Cathy gave me a new camera for Christmas, a Canon 60D, to replace the 10D that I’ve been using since April, 2003. The cameras are quite similar in their controls but the upgrade includes a pixel increase of 285% (from 6 to nearly 18MP). This photo is the 19th exposure on the new camera. A few days after this picture was taken, I decided to see if I could take at least one picture a day for a year. That “Project 365” resulted, ultimately, in this blog. For that initial year (2011), the photos were posted to Facebook. I continued taking a picture a day in 2012 and this blog was born. I’ve begun the process of back-posting the pictures from the first year, but I’m not done yet. I hope you find a few pictures that you can enjoy.
Tagged With: Family
But this is not your run of the mill Iris. Among other things, she’s one year through med school.
Stephen and Maya were down for a wedding over the weekend so the locals got together for dinner on Tuesday before they headed back to Boston.
This afternoon we had a nice visit with my cousin, Lisa, and her lovely family. This is Alec and Audrey, her two children and Dorothy’s second cousins. We certainly don’t see them as often as we should but it’s always a treat when we do. We shouldn’t need the extra incentive but Dorothy actually does have more reason to visit Tampa now, so perhaps we’ll make our way south sometime.
We gathered on Friday for our family Thanksgiving and of course we took our traditional family photo.
We gathered for a family dinner this evening and as usual since late December, the star of the show was Kaien, now a little over three months old. Most everyone got a chance to hold him and he’s so good-natured that it was a nice time. There are other things going on, of course, and if you know then you know. If you don’t know I won’t bother you with it. Suffice it to say that it was a bittersweet gathering but one I’m glad we had. We’ll be doing that as much as we can for as long as we can. Anyway, here’s grandma with her precious little one.
Today was day one of our two-day, family caving expedition. The eight of us met up at Ralph’s and drove to south of Petersburg, West Virginia. We arrived before sunset at the PSC field house and got settled in. It’s not exactly four star luxury but then, we were not expecting it to be (it’s actually pretty nice, really). This is the view back down the road we came up. It’s certainly a good idea to have four wheel drive and reasonable clearance on that, especially the place where it crosses the creek. After a horrendously rainy morning, the drive was quite nice and we arrived to a beautiful, cool, breezy evening.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we drove to West Virginia and spent the night at the PSC Field House in the North Form Mountain area. We got a reasonable night’s sleep and after a hearty breakfast, six of us headed off the Hamilton Cave. Ralph and Stephen are both experienced cavers but the rest of us were beginners. We’ve all been in the big, commercial caverns like Luray or Carlsbad (although I’d really like to see Carl’s Good cavern!). I’ve been in a reasonable number of caves in the USA, France, England, Greece, and Slovakia (although it was Czechoslovakia at the time). But this was the first time in a cave such as this. Hamilton cave has a pretty good maze of passages and I’m certainly glad we had two people who knew their way around.
After checking in at The Register, we made our way to our first goal, the Slab Room. This is named for the large slab of rock that fell in the distant past (well, probably recent in geologic terms, but it was more than a few years ago). Getting here involved passages where we had to crawl on all fours and a couple stretches where I had to take off my small day pack and push it in front of me while I slithered along on my front in what I know as an army crawl. You know the one, where you are lying prone and you pull yourself along with your elbow and push with your knees. It can be fairly tiring, especially for someone carrying extra weight and with not-terribly-strong arms. But we all made it through. There were other places where we could walk upright and they were very welcome, I can tell you.
There was an even tighter spot than those the required an army crawl. There is one place where the passage gets fairly narrow between two smooth, nearly vertical rocks. They are closest together at just the wrong height from the ground for someone about my height and with a larger than necessary midsection. If you know what i mean.
It was not quite Winnie-the-Pooh in Rabbit’s Hole but it was tight. Fortunately they didn’t hang dish towels on my legs. Getting through that required getting up on my toes so my largest part was a little higher than the tightest part, and then getting a bit of a push from Stephen. The second picture here is further into the cave than that tightish bit. It shows Seth sitting in a fairly large room as the others made their way up behind him. The last picture was actually taken between the other two. I don’t often take selfies but I thought in this case I would. So, that’s me in my caving gear. Looks as though I’ve been crawling in the dirt, doesn’t it?
As you can probably guess by the fact that I’m posting this, I made it out. We all had a good time and were certainly glad we went. I will confess to being glad to see the sunlight again and to be able to stand up without worrying about hitting my head on a rock.
We had the pleasure of baby sitting this little munchkin this evening while his parents went to a movie. Kaien (pronounced like Ryan with a K instead of an R, or simply Kai) is just over 5 months old now and really is starting to show a personality. He smiles a lot and thankfully is pretty easily distracted if he starts to fuss.
He slept for about an hour of the time we had him and then had a bottle, which was also pretty easy. After that we enjoyed singing to him. He especially loved Old MacDonald Had A Farm, especially the animal sounds that Cathy made. She sang quite a few verses, including some with animals that are not generally considered farm animals (do any farmers keep lions?). We also sang some songs by the Limeliters. Interestingly, their album Through Children’s Eyes was one that Cathy and I both listened to as children, so we both know the songs on it. Anyway, we sang a few songs from that. He mostly just stared at us throughout.
We went up to the Farm today and everyone was there, which was great. I took what some might consider a lot of pictures and baby Kai was in his fair share of them. There are a bunch of Kai with grandpa Ralph and that’s what we have here. It isn’t the best angle for seeing their faces but if I went to one side or the other I’d get the back of one head. I got a bunch that I think are good but decided to go with this one, which I like pretty well.
Ralph L. Hartley
June 10, 1958 – June 14, 2017
Life can be hard and I’m not really sure what to say about this picture. As I get older I find, not surprisingly, I suppose, that there are fewer and fewer people that have known me all my life. My parents, of course, knew me when I was first born. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles, basically, as well. But my dad is gone and so are my grandparents and many of my aunts and uncles. And now my older brother, Ralph. He was only 18 months old when I was born, but he has been there since my beginning and I have known him my entire life. Being so close together in age, we did a lot of things together, especially as kids. We fought, of course, but we played, as well. The family traveled a bunch, going out west and back a few times when we were young. Then in 1971 we moved to England, camping through much of Europe on the way. Ralph and I went to the Cambridge Grammar School for Boys that year. We explored castles and designed our own. We took another trip out west when Ralph and I were in high school, hiking down the Grand Canyon. We went to Greece for eight weeks in 1981, camping almost the whole time. Ralph only stayed for half of that but it was a really good time (and boy, did he have hair then!).
It was about that time that he met Tsai-Hong. They were married in 1982 and have had a wonderful marriage and two amazing children, now both married. In December of last year their grandson Kai was born. Late in 2015 it was clear that Ralph was ill. In January, 2016 he was diagnosed with lymphoma. In January of this year he had a bone marrow transplant and although the transplant was successful, the cancer was still there. They decided to do some traveling and went on a cruise in the Galapagos and another in southeast Alaska. Ralph was an avid and experienced caver and he took five of us into a ‘starter cave’ in West Virginia a few short weeks ago (see Saturday, May 06, 2017).
We all knew it was only a matter of time before he was gone but it came much more quickly than any of us expected. My mom called me early this afternoon to say that Ralph’s breathing had become labored and that I should come over. He was able to hold his precious grandson one last time before he left us, and that was so sweet.
We disagreed on many things and we fought from time to time (sometimes, particularly as kids, physically). But Ralph was the first friend I had and for most of my early life, my best friend. Some of the memories we shared were shared by no one else. I’m amazed by how rich I am in terms of friends and family. Richer than I could ever possibly expect or deserve. But, to quote something I read once, “the cultural memory of our little family has been dealt a terrible blow…. In what seems like the blink of an eye, whole volumes of institutional memory have simply vanished. And that is a terribly lonely thought, that no amount of company and condolence can ease or erase.”
UPDATE: I’ve fixed a few typos, including two years, which were wrong.
If you don’t like baby pictures then I suggest you look away. There may be a few of them over the next few days. After yesterday, you won’t be surprised to learn that we’ve spent a little time with family. Spending time with family generally leads to pictures of Kai. So, you shouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow’s picture is of him, too.
He’s a cute little beggar and getting cuter at a ferocious pace. He’s also making progress towards talking and crawling. On the other hand, he’s so often in someone’s arms I don’t know how he’s ever going to learn to crawl. But he will, I suspect, and then life will get more complicated for his parents (and all of us when they come over).
It’s been a long couple days and we’re slowly beginning the process of recovering from Wednesday. Yesterday we spent much of the day with family. Today we just hung out at home most of the day but had everyone over in the evening. In the normal course of things I would have gone out to take pictures in the yard but I just didn’t feel up to it today.
We had Indian food from Bombay Bistro this evening and were together again, doing not much of anything in particular. Of course we played ‘pass the baby,’ as we do in these situations. And I took pictures.
This isn’t the best picture of Kai that I’ve taken but it’s good enough. It’s about time I got a good one of him with his dad (and I think it’s quite a good picture of Steve). There are others, of course, including pictures of the dogs, but it’s Kai-week, so here you are. I’m not saying that there won’t be pictures of Kai again coming soon, although I think tomorrow will be something else. But you never know. And I’ll get back to flowers (or better yet, insects) soon.
Cathy and I went out to dinner with her mom, Margaret, this evening. It isn’t every day that you have a 91st birthday. In fact, a lot of people never have it even once. But she did, so we celebrated. We went to a newish seafood place and had a nice meal. After that we went to York Castle for ice cream. Not the biggest birthday bash in history, but it was relaxing and we had a nice visit. We talked about upcoming transitions and things seem to be beginning to move along those lines (more information on that to come as it happens). In case you’re wondering, Margaret had blacked mahi-mahi (a.k.a., the common dolphin fish, Coryphaena hippurus) and Cathy had stuffed flounder (most likely something in the Paralichthys genus). I had cod (Gadus morhua), oysters, and shrimp.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we had our Thanksgiving meal today instead of the more traditional Thursday. Iris had to work briefly in the morning but she was at mom’s before I got there at about half past noon. Our meal was the traditional turkey and all the fixings but of course, the real feast is being with family. I’ve decided to post two pictures from today, one as we were sitting down to eat. clockwise from far left: Steve, Danna, George, Carmela, Margaret, Dot, Cathy, Dorothy, Tsai-Hong, Iris, Seth, Maya, and Kaien
After dinner we sat and talked and occasionally laughed. Steve showed off the leather armor he has made for his live action roll playing (LARP) and I got some good pictures of both him and Carmela dressed in it. We also took family portraits, both with my camera and with mom’s. This is one of mine. Front, from left to right: Carmela, George (with Chester), Margaret, Cathy, Tsai-Hong holding Kaien, Steve, and Henry. Back, also left to right: Iris, Seth holding Bean, Dot, Dorothy, Maya, and Danna
As usual, we had a three-part Christmas this year. We started by opening our stockings and a few presents at home. Then we went to Cathy’s mom’s where we had our traditional breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, and sausage. We opened a few more presents there. At about 1:30 we (including Cathy’s mom) went to my mom’s. We had our equally traditional dinner of enchilada (plus lot of other food, of course). In the evening we played a game. This year we each submitted five of our favorite songs. George then compiled them and played a segment of each. The idea was to guess which songs went with which person. It was a three-way tie for first place with the winners getting 12 out of 14 correct.
Now that Cathy’s mom has moved in with us, we needed to integrate her computer into our home network. The small office just inside our front door (and now just outside her bedroom) is where my computer has been for over a year and where Cathy’s has been since the construction started towards the end of October. Now Margaret’s computer is here, as well. By the time I’m writing this, on January 14), the table is gone from the middle of the room and it’s much easier to walk around. My computer and the printer is to my right, along with a tall bookcase. We need to put a few pictures up on the walls, but it’s coming together.
Yesterday evening, after our 3.5 mile walk on the battlefield of the Third Battle of Winchester, we visited the National Cemetery in downtown Winchester. We went there again this morning because Cathy had remembered the name of another man in Henry’s (Cathy’s great, great grandfather) division. One marker was for a man in his company and who died of wounds received the same day Henry died. Henry’s remains were never identified so we assume his is one of the graves marked, like the one in the lower right of this photograph, “Unknown U. S. Soldier”. For all we know, this is his grave (unlikely, but possible).
The large column on the left memorializes Brigadier General David A. Russell. He commanded a brigade of the 6th Army Corps in which Henry served. Gen. Russell died the same day as Henry, September 19, 1864 at the Third Battle of Winchester.
We had a family dinner night this evening and it was a good time. I don’t want to say that Kai was the center of attention but, well, Kai was the center of attention. We’re expecting some competition for that attention sometime in early July (give or take a week or more). But for now, he’s it and he’ll still get plenty of attention after his cousin in born. He’s one and a quarter today. Apparently he’s been walking quite a bit, mostly at day care and not so much when family is around. Tonight he walked a few times and when he did, he got cheers. When he gets cheers, he cheers himself, and that’s what he’s doing here. He’s very (and rightly) proud of himself. It won’t be long before his parents are run off their feet trying to keep up with this little fellow. He’s quite adorable and so, we adore him.
We had a nice dinner, as well, with dumplings from Mama Dumpling (a.k.a. China Bistro) as well as other dishes. Good as always.
We’ve been working on emptying out Cathy’s mom’s house and it’s a reasonably big job. They bought the house fifty years ago, so there are naturally a few things scattered about. The four ground floor bedrooms are mostly done (it’s a rambler but with a large basement). A few weeks ago we moved on to working on things in the basement. Between Cathy, our friend Julia, and me, we’ve made some good progress. Last night, two of Cathy’s nieces came and today they helped us make even more. Maggie and Laura are fun, of course, but this was no pleasure cruise. There were boxes to carry and papers to go through. And go through them we did. It was quite warm today, reaching nearly 90°F. Fortunately we were working mostly in the carport and there was a little breeze, so we weren’t too uncomfortable.
Cathy decided that her old doll house had served its purpose and it was time that it be recycled. It’s made entirely of cardboard, so that works out well. She wanted one last picture of it before it went into the van, though.
We continued working on Cathy’s mom’s house today, again with Maggie and Laura in town. We started by moving some things that were brought home yesterday into the garage. That’s where this picture of Laura was taken. It’s not the best picture but, as it turns out, it’s the only picture I took all day. So, that’s what you get.
In addition to some work at the house, Laura and I went to a self-storage location and rented a 10×10 foot storage unit. It may not be big enough but it’s a good start and we can always move up if necessary. Cathy and I will be out of town tomorrow and most of Sunday, when the girls leave, so they plan to begin the process of moving things to that. Not everything will go into storage, of course, and we’d like to limit it as much as possible. But there are things we know will take significant time to deal with and we don’t want that to hold up progress on the rest of the house emptying. Photographs, for instance, need to be gone through and that’s going to be a slow process, particularly the slides and even more particularly the overseas travel slides. So, get them out of the way and deal with them this fall.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we went up to Pennsylvania this weekend with the rest of my family. George and Carmela came down from New Jersey and Brady from Virginia. The rest of us live relatively close but it was especially good to all be together (missing Dorothy, but college years are like that). Carmela wanted a picture with Kai and this is, I think, the best of those I took. Kai doesn’t have a great smile but I think it’s a good picture. After the near ninety degree heat we had on Thursday and Friday, it was a very welcome relief to have cool weather this weekend. And though we had a little rain, it didn’t really dampen our spirits.
Today was about 90°F but we had a bunch to do in the yard and we gave it a shot. I started by pulling Canadian thistle (Cirsium arvense), a really pesky weed. That requires gloves and it took me a while to find a pair, with all the disruption that’s happened to our garage. After clearing most of the thistle from the lily of the valley, I moved on to the fence along the south end of the back yard. That fence, a post and rail, is starting to reach end of life. Two posts are leaning badly and a few rails have broken. I pulled up three posts and took out the 12 rails associated with them. I cut them up (chainsaw) and loaded them into the van to get rid of.
This photo of Cathy was taken in the evening, as she was walking across the back yard towards me. She made faces for most of the pictures but then let me take a ‘normal’ shot, with built-in flash to help light up her face in the darkening day (taken around 7:50 PM).
Back when I was very young my parents papered the wall on one side of the stair well in their house with covers from “The Reporter” magazine. It’s a very tricky thing to photograph because the stair well is pretty narrow and the wall covers a lot of space. From the top of the stairs I was able to get a few pictures that sort of do it justice. At least if you’ve seen it in person, perhaps this will remind you of it. There’s one cover that shows up four places. We’re pretty sure there is another duplicate but we couldn’t remember where and couldn’t find it. It’s faded considerably in over 55 years, especially towards the top where the afternoon sun shines on it. But it’s held up pretty well, all things considered.
While we were in the ER on Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, Iris and Seth also were sent to the hospital (but not the same hospital). After midnight, so early Thursday morning, Silas was born. Cathy and I went over at lunch time today and both of us got to hold him. I have to confess that I really love newborn babies. When I was young, they freaked me out a little, mostly because they are so small and fragile. After having one of our own, I think Cathy and I like them a lot more. Silas is an adorable little thing and we were happy to hold him. I realized after a while that my arms weren’t tired in the least. It won’t be long before holding him for any length of time is a chore but for now, at just over five pounds, it’s pure joy. I took a bunch of pictures, including some with Seth as well as some with grandma holding Silas. I got some of Cathy and she took some of me, also. But I really like this one of Iris. There’s every chance that there will be more photos of this little tyke in the weeks, months, and years to come.
Last week I posted a picture of Iris with one-day-old Silas. Today, at age 8 days, this is Silas with Seth. It was really good to get together with the family this evening. It’s been a hard week for a number of different reasons including the one-year anniversary of Ralph’s passing and the impending move that mom is making from her house of so many years. Nevertheless, Silas reminds us that there is also new life and we take great joy in that. He’s a beautiful little boy and his parents are rightly proud and already deeply in love with the little fellow.
David and Darius arrived last night, along with Darius’s cousin, Maggie. They are here this week to help finish dealing with the things in the house. It’s a big task and it’s going to be a grueling week. Cathy and I are going to be off work but I wouldn’t call it a vacation. That’s not to say there won’t be joy and gladness mixed in with the heavy lifting, dust, and debris. Darius, in particular, brings substantial joy. The youngest of Margaret’s grandchildren, he’s a sweet kid (don’t get me wrong, he’s still a boy who can get up to mischief) and it’s great to have him here. Of course, when it comes to the heavy lifting, dust, and debris, he’s not quite as helpful, and I’m really glad to have David and Maggie here.
With the birth of Silas last week, there’s a natural tendency to take pictures of him. That’s fine, but I need to remember the older cousin, and I do that today with this picture of Kai with his mom. Every time we get together, and it’s not all that uncommon, he starts the encounter being a little apprehensive, as though he has no idea who I am. I don’t know if that’s really what’s going on, but that’s what it seems like. He didn’t take long today (and he usually doesn’t) to warm up again and give me some smiles, particularly when he’s in the safety of his mother’s arms. Actually, we think he maybe doesn’t recognize me until I’m holding my camera. That’s entirely possible.
You can easily collect a lot of things if you live in the same place for 50 years. If you also inherit things from your parents as well, it can really add up. Then, if you have enough space to store it all, its easy to leave it alone. But, as they say, nothing that cannot go on forever will. At some point, there is a reckoning. That day has arrived (that week, or month, or six-month, or year, actually). David and Maggie are here and David has been doing yeoman’s work on the store room in his parents’ house, pulling out bins, trunks, and barrels that have not seen the light of day for many a year. The contents of some were in good condition while others had been infiltrated by visitors and mostly or wholly destroyed.
The title of this post alludes to the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Mom moved to a condo today in a retirement community. We’ve been very busy with my mother-in-law’s move so were not able to do as much for her as perhaps we should have done, but between George coming down on Friday and staying through the move and the folks at Let’s Move, the move has happened. There is still plenty to do yet at the house but most of her things that she will have at the new location are in place and set up. As you can see, she seems pretty comfortably situated. There will be more adjustments, as well, of course, but the big moving day has come and gone without significant incident.
Oh, and Dorothy drove down from Massachusetts to surprise us. We were very surprised and naturally also very pleased. After a little while at Margaret’s house, we all went to see Dot in her new location.
We continued working on the house today. David, Maggie, and I worked mostly in the basement. Abba, Dorothy, and Hannah went through things, looking for things they would like to have from grandma and grandpa’s stuff. They each took a fairly wide assortment and those things went into the master bedroom to be moved later.
We started filling our second dumpster today and are making good progress. We also moved some metal shelves and 55 gallon drums out to the curb to be picked up tomorrow for metal recycling by the county. The shelves in particular were quite heavy. I moved three of them with the help of a young friend and then we moved two more with four of us carrying them. I’m glad those are done with.
In the evening we had tacos and visited back at our house. As usual, I took a few pictures, including this one of Dorothy’s cousin, Abba, which I think turned out well.
Yesterday’s picture was Abba, one of Dorothy’s cousins on her mom’s side. Today we have Hannah, Abba’s little sister. We had her here for a few days to look through things at her grandma’s house. She was in on Abba and Dorothy’s surprise visit, although we were not and she didn’t give it away. Because we live so far apart, we don’t all get together nearly often enough so it was really nice to have so many here at once. On the other hand, it was a very busy week and by the time we got home and could visit, we were all pretty exhausted. Dorothy rightly suggested that we need to plan a get together with all the cousins in a place and at a time when we don’t have a lot of demands on our time, so we can all just enjoy being together.
Today, Cathy, Dorothy, Abba, Hannah, and Darius went to the zoo and then drove around downtown to see the sights. Naturally, David, Maggie, and I were busy moving things around and clearing out the house. No rest for the wicked.
On Tuesday I had a picture of Dot (otherwise known as mom) in her new digs. Well, today’s picture is back in the old place. It isn’t quite empty yet, but it’s getting there. As you can see, there are some books that are yet to be either claimed or given away. The lamp (an imitation Tiffany) and the wall hanging are tagged with their new destination. We also need to take down the hooks for her quilt-hanging rod and then put them up in the new place. The cabinets and shelves that dad built around the fireplace have held up pretty well. The original mantel was much more traditional. Dad had asked if he could replace it and when mom finally said yes, she came home to find the old one burning in the fireplace. He wasn’t going to take the chance that she’d change her mind.
Some of the family got together for dinner this evening at mom’s place. This was our first family gathering at her new apartment and we ate at the dining hall. The food got mixed reviews, with some things being better than others, but none of it was bad, anyway. Of course, one highlight is seeing young Silas, now a little over three weeks old but still not quite up to his original due date. Cathy was happy to get a long turn holding him, and I took a few pictures while she did.
Like most babies, he slept some, cried some, and ate some. Also like most parents, Seth and Iris are pretty tired. Unfortunately he’s got his day and his night mixed up and is sleeping for longer stretches during the day. But he’ll get through it and so will they. In the mean time, he’s absolutely adorable when he’s asleep, as shown here.
As we were leaving, I took a few pictures of the sunset, which was quite nice. Nevertheless, sunsets are a dime a dozen when compared to pictures of babies.
We drove up to Canterbury Shaker Village today to see Dorothy’s cousin Abba. She has been there all week in their first resident artists program. The program was a success and they plan to repeat it regularly. Abba was chosen as one of only five artists (and one of two painters). We enjoyed seeing her work as well as wandering around the historic, Shaker buildings. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place, only occasionally disrupted by the sounds of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway just over a mile to the east (if you go on a non-race day, you won’t have that issue). We wandered around the gardens and down to the ponds on the eastern part of the property.
On November 23, 1886, Cathy’s great grandparents, Fred and Lucy, were married in Sullivan County, New York. This was during the industrial revolution and before the area because known as the Borscht Belt in the early twentieth century. Fred and Lucy moved west. Cathy’s grandfather, Albert, lived in a suburb of Chicago and became a wholesale butcher. Because of that, Cathy’s father, born shortly before the stock market crash of 1929 and Roosevelt’s great depression, grew up with meat on the table. Years ago Cathy and I visited Sullivan County and found what we believe was the family farm, although all that was left was a collapsed barn.
We had a family dinner night ahead of going to the beach. Since Iris, Seth, and Silas won’t be at the beach with us, it was good to get together with them. Silas is growing like a weed, as children do at this age. His cousin, Kaien, is also growing and I have aome pictures of him, as well. But as I post this, we’re back from the beach and I know that I took pictures of him at the beach.
It’s really nice having a baby and a toddler around at family gatherings. They are both wonderfully cute. Of course it’s a bitter sweet joy, as it really makes me miss my brother (and I don’t really need a lot of help on that front). Nevertheless, if I’m going to miss him (and I am) there might as well be two beautiful grandchildren to help offset it. And at least for now, they are in town and we get to see them somewhat regularly.
On the way to the beach in southern North Carolina we stopped in northern North Carolina for our annual family reunion. As usual there was good food and great fellowship. We also took our annual photos. Some years we do generational photos. This year we did families, based on “The Siblings”, none of whom are with us any longer. Except we always take a picture of “The Cousins”. Of the eleven first cousins, five are still with us and are pictured here (along with Catherine, Clinton’s widow). We also took a picture with the other spouses but I like this picture and decided to go with it. We also took a large group picture of the 58 people who were still there at the time it was taken.
Our week at the beach has come to an end and we leave tomorrow morning. The southern North Carolina beaches are great and I like Ocean Isle in particular. Partly that’s just a matter of familiarity, of course, and people who go to other beaches year after year almost certainly feel the same way. But one thing I don’t particularly care for is the drive home. It’s about 425 miles and the traffic between Richmond and DC is never good, especially on a summer weekend. But, drive it we must. First, however, we took time for a family photo out on the deck. As you can see, we’re sort of looking into the setting sun, so there’s a bit of squinting going on. From left to right: Henry, Dot, Danna, Kai, Maya, Steve, George, Carmela, Cathy, Dorothy, Jacob, and Kendra.
We had a family dinner night this evening at mom’s new apartment and dining hall. I don’t want to give the impression that I only enjoy these get togethers because of the two grand nephews (and it isn’t strictly speaking even true). Nevertheless, I do enjoy seeing them. Kai is such a cute little boy. He wouldn’t smile for me until his mom said, “Kai, can you cry for Uncle Henry?” This is the grin we got from that request. It’s when he smile that he reminds me most of Ralph, which is good, but also hard. I love this little guy. He’s his own person, obviously, and he has a lot of his mom in his looks, but there are moments when he looks just like his grandpa at that age. Not that I remember his grandpa at that age. When Ralph was Kai’s age I wasn’t quite two months old. But there are pictures.
We rented a truck today for the third time this year. The first time was on Saturday, January 6, when we moved Margaret from her house to ours. That was mostly her bedroom furniture and boxes of the things she’ll need here at our house. The second was on Tuesday, July 24 to move a bunch more furniture that we will either keep ourselves or get rid of more carefully (i.e. sell rather than give away). Today we moved furniture that was to be given away. We filled a 16-foot truck pretty full and took it to A Wider Circle (http://awidercircle.org/). They took most of what we brought, leaving us with just a few of the things to dispose of (when furniture isn’t good enough for charity, it’s time for the dump). There’s still more at the house, of course. Mostly things that will go directly to the transfer station, either metal (shelves, a dryer, a refrigerator, etc.) or trash (particle board cupboards that don’t last and aren’t really worth anything).
We had a family dinner night this evening, gathering at mom’s apartment and having Greek food from The Big Greek Cafe. Only one baby was there this time, with the other out of town, but Silas was generally in a good mood. He’s about 2.5 times his birth weight already and going strong. Still small, of course, but not nearly so little as when he was born. On the other hand, he’s developing much more in the way of facial expressions. He isn’t ticklish yet, but if he is startled, he certainly reacts. It was good to see everyone (or the everyone who was there).
We had a family lunch instead of dinner this week and it was great to have Brady here for a visit. Steve was out of town but Maya brought Kai and Silas was here with Iris and Seth. Shortly before Cathy and I left, we put Silas and Kai on a chair together and took a few pictures. Silas isn’t really able to sit up by himself yet and he had a pacifier in his mouth for all but the last photo that I took. Still, it was pretty cute. Maya would tell Kai to kiss the baby and he’d lean over the kiss Silas on the forehead. Then he’d put his hands in front of his mouth and laugh. So sweet.
We had a family gathering this afternoon. Instead of getting together for dinner, though, we had brunch together, which was a nice change. Of course, the centers of attention at these gatherings are the two children, Kai and Silas. Silas slept a fair amount this visit, so I only got a few pictures and they are fine, but not as good as this smile from his older cousin Kai. The weather has finally turned cool and autumnal and we had talked about taking a walk but everyone felt like staying indoors this afternoon instead.
In the evening I did a really stupid thing. I took everything out of my pockets and carried a few things to the basement to do laundry. Because I knew I’d want my phone downstairs, I took it with me. Unfortunately, I left it in my trouser pocket when I put them into the wash. I know people have had success drying out phones that have been dunked but (and I’m writing this more than a week later) after pulling out the battery and drying it in silica gel for a couple days, it’s dead. Still, 4½ years isn’t bad for a cell phone (which is sad in itself).
Tsai-Hong and I went over to mom’s this evening and put up some art in her apartment. She’s been there a while but there were other priorities and she also wanted to take a bit of time to figure out what should go where. We haven’t finished and there is a sheving unit that needs to be hung on the wall, for which I needed a few pieces of hardware. But we were able to get Sir Roger up, as well as her quilt hanging rod, behind the sofa and shown holding up one of her recent quilts in this photo. We also had a nice dinner together. She has more art than she has wall space to display it on, but we’ll do our best to get a few more things up before Thanksgiving and then she can decide what to do with the things for which there isn’t room.
It’s that time of year again. “What time of year?”, you may ask. Operation Christmas Child time of year, that’s what. Cathy scaled back this year. Last year when I asked how many boxes she was going to make she said “six, maybe seven.” She ended up with twelve. That was a lot and there was a fair amount of stress involved. I suggested she only do six or seven this year and actually stick to that. She decided that was a good idea, so the fact that she “only” did eight is pretty good. She was also a little less worried about making them all the same this year, and she finished a week early. We turned them in this afternoon after church. In this picture she’s holding five of the eight.
Last year we got a photograph of children receiving boxes that happened to include some that Cathy had packed. You could see the picture of us that Cathy had included in the boxes. That was pretty neat. We’ve had letters from recipients before and that’s always fun, too.
We celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday this year. That’s fairly common for us, as it makes life easier for all involved. It also allowed us to have that great trip to the art museums yesterday, when crowds were a little reduced. George and Carmela drove down and we all gathered at our house this year. With mom in an apartment and Cathy’s mom living here, the two family homes were not available to us. Getting fifteen people (all except Silas) around our dining room table was a little tight. Next year, he’ll be old enough to sit in a chair, so we’ll have to figure out something to get one more at the table. In the evening we took our standard family gathering photo.
We had a family dinner night and I took a bunch of pictures of Kai. In some of them he is being held by his great aunt Cathy and in others by his grandma, Tsai-Hong. Those are grandma’s hands in this picture. The wheel in front of Kai is actually spinning but to get that with some blur would have required a tripod and a little more planning, so just imagine it spinning and catching Kai’s attention. He’s a pretty easy going little boy, at least from what I’ve seen of him Maybe his parents would say otherwise, but he doesn’t really fuss much when we’re together or if he does, he’s easily satisfied.
As predicted yesterday (and since I wrote it after the fact, there wasn’t much chance of it being wrong), we celebrated Christmas at our house in the morning and then in the early afternoon went to mom’s apartment for our family gathering. For quite a few years, our tradition has been to go to Cathy’s parents’ house for breakfast and opening presents there. Because Margaret has moved here, we had the same breakfast but in our house. That consists of pancakes, poached eggs (steamed, actually), and bacon. There is butter, syrup, and jam to go on the pancakes. Many years it has included sausages but I didn’t have any this year. It’s a pretty satisfying breakfast.
At about 2:00 we went to my mom’s and gathered with the rest of the family. I got a few pictures of Tsai-Hong with her two grandchildren but decided that I’d post this one of Dot with her two great grandchildren (the same two kids, Silas and Kai, in both cases, obviously). Getting a good picture of both kids, with both of them looking at the camera is a crap shoot, and this isn’t perfect, but they’re cute enough to make up for it.
The final picture is after Steve and Kai blew out the candles on Kai’s birthday cake, to celebrate his recent birthday. It’s a pretty happy moment. Naturally, the candles came back on, because that’s a family tradition, as well.
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 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.
Solomon is our pet red-lored amazon parrot (Amazona autumnalis) and he just turned 33 years old last month. We don’t know specifically when he was hatched but he was about nine months old when we got him in October, 1986, so we figure January of that year is close enough. Since it’s now February, we know that’s past. He’s a pretty thing but fairly timid and is not really what you’d call a talker. He says a few things that you can almost understand but that’s about it. He also doesn’t chew on toys or anything else we put in his cage, so we don’t bother any more. He obviously eats but he’s not interested in chewing other things. He needs his beak and nails trimmed but otherwise, he’s in pretty good shape. You can see in this photo that he has new feathers coming in, which is always a good sign.
As you know, if you’ve been following me for a while, my mom moved from the house she lived in for 59 years into a retirement community nearby. As they do with most new residents they published a short bio of her for the community paper. In that she talked about some of the art she has created over the years and she was asked if they might display a sample in their small gallery. They have a dozen or so display cases like the one shown here and she gave them some painted china and some small quilt work that she has done, to be displayed for six months.
I saw the display a month or so ago but Cathy wasn’t with us that day so after brunch with mom today we went to see it. The plates she painted include a nuthatch in the upper left, which is actually displayed incorrectly with the bird appearing to be on the ground instead of creeping down the trunk of a tree, as they do. At the upper right is a white-throated sparrow and the two birds on the lower plates are a black-capped chickadee on a wild rose (left) and a Carolina wren. The small quilt at the back of the bottom of the display was inspired by a Pablo Picasso painting of fish on a plate.
She has much more, of course, and has made quite a few much larger quilts but they would not fit into the display case. Also, most of the quilts have been distributed to her children and grandchildren. She showed us one she is working on now and I took a picture of her with that but decided to keep it secret until it is finished and given to its recipient.
Most people have relatives of one sort or another. We have quite a few but we know a lot more of them on my side than on Cathy’s. She’s been doing a fair amount of digging into her ancestors on both her mom and her dad’s sides and has learned quite a bit. Of course, she has living relatives, and we know some names but haven’t been in touch with many of them for quite a while. Margaret’s sister was older than her by nearly 19 years. In consequence, Margaret’s has nieces and nephews who were only a few years younger than her. Benje is only a few years younger than Cathy and me but he’s Dorothy’s generation. He came to visit Cathy’s family once and Cathy and I met him when we lived in Alaska, but it’s been more than 30 years. We were very happy to have him and his wife visit us for a few days this week. We had a really good time talking about the family, looking at old pictures, and basically getting to know each other.
We had a family dinner this evening with most of the locals there. As is my custom, I took a few pictures. Actually, I took quite a few more than I have most recent gatherings. I’m happy to say that I got a good number of decent photos of the boys. Silas is really starting to show his own personality and is much more aware of what’s going on around him. While he’s not quite crawling, it won’t be long. I got a good picture of him laughing but I’ve decided to post this photo of him with his grandma, Tsai-Hong, instead. I posted a photo of her with Kaien on Friday, March 31, 2017 and it’s only fair that I post one of her with her second grandson.
I learned this evening that Seth and Iris (and Silas) are moving in a few weeks. Fortunately this is a local move so that they can be closer to work. We still don’t know what their long-term job situations will be and we all hope they’ll be able to stay in this area. But, you have to go where the jobs are.
Cathy and I helped Seth and Iris move this morning. Their new apartment is very nice and their shorter commute will be a real blessing for them, I suspect. I’ve said at times that I’m getting too old to help people move but this is family and anyway, they don’t have a huge amount of stuff. One small truck load of furniture and two van loads of other stuff and we were done. The carpeting on the floor will be nice for Silas as he continues learning to crawl and the apartment will be easier to baby-proof than where they were. Silas was really good throughout the whole process although I wonder if he understands enough to wonder what was going on. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that I took quite a few pictures of him. I’m really pleased with a few of them, including this one. What a cute kid.
We had a family dinner this evening at Tsai-Hong’s house. We know it was two months late but Tsai-Hong had the flu on the proper Chinese new year so we celebrated in April. She got a flu shot but got the flu anyway. We had a terrific meal and, need I say it, the kids were the star attraction. I took quite a few pictures (even for me) and I am quite pleased with this one of Iris and ten month old Silas. He and Kai almost played together and were both very cute.
The forecast for last night and all day today was for rain. That didn’t happen and it was a gorgeous day. After getting home from church (see previous post on the Easter Sunrise Service) we took a little time to rest, as we were a bit sleepy. Then I started getting the food ready for the Easter dinner we had with family. I had bought a ham and made biscuits, Tsai-Hong brought a really nice salad as well as fruit. Other side dishes and dessert rounded out the meal. Margaret and Cathy made a lamb cake yesterday and it turned out pretty well, although they had trouble getting the eyes and nose to stay in place. Eventually we had to use a toothpick to keep the nose from falling off. Also, we only had golden raisins, so the lamb has light colored eyes, which is a little different to what it normally looks like. It cooked well, though, and was tasty.
Later in the afternoon Iris asked if I’d take a few pictures of Silas and of the three of them out in the yard. It was cool and at first Silas wasn’t sure about sitting on the grass but he got used to it pretty quickly and I got what I think are some pretty nice pictures. It’s no surprise that Silas is growing up and gaining his own personality, of course, and it’s really nice to be a part of that. He’s a happy little boy (for the most part) and is pretty easy going. This will be tested when Iris has to be away for a little while for work, but I’m sure they’ll get through it (not to say they’ll enjoy it, though).
We missed having Kai with us (and Steve and Maya, too, but you know it’s really all about the kids). Nevertheless, it was wonderful to have who we had and we’re really thankful for family. We missed Dorothy, too, and really look forward to seeing her in two weeks. She spent Easter with her friend, Katie, on the New Hampshire / Vermont border. It’s not like being at home and she missed the music that we got this morning, but she’s doing well and finishing strong. We couldn’t be more proud of her.
Iris was out of town and it was Seth’s birthday so we thought we would bring him dinner and have a short visit. It turned into a family dinner night, which was fine and in fact, really great. We had both of the next generation there, Silas and Kaien, so there was plenty for me to photograph. Kai, as the older cousin, is much more aware of and involved with things going on in the room. He is also talking quite a bit although I can’t say I always understand him on the first try. Silas is less involved but he is definitely becoming aware of things going on around him. With his mom not there and with only having had a short nap today, he was somewhat subdued. I think that comes through in this photo of him. He’s very good-natured and seems relaxed, at least as long as one of his parents is very close by. It’s been a lot of fun watching him grow and we’re so thankful that Iris and Seth (and Steve and Maya) are living so close.
We had a family dinner at mom’s this evening and both of the youngest generation were in top form. Kai is really starting to be able to communicate well and he was willing to pose with his dad for some pictures. Getting them both looking at the camera and smiling at the same time is as hard as you might imagine but this one turned out quite well. Silas took what you might argue was his first step this evening. He stands withoug holding on pretty well. Basically, he moved his left foot to keep his balance and I’m counting that as taking a step.
When I was little we bounced on this hobby horse, made with a truck leaf spring to provide the bounce. Technically it isn’t 100% the same as the one we bounced on, as the spring has been replaced. It broke when an adult who shall remain nameless bounced on it, somewhere around 30 years ago. Although she doesn’t really have room for it there, mom has it in her apartment. Silas isn’t old enough to hold on and bounce on his own but he really enjoyed bouncing on it with his mom holding him. He’s a happy kid, in general, and smiles a lot, but watching his face while being bounced on the horse was so precious. Silas continues growing apace and although he’s not quite walking as of today, it’s definitely in the any-day-now category.
Steve and his family were out of town for the weekend so it was a smaller group for dinner this evening, but a really nice time.
The locals got together for a family brunch early this afternoon and then went to mom’s apartment to visit for a while and to enjoy watching her great grandchildren play. Since I saw him last, Silas has begun to walk. He’s not walking all the time yet, but he’s taken multiple, intentional steps. It’s been fun watching him progress and I look forward to continuing. His older cousin was there, as well, and I got pictures of him, too. I probably should keep track and try to balance out who gets their picture posted but I frankly can’t be bothered. They’re both adorable little boys and I enjoy them both.
We spent the better part of the day driving to Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina today. We were delayed a little by a flat tire and the time it took to get that replaced but better to have it happen near home that when we were traveling 70 MPH on the highway. Traffic between the Occoquan River Bridge and Fredericksburg was as bad as ever. Actually, worse. Generally the GPS says “Fastest route despite delays” but today it not only told us to get off of 95 onto US 1, it twice took us off of Route 1 onto smaller streets. I’m not entirely sure that saved us any time and the delay added about two hours to the drive, but we did finally make it to the beach and were able to relax a bit. As you can see, we arrived to fine weather and a calm Atlantic Ocean.
It’s interesting how differently children react to things. Take the beach, for instance, and the waves from the ocean. Silas seems to really love the water and is happy sitting at the edge of the surf, letting the water come to him. His cousin is more apprehensive. I have no doubt that Kaien will grow into a love for the water to match his father’s but for now, he’s not so sure. Of course, a year from now, Silas might have traded his enjoyment for a more cautious approach. Every kid is different and even one kid changes from year to year. But for now, this little man is enjoying the beach.
We have one evening each year where we all go out to dinner together, both our family and my Uncle George’s family. We were 26 for dinner this evening and if you’ve ever gone to a restaurant and said, “party of 26” you’ll have some idea what that’s like. Actually, this restaurant, the Inlet View outside of Shallotte, North Carolina, is pretty well equipped for groups that size. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to go early, if you don’t want a really long wait. After dinner we tried to get a photo of the youngest generation. Taking a picture of four children aged between just over a year and not quite five is a challenge, and this is about as good as I was able to get. At least none of them are screaming.
As usual, we took a family photo at the beach on the last day when everyone was still there (George and Carmela left shortly after the photo was taken). Tsai-Hong and Cathy had gone for a walk and were a long time getting back, which created some tension. Of course they were understandably not anxious to sit for a picture the moment they got back. They had walked to the far end of the island and back, covering over eight miles. The weather cooperated, though, as the light overcast meant we didn’t have to squint into the sun or put our faces in shadow by facing away.
We had our annual family reunion on the way home from the beach this year. It alternates between the Saturday we head down and the Saturday we head home. Either way, it makes for a long day but I for one really enjoy it and it’s one of the highlights of my year. I manage to keep in pretty good touch with a few of my second cousins and it’s good to see them face to face. We didn’t take a large group photo today but I got pictures that included most, if not all the 50 or so people there. We did get pictures of the five remaining first cousins, who were all there.
I met Tsai-Hong, Iris, Seth, and Silas at mom’s this evening for dinner. My back has improved quite a bit and I actually put in seven hours work from home. I did take a break to ice my back and I tried to get up and move around now and then. I came to mom’s without my camera bag, though, because it’s a bit heavy and that would be asking for trouble. I did bring my camera and flash, though, because I knew Silas would be there and as you can see, he was in a pretty good mood this evening.
Cathy and I drove up to George and Carmela’s today for a short visit. We had no trouble with traffic and we made pretty good time. We didn’t stay long but George had prepared a really nice lunch with homemade sourdough bread with robust olive oil spread on it and then covered with ripe, fresh tomatoes and sprinkled with feta cheese and Sicilian oregano. Obviously there are a lot of good flavors but fresh, very ripe tomatoes, served at room temperature, have to be right up there. These were wonderful and the corn on the cob as good, too. Of course, the visit was the main thing, and it was nice to have a few hours together before we turned around and drove home.
I’m getting pretty far behind on posting photos here. Never fear, I’ve been taking photos and they will make it eventually. I can tell you now there are some nice pictures ahead (as well as some that are not terribly exciting, I’m afraid). Anyway, we had a family dinner night and the boys were there, Kaien and Silas. Both continue to grow and are becoming their own individuals. Kai really enjoys bouncing on the hobby horse and is getting fairly comfortable really bouncing. Silas is a bit more reserved and cautious, which is fine, of course, as he’s quite a bit younger. I like this photo of him, in which he isn’t exactly smiling exuberantly, but which is still a good picture. He’s a sweet boy and fun to play with. We hadn’t gotten together for a while for various reasons, including that Tsai-Hong was traveling in Africa. When we go longer between seeing each other, he takes a little longer to open up when we do.
Between our trip to Alaska and various other commitments on weekends, we haven’t seen most of the family for quite some time. It was really nice getting together with mom, Tsai-Hong, Steve, Kai, Iris, and Silas for dinner this evening and then to have a chance to talk and take pictures of the boys back in mom’s apartment. The boys generally take a while to warm up to me when we get together. Kai takes less time, mostly because he’s older and more likely to remember me from one visit to the next, but even he is shy at first. His younger cousin, Silas, is still much more hesitant and bashful.
I got a few good pictures of each of them, though, including this one of Kai. He has a mischievous streak—not uncommon in children—that’s very endearing and cute. I’m really enjoying watching him grow.
When was the last time you wrote a letter? For me, I know it’s been a while. I’ve sent a few business letters, generally accompanying a check or something of that sort. But a real, honest to goodness, hand-written letter? It’s been a while. I wrote one to a friend who ended up in prison for a little while but that was hard. I’ve probably only written one or two others in the last five years or more. I’m not sure what that means for the future. I guess in one sense it means “less stuff” and maybe that’s a good thing. But it’s sometimes fun to see old letters that were written by our parents or grandparents (or even earlier) back in the day. That’s what these are.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. We had a really nice time and a great meal. I’m not actually a huge fan of turkey but it’s what’s done so that’s fine. Mom bought and I cooked a 19+ pounder and it turned out pretty well, if I say so myself. It was good to have the family here and the only thing I could have asked for was having Dorothy home. She comes home soon, though, and I’m looking forward to that. She originally was planning to come back for Thanksgiving but decided to extend a few weeks and that’s fine, of course. Here’s the family that was here.
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.
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.
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.’
Christmas morning, otherwise known as the calm before the storm, was nice this year. Santa obviously came and left a lot of things under the tree. He also seems to have finished the puzzle that we were working on. I guess he must have been ahead of schedule and wanted to take a break. It was mostly the sky that was left for him to do, which was the hardest part of the puzzle. Naturally he ate the cookies that Darius left out for him and he the pieces of carrot that were left for his reindeer were also gone, so they seem to have gotten their treat. As you can see, in addition to all the presents under and around the tree, there was one that Dorothy “wrapped” that’s hanging on the wall. Needless to say, this didn’t stay looking like this for too long. But we did have breakfast before diving into all the gifts.
As noted, Darius is here. We have really enjoyed having him and David here and it really has “made Christmas fun again” as Dorothy had hoped. We were hoping to have Maggie here, as well, and that would have made it all the better, but forces beyond our control prevented that. Nevertheless, we enjoyed ourselves. After the long day yesterday with stocking and presents at our house and then the big meal and larger family get together at mom’s (with a few more presents), we were pretty tired. So, today we didn’t do a lot. Mostly we just hung out and visited and played with Darius. No outings (except a quick trip to the grocery store) and no planned activities. They leave tomorrow (which means they already left by the time I’m writing this), and we’ll be sad to see them go.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Dorothy doesn’t particularly like to have her photo taken. This evening, when I mentioned that I hadn’t taken any pictures today, she was nice enough to offer to let me take her photo. I only took five shots (not wanting to press my luck). One of them has what she describes as a fake smile. One had no smile at all. Actually, I considered using that one. Nevertheless, I chose this one, which has a sort of half smile. It’s not a “laughing at a good joke” smile but it’s a “I’m pleased” smile. If you know Dorothy, you know this smile and appreciate it.
As 2019 draws to a close, I looked back and the photo I took on December 29, 2010. It also was a photo of Dorothy. Her hair was cut relatively short and was a bit wild (the caption was “Dorothy’s Bad Hair”). From that day to this, I have taken at least one photo every day. While my “official” Project 365 began on January 1, 2011, I took photos the three days leading up to that, so I have completed nine years and begun year ten. Will I finish a tenth year? I have no idea. The future, like the past is another country.
We had a family dinner night this evening, with carry-out from The Big Greek Cafe, one of our favorites. They boys were in top form. First, they both got behind the curtains and then jumped out to surprise us and laugh. Late we asked them to climb up on a chair together. As is usual when trying to photograph youngsters, it was hard to get them both smiling and looking at the camera at the same time. Nevertheless, there were quite a few that turned out well and I think their parents will enjoy them all. This is my personal favorite, although I liked others pretty well, too.
The local family got together this evening for Chinese New Year. Tsai-Hong and Iris picked up food from two different places and we had a wonderful meal. Of course, being with family is the best part of an evening like this and I try not to let the occasion pass without taking at least a few photographs. With two grand-nephews to photograph, I try to balance them out, posting first one and then the other. The last photo I posted was of both of them but I think it’s Silas’s turn. This is a pretty nice photo, in any case.
Chinese New Year was often a fun time when I was a kid. We’d go downtown and watch the parade on H Street and then have a Chinese meal in one of the restaurants in the area. We went there once with Dorothy and my parents in 2009. The parade and meal were nice but they never set off the long string of fire crackers that are such fun for kids (of all ages) because the fire marshal suspected a gas leak somewhere nearby. As disappointed as I was, I suppose I’d have been more disappointed has they been lit and there was a gas leak that caused an explosion.
Cathy and I happened to be in my old neighborhood this afternoon and for the first time since my mom sold the house and moved out we drove past the house I grew up in. It looks basically the same, with the obvious exception to the purple shutters. That certainly is eye catching. The wreaths are nice, as well. They’ve painted the woodwork around the windows and the front door, which is definitely a good thing. The shrubbery was all trimmed heavily before the house went on the market and looks different to what I’m used to, but that was us, not them. Hopefully they are enjoying the house.
Iris and Seth have recently bought a house and are getting ready to move in before too long. I was over there with Seth a week ago to talk about things that should be done and things they will want to do but that are less of a rush. While we were looking around I realized that there was an area under the stairs that is closed in from all sides. I suggested that could be opened up, either from the family room side or the unfinished basement side to make a nice closet. Today they happened to cut a hole in the wall to see what it looked like in side. They were surprised to find that it wasn’t empty. Most of what was there had been taken out before I took this picture, but there was a lot of stuff. It included more than a few boxes of china as well as kitchen wares, a box of canned goods, and quite a bit of rubbish (things the mice have been at over the years). I seems to have been there for nearly 40 years and the house has changed hands a few times since then. We were hoping to find gold and jewels worth the purchase price of the house (or even just the mortgage balance) but no such luck.
Iris and Seth moved into their new house today. We went over last night and got a van load of things and took that over with Seth. Shortly after we dropped him off at the apartment he called to say he decided to hire movers to help with this morning’s move. He already had a truck rented and the two of us could have managed everything but it sure was nice not having to lift anything heavier than a box of dishes. The truck he got would have held everything but we used our van for most of the boxes and oddly shaped items. The furniture and few larger boxes went in the truck. By 1:00 we were done, everything was in the house and by the time we left, the shelves from Ikea were back together again and up in the living room and it was looking like a home already. It was just about the easiest move I’ve ever helped with (and I’m not complaining!).
Cathy and I were able to get into mom’s gated community today and had a nice visit. We had our temperature taken when we arrived and again when we left and we didn’t actually go inside her building. We visited with her on a bench out front, which was pleasant enough. She showed us the quite she’s almost finished making. It’s for the Ramallah Friends School in Ramallah, in the West Bank, about 8 miles north of Jerusalem. The children at her Friends meeting drew robots and she incorporated their drawings into the quilt. I think it’s turned out quite nicely. For the last third of a year (exactly today), we have only seen her via video chat, except for two times when we met on opposite sides of the fence so she could pass out some tax documents (and one of those times it was pouring rain). It was good to be able to just sit and chat.
Cathy and I went to see Iris and Seth’s new baby this afternoon. Naturally we stayed outside, but I was still able to take a few photographs. Silas didn’t want to take his mask off so although I got a few of Iris and Seth with Eloise sans mask, the full family grouping is all masked up. I think it’s a pretty cute picture, although without context, in years to come, someone is going to wonder why they were wearing masks. Anyway, mother and daughter (and father and brother) are doing well.
William and Beth drove down for a visit today and it was so nice to have them here. With the whole Wuhan virus quarantine going on, we are somewhat starved for human contact. Having people visit is a risk, of course. We’re at the point, however, that we need to see people and this was exactly the sort of visit that we needed. Cathy talked a lot with them about family history, and they all looked at pictures. We showed them the work we’re doing with Margaret’s memoirs and with the big scanning project that we’re ramping up.
We haven’t had an in-person family dinner night since early February. We’ve had occasional Zoom get-togethers but seriously, as nice as that is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing. It’s been too hot to seriously consider doing it until recently. Now that Dorothy is home and the evenings are cool, we thought it was just about time. So, everyone came over, bringing picnic meals of one sort or another, and we sat on lawn chairs and blankets in the back yard. Everyone wore masks, except for while eating, obviously, and we stayed a bit apart. Nevertheless, it was really good to have everyone in one place again.
I took bunch of pictures of Iris, Seth, and their two kids but I’ll leave those for them to post, if they want to. I also took a few of sweet, little Eloise, but you know what? Older siblings tend to get ignored for a while after their younger siblings are born. So, here’s a photo of Silas, age 2¼. And if you’re wondering about the strap, he’s carrying a camera!
Like many families this year, we had a very small Thanksgiving meal today. I’m not fond of turkey and with only four of us, it seemed like a waste to bother with one. So, I roasted a 5.5 pound chicken, stuffed with a pilau with onions, currants, pine nuts, lemon zest, and allspice. We were meant to have green bean casserole but somehow I forgot. We did have a salad, though, as well as two cranberry sauces, the jellied version out of a can and one made from fresh cranberries and an orange, blended together with a little extra sugar.
We didn’t go to the sunrise service today but did go to the 11:00 outdoor service at Fourth Pres. It’s the first time Margaret has been to a morning service since the shutdown began back in March of last year, although she’s been to an evening service. Dorothy went to the sunrise service and then got there early to get us a good spot in the parking lot for the 11:00 service. It was a good service and we were all glad we went. When we got home, we took pictures in the front yard before going in. We don’t have a lot of good photos of the three of us, so I’m glad to have one more.
For the first time in over a year, the locals got together for a family dinner without masks. We got together once early last fall but met outdoors and wore masks most of the time. Now that we’re all vaccinated (except for the youngest), we were able to get together and have it be like old times. It only felt strange for a minute and then it seemed normal again. And right. We had a nice dinner but the main thing was being together.
Kaien and Silas were in good form and we enjoyed seeing and holding Eloise, as well. Here’s Kai bouncing on the sofa. Clearly he bounced higher than I expected and this is the only one where his head isn’t completely chopped off. We expect to have many more gatherings like this in the weeks to come. It’s been a crazy year but I think we’re finally coming out of it.
Silas had his third birthday earlier this week and we all got together for a family dinner and a birthday party. It had been planned for last weekend but kids and infections don’t necessarily work to a schedule. The weather was nice and we were both inside and out for the party. Iris had a huge bubble wand and made giant bubbles, which Silas and Kaien really loved. We had a nice dinner from Don Pollo and the cake that Iris made for Silas—a rainbow cake with candy in the middle. There was also a piñata and of course. Some of us (well, one of us) even had cicada for dessert.
We had our annual family reunion for the first time in two years. I don’t know if you noticed, but the last year was a bit out of the ordinary. You probably heard about it. It was on the news. Anyway, we didn’t meet last year but this year we did. We moved to an outdoor location. For me, this was more like old times, as this is the yard we often camped in when we visited back in the day. The weather cooperated, with lower than normal humidity and not as sweltering as it easily could have been. There were 51 people there in all, aged about 6 months to 90 years, and we managed to get a photo or two of the whole group. Thanks again to all those who put this together and especially to Lyn for all the work he did to give us such a nice place to gather.
We celebrated Eloise’s first birthday today with a family gathering. It’s been great to meet together in person again, finally. Eloise is walking, which is very exciting. I took quite a few pictures but I particularly like this family shot of Iris and Seth with their two little ones. Iris made a Very Hungry Caterpillar cake, a la Eric Carle’s book of the same name. The cake in this photo was the secondary cake, made especially so that Eloise could eat it with her hands. The primary cake is just out of the frame. A good time was, I believe, had by all. Certainly by us.
Cathy’s brother Jim visited us for a long weekend and of course, before he left we had to take a group photo. We had a good time visiting some rural places and he and Cathy spent a lot of time going through pictures, papers, and other memorabilia from their family’s past. We went to the Agricultural Farm Park on Thursday, McKee-Beshers and Rocklands Farm Winery on Friday, and then Rockville Cemetery, Croyden Creek, and Redgate Park on Sunday. All in all, a very nice time.
I’m nearly a month behind in my posting but here’s a picture from September 23. For Margaret’s slightly belated birthday dinner I made qaubili pilau and chicken. The chicken was in pretty huge pieces (as you can see on my plate on the right. I made a big batch of pilau which is flavored with a spice mix with equal amounts of the five Cs, which are cinnamon, cloves, cumin, cardamom, and coriander plus a half measure of black pepper, and a pinch of saffron for color (and if you have both green and black cardamom, that’s even better, but I only had green). It also has thinly sliced onions and carrots plus golden raisins and my version has barberries, as well, which may not be traditional but it’s a nice addition, I think. Slivered almonds and pistachios finish it off. Anyway, everyone agreed it turned out pretty well. We had a really nice dinner and a good time celebrating Margaret’s birthday.
Cathy and I managed to get away for a few days in early October. It had been nearly two years since we were away with the exception of one night away at a family reunion on my side. While that was great fun, it wasn’t the same as getting away for a simple vacation with little to no agenda. Today we drove up to New Hampshire, stopping in Scarsdale to see and take a few photos of a house that was once owned by someone Cathy is fairly certain is in her family tree (a some-number-of-greats uncle). Then we continued to Providence where we visited and had dinner with Abba and Josh. It was a really nice visit, but all too short because we still had nearly 100 miles to go after dinner. But of course I took a few pictures. There is a pretty good one of both Abba and Josh, and another of Cathy with them, but I like this picture best. Abba, wearing a floppy hat that belonged to her Aunt Elisabeth in the 1960s and chilling on the chair and with her feet on the camel saddle foot stool from her grandparents’ house.