Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012

View of the gardens, Morven Park

Sunday was a cold but sunny day, a good day for a walk, so Walt and I drove out to Morven Park in Leesburg. We pretty much had the park to ourselves but it was pretty and felt good to be out walking in the cold wintery air. This was the home of a Maryland governor during the Civil War and a Virginia governor in the early 20th century and was opened to the public in the 1960s. There are tons of ancient boxwoods, lovely old trees,  and an old mansion which is open to the public for tours. There is a lot of huge open land so the views from the house are beautiful, even in the winter. I could see the lines of the gardens and ponds, so we will definitely have to come back when the gardens are in bloom.

We had some flurries on Saturday, but no real snow.  I sure am hoping for a good snowfall sometime this winter. We also saw the movie Jack Reacher this weekend, and if you have read the Jack Reacher books, don't bother seeing this movie. Tom Cruise is no Jack Reacher. Jack doesn't smile, especially that goofy Tom Cruise smile.

It's New Year's Eve,  always a favorite day for me (it's my birthday!), so it will be a fun day. My friend Lorraine always makes me my favorite birthday cake, Walt and I go out to lunch in Old Town Alexandria, and then we will celebrate the New Year with our good friends tonight. My friend Mary is making dinner and we are all bringing a bottle of red wine and are going to do a wine tasting.  Happy New Year to all!

Pretty Virginia magnolias

Great old tree

The mansion

Hellebores in the snow

One of the Civil War huts where Confederate soldiers stayed in the winter

Friday, December 28, 2012

New Every Morning

New Every Morning, by Susan Coolidge

Every morning is a fresh beginning.
Listen my soul to the glad refrain.
And, spite of old sorrows
And older sinning,
Troubles forecasted
And possible pain,
Take heart with the day and begin again.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas 2012

Well, one of the best things about having grown up kids is that you get to have mimosas while you open presents on Christmas morning. 

Everyone seemed happy with their gifts, and we had our usual Christmas breakfast of egg and sausage casserole (a la Barbara), cranberry cake, and fruit salad. After vegging out in the afternoon for a few hours, we headed over to Bethesda to my cousin Bob's house for dinner. Carol and Bob had a great dinner of ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, and I made the old family favorite chocolate icebox pudding for dessert. It was great to all be together on Christmas Day. Jackson was leaving the next morning for Florida, where he will play in a soccer tournament this week, so he was pretty excited about that.


The triathlete
Working on the Christmas puzzle (thanks Nancy!)
Walt did manage to convince a lazy Julia to go for a run in the afternoon.

Loading up our plates

Christmas dinner 2012
Keenan chillin

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cookie Exchange 2012

Eileen, Prudy, and I had our annual cookie exchange on Friday night.  How is it possible we have been doing this for 28 years?? It's become one of our favorite Christmas traditions,  that we look forward to and talk about all year. Prudy hosted this year at her house, and she made the Silver Palate Chicken Marbella, rice, and sauteed spinach for our dinner, which was delicious. We had a great evening,  and love seeing each other's cookies and "presentations," complete with a few little gift items that we throw in. Our cookie exchange was the inspiration for our cookbook, which we made a few years ago, and ended up including all our favorite recipes, not just the cookies. But most of our cookie recipes are in the cookbook.

Cookies packed up

We have a lot of tried and true cookies that we make every year, but I think we each made a new cookie this year.  I made chocolate shortbread hearts, French sables, and a date and fig pinwheel cookie.  Prudy made rugelach, a sugar cookie with peppermint frosting, and a bourbon flavored snowflake cookie. Eileen made chocolate caramel thumbprints, a cranberry orange cookie, and a molasses cookie. After dinner, we sample all the cookies for our dessert. Another successful cookie exchange in 2012!

Containers are key

Sampling for dessert

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas at the U.S. Botanic Gardens

The U.S. Capitol 

Last Sunday Walt and I went downtown to see the Christmas displays at the U.S. Botanic Gardens--one of my favorite places to visit any time of the year, but especially at Christmas. The Conservatory is decorated with wreaths and garlands, masses of poinsettias and cyclamens, and one of the largest indoor decorated trees in Washington. But the real highlight is the Garden Railway, where model trains run along more than 800 feet of track and through an Enchanted Forest of incredible fairy buildings, all made from natural plant materials. And of course throughout the Conservatory is the annual display of the National Mall monuments, again all constructed totally of plant materials, with details made from pine cone scales, screw pods, grapevine tendrils, and acorns. They really are amazing. Visiting the Botanic Gardens will really get you into the Christmas spirit!

Entering the Conservatory

Lincoln Memorial
Washington Monument
Fairy Building along the railway
A little fairy bedroom

Fairy Castle

Here comes the ladybug train

Loved these poinsettias in the giant glass ornaments

My favorite Wardian Case

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Trees at Dusk

Lately I have been experimenting with taking pictures at dusk. I love the light just around 5 pm now, when it is just starting to get dark. I especially like the way the trees look in this light and I have been traipsing around and aiming my camera up into the branches. I love the contrast against the darkening sky.

A peek inside...

And my new cookie cutter lights at night in the kitchen windows.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Books On My Nightstand

I'm busy baking today (cookie exchange on Friday!), but here are a few books I'm reading these days.

Mrs. Kimble, by Jennifer Haigh--continuing my reading of Jennifer Haigh's novels.
All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments, by Alex Witchel--a daughter tries to hold on to her mother by cooking her the comfort foods of her childhood.
The Receptionist, An Education at The New Yorker, by Janet Groth--a behind-the-scenes look at working at the New Yorker in the 1950s-1970s.
The Love of My Youth, by Mary Gordon
The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris, by John Baxter--well of course, it's a book about Paris.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hope From Mr. Rogers

There was an article in the Post this morning about this quote from Mr. Rogers,  which is apparently making its way around the social media universe. I hadn't seen it, so I thought it was worth passing on. I always liked Mr. Rogers, and appreciate his gentle words.  

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas at Meadowlark Gardens

Benny, Gillian, Walt, Mary, Mark

On Saturday night we went to see the new "Winter Walk of Lights" show at Meadowlark Gardens--my favorite garden to visit in Northern Virginia, which you probably know if you read this blog. This is the first year they have done this holiday show and it was pretty amazing. There is over a half mile of lighted trees, nature displays, lakeside lights,  and music. There was even hot cocoa and marshmallows for kids to toast over a fire.

It was really fun to see my favorite garden transformed into a winter wonderland and I loved how they followed the themes of the actual gardens--lighted flowers in the perennial beds, lighted butterflies in  the butterfly garden, little pink flower lights on the cherry trees, lighted mushrooms in the mushroom grove. There were even these cool lights that made it look like it was snowing. It was a perfect night, cold but not freezing, and we all enjoyed walking around the gardens and seeing the displays, and then  dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant. We decided this might be an annual excursion.

There were a lot of families walking around the park that night, viewing the lights, and I don't think I was the only one watching the little children, so joyful in this holiday setting, and thinking about those other little children in Connecticut. I'm sure every parent there was clutching their children's hands a little tighter this weekend.  Heartbreaking.

Perennial Gardens

Butterfly Garden


Strawberry Fields