Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend

On Thanksgiving Day I cooked enough to feed 2 armies even though there would only be 5 of us. Rob had texted that his truck had broken down. He didn't call so we didn't get the full story but MJ, Martin, Emily, Jason and I had a ball. We had an 11lb turkey, with 2 batches of stuffing, one of which was cooked in the oven inside a pumpkin, sausages wrapped with bacon, roast potatoes and parsnips, with green beans, brussels and a huge jug of gravy loaded with turkey juice and giblets. To follow was a deep homemade apple pie laced with spices and brandy and served with vanilla ice cream.. So where are the photos you ask? Well I accidentally deleted the whole lot from my camera. Thinking I was deleting a previous folder, I wiped the whole card clean including all of Thursday's and Friday's photos. Yet amazingly I actually am not really bothered. The memories remain and the dishes will be cooked again for future photos.
I borrowed a long table from Maggi's bakery, perfect for the many bowls and serving dishes that held the vast amounts of food. Martin and MJ brought a wonderful Edible Arrangement with strawberries, grapes, melons and pineapple as well as some superb wines from Williamsburg Winery including a delicious raspberry dessert wine. Jason and Emily were going to bring sweet potatoes and other foods but knowing how much we already had I begged them not to but they still turned up armed with bottles of wine and a case of beer.
I was ecstatic as everything turned out perfectly from the turkey without any dryness to the golden crust of the apple pie. Cooking the stuffing inside a pumpkin was a first but something I wanted to do as it fit in so well with the Thanksgiving theme. Marshall's IGA store are waiting for a report on that so I'll be delighted to let them know it was a resounding success.
We literally attacked the food and I still can't believe how much we ate or drank. I was imagining stacks of leftovers but was thrilled to see my dinner disappear with gusto and enthusiasm. We ate, drank, laughed and chatted our way through the afternoon My iPhone was playing random songs in the background timing it perfectly so that on the 2 occasions that MJ was on her phone wishing family a Happy Thanksgiving, both times Judas Priest played heavy rock. Emily and I were howling with laughter at this and on the second call nearly collapsed. If MJ had explained that Frank Sinatra was playing just prior to Judas Priest I'm sure her caller wouldn't have believed her.
After dinner we played Apples to Apples with MJ winning all the way through the game and later that evening MJ and Martin left to go home. Emily and Jason stayed the night and next day Jason very kindly cooked us breakfast before we headed out to Sky Meadows Park to see the period Christmas decorations at Mount Bleak House and then trudge on a 6 mile hike around the trails. We wrapped up our afternoon by dropping into my favorite winery, Naked Mountain, which is now only 15 minutes from my house, oh joy! We sat in leather couches reading local magazines and chatting while sipping a glass of Rapture Red 2007, my favorite wine. I bought a bottle to save for Christmas, will it last another 4 weeks? Back at Meadow House we tucked into some leftovers and then a little later Emily and Jason went home but we all relished the knowledge that there was still the weekend to enjoy.
On Saturday, I decided to put up my Christmas decorations with a lot of assistance from Kota.It took most of the day and I didn't finish. I was glad to have a few leftovers in the fridge for dinner and we both tucked into plates of turkey and stuffing.
Late that evening Kota came hurtling into the house with his tail thicker than a toilet brush. He'd snuck out earlier when I thought his cat flap was locked and had refused to come when I whistled him. He now dashed inside continuously looking over his shoulder to see if he was being followed then went straight to his food bowl and gobbled down the remains. I saw some blood on a back paw which I cleaned off and which didn't seem to worry him but later on Sunday he seemed to be in pain. His paw didn't seem to be an issue but he didn't like being picked up. Since he was still eating fine and using his litter tray without any issues I decided emergency treatment wasn't necessary but he would see the doctor in the morning.
He was pretty sore in the morning so rather than squash him into a carrier he went to the doctors in a dynamite box with a pillow inside. He was fine with this but not so fine with the doctor's inspection.
His yowling screeched around the whole of Marshall it seemed so he was sedated and left for a couple of hours and when I returned to pick him up, his chest was shaved as well as his paw. He had apparently been scrapping with another cat and they'd been sitting back on their haunches lashing out at each other with Kota receiving 2 puncture wounds under both armpits, hence his discomfort at being picked up. He came home with antibiotics and some serious painkillers yet still managed to weave his way to his food bowl and eat a very small helping of Fancy Feast before succumbing to the drugs and sleeping.
For the next couple of days, he slept..
 and slept...
and slept some more. And today he has had the last of the painkillers yet still has his antibiotics to finish. I can't believe how quickly he has healed, not once losing his appetite and continuously yowling to be let back outside. Of course he is grounded for a while longer until I have purchased a 30ft range Nerf water cannon to shoot any unfriendly cats with.
He might need a waistcoat to cover his bare patch since the weather has cooled off quite a bit. But for now, he's staying indoors. He'll have to suffer with only being allowed to sleep on soft pillows and fluffy fleeces with a blazing log fire and plates of wonderful food with a frequent treat dropped in. It's a cat's life!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


On Saturday, I went with Kim and Scott up to Maryland where Jim's family were holding a party in honor of his dad, Bits. He hadn't wanted a funeral or a regular wake so we were all to drink and be merry while remembering him. I took my camera but on arrival stuffed it in my bag. I have got so used to carrying the damn thing everywhere I go that sometimes I don't think, and today I felt it a little disrespectful to be snapping photos of family and friends who although under 'orders' to have a good time were nonetheless still very raw and emotional. It was a superb turnout with so many people that there simply wasn't enough chairs but everyone mingled just fine and a continuous slideshow of family photos rolled at the top of the room. I welled up a bit seeing some of the photos, Bits had such a dear kind face it's hard to believe we won't see it smiling again.
 I snuck in a couple of photos but soon gave up as they weren't very good and I had no interest in playing around with the camera. On the way home we popped into a wings place where Scott bought us each a slice of Chocolate Confusion to cheer ourselves up. I had a casserole in the crock pot cooking at home. I'd wanted to use up some old meat in the freezer so had ended up with chicken breasts, hot dogs and a load of vegetables thrown in. Scott called it a Hot Boobs Stew...
 It was  actually delicious and so was the cake.
On Sunday I still wasn't feeling particularly photographic but I went for a short walk with Kota. It seemed to be a weekend of goodbyes. Saturday saying goodbye to Bits and Sunday saying goodbye to all the leaves and autumn. The past few days had been very windy and the last of the leaves had given up their hold on the branches and tumbled into a thick crunchy carpet on the ground.
 I put up my tractor lights in place of the Halloween pumpkin lights and a last flower lingered on the patio.
 My new found surf board is propped up against the shed awaiting some snowfall while Kota plays in the leaves. A vibrant wall of colorful roses climbing up the barn.
And so this weekend ended on a rather glum note but there was a short work week ahead and Thanksgiving weekend after that so happy occasions to celebrate and give thanks for as well as the knowledge that many more happy episodes are just ahead. And I bet Bits is having a good ole time up there with my Dad...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Going Underground

On Sunday we met up with DCUE at Dupont Circle to go underground. We'd managed to get permission to go down and photograph the old trolley lines, a place that few people in DC know about, let alone have visited. There have been many suggestions to convert it to an art gallery, bike park and for a short time there was a food court down there. Here is a brief history of Dupont Underground.
We all met up and walked down the ramp into the tunnel going under Dupont Circle, cars whizzing past and passers by looking at us wonderingly. There was a door at the bottom which our guide unlocked and as we all traipsed through, I thought, so this is what it must've felt like on Platform 9 3/4 in the Harry Potter books as they passed through the wall leaving the Muggles behind..
It was pitch black inside and we all huddled together tightly clutching our flashlights as we listened to our guide's instructions. We were given the choice of having a few lights turned on or being left in the dark and using our own light for photographs. We all chorused together that yes, we'd like some light please.
Once he had thrown the light switch we all got down to business, extending tripods, connecting shutter release cables and rummaging for alternative forms of lighting. This was a great opportunity to play with light and we all did our own thing but coming together occasionally to work as a group.
Jason patiently posing for me.
I used a colored flashlight to paint some walls or the floor.
This was one person walking towards me with their flashlight in hand while I kept the shutter open.
In the old food court area I found this room, completely dark, but with a microphone, so I set up a self portrait.
Another self portrait with the lighting set up by Jason.
We had a great time being creative in the tunnels and our guide left us to our own devices, just meeting us at the end. We promised to set up a Flickr set for him so he could take any of the photos he wanted. Afterwards Emily and I decided to stroll around Dupont for a bit. Of course we found a bar and sat in the window, having a great time people watching as we sipped our beers.
It was fun photographing people as they walked by and after our drinks we walked back to the circle where we continued to photograph folks.
We found a great little book store which I was really pleased to see was jumping with customers. I can't accept that books will eventually be all electronic and refuse to buy a Kindle or something similar. Nothing will ever be able to compete with the weight of a good book in your hand, the pleasure of turning the next page or the smell of the print. And obviously these folks shared my sentiments, preferring the lure of a good publication than a digital screen or TV.
And so another weekend ended but I have to mention for those of you who e-mailed me wondering where last weekend's wedding photos are, they won't be published here on my blog. They were extremely pleased with the photos but didn't want the publicity so asked me not to publish any of them. Sorry...

Wine Making & a Walk in the Woods

On Saturday I met with Emily and Jason at a brewing shop near DC. Emily was wanting to start brewing beer and I wanted to resume my wine making, something I had done a lot of in England. I could pretty much make wine out of anything back then, with usually around 10 gallons bubbling away at one time in various parts of the house, and had once competed against a pub landlord to see who could produce the best Elderberry wine. The pub locals were given samples and mine won. I'm not sure if I'll be able to find elderberries here but I can make many of my old wines here quite easily so I needed to stock up on the equipment and chemicals.
With our purchases from the shop and a trip to Lowes, we had everything we needed to start and so planned a tasting session closer to Christmas. I'm going to kick off with a pear wine, a feisty fermenter which will keep me on my toes in the early stages but which should produce a pleasant dry wine within a month. 
Very pleased with our purchases we then went to a local park for a hike. It actually turned out to be a casual stroll as we were too busy chatting and taking photos to concentrate on striding through the miles. But the lighting was wonderful and the fall colors vibrant so we enjoyed our 'hike' through the woods.
It didn't take too long before the tummies were grumbling and thoughts turned to beer and food, and God Bless Jason and his Cotton Socks, he'd only gone and brought supplies with him. He had beers as well as crackers with slices of cheese already on them. We enjoyed our heavenly snack leaning up against the cars and smiled through the scowls of a woman walking her dog past us. A neighbor came over to talk or rather moan loudly about his beaver problems. They were chomping through his trees and he meant to deal with the issue immediately, and so we were rather amused when he returned about 30 minutes later loaded with bags. This ex sniper from Vietnam had bought a paintball machine, trip lighting and a fog horn. He planned on sitting in his darkened lounge and waiting for his victims to arrive. I rather thought there might be some arm to arm combat that might be worth us hanging around to watch but Meadow House and Kota were calling so as dusk fell we said our goodbyes until the next day. As another adventure beckoned...