Monday, December 31, 2012

Placeholder for Monday

I have spent nearly all day with my family and Delta in the Brandywine Valley at Winterthur's Yuletide and Longwood Gardens' Christmas Garden of Lights, then watching Spaceballs and ending it on a high note with the Redskins' victory over the Cowboys which secures them the NFC East championship. Here are two pics from Winterthur and two from Longwood; more tomorrow!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Poem for Sunday and Gaithersburg Winter Lights

Mass Effect
By Katy Lederer

Pushed together, pulled apart, we were purported
We developed as an organ, a benign and beating

We sought physicians for histology. Discovered spinal
Within the sacred bowl of life, our innards spilled in
   red array.

I wondered what you'd have to say if in your mouth
   you grew a tongue.
I wondered what I'd have to say if in my head I grew
   a mouth.

Instead we moved into a house, connected by a
A surgical removal could have cured us of our malady.

But seeking to remain benign, we discoursed through
How long could we have lived like this?

With our then-rudimentary eyes we saw shapes
   coming toward us:
amorphous and black, shedding tears. We had
   nothing to say.


Once again we awoke to snow, though the temperatures were above freezing so none of it stuck, though it came down quite hard at times. We had a quiet morning -- I had laundry to fold -- and went out after lunch, first to the library, then to World Market which was tragically out of British glass ornaments, then to get haircuts and stop at the food store.

Since the weather wasn't conducive to hiking, we decided to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which was marketed like it was sort of a quirky high school comedy -- it was better acted and better written than I expected, but really quite sad. After dinner Adam's friend asked if he could come over and watch The Two Towers so that's what we have on now.

Here are some photos from Gaithersburg's Winter Lights show at Seneca Creek State Park:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Placeholder for Saturday

Tonight my excuse for being brief is that we are watching a movie I don't even want to name -- oh fine, it's the Star Trek reboot, which two members of my family had not seen at all and one had only seen half of (Adam's analysis of the lens flares has turned it into a hilarious comedy, I must be certain to bring him to see Cumberbatch so he can whisper lens flare counts to me, since I still think the reboot is quite terrible). Earlier in the day we went downtown, then three of us had dinner with my parents while Adam went ice skating and to dinner with his girlfriend:

Our major objective was the wonderful Roy Lichtenstein exhibit in the National Gallery of Art's East Wing...

...which permitted no photos inside the exhibit, but the National Gallery owns several Lichtenstein pieces, including my favorites, his versions of Rouen Cathedral a la Monet.

I also enjoy his impressions of his own studio.

Of course we took the tunnels between the buildings.

In the west building of the National Gallery of Art we saw The Serial Portrait: Photography and Identity in the Last One Hundred Years and Imperial Augsburg: Renaissance Prints and Drawings, 1475–1540... we walked through the Masterpieces of American Furniture from the Kaufman Collection, 1700–1830.

Many of the downtown buildings still had holiday decorations up.

Despite the cold, there were several active squirrels...

...and lots of little birds looking for food.

We did not try to get to the fiscal cliff negotiations.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Placeholder for Friday

We have been watching Gladiator whose ending always has me riveted so I am totally behind this evening. Here are photos of our awesome busy day:

These cows live at Oxon Hill Farm in Prince George's County, a national park on the Potomac River.

Though the park has horses and donkeys, sheep, chickens and geese, etc. (I will post photos later on), it is also notable for wildlife... the deer above and like these wild turkeys that the farm sometimes feeds because visitors like to see them.

Oxon Hill Farm is just minutes from National Harbor, the new retail-and-convention-center where Maryland voters approved a referendum to build a casino.

The statue behind the tree is called The Awakening and used to be in DC at Hains Point.

There are megaliths placed all around the shopping district, even a stone circle.

And it is home to the Gaylord Hotel, which has wonderful fountains and holiday displays in its atrium as well as a huge ice sculpture display under a dome outside (which we didn't see because it's quite expensive).

In the evening we went to Seneca Creek State Park for the annual Gaithersburg Winter Lights show. Here are the penguins -- more soon!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Poem for Thursday and Cathedral of St. Matthew

I Give a Convincing Sermon
By Melissa Broder

I give a convincing sermon. I say The body
is a coat. It is a very dark and heavy coat
but worthless. Mother Mary nods from the pews.
If I give Mary all my atoms she will plant them
in a garden where ripened women relinquish
their bones to make room for littler women.
It is dangerous to grow accustomed to a garden.
Just when the flowers soften you, they disappear.
Then you are a weepy fern among skyscrapers.
I don't want my soul exposed like that.
Neither can you make a garden stay. Don't even try.
Every plot becomes a dark city over time.
I have collected many dark ideas over time.
I have so many ideas they are a second coat.


We had a white Boxing Day as well as a White Christmas -- until late afternoon, anyway, when the rain overtook the snow and melted what was on the ground -- so instead of risking driving in it, we had a quiet day at home. Adam cleaned out one of the closets in his room where we've been storing stuff since before he was born, so we had a very entertaining afternoon looking through old kids' school papers and various ancient computer parts. I found all of the KMAS papers and had a great time being nostalgic about the fan club on Facebook with the nearly 60 former members I'm friends with there; I also scanned some of my kids' photos and school papers, which I am not sure they found as hilarious as I did.

Though I hadn't been in a big rush to see it, I was inadvertently spoiled for the Downton Abbey Christmas special from a forwarded article this morning, and I must confess that the spoiler made me start laughing -- I know I keep complaining that it's become pure soap opera but this sounded over the top even by previous standards -- so I went and tracked the episode down. I'm afraid I've completely stopped feeling anything for the characters as such, they all seem like pawns rather than people; I'm trying to decide whether the pleasure of laughing at the Dowager Duchess's barbs make it worth following the show. Some photos from DC's Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in honor of the season:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Poem for Wednesday and Christmas Day

The Mahogany Tree
By William Makepeace Thackeray

Christmas is here;
Winds whistle shrill,
Icy and chill,
Little care we;
Little we fear
Weather without,
Shelter'd about
The Mahogany Tree.

Once on the boughs
Birds of rare plume
Sang, in its bloom;
Night birds are we;
Here we carouse,
Singing, like them,
Perch'd round the stem
Of the jolly old tree.

Here let us sport,
Boys, as we sit-
Laughter and wit
Flashing so free.
Life is but short-
When we are gone,
Let them sing on,
Round the old tree.

Evenings we knew,
Happy as this;
Faces we miss,
Pleasant to see.
Kind hearts and true,
Gentle and just,
Peace to your dust!
We sing round the tree.

Care, like a dun,
Lurks at the gate:
Let the dog wait;
Happy we 'll be!
Drink every one;
Pile up the coals,
Fill the red bowls,
Round the old tree.

Drain we the cup.-
Friend, art afraid?
Spirits are laid
In the Red Sea.
Mantle it up;
Empty it yet;
Let us forget,
Round the old tree.

Sorrows, begone!
Life and its ills,
Duns and their bills,
Bid we to flee.
Come with the dawn,
Blue-devil sprite,
Leave us to-night,
Round the old tree.


We spent Christmas Day in Hanover with my in-laws and my parents, who were able to drive up since the snow had mostly melted by noon, at which point we had had bagels and Swedish pastries and were ready for the next course (veggie and turkey Swedish meatballs, chicken and tofurkey, potatoes, veggies, bread, cheese, nuts, and about eleven desserts). I ate far too much, got presents and generally had a lovely time. By the time we drove home, there wasn't snow on the trees or even by the side of the road, so we just eked out a White Christmas.

When we got home and unpacked, we watched the two-part Merlin series finale, which was superbly done, one of the most moving finales in memory, which oddly does not make me wish the show had gone on longer but confirms my belief that a show is better off going away while it's still excellent. It's heartbreaking, but very true in spirit to the legends and I approve of the ways in which it diverges in detail. Afterward we watched the Doctor Who Christmas special, which has a couple of nice moments but...well, like I said, some shows should go away while they're excellent.

Happy Boxing Day!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Poem for Christmas and Seasonal Snow

The Oxen
By Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
    "Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
    By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
    They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
    To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
    In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
    "Come; see the oxen kneel,

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
    Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
    Hoping it might be so.


Merry Christmas! We are at my in-laws' in Hanover, Pennsylvania, where we arrived after driving most of the way in snow which didn't stick to the road surface but made the grass and trees very pretty (I just hope the cows and horses were not too cold). It continued to snow all afternoon and evening as we hung out with my in-laws and went out to a Chinese restaurant that had stir-fry as well as five big buffet tables.

When we came back to the house, my in-laws decided the roads were too slippery to drive to church. Adam and I went for a walk in the neighborhood to look at the trees and houses in snow, then someone found It's a Wonderful Life on television, though I don't know that anyone was paying much attention! I got no great photos as I did not want to risk my big camera in falling snow and it's still unnaturally bright from the clouds:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Poem for Monday and Glenview Mansion Christmas

The Harvest Moon
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A touch of cold in the Autumn night
It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes
  And roofs of villages, on woodland crests
  And their aerial neighborhoods of nests
  Deserted, on the curtained window-panes
Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes
  And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests!
  Gone are the birds that were our summer guests,
  With the last sheaves return the laboring wains!
All things are symbols: the external shows
  Of Nature have their image in the mind,
  As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves;
The song-birds leave us at the summer's close,
  Only the empty nests are left behind,
  And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.


We had a bunch of stores we needed to get to in Rockville on Sunday, so before going to them, we went to the Rockville Civic Center Park where we visited Croydon Creek Nature Center a couple of weeks ago. The Glenview Mansion was having a holiday open house and art show, with nearly every room decorated with a Christmas tree by some local organization and several rooms of painting and drawing upstairs. Unlike other local houses we've visited, this one is not furnished to any given period but is available for rental for events, so the former slave quarters have not been restored and much of the furniture is contemporary.

Rockville Cemetery is part of the same park, so we took a walk there looking for the names of people of local historical importance; the Magruders, Wests, Bealls, Pumphreys, and baseball star Walter Johnson are all buried there, as was F. Scott Fitzgerald before he and his wife were interred together at St. Mary's downtown. Then we went to My Organic Market, CVS and various other stores, came home for dinner, and watched X2 since it was its last night On Demand and none of us had seen it in nearly a decade. The Redskins and Ravens both won today, so they will both be in the playoffs with the Ravens winning the AFC North!