Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It was our turn today.

Yes, today we finally had the snowstorm.

I had planned to have a post about my new birdbath and how it was finally getting customers. At Christmas I went out and bought my own gift, a heated birdbath. Now, I hasten to add, it is not as though I am going to hang out a sign announcing a "spa experience". What a heated birdbath does is keep the water from freezing and allow the birds easy access to water; the water feels quite cool to the touch when you dip a finger in. For the other three seasons of the year I get a lot of visitors to the birdbaths that I have scattered throughout my garden. But once freezing temperatures arrive I have to empty those out and store them or tip them sideways.

The new bath has been in place now for almost a month and we still were not seeing any users until just a few days ago. Now we were seeing evidence left on the railing that something was using the new facility. But it wasn't until yesterday as I was out on the driveway that I looked over to see several robins, bluejays and one other bird happily splashing around. Today I left the camera waiting near the window hoping to be able to take a photo of the birds enjoying their ablutions.

But instead, we have this:

At least the water is still rippling in that bird spa! But just an hour or so later it was looking like this:

and I was getting seriously worried about the crepe myrtle tree. The dog set out from the back door but turned around and headed back inside when he found his way blocked. So I had to send out the snow clearing machine

which did a good job. The scene is not so picturesque now but all that heavy snow is not weighing down the branches of the tree and the dog took advantage of the opportunity to get off the deck and go do what he needed to do.

Meanwhile from the front window where I can see the major highway it still looks like rush hour although I can assure you no-one is rushing anywhere. At 9:15pm two lanes of traffic headed west were crawling along at maybe 5mph and on the other side, why, two lanes of traffic heading east were not moving at all. Ordinarily by this time traffic has really quieted down and there are just a few vehicles out there. On the radio they are reporting very icy roads and suggesting that people don't even leave their offices, malls or wherever they might be as conditions are so poor for driving. Schools were closed today and have already announced they will be closed again tomorrow.

My snow clearing machine measured 6" ninety minutes ago and it is beginning to taper off now.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Visitors in the January garden

Yesterday most every school district around here was closed because of overnight sleet and ice. But today, with the temperature currently showing 50 F, there is a lot of thawing going on. So I took a look around the garden to see who has been visiting.

These two, on the shady north side are looking for a way to escape it seems so I took pity on them and carried them into the garden shed for the balance of the winter.

The Pukeko family arrived by air in December and here we see them asking a local for directions to the nearest airport to take them back to a more balmy climate. They can share space with the frogs until the weather is more agreeable.

Other animals have also been visiting. I wish these ones would find some other garden to spend their time in. Every morning the dog tracks all the activity from the overnight period so while I watch I can tell how long the deer stayed looking around for nibble opportunities.

These pots came out of the garage to bask in the sun for a few hours but I had better go put them back now or I will forget them and my overnight visitors will find them.

And finally, here is a view of an area in the back garden. Through the growing season there is always something blooming here beginning with daffodils, muscari and forsythia, then bridal veil spirea, catmint, coreopsis, white and purple echinacea, heliopsis, Russian sage and ending with New England asters. But for now we have many shades of brown including the track the dog makes in the grass as he heads up the slope.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yes, it missed us again!

Oh thank you weather gods, you let another potential bad winter storm pass us by. To the south, Atlanta, where Geoff lived for four years, is still trying to dig out. To the north, well, I have not had any real news but I heard they were going to get socked again. But, yippee, we missed out on most of it. There was not even enough of the white stuff to make it worth my measuring it - certainly less than 2".

So I was bold enough this morning to don my snow clearing gear and get outside knowing it was not really going to tax me all that much. I was more interested in what I could do with my camera than what I could do with the snow shovel.

So, January in my garden. Above you can see the row of Korean boxwood I had planted in early October. The wind has been so unrelenting since I returned from New Zealand that I had to erect this less than beautiful wind break in the hopes of helping my new shrubs make it through the winter.

I like to leave up the seed heads on the Echinacea (coneflower) and the Black Eyed Susans to give the birds something to snack on during the winter months.

Out the back, where some areas are left to nature to control, you can see what happens. Since I have been here I have tried hard to nuture the many native holly trees that are in the treed area. Some are visible in this shot. In the foreground, you can see where I have tipped the birdbath sideways for the winter. Yes, I should have cleaned it and brought it indoors but my garden shed (aka bay 3 in the garage) is full enough. That bird condo has twiggy bits sticking out of most every doorway so I hope that sometimes some birds are able to take shelter in there.

I liked this image of the turtle family plodding uphill through the snow while mother turtle turns and faces them as if to say "come on you my day we walked five miles uphill in the snow to school every day!"

Monday, January 10, 2011

A cutie

Or, as his Daddy prefers, manly and handsome!

What do you think?

By the way, is he my great-nephew or my grand-nephew? He is one or the other.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 7 of the 100 day project

You'll recall reading about my being Face # 1 for artist Jill Banks ambitious "100 Faces in 100 Days" project just a week ago.

Tonight I made a quick trip up to the Atelier where Jill has a studio as they were having the usual First Friday open studio and that meant I would be able to see all seven of the portraits lined up.

So here they are:

Jill is having a lot of fun with this and creating lots of interest. And, as I was there this evening people would come in and instantly say "you're face 1" so that lets you know how wonderful her paintings are.

Time to put it all away for this year

Epiphany was yesterday so that meant today was the day to put away all the decorations for the season of Christmas. Somehow it is always easier to get the things out than it is to wrap them all up again and store everything away. But it did get done today.

Last night it was really cold outside while I was trying to take this photo - I guess that is why I did not take the extra time to center the wreath. And it is always cold both when this one goes up and comes down; at least that is what Geoff says while winding and later unwinding the string of lights around the wreath.

But my Christmas dinnertable centerpiece flowers have lasted really well and I decided they could stay longer.

Are all the Christmas decorations carefully packed away again in your home?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

To Bring Good Luck for the New Year

I'd hate to say we are superstitious but sometimes, hey, it doesn't hurt to load the dice.

So while Casey and I were gadding about DC on January first Geoff was home in the kitchen preparing his take on a traditional New Years dinner.

Last year I made what Southern Living magazine told me is the traditional dish to bring good luck for the upcoming year in the southern states: Hopping John. It did not get a full approval rating.

Geoff decided to try a deconstructed version

and here we have slow cooked pork, wild rice, collard greens, black eyed peas, peppers and onions and to accompany it, cornbread. This got a better reception than what I made last year.

Do you have any special traditions for the New Year?

It's all in the Timing

The current buzz where we live is all about the new people on the Hill in Washington.

In thinking about that Casey wanted me to share with you our annual trip to the Hill to see both the National Christmas Tree and the Capitol Christmas Tree.

Off we went on Saturday January 1. First stop was to park at Union Station and check out the decorations in the station. Norway always provides a lit tree within the station in remembrance of the assistance given by the USA to Norway in WWII; and there is always a train layout complete with trolls waiting by the bridge. We then take a fast walk from the station down to the the area in front of the Capitol where we can admire the Capitol Christmas Tree. This year the tree was supplied and decorated by the state of Wyoming.

We were there just as dusk was beginning to arrive. Walking back to the station I wondered if my simple camera might be able to capture the moment

and it could. I liked this view (above). Then as we got closer I took another shot

and wondered if Union Station had paid their electricity bill in full for the month of December!

We retrieved the car and set off down Constitution all the while hoping we would be able to find someplace to park so we could go see the National Tree. Yay, we lucked out and got a prime position and after feeding the meter (but now it was dark we were not really able to see how long we had purchased the right to park!) we hustled across 17th Street at a fast clip making for the tree. The usual crowds were mingling around and it is always reassuring to be among the people from all walks of life who bring their children to see this statement of the season. I was very surprised to see a sign saying that Saturday, January 1st would be the last night the tree would be lit. And then a soft rain began to fall so we hurried back to the car.

I could not resist one more photo however

The DAR building had a very simple but very effective light show on their building. And my little camera was again able to record the view.

And thus ended our tour of the Christmas lights for this season.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

First Face for the First Day for a First Timer

Happy New Year!

And today is indeedy the first day of the year. I had the opportunity to mark this date by doing something special and I want to share this with you.

Last week I was browsing through blogs as I do when I'm trying to avoid doing something else. There on the blog of an artist friend was a long posting about what she wanted to achieve for this year. One of those goals was to begin an ambitious project titled "100 Faces in 100 Days". The idea was to paint a face a day, using the alla prima style (painted all at once, in one sitting), commencing on the first day of the new year. Now this is a fine goal to have but without 100 faces, well, the project would go nowhere.

So before I could have second thoughts, I emailed my friend and presented my offer to be one of her faces and as things worked out, I was the first offer and hence became the "first face".

Here is the artist hard at work. Propped against the wall behind her is a large mirror. I could see a portion of the painting as she was working but try as I did, it does not seem to show up in the photos I took.

This was not an overly arduous thing that I did. I was encouraged to get up and walk about every so often. So here, while I take a stroll, the artist is still working with her oil paints. I must add that I have selected this photo to post because it shows a couple of other works by the artist in the background.

Now just before taking this photo the artist had announced "that's it, I'm about done". So I could again get up and walk around and use my camera. But apparently, after I left, she did spend some more time working at the painting before deciding that it was now done.

If you are really curious about this then why don't you go visit Jill's blog and get the full scoop.
Go here and visit "Life as an Artist - Jill Banks".

The lesson of the day is to try something new this year. You might have thought that sitting and posing for just over four hours would be long and tedious but it was not; although I did try to keep my head still I could talk and chat and move my legs or shoulders around. And every so often Jill wanted me to get up and take a break - it never got to the stage that I said "hey, I need to pause here".

Jill and I will both look forward to hearing your comments about this.