Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fetching Fan in Frederick

Yesterday Doug was so eager to get the fan that he'd just bought on eBay, that he couldn't wait for them to send it. So we drove all the way up to Frederick to pick it up. It's a very handsome fan, and although it's a little more modern looking than anything else in our house, I think it will be okay on the porch. At least I hope so.

We stopped at the scenic overlook on the way up. I'd never stopped there before. The sky was actually more scenic than the scenery. The area does have a vibe though. It looks out over the Monacacy River Valley where one of the many gruesome Civil War battles took place. After their victory at the Battle of Monocacy, the Confederates marched to Fort Stevens in DC. Even though they'd won that battle they had a lot of casualties and I think that's why they didn't actually attack in DC. I think they decided it would be better to just leave. Anyway, here's a view from the scenic overlook. The trees are kind of in the way of the view of the valley in the distance.

On the way back we saw a huge Black Walnut tree in the old section of Rockville. It's already lost most of its leaves, but the walnuts were shining brightly in the afternoon sun and I loved the way the green looked against the blue sky.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Sky

The clouds were pretty cool looking this afternoon. These photos only show a tiny bit of what was up there today. Clouds like this always make me happy, especially when the sun is shining through them.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Cat Concerto for Ted and Tom....

... and Felix and Seymour and TopCat and Lulu. These are all of the cats that have been important to me for one reason or another. Sadly, none of them are still here with us, except in spirit. The video below, which I initially stumbled upon over here somehow made me miss all of them even more. I realize that the cat part of this video is very cleverly patched together, but it has been incorporated into the composition so beautifully that it's become a work of art in its own right. Maybe I've turned into a crazy cat lady (who no longer has any cats), but I somehow felt Ted's spirit around me when I watched it:

This time of year contains a little sadness for me because it was around the end of September two years ago that my beloved Ted passed away. And last September my friend lost her cat Tom, which made me doubly sad. I'm certainly not a natural-born cat lover the way my husband is, but Ted changed all that for me, at least during his lifetime. Now I have an appreciation for cats that I would not have had otherwise. Ted was special. They all were. So I'm declaring September to be National Cat Memorial Month.

Here's something my friend Nancy wrote about Ted after having him as her guest for two months while we were on the road:

A study in Triangles

His face
is a broad,
lovely triangle.
The brown front end
of his nose is a microcosmic
triangle of the larger face,with
two black nostrils defining its outer
limits. When he tips his head upward,
looking at you over his shoulder, while
laying on the bed, the large triangle-head
is inverted, nose at the top. At this moment,
a person standing in front of him sees a whitish
triangle, his soft neck and chin tipped skyward. His
rubbery black craggy lips form a two-sided arrow of a
triangle. And, of course, one can't miss the nearly isoscoles
ears. Finally, Ted's tail is the narrowest of triangles ever imagined.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

a multi-cultural weekend

On Friday night I had an orchestra gig at the KORUS Festival in Annandale, accompanying the local Korean-American community's answer to The Three Tenors. They sang a few Italian arias and the orchestra played The Barber of Seville overture.

In between the opera segment and the US and Korean national anthems, there was a spectacular performance by the Gambling Crew, which is an ensemble of Korean break dancers. I don't know about you, but Korean+break+dancing are three words I never thought I'd see in a row, much less on stage. I guess I don't get out much. Anyway, their show was really impressive and exciting. And for some reason it didn't occur to me that boys would also get tramp stamp tattoos, but again, I just don't get out very much.

On Saturday a friend of Doug's who was visiting from Texas stopped by to see all the work we've been doing on our house. Afterwards we went to grab a bite to eat at the Ukrainian Festival which was happening nearby. We had pierogies, sausage and sauerkraut, and borscht. They also had stuffed cabbage and various pastries, along with regular hot dogs and hamburgers, and a Ukrainian beer garden which we did not indulge in because we had work to do.

There was lots of dancing and assorted musical performances. It was interesting to hear virtuosic Russian gypsy violin being played with a disco style backup track. I can't say I liked that aspect, but hey, I guess that's multicultural too! I was disappointed to not see any balalaika bands while I was there. The various Russian dance troupes were excellent and almost as exciting as the Koreans. But their costumes were much more interesting and the dancing was a lot closer to their actual cultural origins. Nearly everyone who came to this festival (except for us and a few others) were wearing embroidered Russian peasant shirts or costumes of some sort.

Another thing that tied these two events together for me was that one of the songs the Three Korean Tenors sang was O Sole (get it?!?) Mio, and then on Saturday one of the virtuosic violinists who performed was named Solomiya Horokhivska. Really! Okay that was really really bad. But true! Anyway, she played beautifully.

I wonder if my geese migrated over to this nice pond at the back of St. Andrews Orthodox Church.

And one last thing - if you ever happen to be in outer outer Silver Spring (as in Cloverly, way out on New Hampshire Avenue), be sure to stop in at O'Keefe Orchard and pick up some fresh, crisp, juicy apples.

I think it's pretty close to the end of peach season by now, but the ones we've been getting there for the past month are the best I've had in years. Incredibly delicious and impeccably unblemished. But their apples are also equally outstanding.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Endless Summer

Summer is not over (for me) until I say it is! September is actually my favorite "summer" month because it's the very best time of the year to go to the beach around here. The air is still warm and the water is a very comfortable 68 degrees. And the light at this time of year is amazing. Click on my short little litte video and enjoy the beach for a moment without getting any sunscreen in your eyes or sand in your shoes:

I've decided that since I didn't get a "real" vacation this year, I'm going to revert to my old habit of taking as many day trips to the beach as possible during September and October. Summer won't be over for me until the water is too cold for swimming and that will not happen until the very end of October, thanks to the Gulf Stream.

So yesterday we did our usual day trip to Assateague. My camera's battery was dying so my picture-taking was limited. Anyway, here's a picture of a giant jellyfish that was on the beach. I've never seen one so huge here before! Usually there aren't jellyfish there at all.

There were ponies on the beach, but they didn't come near us. It's always fun to see them, but they can sometimes be pests. One time I was in the water and when I came out there was a pony standing right in the middle of my blanket and he was nosing through my bag. They are totally unfazed by people so I couldn't really chase him off - I had to wait until he decided to leave. It's a good thing I was done for the day because I wouldn't have wanted to get back on my blanket after that. Here of some of the other horses grazing in the distance.

For a long time, Ocean City was the main beach I went to. Then I went through a Rehoboth Beach phase but now I'm back in Maryland and Assateague is my beach of choice. During the last several years they've made a few changes in order to improve the flow of traffic to and from the beach. I used to consider Vienna, MD to be kind of the armpit of the trip. It was such a dinky little town that Route 50 had to go down to two lanes, and I think there might have been a drawbridge there at one time. It always kind of annoyed me. It was definitely the slowest section of the the trip, and not very scenic.

They finally built a bypass, including a big new bridge, but I was kind of surprised at my reaction the first time I went over it. At first I thought that it was great that they'd finally done something about the delays that would often happen there, but then I started feeling a little disappointed. It seemed sort of anticlimactic passing by Vienna now - the poor little town was sitting over there all lonely in the distance. But that's progress I guess.

So as we were heading home yesterday, we saw an amazing sight as we were crossing the bridge there - a tugboat was pushing a barge loaded with huge piles of sand down the Nanticoke River. I decide to take the exit and see if I could drive to where the old Route 50 used to be and get a picture. The old bridge isn't there any more and there's a small field where the road used to be. We got there just in time.

Since we were already out of the car we decided to walk around a little. Vienna is actually much nicer than it ever looked from the old Route 50. They have a tiny little river walk, and there are a bunch of nice old houses facing the water, and several of them are for sale by the way. There's not much else there, but it's a very nice little sleepy town.

The Nanticoke Inn is still open for dinner every day from 4:30 until 6:00. I guess they have enough local business to have survived the moving of the road. And they still have those lovely decorations on the side of the building.

We opted to stop in Easton for dinner. Easton is really cute, but it's sort of turning into St. Michaels South. There are a lot of excellent but pricey restaurants there. We went to Darnell's Grille and Catering, which was excellent but reasonably priced. The cream of crab soup was completely amazing. Doug got the soft shell crab special with collards and macaroni and cheese, and I got Rockfish with coleslaw and potato salad. Darnell used some huge basil leaves as a garnish, and so my coleslaw was infused with a hint of basil, just from that leaf laying on top. It was really good! Doug added some of his basil to the collard greens, which were good to begin with, but again turned into something spectacular with the basil. I guess we just love basil. My rockfish was delightful. The softshell crabs were delightful. The potato salad was excellent. The macaroni was some of the best I've ever had - kind of light and fluffy, but the cheese was very flavorful and present. We shared a delicious piece of lemon cake for dessert.

I will definitely be going back to Darnell's Grille. Darnell is an excellent host and an outstanding cook, and his prices are totally reasonable. The address is 22 N. Harrison Street in Easton, MD. Check it out the next time you are passing through!

So today it was business as usual. The porch ceiling is nearly all the way up, and then we did a bunch of odds and ends most of the day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Our Trip to Tangier Island

A long long time ago, when I first went to college as a piano major, we were required to sing in the chorus. Then all of the chorus members were strongly encouraged to be in the onstage chorus of the opera. My very first one was Faust and I loved it. I went on to be in Pearl Fishers, Carmen, and during my last year my friend JoAnn and I played celeste together down in the pit in a newly composed opera by Gerald Muller called Joshua. It was based on the life of a preacher on Tangier Island, out in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, who had been required to lead prayer services for the British troops on their way up to bomb Baltimore in the War of 1812. The music was exciting and the story was rather interesting. It left me hoping to one day visit Tangier Island myself.

I had kind of forgotten all about that until I read this post from Capital Spice, which described their recent trip to Tangier Island in great detail. I decided I HAD to go there this summer, and a few weeks ago I finally did. If you want to visit Tangier, definitely go read their post - it has all of the necessary links for transportation and lodging. We basically replicated their trip except that we arrived late in the day and stayed for two nights.

It was a great getaway, and could have been totally relaxing except that we spent the entire day we were there riding bikes, paddling kayaks, and walking around all over the place. The island is really small so we just rode around everywhere about six times. They don't have or need cars on Tangier, but nearly every family there has a golf cart. Some of them keep a car on the mainland.

Most of the people who live on Tangier Island are descendants of the original families and we saw the same last names over and over in all of the various grave sites. It was interesting to hear the rather unique accents - they all had the same features, but in varying combinations and amounts. What I mostly heard was British sounding vowels, combined with some of the inflections and rhythms and articulations of Baltimore. I had a nice conversation with one little five year old boy who was already tending to his very own crab cages and he definitely sounded more British than anything else.

So we took the late afternoon ferry from Onancock, VA which is just over an hour south of Salisbury, MD off of Route 13. We got in to Tangier around 7 pm, checked in to Hilda Crockett's guesthouse, went out for dinner, walked around some, got ice cream, and then went to sleep.

The next day we had the huge and delicious breakfast, went for a bike ride, split a softshell crab sandwich, went to the museum, went kayaking, ate the huge and delicious lunch/dinner at Hilda Crockett's, rode bikes some more, walked down to get some ice cream, and then went to bed so early that we were able to squeeze in another bike riding session before our 7am departure the next day.

Since we were so far south we decided to go to the beach at Chincoteague. It was beautiful and I'd go there more often if it were closer and didn't have so many ferocious flies. After we were done with the beach we drove home.

And here are the pictures - you can click on them if you want to see a larger version:

Onancock Wharf, where we caught the ferry

Some of the many crab shacks we saw on the way in to Tangier

The town, from the water

The softshell crab sandwich

The Reverend Joshua Thomas

Hilda Crockett's guesthouse

an old abandoned house

another old abandoned house

more crab shacks

crab cages

bird houses


a white heron

a blue heron

local kittens

the birds at Chincoteague

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Tequila Cleanse?

Question: Can drinking 17 shots of tequila cure depression?

This has been a particularly woe-is-me kind of summer with an onslaught of hard physical labor and exhaustion, no big fabulous trips, no money, not a lot of playing, and fewer fun excursions than usual. I haven't felt much like blogging mostly because I didn't want to wallow in my misery any more than I already have, and there's not that much else to write about. Plus, I'm usually too exhausted when I get back to the cinderblock chalet so it's all I can do to click a few links and drop a few comments here and there.

I've always been rather moderate in my drinking habits, sticking mostly to beer, wine, and the occasional margarita. But for the most part beer has been my drink of choice, especially when there is a lot to be consumed. I used to hold it pretty well, but these days I wouldn't even know.

So last week I went to a Tequila Tasting party. My friends have somehow managed to accumulate 17 different bottles of tequila, and they felt it was time for people to check them all out, all at once. They provided us with a list so that we could indicate our favorites. Apparently I'm still in school mode - I must obey all instructions exactly so that I'll be sure to get an A, especially when there's a handout. I took the whole tasting thing VERY seriously.

Fortunately they served food about halfway through, or I never would have made it. Also, I didn't really drink 17 full shots - I had 17 semi-half shots. That's not that much I guess. But it's a whole lot more than I'm used to. And everyone else except for Phil only tried about 6 or 7 of them. So Phil and I became lab partners. He rated all of his shots with stars, and I wrote comments for mine. I revisited several of the early ones that I had neglected to comment on, (it's easy to get distracted and forget) and I even had some of the one with the dead scorpion in the bottom which tasted sort of hickory smoked. I think they said that was called mesclun, not tequila. Whatever, it was on the same table so I drank it.

I found the tasting experience to be pleasant and delightful over all, and I enjoyed having a sense of purpose about something that could be completed in one evening. I did have to take a couple of breaks in order to maintain some semblence of coherency in my comments though.

I was worried that I'd have a huge hangover the next day but I woke up feeling unusually clear-headed - it was really quite amazing. And what is truly astounding is that I was also suddenly in a ridiculously good mood which has lasted to this day. I feel like a completely new person - all negativity has been completely cleared out, cleansed if you will.

I don't know whether it was the tequila or the wonderful life-affirming news that we received earlier in the evening, but the fog has definitely lifted. I feel more energized, enthusiastic, and happier than I have all summer long. And now it's September so I'm good to go.