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!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Chinese Dragon In the Neighborhood

Apparently the owner of the Chinese Dragon take-away food store on the corner of Rhode Island and First Street in our neighborhood got some money from the city government's facade improvement program (that is, from us taxpayers) to improve his store front. Previously, this was just block letters and there was not a little dragon logo over the store windows. I think the front wall was also repainted yellow and the windows have also been washed too so the whole effect is to make this place look a lot smarter. You would never know it but this food establishment was the scene of some drug related shootings back when we had a serious crack cocaine problem in the 'hood. I think someone was even killed right in front of this place, shot to death on the sidewalk. Back then, this corner was a thriving drug market, thanks to the Washington Post for putting the corner on a map of drug dealing locations they routinely printed (to help suburbanites find inner city drug markets).  Today, however, the neighboring store is a more up-market grocery and wine store than what used to be there -- a liquor store -- and the Chinese Dragon has also gotten fixed up.  I've never bought anything to eat from here as I don't "eat on the street" nor have I thought to go in and see what that's there but maybe I should try it.  Does a cleaned up facade mean the food might be more appealing? Some people think so as two people have given positive reviews of this Chinese Dragon here on Yelp.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Repainted or New Creche in the White House Grounds

Late on Christmas Day we took the bus downtown to the White House grounds to see the annual outdoor Christmas tree. It  was all lit up with blue and green and white and red lights, but it didn't change colors like in previous years. However, they did have set up all the little model trains that go around the Christmas Tree so that was fun to watch.  We also saw the annual Yule Log burning away throwing off sparks and embers at the crowds gathered round in the cold night air. We also were very pleased to see that this year they had replaced or repaired and painted the figurines for the creche display.  The last couple of years we'd seen this display the figurines had all looked a bit in need of repair or patching with some cracks and peeling paint.  So it was good to see the Mary and Joseph and Jesus and Wise Men figurines freshly painted or maybe even new, it was hard to tell. We're glad there is such a display on the White House grounds and there was quite a crowd around it. So,  have you seen Jesus lately?

Christmas Eve Cookies

The very pretty twin girls who live on our street came by on Christmas Eve day to give us a plate of delicious cookies they had made with their mother. They were accompanied by their dad and carried in a plate full of marvelous goodies --  English toffee crunch brownies, gingerbread spice cookies, sugary Christmas tree cookies and chocolate mint biscuits. They were the best cookies to have with either a cup of milk or a glass of white wine! I hadn't got around to making any sweets to nibble on throughout the Christmas holidays -- except for apple jelly and English plum pudding -- so it was wonderful to receive this gift. We've known these girls since they were three years old and now they are in college so it's wonderful to see what lovely young women they've turned out to be. Smart and pretty and know how to make cookies! Isn't that what girls should be! Thank God for girls who bring sweet gifts on Christmas Eve!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Serious Crash on Route 7 East, Virginia

When I drove home from Leesburg, Virginia today about 5 pm traffic was tied up for about 45 minutes. I suspected an accident but hoped it was just back-up from all the construction going on around Tyson's Corner or maybe just heavier-than-usual Christmas shopping. But about 25 minutes into the 10 mile-an-hour crawl, I saw flashing blue lights and orange blinking lights up ahead and knew that some accident had occurred. By the time I got to the site of the accident they were cleaning it up. The car that had been impacted the most -- that is destroyed-- had been hoisted onto a tow truck. I think there had been ambulances and maybe a fire-truck or two. Apparently a lot of gasoline or oil had been spilled so there was a small crew pouring sand or gravel onto the liquid and then shoveling it up. I couldn't look too long but I was astounded and shocked by what little I was able to see as I drove past (and snapped this photo quickly!). Of course, right after, the road was totally clear and I was able to speed home, at normal speed, you can be sure.  What can the sight of the remains of an accident do for us but remind us at the very least to drive more carefully, more respectfully of each other and to pay closer attention.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Toilet on the Street

This is what the corner of our street looks like for the past eight weeks as the workmen have been replacing some gas pipes. A big bright blue plastic toilet is the first thing you see when you turn into the road.  Not the tree, not the nice stone wall but a big you-can't-miss-this white-roofed Jiffy John. And it's a very nice street corner, overlooked by a cemetery filled with crosses and dead bodies. Of course, the workmen have to have a facility, but did it have to be situated right on the corner? And did they have to litter all the sidewalk with orange safety cones and leave curling yellow pipes scattered about. I suppose I should stop griping about this as at least they have stopped drilling and excavating in the morning and no longer wake me up as I mentioned in my previous post called "get me out of the drilling and digging noises" where I grinched about the machinery, dirt and noise but this street work is just going on too long.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mad About the Madonnas in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC

I can spend more than a few hours in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC searching out and staring at all the Madonna paintings and statues. Not only are they hundreds of years old and created by  very famous Renaissance artists, but you just know that millions of people have also gazed on them and thought about the contents. Their colors and textures are extraordinary and you can't help wondering what woman and child or person sat and posed for the artist so he or she could create these icons. Of course, not everyone knows the stories of Advent and the birth of Jesus but of the several billion Christians in the world, I would hope that a few of us can gaze on these visual treats and have it enhance our faith. For others, at the least they can appreciate the art's antiquity and value or perhaps catch a glimmer of what they mean. I am very glad that one is allowed to take photos inside the Gallery as I now have my own images of these priceless works to use in a blog like this or to insert inside an email or print out for myself or whatever.  With electronic text and images, there are miracles we can experience every day!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

No, Virginia, the Gingerbread House is Not on Fire!

This was not the winning gingerbread house in the workplace competition, although this is clearly "a winner" due to the number of lighted and fast-burning birthday candles stuck into the roof and grounds of this candy house and due to the speed with which our team whipped this together in about 30 minutes.  The icing glue stuff wouldn't stick very well so the roof pieces kept sliding off so I used (unlit) cake candles as prostheses to hold the roof up. And, knowing no other team used candles, I stuck about 8 candles on it and lit them up so that there was an extraordinary effect.  My team -- of the three teams that participated in this "holiday party" activity -- squeezed in the making of this gingerbread house in between teleconferences and other end-of-year tasks we had to execute so it's surprising we got so far. In fact we were so busy with our regular tasks, the team leader didn't get to even stick on one candy! But, between the green jelly sweets, the raspberry chewy candies and other bits and pieces of sugary doodads, it at least looked somewhat like a gingerbread house when we'd finished. The other teams started DAYS before and spent HOURS working on theirs in comparison. I'm not showing their final products as ours takes the cake, in my humble opinion!  I should mention that during the "holiday party" itself  I smelt plastic and sugar burning and quickly came out into the office lobby -- where all three team's gingerbread houses were displayed -- and discovered that the birthday candles were burning down and starting to light up their plastic holders and the gingerbread house itself!  SO, before there was a need to call the fire department, I quickly blew out all the candles, but only AFTER photographing it for posterity's sake with the miracle of my cell phone. Thank God for silliness, cell phones and sweets!   
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter's Here in DC!

Wreaths on 16th Street
Snow on K Street
Well, winter came upon us in Washington, D.C. this week with cold winds and even some wet and sloppy snow today. Although I had a big coat and hat and gloves and managed to stay warm, I didn't have boots on and sure enough stepped into a puddle of cold melting snow and got my shoes and feet all freezy and squishy. Perhaps someone was trying to cheer me up later when they said that it's not really winter until the 21st of December when it's the solstice. So, I looked that up and that's the longest night and shortest day. But when I thought about that it would seem that we would then be moving toward shorter nights and longer days the next day. And this would happen until we get all the way to summer on June 21st which is really when "winter"  starts, back there when I was moaning about the heat and blogging about the fountains here in DC and right after the longest day and shortest night we'd be heading back to winter again. But today it was definitely winter and I was glad to get home to my cozy, Christmas-light festooned house and to rest and think about Advent.  
Snow on 16th St





Franklin Square
14th Street
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

DC Metrobus G8 Kept Me Waiting in the Cold Too Long!

Twenty-five minutes is too long to wait for a bus on a cold Monday morning! After waiting for about ten minutes in the freezing windy cold at 8:50 am on Rhode Island Avenue along came a bus!  However, it zoomed right past with the driver apparently unable to tell the standing passengers to "move back" so he could say he had no room for the six of us waiting.  So he didn't stop. You'd think another bus would come along within a few minutes? Nope. It was another fifteen minutes later before a bus arrived for us poor freezing passengers. And the driver had draped a jacket over the Coin/Smart Trip fare machine as apparently that wasn't working well either. Or were we given a free fare as we'd waited so long for the bus?  How can DC Metrobus keep on not running enough buses to pick up passengers on time IN THE MORNING?  It wasn't raining. It wasn't snowing. The traffic wasn't even heavy. It's not like this isn't a busy route as there's usually at least half a dozen passengers at this G8 stop every day and the bus fills up. And why the no-fare or broken fare machine?  On reflection, at least once a week I get on a bus and the fare machine is broken or not working or the driver just waves us past. How can WMATA make any money this way?  Just what is going on?
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gassy Pizza and Coffee at Emilio's

On the way to visiting my mother in Leesburg, VA recently, I discovered I had arrived a little early and decided to have lunch by myself at Emilio's in Lansdowne, a "village" development on the outskirts of Leesburg. Feeling like one of the Real Housewives -- who always seem to be eating out in brand new restaurants with trendy Italian or similar themes in brand new buildings -- I sat down and ordered a coffee and a pizza. It was a thin crust, the kind I like, and layered with thinly sliced zucchini, red bell pepper strips, some black olive slices and cheese. Not a tomato in sight! Well, it tasted fine except there was a faint odor of the cooking gas underneath the flavors, which is something I really don't like. But the service was very good and the waiter quite professional and friendly, so I didn't really have much to complain about except that gassy taste which is significant in my opinion. You really shouldn't be able to taste the cooking fuel unless it's hickory smoked or something. So, I found myself contrasting this restaurant with downtown DC restaurants. One, there really aren't pizza restaurants in downtown DC. There's a pizza van, but not a restaurant. Two, I was the only customer at 12 noon, although several others came in later to fill about 4 tables of the 20 tables they had. Everyone was white, or seemed to be anyway in this location although I think I did espy one Black person in a car driving by. A typical DC downtown daytime restaurant is usually very busy with most of the tables filled. Three, I parked my car in the street right outside the restaurant. That is highly unlikely in DC, to say the least, where just a couple of hours parking can cost $10 at least. Then, the other patrons were not what you see in DC restaurants at lunch time which are suited men and women, or otherwise dressed in office smart clothing, with a high proportion of "single" people it often seems. In Emilio's was a grouping of suburban ladies in baggy blue jeans and pants, loose tops and anorak coats, and none of whom seemed to have combed their hair or put on any makeup or jewelry that day. They were gaily ordering a pizza and salads and beers and just didn't look like DC lunchtime restaurant patrons. The other table was an older couple, a man and a woman, who seemed to be staring vacantly out the window in between eating their chicken salads. Not really lunchtime patrons in downtown DC either.I'm not sure where I'm going with this commentary other than to say I enjoy living in the city, which is much more bustling and diverse than are the far exurbs and where pizza either comes delivered to your door or you buy it off a truck. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Martini and Tomato Cheddar Soup and Dirty Menu & Place Mats at Finn & Porter downtown restaurant

had tomato cheddar cheese soup w/ tomato sandwich & hummu... on TwitpicWell, the food and service were pretty good and friendly but the dirty menu (splats of lettuce and some dried up sauce) and the place mats were stained with dried up old food somewhat detracted from what could have been a super lunch experience downtown. Well, it was Sunday and maybe they hadn't got to these chores?  Plus I had a very well mixed martini so I didn't complain too much other than to point out the menu problem to the nice and friendly waitress who took it away immediately saying "sorry." The tomato cheddar soup was hot and not too spicy, and the crispy pita bread and hummus was fresh enough so it's not the food that's the problem at the place, but the cleanliness. Oh, did I forget to say too that some of the knives in the place settings looked a bit grimy?. Fortunately, I didn't have to cut up anything but it certainly made me check the spoon before dipping it. I'm glad to give thanks for the means to eat out but really I do expect more hygienic practices.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winter Leaves But Wisdom Stays

On my way to work the other day I looked up and saw that there were still some maple leaves on some of the trees on the street on the way to my bus stop. With the miracle of my cell phone camera I snapped this photo as I so loved the sun shining through the yellow leaves against the dark branches and blue sky. It's at these moments that I realize how much I have been influenced by a poem I learned as a child. Here it is:
Time to Stop and Stare
What is this life if full of care
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep, or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare
.
--  William Henry Davies 1871 - 1940

I remember learning this at age 7 when we had to memorize some poem for some English literature study we did while being home schooled. Of course, that was back when my mind was blotting paper soaking up new things avidly, not like it is now when the Random Access Memory program occasionally fails due to the  Information Uptake plugin software being "overloaded."   Or at least, that's how it now feels when I have to learn some new text -- it's just too hard to do. But at the least, all the words I've taken in, have had an effect and have lead me to action.  So it's just as well I read the Bible then or I'd probably be a real mess by now.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Winter Beef and Fruit Soup

Today I got creative in the kitchen with some leftover and already cooked sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, asparagus tips, cauliflower florets, and a cup of home made sweet apple sauce. Most of these were left over from Thanksgiving dinner and not really very large portions. So, I added a teaspoon of curry powder and a dash each of the brown spices (black pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cloves) and some soy sauce to color it for some extra flavors.  Then I pitched in some cut-up leftover sirloin tips and shredded beef slices. This stew was left to cook on the crock pot high setting for a couple of hours while de-hoarding the garage.  About two hours later we were ravenous and I served this Winter Stew with a little bread, and it was delishus!  Thank God for leftover vegetables, bits of beef and spices!

No Longer Eligible for A&E #Hoarders

Hoard for Removal
De-hoarded garage space
Today I went out to the garage to get the Christmas decorations but, inspired by A&E cable TV channel's program called Hoarders, I found myself clearing out a small hoard of papers, tools, coiled wired, old lamps, books, a chair, a table and a wheelchair. We bagged it all up and then put it out in the alley for a Bulk Trash Pickup which I signed up for online right away to avoid getting a Trash Ticket from the City Trash Ticket Lady.  I did relate to the people on the TV show a little as I found myself saying "I don't want to give this up" about a couple of the items such as my son's baby things or a school paper I'd written years ago. Mostly, however, I found myself saying "Why do I still have my ex-husband's rusted tools?" and "Why am I keeping this bag of nails?" After all, if I'd needed them or he wanted them back, in the twelve years we've been divorced, they would have been used! So feeling very pleased with meself, I then went in to photograph the cleared space. A sleepy little field mouse, looking very large and pregnant, was making her way out from the leftover rubble and dust, and I'm sorry to say, I picked up the baseball bat and whacked her dead. Well, it's not as if mice are an endangered species, now, is it? So with a little clean up -- which took about two hours -- I've gotten rid of some of my hoard. Now, I'm thinking about what else to tackle. Fortunately, I don't have an attic, but the basement and some of the closets could do with some serious garbage bag de-hoarding, so once I get some Hefties, maybe I'll tackle those. Purging is good! 

Get me out of the Drilling and Digging Noises

For the past ten weeks -- or even longer -- they (whoever they are) have been waking me up each morning drilling and digging on the street outside my house. Just when I want to roll over for another 5 minute snooze, the gouging, whirring, screeching, crunching, dragging sound of heavy machinery starts up propelling me to unGodly words and unladylike oaths and forcing me out from under the cozy covers and flannel sheets that cuddle us each night. Apparently, there's some gas pipes being replaced that is causing all the fuss. But it's been a noisy, long drawn process and it's still not over. The street has many large holes in it, covered with one inch thick sheets of metal bolted down and those orange traffic cones scattered about and one of those hideous blue portable toilets smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk for the workmen. All the earth digging has kicked up lots of dust so our cars are covered in dried up clay in addition to the autumn leaves that find their way into every crack of the car. I don't know where I'm going with the blog but it's your basic whine about a public works project and its noise and inconvenience. Don't get me started on the parking places lost to trucks and piles of earth and so-called tree protector fences that aren't protecting anything. Usually, our street in the fall is pretty with orange and yellow maple leaves and the last of the roses and marigolds. This year, it's been mud and dust and drilling and digging noises for weeks and no end in sight.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Telecommunications Titans and Those COAT People

I nearly fell over with surprise at an event this past Tuesday when Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts included me in a list of five people that he named and said we were "telecommunications titans." Interestingly, a co-worker snapped a shot of the live captioning behind him as he said it. So here it is, immortalized on the screen behind his head, at the celebratory event in the very grand Caucus Room of the U.S. House Cannon building. The five of us have been called several things along the way as we have lobbied for disability accessible technology policy over the last five years, but this one is the most interesting moniker! I consider it a great honor to have been called out like this in a public venue where there were almost 200 people, including a senator, the chairman of the FCC, several administration appointees and no end of other highly influential Washington DC people! At another event we were referred to as "the COAT People" as our coalition's acronym is COAT. That one made us all laugh, particularly as it was said in a very matter-of-fact tone by a private sector attorney -- that we all loved to work with -- at another public event. Our legislation was signed by the President in October. Learn more about COAT here.

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