A 90th Birthday Party

Well, what a winter it has been.  And not because of weather.  There was the pneumonia in December and the government shutdown in January.  Then in February all hell broke loose.  My brother had a heart attack that resulted in quadruple bypass surgery.  The day after he got home from the hospital, my mother fell in the bathroom and fractured her femur, resulting in a hip replacement and a stint in rehab.  Good grief.


I was beginning to feel as though I should hide behind a tree, as well

I had been planning to visit for my mother’s 90th birthday on March 11.  My nephew was also looking to celebrate her birthday, persuaded my niece to come from New York City, and enlisted his mother in acquiring and making food.  He brought his family down to central Illinois from north of Milwaukee.


I flew in on a Friday and Mom wasn’t out of the rehab center yet, but that allowed me to go spring her along with my niece.  I had thought we’d get her out in time to settle in a bit, but the party was already starting when we brought her home.


Vicky really laid on the luncheon.


There is always something interesting on the fridge.

It lasted into the evening and then started again at breakfast on Sunday.


Mom, with her grandson and youngest great grandchild.

We had not all been together at once as a family in quite some time. And for some of the newer family members, we had not been together ever.  It was nice to catch up with my nephew’s wife Beth, and she and Elisa were catching up as well, with a blur of children around them.


My mother was surrounded by great grandchildren for the opening of her gifts.


And she got to enjoy having all of us around including some of the youngest members of the family.


My brother was looking pretty darn happy to have all those grandkids running around, too.


Some of the grandkids felt others had taken their chairs.


Elisa did a lot of communing with her nieces.


There was multi-tasking, and


we did manage to take one big family picture because Elisa knew how to use the timer on my iPad.


The food was fabulous, and of course, there was enough to nosh on for a couple days.  We’re hoping we can get together like this again, but maybe without health issues preceding it.


I’m itching to get into the garden.  It was a lovely day today and I had lunch with my friend Paul, then we went to Dumbarton Oaks.  The snowdrops were out, but not the flowering quince, though it’s budding.  The Yoshino cherries look to be about two weeks away. Spring will come, and more family visits, as well as gardening.


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Winter Makes a Statement

Winter rode in on a moving front of changing weather mid-week.  Forecasters had been talking about snow and moving the forecasted amounts up and down with the weather models.  They settled on 4-8 inches yesterday.


It’s likely hit 6 inches by now, but looks like a lot more snow…

It started to snow yesterday afternoon, slowly and gently.  Usually a winter storm that drops significant snow comes up the coast like a hurricane would in the summer, bringing high winds as well.  Not so this time.


Another weather pattern that seems to be changing is that storms coming from the west used to drop most of their snow in the mountains.  Alas, the new pattern seems to be of storms coming across the southern plains and the south and then slowly veering north a bit.  I think somehow they maintain their moisture.


I think it’s pretty heavy and wet.

It has snowed through most of the day, sometimes harder than others, and is picking up again with more and faster falling flakes.

I walked around just to see how the roads were and who was out–and to take pictures.  There were lots of kids at the sledding hill.  I didn’t take photos because I didn’t know any of the parents.


It’s hanging out in leafless bushes (these are euonymous, or burning bush) as well as on evergreens.

The nearby businesses were clearing their walks and parking lot with snow blowers


I think this is actually supposed to finish the blown walks, but I know little about snow equipment…

and little John Deere snow plows.


I still get a kick out of these because they look like toys and great fun…

Time to settle in and enjoy with cocoa and marshmallows.


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River Walk

Since recovering from pneumonia, I’ve been getting my strength back with various exercises and walking.  On Sunday, one of the few sunny days we’ve had in ages, my friend Carolyn and I took a walk down to the Key Bridge and across into Georgetown.


It looks almost wild here. Almost. All you have to do is look a little to the east…

The Georgetown waterfront has been under development for some time.  It used to have a few boathouses and a lot industrial warehouses and storage, as well as the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  Now there’s a park along the river and it’s a really nice walk.


And there’s the Watergate, the Kennedy Center, and the Washington Monument peering over them. Some architecture critic said that the Watergate was a wedding cake and the Kennedy Center was the box it came in…

I wanted to check out the skating rink at Washington Harbor.  A friend of mine had taken a group of Girl Scouts there before Christmas and I didn’t even know there was a rink there.  It was in use on Sunday, but woe to those who fell:  there was a lot of melt and large puddles.  I like skating on cheesy ice, but not when you’re running through little ponds.  It’s supposed to get cold and maybe even snow this weekend.  That would make for good skating.


Or look a little to the west and you get the Rosslyn skyline. In the 19th century, Rosslyn was full of bars and bordellos.

The thing I like about walking the river is that I know it from rowing and kayaking and looking at it from the shore is a different view.  And there are always things to see.  We spotted a Black Crowned Night Heron resting in a thicket. I had to look up what it was, though another bystander said he thought it was a “night heron.”  So there are surprises, if you’re alert.


I was transfixed by this. Carolyn was momentarily appalled when I stopped, thinking I was going to look at the tourist paintings stacked up in front of it. Nope. And no, I didn’t take a picture of them…

We were also surprised by an art installation on the plaza.  It was made of piping, clamps, and nylon cord, some of which was stretchy like a bungee cord, but smaller.  It was colorful and sort of like walking through alleys between buildings.


Carolyn takes a gander through the alleyway…

I speculated that it was lighted at night by solar cell.  There were devices in each structure that looked like they could be storing up daylight for nighttime use.


And I take a look at the view out…

We had a look at the rink, did a little people watching, and headed back.  The sun was already getting lower in the sky.  It was nice to be out, stretching my legs.  Carolyn, who wears a device of some sort (is it an Apple Watch?) said we’d walked nearly 6 miles.  Now if I can just keep it up…


Back across the beautiful bridge we went…

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All Is Calm

It’s a  dreary day with lowering clouds and a look of snow. To the south, there is a winter storm that’s crossed 2000 miles and is heading for the Atlantic.  Here in northern Virginia, we aren’t expected even to get flurries.  But we’ve got that wintry look.


What’s more wintry than this? Well, snow would be, I guess, but …

I’ve been lazing around my house since November 28 with a case of pneumonia.  Today, I take the last of my antibiotics and tomorrow I have an appointment with the doctor to see whether my lungs have cleared well. As pneumonia goes (I am unfortunately well-experienced with it), it hasn’t been bad, especially the coughing, which has been efficient and (drumroll) largely during the day.  I’ve been sleeping  like a stone.


Leeks and red sorrel together in a dormant garden.

I’ve been getting great meals from friends, too.  And boy has that helped!  The thing with pneumonia is that you don’t feel bad after the initial slam-down, but boy is it hard to do much but lie on the couch.  I realized I was on the upswing when I had the energy to open a can of refried beans and cook some rice.


These figs, on a sheltered south wall, won’t be anyone’s meal…

Today, I’m thinking about bringing out my Christmas decorations.  I don’t have a lot, so it shouldn’t be too strenuous.  I will likely be snugging in locally for the holiday, as travel after pneumonia is too strenuous, and way too many people seem to think flying while sick is a good idea.  Well it is, if you want to make the maximum number of people sick … otherwise, not so much.


Ah, citrus! Gracious fruit of the winter.

So I’m reformulating Christmas for myself at the moment, and continuing to relax.  I may write my cards today.  I’ve already got them stacked in order for addressing.  One thing I’ve enjoyed, being home with little to do, is being able to visit everyone’s blog fairly regularly.  You folks are productive and entertaining and educational!


I thought these were the loveliest little blast of color. I Imagine them calling to birds, “Here we are!”

To prove it, just this week, I got a book of Cynthia Jobin’s poems in the mail, pulled together and edited by John Looker, published by Bennison Books. It’s a lovely edition.  Cynthia’s blog was like a master class in poetry and its forms, and the conversation in comments was wonderful.  I’m glad there’s another edition of her work to savor. It’s available from…yup, Amazon, so order it if you’re inclined and many thanks to John.


I had to hold the cover down, since it’s already standing open from reading.

I hope you have a good week! See you in the blogosphere.


And because I’ve been reading Derrick Knight’s blog, I’m pretty sure this is a clematis–I offer it in memory of Cynthia and in thanks to John for his work.


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Paradise Regained

Dumbarton Oaks garden closed for a while to replace what was probably 100 year old piping for fountains and no doubt shore up some walls and a few other things.  As a result, I was shut out of this particular paradise for some time.  Over the weekend, I took the opportunity to go for a visit.


The Katsura had lost its leaves, so I didn’t get to smell its cooked sugar scent. But look at that Japanese maple to the left. It’s definitely dressed up.

Those of you who follow the blog know this is my favorite place in Washington, D.C., and that I have written about it multiple times (just put Dumbarton Oaks in the search box). I was hoping there would be a new art installation, and to my delight, there was!


Was I enchanted? You bet!

All of the exhibits have been organically part of the garden.  This one, done by Martha Jackson Jarvis, a local artist, was no exception.  I saw the forms that looked like seed pods in a couple places in the garden.


Well, you can see red seeds from outside Magnolia pods, but…

There were also structures made from bamboo harvested from the gardens and embellished with metal, glass and other materials.


I liked these and the way they were formed.


Here they look as though they’re on the march. Or perhaps part of a small family group…

While I could see that the green mosaic work was a stem and the red mosaic work might be seeds peeping out from a disintegrating outer shell, the second group of pods looked more like wounded slugs fleeing evil bamboo towers than fallen pods, but then, how did day of the triffids start?


Ouch! Let’s get away!

The garden had beautiful surprises other than the art installation.  There were fall crocuses.


The cones on the Cedars of Lebanon look to be near the completion of their two year development.


The view into Rock Creek Park showed the color that’s left in this odd delayed season.


There were paths that had to be walked,


Roses that needed to be sniffed,


Surprises at the end of paths,


And places to rest.


Have a great week!


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Bottling the Light

It’s just short of two months since I last posted and it feels much, much longer than that.  So many things keep happening.  For a while, we seemed suspended between summer and fall, with cooler temperatures and green trees.  Then, in one weekend, there was a transformation.  Like a little color bomb.


This maple seemed to go red overnight.

Since then, we’ve had some extraordinarily beautiful days where the leaves seem to give off their own light.  One windy day recently, the leaves blowing down looked like falling tea lights.


If this were a lamp, I’d buy it!

And of course the light itself is changing, its slant and tint, and intensity.  It’s gone a bit pale.


Still, with the leaves as they’ve been, that color is intensified by the paler light.


I’ve been working in the garden as well as enjoying fall’s last flashy dance.  In fact this weekend, I put my plot to bed.  With the help of a fellow gardener, I also cleared the large Plot Against Hunger plot.  It remains to be weeded a bit more and then heavily composted.


I may have the start of an asparagus patch.

The small plot that we had also dedicated to AFAC is going back to the garden for people who want to garden but can’t manage a larger plot.  I cleared that out as well last weekend.  Like the large plot, it needs a bit more weeding and then the compost.  I can get that done in the next couple weekends if we have a nice day!


It’s nice to see the calendulas thriving. They do like the cool weather.

The year wound up well, with peppers and eggplants and a last rush of green beans.  I had planted some arugula and beets and those came on as well.


I’m thinking arugula, beets, walnuts, and chèvre.

The last bouquet was poignant.  It’s hard to get used to going flowerless after such amazing decoration for months!


I have an abundance of green tomatoes, which I’ve put in a paper bag with two bananas in hopes they ripen.  I haven’t the heart for pickled green tomatoes this year, but a few may get fried with batter.  We’ll see what they do in the bag.


Yup, that’s a pile of tomatoes…

In the meantime, I’ve brought out my candles to enjoy in the early evenings.  We’re expecting snow, sleet and rain, otherwise known as wintry mix, on Thursday.  It’s a bit early for that, but I’m ready as I’ll be!


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It’s Here Now, Fans of Fall

It’s definitely end of season.  I see the signs everywhere–not just on the calendar.  It continues to rain here, as though preparing us to make a decision about building an ark.


The Blackeyed Susans are a bit seedy, were leaning, and … I ripped them out.

I’m at the point where I’d just like to rip things out and clean up, but I do still have tomatoes coming on and the rain has revitalized the green beans, a treat courtesy of hurricane Florence and a generally damp weather pattern.


Looks like some hard work compared to getting pollen from the zinnias, but perhaps this bee wanted a little variety.

The thing about ripping out, though, is that the bees and butterflies and birds are so busy in the flowers.


Like this black swallowtail…

Sometimes there is so much movement among the blossoms that I stop and try to see individual things. And there are a lot of them still collecting pollen.


And this Monarch.

So I’ll give them extra time.


I’m sure the bees will appreciate it, even if they don’t give me credit.

I have to search through the flowers now for my bouquet.  The blossoms are increasingly spotted and don’t last as long.  Still, this was coming.  All those folks declaring end of summer at Labor Day knew it, but I deny it right up until the fall equinox.  Officially, that was yesterday evening.


Now this one I could have picked.

I’ll savor the last few tomatoes and green beans in the next few weeks, put the garden to bed for the winter in good time, and look for the pleasures of autumn, perhaps among them the Katsura tree at Dumbarton Oaks, whose turning leaves smell of cooked sugar.


And speaking of sugar, I used the last of the peaches in a pie. Into apple and pear season now!


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