Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Day Out in Cherry Blossom Season

Here in the nation's Capitol area one of the big events is the blooming of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin. This is an event laid on for us by Mother Nature and it is always a surprise as to the timing. For 2017 we had a warm February and early March and then , just as the buds were reaching maturity, we had a March snow event. This threw all predictions of peak cherry blossom out the window.

 On Sunday we took a walk through the major cherry blossom area pausing to look at many of the major monuments of Washington DC. The cold weather in the week of March 13 had clearly had an impact on the cherry blossom buds. As you can see above it was a hit or miss result but the "hits" were as lovely as ever.
 We rode the Metro into DC and got off at Smithsonian station and headed down towards the Tidal Basin. One of our early stops afforded us this wonderful view across the Basin and up the hill on the other side with a great view of the Robert E Lee Memorial within the grounds of the Arlington National Cemetery. The area was alive with visitors intent on making the most of their visit...and wasn't it special if you could take a swan boat out onto the basin and pedal round for a time?
 The Jefferson Memorial is a major focus on any trip to the Tidal Basin area. In cherry blossom season an outing here on the weekend is as much about the people you encounter as it is about the cherry blossoms. People are everywhere enjoying the season and moments to capture the beauty of the blossoms have to be carefully sought if they are not to include people in the photographs.
 Those swan boats captured my attention because I do not recall seeing them in earlier seasons. When we walked by the are where the paddle boats for hire are lined up I was entranced by the vision of the sparkling blue boats waiting to go out on the water watched over by one lone swan.
 People watching becomes a major occupation of the day. Cameras (ranging from seriously big cameras to the more likely cellphone selfie approach) are everywhere and I always notice the people who have consciously chosen their apparel to fit the background. Much less common is those who have their hair match the cherry blossom color theme!
 Walking round the Tidal Basin affords many different views and sometimes a well known building will seemingly pop up when you least expect it. e.g. I could have walked right by this spot and not noticed the view of the Capitol if my companion, number one son, had not pointed it out to me.
On the Potomac River side of the basin the crowds seemed to be not as dense. Maybe that was because the sidewalks are much more narrow and the trees are closer to the waters edge. At one point I saw a fellow who was seemingly walking on water; as we got closer it became apparent that it must have been high tide and the water had covered over the sidewalk for a short distance.
 Almost to the end of our walk alongside the water I paused to capture this moment when the Washington Monument was reflecting in the water. But the real question is - just what is that clock tower to the left of the monument?
Turning away from the Basin we got into the serious monument zone. The FDR Memorial covers a very large area and is not much more than 15-20' high so it is hard to get a good photo when the crowds are large. But the newer Martin Luther King Jr Memorial is a massive statement and hard to miss.
 The Korean War Memorial is very poignant with the seemingly life sized portrayal of the American GI's walking through the undergrowth.
 Did you know there is an Einstein Memorial in Washington DC? It is right there on Constitution Avenue in front of the National Academy of Sciences. A major piece of bronze, Einstein measures 21' from the top of his head to the tip of his right foot. Visitors are encouraged to send their "photos with Albert" to instagram and the likes so it was difficult to catch Albert alone.
 By the time we reached this bay of Capital Bikeshare bicycles, adjacent to Albert on Constitution Ave, I was wondering if I would have been able to pedal my way round the route we had walked and felt any less tired. Clearly some people had decided to use this option. But on we walked.
We headed up hill on 23rd Street with the Foggy Bottom Station as our destination. Passing this interesting building, the Pan American Health Organization, had us pause once more to admire the architecture; a circular building with a concrete lattice facade backed up by a taller building with a mostly glazed exterior.
Finally we walked through the campus of the George Washington University on our way to the metro station to carry us back to Virginia.

A great day out!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

We Interrupted the Spring Preview Program to Bring

 Winter!. It finally arrived here on March 14 with the first measurable snow for the winter season.
I thought I might give you a before, during and after to our brush with winter.
 On March 9 the forsythia was out in bloom and branches cut to bring inside needed no forcing.
 Daffodils had begun to bloom in various locations in my garden. This bunch was gathered to bring indoors on March 10 because the weather forecast was for below freezing for several days.
 The weather forecasters were whipping us all into a frenzy with seemingly days of reporting that the storm was on its way and would bring us anywhere from 8" to 14" of snow. Here it was finally beginning to fall around sundown on Monday March 13.
 In preparing for the big storm I felt so sorry for my cherry trees that looked as though they were about to burst forth into full spring bloom. The low temperatures would not be kind to them. I decided to cut a small branch and bring it inside to see if it could be "forced" as forsythia regularly is. As you can see, Tuesday morning required  the snow shoveling crew. In reality we got only about 3" of snow but it was wet, heavy and nasty to shovel. That one little branch from the cherry tree gave us a glimpse of spring and kept our spirits up.
 Once the falling snow stopped I open windows or doors and stepped briefly out to record a few images.
 I had picked daffodils from this location only five days previous.
 As you can see spring had been well on its way and the under-story plants in the woods were already wearing their new green leaves.
 The twig picked in bud on the 13th had opened up to the white blooms by the 17th.
 And, by the 20th that same branch had taken on the mature pink hue.
 Today, the 22nd, is a bright, sunny, blustery day. Those daffodils are once more blooming.
 The cherry tree out front finally had blossoms open up this morning. But as you can see some of the buds have been impacted by the cold weather and will likely not bloom at all.
Nature does give us hope though. Today I found the first buds on the bluebells.You can see that the leaves have been somewhat burnt of the cold winds but the buds are there despite that.

Since the Spring Equinox was this past Monday, March 20 I do so hope we have only spring ahead of us. I was amused to read someone's line wondering if March came in like a lion and out like a lamb or if it was the other way round. Instead, the writer commented, March is more like a kangaroo this year!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Nothing Special Happening Here

Except that I have an hour or so free and decided to finally put a new blog post up.
 Here in the mid-Atlantic region we have been having an unusual winter with very warm temperatures and practically no snow. Last weekend I was out of town and as I drove into the neighborhood on Sunday late afternoon I immediately noticed that the ornamental plum tree in my front garden was awash in pink blooms.The past couple of nights have been not so warm so I decided to cut a small branch to bring inside to enjoy.
 A tomato red bouquet from a few weeks back.
Do you know how many petals a tulip has? That was a question this week at the Trivia night we go to each Wednesday evening. Keep reading to find the answer and see if you would have scored one correct.
 On Valentines Day I had big plans to spend the day photographing various red flowers. Alas, there were other things on the "to do" list but while out on the errands I did get handed this one red carnation so I decided to put it to work as a prop once I got home again.
 I had five lovely red gerbera daisies that I used as my subject for many days.
 The hellebores on the side shade garden stayed resolutely without bloom up until this week. I guess this year they did decide to be a Lenten Rose and not a Christmas Rose or a Winter Rose which are other common names for them.
 Tuesday was Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. The in-house chef came right in from the office , cast off his jacket and tie, and mixed up the ingredients for some very tasty crepes. He had two pans going and it was not easy to photograph him as he was constantly pouring and flipping.
 Some of the crepes got turned into dessert with a spread of jam, a roll up and then a garnish of whipped cream with a sprinkle of orange peel and a final dusting of powdered sugar. Delicious!
 This is a different hellebore. I thought I had lost this plant last winter and I was delighted to see it make a comeback this winter. Only one bloom that I can find but it is gorgeous.
This afternoon, having a little time on my hands, I actually took the chance to tie on my own apron and make some oatmeal raisin cookies. Here they are waiting to slide into the oven.
And to close out I have One Last Hurrah from the red gerberas. They should have been tossed out many days ago. When I did remove them from the vase on Wednesday I firstly laid them down on the counter top while I reached for the compost bowl. Then I noticed the wonderful reflection they made in the granite top so could not resist trying to capture that moment. I surely got value out of these red flowers for Valentines Day.

So, how many petals does a tulip have? The correct answer is six. We guessed wrong.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Preserving the Spirit of Christmas on January 6

 Today, whether you think of it as Epiphany, Three Kings Day or Twelfth Night, marks the end of the Christmas season and thus, the end of my Preserving the Spirit of Christmas series. I have had a lot of fun trying to create my posts and I hope you have enjoyed following along.
 Back at the beginning when a list was being made of different things to focus on each day "snowflakes" was written down in the expectation that we would surely have some of them. Last night finally came the prediction of snow - and this morning came the reality of the very light dusting. Not even enough to make a good photograph. Oh well.
 The ornaments on the front porch Christmas tree got changed out in the hope that it can remain out there for a few more weeks yet with a new title of winter tree.
 Downstairs I had to resort to setting up a winter vignette.
 The time for over-indulging in holiday candy is nigh but
 the hot drinks season will continue for a few weeks yet.
It's time to pack away the decorations and tidy up ready to move on to a new topic. What will that be? Maybe we will finally get some snowflakes! Watch this space.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Preserving the Spirit of Christmas on January 2

 On the Eighth Day of Christmas it is New Years Day. From the kitchen we had a very tasty pork roast with apple sauce, risotto and a warm kale salad with sweet potato garnished with pomegranate seeds.
However, this post is intended to be all about what we drink at this festive time of the year. With that in mind you might notice that we had a pleasant pinot noir with dinner.
 Hot cider warms both body and soul and is good for dunking cinnamon pretzels in too.
 Mulled wine was tried at home...alas, no appropriate drinking cups for it
 And again when we were invited out to spend the evening with friends. Note to self, watch out for punch sets at barn sales and second hand stores.
 Around December 25th it was good to sit down for a quiet cup of afternoon tea and the chance to reread some Christmas cards.
 Hot chocolate with all the trimmings - just what you need when the weather turns cold.
And for a cold drink well, you can't beat the Real Thing, available for a short time only in this seasonal can.

The Spirit of Christmas continues.