After a few years without, during that whole pandemic thing, we had our first group holiday party last year and another one this year. In the past I’ve been parts of small groups that had parties. When I worked for Mike his group had a party and that varied in size from a dozen or more, down to a low of three of us. Then we were invited to go to the party for the group we supported and we did that for quite a few years. More recently the larger IT team directly supporting project work had a party. That was a larger group. Last year and this, however, it’s been a larger group again, this time including all the systems and other support groups. We are now call Technology and Digital Solutions or TDS, which sadly has the effect of sounding like tedious. These are a few of my not so tedious colleagues, Bonn, Doris, Bill, and of course Cathy.
Cathy’s brother Jim came for a quick visit. After we picked him up from the airport we had a little extra time before his and Cathy’s mom would be done with lunch so we stopped at Teddy Roosevelt Island and walked around it. Part of the way around we saw two of these shelter-like constructions made of collected branch pieces. I dont think they are official, National Park Service structures and may well be gone the next time we’re there. But it seemed like a good opportunity for an informal portrait of brother and sister.
Where the Northwest Branch Rock Creek goes under Muncaster Mill Road the Kengla House Trail heads upstream. We seem to go there right around this time of year fairly regularly. We happened to go there again today. It’s not the most exciting trail around, but it’s nice. The worst part is where it goes under the ICC (MD route 200). Our favorite part is a little ways beyond that where a side stream goes between two huge sycamore trees. Whenever we head this way, I take pictures of Cathy leaning on one or the other of those trees. You can see two pictures from Friday, December 31, 2021. This year the sun was out so I had to move her into the shadow of the tree to get a better picture.
From there we continued upstream until we got to Norbeck Meadows Neighborhood Park where we crossed another side stream and then headed back. There were a lot of dogs out today, which Cathy enjoyed. One border collie wasn’t as happy to see me as we initially were to see her and she lunged at me, whacking me in the leg before her owner pulled her back. But no real harm done, thankfully.
Our good friends Krystal and Mike hosted a dinner this evening and asked us each to bring a dish. The only stipulation was that everything had to feature “the theme ingredient” (a la Iron Chef). The ingredient was bacon. I brought bacon wrapped asparagus, which I think turned out pretty well. We also had bacon wrapped filet mignon and bacon wrapped sea scallops. Thiz photo is of the appetizer table. As you can see, there are bread slices with cheese and bacon, deviled eggs with bacon, cheese (one of which is smoked gouda with bacon), and at the far end of the table, leek and potato soup shooters with bacon. We all ate too much but definitely enjoyed ourselves.
In years gone by we would drive up to the farm to cut a Christmas tree. Every few years dad would plant more trees and there was usually one that was suitable for our house. When there wasn’t and especially after dad was gone we’d go to a tree farm near the farm to cut one. We would stop somewhere for a meal before returning home. In 2006 we ate at a little place in Gettysburg called Seasons Bakery.
When Cathy’s mom came to live with us, we started using hrr artificial tree. This year we decided to return to our tradition. We drove up to see Dorothy and cut our tree at Showers Tree Farm. Interesting side note: my parents bought the farm from Mr. Showers in 1964. We went to Gettysburg and had coffee at Presidents Coffee. It’s in the same location that Seasons Bakery was in 17 years ago. They have been open long but its a good spot for coffee.
As we near the winter solstice, it’s getting dark before I leave work, which is one of the things I like least about the winter. Still, it does mean that I’m more likely to see the sunset, as I’m not home and engrossed in some book or other. This was taken through the window of my office. Until last February my office window faced north so I rarely so the sunset directly through it. Now I face west, although, as you can see, there are trees along the back of the parking lot so the sunset is only seen through them. Still, pretty colors.
When we moved back here after living in England I was going into eighth grade. In many ways it was like moving to a new town, even though I had lived in the same house until only 14 months before. One of the people I met was Rob and we’ve been close friends ever since. It was really nice to spend the evening with Rob, his lovely wife Susie, and a large handful of their closest friends. I only knew a few of them and those not very well, but I enjoyed talking with them, regardless. This is Rob and Susie with three of those friends who were able to come.
After stopping to see Cathy’s mom we drove to Woodlawn Manor. We’ve been there quite a few times but for some reason we haven’t ever walked around to the lower side of the barn. The stone barn was built in 1832 and its three floors house the Woodlawn Museum and Visitor Center. It’s only open from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Fridays and Saturdays from April through November, so we were there at the wrong time on all three criteria.
From there we walked on the trail to the Sandy Spring, which is mostly through the woods. We took a short side trail to a hollow tree before continuing across the Northwest Branch Anacostia River and up through a field to the spring.
Back on September 30, Rat Gallery DC had their inaugural event. Tonight was their second and the turnout was very encouraging. For the first event, some people came, I’m sure, out of devotion to Dorothy, Rachel, and Katharine, the artists but also the organizers of the event. Tonight’s show featured three other artists and was even better attended than the first. While taste in art is about as varied among people as is taste in food, one can appreciate even what one might not pick to fit their home decor. So, while I wasn’t tempted to buy anything this time, I did enjoy the art and the people. Naturally I took photos. I could only wish it were a little easier to get to North Capital and O Street, Northwest. But it was definitely worth the effort. The next show, I believe, is in early February.
We finished another puzzle last night so I took pictures of it this morning. This is one that I got Cathy for her birthday. We’ll take a short break from puzzles because we need the puzzle table on Christmas and can use it for wrapping presents leading up to that. We’ll take it with us when we visit Cathy’s mom on Christmas morning and then have it available if we need more table space when my family comes in the afternoon. This wasn’t a particularly difficult puzzle, but we enjoyed it. We like the bright colors. As for what’s next, who knows?
A few weeks ago I agreed to take portraits of folks at church for a new photo directory. It’s been quite a while since we had one and there have been significant changes since then, including pictures with children who are now young adults. Each Sunday I set up a mini-studio in one of the offices and took three to five photos of each family, couple, or individual (generally more for the larger families since it’s more likely that there will be closed eyes the more people there are). I had Tammy press the shutter release for me to get our photos and I think they turned out pretty well. So, here we are.
Cathy and I took the day off work today, as many people do the day after Thanksgiving. It was a pleasant, overcast day and we drove out to the Rachel Carson Wildlife Management Area on Zion Road in Brookeville for a walk. The trail we took starts along a field scattered with American persimmon trees (Diospyros virginiana). Then we headed down into the woods where we heard but never saw a barred owl (Strix varia). Eventually we reached the Hawlings River, which is nice as it tumbles over rocks. As we ascended from the river on the Greenway Trail we came upon a large outcropping of boulders which appear to be mostly quartz. This is one of a series of photos I took of Cathy on those rocks.
Iris and Seth hosted our family Thanksgiving feast this year and it was quite a feast. While I confess to being indifferent to turkey and while most of the sides are high in carbs, taking them off my regular diet, it is still a meal I enjoy. That’s more for the family I’m blessed to have than for the food itself. With three little kids in the house, it’s not necessarily a time for quiet chats but it’s still good to get together as a family. We missed having George and Carmela here, but they plan to come down for Christmas.
I made green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with oranges and marshmallows, and a fruit salad. Tsai-Hong also brought various fruits and amazingly, with my five fruits and her four, there were no duplicates. After the turkey came out of the oven and I could get some of drippings from that I made the giblet gravy, as well. The turkey was quite large and of course there was more than enough for everyone with leftovers to take home with us. There was dressing with chestnuts, peas, salad, bread, broccoli, and two types of cranberry sauce. Mom brought cake and Steve made both pecan and apple pies and of course there was ice cream. Trader Joe’s had a sparkling, rosé tea that Iris bought, which was really nice (but sadly appears to have been a one time thing).
It took two pictures to get everyone in.
Abba, Hannah, and Sean’s visit ended today. I’m taking directory photos at church so I had to be there but the rest all went to see grandma again. She seemed a little confused but enjoyed having them there. They sang to the birds again. They got home about the same time I did. Before we took them to the airport I took a few pictures and this is my favorite, of the two sisters. With Abba not in the Chicago area, they get to see each other more often but we don’t get to see Abba as much as we did when she was in New England.
As mentioned in the last two posts, Abba, Hannah, and Sean are visiting from Illinois and Dorothy has come down from Pennsylvania. We had a nice dinner last evening with their grandma and we went back to see her this morning. We went outside for a bit and I took a group picture with the camera on a tripod so I could be in it. Then Abba pushed her grandma around outside but we didn’t stay out too long because it was a bit windy and chilly.
Last night Abba, Hannah, and Sean arrived from Chicago. Abba, Sean, and I had to work today. Cathy normally has Friday’s off but she had to work some, as well. Dorothy was here, though, and she hung out with Hannah and the rest of us were here, working on our various laptops. I had cooked shrimp, salmon, broccoli, and rice for dinner and it all turned out pretty well. The shrimp were a little spicy, cooked briefly in a little hot oil infused with chili peppers. We went out into the living room and Margaret sang to the cockatiels a little. We left with promises to return tomorrow.
Two of Cathy’s nieces, Abba and Hannah, and Hannah’s boyfriend Sean came for a visit. We picked them up at the airport and as usual, I took a few pictures while we were there. Abba had planned to come when her dad came back in September but at the last minute had to cancel. At the time she said she’d do her best to come, and here she is, with Hannah and Sean thrown in for good measure. This was the first time we’d met Sean but he fit right in and we had a really good time with them all.
After church and a visit with Margaret, we took a walk from the Croyden Creek Nature Center. We headed down to the creak and went downstream towards where Croyden Creek joins Rock Creek, just above where Baltimore Avenue crosses Rock Creek. Then we turned uphill to the north and followed a trail that loops around close to Norbeck Road and came back to the old cut for Avery Road, when is used to go through this way. We continued upstream from there past a small pond and returned by way of the civic center fields. It was a very pleasant walk. Most of the leaves were down, especially on the tulip poplars, which are the dominant tree in these woods. But there was enough color that it was still quite pretty.
We finished another puzzle. This one is of a 1559 oil painting by the Pieter Bruegel the Elder titled “Netherlandish Proverbs”. It depicts a scene in which humans and, to a lesser extent, animals and objects, offer literal illustrations of Dutch-language proverbs and idioms. We have no idea what most of them mean. This puzzle was surprisingly hard. At one point we realized we had an entire bock two pieces to the left of where they needed to go. We had a few other incidents where we finally figured out a piece was in the wrong place and that was holding us up. Nevertheless, we finally got it done.
Tsai-Hong’s friend Tina had this Craftsman lawn tractor and wasn’t using it any more. She asked if Dorothy and her friends could use it and they happily accepted it from Tina. Cathy and I picked it up a week or two ago, managing to get it into the back of our van by taking the mowing deck and the rear wheels off. It was about 1.5 inches too tall to fit into the van. At first I tried letting air out of the tires but they were too stiff for that to help much. It turned out they were easily removed, however, and we were able to get it in. Getting it back out was basically the process in reverse. We got it out of the van and put the wheels back on, followed by the mowing deck. This will be a huge help in keeping the orchard clear as things start to grow again in the spring.