are.

I did like this leaf, peaking out from the snow, so that’s what you get for today. Not exciting, but again, there you are. I do remember a friend in high school telling me that shadows are blue. You can see that here, in the shade of the house.

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The Year’s First Snow

The Year's First Snow

The Year’s First Snow

We had what the new media breathlessly called “the most significant snow in three years.” Since we haven’t had more than an inch or so in that time, it didn’t take much to make their prediction come true. We got maybe three inches of very wet snow. Not exactly what you’d call a blizzard. We’ve been working from home since March, so it really didn’t affect us at all. We did get a small package delivered that I didn’t find right away because it got covered, but it was in a plastic envelope so that wasn’t a problem. I think the snow was lovely and I’m mostly a winter person, in any case (I didn’t bother putting shoes on to get the mail, for instance).

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Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

Who doesn’t love a sunset? I certainly do. They also come in handy when I haven’t taken any photos and it’s getting dark. I know I’ll have to find something indoors to photograph. But then when there is color in the western sky, it’s such an easy thing to get a picture of that I have to be really busy to pass up the opportunity. They seem to be popular, as well. Response on Instagram (where most people see the pictures posted here) is always strong for sunset pictures. They don’t quite compete with pictures of people, especially people who are popular, but the do a lot better than pictures of things around the house.

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Thea and Dorothy’s Hat

Thea

In fifth grade, Dorothy learned to knit. At the time, she struggled to actually finish anything. She’d get between a half and three quarters of the way done and then she’d pull it apart and start over. I guess I’ve been known to that sort of thing as well, although I’m not generally considered a perfectionist. Anyway, she decided to make a hat for a friend this year as a Christmas present. She stopped by this evening with another friend—Thea—and while she was here she happened to show us the hat.

The hat itself is a bit funny, with a nice shape and a tall peak. They ties a few different things to the end including the small wreath ornament you see here. I specially like the coordination of colors between the wreath and the green yarn that was used in the hat. I got another photo with the wreath turned properly and with Thea’s eye looking through it. Dorothy settled on a tiny little bell as the most appropriate.

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Dried Leaves

Dried Leaves

Dried Leaves

Winter is a time of stillness and quiet. In the city, of course, things don’t stop in the winter and the hustle and bustle continues. Even there, however, there are fewer people out and those who are generally keep moving. Even in the country, life goes on, of course. The birds (and every thing that creepeth upon the earth) still have to eat and those that don’t fly south (or those for whom this is south) can be seen in the woods and open areas. But the plants are quiet and still. They are still beautiful, though, especially when seen in silhouette, I think.

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Farm Skyline in Winter

Farm Skyline in Winter

Farm Skyline in Winter

We didn’t have time for a long walk today but wanted to get out for a while. There’s a loop at the Montgomery County Farm Park the goes around this good-sized corn field and we walked around that. It can be entered from a few different places but we came in on the Upper Rock Creek Trail. We saw quite a few birds, including eastern bluebirds, a blue jay, and lots of crows. We also passed a group on horseback (people, not birds). It was cool and pleasant and good to be outdoors.

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Another Strange Ornament

Carol Singer

Carol Singer

We don’t remember where this little Christmas ornament came from. Cathy thought it was made by the woman who cleaned her mom’s house for so many years but the things she made were more homespun. This is different. Just about as strange but different. It’s a Christmas caroler and it’s one we put out every year, but we don’t really know much else.

It’s a funny little thing but as one person commented on Instagram in reference to the Strange Little Ornament post (see Tuesday, December 01, 2020), our house “is a haven for strange little things.” I think perhaps she was including us in the “strange little thing” category, but I can’t be sure.

I’ll post a photo of a nativity scene that Margaret’s housekeeper did make in a few days. I think you’ll agree that they, along with this, qualifies as folk art.

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Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving Cactus)

Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving Cactus)

Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving Cactus)

This is the second of our Thanksgiving cacti (Schlumbergera truncata) to bloom. The first was mostly white (see Monday, November 23, 2020) and this one, as you can see, is mostly magenta. The third, also magenta, is blooming now, as well. Their flowers are really attractive and I think especially so when shown against a dark background. In this case, the background is the outdoors at night (our kitchen door) with the flower lit by my camera’s flash. S. truncata can be differentiated from the Christmas cactus (S. russelliana) by the pointy ‘teeth’ along the edges of the segments and the fact that the flowers are not symmetrical (the top half is different to the bottom half).

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Painted Box

Painted Box

Painted Box

I don’t really know anything about this painted box. We assume it’s Persian but don’t know if it was bought in Afghanistan or Iran (Cathy’s family lived in both). It has some writing around the top edge (not seen here) and if I can find someone familiar with the languages, perhaps we can get it translated and that will tell us more. It was difficult to get a good picture of this, because it has a high gloss finish and getting a picture with a large area of reflection was tricky. This one turned put pretty well, though.

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Mum

Mum

Mum

This mum was part of a bunch of cut flowers that we had on the table at Thanksgiving (you can see it in the photo from Thursday, November 26, 2020). It’s lasted pretty well and is still brightening up the dining room table. I’ve never really been into cut flowers but I have to admit they are a relatively inexpensive way to add a splash of color and cheer to a room. They don’t have to be particularly exotic, either. Mums, after all, are easily grown and not very expensive. So, next time you have a celebratory meal planned (or even on more mundane occasions), buy a small bouquet of flowers, stick them in a vase (or a pitcher, as these are) and put them on the table.

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Camellia japonica ‘Hokkaido Red’

Camellia japonica 'Hokkaido Red'

Camellia japonica ‘Hokkaido Red’

This spring I planted three camellias. One was a fall blooming hybrid between C. oleifera and C. hiemalis ‘Showa-no-sakae’ called ‘Winter’s Star’ (see Thursday, October 15, 2020). The other two are spring blooming Camellia japonica varieties. One of them, however, has a bloom that’s opened a bit early. It’s called ‘Hokkaido Red’. My understanding is that it was selected from plants grown from seed collected on the northernmost parts Hokkaido, Japan and grown at the National Arboretum. It’s supposed to be one of the most cold tolerant C. japonica and also blooms prolifically over a long period in the early spring. It’s a relatively slow growing shrub and of course mine was only planted this year, so it will be a while before it’s of any stature. But it looks very promising.

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Sycamore Tree

Sycamore Tree

Sycamore Tree (Platanus occidentalis)

This American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is in our neighbor’s yard. It’s a bit, healthy tree and in the summer it is often lovely at dusk with the evening sun turning the bright green leaves a wonderful orange-green that’s very hard to describe. In the winter, without its leaves, the beauty of the sycamore is in their bark, which is a lovely white, especially against the blue of a winter sky. They are large trees and generally better suited to parks and open areas but they also make a fine city tree, being quite tolerant in their habits.

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Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Cathy and I went for a walk on the western side of Lake Needwood this afternoon, parking at Needwood Mansion. It’s a trail we haven’t walked on before, although Cathy ran at least one cross country meet here when she was in high school. We saw quite a few eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) and some of them were even close enough that I was able to get a reasonable picture or two. I really would like a longer lens for this sort of thing. Relying on the 100mm lens I have leaves me a little disappointed, but this one is pretty good, if I say so myself.

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