Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Still Life

When days are rainy I go through old photos and pass the time by trying to get creative.

Still life the digital way...

Saturday, December 28, 2019

A Quick City Trip

My children and their children live just outside the District of Columbia, that city of famous and infamous history.

We arrived and found parking just as the sun was setting. Signs said we were not allowed to park for more than two hours, but this was Christmas Eve and it seemed that rules had been greatly relaxed. We parked across the street from the National Museum of African American History. I have yet to visit this newer museum (opened only three years ago) because it still is extremely popular allowing entry only with pre-reserved timed passes even though it is free. It always seems to be crowded at most times! The museum remains on my bucket list. Its architecture is very dramatic and the light from the sunset through the edge of the building made for a decent photo with my point and shoot camera.

As I walked further and pulled back with the camera I was able to get the Washington Monument in the background on the hill. Due to a minor earthquake last year, the elevator has been closed off and on some days although now I think it is running on schedule and finally repaired. The Monument also requires passes that you get ahead of time! I went up to the top many years ago and the windows give a rather blurred view of the city.

On the right, as we hurried toward the Ellipse, is the Department of Commerce Building (in the photo below).  Wilber Ross is the Secretary of Commerce now.  He seems to be able to stay out of the news recently, unlike other Secretaries, except for the citizenship question that he wanted to add to the 2020 Census, his failure to divest himself of his assets, and the use of a personal phone for business!  He has Yale and Harvard in his resume, which at least gives him some gravitas for such an important job.  The man, like our President, has been married three times.  He is now 82 and that might be one of the reasons he keeps such a low profile.  He is worth 700 million to  2.5 billion depending on which of his paperwork you believe and he made his money by taking advantage of bankruptcies.

We hurried to the Ellipse where the grands could see the National Christmas Tree.  It was pleasantly crowded with American citizens and also many people from other countries, all in excellent holiday humor.  There are several miniature trains running beneath the tree and little towns along the tracks that reminded me of the neighborhood in the Mr. Rogers movie we had seen that afternoon.  These were all behind a protective fence.  When I looked closely I saw that people had throw money, coins and bills, over the fence onto the trains and houses and station and lawn.  Much of it was foreign currency.  That seemed very odd and someone in the passing crowd joked that it was for the President's defense fund.  This is eternally a political city.

The sunset cooperated nicely on this Christmas Eve. I was also able to capture a murmuration of starlings (or some birds) against the pink skies!

All in all a very lovely evening!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

A Day of Peace!

Hope that this day is your most peaceful yet. Gather your energies and your love and go forth in the New Year and make it better.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Festival Season

Today is the first day of Hannukah which runs through until December 30. Wishing those who celebrate this holiday of the Festival of Lights a joyous week!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

When Life Gives You Lemons

My birthday falls in a few days and because it is squeezed close to the holidays, I am not expecting much. I do not care and that is not a lie. As a child, my birthday was important (to me), but because it was squeezed into a year of four other siblings birthdays and always close to Christmas, I only had two real birthday parties in my youth. The rest were family and cake. I felt cheated then but realize it was all unimportant now.  I neither look forward to or dread birthdays.  They are days on the calendar and numbers on my years.  There are far more important days in any life.

Having written all of that I decided to make some cookies.  Well, I decided to do a bunch of stuff.  As my readers may know, I have a Meyer lemon tree.  It is a sad little tree, much like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, but prior to the photo taken below it had 30 lemons ripening on its scraggly boughs.

I cannot use more than two dozen lemons at one time, so I picked half.

They smell marvelous and are super full of juice.

As I slice them I cannot but marvel at the seeds inside with all their potential to become new young lemon trees, but I have to control myself as I have no room or time in my life for growing more lemon trees.

I have tools for zesting the rind and tools for squeezing the juice.

The juice goes into ice cube trays and after becoming frozen goes into freezer bags for use in the months to come.  The zest gets frozen as well for seafood dinners and soups.  Other lemons are cut in half and frozen for future flavoring.  Then I get a brilliant idea from the Cooks Illustrated cookbook to make some lemon zest cookies.  I do not like this cookbook very much as it keeps giving me recipes that are photographed beautifully but rarely work---at least for me.  But, who does not like cookies?  The fresh zest gets mixed with the sugar and creamed with 2 sticks of butter and the juice gets added to the batter.  Hubby says it smells so good as he watches his football game.

And this is the result of all my labor!  I turned down the heat for the second batch and let them cool a little longer before removing them and this is still what I got!  They are so messy (but quite edible) you have to eat them over the sink!

Alas, when life gives you lemons you can sweep the crumbs off the plate and counter and add to a sealed container for topping on ice cream.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Second Half of Eye Candy

Quickly selected and one or two were photoshopped for character or improvement. Almost all were adjusted for exposure and sharpness.

My front yard on a "good" day in July.

My grandson having fun in the nearby art garden in August.

A cloud on the low horizon throwing shade on a sunset in September.

At least one token photo from the thousands from the China trip in October.

A Thanksgiving Sunrise in Florida in November.

A foggy wet morning at my dock in December

Saturday, December 14, 2019

12 Months of Eye Candy

I have finished wrapping 90% of my gifts, hubby is in charge of the Christmas cards, there is very little baking to do for our calorie-conscious time. Therefore, I am going to sort my photos of this past year and give you one from each month as a thank-you for reading, contemplating and commenting this year. Since I have thousands of photos from each month (addictive), the first quickly selected six will be delivered now and the next six...whenever I can grab a little more time. Happy Holidays to you all and don't forget to save the wrapping paper and recycle!

Natures decorations in January.

My neighbor's sailboat in February.

At the feeders in March

A spring trip to the Kennedy Center in April.

Getting the Grands bird-watching across a restored meadow in May.

Here's looking at you, kid, in the summery month of June!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Patience, something I keep opening files and trying to find....

Juggling Christmas:  card mailings, gift buying/wrapping,  decorating and maybe a little baking is about all I can handle this month.  I am not religious, but I am NOT anti-religious...and yet...someone who rules this universe has decided I am stronger than I think or just not worth worrying about.

I love my husband of 49.5 years... I really do! And somedays I have to tell myself that out loud. He is great at editing my Christmas newsletter filled with all our brags for the year. He is great at giving me a definition of a word when I come across something I am reading in a paper book. He knows history, chemistry, and biology and explains stuff to me.  He remembers the names of people I have long forgotten.  He is the social animal that keeps me from being a hermit.

BUT...he does not know how to use a computer. I will never understand how he got through decades of bureaucracy using computers when he does not understand the difference between save and save as, the difference between Adobe files and Powerpoint files, how to connect his laptop to the Internet when the signal gets dropped, or the difference between a browser and an operating system!

He is a (very) friendly soul and when someone asks if he will give a talk using Powerpoint slides he jumps right in (he loves to expound). I groan inwardly as this means hours ahead for me helping him find lost photos, lost files and various saved versions of the slide show as he plunders ahead.   I wish I was a more patient person.  I have taught all age groups in my lifetime and did not find it so frustrating as I do with him.  While I did not teach computers, except briefly to my son's high school teachers, I think  I would have done well.

I will try to be more understanding as he does get frustrated with himself.  Will you all light a candle this season for our silly problem?

Saturday, December 07, 2019

The Wind Up

The world revolves too fast these days, at least for me it does. I am holding my own, but I think we are like those Afghanistan wealthy citizens that hung out at bars and restaurants before the war many years ago.  We can bury ourselves in the fun and craziness of life while a storm builds in the distance. Something big and loud is coming that will make our hair stand on end.

I am back from our quick jaunt south with the family for Thanksgiving.  It was fun, but as my prior post indicated, it was a rush job.  We said goodbye to them at the airport and then drove north to visit our friends for a few days and then a retreat for just us at our local timeshare.  The place was all decorated.

The beaches were so peacefully empty and the cold was very tolerable.

I finally had time to just breathe.  Now I have to pull our small Christmas tree out of a box and decorate the living room so we have a little bit of holiday before it rushes by so fast.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

A Post Thanksgiving Post

It is an odd day as I sit only 200 yards from a white sandy beach and a tropical ocean. The beach has been re-created by man and is soft and mushy. It is surrouned by concrete cubes of architecture that block the sun by 2:00 in the afternoon.  Like migrating birds this sends all the beached whales that had flopped on towels around the pool inside to other activities. All around are people having too much fun. Lots of curvy skin (those large cheeks of tanned cellulite are really distracting) and their shiny gold bracelets demand respect as their bleached locks with streaks of carnival red are intriguing. The music is loud, the children are hyped, the drinks flow freely and I am feeling lost on an alien planet bracing my feet in the event that there  is a black hole sucking up ahead.

At least a third of the partcipants at sun and surf are well- toned runners with  phones  strapped  to  their arms and  water bottles  in hand as they gazelle along the beachwalk and weave past the rare homeless  man whose bicycle is piled with stuff.

The last of the group are elders like us who trod and plod from one gift shop to one restaurant and finally back to our beach chairs with some beach  drink in hand and a good book tucked under our arms.

I am here with grands who never leave the pool except to visit the hot tub or run in the surf and then back to the pool.  I exchange less than three words with them during the day, because when they return to the bedroom they focus on small screens snapchatting with friends back home.  Snapchat is  a  frightening way to communicate, I am thinking, but I am old, what the hell do I know?

We go with hubby to visit the home he left over a half century ago and oddly enough the house next door had younger (now old  and retired) neighbors that remember him from past visits! We talk about the history of  the neighborhood and are surprised  that while people have  passed and new people moved in,  it has not changed much  in culture or  architecture. 

Later in the afternoon we all tried to find the  gravesites of the great grands wandering  over the cemetary reading plot after  plot,  but with the cemetary offices closed on  TG day we will  have to do ask them directly another day.

Our meal on the holiday is an extensve buffet of TG favorites at some famous chef's restaurant,  and although it is expensive,  it is  really delicious.  No leftovers to take  home, though.

The crazy week comes to an end tonight and we drive back north and visit friends in Central Florida for a few days while the kids all fly home.  Then by mid-week we return to the land of  wintry storms and cozy fires. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

A Perspective and Farewell to China

Our last two nights were spent in Hong Kong. It was a very quick visit and my part was cut in half as the second day I skipped the bus tour due to a mild intestinal issue. By early afternoon I was fine, but the tour had departed early morning! The point I am making is that my view of Hong Kong was very limited. It is a huge and magical city with so much to see! So much was not seen and certainly worth a return trip someday. 

This is a lengthy post so grab a cuppa.

We arrived by train which is a much better way to transition into another area of a country and to give some perspective. Locals traveling with us were in a pretty good mood, so I am guessing they were on holiday. Our train, not the famous bullet train, went very fast and extremely smoothly through the countryside.

We had been provided lunch by our guide, but the train also had lovely ladies coming through with hot and cold items.  Click on photos for larger view as usual.

Our train actually got up to 308 km which is over 191 miles per hour.  Not a single shake or ear pop or even much increase in noise!

We crossed rice fields as we left Guilin, the karst area of southern China.

And in a couple of hours after two stops we were entering the Hong Kong District, one country and two governments.  

Now for a brief history and essential rant.  They have another few years before they are supposed to be totally melded into mainland China rules and laws.  If you are following the protests closely, you know that the young people are willing to die to prevent this, and I am afraid this may happen!  I am guessing they remember Hong Kong's form of democracy based on the British rule.  If you want to know how all this started in 2014 you can go to this or this link and read the history.  It is complicated but seems to have begun with the disappearance of a number of booksellers in Hong Kong who sold books critical of the mainland government, which was legal to criticize your government as Hong Kong had freedom of the press.  A few managers of the bookstore called wives from mainland China saying they were on business for some time and to excuse their sudden disappearance.  They all never came back. Governments that are fascist are good at making citizens disappear or putting them in jail under false accusations and suppressing freedom of the press by claiming it is false news rather than bringing facts to argue...sound familiar?  You cannot rule with an iron fist if the press spews out facts against you. 

If you are following the U. S. impeachment hearings the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was told she had better watch her back when she said to her supervisors that she was confused by Guiliana's work in Ukraine without him going through normal channels ...she received vague threats with no specific comments on how she could improve doing her job.  This is what mobsters do.  (Those two Russian/Americans, friends of this U.S. administration, that were arrested at an airport with one-way tickets out of the country a while back, were involved in this false effort.)

This year mainland China stated they were going to extradite people who had been arrested and send them to the mainland for trial. That set off a major eruption of protestors.  There are rumors that some mainland Chinese are being paid to enter Hong Kong and incite more violent protests to make the real protestors look like terrorists.  Also, mainland soldiers are now being stationed at the border.  History in the making is breathtaking. 

OK, now back to my trip.  In just a little while we crossed closer to the water and began to see the industrial shipping areas that Hong Kong is famous for.  They used to be the number one port on the globe, but now they are 4th with other mainland China ports being more active and bringing in more money.

Can you see the high rises in the distance across the suspension bridge?

In no time we were into the city of high rises and gleaming buildings. There were just a dozen of us that took this extended tour and we were amazed at how the two luggage porters could accommodate those of us (NOT ME!) who had to have tons of luggage with them.

Once again lots of high rises where people live!

Below are two photos of the central promenade which we walked to from our hotel, once we got settled. Earlier protests had occurred here although we saw no damage. At the time we were there most protests were happening on the weekend and we did not see any part of it. The University is a bit of a distance from here as well.  You can see local tourists below.

Our guide was barely subdued in his anger at the protestors and how they were pushing Hong Kong into a recession.  He said that the hotel rooms were now going for 1/3 of their usual prices making people who lived there say it was cheaper than their rent.  Since he made his living in the tourist industry, it clearly impacted his earnings.  That is the cost of freedom.  What is freedom worth?

Well, I do hope someday to return to Hong Kong and see a much more in-depth tour of the city.  I may have a friend moving there for the U.S. government in the coming year, so maybe I will go visit them!  Thanks for reading all the way to the end, and now you can reheat your tea.