Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Day 2011

On Christmas Day morning Kota seemed to realize that this was a Special Day and hounded me to get out of bed with yowls and licks. I eventually succumbed and slowly plodded to the living area where he was already waiting with more yowls. I forked a whole tin of sardines into his bowl, mixing them with kibbles and sat on the sofa with a large mug of tea and got his stocking down. Mum had sent him a wrapped present which he assisted in ripping off the paper to get at his catnip mouses inside. He's not been too bothered about catnip in the past but he seemed to like these and also gobbled down some treats which had accompanied them. Once he was taken care of I was free to go about my business of getting ready and going over to Jim and Debbie's house for the day. Kota shoved open his cat flap door to start his morning prowls looking resplendent in his candy cane striped collar.
I got to Sterling and was greeted by Max and Luke who were very excited about their presents.
With their hockey game, intact when this photo was taken but broken by late afternoon!
Joyce outside with her cup of tea enjoying the warm sun. I was Bah Humbug about this, I always want overcast, rainy or snowy weather on Christmas Day so the fairy lights glow better, it was hardly worth having them on in this bright sunshine.
Heather and Ed dropped by with Kylie on their family rounds. Kylie loved her pink and purple bike and also managed to check out the boys' Nerf gun.
Christmas Day wouldn't be complete without SquareBob SpongePants so I was ecstatic to be able to watch him for a bit while the dinner was cooking. What a dude!
 And then suddenly dinner was served. A splendid feast of roast beef with yorkshire puds, roast potatoes, veggies and lashings of gravy. An excellent meal and we all sat down afterwards feeling stuffed to the gills. Absolutely no room for Christmas pudding, a fact that I was saddened to admit. The boys wanted to play outside so Joyce and I went with them, careful not to be drawn into any games. I always end up with a pretend partner and always lose, that wasn't happening today, but in their festive spirit they didn't insist and played happily with themselves.
Joyce still sporting her cracker hat and the boys posed with a snowman, wearing Max's Angry Bird hat.They played a version of football that I wasn't familiar with and there seemed to be a lot of fumbles and tackles so it wasn't too long before they tired out and headed back indoors.
Max building a wall of Angry Bird bricks. Jim and I had to assemble all of these first and while Max built his wall Luke set up his Nerf gun.
An angel and demon pose from Luke. Once Max was ready he annihilated the Angry Bird wall with foam bullets quite a few of which missed the wall and hit me. I was pretty impressed with the gun but realized that a request to have a go myself would be promptly denied. Oh well, maybe in a few weeks...
I love this photo of Brianna and Aston. I've not seen Aston with a black eye before and thought he looked hilarious. It had been from a chivalrous action and I'll say no more. He hadn't been too willing to pose for a photo but I think they look great!
Max with his Angry Bird pillow. Forgot to mention, Max is really into Angry Birds at the moment! I did shoot a bunch of video clips of the boys but just haven't got round to putting them together yet. I've been having a very relaxed Christmas break with little time spent on the computer so I shall put a YouTube link here in the New Year for the mini movie once it's done. So hoping you all had a wonderous Christmas and wishing you all a Happy New Year. Over and out for 2011!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Soupy Day in DC

Saturday afternoon I headed in DC to Emily's house.We had wanted to go for a hike but by the time we'd finished chatting and procrastinating the hours of daylight were diminishing so we decided to just take a stroll around the National Arboretum instead. I'd been to this place a few years earlier during the summer and taken many photos during the hike of various trees, shrubs and the wonderful exhibition of bonsai trees they have there. Also an impressive collection of columns stand on a hill which were once part of the Capitol's front facade and replaced in 1958 when the Capitol was expanded. I had returned home after the trip and rushed to remove the film from my camera to get the photos developed only to discover there had been no roll of film in the camera the whole time. I had been crushed. So today I would at least get the opportunity to try again with the columns. The Bonsai House was closed and there were no leaves on the trees but we still managed to snap a few shots.
The afternoon sun illuminating some grasses.
A couple of trees were blanketed in these pretty Christmas blossoms.
As the sun rapidly dropped off the horizon, the temperature plummeted also and a chill wind started whipping around us. We quickly snapped our shutters while our fingers still worked. We were glad to get back to the car and then drove to a grocery store to buy a can of tomato soup. Joe was coming over to Emily's house in the evening armed with ingredients for a Hunt Soup. All we had to have ready was a big pot and the soup.
Back at the house we chugged some beers and waited for the boys to arrive. Joe got to work immediately and I was extremely impressed at how organized he was. Chestnuts were roasted in the oven while he set to work with the soup. His family are hunters so we had homemade venison sausages and kielbasa which Joe fed to us in titbits. It was so good that we were like pigeons being fed in the park, darting around him and snatching any tasty morsel that was offered. A hock of ham, sauerkraut, red wine, onions and garlic were some of the other ingredients we watched being tossed in the pot.
The chestnuts let us know that they were ready with an explosion from inside the oven, despite Joe having slashed each one to avoid this issue. They were quickly hauled from the oven and we crowded around to start munching. There was a second loud explosion as another one detonated, leaving a fine coating of chestnut crumbs on Emily's head. We never found the rest of it.
Finally the soup was ready and Joe poured ladles of creamy orange wonderfulness over dark rye rolls halved in the bottom of bowls. We sat with our supper in front of the TV and watched some episodes of Summer Heights High, my introduction to a hilarious Australian comedy. There was enough soup left for us all to have second helpings and then the pot was empty.
Joe sent me the recipe the next day and has already set up another soup and SHH evening for the beginning of January. Something to look forward to during the Doldrums after the New Year, that period of miserableness which many of us experience once the holidays are over.
I drove home with a warm full belly and snuggled with Kota, enjoying a sleep in the next morning. Then a day spent rushing around and buying last minute gifts but still leaving a few to get on Christmas Eve. Don't want to be too organized, after all...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Party Weekend

Friday night was our work party but I don't have a single photo of the event. I took only video this year and haven't edited the clips yet so will have to post the finished video at a later date. I had rented a games truck with XBox 360, Wii and other games systems showing on screen inside the truck and out. Friday afternoon was spent moving production machinery out of the way so the truck could be driven inside the building. It turned out to be a great hit with the kids and some of us adults even got involved. For the first time we didn't end up chasing kids around production machinery or cleaning ink off clothing. They never strayed once from the truck, it was amazing and all ages were involved.
I felt a little guilty not taking photos but I wanted a break this weekend to enjoy the parties I was attending without having to document them. I actually felt like I was being rebellious which was daft since this is my blog. But I took a few shots when I returned home Saturday afternoon after buying a few presents.
A marble hanging by the window is illuminated by the sunset.
I got a new wine glass for Christmas. I loved the silver sparkliness of this glass as it reflects the lights and firelight in its side so I feel I have to keep it in permanent use.
More decorations at Meadow House.
Saturday afternoon I also drove to my nearest winery, Barrel Oak, which is about 10 minutes away. I'm not keen on this winery as it's so commercialized and busy and sure enough when I got there the place was jumping. It was so noisy that I could hardly hear the staff as I bought a bottle of reserve Sauvignon for Secret Santa at Debbie & Jim's party that evening.
Once again at the party I didn't have my camera but I still took some shots with my iPhone so the following photos are pretty bad. Hopefully I won't be saying that for much longer as I have every intention of upgrading just as soon as I can get to the Apple store.
These nibbles caught my eye. Made of cornflakes & M&M's with food coloring, they really stood out.
The Secret Santa game was a hoot. I didn't realize that people schemed during this game. Some worked with each other to get their chosen gift while others were determined to hang onto what they'd brought themselves. My number was called late so I felt no guilt at selecting my own still wrapped $34 bottle of wine and smirked as people quickly lost interest after I announced it as a bottle of Cab Sav. Well it was, I just forgot to say it was a reserve and nobody checked it!
Little Kylie looking pretty in pink.
We all had to take part in a dance routine. Joyce did really well here and I grooved with Deanie Weanie. Jim's present was this ridiculously large flat screen TV. Next time I visit I shall insist that I get complimentary soda and ice cream when we watch it.
I caught Fireman John playing with a kids computer. He was actually quite engrossed with it.
I think Jim got the last laugh. He got a good telling off because he'd not got the lawn decorations up and lit in time for the party. But Debbie relented a bit when she saw he'd at least got some icicles up along the front of the house. But she never realized why these took priority. Maybe the fact they were Cowboys colors.....?
Nice one Jim!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Middleburg Hunt & Marshall Parade

Saturday was a beautiful day and I was in Middleburg before 11:00am waiting with hundreds of others to watch the Middleburg Hunt come through. This has been a custom here for years and I'd heard lots about it so wanted to experience it for myself. As we waited the commentator asked all dog owners to keep a firm hold on leashes especially to any woofers that resembled a fox. The crowd roared. We couldn't have asked for a prettier day and as we stood on the edge of the road a cheer went up from the crowd as the hounds and red coats were spotted coming down Main St. They made a wonderful sight as the Masters crested the brow of the hill then suddenly camera shutters were clicking furiously, mine included, and hundreds of pairs of hands applauded wildly.
They trotted down the street while everyone still cheered with thundering applause. The English and American foxhounds behaved impeccably. There were about 80 of them and they sniffed happily along the road welcoming pats from outstretched hands. and then suddenly they were all gone. After waiting for about 40 minutes, the Hunt had passed through in less than 4 minutes but nevertheless had made a lasting vivid impression. I'll be there again next year.
Check out the dog's face on the right. Bah Humbug!
The street was lined with vendors selling hot drinks and homemade cookies while stores had doors open inviting folks in for more snacks and nibbles. The decorations were beautiful and will be something I'll arrive earlier for next year to photograph, but today I had to rush back to my car and drive home where the Marshall Christmas Parade was taking place. I got there just in time. I parked the car as the floats were applying their finishing touches and dance troops were practicing steps.
Everyone was smiling today and happy to pose for photos. I walked down a different Main Street and took up position for the second time today, chatting to locals as we waited for the first vehicles of the parade to show.
I always get a thrill from seeing a fire truck and especially when they're shiny, decorated for Christmas, sounding horns and flashing lights. It seemed this parade was all about making as much noise as possible and it was wondrous.
This float represnted Beauty & the Beast with the girl singing angelically as they passed by.
Marshall obviously regard this as a major highlight of the year. I was extremely impressed by the size of the parade and at the amount of time and effort that had been spent on this day. Even neighboring towns sent attractions to take part in Marshall's big day. There were emergency crews from Orlean and Warrenton along with a dance troop from Gainesville.
These girls were amazingly limber.
And a parade just wouldn't be complete without a tractor. I immediately noticed, quite happily,  that there were no John Deeres in sight, just a lovely shiny red MF, albeit it a relatively new one and not a tricycle, but hey, I'm splitting hairs now.
And last but definitely not least were Mr & Mrs Claus themselves in a wonderful old red truck.
The crowds dissipated as the parade finished and I walked back to my car again stopping to watch some local lads attempt to stay on a mechanical bull. Unfortunately it seemed Marshall would not be producing any rodeo cowboys any time soon. This beautiful wreath hung on a front door near the crossroads reminding me that I need to pull out my violin and start sawing again.
Because the day was so lovely I decided to drive past my house and continue on to Orlean where a few months ago I'd noticed a pretty shop that I had decided to put off exploring until a later date. So today I went there. It was beautiful and I could have spent a fortune on the wonderful antiques and gifts decoratively arranged.

This is Charlie, the resident woofer, half Cairn Terrier and half Border Terrier. He was very friendly and welcoming and slowly made his way over, his little stub wagging furiously. He seemed ancient until the owner informed me that Charlie was only 3 yet acted like an old man for some reason. Maybe an attention seeking ploy...  I purchased some Christmas decorations, do I really need more? and couldn't resist an old hurricane lamp which had been converted from oil to electricity. I'll post a photo of that later on my daily blog.
When I got home the temperature was starting to drop yet I had one more task before relaxing in front of the fire. I have always admired the Christmas tree that suddenly appears on the side of the road decorated by someone under the cover of darkness and thought one of the trees on Achilles Lane could use a similar treatment. Luckily Maggi's car was gone when I arrived and I noticed that none of the neighbors were out so I acted quickly. I had already pulled together the decorations I would use and got to work. It only took me about 20 minutes and nobody saw me as I strung tinsel and baubles over a Scots Pine on the edge of our lane.
Less than 30 minutes after arriving home I was parked in front of my fire warming up and smiling after a wonderfully enjoyable day.