The Last of 2012

Another year is ending. It is a day to take stock of what has happened in the past year….and put off goal setting (i. e. resolutions) for the 2013 until tomorrow.

I started out 2012 knowing that it would be a transition year - from working for a big corporation to doing whatever I pleased and could afford. Some of my plans for the year did make it to reality. I posted to my blog every day and did a lot of writing ‘practice.’ Career and corporate related reading declined; the other topics increased to fill the gap. Most of my travel was planned early in the year and happened as planned - Shenandoah in the spring, Tennessee in early summer, Colorado in late summer, and New York for fall foliage. All the trips were enjoyable and kept me from getting too comfortable on home turf.

There was serendipity along the way as well: watching the heron cam at Sapsucker Woods for hours, attending a Women in Computing conference in Baltimore, volunteering for the Friends group of a local nature center, planting trees and cutting kudzu in a watershed, taking my first Coursera course and participating in the National Novel Writing month. Toward the end of the year I found myself in Texas caring for an older relative and learning more about hospitals, atrial fibrillation, and hematomas than I ever thought possible.

2012 has lived up to my expectation of it being a transition year. I am going to start thinking more about what my expectation is for 2013 for my blog post tomorrow. My initial thought is that the variety I created for myself in 2012 is something I want to continue!

Gleanings of the Week Ending December 29, 2012

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles I read this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article:

Daphnia micrograph - a stacked image of a water flea

12 Things to Know about Mistletoe

2013: Hello. Goodbye. - from Richard Watson. How many things on the goodbye list are already gone for you?

6 top health benefits of kale

Top 25 Photographs from the Wilderness #3 - my favorite is the next the last one - the backlit leopard

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week #32 - the first one is my favorite

Is Your Fridge Eating your Savings?

The Joy of Salt Licking: Contest Turns Farm Animals into Fine Artists - Cows and their salt licks

Geography in the News: Lake-Effect Snow - from National Geographic

Characteristics of US Science and Engineering Doctorates Detailed in New Report

2012: The year in space - My favorite is the Space Shuttle Endeavor making its final journey across the US

2012: The year in weather - from around the world. My favorite picture of this group is the mother of pearl clouds in Scotland 

Snow on Christmas Day!

Dallas, Texas does not get snow frequently and it is usually in the early months of the year rather than December. So - it was cause for celebration and picture taking when it snowed yesterday! Enjoy the slide show of the dusting of the white stuff!

Another Texas Sunrise

After spending my recent nights sleeping on a hospital rollaway - seeing this sunrise on the 22nd after sleeping in a regular bed became a milestone on my transition back to ‘normal’. Somehow being able to walk outside to take the picture rather than seeing the sunrise through a hospital window as I had earlier in the month became an inflection point in my thinking. I could relax a little and savor the day.

Gleanings of the Week Ending December 22, 2012

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles I read this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article:

National Park Photography - From National Parks Traveler. There are links to the photographers’ sites.

The Birds of Paradise - video from New Guinea forests of these unusual birds

Flood tools - enter an address, find out the risk of flooding

Why Owls Are So Hoot Right Now - 10 fun facts about owls

Insulin's Role in Body and Brain - infographic

The Scientist’s 2012 Geeky Gift Guide - ideas for the scientists in your life….at the last minute

Blood vessels of a healthy mouse retina - it could be abstract art!

Top Ten Weirdest Stories of 2012 - from National geographic

Life Up Close: The Year’s Best Microscope Views of Biology - my favorite is the second place image of red algae

NASA's Night Photos -photos of the Earth from space at night - the black marble

The Last of the 2012 Tomatoes

The last of the tomatoes have been harvested from my parents’ garden near Dallas, Texas. Some of them will make it to ripeness laying out on a paper towel in the garden room of the house….little remnants of summer in December. There is a poinsettia on the table beside them.

Today I am celebrating tomatoes as part of our Christmas decorations!

December Sunrise

The shorter days of November and December provide an excellent chance to catch the sunrise. I captured one in Maryland back in November. The picture in this post is the sunrise from the hospital window in Texas captured yesterday. All three construction cranes were active. In the earlier darkness their motion had been visible but the people working on the building were not visible until the morning light.

I liked the effect of the layer at the ground being very blue … and then the layer of pink. It only lasted for a few minutes and then the layers washed away in the brighter daylight. It was the start of  very good day.



I am missing home today - having not been there at all this month (see hospital experiences blog posts). Nothing is ‘normal’ or ‘planned’ right now. It is hard to focus on more than getting through the next day or two.

My husband sent me a picture of the fog at Centennial Lake yesterday. The almost masked trees across the lake - their reflection in the water - the stones of the boat launch….I know the place well. The image evokes a bubble of calm for me. I’ll find myself looking at it frequently over the next few days when I need to fortify my emotional reserves.

3 Free eBooks - December 2012

The Internet has a growing number of online books….and many of them are free. This is the third monthly post highlighting 3 that I have found within the past month.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery have a number of online exhibitions available. The first one I looked at was Lino Tagliapietra in Retrospect: A Modern Renaissance in Italian Glass - but I am now working my way through others that look interesting.

Miltoun, Francis. Italian highways and byways from a motor car. Boston: L.C. Page; 1909. Available at this book includes color and black/white illustrations that capture the essence of a road trip through Italy in the early 1900s.

 Paul May at the Bristol Chemistry Department Home Page has been posting a Molecule of the Month since 1996. Reading the postings for 2012 (or an earlier year) is a short book. Learn about the molecule that gives raspberries their smell and botulinum toxin (anti-wrinkle/neurotoxin).

The previous eBook posts can be found here.

Gleanings of the Week Ending December 8, 2012

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles I read this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article:

Quinoa Craze Inspires North America to Start Growing Its Own - I use quinoa in the place of rice almost all the time now

Exploring Crabtree Falls In The Blue Ridge Parkway - One of those potential places to fit in a spring road trip

Exploring The Parks: Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail - another destination to add to the list for a spring road trip

Cannibal Lobsters - behavior noted in captivity is observed in the wild too

Top 25 Photographs from the Wilderness #1 - from Africa - my favorite photo is the elephants and the setting sun

3-for-1 Match for Internet Archive Donations - since I enjoy so many books the Internet Archive has made available online, it is something I support with a donation

12 Healthy Holiday Recipes - from Marlo Thomas

Boucher’s Birding Blog: Winter Birding – The Irruption Begins! - this year is an irruptive year for  birds that are normally in Canada and northerly states in the winter. That means there are already sightings of these in the mid-Atlantic and even some southern states....and a continuation of interesting bird watching through the coming winter

Environmental First Lady Honored by USPS with Forever Stamps - we are still benefiting from her efforts to clean up cities and highways

Stained Glass Cookies - looking for a holiday craft project? These look beautiful

How (Not) to Photograph Prairie Dogs – Part 2 - narrative and photos from The Prairie Ecologist

Gleanings of the Week Ending December 1, 2012

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles I read this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article:

Benefits of gratitude -infographic

Lens, retina and optic nerves of a Daddy long-legs - image that bridges science and art

Who (and Where) is Happy? - Richard Watson’s highlighting of a ‘Happiness Planet Index’ graphic originally reported in New Scientist in June

Actin filaments - fancy biological photography

Mesa Verde Park Guide - from National Parks Traveler

Ancient Butterball - domestication of the turkey by the Mayans

Iris of the human eye - photo showing fibers that open and close the pupil

Medical Society Approval for Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing - replacement for amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling?

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week #30 - Which is your favorite? Mine is the black-headed heron.

Wildlife with Marvelous Mustaches

Gleanings of the Week Ending November 24, 2012

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles I read this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article:

Studying Granite At Yosemite National Park - a video from Steven Bumgardener about the dominant rock in Yosemite

Willow the White Whale - video of a white humpback whale

The Big Apple's Mayor Makes a Very Scary Video - Bloomberg’s video to help us understand the magnitude of our Carbon Dioxide emissions

harvest pumpkin scones - a recipe from King Arthur Flour

There’s More To Space Than Freeze-Dried Ice Cream - a panel discussion of why space exploration is important

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week #29 - my favorite images in this group are the malachite kingfishers and the robin (reminded me the arrival of flocks of robins that always signal spring in our area).

Four Family Cultures of America Identified - From a 3 year study by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture: the Faithful, the Engaged Progressives, the Detached, and the American Dreamers. A key finding: American parents from all four family cultures want their children to become loving, honest and responsible adults of high moral character (i.e. no ‘death of character’ trend).

Can You Move It And Work It On A Treadmill Desk? - It may not work for a whole day - but what about for part of the day?

Pumpkin Cheesecake - sounds yummy

Women in IT: How deep is the bench? - Not as much as you would think. In 2011 women made up 57% of the US professional workforce but held just 2% of the jobs in professional computing occupations. Women graduates feeding the pipeline for computing professions peaked in 1985 at 37%; in 2010, it was down to 18%.

Brookside Gardens in November 2012

Brookside Gardens in November is sliding toward winter. Most of the trees have lost their leaves. There are a few maples still holding their red leaves - like the tree near the tea pavilion at the left.

I’ve selected my favorite photos from the rest of my walk through the gardens for the slide show below.

There was one rose bud trying to unfurl in mid-November and new red leaves were at the tips of the rose bush stems. Some pumpkins and other squash that had been inside the conservatory in October had been moved outside to make way for the model train exhibit that will open later in the month. Kale - purple and green - is planted to give some color through the older months to come. Mallard ducks are enjoying the ponds. And - there are still plenty of yellows, reds and greens to enjoy.

Ten Days of Little Celebrations - November 2012

Back in mid-August I posted about finding things to celebrate each day. It’s an easy thing for me to do and getting into the habit of writing it down each day reminds me to be grateful for these and a myriad of other things in my life. Here are some ‘little celebrations’ I’ve noted this month:

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starting. I had my outline and spreadsheet of character notes ready to go; it was a relief to finally start writing on November 1. I celebrated at the end of the day because I had successfully reached my goal of 3000 words.


Hot chocolate on a cold day. I celebrated that there were packets of hot chocolate mix in the pantry left from last winter. It is a nice contrast to hot tea.


Raking finished in the back yard. I celebrated even though I knew that it was only ‘finished’ for the day. There were still too many leaves on the trees.


Forest near at hand. Even though I live in an area that is full of houses and businesses, there are forested areas too - along the rivers and creeks, around catchment basins, in the medians and along the sides of roads. The forest has the effect of hiding the population density - a cloak of beauty over whatever flaws our ‘civilization’ has made.


The election. However fractured we are politically - the US held an election that told us more about ourselves than the polls had been screaming for months in advance. That is something worth celebrating.


Brookside Gardens could be on my celebration list every month of the year. There is always something new to see. The ‘river of leaves’ under the gingko tree was one of my favorite images this month.


Perfect score on a weekly quiz. I took a Coursera course on Obesity Economics and finally - managed to get familiar enough with the jargon to do well on the 3rd of 4 weekly quizzes.


50,000 words mark on my NaNoWriMo novel. The NaNoWriMo goals if 50,000 words and I managed to write them in the first 12 days of the month - and discovered I still had a lot of my outline to go. It took me another 7 days and over 20,000 words to finish the outline. I have had mini-celebrations all along the way; there are so many personal firsts.


A family medical emergency that ended well. I had a family member than was rushed to the hospital - had surgery the next day - and went home two days after the surgery. It was an emotional roller coaster for a few days….but turned into a series of little celebrations.


Gift wrapping. I volunteered to gift wrap packages at a local Nature Center shop to advertise the Friends group for the Center. It’s a great way to start off the holiday season - and I learned how to make a pretty bows with paper ribbon.

Previous ‘little celebrations’ posts can be found here.

Ready for the Light Show at Brookside Gardens

Brookside Gardens looked close to being ready for the annual Garden of Lights Winter Walk that starts the evening of November 23 and continues through January 6. Last weekend we walked around the gardens during the day to see how the light features are created. Favorite features from previous years were obvious: the hyacinth lights, the sea serpent in an emptied reflecting pool, animal forms (frog and lion pictured below…but there are many more) and flowers of all shapes and sizes. Several new items we noted used recycled plastic bottles as reflectors and diffusers of lights. I’ll post again when I see how they look at night.

Around our (Maryland) Yard in November 2012

Maryland in November is the time the raking of the leaves peaks. The leaves on our sycamore have stayed on longer than I thought it would since we already had a few of them falling in early October.


The hydrangea blossoms have deepened their color as they’ve dried. I am considering bringing some inside for a dried flower arrangement. 



The seeds for next year’s crop of onions are ready to fall in the garden.

And it’s definitely time to rake the leaves into mounds to they won’t kill the grass. The maples and tulip poplars are the most prevalent in our yard.

Brookside Gardens Pumpkin and Squash Display 2012


In keeping with the Autumn Harvest theme Brookside Gardens has a display of pumpkins and winter squashes. The image at the left is the big picture view of largest display and the slide show below contains close-up views. The colors, shapes and textures are quite diverse. My favorite is the one with cream background and red markings (seen in image 1 and 3 in the slide show). 


Brookside Gardens Chrysanthemum Display 2012

Brookside Gardens has chrysanthemums in the conservatory and in the outdoor gardens. The ones on forms in the conservatory were just beginning to open when we were there on 10/26.  They’ll last well into November. The slide show below shows the variety of mum types on display and in full bloom when we were there. It’s a celebration of chrysanthemums!