Monday, July 31, 2017

JULY HAPPENINGS


It was a very busy month for us.  We took a break from our painting projects to welcome Bill, who is a relative of mine (fifth cousin twice removed) who found Gregg on Ancestry.Com, and they have been keeping in touch for two years now.  Many of you know all about him as I have been documenting our time together.  


Bill was heading over here for a Lion's Convention in Chicago, also visiting cousins on the West Coast and here on the East Coast.  We invited him to stay with us, and we had a wonderful ten days getting to know each other, showing him the sights.  It all seemed to go very quickly, and in no time at all we were taking him back to the airport in Richmond, for his early morning flight, leaving home at 3.00 a.m. on the 16th July.  At 83 he was off on one more stop in the US, two more stops in Great Britain, one more stop in another country before getting back home to New Zealand.  We can't tell you how impressed we were at his get-up-and-go.  A good role model for sure.  You can click on the label, Bill's Visit_Arrived 7-5-17, below this post to see all the photos I shared.  


A few days later we were taking our son and daughter-in-law to the airport, in Baltimore this time, at around the same time.  They were going to their annual vacation in San Diego, to attend four days at ComiCon, with a couple of days looking around after that had finished.  We lived vicariously through their adventures.


Driving back from that first trip, as the freeway was super heavy, the GPS directed us through Washington DC.  The sun was rising and it was such a beautiful time of the day to see the city.  


(Here they are with Andy Serkis, a talented actor I first heard about from the Lord of the Rings movies and who now plays Caesar in Planet of the Apes.  He made the rounds after midnight and said hello to all the fans who were camped out waiting to get into Hall H the next day.  Our son and daughter-in-law took their turn keeping spaces open for a group of friends.  Everyone took their turn saving a space and apparently this is a very acceptable practice with the hundreds of people who camp out overnight.)


(Our son with the rapping stormtrooper.  They saw oodles of panels from movies and TV shows in Hall H.)

(They had a blast.)

We repeated the trip to Baltimore just over a week later to pick them up.  They caught the red-eye from San Diego, and we again left at 3.00 a.m. to be in time to pick them up.  It was fun to see what was going on at that time of the day.



Baltimore Airport was hopping.  I was really surprised at how many people were checking in for flights.  Soon after arriving at the gate we greeted our Darlings.  


I had remembered to bring pillows for the back seat and they were welcomed gratefully.  It was fun chatting to them about their trip, the people they had met and it was a very successful holiday. 

  
We made three significant purchases this week. Gregg has been talking about getting bicycles.  I was rather luke warm on the idea, still am truth be told.  The thought makes me very nervous.  Yes I am a nervous nelly (that's for Gregg's benefit).


When we were first married we had bikes and rode them everywhere.  I often used mine to go to the local shopping mall on my own (I used bike paths and didn't have to worry too much about traffic).  I refused to drive a car for that first year I was in the country, having ended up on the wrong side of the road one very dark night.  I came from a village, quiet country lanes and the towns weren't that busy either.  Won't go into any more details other than that was it! 


We would often go into Washington DC, cycling around the monuments and riding along the C & O Canal.  Sometimes we parked in one of the Pentagon parking lots (Gregg worked there for the first two years of our marriage), where we rode across the Memorial bridge into the city.  

Yes I have wonderful memories from our rides in Washington DC, but these are 41 year old memories, and I have been dragging my heels on this new idea.  I am no spring chicken and have a hard time with aching joints, violins playing?  But Gregg has been coaxing me along, saying it would be a great way to get some exercise and I can't argue with that.  



I had agreed that we would go into the city again, after much coaxing, where we would rent a couple of bicycles.  We even bought two bicycle helmets last week.  It has taken me a while to get to this point.


On Sunday we took a friend over to our pasty shop in Vienna.  Whenever my Brit friends come over,  we make our way there for a few nostalgia goodies. It is a British shop and the Union Jack flies outside.  I had forgotten there was a bike store right next door.  Gregg meandered over and he had his eye on one that was on sale but it was too high for him.  


Thankfully the salesman agreed with me and directed him to another. They are holding it until he can go back to pick it up.  We will be having to purchase a bike rack.  

So, there you go, the die is cast, and I suppose an electric bike is next because I told him there was no way my knees could handle a regular bike, thinking it would get me out of this whole thing, but he said, "You need an electric bike" so that ploy didn't work either.  I told him to get a whole lot of bubble wrap for me  as not having been on a bike for 40 years, I was going to need it.  Stay tuned!


As I mentioned, one of my friends stayed the night on Saturday.  We met up with another friend that day.  We all live several miles apart now, and I live in the middle.  So, with one friend staying the night, the two of us drove to see our other friend who treated us out to lunch.  



We went back to her house for a delicious dessert and a cup of tea, along with a wonderfully long natter.  It had been several weeks since the last time we had gotten together and we had a lot of catching up to do.  


The two of us left our friend and drove home. It took us about an hour-and-a-half and it goes through the prettiest countryside. A couple of days earlier I had come across a British TV comedy/drama called 'The Durrell of Corfu'. I subscribe to Amazon Prime and the first season is part of the subscription. It is about a widow who basically has had enough and takes her four very self-absorbed children to the Greek Island. It is a great show and we both enjoyed it very much. The day after I introduced Gregg to it, and was very happy when he started laughing. What a great show!  Has anyone out there seen it, and if so what do you think? 


  We had a lovely long conversation with my niece in Germany, whom I have mentioned many times before.  This is my sister's daughter and we have been close to her ever since she was a baby. We may have a lot of miles between us, but we have gotten together as often as we could, with her Dad also, and there's much contact with Skype and Facetime, and even texting.   We are sowing the seeds for getting together, there is a holiday in our future.  Can't wait!

That's what has been going on during the past month.  July has been a month of visiting with family members and close friends.  

I'll finish off by saying that the weather has not exactly been colder, but cooler than the 90s we have been experiencing.  For the next ten days it won't get up that high, supposedly in the low 80s a week from now.  The humidity has been a lot better too.   We turned off the air-conditioning yesterday and had the windows open overnight.  It was heavenly.  

Good bike riding weather Gregg has just said laughing.  I won't tell you what I said but at least I am smiling.




(All my bicycle photos were from Pixababy.com)

MONDAY RECIPE POST - RIBEYE STEAK AND SPICY VEGETABLE HASH

Another Blue Apron meal that can be found here, hopefully.  I am still not sure if you have to be a member to access a recipe over there, but here's hoping.



Ribeye Steak and Spicy Vegetable Hash, with Marinated Cucumber

Cooking time: 20 to 30 minutes
Servings: 2
Nutrition: 590 calories

1 Ribeye Steak
2 cloves Garlic
1 Kirby Cucumber
1 Lime
1 Summer Squash
1 Bunch of Cilantro
2 tablespoons Creme Fraiche
1 oz. sliced pickled Jalapeno Pepper
3/4 pound Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 Poblano Pepper

Prepare the ingredients and marinate the cucumber:

Heat a medium pot of salted water to boiling on high.

Wash and dry fresh produce.

Quarter the lime.

Medium dice the potatoes.

Peel the garlic; using the flat side of your knife, gently smash each clove once to flatten (I use a garlic press instead).  

Roughly chop the cilantro leaves and stems.

Medium dice the squash.

Have the cucumber lengthwise; thinly slice crosswise.  Place in a bowl with the juice of 2 lime wedges and a drizzle of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside to marinate, stirring occasionally for at least 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut out and discard the stem, ribs and seeds of the poblano pepper; medium dice.

Roughly chop the jalapeno (the jalapeno came already slice and cooked).

Thoroughly wash your hands, knife and cutting board immediately after handling the peppers.

Cook the potatoes and garlic:

While the cucumber marinates, add the potatoes and garlic to the pot of boiling water.  Cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork.  Turn off the heat.  Drain thoroughly.

Cook the steak:

While the potatoes cook, pat the steak dry with paper towels.  Season with salt and pepper on both sides.  In a large, high-sided pan (or cast iron pan, if you have one) heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot.  Add the seasoned steak and cook 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare, or until browned and cooked to your desired degree of doness.  (I covered the pan with a circle of foil and cooked the steaks for 8 minutes on each side.  It was a thin steak and I don't like mine medium-rare.  More on the well done side but definitely not dry.)  Leaving any browned bits (or fond) in the pan, transfer to a cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes.

Make the sauce:

While the steak cooks, in a bowl combine the creme fraiche, half the cilantro, the juice of the remaining lime wedges, and as much of the jalapeno pepper as you'd like, depending on how spicy you would like the dish to be.  Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Make the hash:

While the steak rests, to the pan of reserved fond, add the cooked potatoes and garlic.  (If the pan seems dry, add 1 tespoon of olive oil.)  Cook on medium-high, without stirring, 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned.  

Add the squash and poblano pepper; season with salt and pepper.  

Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Turn off the heat; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the steak and plate your dish:

Thinly slice your steak across the grain.  Divide the hash and sliced steak between 2 dishes.  Top the steak with the marinated cucumber (including any marinating liquid).

Garnish with the remaining cilantro.

Serve with the sauce on the side and enjoy!







What did we think?  Another winner.  Everything was very good.  The jalapeno sauce was a lovely addition, as was the marinated cucumber.   We added all the jalapeno and didn't find the sauce too hot.  Both were great accompaniment to the main meal.




Sunday, July 30, 2017

A POEM


~The Sun by Mary Oliver~

Have you ever seen anything in your life
more wonderful than the way the sun,
every evening, relaxed and easy, floats towards 
the horizon and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea and is gone ---
and how it slides again out of the blackness, 
each morning, on the other side of the world,
like a red flower streaming upward on 
its heavenly oils, say, on a morning in 
early summer, at its perfect imperial distance ---
and have you ever felt for anything such wild love ---
Do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough for the pleasure
that fills you as the sun reaches out, as it 
warms you as you stand there, empty-handed ---


or have you too turned from the world ---
or have you too gone crazy 
for power, for things?


Friday, July 28, 2017

THE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD

This is an old post that I forgot to publish.  I hope it wasn't a ghost copy or you may have seen these before, keeping fingers crossed.  I was going through a few forgotten drafts when I found it.  These photos were taken in April 2016 at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria.


You can learn more about him here






A couple of collages that I came up with at the time.




Thursday, July 27, 2017

THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL - A 5.8 EARTHQUAKE....

that occurred at 1.51 p.m. on August 23rd, 2011, caused more than $34 million in damage to the Cathedral.   This earthquake was the largest the East Coast had experienced in 115 years.



Pinnacles weighing hundreds and even thousands of pounds came crashing down.  Fortunately most fell inward onto the structure's parapets, instead of outward, where they could have caused serious bodily harm to those who only moments before had been admiring the cathedral from outside, or who were running out of the cathedral as it shook.  



There was a small, fenced off area where some of those fallen pieces were on display, with a description of what was being done.




It reads, "The Earthquake.  On August 23rd, 2011, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake shook the East Coast, causing over $34 million in damage to Washington National Cathedral.  While the Cathedral withstood the quake largely in tact, buttresses cracked, large limestone pinnacles twisted, and hand-carved finials, including these stones, fell.

Work completed.  Through private donations only, the Cathedral was able to raise $10 million in the two years following the earthquake to complete Phase 1 repairs and to restore the interior and provide seismic reinforments and repairs to the 
east end flying buttresses.  This work was completed in June 2015.

Not done yet.  While the Cathedral's interior earthquake damage has been repaired, nearly 87% of the exterior still needs restoration.  In March 2016, we began the first part of Phase 2 earthquake efforts, but we have $22 million left to go.  The remaining work can only be completed as gifts are given by donors, foundations and every day people who join us in renewing this house of prayer for all people."

And then it goes on to give the e-mail address where donations can be arranged.  

I have to confess that we had no idea this much damage had been done to the Cathedral, and that work was an ongoing process after all these years.

  

We had parked in an underground car park not too far away from here.  You can see the glass enclosed elevator shafts on the right of the picture below.




Inside there were other fallen pieces on display...





and on the seventh floor there is a whole exhibit.



































Washington National Cathedral is on Facebook here.





Just for added info, the Washington Monument will be closed indefinitely.  (I read somewhere until 2019.)  It was closed due to damage done in the earthquake and repairs were made.  Additionally its elevators have had numerous problems due to their age and are no longer deemed safe. People are not allowed to use the stairs any more.  Gregg remembers walking to the top when on a school trip to the Nation's Capital in 1961. 


The Washington Monument has a Facebook page which you can see here.





Wednesday, July 26, 2017

BLANKET FLOWERS



A Flower is a Flower

I did not bring you roses
When you searched for something rare,
Instead I brought you daisies
And I hoped you wouldn't care;

And now I look behind me
With a wistful little smile - 
You would have taken dandelions
And loved me all the while.

~Linda Ori~



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

DID I TAKE HIM HOME WITH ME?

Nope, but....


you are never too old to hug a teddy bear.  


My old one is still around but stored away for safe keeping.  Below is an old photo I have shared before, and if you know me from my old blog, maybe you remember the photo.  That bear was a gift from my parents when I was a year old.


Yes, I'm still hugging them, just maybe not quite as often.