Monday, December 26, 2011

The Gift Bags Were a Hit!

I've been carrying on about these gift bags I have been putting together for the gathering last night.  Well, here they are.


Here is a picture of the items placed in each bag.  Very simple and very elegant.  A bottle of champagne, chocolates, a box of Oreo covered cookies in a candy cane box and a homemade pumpkin bread.


This is what the bags looked like just before we left for the party.


And the dining room table just before we left.

It was an intimate group of our closest friends hosted by Paul and Barbara Silberstein.  I stopped by a little early and met Barbara at the front door and dropped off a tray of ham and provolone sandwiches on croissants and a cheese ball with crackers and tomatoes.  Her table was divine.   We stayed for a couple hours and then rushed back home to release Baxter from his cage.  He continues to recuperate from back surgery.  He was elated to see us, and we him.  I noticed this morning that his nose was a little pink from his attempts to escape his cage while we were gone.  While I would prefer not to see this, it is a minor issue in the big scheme of things.  A little bit of a pink nose from trying to escape the cage is quite insignificant when the bigger issue is a full recovery from back surgery.  He continues to improve and enjoyed his Christmas present today, which consisted of three new stuffed  "buddies", all of whom are about the same size as him!!  A wonderful day was had by all.

The Gift Bags Were a Hit!

I've been carrying on about these gift bags I have been putting together for the gathering last night.  Well, here they are.


Here is a picture of the items placed in each bag.  Very simple and very elegant.  A bottle of champagne, chocolates, a box of Oreo covered cookies in a candy cane box and a homemade pumpkin bread.


This is what the bags looked like just before we left for the party.


And the dining room table just before we left.

It was an intimate group of our closest friends hosted by Paul and Barbara Silberstein.  I stopped by a little early and met Barbara at the front door and dropped off a tray of ham and provolone sandwiches on croissants and a cheese ball with crackers and tomatoes.  Her table was divine.   We stayed for a couple hours and then rushed back home to release Baxter from his cage.  He continues to recuperate from back surgery.  He was elated to see us, and we him.  I noticed this morning that his nose was a little pink from his attempts to escape his cage while we were gone.  While I would prefer not to see this, it is a minor issue in the big scheme of things.  A little bit of a pink nose from trying to escape the cage is quite insignificant when the bigger issue is a full recovery from back surgery.  He continues to improve and enjoyed his Christmas present today, which consisted of three new stuffed  "buddies", all of whom are about the same size as him!!  A wonderful day was had by all.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas


All the best for a Very Merry Christmas
and a
 Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas


All the best for a Very Merry Christmas
and a
 Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Baxter Received Best Christmas Present Ever

You would never know it from this photo, but Baxter is actually a very happy boy today.


He had his follow-up visit with the surgeon this afternoon.  The first order of business was to remove the staples along his incision.  And the second order of business was to remove the lampshade from around his head.  He feels like a new puppy.  The first thing he wanted to do when we got home was take a nap.  As you can tell from his expression in this photo, I was interfering with that nap by wanting to take a few pictures so that I could post about his excellent report.  We met with Dr. Neravanda and he was very pleased with the progress.  Baxter has full use of his hind legs again and was able to easily make his way around the examination room.  He passed his neurological tests with flying colors.  Dr. Neravanda was kind enough to explain the entire procedure he performed, in detail.  As involved as this procedure was, we were able to follow along and to have a better understanding of just what the problem was and how he corrected it.  We are so lucky to live in a time where this type of medical expertise is available.  He expects a full recovery based on Baxter's improvement today, nearly three weeks after surgery.  He will continue on cage confinement for two more weeks, and then progress to having run of the house again.  However, the days of jumping are over.  This will be a challenge to keep under control.  While we will spend Christmas with close friends and exchange gifts in the spirit of the season, there could be no better gift than the speedy recovery we are seeing in him.

Baxter Received Best Christmas Present Ever

You would never know it from this photo, but Baxter is actually a very happy boy today.


He had his follow-up visit with the surgeon this afternoon.  The first order of business was to remove the staples along his incision.  And the second order of business was to remove the lampshade from around his head.  He feels like a new puppy.  The first thing he wanted to do when we got home was take a nap.  As you can tell from his expression in this photo, I was interfering with that nap by wanting to take a few pictures so that I could post about his excellent report.  We met with Dr. Neravanda and he was very pleased with the progress.  Baxter has full use of his hind legs again and was able to easily make his way around the examination room.  He passed his neurological tests with flying colors.  Dr. Neravanda was kind enough to explain the entire procedure he performed, in detail.  As involved as this procedure was, we were able to follow along and to have a better understanding of just what the problem was and how he corrected it.  We are so lucky to live in a time where this type of medical expertise is available.  He expects a full recovery based on Baxter's improvement today, nearly three weeks after surgery.  He will continue on cage confinement for two more weeks, and then progress to having run of the house again.  However, the days of jumping are over.  This will be a challenge to keep under control.  While we will spend Christmas with close friends and exchange gifts in the spirit of the season, there could be no better gift than the speedy recovery we are seeing in him.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Christmas Gift Presentation

The placement of Christmas gifts has traditionally been relegated to placing them on the floor around the Christmas Tree and then having Santa shimmy down the chimney to leave additional gifts for good boys and girls (and hopefully good mommies and daddies.)  And that has worked for many of us for many years.  But that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to present your gifts to loved ones.  This year I decided to take my entry table and turn it into a gift station.  So how did that work out?  Take a look.


This was the entry table before Christmas gift wrapping.


And this is after.  What a spectacular transformation.  Such a beautiful table and I cannot wait to present these gifts to all of my dear friends.

A Christmas Gift Presentation

The placement of Christmas gifts has traditionally been relegated to placing them on the floor around the Christmas Tree and then having Santa shimmy down the chimney to leave additional gifts for good boys and girls (and hopefully good mommies and daddies.)  And that has worked for many of us for many years.  But that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to present your gifts to loved ones.  This year I decided to take my entry table and turn it into a gift station.  So how did that work out?  Take a look.


This was the entry table before Christmas gift wrapping.


And this is after.  What a spectacular transformation.  Such a beautiful table and I cannot wait to present these gifts to all of my dear friends.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wreath Magic

Nothing says "Welcome" more this time of year than a festive wreath on your front door.  It can be anything that catches your fancy.  You can opt for a traditional evergreen with a simple red velvet ribbon.  Or you can let your imagination lead you where it will.  I have made wreaths from pinecones, walnuts, feathers or just an assortment of small, brightly colored Christmas tree ornaments hot glued on a form.  Or, a combination of all these items.  Whatever you want.  Creativity is the key word.  I am reusing a wreath this year from last year that I put together that I really liked.


This was a creation I made out of two separate wreaths.  The outer section is a dried arrangement that I ordered from Pottery Barn.  If memory serves, these were on closeout and I had a $25 off coupon, so I got it for hardly anything.  Alone, it was pretty boring.  Lovely, but uninspired.  I started rooting around in my Christmas decoration boxes in the attic and found the smaller, red and gold bell wreath with the holly adornment.  I thought hmmm, . . . can I make these two work together?  And a little while later with the help of my trusty hot glue gun, this is what materialized.   One word - stunning!  This is such a spectacular look.  If you are wondering where the little red and gold bell wreath came from, I will tell you that it was probably something I picked up at Target or Wal-Mart.  Just another example of what you can do for not a lot of money to make a spectacular presentation.  It's all about living in comfortable elegance.  It's not about how much you pay for it.  It's about how it looks.  Anybody with a big checkbook can buy an expensive wreath but that doesn't mean it will look any nicer than something you put together yourself.  Comfortable elegance is not about the amount of money you spend.  It's about style and taste.  Style and taste do not necessarily require a big checking account.

Wreath Magic

Nothing says "Welcome" more this time of year than a festive wreath on your front door.  It can be anything that catches your fancy.  You can opt for a traditional evergreen with a simple red velvet ribbon.  Or you can let your imagination lead you where it will.  I have made wreaths from pinecones, walnuts, feathers or just an assortment of small, brightly colored Christmas tree ornaments hot glued on a form.  Or, a combination of all these items.  Whatever you want.  Creativity is the key word.  I am reusing a wreath this year from last year that I put together that I really liked.


This was a creation I made out of two separate wreaths.  The outer section is a dried arrangement that I ordered from Pottery Barn.  If memory serves, these were on closeout and I had a $25 off coupon, so I got it for hardly anything.  Alone, it was pretty boring.  Lovely, but uninspired.  I started rooting around in my Christmas decoration boxes in the attic and found the smaller, red and gold bell wreath with the holly adornment.  I thought hmmm, . . . can I make these two work together?  And a little while later with the help of my trusty hot glue gun, this is what materialized.   One word - stunning!  This is such a spectacular look.  If you are wondering where the little red and gold bell wreath came from, I will tell you that it was probably something I picked up at Target or Wal-Mart.  Just another example of what you can do for not a lot of money to make a spectacular presentation.  It's all about living in comfortable elegance.  It's not about how much you pay for it.  It's about how it looks.  Anybody with a big checkbook can buy an expensive wreath but that doesn't mean it will look any nicer than something you put together yourself.  Comfortable elegance is not about the amount of money you spend.  It's about style and taste.  Style and taste do not necessarily require a big checking account.

O Little Town

Continuing the decoration of the house for Christmas, I found these cute little cardboard ornament houses at The Paper Source on M Street in Georgetown one day this week.


They come from a company called Melissa Frances (www.melissafrances.com).  They are packaged flat and are assembled very easily by folding where scored.  I used a glue stick to glue the red cellophane and the door and window panes in place.  To complete the assembly, I used a hot glue gun on the seams to get the structures secured and adhered to the base and to get the fences in place.  Even though they are intended to be used as ornaments, I thought they looked quite nice sitting on the mantel.  So on the mantel they will be for this Christmas season.  They didn't have many of these in stock.  I think I'll go back and see if they have any left.  How wonderful to have the mantle full of these.  The two models here are Cottage House (on the left) and Farm House (on the right).  There is one additional model I am aware of and that is of a  country church.  They retail at The Paper Source for $4.95 each.  So it wouldn't take a great deal of money to have an extensive collection.  A great look for very little money or time.  I'm all for that!

O Little Town

Continuing the decoration of the house for Christmas, I found these cute little cardboard ornament houses at The Paper Source on M Street in Georgetown one day this week.


They come from a company called Melissa Frances (www.melissafrances.com).  They are packaged flat and are assembled very easily by folding where scored.  I used a glue stick to glue the red cellophane and the door and window panes in place.  To complete the assembly, I used a hot glue gun on the seams to get the structures secured and adhered to the base and to get the fences in place.  Even though they are intended to be used as ornaments, I thought they looked quite nice sitting on the mantel.  So on the mantel they will be for this Christmas season.  They didn't have many of these in stock.  I think I'll go back and see if they have any left.  How wonderful to have the mantle full of these.  The two models here are Cottage House (on the left) and Farm House (on the right).  There is one additional model I am aware of and that is of a  country church.  They retail at The Paper Source for $4.95 each.  So it wouldn't take a great deal of money to have an extensive collection.  A great look for very little money or time.  I'm all for that!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Version of the Tiffany Tree

I made my way up to the attic over the weekend and started going through the multitude of Christmas decoration boxes that currently reside up there.  I am embarassed to say that these boxes are not very well organized.  Each year after Christmas I pack them up and place them all together.  So they are all located in the same corner of the attic, but they could use to be gone through and sorted.  Some of the decorations are still in very good condition but are not being used anymore at Crest Avenue.  These items can be donated to Goodwill and most likely during the time off around Christmas I will make some headway on this project.  More to follow on that.

On my treasure hunt this weekend, I found my Victorian table-top Christmas tree.  I have had this now for more years than I can remember.  I think it looks quite impressive on the dining room table.


After I got it put together, which is a breeze to do, I placed it inside a wooden serving tray.  I then filled the tray with spanish moss to build a base and then added sheet moss on top of that.



Then I sprinkled part of a bag of glistening snow on top of the moss to give it a look of freshly fallen snow on the ground surrounding the tree.



And so is my tree for the Christmas 2011 season.  Let's see what wonderful things end up around it with my name on them!!

My Version of the Tiffany Tree

I made my way up to the attic over the weekend and started going through the multitude of Christmas decoration boxes that currently reside up there.  I am embarassed to say that these boxes are not very well organized.  Each year after Christmas I pack them up and place them all together.  So they are all located in the same corner of the attic, but they could use to be gone through and sorted.  Some of the decorations are still in very good condition but are not being used anymore at Crest Avenue.  These items can be donated to Goodwill and most likely during the time off around Christmas I will make some headway on this project.  More to follow on that.

On my treasure hunt this weekend, I found my Victorian table-top Christmas tree.  I have had this now for more years than I can remember.  I think it looks quite impressive on the dining room table.


After I got it put together, which is a breeze to do, I placed it inside a wooden serving tray.  I then filled the tray with spanish moss to build a base and then added sheet moss on top of that.



Then I sprinkled part of a bag of glistening snow on top of the moss to give it a look of freshly fallen snow on the ground surrounding the tree.



And so is my tree for the Christmas 2011 season.  Let's see what wonderful things end up around it with my name on them!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

O Tannenbaum

The tree greeting guests entering the second floor Tiffany Salon in New York.

. . . or, in its English version, " Oh Christmas Tree."  O Tannenbaum is a Christmas Carol of German origin that goes something like this:

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Dein Kleid will mich was lehren:
Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit
Gibt Mut und Kraft zu jeder Zeit!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Dein Kleid will mich was lehren!

And in the English version:

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!
Not only green when summer's here
But in the coldest time of year.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!

So there is our lesson on the German and English versions of O Tannenbaum or Oh Christmas Tree.  I thought this picture of the tree in the salon at Tiffany's in New York was so beautiful that I had to post it here.  I think I will try to replicate this tree on my dining room table this year.  Stay tuned to see how that works out.

O Tannenbaum

The tree greeting guests entering the second floor Tiffany Salon in New York.

. . . or, in its English version, " Oh Christmas Tree."  O Tannenbaum is a Christmas Carol of German origin that goes something like this:

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Dein Kleid will mich was lehren:
Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit
Gibt Mut und Kraft zu jeder Zeit!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Dein Kleid will mich was lehren!

And in the English version:

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!
Not only green when summer's here
But in the coldest time of year.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!

So there is our lesson on the German and English versions of O Tannenbaum or Oh Christmas Tree.  I thought this picture of the tree in the salon at Tiffany's in New York was so beautiful that I had to post it here.  I think I will try to replicate this tree on my dining room table this year.  Stay tuned to see how that works out.

Baxter is Home

We arrived home last night around 8:00 PM.  He was very happy to be back in familiar surroundings.  Although he is not so happy to have been put on "strict cage confinement" for the next 4 - 6 weeks as you can see in the picture below.


He was very good last night.  He slept through the night, which surprised me.  He was up just before 6:00 this morning which is normal since the alarm goes off at 6:00 every day.  He had breakfast and a tramadol and then a warm compress held on his incision for about a half hour to help bring down the swelling.  He goes back in two weeks to have the staples removed and he will lose the lampshade around his head at the same time.  Poor little fella doesn't look so happy in this picture, but all things considered he is much, much better than he was just a few days ago.  We want to thank Dr. Carman and Dr. Freed and the wonderful staff at Lynn Animal Hospital in Riverdale, MD for diagnosing the problem and getting us to a surgeon as quickly as possible.  We also want to thank Dr. Dharshan Neravanda and the wonderful staff at Dogs & Cats Veterinary Referral & Emergency center.  Dr. Neravanda performed the surgery late Saturday night and we are so very grateful to him for coming to the hospital and performing this surgery so quickly.  Both facilities are just wonderful and highly recommended to anyone in the area who is looking for veterinary care for their pets.

Baxter is Home

We arrived home last night around 8:00 PM.  He was very happy to be back in familiar surroundings.  Although he is not so happy to have been put on "strict cage confinement" for the next 4 - 6 weeks as you can see in the picture below.


He was very good last night.  He slept through the night, which surprised me.  He was up just before 6:00 this morning which is normal since the alarm goes off at 6:00 every day.  He had breakfast and a tramadol and then a warm compress held on his incision for about a half hour to help bring down the swelling.  He goes back in two weeks to have the staples removed and he will lose the lampshade around his head at the same time.  Poor little fella doesn't look so happy in this picture, but all things considered he is much, much better than he was just a few days ago.  We want to thank Dr. Carman and Dr. Freed and the wonderful staff at Lynn Animal Hospital in Riverdale, MD for diagnosing the problem and getting us to a surgeon as quickly as possible.  We also want to thank Dr. Dharshan Neravanda and the wonderful staff at Dogs & Cats Veterinary Referral & Emergency center.  Dr. Neravanda performed the surgery late Saturday night and we are so very grateful to him for coming to the hospital and performing this surgery so quickly.  Both facilities are just wonderful and highly recommended to anyone in the area who is looking for veterinary care for their pets.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Baxter UPDATE

I spoke to Stephanie at the hospital this morning and she informs me that Baxter is ready to come home.  I think the staff at Dog & Cat Veterinary Hospital are ready for Baxter to come home!!  He is up, walking around and making himself known.  It would seem that the surgery was a success.  He is being naughty and nipping at the very people who are there to help him, but he is scared and in unfamiliar surroundings, so I guess that is to be expected.  The very good news is that we can pick him up tonight.  We are going after work to get him and so will start our recuperative routine at home for the next several weeks.  Confinement to a cage is not going to be popular with him, but we will need to be vigilant and make him stay in the cage for his own good.  A very scary time but thank goodness it ends well.

A Baxter UPDATE

I spoke to Stephanie at the hospital this morning and she informs me that Baxter is ready to come home.  I think the staff at Dog & Cat Veterinary Hospital are ready for Baxter to come home!!  He is up, walking around and making himself known.  It would seem that the surgery was a success.  He is being naughty and nipping at the very people who are there to help him, but he is scared and in unfamiliar surroundings, so I guess that is to be expected.  The very good news is that we can pick him up tonight.  We are going after work to get him and so will start our recuperative routine at home for the next several weeks.  Confinement to a cage is not going to be popular with him, but we will need to be vigilant and make him stay in the cage for his own good.  A very scary time but thank goodness it ends well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Poor Little Baxter

Well, there's never a dull moment at Crest Avenue and last week was no exception.  Baxter had not been feeling well over the last week.  He was not himself over the long Thanksgiving weekend.  He seemed lethargic and just not his usual active self.  He was eating but not at all playful.  He would have breakfast or dinner and then crawl right back into his bed.  Last Thursday I took him to the vet to see if we could find out what was going on.  I found two ticks on him in late summer and even though I removed them and treated the bite area with alcohol, I was concerned that he contracted some tick-borne illness.  So the vet did a full work up of his blood and also did a few neurological tests.  These consisted of him walking across a flat surface on each of his feet, one at a time.  Then the same exercise on two feet on each side of his body.  He passed all these tests with flying colors.  But he seemed a little sensitive to touch, so they prescribed MetaCam which is an analgesic/anti-inflammatory that is a liquid that is given orally once per day.  He got his first dose when we got home on Thursday morning and I spent the rest of the day with him just kind of laying around watching tv.  On Friday morning he had breakfast and another dose of MetaCam.  I noticed that he was a little wobbly in the rear - that his legs looked like they weren't working right.  So I called the vet and said that something was wrong and we set up another appointment for him at 9:40 AM on Saturday.  I initially thought the MetaCam had relaxed him so much that he was having trouble maneuvering around, sort of like when we take prescription pain medication.  By Friday night he had lost the use of both back legs and was only able to get around by his two front legs.  I cannot tell you how heart-wrenching it was to see this.  We spent Friday night in bed and made our way to the vet on Saturday morning.  Fortunately, the bloodwork all came back negative.  So there was nothing wrong there.  We tried the neurological tests again and today he was unable to perform any of the walking tasks.  They took x-rays and thought they might see some problems along the spine and referred us to a neurologist and suggested we leave there and go immediately to the neurologist, which we did.  After further exams and a CT Scan at the hospital, they discovered that one of his disks in his back had "exploded."  He had surgery at 10:00 PM on Saturday night to correct the problem.  The surgery took two hours.  We received a phone call from the surgeon around 12:30 AM saying that it went well and that he expected a full recovery.  Here I am with him yesterday holding a cold compress on his incision.


I called the hospital this morning and they informed me that he had a good night.  Hopefully he will come home later today or tomorrow.  We will have 4 - 6 weeks of limited movement and confinement to a cage so that the back can heal.  It was a whirlwind of a weekend but we are so very, very happy that we caught this in time and got him into surgery quickly.

Poor Little Baxter

Well, there's never a dull moment at Crest Avenue and last week was no exception.  Baxter had not been feeling well over the last week.  He was not himself over the long Thanksgiving weekend.  He seemed lethargic and just not his usual active self.  He was eating but not at all playful.  He would have breakfast or dinner and then crawl right back into his bed.  Last Thursday I took him to the vet to see if we could find out what was going on.  I found two ticks on him in late summer and even though I removed them and treated the bite area with alcohol, I was concerned that he contracted some tick-borne illness.  So the vet did a full work up of his blood and also did a few neurological tests.  These consisted of him walking across a flat surface on each of his feet, one at a time.  Then the same exercise on two feet on each side of his body.  He passed all these tests with flying colors.  But he seemed a little sensitive to touch, so they prescribed MetaCam which is an analgesic/anti-inflammatory that is a liquid that is given orally once per day.  He got his first dose when we got home on Thursday morning and I spent the rest of the day with him just kind of laying around watching tv.  On Friday morning he had breakfast and another dose of MetaCam.  I noticed that he was a little wobbly in the rear - that his legs looked like they weren't working right.  So I called the vet and said that something was wrong and we set up another appointment for him at 9:40 AM on Saturday.  I initially thought the MetaCam had relaxed him so much that he was having trouble maneuvering around, sort of like when we take prescription pain medication.  By Friday night he had lost the use of both back legs and was only able to get around by his two front legs.  I cannot tell you how heart-wrenching it was to see this.  We spent Friday night in bed and made our way to the vet on Saturday morning.  Fortunately, the bloodwork all came back negative.  So there was nothing wrong there.  We tried the neurological tests again and today he was unable to perform any of the walking tasks.  They took x-rays and thought they might see some problems along the spine and referred us to a neurologist and suggested we leave there and go immediately to the neurologist, which we did.  After further exams and a CT Scan at the hospital, they discovered that one of his disks in his back had "exploded."  He had surgery at 10:00 PM on Saturday night to correct the problem.  The surgery took two hours.  We received a phone call from the surgeon around 12:30 AM saying that it went well and that he expected a full recovery.  Here I am with him yesterday holding a cold compress on his incision.


I called the hospital this morning and they informed me that he had a good night.  Hopefully he will come home later today or tomorrow.  We will have 4 - 6 weeks of limited movement and confinement to a cage so that the back can heal.  It was a whirlwind of a weekend but we are so very, very happy that we caught this in time and got him into surgery quickly.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Garden Hose as Leaf Blower

During my Thanksgiving hiatus, I decided to start my intial attack on the annual leaf clean-up.  I am blessed to have large, old Sweet Gum trees on and around Crest Avenue - trees that I am sure date back 40 or more years.  These wonderful old trees offer valuable shade in the summer months, helping to keep the house cool.  And helping to keep some money in my pocket that is not otherwise spent on exorbitant air conditioning bills.  In the winter, they act as a windbreak helping to keep the cold, blustery winds of winter at bay.  But all of the good they bring comes with maintenance.  And a large part of that maintenance is the clean up of the leaves they shed each fall.  Fortunately, the town works with the residents in their efforts to keep their yards clean.  Each year, we can rake as many leaves as we can to the area just in front of our houses, but not on the common sidewalk if you happen to have a town owned and maintained sidewalk in front of your house.  On dates scheduled in the newsletter, the town visits each street with their huge leaf vacuum and vacuums up all of the leaves that you mound up in front of your house.

Here is a picture of their leaf vacuum:


You just need to find out from the schedule when they will arrive at your address and make sure you have your leaves raked to the front of the house for collection.  They like for you to do it as close as possible to the day they will be at your address so that the leaves don't blow away into your neighbors yard.

All of this said, every year I start by trying get the leaves off the top of the boxwood along the front sidewalk.  I try using my hand to brush them off.  This works with limited success plus it is very time consuming.  Other years I have gotten out my trusty leaf blower and attempted to blow them off the top of the boxwood.  This too is met with little success.  The stems of the leaves are usually stuck in the boxwood branches so neither of these procedures works well.


This is what I started out with this year.  You will see a small area on the corner in the center of the picture where I started to try and remove the leaves with my hand.  It worked, but I could tell it was going to be a long and arduous tasks.  Plus, I was going to need a pair of gardening gloves because this process would wreak havoc on my hands.  At some point during all of this, I was out front hosing off the front porch and as I was moving around, the hose made a pass over a portion of the boxwoods and in that instant I realized what I should have realized many a fall ago.  Use the water hose as a leaf blower!  You will need one of those small jet hose attachments or a multi-spray hose nozzle with a "jet" setting.  The smaller the stream of water the more forceful and that is what you need for this project.


So I decided to continue with this until they were all cleared.  And, voila  . . .


In hardly any time, the boxwoods were cleared of fallen leaves.  All I need to do now is to check out the latest newsletter and find out when the town will arrive on Crest Avenue with the leaf vacuum.  I guess we all know what I'll be doing this weekend.  ¯Rake, rake, rake.  ¯Rake, rake, rake.  ¯Rake your booo-tie.  ¯Rake your booo-tie!!

The Garden Hose as Leaf Blower

During my Thanksgiving hiatus, I decided to start my intial attack on the annual leaf clean-up.  I am blessed to have large, old Sweet Gum trees on and around Crest Avenue - trees that I am sure date back 40 or more years.  These wonderful old trees offer valuable shade in the summer months, helping to keep the house cool.  And helping to keep some money in my pocket that is not otherwise spent on exorbitant air conditioning bills.  In the winter, they act as a windbreak helping to keep the cold, blustery winds of winter at bay.  But all of the good they bring comes with maintenance.  And a large part of that maintenance is the clean up of the leaves they shed each fall.  Fortunately, the town works with the residents in their efforts to keep their yards clean.  Each year, we can rake as many leaves as we can to the area just in front of our houses, but not on the common sidewalk if you happen to have a town owned and maintained sidewalk in front of your house.  On dates scheduled in the newsletter, the town visits each street with their huge leaf vacuum and vacuums up all of the leaves that you mound up in front of your house.

Here is a picture of their leaf vacuum:


You just need to find out from the schedule when they will arrive at your address and make sure you have your leaves raked to the front of the house for collection.  They like for you to do it as close as possible to the day they will be at your address so that the leaves don't blow away into your neighbors yard.

All of this said, every year I start by trying get the leaves off the top of the boxwood along the front sidewalk.  I try using my hand to brush them off.  This works with limited success plus it is very time consuming.  Other years I have gotten out my trusty leaf blower and attempted to blow them off the top of the boxwood.  This too is met with little success.  The stems of the leaves are usually stuck in the boxwood branches so neither of these procedures works well.


This is what I started out with this year.  You will see a small area on the corner in the center of the picture where I started to try and remove the leaves with my hand.  It worked, but I could tell it was going to be a long and arduous tasks.  Plus, I was going to need a pair of gardening gloves because this process would wreak havoc on my hands.  At some point during all of this, I was out front hosing off the front porch and as I was moving around, the hose made a pass over a portion of the boxwoods and in that instant I realized what I should have realized many a fall ago.  Use the water hose as a leaf blower!  You will need one of those small jet hose attachments or a multi-spray hose nozzle with a "jet" setting.  The smaller the stream of water the more forceful and that is what you need for this project.


So I decided to continue with this until they were all cleared.  And, voila  . . .


In hardly any time, the boxwoods were cleared of fallen leaves.  All I need to do now is to check out the latest newsletter and find out when the town will arrive on Crest Avenue with the leaf vacuum.  I guess we all know what I'll be doing this weekend.  ¯Rake, rake, rake.  ¯Rake, rake, rake.  ¯Rake your booo-tie.  ¯Rake your booo-tie!!

The Thanksgiving Weekend

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  This year was a good deal less stressful than previous years.  I actually stayed home this year.  I made a few dishes for our little celebration, but it was nothing near what I normally do.  We ordered a ham this year that was pre-cooked, so that saved an enormous amount of time.  We had scalloped potatoes and sauteed mushrooms with shallots and freshly made parkerhouse rolls.  Before dinner, we had grilled shrimp served with a sweet and sour sauce and an habanero relish.   I made a pumpkin cheesecake which I served with chocolate fig mousse and shaved chocolate for dessert.  It was all magnificent.  We ate around 5:00 and after dinner I spent the remainder of the evening parked in front of the tv watching favorites like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil from 1997 and multiple reruns of Murder, She Wrote from the late 80's.  A wonderful way to end a wonderful day.

But Friday morning came and I decided to get up and get busy.  One of the first orders of business for the day was to feed the birds.


I found this wonderful little suet feeder at Lowe's.  The birds really appreciate the extra care and attention this time of year and on into the coldest months of winter.  This feeder is actually double-sided, so there is another suet cake on the other side.  I primarily use the Garden Treasures brand of suet.  This is easily available to me at my local Lowe's, Home Depot and Wal-Mart.  The blend in this picture is the High-Energy Suet, but there are many different blends from which to choose.  You can choose Orange Suet, Peanut Suet, Green Apple Suet and Woodpecker Suet.  I get quite a variety of birds no matter which I choose to put out.  I keep different flavors on hand in the shed so that I can keep them fed at all times.  Some of you may be asking "what is this suet he is talking about."   Suet, simply defined, is animal fat that has been rendered to form hard cakes or balls.  Suet recipes do not need to be complicated in order to attract a range of hungry birds. However, it should be rendered to help it maintain its shape more easily.

To render suet:
  1. Chop the fat into small pieces or run it through a meat grinder. Make sure all traces of meat are removed.
  2. Heat the chopped fat on low until it is liquefied. Do not use higher temperatures to melt the suet more quickly, as this could lead to fires or scorching.
  3. Strain the liquid fat through cheesecloth or a fine mesh to remove any particles or contaminants. The suet should be strained several times so it is as pure as possible.
  4. Pour the fat into molds or containers and allow it to cool. The cakes can be chopped or cut to be fed to the birds.  You may choose to use containers that are the appropriate size to fit a suet feeder such as the one I have above.
Once the suet is rendered, it can be fed to the birds as-is or you can choose to add some ingredients to it to hopefully attract a wider range of birds.

Easy suet recipe:
  • 1 Cup rendered suet
  • 1 Cup chunky peanut butter
  • 3 Cups stone ground cornmeal
  • 1/2 Cup white or wheat flour
Melt the suet and peanut butter together until they are smooth and liquid. Add the cornmeal and flour, mixing well. Allow the mixture to cool slightly to thicken, then pour it into molds or containers to use. Refrigerate or freeze suet until it is firm and you are ready to use it.

What You Can Add to Suet

You can add different ingredients to the mixture before it cools to make it more attractive to birds. Some popular ingredients are:
  • Chopped, unsalted nuts
  • Dried fruit bits
  • Birdseed
  • Honey
  • Kitchen scraps
These are the easiest items to add to simple suet to make it even more tempting for your birds. Take the time to experiment with adding other ingredients to discover what your birds find most appetizing, and you’ll soon have plenty of suet-eaters at your backyard buffet.

The Thanksgiving Weekend

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  This year was a good deal less stressful than previous years.  I actually stayed home this year.  I made a few dishes for our little celebration, but it was nothing near what I normally do.  We ordered a ham this year that was pre-cooked, so that saved an enormous amount of time.  We had scalloped potatoes and sauteed mushrooms with shallots and freshly made parkerhouse rolls.  Before dinner, we had grilled shrimp served with a sweet and sour sauce and an habanero relish.   I made a pumpkin cheesecake which I served with chocolate fig mousse and shaved chocolate for dessert.  It was all magnificent.  We ate around 5:00 and after dinner I spent the remainder of the evening parked in front of the tv watching favorites like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil from 1997 and multiple reruns of Murder, She Wrote from the late 80's.  A wonderful way to end a wonderful day.

But Friday morning came and I decided to get up and get busy.  One of the first orders of business for the day was to feed the birds.


I found this wonderful little suet feeder at Lowe's.  The birds really appreciate the extra care and attention this time of year and on into the coldest months of winter.  This feeder is actually double-sided, so there is another suet cake on the other side.  I primarily use the Garden Treasures brand of suet.  This is easily available to me at my local Lowe's, Home Depot and Wal-Mart.  The blend in this picture is the High-Energy Suet, but there are many different blends from which to choose.  You can choose Orange Suet, Peanut Suet, Green Apple Suet and Woodpecker Suet.  I get quite a variety of birds no matter which I choose to put out.  I keep different flavors on hand in the shed so that I can keep them fed at all times.  Some of you may be asking "what is this suet he is talking about."   Suet, simply defined, is animal fat that has been rendered to form hard cakes or balls.  Suet recipes do not need to be complicated in order to attract a range of hungry birds. However, it should be rendered to help it maintain its shape more easily.

To render suet:
  1. Chop the fat into small pieces or run it through a meat grinder. Make sure all traces of meat are removed.
  2. Heat the chopped fat on low until it is liquefied. Do not use higher temperatures to melt the suet more quickly, as this could lead to fires or scorching.
  3. Strain the liquid fat through cheesecloth or a fine mesh to remove any particles or contaminants. The suet should be strained several times so it is as pure as possible.
  4. Pour the fat into molds or containers and allow it to cool. The cakes can be chopped or cut to be fed to the birds.  You may choose to use containers that are the appropriate size to fit a suet feeder such as the one I have above.
Once the suet is rendered, it can be fed to the birds as-is or you can choose to add some ingredients to it to hopefully attract a wider range of birds.

Easy suet recipe:
  • 1 Cup rendered suet
  • 1 Cup chunky peanut butter
  • 3 Cups stone ground cornmeal
  • 1/2 Cup white or wheat flour
Melt the suet and peanut butter together until they are smooth and liquid. Add the cornmeal and flour, mixing well. Allow the mixture to cool slightly to thicken, then pour it into molds or containers to use. Refrigerate or freeze suet until it is firm and you are ready to use it.

What You Can Add to Suet

You can add different ingredients to the mixture before it cools to make it more attractive to birds. Some popular ingredients are:
  • Chopped, unsalted nuts
  • Dried fruit bits
  • Birdseed
  • Honey
  • Kitchen scraps
These are the easiest items to add to simple suet to make it even more tempting for your birds. Take the time to experiment with adding other ingredients to discover what your birds find most appetizing, and you’ll soon have plenty of suet-eaters at your backyard buffet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mellow Yellow

I took a walk at lunch today.  As I was walking by the Swedish Embassy on K Street, NW in Georgetown, I noticed the leaves on these beautiful trees which had all turned the same shade of yellow.  I don’t know what kind of trees these are, but I thought they were beautiful and decided to share this photo with all of my readers.



We are looking west here with the Washington Harbour business and residential complex in the background.

Mellow Yellow

I took a walk at lunch today.  As I was walking by the Swedish Embassy on K Street, NW in Georgetown, I noticed the leaves on these beautiful trees which had all turned the same shade of yellow.  I don’t know what kind of trees these are, but I thought they were beautiful and decided to share this photo with all of my readers.



We are looking west here with the Washington Harbour business and residential complex in the background.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

One final Halloween Post

I promise this will be the last Halloween post this year.  Here is yours truly arriving at Paul and Barbara's for their Halloween Tailgate bash with a big wire bowl full of candy gift bags for the kiddies and a cup of a little something to help keep me warm.


That is Peter in the foreground admiring my handiwork preparing the bags.  They accused me of filling the bags with bourbon and vodka minis and little tubs of caviar.  Hmmm!!  Not a bad idea for next year but only for the over 21 group.

One final Halloween Post

I promise this will be the last Halloween post this year.  Here is yours truly arriving at Paul and Barbara's for their Halloween Tailgate bash with a big wire bowl full of candy gift bags for the kiddies and a cup of a little something to help keep me warm.


That is Peter in the foreground admiring my handiwork preparing the bags.  They accused me of filling the bags with bourbon and vodka minis and little tubs of caviar.  Hmmm!!  Not a bad idea for next year but only for the over 21 group.

Happy Birthday to Me!

As most of you already know, last Friday was my birthday.  Somewhere in the early 50’s birthday, and that’s as far as I’ll go.  It was a really wonderful day and weekend.  The day started off with the delivery of this beautiful floral arrangement and card.  Just the right size.  Not overdone and not just a container of mums.  This is perfection.



You also see a box here from “Baked & Wired” which is a delicious bakery on 31st Street, NW in Georgetown.  My dear, dear friend Yvonne presented this little box to me on Friday morning.  It contained a carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting.  There simply aren’t words to describe how delicious it was.  Thank you so much Yvonne.

As for the rest of the day, I was entertained at the Dewey Street address Friday evening.  Festivities began promptly at 7:00 PM.  Guest list included me, Baxter, Steven and Lea.  Lea brought the most delicious guacamole we can remember ever having.  I must follow up with her on that recipe.  Steven served toast points with a lovely brie and chutney and a 2001 Chateau Montelana Chardonnay which was really a treat.  This bottle was from the purchase we made when we visited Napa Valley in 2009.  Some background on the vineyard:



“Chateau Montelena is a Napa Valley winery most famous for winning the white wine section of the historic
"Judgement of Paris" wine competition. Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay was in competition with nine other wines
from France and California under blind tasting. All 11 judges awarded their top scores to either the Chardonnays from
Chateau Montelena or Chalone Winery, another California wine producer. A fictionalized version of Chateau Montelena's historic victory was featured in the 2008 film Bottle Shock.”

As the evening wore on, Steven’s brother, Bob, stopped by to raise a glass with us.  He also stayed for dinner which consisted of lobster tails, steamed broccoli rabe and saffron rice.  After dinner we sat in the living room in front of the fire and I opened gifts and had a glass or two or three of wine and enjoyed lively and spirited conversation for the rest of the evening.  The party ended around 12:30 AM and I had a restful night.

The rest of the weekend was delightful.  I worked in the yard on Saturday, cleaning up leaves and bagging up yard debris and generally cleaning up.  I had eight bags of yard waste for the guys to pick up on Monday morning, so that was a productive day.  Sunday was spent preparing for the upcoming week – laundry, sorting the mail, those sorts of things.  I did spend some time working on the redo of my bedroom closet.  I could have finished that project but for the fact that my brad nailer gun jammed and I still have not figured out what the problem is.  Hopefully I can get that taken care of this week so that I can finish the closet and get my clothes moved back in there.

So that was my birthday this year.  A really wonderful time and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Happy Birthday to Me!

As most of you already know, last Friday was my birthday.  Somewhere in the early 50’s birthday, and that’s as far as I’ll go.  It was a really wonderful day and weekend.  The day started off with the delivery of this beautiful floral arrangement and card.  Just the right size.  Not overdone and not just a container of mums.  This is perfection.



You also see a box here from “Baked & Wired” which is a delicious bakery on 31st Street, NW in Georgetown.  My dear, dear friend Yvonne presented this little box to me on Friday morning.  It contained a carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting.  There simply aren’t words to describe how delicious it was.  Thank you so much Yvonne.

As for the rest of the day, I was entertained at the Dewey Street address Friday evening.  Festivities began promptly at 7:00 PM.  Guest list included me, Baxter, Steven and Lea.  Lea brought the most delicious guacamole we can remember ever having.  I must follow up with her on that recipe.  Steven served toast points with a lovely brie and chutney and a 2001 Chateau Montelana Chardonnay which was really a treat.  This bottle was from the purchase we made when we visited Napa Valley in 2009.  Some background on the vineyard:



“Chateau Montelena is a Napa Valley winery most famous for winning the white wine section of the historic
"Judgement of Paris" wine competition. Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay was in competition with nine other wines
from France and California under blind tasting. All 11 judges awarded their top scores to either the Chardonnays from
Chateau Montelena or Chalone Winery, another California wine producer. A fictionalized version of Chateau Montelena's historic victory was featured in the 2008 film Bottle Shock.”

As the evening wore on, Steven’s brother, Bob, stopped by to raise a glass with us.  He also stayed for dinner which consisted of lobster tails, steamed broccoli rabe and saffron rice.  After dinner we sat in the living room in front of the fire and I opened gifts and had a glass or two or three of wine and enjoyed lively and spirited conversation for the rest of the evening.  The party ended around 12:30 AM and I had a restful night.

The rest of the weekend was delightful.  I worked in the yard on Saturday, cleaning up leaves and bagging up yard debris and generally cleaning up.  I had eight bags of yard waste for the guys to pick up on Monday morning, so that was a productive day.  Sunday was spent preparing for the upcoming week – laundry, sorting the mail, those sorts of things.  I did spend some time working on the redo of my bedroom closet.  I could have finished that project but for the fact that my brad nailer gun jammed and I still have not figured out what the problem is.  Hopefully I can get that taken care of this week so that I can finish the closet and get my clothes moved back in there.

So that was my birthday this year.  A really wonderful time and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Martha Releases "Entertaining - A Year of Celebrations"

When I heard that Martha was releasing "Entertaining - A Year of Celebrations" I knew it was a must-have.  I ran an errand during lunch today which landed me at 11 Dupont Circle in downtown Washington.  My errand was a quick stop to drop off a check for two tables for an upcoming event with the National Women's Law Center.  It just so happens that on the first floor of this building there is a "Books-A-Million" bookstore.  I had not been in this store for many, many years so it took me a little while to find my way around.  I finally found the book in the "Baking" section of the store.  I was shocked at the size of it.  It is huge!  10 x 11-1/2 and 432 pages, including the Index.  Pictorially, it is magnificent.  The cover is beautiful, both front and back.  I've only just had a chance to flip through it briefly but the layout seems to have lots and lots of photos for the projects written about.  I believe this will become a classic much like her original "Entertaining."

(This photo taken on the P Street Bridge over the C&O Canal in Georgetown at 1:15 PM, 11/2/11)


I purchased a copy of her original "Entertaining" 30 years ago when she was still relatively unknown.  It was probably 10 years after that purchase that I was sitting with a friend enjoying a pitcher of martinis on the deck, when he turned to me and said, "Have you heard of this woman, . . . Martha Stewart?"  I think I was probably on my second or third martini at the time and my response was something akin to "HEARD of her?!  I want to BE her in my next life!!"  Little did either of us know then of the success Mrs. Stewart would achieve.  A creative force in the domestic arts that to date is unparalleled.

If you can, get a copy of this new book.  I do not think you will be disappointed.

Martha Releases "Entertaining - A Year of Celebrations"

When I heard that Martha was releasing "Entertaining - A Year of Celebrations" I knew it was a must-have.  I ran an errand during lunch today which landed me at 11 Dupont Circle in downtown Washington.  My errand was a quick stop to drop off a check for two tables for an upcoming event with the National Women's Law Center.  It just so happens that on the first floor of this building there is a "Books-A-Million" bookstore.  I had not been in this store for many, many years so it took me a little while to find my way around.  I finally found the book in the "Baking" section of the store.  I was shocked at the size of it.  It is huge!  10 x 11-1/2 and 432 pages, including the Index.  Pictorially, it is magnificent.  The cover is beautiful, both front and back.  I've only just had a chance to flip through it briefly but the layout seems to have lots and lots of photos for the projects written about.  I believe this will become a classic much like her original "Entertaining."

(This photo taken on the P Street Bridge over the C&O Canal in Georgetown at 1:15 PM, 11/2/11)


I purchased a copy of her original "Entertaining" 30 years ago when she was still relatively unknown.  It was probably 10 years after that purchase that I was sitting with a friend enjoying a pitcher of martinis on the deck, when he turned to me and said, "Have you heard of this woman, . . . Martha Stewart?"  I think I was probably on my second or third martini at the time and my response was something akin to "HEARD of her?!  I want to BE her in my next life!!"  Little did either of us know then of the success Mrs. Stewart would achieve.  A creative force in the domestic arts that to date is unparalleled.

If you can, get a copy of this new book.  I do not think you will be disappointed.