Friday, December 31, 2010

Cats On Christmas

At least on the Christmas tree.

"New Year's eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights. ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie
So, here it is... New Year's Eve, with snow still on the ground and the very first day of 50 degree temperatures in a month just ending. New Year's Day promises to be balmy with temperatures in the 60's and rain, to rinse more of the snow away... thus beheading the already sad looking snowmen. It is the last post for 2010 and time keeps on going.

Just a month ago, the Christmas spirit was in full force with excitement to drag out all the storage boxes of decorations and lights and garland. Now it is time to reverse the process and return the house to its usual state. Is it only me, but don't the rooms look empty without the nativity, the holly and ivy, the trees and lights and candles and pillows and throws? Doesn't it take several weeks to get used to the "normality" again?

New Year's has become more of a let down over the years. We used to get up at the crack of dawn to watch the Rose Parade and then it was channel surfing between the bowl games... Cotton, Orange, Rose, and Sugar. Now they go on for weeks... only one per day and with the strangest titles... Poinsettia Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, Little Caesars Bowl, Humanitarian Bowl, Insight Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl, Compass Bowl, and GoDaddy Bowl, just to name a fraction of them. Where did all these come from? More importantly... WHY?

Who can resist a rotund, but truly angelic kitty ornament? Posted by Picasa

So, this is it... another year ended, time to take stock or better yet, just keep moving.. one foot in front of the other. I always hope this year will be better than the last and in some ways they are... in others.. not so much. But it will be here in another two hours anyway.. no matter what we want. Mom still finds the ball drop in Times Square to be fun to watch so she will stay up. She still loves to stay up and watch election returns with a big bowl of popcorn too. I've decided to revert to the days when my daughter was little and I worked hard at the lab. My supreme joy was to be at home with her fed and doing homework and me in my comfy nightgown and robe and fuzzy slippers.... by 6PM. So, it will be off to bed.. perhaps with a book and definitely with the dog (Daisy is already asleep for her pre-bedtime nap). I have no interest in the glass electric ball or the millions of pounds of confetti that will really muck up the snow mounds already in New York or the inevitable firecrackers that will go off at the stroke of midnight... For me, these days... tomorrow is just another day.

I suppose I should say a word or two about the cats pictured here, since nothing so far has anything to do with cats. This Christmas, when I lovingly took out all the ornaments and remembered where I got them and how Nyssa picked some and we hung them on the tree each year and as I was doing this BY MYSELF without her here... well, I suddenly realized that we have an extraordinarily large number of "cat", "dog" and other "animal" ornaments. Almost ALL the penguin ornaments are my brother's, but the cat and dog items are ours. It is staggering... we have enough to make a "cat and dog" themed tree full of ornaments. I didn't intend to ever have this many... didn't plan to acquire such a large number.. but it has happened. So, there you have it... pictured are just a few of our Cats on Christmas (tree) selections. Tomorrow begins the dismantling and the sorting and the packing away... so one last look.

Happy New Year....

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Someone Wished For A White Christmas... Be Careful What You Wish For!

What a difference twelve hours makes! (Click pictures to enlarge)

"The cold was our pride, the snow was our beauty. It fell and fell, lacing day and night together in a milky haze, making everything quieter as it fell, so that winter seemed to partake of religion in a way no other season did, hushed, solemn." ~ Patricia Hampl
Nyssa wanted a white Christmas, something we never had in Mississippi and something we did have in Oklahoma, but she was too young to remember. So, being the meteorologist student.. she studied the charts and the storm in the west that was slowly moving across the country. She waited while they predicted lots of snow and then backed off and announced that the low would swing out further into the Atlantic and that we would only get a couple of inches; only to backtrack and predict a few inches more... perhaps 4 to 6 inches. Still, she thought there would be more... and as the weather service declared a Winter Weather Advisory and then a Winter Storm Warning, she kept saying that we might get a whole lot more snow than they thought. It began on Christmas night... by bedtime we had what would have been a major snow storm in Mississippi... three inches. Overnight, it ramped on up and began snowing harder with wind as well.

In a winter wonderland... where did the street disappear to?

Next morning there were periods of white out and the snow continued to accumulate. By noon, nine inches was on the ground and the snow continued. The weather service kept inching the predicted amount on up until we were in the 10" - 12" range and with an attached "hedge"... "some areas may experience heavy bursts of snow and therefore higher snow totals." It snowed all day, tapered off towards evening but still flakes flew well into the night. In total we had a bit over 12 inches and places in Norfolk had up to 14 inches. Yes, it was not the 24 inches in New England, but for coastal Virginia....well, it was and still is something.

One of the near white out bursts of snow. There is a golf course just beyond those trees.

Nyssa had to leave on Monday, the 27th and all the Southwest Airline flights on the 26th were cancelled as well as the first three on the 27th. Her flight was still on the books, so we had to get to the airport. There is no scraping or sanding in the neighborhoods, so the streets were simply packed down snow and ice. The expressways were cleared, at least one lane each way but the on and off ramps were horrible. Normally, the drive takes 25 minutes. On Monday, it took over an hour and a half to get there. I stayed in the terminal after she went on down through security to her gate, just to make sure the incoming plane from Chicago actually landed. It did, she boarded and made it off the ground and all the way to Chicago... almost before I got back to the house.

Even the birds had to deal with the snow. Posted by Picasa

The cold and snow seems to be hard on Daisy's heart. She has coughed more and had a fainting episode after being outside. Walking through snow that is almost chin high is hard... poor old girl. Even the little birds had to brave the wind and pelting snow... I bet this young bluebird wishes now he had flown south for the winter.

The snow is now slowly melting, though it seems that our yard is not situated to where sun shines on the driveway and back porch enough to melt and dry the area. This melting and re-freezing has brought large swaths of black ice on the roads and today was the first day the mailman could get to our box. Still, by Friday we are supposed to finally get close to the 50's... balmy weather to be sure.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

A Snowy Christmas Day Evening

The quiet Christmas snow.. before the raging storm. Posted by Picasa

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

~ Robert Frost
A snowy evening turned into an even more snowy day and continued into another snowy evening. A white Christmas was wished for... but, be careful of your wishes...for the snow did not stop here, while only three inches deep. Christmas Day was gloomy and cloudy and cold with the feeling and look of snow in the skies... but no flakes. Then around four, just before the darkness descended it started falling and fell in quiet but large flakes that rapidly built up on the leaves and trees, the grass and cars and even the street. No wind to speak of, but constant snow. By 10 PM, at least three inches had accumulated on the top of the hot tub which was warming to a toasty 103℉. At 11 PM, Nyssa and I opened the hot tub lid and got in, the steam rising off the fabulously warm water. That contrast between hot water and cold, below freezing air and the gentle falling snowflakes was amazing. We simply folded the lid back on itself and sat there for 45 minutes in a state of complete relaxation.

Later during the overnight hours, things changed. I woke to the howling of the north wind past my window and as I looked out over the street, I could barely make out any more than the shape of the houses and massive snow coming down. By 8 AM it was obvious that most of the churches in town had cancelled services and the airport had essentially shut down. By noon, over 9 inches had fallen and the snow continued on throughout the day and into last night as well. So, this was just the dusting, the first three inches, the prelude to our second huge snow storm of 2010. The first dropped 10 inches on January 30th of this year... and now even more.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

"It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!"
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing."

"Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing."

"O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing."

"For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing."
~ Edmund Hamilton Sears (words)

May we all find the true meaning of Christmas in our hearts and homes during this holiday season; and may the joy of knowing Him shine through us as a light to the world in the days and years to come. From our home to yours... have a blessed Christmas.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Dragonfly Dillydallied

A dancing dragonfly dares to dillydally.
(Click picture to enlarge)
Posted by Picasa

" Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragonfly
Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky.
~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Silent Noon
Carmi is asking for our favorite pictures of the year. I posted several pictures of the different butterflies we had visit and grow in our garden areas and I love them all, but I never got around to posting any of the dragonflies. Dragonflies are always abundant here, of all sizes and colorations. In the hot summer evenings, just before nightfall, they begin their dance high in the air. We sit on the patio and gaze into the reds and purples of the sky and watch... the numbers grow and soon there may be as many as ten to fifteen, flitting and turning and then diving down to within a foot or two of the ground, or our resting places... then they streak straight up to rejoin the airborne ballet. After a time, they finish and wing their way to wherever dragonflies keep safe in the night.

During the heat of the day, they poise on the flowers or seek shade on the mulch under a bush. If you are quiet and move slowly, you can get close enough to see the colorful green sheen on the eyes and the powdery blue of the body as if the insect had been dusted with corn starch. This one took advantage of our purple butterfly bush and used the backdrop of the terra cotta deck skirting to show off its delicate wings and pose for glamour shots before getting bored with the process and flitting away. It would have to be considered one of my favorites!

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Carmi's Theme ~ Favorite Pictures of the Year

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Japanese Maple... "Fireglow"

"A solitary maple on a woodside flames in single scarlet, recalls nothing so much as the daughter of a noble house dressed for a fancy ball, with the whole family gathered around to admire her before she goes." ~ Henry James
I read about the Japanese maple before the nursery fellows came to plant our tree. Stephen bought a ten year old tree, three trunks and I was nervous. The nursery delivered it on a large truck, they dug the hole, fertilized and planted it carefully. I watered it faithfully with the soaker hose, twice a day for three weeks and then once a day for another two weeks and then our more rainy season began. It has smallish leaves, but not as lacy and delicate as the weeping Japanese maple we have in the patio container. They said this was one of the most red of the red varieties and I kept waiting for the leaves to turn and fall.

It finally turned a flaming red for fall. Posted by Picasa

The color started to really change around late September. By this time almost all of our other standard maples had lost their leaves due to the extreme heat of the summer. But not this Japanese maple. I read some more... and discovered that this variety clings to its leaves until the beginning of December. For two months we were graced with a brilliant show of red.... flaming like fire as the sun shines through the canopy.. and then... on December 1st, they started to flutter to the ground; slowly at first and then at a more frenzied pace as if they were in a race for some grand prize. At the end of one week and just before the first and early snowfall, they were gone... scattered in the wind, mulched back into the grass... leaving behind the bare limbs of winter, ready for that first touch of white.

So these are for my brother Stephen.. pictures of his flaming red tree. He had to leave before they changed color, before they flew, before they "flamed" out for the winter. And now, I sit and hope they bud again this spring. Never before has one tree made me so anxious!

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Ruby Tuesday

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cornflower Blue And A Bit Of Yellow Angst Too!

Cornflower blue.... a memory long gone and a hope of spring.
(Click pictures to enlarge)
Posted by Picasa

"The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color.." ~ Hans Hofmann
The light blue petals of a cornflower aptly named in paint forever... cornflower blue. It seems like such a long time since these brought beauty to the garden and swayed so softly in the spring breezes. Here by the east coast ocean we typically have cooler weather in the months of October and November and then in the low 50's in December. But this year we have been hard pressed to make it out of the 30's or 40's for almost a month now. The north winds blow and their sound next to my bedroom window on the north side of the house is even more ominous sounding than the summer storms moving in from the south. I think the word "blustery" best fits the sound and the mood. But, for the first time in a week we have sun... real sun.. with shadows and with blue skies and no clouds. No fluffy clouds, storm clouds, gray clouds, snow clouds, rain clouds... just clear cornflower blue skies.

The mad goldfinch!

Everyone has seen the famous picture of The Mad Bluebird, but this little goldfinch seemed very out of sorts at our feeder this weekend. Perhaps it was the wind howling in the trees and setting off a sway in the feeder system that has made him a bit seasick. Perhaps it was the rain that was supposed to be snow but was rain with occasional large flakes of snow mixed in. Perhaps it was the empty feeders and that we had left a bit of a cake that had gone wrong in the baking, instead of the expected sunflower seed kernels; although I did see him pecking at and eating a bit of the orange slices in the cake. I do believe it might be that I was standing inside in the warm house, next to the roaring fire and pointing a huge black lens at him, while he was trying to eat. Some creatures just don't like to be disturbed and have no fear of telling you off about it. Hey! Little finch.. it is Christmas and I have left full feeders and special treats of fruit and nuts for your Christmas feast... so tell your friends (if you keep that face on, I'm not sure you have many) to come and have a wonderful dinner... just don't tell the hoards of blackbirds.

These are my pictures for Blue Monday and Mellow Yellow Monday this week.

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Blue Monday
Carmi's Theme ~ Favorites of the Year

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Males Of The Species

"They say women talk too much. If you have worked in Congress you know that the filibuster was invented by men." ~ Clare Booth Luce

Clockwise from top left: bluebird, cardinal, goldfinch, red-bellied woodpecker... all male.

Male birds are almost always the more brilliantly colored of the two sexes. They preen and puff and show off their feathers to attract the female. If they were human, they would spend almost their whole life in front of a mirror. The male bird is supposed to help build the nest, but this particular bluebird has been falling down on the job the last two years. I've seen him take three or four pine needles into the birdhouse and leave her to do the rest.

Clockwise from top: Mr. Rhett (Babe Magnet), Sir Nicky, and Mr. Max (now departed)... again, all male.

Mr. Max had the male attitude.. he wanted to get between us and any stranger and he had a particular distrust of bicyclists and runners. He also had a certain male mechanical prowess... he could distinguish between the motors of different lawn mowers and he knew the sound of the man's mower who did Mom and Dad's yard. If we heard a mower and heard him bark.. our yard was being done. But the neighbor's mower... no. Even when the lawn guy, who lived next door, did his own yard... Max was quiet. To me the mowers all sounded the same... distinguishing a difference must be a guy thing. The cats... well, they are cats and not really out to prove themselves to anyone. However, these two males have the eyes to charm the most suspicious female... as long as the female is human. Apparently, female cats are not as susceptible to the "come hither" looks of these male casanovas as human females are. One look from these blue eyes and women melt. They develop an overwhelming desire to feed or brush or give ear scratches and head rubs to these two. How they can look so manly and pitiful at the same time is... well, another guy thing.

Clockwise from top left: Three cousins...David, Rick and Stephen.
Also known affectionately as "The Floating Heads"
Posted by Picasa

Last, but definitely not least, we have three males from a family... my family. My brother, Stephen, who is currently in Japan.. and our cousins, Rick and Dave, who are renovators and woodworkers extraordinaire. David designed and drew the plans for Stephen's sunroom and they build the furniture for inside. They also did the woodworking trim inside, the trellis outside and the deck skirt. They are amazing craftsmen.

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Saturday Photo Hunt ~ "Male"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"And They Say We Have 'Bird' Brains"

The little yellow-rumped warblers are back. Posted by Picasa

"I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

'We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,'
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December."

~ Oliver Herford, I Heard a Bird Sing
It has been an unusual December indeed. Two snowfalls, granted each was just a dusting, less than a half an inch; but for this area near the coastal waters and the warming Gulf Stream, snow of any sort is unusual and hardly ever seen in December. Our huge, snow of a decade last year, came in at ten inches but it came towards the end of January. This year the temperatures have been much lower, especially in the last three weeks. Last Saturday it was almost balmy and reached 49 degrees. So I started the cleaning of the outside hot tub and as I had it half-way drained, the drizzle began and the temperature fell and then the outright rain came. It was to be below freezing by Monday so I had to get it done. Nyssa was coming home and I wanted it ready to use. It wasn't dirty, really, but two small tree frogs had taken up residence this fall and it took me a while to capture them and "relocate" them to an actual tree out in the swamp/forest behind the house. Somehow the thought of getting in the water once occupied by two adorable but slimy tree frogs was more than even my hardened sensitivities could bear. By the time the cleaning was finished, I was drenched and cold and ready for a nice hot electric blanket in a cold room.

At the corner of the deck with the hot tub, I have a curved hanger that holds a basket of flowers and a hummingbird feeder during the summer months. These have been replaced with a suet feeder and a special Christmas wreath feeder for the birds will soon join it. Several small birds have returned from their summer vacations further north, most notably, the yellow-rumped warbler. They seem to love the winter here and puff up quite admirably against the north winds. As soon as the hot weather returns in May and June, they are off.. not to be seen again until late October some years. They have such a lovely voice, but on Saturday they simply watched the crazy woman in the rain with a steamer cleaning out a tub while the rain pelted her face... probably thinking... "stupid human can't even get in out of the rain."

Tomorrow we are expecting more ice and snow followed by rain mixed with more ice.. up to three inches. This fellow is probably hoping or trying to remind me to fill the feeders before the mess starts. He is adorable, isn't he.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Four Brothers And Their Wives

Four brothers and their four wives.... a total of 220 years of marriage between them. Posted by Picasa

"What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories." ~ George Eliot
Four brothers grew up in the country of Southern Illinois... on a farm.
From right to left in the picture, eldest to youngest: Lewis, Loren (my dad), Jerry and John.
They married.. but not in the order of their birth.
Loren married Lorane in June, 1951.
Jerry married Orpha in June, 1956.
John married Laura Beth in October, 1956.
Lewis married Jean in May, 1957.
Between them they have 12 children and around 12 grandchildren..although I tend to lose count.
So far no great-grandchildren.
Each couple has been married for over 50 years... and as of next June, my parents will have been married for 60 years.
Between the four brothers and their wives they have 220 years of marriage under their belts!

These four brothers have a baby sister.... Mary Kathryn.
She is 14 years younger than her oldest brother and has a few years to go yet before her 50th wedding anniversary.
But she's working on it. Oh... and she adds two more children and one grandchild to the mix.

Carmi's theme this week is "family" and these handsome gentlemen and lovely ladies are part of mine.

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Carmi's Theme ~ "family"

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Eggs

Hand blown and painted egg ornaments from Salzburg, Austria...

"“The present was an egg laid by the past that had the future inside its shell.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston
Believe it or not, these egg ornaments are seeing their tenth Christmas on our tree. The past three years they have graced what I call our "international tree" with ornaments that we have gathered in our travels. In the summer of 2000, Nyssa and I visited my brother who was engaged as the house tenor in Linz, Austria. While we were there we took several side trips by train, one to Salzburg that has been made most famous by The Sound of Music, although it is also the birthplace of Mozart. The streets of the town are narrow and were crowed with tourists that day. We happened upon this shop with thousands of intricately painted eggs in the window. While some were painted for Easter and some with simple flowers of Austria and animals and all sorts of other decorations, most were painted with Christmas themes. All of them are hand blown real eggs... chicken, goose.. I even saw several ostrich eggs. I remember one painted like a jester face with a satin hat and ruffled collar of royal purple and emerald green and with attached feathers to match. I looked through my prints from that trip (before digital camera) and wouldn't you know it.. I have NO pictures from inside the store.

Well, I had to at least try to bring some of these home. In 2000, the euro/dollar ratio was in favor of the dollar so the prices were not bad. I picked out two and a half dozen and they packed them carefully in egg cartons, yes, real old fashioned egg cartons.. paper, not plastic or styrofoam. I gingerly carried them back to Linz on the train and then back to the states on the airplane. I am not sure this would even be possible to do these days. Only one broke completely and a few others cracked but are still useable on the tree. And they have lasted over the years. I again carefully hung them on our tree just last week... for the tenth time. My only regret is that I did not try to bring back more... they are so beautiful and unique.

More egg ornaments from The Christmas Shop in Salzburg, Austria. Posted by Picasa

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

ABC Wednesday ~ Up And Under

Zoey standing up looking out the window for her mistress... Nyssa
(Click pictures to enlarge)

"They never talk about themselves but listen to you while you talk about yourself, and keep up an appearance of being interested in the conversation." ~ Jerome K. Jerome
Zoey belongs to my daughter Nyssa. She is a rescued mixed breed that must have at least some greyhound in her; she runs excessively fast and loves to be chased wherein she runs in ever enlarging figure eights around the yard. She stayed here a few days in May while we went to see my brother in his Metropolitan Opera debut. She is energetic and very attached to Nyssa... therefore looking out the window and waiting for her to return. Or perhaps she simply saw the little yorkie that lives across the street. Zoey is demonstrating the word "UP" as she stands with her front paws up in the window sill.

Daisy, hiding from Zoey under the bench. Posted by Picasa

Daisy is my dog, also a rescue, who is mostly cocker spaniel. Daisy is an older more dignified lady than Zoey. She really wanted to play, but Zoey runs rings around her and if she can't quickly get out of the way... well, Zoey simply runs over her. Daisy's heart isn't up to this, so she spent her time "UNDER" the benches.... trying her best to stay out of harms way. It took her almost a week to get over Zoey's visit and go back to her relaxed state.

ABC Wednesday Round 7's letter today is "U"....the dogs present "UP" and "UNDER". And as I have four potica breads to make on Saturday... these two lovely ladies will have to be Camera Critters this week.

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A Little Night Music...In Spain

El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, Valencia Opera House, Spain.  November 2009
(Click picture to enlarge)
Posted by Picasa

"The architect must not only understand drawing, but music." ~ Marcus Vitruvius Pollio
We've been looking at "night" pictures this week in Carmi's Theme and they have all been lovely. Without "light", however, there can be no "night" pictures or "darkness" pictures. All of the most amazing pictures taken at night have light as a focus point... the reflected light of the moon, candlelight, fireworks, the lights of a city at night and so on. Light not only dispels the night's darkness, it gives it shape and form; light makes the night... visible and memorable.

This opera house in Valencia, Spain is an amazing feat of modern architecture designed by Santiago Calatrava. In daylight its concrete and steel form covered with crushed tiles is said to suggest a large warrior's helmet or the cross between an immense seagoing vessel and an alien spacecraft. It is huge, containing four performance spaces with a total of 4,000 seats. My brother performed in an opera here in 2009 and took this nighttime picture. The light makes all the difference in this photo... it brings a magical quality to the scene; the golden roadways leading to a silvery spacecraft... a huge "eye" in the middle of the city. The center "pupil" of the eye is reflecting the city itself or perhaps shows the cityscape of its home world. All the mystery this evokes... the architect did his job well!

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Carmi's Theme ~ Night

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The First Snowfall Of The Season

The first snowfall of the season..... just a dusting, but still.. snow!
(Click picture to enlarge)
Posted by Picasa

"The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?" ~ J.B. Priestley
We had snow on Saturday night, the first snowfall of the season. Actually, it is likely to be the only snowfall of the winter since we are so close to the ocean and the Gulf Stream flows just off shore keeping our winters on the milder side. Last year... no, it was in January past of this year... we had a huge snow... again, huge for this area. Ten inches of the white stuff covered the streets and houses and with a layer of sleet mixed in, it was a mess. Now a lot of you get ten inches on a daily basis or at least several times a year, but here, snow is a big deal. The kids take out dusty sleds and head for the highest sand dune or dirt mound they can find. Several years ago, they would head out to Mt. Trashmore (the reclaimed garbage dump) in Virginia Beach, but I recently found out that they no longer allow sledding.... they have added walking paths and landscaping that they don't want messed up.... oh, well.

Anyway, we had snow on Saturday night. At first it was intermittent and you really had to strain and look at a street light or in front of car headlights to see the occasional flake, but as the evening progressed it became obvious... it was snowing! The flakes made a wonderful addition to the televised local Christmas parade; although I doubt it helped the dance troupe in their thin costumes, especially when the temperature fell seven degrees in an hour. By morning the cars were coated and about a half an inch or so was on the ground with the grass still peeking through. Unfortunately ice, again, was part of the process and there was some difficulty with black ice on bridges and the expressways, but by noon most of the white stuff was gone. And so goes our first snowfall of the season... with not a snowman in sight!

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Monday, December 06, 2010

December 6th: I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

As the angels sing and the bells ring... the Light of the World dispels the darkness of night.
(Click picture to enlarge)
Posted by Picasa

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on Earth, good will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men"

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Origin of the Christmas Pyramid is said to go back to the 16th to 18th century when German miners from the Erzgebirge are created Lichtergestelle (light-racks) to dispel the darkness. At first they simply tied several wooden sticks together at the top and decorated them with candles, but skilled craftsmen from the Erzgebirge were not satisfied with the rather basic light-rack. They looked for something with more perfection and animation so in the middle of the rack they inserted a wooden rod to which a small metal dish was fastened. Beautiful wood figurines were carved by hand, painted and placed on the dish and a propeller of light wood was attached to the top of the wooden rod. The rising heat from the candles powers the propeller. This is often said to have been the forerunner of the Christmas tree and the elaborate Pyramids of today.

Most of the scenes depicted are religious in nature and some of the larger and multi-tiered pyramids show scenes including the nativity, angels and even large intricately carved cathedrals. My brother brought this one-tiered pyramid from Germany when he first traveled there. The angels have trumpets to herald the Christ child's birth. A short mallet extends from the center rod and as the propeller turns it gently strikes the glass bells producing a lilting tinkling sound that is simply lovely. These are fascinating to watch, particularly at night when the candles give off such a lovely glow that is reflected on the angels faces.

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Carmi's Theme ~ Night