Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Watery Wednesday

Thank you 2sweetnsaxy of Eyes Mind Heart for creating and hosting Watery Wednesday. You can visit by clicking on the button above to either share your own photos or just enjoy looking at others from around the world.

These photos were taken while on a boat off shore looking back at Waikiki in Oahu, Hawaii at the end of last year.

This beautiful pink building is The Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC

Thank you Klaus, Sandy, Ivar, Wren, Fishing Guy and Louise for hosting My World. You can visit by clicking on their icon below.

It won't be long before the start of The Cherry Blossom Festival. We missed it last year but hopefully for this one we will be able to get down there and see them in all their glory. I took the photo a few years ago when they weren't quite in full bloom. You can just make out the shape of the Jefferson Memorial in the background. The other two photos were taken in a different area when the cherry blossoms were a little further along.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival annually commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, honoring the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and celebrating the continued close relationship between our two cultures.

In a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. In 1915, the United States Government reciprocated with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan. A group of American school children reenacted the initial planting in 1927 and the first "festival” was held in 1935, sponsored by civic groups in the Nation’s Capital.

First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted 3,800 more trees in 1965. In 1981, the cycle of giving came full circle. Japanese horticulturists were given cuttings from our trees to replace some cherry trees in Japan which had been destroyed in a flood.

The Festival was expanded to two weeks in 1994 to accommodate a diverse activity schedule during the trees’ blooming. Today, more than a million people visit Washington, DC each year to admire the blossoming cherry trees and attend events that herald the beginning of spring in the Nation’s Capital.

The Festival looks forward to celebrating the centennial anniversary of the gift of trees in 2012 and is planning spectacular events to mark this historic and special occasion.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Today's Flowers

Thank you Luiz Santilli Jr. who created Today's Flowers, and to you again along with Denise B. Castro and Laerte Pupo, all who help to bring this ever popular meme to us weekly. Please click on the icon above to see beautiful flowers from all over the world, or join in the fun by posting your own. The link opens every Sunday from 7.00 p.m. (GMT)

I bought a bouquet of Iris, Hyacinth and Wax flowers to take photographs of for this week's post.

Lunch with Friends

Yesterday I had lunch with friends. These are the ladies I go to the opera with every month and we occasionally get together inbetween times. I met them through work. We're all British and over the last five years have become very close. Carol who is Scottish invited us to her place and she put on a really delicious meal. She has a lovely home and was very gracious in allowing me to take a few photos. I didn't feel too intrusive as her husband Don was taking photos also. I asked if he felt a little outnumbered. He kept in the background but popped in every now and again to help clear up dishes and I could hear him washing up while Carol stayed with us. What a super man! His jokes about overhearing the subjects we were talking about were very funny. I told him he would just have to put his hands over his ears. We told him to come and join us but he stayed well clear, smart man!

Their fireplace was roaring. It felt very cozy sitting next to it.

I loved the reflection of the lamp in the mirror.

Carol has a collection of dolls and one of them was in this lovely cradle. It's actually a reproduction made by a lady she met at a craft fair a few years before. It's a very solid and beautifully made piece. I wish I had taken a better angle.
The dining table was set beautifully but before we sat down we talked while sipping on Formosa's and nibbling on fresh strawberries, cheese straws and a spinach mixture wrapped in phyllo dough.
Of course I had to take a photo of her flower arrangement, and even though it was cold and rainy outside it was very spring-like inside.
Here we are, left to right: Kathy, Me, Hazel, Anne, Jackie and Carol.

Our sumptuous meal, leg of lamb, roasted asparagus, a corn casserole, potatoes, mint sauce and port wine gravy.
I had to go back for the port wine gravy.

Dessert was a poached pear with raspberry sorbet and raspberry sauce. We were all taking mental notes and asking questions about the whole meal.
This is Anne. I was trying for an 'artsy' shot.

I saved the Chickadee nest!!! Yes I am patting myself on the back but I noticed movement on this tree stump outside. As everyone was chatting I saw this very active little Chickadee and the more I looked the more interested I became. This little bird was inside a hole in the stump and when he came out he had what looked like bits of frayed wood in its beak. He was making a hole for a nest and all throughout the meal he would fly off but come back again. I didn't know Chickadees built nests in the trunk of trees. I thought that was a woodpecker's job. The tree was going to be cut down by Don the next day as it is a dead tree but now Carol won't let him and she thanked me profusely for noticing what was going on. I got a look from Don but it was all in jest as he wouldn't cut it down knowing there would be a new family taking up residence next to their window. I didn't have my close-up camera but you can just see the busy home-maker on the top of the trunk in the middle of the picture.

We had a great time and left after finishing off with coffee and biscotti. I ate so much that I didn't have to have dinner that evening. I waddled out of Carol's like a penguin saying to myself that Monday is coming and that's my reminder to 'be good'.

A visit with George!

Actually, a visit with his statue over at George Mason University. Our future daughter-in-law was performing in an opera at the Harris Theatre and I took these photos on our way from the parking lot to the theatre. It was the first time that we had heard Lisa sing in a solo and she has a beautiful voice. She and all the other performers excelled themselves. It was a very enjoyable evening.

George Mason (1725 - 1792) was an American patriot, statesman and delegate from Virginia and along with James Madison he is called the "Father of the Bill of Rights" and is considered one of the founding fathers of the United States.

Friday, March 27, 2009

SkyWatch Post

My SkyWatch post with appropriate links can be found here.

Camera Critters

Camera Critters is another wonderful meme hosted by Misty Dawn. You can find other critter photos by clicking on the icon above. Thank you Misty.

Remember .......?
Hush little baby, don’t say a word,
Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.
And if that mockingbird don’t sing,
Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.
This traditional American lullaby refers to the fact that Northern Mockingbirds were once popular as pets. President Thomas Jefferson had a pet mockingbird named Dick.
The Mockingbird is a medium-sized songbird – 9 to 11 inches - with a long tail. It is grey on the top of its body and white below and has two white wing bars. Large white patches show on the wings while in flight and it has white outer tail feathers.
Their nest is an open cup, the base of which is dead twigs built mainly by the male. The lining of the nest is made up of grasses added by the female and is usually less than 10 feet from the ground in shrubs.

There are usually two to six bluish or greenish white colored eggs with brownish markings. Incubation is by the female only and takes from 12 to 13 days. The fledglings are fed by both parents from 12 to 15 days and they can have two or three broods per year.

In the United States, Mockingbirds are the State bird for Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.

Another well-known song I found on YouTube.

Navy Bean Soup

Gregg has two favororite meals that he grew up with. One was - and is - Boiled Ham and Cabbage and the other is Navy Bean Soup. He has another favorite, Tapioca Pudding. His Mom, Bea was a great cook and always made him ham and cabbage on his birthday with the pudding for dessert, and after she used to make her Navy Bean Soup with the ham bone. Gregg just had a birthday and not to flaunt tradition I made him his favorite dishes. I am sharing the recipe for the soup here. I don't have one for the others as the ham and cabbage is just thrown together into the pot and the tapioca pudding has the recipe on the side of the box.

Take l lb. of navy beans, put them in a strainer and rinse under cold water, picking out any bits of grit or dark beans. Pour the beans into a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Put back into the strainer and rinse again.

To the saucepan add the beans, one finely chopped yellow onion, 6 peeled whole cloves of garlic, 3 grated carrots, two diced ribs of celery and a large meaty ham bone. Cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer for about two hours.

Take the bone out of the pot, remove any meat and cut into small bite-sized pieces. Put the meat back into the pot and discard the bone. Season to taste. I use our family favorite - I will always thank my Mother-in-Law for telling me about Lawry's Seasoned Salt and Pepper - and voila, Navy Bean Soup to enjoy with lots of left overs unless an army is turning up for dinner.

Note: only one Batman band-aid was used in making this soup.
Word of caution: don't try to grate every last little nub of carrot okay? And most definitely don't grate as fast as I was grating, or at least stay away from the coffee beforehand, otherwise you might find yourself grating your knuckle! Instead, STOP when you have about an inch of carrot left and treat yourself to a nice healthy snack. BETTER STILL, use the food processor. Mine wore out and I never replaced it. I'm going to try and be a good girl this year and my grated knuckle and I will be asking Santa for one next Christmas.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Purple day – support epilepsy awareness

Thanks to Daryl over at Out and about in New York City I learned that today is Support Epilepsy Awareness Day. I am dedicating this post to Michele over at Rocky Mountain Retreat Photography who herself is an inspiration to all of us.
Everyone is asked to wear purple to support epilepsy awareness. Purple Day was started by nine year old Cassidy Meagan of Nova Scotia, Canada in 2008 to help increase awareness about epilepsy world wide. If you want to learn more about epilepsy please click here for the Purple Day site.

SkyWatch Friday

My thanks to the Skywatch team for bringing this fun meme to us weekly. You can see other photos if you click on the icon above.

I reached into my archives for this week's contribution. We vacationed in the northwest several years ago and the photo above is looking up at the Space Needle in Seattle. The one below is on the ferry traveling from Canada back to the US.

These photos aren't the best quality as they are scans of old 'film' and the quality is better when not enlarged this time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Downy Woodpecker

I couldn't figure out what this little woodpecker was doing the other day. I spotted him clinging onto the rail and he stayed there for at least ten minutes or so with very little movement in all that time, almost as if he was asleep but his eyes were open. Was he hiding from a hawk or just taking a well-deserved rest? He would have been hidden from the sky by the slightly overhanging top rail. I settled in with a cup of tea in hand enjoying his company, until I turned my head and when I looked back he was gone, just like that. A very comfortable interlude with my little Downy Woodpecker.

What I read on line: This bird nests in a hole the adults make in a tree, has a long, barbed tongue and sticky, glue-like saliva, which help it catch insects, lives year-round across much of the United States, and is the most common woodpecker in eastern North America

Only 15 to 17 cm long, the Downy Woodpecker is very small compared to most North American woodpeckers. Its contrasting black and white plumage gives it a formal tuxedo like appearance.

The short, straight, chisel-like bill is especially suited for probing for insects and insect larvae, and for chipping a cavity for a nest site.

The adult male sports a red patch on the back of his head.

Downy Woodpeckers are cavity nesters. The female usually selects the nest site in a dead tree or branch. Excavation of the cavity, however, is mostly accomplished by the male. From 3 to 6 eggs are laid in the cavity nest, and hatch in just under two weeks. Fledged young stay with the adults for the first few weeks. More than one brood may be raised in a breeding season.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Watery Wednesday

Thank you 2sweetnsaxy of Eyes Mind Heart for creating and hosting Watery Wednesday. You can visit by clicking on the button above to either share your own photos or just enjoy looking at others from all over.

This unfortunately is not part of my garden - how I wish. I discovered it during our last vacation.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My World Tuesday

Thank you Klaus, Sandy, Ivar, Wren, Fishing Guy and Louise for hosting My World. You can visit this wonderful meme by clicking on their icon below.

I thought I would combine my love of bird life for this week's entry as it is indeed very much a part of 'my world'. You will often find me peering through my curtains with my camera at the ready when birds are at the feeders. Lately I have been giving them speech, and as I have this particular 'problem', the two subjects seemed to go hand in hand. I always have to be fast as these pretty birds don't stay around for long.

The idea for this post was borrowed from that lovely line,

"I don't have a short attention span, oh look a kitty!"


Another favorite quote:

"A fellow with the inventiveness of Albert Einstein but with the attention span of Daffy Duck."

Tom Shales, American Critic