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 retroactively back-posted the pictures from the first year. I hope you find a few pictures that you can enjoy.
The picture-a-day thing continued for a total of 10 years, ending on Thursday, December 31, 2020. The blog doesn’t end there, however, and I continue posting pictures, just not a picture every day.
Tags: Christmas, Family
Christmas Lights (But Not Ours)
I took pictures of some of the Christmas lights in our neighborhood this evening. Pictures of lights at night is a bit tricky, trying to balance the blackness of night with the very bright points of light, which tend to turn white unless you are careful. Then, the in between parts, that should have some light, tend to get a bit too dark. I’m reasonably happy with the way this one turned out. Just so there is no confusion, this is not our house and these are not our lights. We’ve been a bit overwhelmed with everything else that’s going on and Christmas decorations are a bit beyond us right now.
We went over to Cathy’s mom’s house this afternoon and set up her Peruvian Creche in her living room. If you look closely (and you don’t need to look that hard) you might notice some less traditional visitors to the manger this year. That’s completely appropriate if not historically accurate. All are welcomed to come to Jesus, young and old from every language, nation, and race. Animals, too, came to adore him. If they hadn’t, the stones themselves would have cried out.
Cross Community Christmas
Cross Community Church of Rockville is (so far) a smallish church. Since a lot of folks travel for Christmas, we expected a relatively smaller group on Christmas eve (morning). So, pastor Ben and his wife hosted church this week at their home. This is our Christmas Eve Morning service (and there are more people around the corner and around me where I’m standing). If it looks like a lot of folks are on their phones, that’s because they are using them as their ‘hymn book’ as we sing. Also note that we were invited to come in our jammies, which a few did. We’re a pretty casual church in general. All the more so when we’re at home. My apologies for the title. I generally absolutely abhor annoying alliteration.
Peruvian Nativity Scene
I posted a picture of this Peruvian nativity scene last year (see: Saturday, December 23, 2017) but that was at my mother-in-law’s house. This year it’s in our living room, on top of the piano. Also, this year I confined myself to just the people and animals that actually go with the set. Last year I included two water buffaloes (one with a boy on its back), three parrots, a llama, a cow-shaped milk-pitcher, three brass monkeys (of the speak, hear, and see no evil variety), as well as various other figures. As you can see, the Pakistani Doll I photographed and posted a few weeks ago (see: Tuesday, November 27, 2018) is still on the piano.
Christmas Tree Lights
These are either Christmas tree lights or we’re making the jump to hyperspace. I’m not entirely sure which. Well I am, actually. I haven’t knowingly been in hyperspace, in months, at the very least. This is our Christmas tree. Technically it’s my mother-in-law’s tree but it’s up in our house, because she lives here now and we weren’t up to getting a live tree. We made room for it by moving the sofa over and pushing the eagle lectern against the wall. The tree has lights already on it, all white, as you can see. Also, we don’t have to keep it watered and won’t have to sweep up the needles that inevitably fall.
It doesn’t have any other decorations or ornaments on it, and that’s fine by me. I’m really not very big on decorations and the fact that the tree is up and there is a nativity scene set up on the piano is pretty radical for me. I don’t dislike Christmas, in particular. It’s more that I don’t associate the colors and decorations with the actual event being celebrated. That goes double for all the “winter holiday” type items and at least triple for anything Santa (especially red-Santa, who traditionally wears white).
I went out and drove around the neighborhood late this evening to get some pictures. It was raining lightly when I went out but started raining quite hard before I got back. Mostly I took pictures of Christmas lights, sometimes holding the camera steady and other times moving it about a little during a longish exposure. This one was not blurred by movement but is focused on the driver-side window with the lights themselves out of focus, but brought somewhat into focus in the drops of rain on the glass. I also took pictures of the large, old, house in our neighborhood that was built in 1914, predating the major development by more than 50 years. Those look a bit spooky, which I like, although the house isn’t haunted, as far as I know.
Shady Grove Ensemble
The ensemble played at church this morning and we really enjoyed the music. A few instruments are nice but there’s nothing that really compares to the depth and richness of an orchestra. Of course this doesn’t qualify as an orchestra, but it’s as close as a church this size is likely to get. It’s worth it. In addition to the saxiphone, trumpets, flutes, oboe, baritone, euphonium, and viola seen here, there is a trombone on the far right and another sax, a few clarinets, and more flutes on the left. On stage is a piano and drums. All in all, a very nice sound.
As I mentioned a little while ago, we didn’t do a lot of decorating for Christmas. We put up the artificial tree, which already has lights on it, and I put up the Peruvian nativity scene on the piano. Other than that, not much. A few days ago, Cathy and Dorothy added a little to the tree. Mostly this included garlands of sparkling tinsel and a few long strands of red and gold glass beads. This is one of the strands of gold, and I like the way it shines in the light of the tree lights. This will almost certainly be the last of my Christmas decoration pictures for the year. Tomorrow we’ll celebrate Christmas first at our house and then at mom’s apartment.
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
Margaret brought this poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) home from church last Sunday and it’s been brightening our dining room table since then. It’s a particularly nice specimen, although we’ve never had a lot of luck keeping them alive for any length of time. They need to be watered but not over watered and houseplants often struggle with the excessively dry air indoors in winter. Getting the leaves to turn colors again is enough trouble that it’s generally easier to simply get a new one each year and enjoy it while it can be enjoyed. By the way, contrary to what you might have heard, the poinsettia is only mildly toxic, although some people are sensitive to the sap and it’s not something you want to eat. But you don’t need to be terribly afraid of it, either.
This little creche is made with bits and pieces from the kitchen. Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus are peanuts with Halos made from Cheerios. The magi—or maybe those are angels, it’s in some dispute—are made from Hershey’s kisses. The sheep are pumpkin seeds with broken toothpicks for legs. I’m not entirely sure what is in the foreground. Perhaps that’s food for the animals (and the baby didn’t fit in this manger so he’s next to it instead. The yarn person, which is perhaps a shepherd, is not to scale but is definitely part of the composition. The frog, however, is almost certainly apocryphal.
Our Christmas Tree
We put our Christmas tree up this evening. I know a lot of folks have a tradition of putting their tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving and I have no problem with such a tradition. Nevertheless, we’re not quite so organized and in any case, the tree was in the storage unit and I didn’t get it until early December. It’s been in the back of my car for a while and this afternoon I brought it in and we set it up. Dorothy and Cathy brought up some boxes of decorations and began decorating the tree, although it isn’t done yet. There are a few boxes that were in storage and I will need to stop there and pick them up before we can consider it finished. Nevertheless, the living room is finally starting to look a lot like christmas. The large nativity scene will also need to be set up, probably on the top of the piano. Dorothy is also planning to make a wreath to hang on the front door. Note that in the past, our tree has stayed up until it really begins to lose needles. Now that we’re using an artificial tree that we brought from Margaret’s, that’s not an issue any more. We’ll probably take it down in early January, anyway. Note in this photo, the traditional peanut butter in front of the tree.
In our neighborhood, Santa makes a pre-Christmas visit, just to be sure he knows where everyone lives. For all I know he does this everywhere, but we don’t live everywhere, so we only know about here. He doesn’t keep as low a profile on this visit as he does on Christmas eve and morning. In fact, he makes a fair amount of noise, with Christmas music blasting from speakers on his ‘sleigh’ and an occasional “ho, ho, ho“ thrown in for good measure. He and his helpers had bags of goodies for the children in the neighborhood, as well and a good time was had by all. Now, to wait for his second visit in a few day’s time.
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.
This is a close-up of the nativity scene on our piano. The more traditional figures, Joseph, Mary, Jesus, and in this case a llama, are from Peru. Cathy’s grandmother lived in Lima for many years so it’s not surprising that her family had things from there. The “barn” for this set is home made, with sticks fashioned into a sort of timber frame and with a woven mat for the floor, the back wall, and the roof. When Dorothy put this up, she augmented the attendants somewhat and I’m not sure of the authenticity of all the characters represented. The parrot fits with the South American theme, but I think the little Chinese boy may be a bit out of place. Also, when Mary asked Joseph about the tree in the background, he told her it was a Christmas tree. She asked what Christmas was and he said, “I have no idea.”
We don’t typically get our Christmas decorations up quite as early as we have done this year. I know some people are good about regularly getting things set up the weekend after Thanksgiving. We aren’t that prompt and sometimes things don’t get set up until the week of Christmas itself. This year, with less ‘out of house’ activities, we put our tree up and started decorating on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Dorothy set up the traditional nativity scene on the piano. As usual, all are welcome at the manger and Dorothy makes sure there are many representatives from various places.
Strange Little Ornament
This strange little ornament is one of our favorites. I don’t know much about it. It seems to be made of wool and it’s clearly a man riding on an animal. Beyond that it’s all conjecture. Is he riding on a horse? Who can say? Is there some significance to his pointed hat? What about the stripes on the hat and on his other garments? Is he meant to be someone in particular? We have more questions than answers. Nevertheless, he has a certain appeal.
We have many more ornaments than we can possibly display at once. If we had a huge house with four or five large Christmas trees, then perhaps we could use them all. But unless and until that happens, most of them will languish in boxes. But this funny, little man will always find a place on out tree.
A days ago I posted a picture of a somewhat odd, folk art Christmas carol singing figurine (see Friday, December 11, 2020). In that post I said that I’d post a photo of a nativity scene that Margaret’s housekeeper made for her quite a few years ago. Well, here it is. As you can see, most of the people in the scene are made from peanuts, although one is made differently to the rest. The sheep are made with pumpkin seeds and toothpicks. They look a little like pigs to me, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt, because this is an scene in Bethlehem and pigs would be out of place. The angel (on the left) is a Hershey’s kiss.
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
We got this poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) from our next door neighbor and it’s really nice. We have it on our dining room table, except when we take it to the kitchen to be watered. In the past we’ve tried to keep them going from one year to the next and while they aren’t that hard to keep alive, we’ve never had them perform that well in future years. It’s really not worth the trouble, when new plants look so good. As most people know, the red parts are leaves rather than flowers. The actual flowers are quite small and not particularly significant in terms of the ornamental value of the plant. But the leaves really are spectacular.
I think I mentioned a while back that we put up our Christmas tree earlier this year than normal. We put it up on the weekend after Thanksgiving, which for a lot of folks is traditional. For us, we generally would cut a tree and putting it up that early is asking for a lot of needles to be down by Christmas. For the last three Christmases we’ve used this artificial tree, so that’s really not an issue. The plan is to keep it up a little while longer, but of course, it won’t have the wrapped presents under it after tomorrow.
We may have gotten the tree up early but we didn’t really do as well buying gifts this year as we generally do. There are a lot of packages under the tree but a lot of them are food gifts. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but we generally try to do better. Still, we’re together and looking forward to our two Christmas meals (breakfast and dinner with enough to eat that we won’t be hungry between them). We also plan on having video calls with our two families tomorrow.
Post Christmas Gift Wrap
At Cathy’s parents house, there was a step down to get to their front door. As packages were unwrapped, the scrunched up paper was thrown into that area. Generally at least one photo would be taken of that pile of paper, often with a child, a dog, or even a parrot hiding in with the papers. We don’t have as good a spot for that and there really wasn’t enough wrapping paper this year to justify trying. Nevertheless, in honor of that tradition, I’m posting this photo of a bag full of balled up wrapping paper. Happy Christmas, everyone.
Flower Valley Santa
We were out for much of the day and when we got home we remembered that this was the night that Santa rides through Flower Valley in his ‘sleigh’. Fortunately we weren’t too late to catch his visit. Some of our neighbors had put out snacks and such and a lot of the neighbors from our block were already there with their kids, waiting for the big man’s arrival. I took a few pictures, as I usually do, and got a fairly decent one, balancing the flash with the lights from Santa’s sleigh.
It’s Christmas. This year, like last year, Christmas has been attacked by Covid-19 (a.k.a. the Wuhan Flu). Last year was really quite bad, with our larger family get-together being replaced by a Zoom meeting. It really wasn’t what it should be. This year things are at least a little better, although they are worse than they looked like they would be even a month ago. With what appears to be a much more easily transmitted (although apparently much less severe) strain on the loose, we decided we should all self-administer antigen tests before we got together. Thankfully we were 16 for 16 negatives and no one had to stay home. Annoying but much better than last year.
As usual, we had our immediate family Christmas (just Cathy, her mom, Dorothy, and me) at our house. That included a large breakfast and then some presents from under the tree. Then we went to Dorothy’s house for the extended gathering. All of her housemates were out of town, so we were able to enjoy their large house and it all worked out quite well. Hectic but nice. And certainly better than last year.
I’ve posted photos a few times from the worship night’s that Dorothy organizes. This week we had a live nativity. No farm animals this time, but everyone was encouraged to come dressed as someone from the nativity story. Amanda read the story and when your character was introduced, you went up to the manger to play your role. Between the readings, we sang Christmas songs that celebrated the part of the story just read. This is the band, who lead the singing. From left to right, Andrew, Dorothy, Adam, Michael, and Greg. I think it was safe to say a good time was had by all.
Santa and Margaret
We were visiting Margaret today when Santa came to her building. At first she didn’t want her picture taken but eventually she decided it would be alright. There was Christmas music being played on the piano in the living room while residents took their turns with Santa (and his dog, Mrs. Paws). After Santa left, presumably to visit the other buildings, the music continued and the residents enjoyed singing along. I also got some nice photos of Wil in his Naughty/Nice Christmas sweater.
Singing By Candlelight
We went to the Christmas Eve service at Fourth this evening, opting for the 7:00 PM service instead of staying up for 11:00 PM as we did last year. It was a good service with good songs to sing and of course a message on the Christmas story. We are all so familiar with the story that it’s easy to take it for granted. But when the story was recorded, it was really not what you’d have expected. That is, it’s not your typical birth-of-a-king story. In fact, most of the story of the life of Jesus is different to what you might expect. We forget that because it’s so familiar. To me, this lends credence to the story rather than the opposite. If someone were simply making up a story, this is not what they’d come up with. It’s one of the reasons I believe it really happened this way.
Christmas with Margaret
We had Christmas breakfast with Margaret today. Last night after we got home from the Christmas Eve service I made a quiche. This morning we took that, as well as croissants, orange juice, sparkling cider, and a few other things to Margaret’s room. We put a recording of a fireplace on her television and hung the stockings from the dresser, with presents laid out under them. It was a very festive and enjoyable time. David and Darius called shortly after this photo was taken and then after we ate, we opened presents.
Kaien, Eloise, and Silas
After this morning’s breakfast and Christmas celebration with Margaret, we came home for a little while and then went to Dot’s for our second Christmas celebration, with the other side of the family. There were more people at this one, including these three lovely children (Dot’s great grandchildren), Kaien, Eloise, and Silas (from left to right). Although they were a little rowdy, they were not overly so, and a good time was had by all. We changed our menu from our traditional enchiladas and this year we had a taco bar as well as some baked salmon. That makes it easy for each person to customize the meal to their own preferences and dietary restrictions. We are very glad to have our family and enjoyed being with everyone on this special day.