Monday, March 29, 2010

National Arboretum

Will and I visited the National Arboretum. This was my first visit and Will's first for several years. The Arboretum is 446 acres near the Anacostia River. It was established by Congress in 1927 and is administered by the US Department of Agriculture, and, like some most of the national sites in DC, it is free to visit!

It has several gardens: Asian Collections, Azalea Collections, Dogwood Collection, Fern Valley, Holly & Magnolia Collection, and many more. It is a fabulous place and we were thrilled to learn that doggies are allowed!

But what we went to see was the Bonsai and Penjing Museum, that showcases the Japanese art of bonsai, and its Chinese precursor of penjing.

It began with the Nippon Bonsai Association 53 bonsai to commemorate the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976. There trees are absolutely amazing and several have been "in training" for several centuries. Yes, you read that correctly: centuries.
This tree has been in training since:
Yes, that says 1625.

This exhibit is stunning and here are a few samples of the trees we saw.

Willowleaf Fig, in training since 1974

Foemina Juniper, in training since 1953

Chinese Elm, age unknown

Toringo Crabapple, in training since 1905

Trident Maple, age unknown

Sargent Juniper, in training in 1905

Kurume Azalea, in training since 1962

Japanese Magnolia, in training in 1986

'Higo' Japanese Camellia, in training since 1876

Ezo Spruce, in training since 1939

Japanese Beech, in training since 1946

Chinese Elm, in training since 1988

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cherry Blossoms

If you need another reason to come visit me and Will in DC, here it is:

Springtime in Washington means cherry blossoms!
The city is pink at the moment, but it won't last long.
Come Visit!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Wild Hibiscus

One of our souvenirs we got it at the Wild Dog Winery in Australia was this jar:

The flowers are added to champagne to make the bubbles more fun. Kelly, Will, and I opened the jar and a bottle of bubbly on a Wednesday night-- because when isn't it champagne time? We added a little of syrup and a flower to the glasses.

And we had pink champagne!

The bubbles of the champagne open the flower up and it floats up and down the glass. It makes the champagne have a hint of strawberry-rhubarb taste. Will, not a fan of champagne (what is wrong with him??!!), liked drinking this much better. Kelly and I have no problems drinking champagne-- and the hibiscus just made it more fun.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Red Lettuce

We got a lovely letter in the mail the other day with a wonderful surprise! It was from my great-aunt Carol, sharing news of her early spring blooms and winter cabbages.

And the surprise? Some seeds from her red lettuce plants!

Now, some of you may recall that this is the same aunt and uncle who have an amazing green thumb and their vegetable "garden" is something to behold (or covet, as Will and I do). Hopefully the seeds like us and will grow beautiful red-headed lettuce, just as it does for them.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Stirling has a "friend" spending the night. It is her first sleepover.

Angus, a terrier (Norwich possibly) lives next door and his family went to Mexico for spring break. He'll be here all week.

He is pretty cute, and smaller than Jackie, and thinks that Jackie Bear is a fun thing to chase. Ahem. Don't you worry, the cat has set both dogs straight: she is in charge.

It has been interesting watching two dogs. Walks are hard, as these two manage to intertwine the leashes more often than not. Being followed by two shadows instead of just one can be dangerous, especially when carrying laundry up and down steps. And the powerful silent smells are pretty bad, and now I am not sure who to blame....

Friday, March 19, 2010

Getting Ready for the Growing Season

Will made a heroic effort in the garden over the past two days. He made the yard ready for the planting season-- this year we are going to directly sow the seeds, as we haven't even thought about what we want to grow--and so that meant setting up the water barrel again, cleaning up the damaged or dead bushes from the snow, removing a hedge all together, and spread out mulch from our compost. He was a busy busy boy!

He moved the wood pile (we saw evidence of a creature living there, but no creature).
He also moved the compost bin after using up the good soil at the bottom of the pile.

Hedge removed--more room for roses!!
Fiona and Charles have sent us some, now we have a place for them.

Iris holder at the ready for all my irises!

Snowdrops out and dead leaves remove.

We are ready to pick out the seeds and plant them.... but just in case Mother Nature has something up her sleeve, we will wait one more weekend.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Another welcomed sign of Spring: an orchid is about to rebloom! This is Andrew's Orchid, so named because it was a gift from Andrew and his family as a thank you for staying with us in August 2008. It has a new spike about to have flowers and two new roots. It is thriving 0n the windowsill and another signal that Spring really is just about here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring is Springing

With daylight savings time officially past, it is time to look forward to spring and think about the garden and the variety of crops that Will and I will be planting. In the meantime, in our front yard are miniature Japanese Irises-- and we all know that irises are my favorite flower.

Deep purples and ice blues, with the strip of yellow, tells me that spring is just around the corner. With all the rain we have gotten this weekend, they were a bit wet. But that fact is that a month ago, these little pretties were buried under 2 feet+ of snow and now have managed to pop their head up.

It confirms that spring is almost here-- it is just around the corner! I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Also at the Sydney Aquarium, one of the spectacular events was walking through glass tunnels and seeing sharks and string rays swim around you. Now, remember from the other post that the glass refracts and makes the fish smaller. By 25%.... so when you watch the video and massively large shark swims by, he is even bigger in real life.

Fish and Shellfish

At the Sydney Aquarium, we watched the cuttle fish swimming and
its tank companions, a large lobster
and an even larger crab.

Seriously, these crustaceans are unbelievably big.
massive even.

Birds of Australia

It was the most amazing thing to see some of the "common" birds in Australia-- parrots, parakeets, spoonbills, Little Penguins, ibises, cockatoos, magpies, black swans, red ground parrots, pukekos, emus (though we didn't see any of those in the wild). The colors of even the finches were astonishing. Here are just some of those mentioned above, taken by moi. Audubon Society, here I come.
finches & parrots

little penguin, black swans, red ground parrot, ibis, cockatoo, and a pukeko

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Goodbye, Oz!

Today is our last day in upside-down future land. We have had a marvelous time in Australia, a wonderful honeymoon. It has strange to visit a country *younger* than the US, since most of our travels have been to places much older.

We spent several days in Melbourne; spotted the most amazing wildlife (s0me 0f it by the side of the road!); flew to Sydney to gaze at the bridge and the opera house; and drove down and around the southeastern coast of the continent.

The landscape is breathtaking, the kangaroos and koalas adorable, and ocean beautiful. We want to come back and swim in the sea (we neglected to bring/rent wet suits). We want to see the interior and the red, dry landscape. And we want to drink more of the delicious wine.

Australia has been wonderful and we couldn't have had a more delightful albeit belated honeymoon.

Thanks, upside-down future land. Being here, we know that the future will be grand.

Penguins on Parade!

We made it to the world famous Penguin Parade last night at Phillip Island, where, at sunset, the native Little Penguins emerge in groups from the Tasmin Sea to waddle up the beach to burrows in the sand dunes. The smallest (and cutest) penguin in the world, the Little Penguin is around 12-13 inches tall with adults weighing just over 2 pounds. The Little Penguin is the only blue feathered penguin in the world and will typically live for 7 years. The scientific name of the Little Penguin, Eudyptula minor means 'good little diver'. Right now, many of the penguins coming ashore are super fat as it is the most important time of the year for them: molting season. The penguins are coming ashore and for two weeks,will stay in their burrow, molting their old feathers and getting new ones for the coming year--that is why they are so fat, as they have been eating their weight in fish, krill, etc in order to just sit in their burrows and molt. Without the new feathers, they won't be able to survive the winter.

The way that this parade works is that you go and wait until sunset, and a little bit after, and then the Little Penguins come into shore in groups, called "rafts", because safety is in numbers. They then make a mad dash for the dunes. Photography isn't allowed, as it would disturb this natural process-- though the concrete stadium steps and the massive lights on the beach are fine.

We had a wonderful time, even though it was pouring rain and Will had a flip-flop blow out. We were soaked to the bone but thrilled to see the cutest Penguins ever. We followed a little fellow to the parking lot, as he was looking for his home.And on the way out, we were reminded to look under the cars in case we had stowaways. We thought that this was just sweet, but after we followed out the little guy, we double checked to make sure that no Penguins were under the car, behind the car, or in my handbag to take back home... ;)

Thursday, March 4, 2010


In our travels on the road from Sydney to Melbourne (totally sounds like a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby title... and I so am Dorothy Lamour), we have seen numerous things as we make pit stops along the way to next hotel room.

Will's favorite will be the blowhole we saw in Kiama, but mine was in Pambula, where we passed Weckler's Oyster Farm. We just had to stop and they happen to have a take-away counter, with 24 oysters just waiting for me.

When it comes to oysters, I am a piglet. I never get 24 because of the cost, but when you are buying them farm direct, 24 isn't that bad!

A squeeze of fresh lemon juice and in 3.4 seconds, the oysters were all down the hatch and into my belly. They were delicious.

Don't worry, I did share: Will got 4. He swore that it all he wanted.... I think he was being nice since I obviously was in heaven.

Roadside wildlife - Koalas

Finally found a colony of these furry little fellas down near Lakes Entrance on the south coast.

Their inactivity is quite astonishing. Of the 30 or so we saw only two actually moved from their comfy tree nook which they had wedged themselves into. One we surprised and he moved up the tree, the other was eating. I presume they also poop and reproduce but didn't witness such feats of strength. They all look somewhat aged - perhaps yoda would be a good reference if we were trying to find the celebrity they most resembled? I would happily take on the role of padawan for that lifestyle!

Roadside wildlife - Kangaroos


Cute buggers, just about everywhere - stopped counting. Sadly they are like deer and seem to be the main road kill out here. They taste good tho.