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.

Around our (Maryland) Yard in December 2012

Maryland in December is the time for the trees to take on their winter starkness. All the leaves are gone from the trees in the forest and the sycamore in our garden.

The dried hydrangea flowers have lost their pink color.

More of the onion seeds have been rattled out of their pods.



The shelf fungus on the oak stump looks a little battered

And the forsythia at the edge of the forest is a bit confused - blooming in the fall rather than its usual spring cycle.

November Sunrise

sunrise 3.jpg

Sunrise in November….possible to photograph from my front doorstep now that the leaves have fallen from the trees. It happens about 7 AM so no need to get up any earlier than usual. It does tend to be cold. This morning - when I took these pictures - it was below freezing; there was frost on the lawn.

The early part of the sunrise has the most red - it’s my favorite and means that my favorite photographs are always 15-20 minutes before the actual sunrise.

Sunrise is always the hopeful beginning of the day but some are interesting than others. Patchy clouds near the horizon reflect the colorful light. The ones this morning were moving too. The silhouettes of trees give us scale and stabilize the context of the image.

Of course the color of the light itself enhances other images. I captured the frozen day lilies - my confused plant that bloomed in the spring and then again in the late fall. 

Enjoy the Monday after Thanksgiving!

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!

Brookside Gardens Roses

Roses always love the cooler temperatures of fall - and the ones at Brookside Gardens were no exception when I was there last week. The color in other parts of the gardens was from fall leaves….and the lights the crews were installing in preparation for the Garden of Lights which will be from November 23- January 6.

Enjoy the slide show!

Brookside Gardens in October 2012

October at Brookside Gardens - fall and the always lush conservatory plantings. This post is a quick sweep of plants from the conservatory and fall foliage in the rest of the garden. I’ll do some themed posts over the course of the next week on roses, gourds/squashes/pumpkins and mums.



The collage above shows plants in the conservatory. The bird of paradise always seems to be blooming. There were several grasses with large seed heads; the one in the lower right of the collage has a lot more color than some of the others. The shape of the uncurling leaf to the right is what caught my attention….and the lighting heightens the effect of the curves and color. The images in the collage below are all from the outdoor gardens. One of the few bushes blooming in the outdoor gardens was a fall camellia; otherwise the color is from fall leaves. The shelf fungus at the bottom right is on a stump I always check. The colors are more subtle than the fall leaves; the shelf fungus will stand out more in winter when all the fall color has faded away.

The collage below has two of my favorite trees - the sweet gum against the sky and the gingko in the lower left. The tea house with the colorful maples and the still-mostly-green papyrus in the pool complete this collage.


Fall at Centennial Park

This past weekend was probably the peak for fall foliage at Centennial Park in Howard County, Maryland. We stopped at the boat launch area first - and a Great Blue Heron flew up and stood for some moments on a pile of rocks! After that start to the hike, we began the 2+ mile loop around the lake. Enjoy the fall scenes in the slide show below: red dogwood leaves, the reflections of trees in the water, water droplets on a grass seed head, a boat on the water, cattails, Canadian geese taking of, lady fingers, faded lily pads distorting the reflection of lots of yellow trees, a frost damaged poke weed, and the lake through an oak curtain…..the scenes of fall at Centennial Park.

Around our (Maryland) Yard in October 2012

October is the key fall month in Maryland. The leaves are turning and falling. The onions blooming in September now have seed heads. The dahlias are still going strong and there are more puffballs that ever. There were lovely pink mushrooms growing in the grass. There is a new group of caterpillars on the parsley that may not get to chrysalis stage before it gets too cold. Enjoy my October slide show below!

Posts from previous months are here.

Brookside Gardens in September

Brookside Gardens in September is making the transition to fall. We went first thing in the morning; the temperature was decidedly cool. Here are the highpoints of what we saw: 

  • Red magnolia seeds
  • Fall crocus
  • Coleus - some in bloom
  • Dogwoods turning and one already in full fall reds
  • Roses - they always get a second wind as the temperatures get a little cooler
  • A walking stick on the ‘switch grass’ sign 

Enjoy the slide show!

Variegated Crotons at Brookside Gardens

The garden or variegated crotons are colorful residents of the conservatory at Brookside Gardens. Sometimes they are simply a backdrop for changing displays. At other times they are some of the main color for their quadrant of the north conservatory. The pictures below were captured on the same day as our tour of the butterfly exhibit.

It’s interesting that the new leaves are most often green and that the different plants vary not only in color but pattern of color. Green, yellow, red, orange….the whole range of colors can be found on a single plant!

Butterflies at Brookside Gardens

This week is the last hurrah for the annual butterfly exhibit at the Brookside Gardens south conservatory. There were still a lot of butterflies to see. It was the first time I’d gone with a camera - and I found that I enjoyed it more while I was there and now that I am looking at the photos again. My more challenging shot was of the blue morphos (to the left) because they so rarely stay anyplace for long with their wings open. Enjoy the slide show below of my favorites for the photos my husband and I took!

Around our (Maryland) Yard in September 2012

September is the winding down of summer. I have onions blooming - a brilliant display over the lemon balm cut back last month. The insects really were enjoying the flowers.

The dahlias are still blooming profusely but sometimes one just dries out to look more like a sculpture than a flower.

The mushrooms are still growing around the old oak stump. The ones on the stump itself just get bigger and bigger. The puff balls a little further way on the mulch grow and then the puff opens to send spores out to grow other puff balls. It seems like we always have new pristine white one somewhere in the mulch around the oak stump while the older ones still disperse more spores when the wind is just right.

And finally - a feather in the grass. It must have come from a good sized bird. Since it was the only one - I’m assuming it was from molting rather than a death.

Previous Months: August 2012, July 2012, June 2012May 2012April 2012March 2012January 2012 

Catoctin Mountain Park - August 2012

We took advantage of a cool, cloudy morning recently to revisit Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, Maryland. It’s a forested area with hiking trails and winding roads. For us - it’s a place to celebrate all the times we’ve been there before (over the past 20+ years) and the beauty of the place even in August: (from the top down in the collage below) Catoctin geology, tiny mushrooms in moss, sunflowers at the visitors center, Cunningham Falls - not much water but the scour holes to the right of the water are indicators of how much there is at other times of the years, and a blue chicory flower.

This time of year the fungus steal the show from wildflowers. The slide show below captures some of my favorites. There are a lot of tree falls and forest mulch at Catoctin that provide lots substrate for these decomposers.

And last but not least - there were a few colorful leaves….reminding us that fall is just around the corner.

Brookside Gardens - August 2012

Brookside Gardens in August - the plants are hanging on in the heat, making seed pods. There are quite a few with lots of buds brought on by the recent rains and the coming reduction in temperatures. The textures and shapes that I focused on during my walk included: 

  • Fan-like gingko leaves
  • Pleats of the yellow petals behind a fuzzy bee
  • Folds of a hibiscus petal just opening
  • Feathery papyrus
  • Curved path through the rose garden and purple crepe myrtle
  • Overlapping of petals of an old rose…the tight furl of a bud
  • Compartments of a lotus pod
  • The compactness of a passion flower bud
  • The ripples behind two ducks


Keeping Cool in the Summer Time

August in Maryland - it’s hot. Today let’s remind ourselves of some ways to keep cool in the summer time. 

  • Eat and drink cool/cold foods. Save the soups and chili for winter. Go with cool/cold foods when it’s hot outdoors.
    • Smoothies. See the post from earlier this month. These are a wonderful icy treat that can be different every day. Yesterday mine was a banana, ice, almond milk, and 1/2 teaspoon coconut flavoring. Today its frozen tomato, orange and 1/2 teaspoon lemon flavoring.
    • Salads. Eat veggies while they are still cool from the refrigerator. Think finger food like: cucumber slices sprinkled with seasoning, cucumber slice ‘sandwiches’ with basil leaf and deli sliced smoked turkey filling, celery with peanut butter, broccoli or cauliflower florets. Or combinations of ingredients with your favorite dressing. Most salads are fairly quick to prepare and with a little prep ahead of time are about the fastest meal around.
    • Fruit. Watermelon is the best it will be in August. The hybrid seedless forms don’t have the marvelous flavor of the older melons but are still tasty. Peaches are also in season. Again - eat them still cool from the refrigerator.
    • Ice cream. In moderation because of the fat and sugar calories. I’ve almost converted myself to the frozen banana with milk substitute.
    • Iced beverages. Water - lemon water - herbal tea - watered down juice. Keeping hydrated with something cold is a great way to keep cool. Combine the idea of smoothies and iced beverages by putting your iced beverage in the blender; you’ll ‘drink’ the ice along with the beverage that way.
  • Be active early in the day (when its cooler). Plan the day to be outdoors in the morning. It’s cooler and it will be more enjoyable. Walking, jogging, gardening….it all is better in the morning.
  • Water your skin. Every time you wash your hands - dry them on your forearms before the towel. You’d be surprised how much cooler you’ll feel. Splash your face too if you are very hot. Carry a mister for children or yourself in very hot weather.
  • Go barefoot. Shoes may be required to protect the bottom of your feet or if you are out and about…but go barefoot at every opportunity.
  • Wear comfortable clothing. By this I mean ‘not tight’ and ‘breathable’ --- also lightly colored.
  • Seek shade. If you are going to be out in the sun - wear a hat so that your shade moves with you. Even if you are wearing a hat, stand in the shade whenever possible.