The day before Christmas when I picked up our mail, a delightful surprise was waiting for me. I found a Christmas card and ornament in my mailbox from Antigoni of Antigoni's Diary. Thank you my dear friend. It is proudly displayed on the tree. I can't tell you enough how much I appreciated your gift, and both card and ornament will be treasured always.
If you've been looking at my blog for a while, you may have seen the occasional post of my Teddy Bear collection. They don't appear that often as I haven't bought any for a long time now, but occasionally I am given one that is welcomed as part of the Teddy Bear family and it is just as treasured. I don't think the boys will be interested in this post, but maybe some fellow bear lovers/collectors. If you're interested in the other posts, you can click on the label "Teddy Bears" below this post to see others I have shared. The one of note below is my all-time favorite, the one-eyed teddy bear given to me by my Mum and Dad when I was a year old. Believe me, he's been around for a LONG time!
From another teddy bear lover.
Below there are new additions, the three on the front left were given to me by Celia this past summer on one of our trips down to Virginia Beach. I love them and you can probably see why. I also love my blue-striped sock elephant, honorary teddy bear family member. He was given to me by my dear son. The honorary teddy bear white reindeer was given to me by friend Jackie on our last get-together with the girls and I'm happy he's joined us.
Another view in which you can see a few other Christmas decorations, the woodland Santa on the right which was a gift from Gregg's sister a few years ago, love him! He comes out every December, as do the angels. The little bear angel with the pretty pink dress holding a garland of stars was given to me by Celia last year.
Above and below are the same bears with just a closer view.
My navy bear and others. Gregg was in the navy which including his years at the Annapolis Navy Academy was over 20 years, so of course when I saw this lovely guy about ten years ago, I had to add him to the family.
Last night Gregg and I attended a performance given by The Vienna Boys Choir. I have been listening to them my whole life and when I learned that they were coming to the Hylton Theater Performing Arts Center in Manassas, I couldn't wait to snap up a couple of tickets. The place was sold out and we both thoroughly enjoyed our evening and judging by the standing ovation at the end, so did the rest of the audience.
I thought I would share a little of their history as written in the pamphlet we were given. The photo above came off the theater web site.
"Boys have been singing at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor since the early 15th century. In 1498, more than half a millennium ago, Emperor Maximilian I moved his court and his court musicians to Vienna. He gave instructions that there were to be six singing boys among his musicians. Historians have settled on 1498 as the foundation date of the Vienna Hofmusikkapelle and - in consequence - the Vienna Boys Choir. Until 1918, the choir sang exclusively for the imperial court, at mass, at private concerts and functions, and on state occasions."
You can read the rest of their biography here if you would like to learn more, and I found the following on YouTube.
On our way back home I took a few photos of the holiday lights in the neighborhood.
It's been a week of shopping, writing out Christmas Cards, wrapping up parcels for loved ones, standing in line at the post office to mail them off and chatting to the nice Indonesian gentleman about his trip back home and who has been working there every since I moved here 20 years ago, visiting friends, having friends visit me, and getting the house ready for company next week. I was late decorating the Christmas Tree but that's all done now. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
This is a Broad-winged Hawk, another raptor I got the chance to take photographs of last month. You can hear what he sounds like if you click here.
It is described as a small, stocky bird with a body size from 13 to 17 inches (34 to 44 centimetres) in length, and weighing anywhere from 9.3 to 20 ozs. (265 to 560 grams). As with most raptors, females are slightly larger than males. Broad-winged Hawks have relatively short and broad wings, pointed at the end, which have a tapered appearance unique to the species. It can grow a wingspan of 32 to 39 inches (81 to 100 centimetres).
Adult bodies are a dark brown with a white belly and chest containing horizontal barring. While their tail can be a dark grey-black with white lines along the middle, base and tip. The young hawks have a slightly different coloring with more white and longitudinal barring instead of horizontal barring.
There are two types of coloration, a dark morph with fewer white areas and a light morph that is more pale overall. The light morph of this bird is most likely to be confused with the Red-shouldered Hawk, but they have a longer, more heavily barred tail and wings, with a solid rufous color in the adult which are usually distinctive. Rare dark morphs are a darker brown on both upperparts. Drk-morph Short-tailed Hawks are similar but are whitish under the tail, with a single subterminal band.
The Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) is a small hawk of the genus Buteo. During the summer some subspecies are distributed over eastern North America, as far west as British Columbia and Texas. They then migrate south to winter in the neotropics from Mexico down to southern Brazil. Other subspecies are all-year residents on Caribbean islands.
Although the Broad-winged Hawk's numbers are relatively stable, populations are declining in some parts of its breeding range because of forest fragmentation.
These birds will have only one mate during the breeding season, possibly because the male also helps a small amount with the upbringing of the chicks. They will breed anywhere between April and August starting when they are two years old. To attract and court females the males will do a flight display including cartwheels, dives and other aerial acrobatics. The birds meet in the air hooked together by their talons and spiral down together. They will also compete and fight with other males for the chance to mate with a female. If one of the males is successful, the mating pair will have only one brood per season consisting of one to four eggs.
Both the male and female will build the nest out of sticks and twigs in a deciduous tree before the eggs are to be laid. Once they are though, the brown-spotted eggs are usually 1.9 x 1.5 inches (49 by 39 millimetres) and weigh about 1.5 oz. (42 grams). The female will then develop a brood patch and incubate the eggs for 28 days or longer before they hatch. The hatchlings will appear semi-altricial; incapable of any complex coordination but have open eyes and are covered with down feathers. (Altricial means 'requiring nourishment' and refers to a pattern of growth and development in organisms which are incapable of moving around on their own soon after hatching or being born. The word is derived from the Latin root alere meaning 'to nurse, to rear, or to nourish', and refers to the need for young to be fed and taken care of for a long duration.)
Chicks will have rapid body growth until they are almost at adult body size, at which time they are capable of walking, flying and eating without parental help. While in the nest the female gives most of the parental care, protecting and taking care of the chicks. It is not unusual to have the male provide some food for the female and offspring, but his visits are short lived. Once a prey item is obtained for the nest, the female will tear off pieces and will feed the chicks till they are able to rip meat off on their own. Often the chicks will fight for possession of the offered morsel, the younger ones usually losing and not getting enough. Broad-winged Hawks will protect their nests in a show of agression (i.e. diving and chasing) towards any suspected threat, but they generally will not make physical contact. Predators of eggs and nestlings includes raccoons, crows, porcupines and American Black Bears, and adults have been known to fall to Great Horned Owls and Bald Eagles. It will take the hatchlings five to six weeks before they are able to leave the nest. Some young even after that time will remain in the area of the nest for several weeks more
Eureka! I have just joined the ranks of learning how to put a video on my blog again. It's been a long time and I am keeping my fingers crossed that this will work. It is one out of my archives, of several seals on the beach at La Jolla in California back in September 2010. There is a bit of a squiggle at the end where I forgot to turn my camera off, you'll hear me for a few seconds and fortunately you don't get a long bumpy ride before I realize I still have my camera on!
Please double-click on the video to enlarge it to your screen.
My thanks must go to the Crafty Gardener in Ontario, Canada whose post I read here about uploading a video to YouTube. I had tried to do this once before quite a while back, when the old way of uploading to blogger didn't work anymore. After reading CG's post I tried again, with a little more patience than I had that other time apparently, and was successful.
For other seal photos that I have taken, you can click on the tag below this post, entitled 'seals'.
For our family out in North Dakota, for our Loved Ones who are no longer with us and who dedicated their lives to their families and to their homesteads and farms, and for everyone who has worked the land, this is dedicated to you.
You may need to enlarge this to see the words more clearly.
I'm as usual taking photos of seagulls but Gregg has his eye on other things and all the other photos are his.
There were people jumping up in the air and he was trying to figure out what they were doing.
After looking at the photos on the computer at the end of the day, I suggested maybe a family Christmas Card? There was a lady taking their photographs and we watched as it took many 'takes' to get just one perfect shot. Those guys did a lot of jumping up and down while we were watching them, but they all looked like they were having a lot of fun doing it.
Even a UFO made it in Gregg's picture.....
After a few moments all the picture taking was done, or so they thought. Gregg spotted a future trapeze artist? A jet pilot? Whatever profession she might have one day, Daddy was throwing her high up in the air and she was loving it.
Phew!!! I'm glad she made it safely back into Daddy's arms. We could hear her squealing with delight all the way back to the boardwalk.
A windy, cold and rainy day here in northern Virginia.....
and thought a hot soup to put on the table was in order, which I found here. It's called a Victory Vegetable Soup but has meat added to it. We all probably have our favorite veggie soup recipes but I'm always looking for variety and this one turned out great.
Beef and Vegetable Soup
1 pkg. soup bones
1 lb. or more stewing beef, cut into small cubes
1 small onion
1 teaspoon or more salt and pepper to taste
1 large can tomatoes
6 springs parsley or flakes
2 cups chopped cabbage
1 package mixed frozen vegetables
1/2 package frozen okra
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 cup diced potatoes
3 quarts cold water
Put stewing beef, beef bones and onion in the 3 quarts of cold water. Add salt. Cover and cook slowly for two hours. Add vegetables and cook 1 hour longer. If using whole canned tomatoes break them up with a spoon, so that they will mix evenly into the soup.
Result: This makes a great tasting soup. Both Gregg and I thought it was delicious. We ate it again for supper tonight and when I suggested freezing the rest, he said let's leave it out, that he could eat this until its all gone. So, we have a winner.
You can obviously use any of your favorite vegetables, fresh or frozen, in case you think any of these choices are one of the 'dastardly' veggies.
For the soup bones I actually used marrow bones.
I also used Hunts mini-diced canned tomatoes.
I looked for fresh okra but the produce manager said he hadn't seen any in quite a while, so I bought it from the frozen section. I cannot remember the last time I used okra, but along with the cabbage this was a request from Gregg. He likes the nutty taste of it but to tell you the truth I couldn't taste it at all and thought it rather bland. But as the soup was full of flavor and I loved the taste of all the other vegetables, I didn't notice it much.
I use organic and natural foods as much as possible. I was at the post office the morning I intended to fix the soup and next door is Trader Joe's. I bought a packet of their frozen mixes of carrots, peas, corn and cauliflower which I used for my choice of frozen vegetables.
We both love potatoes, so I added a couple of extra cups of diced.
I topped it with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.
I also had some Kerrigold Herb and Garlic Butter which I spread lightly on slices of a crusty loaf of bread from Wegman's. I grated Parmesan over the slices and broiled them in the oven. It makes a great garlic bread.
More photos from our trip to Virginia Beach. I have never seen horse rides on the beach before, again at the latter part of the year when the main tourists have been and gone. The organizers seemed pretty busy, plenty of customers on such a warm, sunny day.
You can see the metal detector guys on the left of the photo below - there were a lot of those on the beach that day. I wonder if anyone found someone's lost piece of jewelry, a ring or bracelet, a watch maybe, some other trinket of value? Gregg says he's going to buy one of those things when he retires. Me? I'll be on that boat cruising along the beach, oh yes, now that sounds very nice. Or maybe we'll be in the wilderness on our mountain top? Oooooooooooo, oooo, oo, oooooo!!!!