Welcome to my blog!

I used to blog here mostly using local photos about my neighborhood or Washington DC or other places I visited. But I took a break from the blog for a few months and then found myself posting about crafts and sewing projects I have done or are doing. These involve fabric recycling or re-use and refashioning of clothes, or other frugalities. I've left up the previous blogs and may occasionally revert to those topics again. May your days be blessed with miracles, surprises and creativity too!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jury Duty in the H. Carl Moultrie Building

Bronze Bust of Carl Moultrie
Entranceway: Carl Moultrie Building
This week I was called for jury duty and had marked it in my calendar but managed to sleep late that morning missing the 8 a.m. show up time. Nevertheless, I dashed over to the Carl Moutrie DC Superior Court House building arriving just before 10 a.m., relieved to find I could still check in (and not get fined $300 or thrown into jail as a no-show!). The clerk was very pleasant about it and explained well how I needed to sign in and what the next steps were.  So I waited in the "jury waiting room" for a panel to be called sorry that I hadn't brought a book or my laptop as they now have WiFi there! I was among the first jurors called about fifteen minutes later and we went before the judge for review of our ability to be "fair and impartial" in light of the charge. Clearly I had great difficulty with the charge --the only charge was felony possession of a handgun -- and so the judge excused me and I was sent back to the jury waiting room in case another panel was called.  After lunch I had time to peruse the bronze  plaque on the wall that explained how Carl Moultrie was the first African-American judge in D.C. Superior Court, appointed in 1972 by President Richard Nixon. Apparently he was instrumental in ensuring better court processes in D.C. courts were established among other achievements. Then back to the jury waiting room; about 3:15 p.m. another court clerk came in and said she was going to dismiss us as long we had not been instructed by any judge to re-appear. Two women in the back of the waiting room said they were supposed to be at one judge's chambers at 2:30 pm but "the door was locked and we couldn't get in."  This elicited a very angry lecture from the clerk who castigated these two prospective jurors for disobeying the judge's order back to his court. They protested again that the door was locked but the clerk continued to rail against them saying they should have gone to the court clerk's office and they were in danger of contempt of court. Another juror interrupted the clerk's angry lecture asking her to "please dismiss the rest of us if that is what you were going to do."  This elicited another angry admonishment by the clerk who said she wasn't finished talking to the other jurors about their obligation to appear when a judge ordered them and she wasn't ready to dismiss anyone yet.  I think everyone was silenced by this pure bureaucratic rage and hoped they'd be let go soon. Once the clerk finished her diatribe she did in fact let the rest of us go who had not been called into a judge's chamber, thanking us for our service and how we would not be contacted for another two years.  In the stairway down, a fellow juror muttered "she didn't have to be so nasty."  I agreed but did let her know that this jury experience was better than it used to be -- smoother security with politer guards, automated payment system for travel expense, new padded chairs, television with captioning, reading materials, trash and recycling barrels and a paint job in the jurors' waiting room, and a nearby clean women's bathroom. Also, overall the building was a lot cleaner, the cafe in the basement was more organized and -- but for this officious clerk -- the experience was much more pleasant than when I did jury duty previously.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Golden Diana Between the Courts

Between D.C. District Court building and the Court of Appeals is a small park with a gleaming statue that beckoned me this hazy August morning. Of course, I had to run over and photograph it with the miracle of my cell phone camera. It was a gold painted (?) statue of a nude female figure standing with her dog contemplating a round pool in front of the District Court of Appeals building. I imagine that at one time there was a fountain from the base. But today the water was clear and still and the figure gleamed brightly against the gray buildings. I haven't been able to find the sculptor but it seems to be from that era of artwork installed in the city and that is an echo of the ancient pagan civilizations.  I recognized the figure instantly, both as the Roman's Diana of the Hunt and the Greek's Artemis and then remembered that both of them had once also personified justice and wisdom until reduced to lesser roles by the patriarchs. But for those who today see only figures of naked women as pornographic, this sculpture should be a reminder that Wisdom is present today in many forms.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Bluest Hydrangeas

This year my front garden had the bluest hydrangeas and this photo really captured the color exactly.  But the price I paid is a bush that is now almost completely dead and I think it is because I let the soil get too alkaline. Most of the stems did not leaf or flower and I think the soil was out of balance around most of the bush. You need just the right amount of acid/alkaline balance to get blue hydrangeas otherwise the bush just gets very pink in the marine clays that are in DC gardens. What I will probably do is just cut the bush down completely and see if it will grow back. We did that once before and it grew beautifully a couple of years later. Garden resurrections are among the best!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Smart Cars and Pedicabs


Today I noticed some of the new vehicles you can see about in DC these days. There's these little Smart cars which look almost like toy cars and come in snazzy little designs and look very very easy to park. Turns out they are made by Daimler and originate from Europe!  Then, if you have some extra time and want to take a leisurely taxi or ride there's some pedicabs you can hire. In fact one day I took one home when I was on P Street. It was a green one, in the photo here, and the guy had breath enough to pedal away and chat with me about his new business and how it was very competitive with a couple of other pedicab companies in the area now.  I think DC is changing right before our very eyes if we only just notice the transformation.
Wanna race?Image by Dvorscak via Flickr


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Good Eats on DC Streets


Today I saw my friend John chatting with the nice guy who sells the best burritos and expresso coffee at the corner of 17th and K Street so of course I had to snap it with the miracle of a cell phone camera. After a quick hug I was on my through Farragut Square and saw the pink Sweet Bites van with cupcakes for sale. I noticed on twitter later that they announced they were running out of some of the cupcakes! Then on my way to the bank I saw a brand new food truck on the sidewalk, where they sell Thai food and it must be good as people were happy to wait in line for it. Then of course I saw the DC Slices van again which, at 9:30 am had the door closed as they were cooking up some amazing pizzas. Just a few hours later, with a line15 minutes long, I was sorry to rush by and miss grabbing a slice for lunch. One of these days, though, I'll get a pizza slice there so I'd better watch their twitter for when they arrive!  What bounty is brought to us and surrounds us! I think their Twitters are @DCSlices and @Sweetbitestruck.


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Dragon Food

The Chinese Dragon carry-out at the corner of First and Rhode Island is closed most of the day. It only seems to open in the afternoon and evening for those who want to eat on the street. I've never bought a single thing from them as I don't have a clue what the food really is about.  This particular street food store got a bad name for itself during the crack-headed 90s because there was at least one shooting either inside the doorway or on the sidewalk out front every season. Somehow the place was associated with the drug dealing that used to occur 24/7 at the corner. There always seemed to be some sort of incident going down in front of the Dragon and in front of what used to be a liquor store on the right side. There were a number of local dealers who stood around and used the payphone that was out front. So the neighborhood activists signed a petition to have the payphone removed as a way to break up their business. Now the dealers use throwaway cell phones and seem to have other ways to meet their customers. Both the carryout and liquor store had counters with huge sheets of thick plexiglass in front of the cashiers to repel bullets and stick-ups, a feature that caused consternation when younger suburbanites started moving back into the neighborhood more recently.  The liquor store next door was bought out by an enterprising Ethiopian family who turned it into a more upmarket coffee shop, grocery, cafe and wine store -- with WiFi access!! -- and now it seems to be a going concern. It is certainly a lot sheeker store than what was there before. I wonder if the Dragon will go the way of the liquor store?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Congressional Slave Labor Task Force

A while back I had the privilege to attend an event in the U.S. Capitol building that was held in the Rotunda area underneath and inside the world-famous dome that sits atop the U.S. Congress. Looking up, I snapped this marvelous view and just had to include it here. It has only been recently that I learned the history of the slaves who helped construct this. They did a fantastic job, didn't they?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Not your average garden in #BloomingdaleDC

When I think of gardens, I tend to hold the memories of my childhood in England as the standard for what a garden should look like. Lots of lupins, lawns and laid out to look natural but usually quite planned or designed and with certain features such as flowering trees, ornamental flowers and plants. But more and more, as an American, living on a continent with many different climates and contours, I have come to appreciate that gardening is about stewardship, aesthetics and practical solutions. So each day when I walk past this brick holder of flowers and the pots of giant cactus I admire the effort and thought that has gone into it. Likewise, I can appreciate the garden next door, which is a green carpeted expanse suppressing the weeds and trees and creepers that would surely spring up if the front lot is left unattended. The gardener has placed a solitary pot on the green carpet, sometimes with flowers planted in it, but more often it acts as a dusty birdbath. I appreciate that someone has taken the time to solve their "gardening problem" even if it doesn't meet whatever standard I may be holding for what a garden should look like. I know there are people in my neighborhood who would sneer at this 'polyolefin green carpet garden' but sometimes, we just have to be practical when it comes it aesthetics and stewardship.

The Best Pizza is Homemade

We're a bit suspicious of ordering pizza because we are not really sure what ingredients they are using and the pies are often too greasy. So I've got in the habit of making our own. The trick is to have available some pizza dough such as a mix from Pillsbury or Betty Crocker, or even Bisquick and to have enough to stretch thinly into the whole pan.  Then, all it takes is sprinkling a little salt and herbs on the dough crust first before adding the cheeses, onions, tomatoes and tomato sauce.  We use mozzarella and goat cheese or whatever is left over, such as a bit of cheddar or Gouda either sliced or grated, or some crumbled feta cheese. You can also add any left-over meats or vegetables such as sliced sausage, or chicken, green beans, or whatever you like. We're actually planning to make a ham and pineapple one too which is pretty easy as you don't need much ham and there's always a can of pineapple somewhere.  This one -- made with sliced smoked portobello sausage left-over -- was a great Sunday dinner, thanks be to God.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bus Rides in Summer

This morning, I got off the Route 80 bus at the bottom of North Capitol street to switch to the DC Circulator bus as the noise in the Route 80 bus was just too loud for me. Everyone was having extreme cell phone calls at 8:45 a.m. in the morning, telling off their kids or screaming at their spouses or demanding something from somebody or telling the dentist they were going to be late, or things like that. Plus the bus was crowded; even though I got a seat, I found myself jammed into an inside seat by a very large man who, of course, was yelling into his cell phone the whole time the bus meandered its way down North Capitol street from my street to the Post Office at the corner. And everyone was standing and lurching into one another at every stop and looking like they could bite someone if you looked at them the wrong way. At the Florida Avenue intersection a very drunk looking older guy was yelling at the bus waving his fist, looking already like he was over-heated and quite dehydrated. Even more people piled onto the bus so, feeling more than just slightly claustrophobic, I got off before the Massachusetts Avenue turn to transfer to a nice uncrowded Circulator bus which pulled up almost immediately. Since that's the beginning of that route, there were only three people on the bus and I got a wide seat all to myself. This lasted until 7th street when a huge crowd got on bringing gusts of hot August air in with them, turning the bus into another hot, human-filled metal container. But no one was making loud cell phone calls; instead they all seemed to have plugs in their ears attached to those IPod music things so they couldn't hear anybody and clearly didn't want to talk to anyone. The bus got caught in traffic and took ten minutes to go from 11th to 14th streets due to some tie-up involving an out-of-town car backing into moving traffic just to drive the rest of us crazy in the heat in the summer. Bus rides can be a humbling experience! Lord, get me through today!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Orphan Garden on 16th St NW

I regularly wait for a bus at the corner of P and 16th streets NW and spotted this little orphan garden on the northwest corner. It was filled with sunflowers and some other plants and clearly was regularly tended by some loving neighbor. The yellow stakes around the edge warned off the peeing dogs and I suspect that someone had drawn the graffiti scarecrow person on the grey switch box also to scare off intruders. I know this orphan garden was watered often because anyone who has ever grown sunflowers know they are total guzzlers and will droop over the minute they get thirsty.  These flowers were happily growing and lovely to look at and the seeds will feed some birds, for sure. So someone planted this and the rest of us get to enjoy their stewardship.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Neighborhood Gardens


I'm glad I'm not the only person who fusses about her garden in the Bloomingdale DC 'hood, thank God! There's many homeowners who take the time to plant and upkeep their front and back yards or the tree boxes out front on the sidewalk. One neighbor creates a little refuge from the city under a large umbrella, another has installed a traditional fountain tinkling away as you walk by to the bus stop, and another keeps the white Rose of Sharon bush trimmed in its tree box, providing flowers for us all summer long. There are hanging pots of geraniums on porches and urns and pots of flowers and cactus on many stoops. Most of us who do this know and see each other all the time -- and in fact it may be the only neighborhood relationship we have, nodding to and complimenting each other on the flower or plant -- but it's wondrous to know that there are others tending their gardens and who realize that their garden is part of the big garden we all live in..

The Last Barber of Bloomingdale

There's been quite a few barbershops in the basements and front parlors of the Bloomingdale neighborhood since I've lived here, but this one, "Showtime," has outlasted the competition. Near to the First and Rhode Island NW intersection, and situated at a bus stop, there's always a client inside and there's something very attractive about the decorated window and sidewalk billboard. It may even be wheelchair accessible so I've thought of my son going there to get his hair trimmed when he comes home. I've yet to meet the barber himself but my neighbor told me he has a great personality (I think she dated him a few times!). Our neighborhood used to have several of these barber shops tucked away among the two and three storey houses, part of its longstanding African American culture, but no-one takes up the businesses when the old-timers pass so we're down to maybe one or two. But this store seems like a going concern and seems to provide a personal service that many like.

Boy Scouts All Over DC

You couldn't miss seeing at least a few of the Boy Scouts that have been in Washington, D.C. the past couple of weeks. Apparently they had some huge jamboree in northern Virginia and have been visiting all the usual sights that visitors to DC should visit.  I spotted this uniformed crew in Union Station while shopping for trinkets and asked them if they would mind if I photographed them while in the souvenir shop. They kindly agreed and the leader quickly pulled all his mates together and they obligingly posed for me. The whole pack was cheerful, optimistic, respectful, seemed to love their trip and epitomized a boyish natural enthusiasm that is rarely captured in the popular media who tends to focus on what's wrong with the Boy Scouts, rather than what's right.. I forget where this group said they were from but I recollect it was a midwestern state.I learned later that there are almost 3 million boy scouts in America and it was the 100th anniversary of the association and that over 30,000 had come to town for the jamboree.These teenage boys seem like a hidden treasure in our midst!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Shoe Shine Men in Plain Sight

Outside the Starbucks store on K at 14th Streets NW I espied a shoe shine man waiting, apparently, for some customers with shoes that needed shining but to no avail as everyone was wearing flip flops, or open shoes or sandals where the toes don't need the shiny stuff he was selling. He sat there chatting with a friend glancing at the passersby in the morning sun as I sipped my coffee. Did he get any customers that 15  minutes I was there? No. Did anyone stop by and ask how much it cost? No. Did he try and get pedestrians to stop and have their shoes shined? No. Was there a sign about how much it cost to have one's shoes shined? No. So I came to the conclusion it might have been a surveillance unit of some sort, especially as the white truck behind the set-up was unmarked and I've heard they do surveillance in plain sight, whoever they is and there's certainly little need for shoe shine men on K Street on a hot August morning.

Love them Summer Roses!

While my front yard does go out of control in the rambling columbine vine department, and there are a number of other mysterious things growing there that I swear I never planted, the pot with the bright pink red roses hasn't failed once this summer. From the day I planted this rose bush two months ago to now in the sticky mid-August heat, this little bush just keeps on budding and flowering and blessing me and every passerby with its small and lovely flowers.  I forget the name of the rose plant but if they have them on sale at Home Depot or Lowe's later this month, and if they are in white or yellow, I think I'll go get a couple more. This is the kind of gardening I like! Just plant 'em and water 'em when I remember, shake a little plant food occasionally, and off they grow, sharing their little flower faces with us! What joy!

Wisdom in Congress?


While on my way to a meeting in a Senate office, I happened across a collection of representational sculptures in one of the underground connecting passageways. These larger than life busty ladies and lusty lads had labels such as Wisdom and Knowledge and brandished spears and tools to emphasize the point to us passersby! I quickly snapped these fabulous figurines dressed in first century Greek garb with my very 21st century cheapo cell phone that allows me to miraculously send these images instantaneously to my computer for later retrieval when I want to blog about something.  What would those personages from that far-off time think of our everyday gadgets? Were these ladies about to jab me for daring to photograph them so glibly as I passed by their grand gestures on the importance of rational thought?   Alas, I'm sure they'd get pretty upset at our modern world for usurping their power and believing  in nothing but ourselves and our own strengths. Or does Wisdom forgive us such trespass?


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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Homeless in DC

I've been meaning to write something about being homeless in DC because it is easy for me to be so taken up with the wonder and wealth of the nation's capital and just not see these people who live right in front of us, on park benches, in alleys and doorways and hidden corners in and outside of buildings.  I saw this fellow in the photo sleeping about 2 p.m. in the afternoon in one of the mini parks alongside Pennsylvania Avenue NW. I am glad he had a quiet place to rest and sleep, his head lolling on his chest and his bag of personal stuff on the bench beside him. I've had arguments with people who insist this man should be picked up and housed or "put" somewhere, whereas I tend to think he has a right just to be there and sleep all day if he wants. But it's the messes and peculiarities of homeless people that wear us down, I think. It's the smell of pee in the subway elevators; the wrappers and food left around public benches; the gallon of vomit on the sidewalk; the drunken man lurching toward you; the inflamed eyes catching your eye to ask you for some spare change; the unintelligible words of the individual standing on the corner raving at the sky; the almost naked woman cursing you from under a dirty blanket; the young woman in the tent in the alley who screams at you to "get away, get away." I, and probably you, just don't want to "deal with it" on our way to an appointment with cleaner, more rationale, dressed, shoed and organized people in the world of our own business.  I have given some thought to how he or she got in their predicament and was told by one "homelessness expert" that addiction creates a lot of this, i.e., there is a steady spiral downward, of non-accumulation of assets, when a person bleeds their household budget dry to feed their habit and then the family unit "snaps" or the individual has exhausted their family who can't help anymore. I got to know one homeless lady whose story was that she refused all offers of public housing and lived on the streets -- and in shelters at night -- after squatting in her building when it was sold for redevelopment.  Another man, addicted to just about anything for years, had been thrown out by his family repeatedly, he said, and made his life on the street. My urge is to want to do something right away, and the best I can muster is sometimes some spare change, or a very brief conversation, or call the city for some cleanup, or send a check to a shelter. Or just pray for these people who remind us of how much we have and who we are.