Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Sunday Five - Five Things It Would Be Fun To Know About You

  1. What is your favorite time of the day? Any special reason? 
  2. Joe or Kamela in 2024? 
  3. What was the last thing you photographed? 
  4. When do you think you will be able to get a COVID vaccine? 
  5. Reading anything interesting? 
My answers:

  1. What is your favorite time of the day? Any special reason?  I am a morning person, just after sunrise, if only it wasn't so early in the morning.  The dawn gives me a clean slate to start over fresh each day, I love the early morning light. 
  2. Joe or Kamela in 2024? Kamela, time for new voices. 
  3. What was the last thing you photographed? Trees with sunlight casting highlights and shadows. 
  4. When do you think you will be able to get a COVID vaccine? I think it is going to be summer for me.  
  5. Reading anything interesting? "The Problem of Alzheimer's" by Dr. Jason Karlawish. It is due to be released in February, I know the author and have an advance copy.  It is EXCELLENT, a history of the illness and the politics of Alzheimer's in Europe and the USA.  Very effective storytelling (yes I am writing a review of it.)
Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Saturday Morning Post - Dyke Marsh in January

Dyke Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is on Virginia side of the Potomac River, about a mile south of Alexandria, Virginia, about 8 miles south of Washington DC.  Since June it has been where I go almost every morning for a nice long walk.  It is good to get out, to move, to think.  I walk in silence. Sometimes thinking about the work of the day, sometimes the troubles of the world, sometimes just how wonderful it is to be out, and moving. The birds far outnumber the people. I like it that way.  There is a constant din of traffic, you can see the hotels and a casino across the river in Maryland. I take an average of 200 photos a week on my walks, mostly with a 70-200mm lens (on an APSC format DSLR) a few of these were done with a 10-20mm lens, I needed a different perspective one morning. If you are in the area, and up for a morning walk, 9 out of 10 days I see one or more eagles.  

I usually only post one or two photos per day, is this too many photos? 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Foodie Friday - Cheese Sauce

 I like cheese, in fact I have seldom met a cheese I didn't like.  I have been known to indulge in the stinkiest of soft cheeses, to sliver parmigiano and eat it, but I was raised on cheddar, american yellow cheddar.  These days I tend toward white cheddars,  most the yellow or orange ones are actually food coloring.  I like them extra sharp and dry.  There are some very good English and Irish ones.  One of the things I make is a basic cheese sauce.  This is something I learned the basics of from my grandmother who couldn't cook. Cabot Creamery in Vermont makes a mass market extraordinarily sharp white cheddar in the USA that is very good quality and affordable (I wish it was a little drier or more crumbly.)  Over the years I have kind of perfected it, but the recipe is very flexible. Very imprecise.  This is more a method than a chemistry formula. It is also really hard to mess up and have it go wrong, if you follow some basic technique. 

Things you will need:

2-3 ounces butter

2 heaping soup spoons of flour

6 to 12 fluid ounces of milk 

Shredded cheese, 4 to 8 ounces.  

You start by making a basic roux, this is butter and flour (I use either all purpose or bread flour, whatever is in front). Put the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add the flour.  As the butter melts whisk in the flour.  You want the flour to cook in the butter (other fats can be used) for at least 2 or 3 minutes for a light roux, in Louisiana cooking, they will turn the heat down to low and cook for 15-20 minutes while it turns tan or light brown.  For a cheese sauce, a light roux is fine.  The cooking changes the flavor profile of the flour.  Add the milk, and stir (I normally use a whisk) on and off over medium high heat for 2 to 5 minutes and this will thicken to a sauce that coats the back of a spoon. If it gets too thick, add more milk, if it is too thin, carefully sift in a little more flour whisking to incorporate.  The sauce is thickened by the starch in the flour absorbing fat and liquids.  Some recipes suggest equal weight of butter and flour, maybe start with that, but in time you will just know it when you see it.* At this point you have made a basic bechamel or white sauce.  It can be used at this point - or it can be enhanced.  I enhance it with cheese.  Whisk in the shredded cheese, stirring over medium heat until the cheese melts and a smooth sauce is formed.  I think cheddar is best for this, soft and semi-soft cheeses tend to get stringy.  

So now that you have cheese sauce what do you do with it? 

There is a basic dish of serving it over toast, browned under a broiler or grill.  The French layer it with ham over bread and brown in under the grill.   

It is a great sauce for a vegetable casserole, mix it with cauliflower, or sliced brussel sprouts and bake until crusty around the edges and brown on top. 

You can mix this with cooked macaroni and bake for a delightful baked macaroni and cheese. This is not at all like the stuff out of a box, not at all like a creamy mac and cheese, this will become crusty around the edges, on the bottom and top (it is the way my grandmother made it.) 

You can make scalloped potatoes with it.  

I did a one dish meal recently.  Wash, trim and slice potatoes into about 1/4 inch slices, thinly slice an onion.  In a greased casserole dish, start with a single layer of sliced potatoes, the a scattering of onions, a layer of cheese sauce, then thin boneless pork chops (I butterflied them to about 1/2 inch thickness) topped with another layer of potatoes and onions.  Top with a complete layer of cheese sauce, sprinkle a grated cheese on top, bake in a 400 degree oven for about an hour.  Crusty around the edges and heavenly in the middle. 

I wonder if that would work with chicken?  

*US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart defined pornography by saying "you know it when you see it."  

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Door Number One and Door Number Two and Door Number Three

 I grew up watching an American daytime game show, Let's make a Deal, in the last round of each show, a contestant was given the option of trading whatever they had won, for what was behind door Number One, Door Number Two or Door Number Three.  One of them contained the highest value prize of the day - often a new car, or expensive vacation, one of them contained the Zonk, a joke prize of no real value.  

When I travel I sometimes wonder what is behind the doors? Who lives there? What is their life like? Do they enjoy good health? Are they suffering? Are they happy?  

Imperfect as it may be, I wouldn't trade what is behind my door, for what is behind a different door. Inside our door, is the life we have built for ourselves, our collection of things that are important to us, things that make us comfortable and happy.  There are also struggles behind our door, our struggles, ones we cope with. I am happy with our door.  

We live in a highrise building.  All of the halls, on every floor, look alike, all of the doors are painted the same color, the paint belongs to the association, the door belongs to me.  I have only once gotten off the elevator on the wrong floor, and couldn't unlock the door, only then did I realize it was not my door, but door to someone else's life.     

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - People we know, but never met

This is one of my great-grandfathers, my father's, mother's father.  He was born in about 1879.  At the time he married my great-grandmother he was living in Hammersmith, London, and was a tunnel digger on the London underground. He came to the US seeking opportunities and safety from the impending War (World War I.) He continued to do tunnel work, some subway work in New York and Mexico City, mostly water inlet tunnels around the Great Lakes.  He helped build the road tunnel from Detroit to Canada.  

I heard so much, my great grandmother lived with my grandparents when I was a teenager (she outlived both of my grandfathers.)  I have photos, and documents, I feel that I know him, but he died around the time I was born. 

Do you have ancestors you feel you know, but never really met? 


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Food Shopping

 The first time I remember getting excited about exploring a supermarket, was in Arizona, in about 1985.  I was there for a three day workshop/training and stumbled across the grand opening of a new food store.  I was fascinated by how it was different from what I went to every week in Florida.  Different products, different merchandising, different ways of doing things.  A few years later when I started to travel more, and travel internationally, the curiosity continued.  I have explored grocery stores across north America and western Europe. A few times I have had access to a kitchen, allowing me to sample the local and different.  

When people move away from home, family and friends often worry that the person won't be able to find their favorite.  My mother use to bring me Vernors Ginger Ale, and Koegel's Ring Bologna  from Michigan.  What we should think about is all of the wonderful things they can try there, that we can't find here.  

Have you shopped and cooked in another country? 

Monday, January 25, 2021

YouTube Monday: The World of Hyacinth Bucket Collides with Basil's Fawlty Towers

With roots in having an English grandmother, and my father's sarcastic streak, I love British sitcoms.  I know they are not everyone's cup of tea, but they connect me to a culture that I somehow feel is a real part of my heritage.  I hope I am not too much like Hyacinth, I'd sooner be Manuel than Basil.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Sunday Five - No rubbish

 I turned 18 a few days before I started my senior year of high school, and at that time the legal drinking age in the USA was 18.  One of my high school teachers taught me how to drink cheap scotch.  He was run out of town a couple of years later, when he married one of his students the day after she graduated from high school (daughter of prominent local family - quite the scandal for a small town.) Any more, I am a Spo no-rubbish fan. Hence this week's Sunday five.

  1. Do you, or someone you know abstain from alcohol? 
  2. Given a choice between bourbon and single malt, what is your choice? 
  3. Have you ever had a memorable hangover? 
  4. How old were you when you first indulged? 
  5. Is there anything in the cabinet above that should be flushed down the drain? 
My answers: 

  1. Do you, or someone you know abstain from alcohol? My sweet hubby, to misquote Night Court, he is "feeling much better now!" 
  2. Given a choice between bourbon and single malt, what is your choice? Tough choice, there is more good bourbon that single malt in my life. 
  3. Have you ever had a memorable hangover? The morning I graduated from college - the honors reception the evening before was EPIC! 
  4. How old were you when you first indulged? 18 - I was one of the goodie two shoes who waited to be legal. 
  5. Is there anything in the cabinet above that should be flushed down the drain? Jim Beam, use it to disinfect the cat box or something but don't drink it. 
Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Saturday Morning Post - Random Rambles

No one lives forever.  I am always surprised by people who act as though they are going to never die.  Live each day, as though it might be your last.  Don't put off till someday, the joys you might have today.  

My hair has never been this long.  Not even when I was in high school in the 1970's and long hair was in style, was my hair this long.  It has been about 11 months since my last haircut.  I am getting close to the creepy old man ponytail.  I can't see the risk, of sitting inches from someone, who is within inches of 10-20 people everyday, just for a haircut.  It will wait.  Then I may do something equally radical in the other direction.  I have to admit, longer hair, is harder to care for.  

I have started looking carefully at the photos I take, digging out the books, and identifying the birds I am seeing.  A Black-Capped Chickadee, a Sharp Shinned Hawk, there are many more to look up.  If I learn a couple of month, that will be 24 more than I knew before.  

Social distancing, has led me to understand another quirk of my personality.  I am uncomfortable in crowds, and long have been.  I mentioned this to the hubby, and he was kind of "oh you finally noticed that!"  I avoid crowds.  When I have to be in them, I stay around the edges, and often look for a fast way out.  This is nothing new, when I first started traveling by air frequently in the early 1990's,  I would often stay in my seat until the plane was nearly empty before exiting.  I usually took a window seat, and I would just let them all go before getting up.  (I now want to board first, and usually sit near the front so I can get out fast.) This year, with most people avoiding crowds, has been a joy for me.  Interestingly small groups, 3, 4, 5 people don't bother me. 

What random thoughts have you had this week? 


Friday, January 22, 2021

Foodie Friday - Fruit Cake

 I know at some point in the past, I have written about fruitcake, the post and my praise of fruitcake inspired David a blogger in the Pacific Northwest to send me a wonderful fruit bread. It was lighter in texture than a fruitcake, made with wonderful local fruit.  Very easy to enjoy. 

I don't recall why my mother started making fruit cake, but when I was a teenager she did.  I made them on and off, now that my parents are gone, I have taken up making a fruitcake each year.  It takes time, and planning, but I can make it the way I like it. I know my mother expected fruitcake at the holidays.  My father liked it, he loved sweets.  At 88 his doctor diagnosed him with lung cancer and explained treatment options.  He was in poor health, the treatments would have been torturous.  He said, "I am going to go home, enjoy life, and have that second scoop of ice cream" his doctor agreed that ice cream was the best treatment option.     

Making your own, you can adjust to your taste. There are a lot of fruitcake haters. Most of them fall into one of two categories, either they expect a fruitcake to be cake, or they have only ever had bad commercial fruitcake.  A fruitcake is unlike any cake you have ever had.  I wouldn't call it a cake, it is really in a category it own, a sweet composed of candied fruits, nuts, and confectionary glue. It is sweet, it is moist, it is dense, it is probably not for everyone.  If it is for you, I urge you to try making your own.  Commercial cakes are constrained by being someone else's taste and by time and ingredients.  When you make your own you control those variables.  

The Ingredients: 

4 ounces butter (I use salted butter for everything.) 

1 cup brown sugar 

1 teaspoon lemon or other extract (can be left out) 

2 large eggs 

1/2 cup heavy cream 

1/2 cup molasses (treacle)   

2 cups flour (all purpose) 

1 teaspoon baking soda 

1.5 teaspoons cinnamon 

1/2 teaspoon allspice 

1/2 teaspoon mace 

1/2 teaspoon cloves 

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (I use freshly grated.) 

4 cups +/- of candied and dried fruits- (I use 2 cups cherries, 2 cups raisins) 

1/2 cup mixed candied peel 

1 cup chopped nuts (I use walnuts, many people use pecans) 

Booze - I use bourbon, dark rum, and brandy. 

Cheese cloth


Start 30 to 90 Days, before you expect to enjoy the fruitcake. This cake is aged in booze to develop full flavor.  

Heat oven to 325 F.  I use a non-stick tube pan. Spray the pan with baking spray, the line with baking parchment (bottom, and sides) and spray the paper.  Fruitcake tends to be sticky. 

Vary the mix of candied and dried fruits to your taste.  I soak dried fruits and raisins (not the candied fruits) in a mix of about 1/c cup each bourbon, dark rum and brandy for 30 minutes or more  strain the fruit out before mixing the fruit into the batter, and save the booze. 

Mix spices, baking soda and flour and set aside.  Adjust the spice mix to your taste.  I go lighter on the cloves, heavier on cinnamon and add freshly grated nutmeg. 

Cream the butter in an electric mixer, until fluffy, beat in the sugar (for a lighter fruitcake use granulated or caster sugar - for a darker fruitcake use dark brown sugar), ad the eggs and beat until fluffy.  You will notice a change in color and texture, this step incorporates air into the batter adding lift to the final product.  Add the molasses (some lighter fruitcakes us corn syrup in place of molasses) and cream (you can use milk) and beat on medium for a minute or two.  

By hand stir in the dry mixture of spices, flour and baking soda.  When well incorporated, stir in the fruit and nuts.  

The finished batter, is thick and heavy, more like a cookie or bread dough, than a cake batter.  Transfer to baking pan. 

Bake 60 to 75 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Baking time will vary. 

Remove from oven, let sit for 15 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack and remove from the pan.  You may need to use a knife or palette knife to loosen around the edges.  Remove paper, and allow to cool completely (2 to 3 hours, this is a dense cake.) 

Place a large sheet of aluminum foil or plastic wrap on the counter, you want this large enough to wrap the entire cake in, I use extra wide heavy duty aluminum foil.  Cover that with cheesecloth, transfer cake to the center of it. You can buy cheesecloth in the baking department of most grocery stores or at kitchen specialty shops. It is a single use item. Baste the cake with the reserved booze (or fresh if you didn't soak fruit.)  You want it moist, but not soaking wet. Baste the sides. Wrap in cheesecloth, foil, slip into a plastic bag that will seal tightly (I use a 2-gallon size Zip-Lock freezer bag) and refrigerate.  

Fruitcake needs to age 30 to 90 days to develop it's full flavor potential. After a couple of weeks, open and check for moisture, if it is dry, add additional booze (bourbon, dark rum, brandy.) I check for dryness about once a month adding as needed so the cake is moist, but not wet.  You want the booze to soak into the fruitcake. There is a alchemy that takes place in aging, the fruit and binder (cake) become one.  The flavors mellow and meld.  I think the aging step is what is missing on many comercial fruitcakes.  Some of them are dry, lacking the moistness that develops in aging.  Others use corn syrup or honey to try to get the moistness without the ageing.  The finished product should be moist, but not wet or 100 proof (my mother made some famous 100 proof ones, a little heavy on the pour.) Experiment on the booze and aging to your taste.  

Did you have fruitcake this past holiday season? 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Do Not Disturb - We are disturbed enough

 I love hotel do-not-disturb (DND) signs. I especially like funky, unique, one of a kind, one's that hang over the door handle, ones that have DND on one side, and please make up room on the other side.  I have seen them made out of plastic, paper, wood, even leather (Fairmont hotel in San Francisco, and Viking Hotel in Newport Rhode Island.) I miss hotel maid service, one of the highlights of a hotel stay for me, is the room freshened and fresh towels each day.  One of my personal splurges at home, is a fresh bath towel each time I shower.  

I have kept a log of hotel stays since 2005. 2020 was the fewest nights since I started keeping track, only 18 nights (if we hadn't been gone the first two weeks in March, it would be 4 nights.) My average is 39 nights a year. Looking back through the book there are a few notes about particularly spectacular rooms, only a couple of places marked NEVER AGAIN.  My grandmother kept a daily diary for decades, when they traveled she made notes about hotels, where to stay again, where to never stay.  If those books still exist, I would love to get my hands on them.  I should reach out to my cousin again.  

What is your favorite part of staying in a hotel? 


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Inauguration Day In Washington DC

 This is my fourth inauguration day, that I have lived in the Washington DC area.  I moved here, and started a job just around the corner of the White House in late 2008, just before the Obamas moved into a hotel just down the street from my office.  I actually did a seperate blog about the new neighbors.  At that time I posted that happiness is moving vans at the White House, oh how that feeling is amplified today.  

The west front of the Capital is the sight of the swearing in to of the new President and Vice-President.  The stands are built for every election, planned and started before election day.  In recent history the inauguration has been moved indoors once due to foul weather, and Barack Obama took the oath a second time at the White House, as the Chief Justice messed up the words the first time. 

The Reviewing Stands in 2008, in front of the White House, a five minute walk from my desk at the time. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Amtrak New Jersey

This was taken out of the window of an Amtrak Passenger train stopped at a station in New Jersey, on my way to New York, about 5 or 6 years ago.  I love the darkness, the people mostly in shadow waiting in front of the No Waiting sign.  A framed print of this hangs in my bedroom. I am so glad I looked up, looked out as the train stopped at that station.

What is your favorite memory of something seen as you were passing by?   

Monday, January 18, 2021

My Music Monday - Ray Charles - America The Beautiful (Live in D.C.)

Even if we voted against him, we still owe the world an apology.  He who must not be named was a mistake, as a civilized country we owe the world better.  We are making changes, effective this week.  We promise to try to do better in the future. The first time I visited the Grand Canyon as an adult, this song was playing in my head as a hiked along the south rim. What a wonderful memory.  

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Sunday Five - Retirement

 I recently had an hour lone Zoom video call with a friend who is thinking about retirement in a decade or so.  She is planning ahead, as she puts it, continuing her practice of overthinking things.  Much better to overthink that not plan at all.  Thinking about that call, inspires this weeks Sunday five. 

  1. Are you retired? 
  2. What is the best thing about retirement? 
  3. What is your greatest concern about retirement? 
  4. If money, or health insurance where no object, when would you retire? 
  5. What is the hallmark of a successful retirement? 
My Answers (because I won't ask you anything I won't to myself.) 

  1. Are you retired? No, my spouse is. 
  2. What is the best thing about retirement? Flexibility in schedule. 
  3. What is your greatest concern about retirement? Not having good health to enjoy it. 
  4. If money, or health insurance where no object, when would you retire? For me this would have been about age 60.  
  5. What is the hallmark of a successful retirement? Personal Happiness. 
Please share your answers in the comments.  

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - It's a Life Around Birds

 This appears to be an Eastern Phoebe, pretty bird, and this one was fairly easy to photograph, I followed him or her, from branch to branch for probably 100 feet.  I am finding in colder weather, some birds flit about less, making them easier to photograph.  I a recently morning walk I saw a record five bald eagles.  Two of them were far enough off to not be able to photograph them.  I am hoping this is a sign of a third nesting pair within a mile of river front.  

We have a couple of large hawks, one may be a falon, one eludes identification, it may be an immature osprey or eagle that has lacks adult coloration.  

Here in the Washington DC area we are in a major flyway for migratory birds. The shoreline of the Potomac River (about a mile away as the eagle flies from where I live) is an ideal viewing location. Many bird species pass through in the spring and fall, but are not here in the summer or winter.  We are also far enough south, that some birds that summer farther north, winter here.  Some birds that are classified as migratory, stay here year around.  A moderate enough climate. 

I seem to have overcome one of my irrational fears.  Flying birds.  There is a reason we LOVE penguins, I had a fear of being hit in the face by a flying bird (thank you Alfred Hitchcock!) I would still be uncomfortable in an enclosed space with free-flying birds, but in the open I am doing really well.  A couple of weeks ago, an eagle flew over my head, perched on a branch almost directly above me, let me take photos for 20-30 seconds and then flew off.  A decade ago, this would have caused significant panic, today it bring amazement at being so close to such a magnificent bird (the photos turned out so-so, very backlit and some focus issues with branches in the way.)  

So there I am, exposing another one of my irrational fears? 

Are there any irrational fears you will share with others?  

Friday, January 15, 2021

Foodie Friday - Yorkshire Pudding

If you are an American, ignore the name of this item.  It is not a pudding, even if you are familiar with the Brits use of the term pudding for the dessert or sweet course at the end of a meal, it is not that kind of a pudding.  What it is, kind of defies translation into the American kitchen, it is sort of a bread like a popover whatever that is.  What I can guarantee you, is they are delightful.  In the British Isles they are commonly served as part of a proper Sunday roast dinner, along with a hearty meat based gravy.  John Gray posted recently about stuffing them with meat and gravy.  I have found that left overs store well in the refrigerator, can be cut open and used to make a delightful small sandwich. 

Fat, rendered beef, chicken or pork fat, or vegetable oil about 10-12 tablespoons total. 
4  large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups bread flour 

Preheat oven to 425-450 degrees.  

At least 30 minutes before you intend to start baking, beat the eggs until starting to change color (3 or 4 minutes with a whisk), add the milk and whisk for another minute or so, add the four and salt and whisk until smooth (2-3 minutes.) Let sit for at least 30 minutes, longer is fine.  

Using a muffin or cupcake pan (I use a good non-stick one) add one tablespoon of fat to each cup. Place in the very hot oven for 5 minutes +/-. You want to the fat to get smoking hot, remove and carefully add batter to each cup until it is about 3/4 full.  I often find this  batter fills 10 of the 12 cups.  Immediately return to the oven and bake undisturbed for 25 minutes.  Don't be tempted to peak, opening and closing the oven can cause them to fall. 

Remove from the oven and remove from the pan with tongs (they are hot, the pan is searingly hot.) You want to get them out of the oil in the pan, or they will soak it up.  Serve as a side dish, with gravy or plain. Leftovers can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a day or two. 

Have you tried Yorkshires? Any idea why they are called Yorkshire Pudding



Thursday, January 14, 2021


 At times I long to live a world of shopkeepers, small local markets with shopkeepers who are passionate about the products they sell, and the customers who buy them.  When I was working for land developers and home builders, the concept of the "New Town Center" was emerging, the concept was to built retail, offices, housing, restaurants and entertainment together in walkable settings for the first time since urbanization.  I love the concept, but it was largely screwed up in execution.  

Two things failed it, the commercial space was overpriced, seen as an endless income source to the developers resulting on only chain stores backed by huge corporations being able to risk opening. Those retailers generally staff with cheap labor who are only interested in a paycheck (insufficient as it often is) and really are not passionate about the product, or the customers. The other failure was to try to make them hybrid regional shopping areas, with a plethora of parking - again the retailers have to turn huge amounts of money to cover the massive space cost.  The parking and traffic often make the Town Centers unfriendly to pedestrians - meaning even locals drive in and try to park near the door of the business they are going to.  It was a good concept poorly done, resulting in re-doing the malling of America.  We can do better.  

The condo community I own in, has some commercial space, a restaurant / bar, a small market, and hair salon.  Technically these are open to the public, but unless you live here or are invited by someone who lives here, you won't get past security at the front gate (with a car, you could probably walk in without being questioned.) To keep the businesses, as a service to the community, the rent is dirt cheap, this past year with lock-downs (the dining room and bar have been closed since March) we have waived the rent for these small businesses to keep them open. The association has kept it this way.  Periodically there is a call from residents to raise the rent (the rent is probably 1/4 of "market value") and the answer is always, no we want these small businesses to be here, to provide a service to our community, we have to keep it affordable. The market - operated by the same people who run the restaurant and bar, have redone their selections this year, making it more possible to live here without leaving for essential shopping.  The restaurant and bar, have focussed on delivery.  We call in an order, and within 30 minutes there is a knock at the door and our order is left just outside.  (We call it room service.) The restaurant is very passionate about what they do, I am glad to see the market has become more customer oriented.  This is how a town center concept should work. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Summer of 1974

 In the Summer of 1974, I spent two weeks on a 2,000 acre ranch about 75 miles east of Colorado Springs.  It was part of a 4-H exchange program.  We had hosted a student from there the summer before, it was our year to go.  40 or so of us, non-stop on a charter bus from Michigan to small town Colorado.  I don't recall what it cost, or how I came up with the money.  I was working on the farm and had a little money, I had bought my first 35-mm SLR that winter.  

I experienced a few firsts, my first overnight travel, I hated it, I have gotten better, but still dread overnight rides.  My first time driving a full size tractor, it was a huge 4 wheel drive Stiger, in a 400 acre field.  My first time driving on the road, driving one of the farm trucks back to the barn.  My first time tasting rare steak. It was my first time being away from home without family - I loved it.  

What was your first trip away from home without family?  

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Normandy

 Following, Brussels (see last Tuesday), I went to Amsterdam, then Mt St Michelle, then the D-Day beaches in Normandy.  I wanted to visit the coast of Normandy, a major turning point in World War II.  This photo is framed through one of the German gun emplacement bunkers on the cliffs overlooking the beach.  We must remember the horrors of the past, to avoid repeating them.  It is important to remember it all started with nationalism, discrimination, a sense of entitlement, and following of a mad-man.  Scary times.  I was moved by visiting the military cemeteries - more people need to go see what can happen - to be moved by the history.  That part of this trip has a very different meaning to me, than the rest of this adventure. I am glad I did it, I am glad I had the emotional strength to do it, but it is not something I could do everyday.   


Monday, January 11, 2021

My Music Monday - Africa by Mathieu Terrade.

This is a flashback song, when it was making the rounds I was having a fling  with a person with an MGB convertible.  We would put the top down and drive to the beach, with the music turned up loud. We do things like that when we are young, so we can have the memories when we are not.  

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sunday Five - Where to When We Can?

Traveling is like riding a bike, you never really forget how, though you do need a little practice to sharpen your skills.  Someday travel will become safe again, adventure will become normal and acceptable.  When that happens, where to? Hence this weeks Sunday five 

Name five places you want to travel to and and why.
  1. Great Britain, we have dear friends (and bloggers) in Wales and London, and I still need to go find the house my grandmother was born in, I have not been to Scotland, I could spend a month. 
  2. France, it has been too long, there are a few bloggers to meet. I could spend the rest of my life exploring small French villages and wandering in the museums. Oh and the food! 
  3. Philadelphia, there are a couple of bloggers to see, a couple of great museums to revisit, and Hamster has some old college friends to see. 
  4. Arizona, there is something about the landscape that makes my heart go pitter-pat.  There are a couple of dear bloggers to see. I want to go back to the Grand Canyon and spend time exploring the high desert and mountains.  
  5. New York City, we have a dear old friend who has moved there (west side of Central Park, near the middle of the park.) The new platforms at Penn Station are opening this week. Shopping, food, museums there is just so much.  I need to go to Brooklyn, I have a couple of addresses connected to my grandmother's time there, and the bar her Uncle Bob ran (just over the bridge, on the left.)  
Well, that will cover my first year, onward from there.  

Please share your top five in the comments.  


Saturday, January 09, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Learning

 The last day of class, in my last year of high school, the english teacher gave a bit of a lecture about life and the future that awaited us.  He said, "you will read and learn so much more in life, than you did in school" and at least half of the class laughed at this statement.  Most of us figured school was over. That by finishing high school we had mastered the skills that would carry us through life.  Oh, how I wish I could go back and take away the chuckles and teenage eye rolls.  If there is an afterlife, he has sat there chuckling at many of us, for thinking we were done with learning.   

When I finished high school I couldn't figure out what to study, or why, and told my father, unless I knew that it would be a waste of his money and my time.  Everyone told me to go study photography and art (and I can't draw to save my soul.) Inherently I knew that was an unlikely way to make my way in the world.  I bounced around for a while, never having a "real job" then went to work doing sales and marketing for a land developer and home builder.  A couple of years into that I realized that if I wanted to move beyond a low level position, I needed to get more education.  I started to know, how little I knew.  I was driving past a community college on my to and from the office, I stopped one morning, enrolled, and started classes (after the shock that books cost more than tuition.) That really started my learning.  It started my love of reading, my love of connecting seemingly unconnected concepts and finding what they have in common and how they differ.  

I continue to learn, and YOU are a part of that learning.  One way to learn is to offer up and idea, and listen to the comments or replies of others.  Your comments help me to develop my half-baked ideas, to see the strengths, and flaws in my thinking - to learn more about what I thought I knew.  I learn by reading your blogs, glimpses into your lives, your minds, your life experiences.  

As bloggers, blog readers and commenters, we are a social community, we are an entertaining community, and we are a learning community.  

Thank you for being a part of my ongoing education.  

Are you still learning? 

Friday, January 08, 2021

Random Thoughts and Rambles

This post was started, for posting later this month, but needs to be moved to today. Foodie Friday starts next week with Yorkshires fruitcake in a couple of weeks.   
I am shocked at how easily the Capital perimeter was breached by terrorists. These are not patriots and very fine people, they are anarchists - terrorists.  Around the time I moved to DC, we spent billions of dollars building a secure space at the Capital, that was used, and was secure, at the same time entrances to the main Capitol building were closed and security theater was put in place on the historic building.  Security that failed miserably, with a security force that was vastly undermanned and under prepared for what we knew was likely to happen.  That will be investigated.  

I am proud of the restraint of the police and security forces.  The invading terrorists were largely unarmed, and not an invading foreign force.  To the extent possible, as long as it was possible the police defended the building and when necessary retreated to safety.  This is what was needed, doing otherwise would have resulted in a bloodbath, creating martyrs in the eyes of the terrorists. There should have been sufficient force to secure the perimeter,  but once it was breached the police did what they should do. Now to get them to practice the same restrain when facing black or hispanic crowds.   

The challenge with prosecuting the terrorist is creating martyrs in the eyes of their followers. A very difficult balancing act for prosecutors.  

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram suspended Trump's account on January 6th, after the Capital was invaded by terrorists that he urged on, talk about closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.  FB and Instagram have extended the suspension indefinitely at least through the end of his term. Again, too little - too late. 

Scotland has told Trump that the country on lockdown, and playing golf at one of his shuttered country clubs, would not qualify a essential travel, in other words, he is not welcome to come there when he leaves office - he is not welcome here either. 

2% of my high school graduating class died in December, at that rate we would all be dead in 4 years. I hope that trend ends. 

Amazon recently posted a list of 100 books to read before you die, I have already read 14 of them. Probably all of that list I will read. 




Thursday, January 07, 2021

Onward to the Future!

I painted this a week ago.  It started out as layers of blue and white with a lot of texture to it.  I paint things like that. Some of them end up being interesting, some of them end up in a stack in the corner of my bedroom. My painting mentor (Esther Miller a neighbor in the condo we spent a couple of winters in Florida when I was in high school) told me to paint what I felt, to paint from my heart. Part way through it, I realized that the colors expressed how I was feeling about the year that was coming to an end.  I felt a need to do something constructive to put the past in the past, and move onward to the future. The blue, and words were painted on New Year's Eve, the red circle and banning slash, were painted on New Year's Day.   

2020 was a difficult year for everyone.  We can carry that forward, or we can put the past in the past, and move bravely and safely forward.  Every year has challenges, and 2021 is no exception.  The world didn't change with the calendar, but we can move forward, life does not have a reverse.  Don't let the past get in the way to today. 

Do you paint or draw? 


Wednesday, January 06, 2021

The Way We Were Wednesday - Cars

I don't remember the year, it was early 70's vintage, my first car.  I bought is used in the fall of 1977. An Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale coupe.  It was typical of early 70's detroit scrap metal, it ran - sort of, it went through water pumps every 10,000 miles, rain leaked into the trunk. I drove it a couple of water pumps worth, and bought a four-door version of basically the same car from someone I was working with, who was trading up to a new Cadillac. It was freedom and responsibility. It was the first car I ever had to fill the gas tank on, pay for maintenance and repairs on.  The thought of it breaking down terrified me.  I seldom drove it more than 20 miles from home. The second one was a better car, it was soon traded on something newer and much more reliable. 

I remember my grandfather talking about the cars he bought and sold in the 1920's and 30's.  Essex, Ford, Chevy.  He bought his first new car just before World War II and drove it until new cars were available after the war, then bought a new one every other year, mostly Ford and Mercury four door sedans.  New cars where his one splurge.  


Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Travel Tuesday - Brussels

Welcome to random Travel Tuesday.  I have nearly 70,000 photos in the archive, most of them from travels over the past 20 years.  Once a week I will pull up the unsorted photos, give the mouse a long push and see where the pointer stops, select a photo and write about it.  

The image above is along the main pedestrian zone in Brussels Belgium.  The second time that I went with Jay on his quadrennial trip for the Oxford Patristics Conference, we spent a week with friends in Yorkshire the week before the conference, he went off to Oxford and I took the Eurostar to Brussels.  Why Brussels? I had never been there.  I was going back for a second visit to Amsterdam, and Brussels was a good stopping point on the way.  I stayed in a nice Hilton near the train station, visited a transportation museum,  and took the local slow train onto Amsterdam. I liked Brussels. From Amsterdam, I flew to Paris, then encountered a cancelled connecting flight, and took the TGV to Normandy, another adventure, to be written about at another time.  

Should we go back to building buildings with this kind of architectural detail?  

Monday, January 04, 2021

My Music Monday - 2001: A Space Odyssey

My grandparents were alive when the Wright Brothers and others were first experiencing controlled flight, my father was born the year Lindbergh flew the Atlantic solo, I was grew up in the space race, and lived in the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center for years.  The Chinese recently brought back lunar soil, are we on the verge of new space exploration?  Would you go to the moon for the weekend, if you could do so comfortably and safely? 

Just be careful about those pod bay doors, they can be tricky. 

Sunday, January 03, 2021

The Sunday Five - Nesting Time

 The eagles continue to fix up this nest, likely there will be hatchlings in coming weeks or months.  Fixing up the nest, inspiration for this weeks Sunday Five. 

  1. How long have you lived at your current nest? 
  2. Have you ever done a major remodel? 
  3. Have you ever built a new nest? 
  4. If you could have any view in the world, what would you look out on? 
  5. Is your current nest, too large, too small, or just right? 
My answers: 

  1. How long have you lived at your current nest? 11 years the end of this month. 
  2. Have you ever done a major remodel? Both bathrooms in the past 18 months. 
  3. Have you ever built a new nest? Three times in three years. 
  4. If you could have any view in the world, what would you look out on? Hard to pick one, Golden Gate Bridge 
  5. Is your current nest, too large, too small, or just right? It would be nice to have just a little more space. 
Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, January 02, 2021

The Saturday Morning Post - Art

 Welcome to the first ever, Saturday Morning Post, not that I haven't posted every Saturday morning for years, but this year I am going to take a stab at a new daily theme.  Saturdays will be sort of a random ramble of what is rattling around in my brain.  We will see how this works.  This photo was taken a year ago, at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.  An old friend of ours was in town for a couple of days, we met him here and went to lunch at a nearby restaurant.  

Art galleries make great art available to everyone.  I can't imagine anything sadder than the Mona Lisa hanging in the dining room of a private home in Florence, seen only by the family and those few who are lucky enough to be invited to dinner.  I remember the first time a museum moved me to tears.  I was in London in late may 1990. At the time I was living in Orlando, and I had not been to any major US cities, like New York, or Chicago, or LA, or San Francisco, or Washington DC where I might have seen more great art. I went to the National Gallery, I stood there staring, and had to sit down.  I realized I was looking at an entire wall of paintings by "Old Masters," painters I had only ever seen one or two special works from, and there was a wall, probably 20 feet tall, and 50 feet long, packed one next to another with world famous paintings.  All there, for anyone who walked in the door to see.  Seeing one in a special exhibit, allows you to focus on that one special piece of art. Every city should have a real art museum.  World class museums are worth going out of your way for, seeing a gallery full of masterworks changes you as a person, everyone needs that.   

Has a museum ever moved you to tears?   

Friday, January 01, 2021

Happy New Year!

If this posts, we made it through 2020 without the earth exploding, imploding or being taken out by a giant meteor.  With 2020, it was a close one.  Happy 2021, pronounced twenty twentyone, in my brain.  

I can remember my grandparents and my great grandmother making remarks about things that happened back at the turn of the century, today that is looking back at the Y2K non-events.  

My goals for the year I covered yesterday.  Today will be more about wishes and dreams. 

I wish the world health this year.  The threat is not over, but hope is on the horizon.  Advances in science are offering solutions our grandparents and great-grandparents only dreamed of at turn of the century before this one.  Their lives were changed by antibiotics, early vaccines, ours by RNA, DNA, therapies beyond the science fiction of a century ago. 

I wish the world, and our country recognition and healing on issues of race, segregation, discrimination, hate crimes and murder in the name of race. Acknowledging the maltreatment of our fellow human beings is necessary, to start the healing process.  May this be the year of acknowledgement. 

I wish the world peace.  It is time to end the cycle of endless wars.  Deep down underneath it, the majority of people just want a safe secure life, with enough to eat, a sound place to live, and an opportunity to make the most of their talents and abilities.  Wars fought over politics, economics and religion fail to deliver peace. 

I wish everyone peace of mind.  A sense of security, freedom from the past, hope for the future, happiness.  If you need help, reach out and find help.  It takes strength to change, but it also takes a lot of energy to suffer, direct your energy to finding help if you need it, if you can help others who are struggling, please do. We are all in this together. 

Go to sleep each night dreaming of what might be, wake each morning with the will to make it happen.  We can change ourselves, we can change our world.  

Wishing all of my readers a happy and healthy 2021.