Sunday, December 25, 2016

White Xmas.

12-25-16 VERMONT: Two days ago we had bight sun and a warm, 30°F., day and the Solstice party at night with a bonfire. Yesterday we had a dark, overcast, gray sky with snow, also 30°F. Today there’s bright sun again, it’s still 30°F., but wind speed in the 20’s makes it feels like the teens.

Everybody here last night stuffed themselves at Judy’s table. There were no presents under the tree this morning, as neither of us needs anything else, but also because we decided to support National Resources Defense Council and Planned Parenthood.

Another party tonight.

Judy leading the dogs around the pasture.

Low winter sun through the trees.

Long shadows at the solstice.

Solstice party bonfire at the neighbors. There were high school seniors, college seniors and us, seniors also.

Next day, Xmas Eve, more snow.

Bally after a satisfying roll in the snow.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Vermont Solstice.

12-22-16 VERMONT: We drove up yesterday on a sunny, winter solstice day. There were about six inches of crusty snow here, not quite enough to require snowshoes. Today we got new snow, about three inches more.

Just before evening yesterday, I walked out in the pasture with the dogs and cut down a good-sized white pine. I had to cut about three feet off the bottom to make it light enough to drag back up to the house. Once I stood it upright on the deck, with Judy’s help, we decided it needed about five feet off the top to fit inside the house. When we got it inside, I had to shorten the lower branches to get the door opened and closed and to give us room to walk around it. The upper parts were untrimmed and extend out further into the room than the bottom branches. I also tied the upper trunk to a hook on the corner post of the room to stabilize the tree. It’s decorated now, and I think it looks great, even if some disparaging remarks have been made about the tree by another person.

Tomorrow we have a Solstice party across the road at Steve and Diana’s, Xmas eve we are feeding some neighbors here, and the next day we are at Dave and Shari’s for dinner. After all that, it’s probably left-overs for the foreseeable future.

I put some pix on FB of the Family Winter Birthday Bash held at the Red Rooster. It was brunch with the Gospel Choir of Harlem performing. Chef Marcus Samuelsson knows what he is doing in the kitchen, and we can’t wait until he opens his planned restaurant in Newark.

Last Monday Judy took Gus the therapy dog to Lincoln Elementary School in Newark for the Xmas Party. I came along to carry the bags of stuffies that Judy collected over the summer in the Upper Valley of VT and NH and to take pix. A couple of those pix are on my FB page also.

Dark, overcast morning with lots of snow, but we ended up with only three inches.

It was snowing in Hanover as well.

Our garage has started to shed snow from the roof.

Late, partial clearing gave us a sunset through thin clouds.

It's not a giant squid threatening us from the corner of the living room. but a large Holiday tree. I cut down this white pine in the pasture, dragged it up to the house and cut pieces off of it until it fit inside. I needed to cut more off to get the door open and closed. Where is it written that all trees need to have a conical shape?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Snow Jersey.

12-17-16 SHORT HILLS: We had an arctic invasion over the last two days with frigidity and temps transiently down into the teens. Last night it began to warm up and snow. There was about four inches this morning when it warmed up more after sunrise and turned to freezing rain—a recipe for disaster, typical of New Jersey. Add enough cold to let the rain freeze on all the trees and shrubs, stir with some wind, lower the temps the next night and you have broken branches all over the yard.

The birds besiege the feeders on snowy and cold days. I have been filling feeders daily. They are all looking puffy as they arrange their feathers to fight the cold. They look like they are in little down coats, which I guess they are.

I shoveled a path in the driveway for walkers, which was probably unnecessary because it’s supposed to be in the fifties tomorrow.

Friend Alan is coming for dinner tonight. Judy made her famous ribs and cornbread. Tomorrow is our annual family winter birthday bash for the four of us with Jan/Feb BD’s. We are going to the Red Rooster in Harlem for brunch and the gospel choir.

Slate-colored Junco in his down outfit.

Dawn a few days ago.

Holly tree looking seasonal.

Frosted apples.

Cardinal and leaf under the feeder.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

At Last, another December Post.

12-14-16 SHORT HILLS: Wow, nine days without a post, that’s probably a record. Obviously, not much has been happening. We had a Saturday night dinner with Bette, Lonnie, Ellen and Bruce at a quietish place so we could hear each other talk. If we need quieter next time, maybe a mausoleum would work.

Judy and I have been binging on TV. We did almost four season of Rectify in about a week, the new season of Mozart in the Jungle in a couple of days and a season of The Man in the High Castle in a couple more. All those shows are worth seeing if anyone hasn’t tried them.

The weather is getting colder, as it should be, there has been a bit of ice on the roads. We had a quarter inch of snow before it turned to rain and melted. We have managed to walk the dogs most days and got a couple duck pix at one of the ponds in town.

One brag—I have finished 18 straight NYT xword puzzles.

Mallards cruising an open spot on the south pond.

More mallards.

The other pond is frozen, for the moment.

Monday, December 05, 2016

PHC and Othello.

12-5-16 SHORT HILLS: Our weekend adventures began Friday night when we went to a Dartmouth sponsored performance of New York Theatre Workshop’s ‘Othello’ with Daniel Craig as Iago and David Oyelowo as Othello.

Before the show, we met with Val and two of her old friends, Ted and James, who we hadn’t seen in years. It was nice to see them as successful grown-ups. When last we saw them, they were new college graduates.

When you walk into the theatre, the smell of fresh carpentry is unmistakable. The whole room is newly covered in raw plywood and the seating newly constructed of unfinished lumber.

The star-studded cast, there were a number of other actors we recognized from TV or the movies, had huge presence. James said that when Daniel Craig stood next to his seat, he, Craig, exuded ‘animal musk’.

Less is more in terms of minimal staging, the modern setting neither added nor detracted from the play, but the lack of elaborate sets allows the words to be the focus of your attention.

The play resonates today, echoing down 500 or so years, on racial, religious and gender interactions. I was always bothered by how easily Othello, a supposedly brilliant commander, was duped and betrayed by the duplicitous Iago.

Saturday night we went to the new incarnation of Prairie Home Companion. Garrison Keillor has retired and the new guy, Chris Thile, is a remarkable musician, mandolin, and does the show with more music and less skits. Lake Wobegon and Garrison’s cast of characters are gone, presumably forever—RIP, Guy Noir. Some of the old cast members and musicians are still there, but the PHC name should probably be retired also. Trevor Noah was on in the second hour. He and Chris discussed how to try to follow a retiring icon.

Before PHC, Judy and I walked up to Rock Center to see the tree and all. Other people had the same idea as it turned out. There are Xmas lights and imagery everywhere, but the crowds were overwhelming. We couldn’t get to 5th Ave. at all.

Sometimes you could see a gap in the crowd, but when you got there, it turned out to be a stroller. The passenger in that stroller saw nothing but parts of people.

Rock Center xmas tree with lights, silver flags, wooden soldiers and CROWDS.

Before the show at New York Theatre Workshop's 'Othello'. Raw wood seating and set of military barracks. Ang Lee was in the audience.

Crowds rushing by at rock Center.

Rock Center looking toward 5th Ave. and invading hordes.

Prairie Home Companion during warm up.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Loantaka Pond and Forsythia.

12-4-16 SHORT HILLS: We were in NYC both Friday and Saturday nights for shows, but I’ll talk abut those later. Today we dog walked with Bill at Loantaka Brook Reservation. The weather was great and we did two loops separately because a connecting bridge is blocked for repairs. Judy was recognized by young boy whose school she visits with the dogs. Actually it was the dogs who were recognized. He and Maizie were both glad to see each other.

There is a large pond, perhaps two acres, at the reservation occupied by a lot of water birds. There is a mute swan and a lot of ducks including many mallards and two other species, ID’s pending consultation with Garden Daily consultants.

On a somber note—friend Bill was tripped by dogs on the last leg of the walk and took a tumble. He seemed OK at the time but will probably be sore tomorrow. The actual event happened so quickly that we couldn’t get live shots, so it was necessary to stage a re-creation of the accident.

Before Thanksgiving there was a brief cold snap that gave us a frost. I don’t think we have had another one, and it has been pretty warm since then. Forsythia foolishly decided it might be a short winter and an early spring and popped a few flowers. They do the same thing every fall, I wonder if somebody is still buzzing around to do the pollination?

New blooms: forsythia.

Mute swan and mallards.

Forsythia thought it might be an early spring.

Ducks on the pond - I'm guessing these are Gadwalls, expert testimony requested.

Gadwalls again, perhaps.

More mallards.

I think these are female lesser scaups, anyone??
Dog walker down. Full disclosure: the actual event took so fast that this picture is a re-creation of the accident.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg

11-28-16 SHORT HILLS: Today was warm enough for me to get out in the yard and do some cleanup from the windy weather of last week. The wind and rain left the yard and shrubs littered with deadfall. We’re supposed to get rain again over the next few days and more wind.

Yesterday we had a treat. We went to an afternoon concert at NJPAC and heard the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg do three of our favs. They opened with Mozart’s, ‘Jupiter’ Symphony in C Major and continued with his Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat. Radovan Vlatkovic was the soloist. After intermission, they played Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major.

The orchestra is small compared to, say, the Philharmonic, but enthusiastic and led by a young and energetic Conductor, Matthew Halls. They looked like they were having a great time and responded to sustained applause with an encore. When’s the last time anyone saw that at Geffen Hall?

Prudential Hall at NJPAC has great acoustics and is an easy 20 minutes from home.

Intermission at NJPAC, there are people on that top level.

Enough applause for an encore - Beethoven's 'Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus'.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thanksgiving and Dog Walks.

11-26-16 SHORT HILLS: Thanksgiving has come and gone. We hosted Valerie, Alison, Dan, Steve, Anna, Maggie, Lily, Lucy and Maggie’s two pet rats. The rats didn’t have a seat at the table. Judy’s spread was magnificent, as usual, everyone was as stuffed as the turkey. Nobody got the plague.

After dinner we staggered off to the movies and saw ‘Fantastic Beasts…’, most of us thought it was meh. By Friday afternoon the invading hordes had been repelled, including the rats. We did cleanup, mostly Judy, and later, went to a 75th birthday party for friend Alan, thrown by his daughters Lisa and Tracy. It was great to see some old friends and make some new ones.

Between all the activities, we have managed to walk the dogs in some woodsy spots, as we were bored with the usual around-the-block walks. Twice we went to the South Mountain Reservation, between Millburn and South Orange. The first hike was to Hemlock Falls. The experience was marred by many off-leash dogs let loose by dog walkers, against reservation rules.

The next day we went to Locust Grove where the crowds and dogs were better behaved. We climbed to Washington Rock for the views, but the hazy air stole a lot of it. Today we went west to Loantaka Brook Reservation for a flat walk and bumped into Bill and Bella. The lake there had lots of ducks, scaups, I think, and a solitary swan.

Hemlock Falls at South Mountain Reservation. Dramatic falls when there's more rain.

West branch of the Rahway River in the reservation.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Back in the Second Grade.

11-21-16 SHORT HILLS: Today we did what has become our annual Thanksgiving visit to Lincoln Elementary School in the Vailsburg section of Newark, actually near my first office. We visit Ms. Catalano’s second grade class with Gus the therapy dog. The kids read to Gus, practicing their skills, and Gus practices understanding what they read. Bill and Lynn accompanied us to help with the reading lessons. Pam and Charlie, another therapy team from Creature Comfort Pet Therapy, were there also. We do an Xmas visit also.

Judy, Pam and other volunteers do regular monthly visits for reading, but they don't get fed except at holidays. The Xmas visit is when we bring in the donated stuffed animals, mostly from Vermont, as presents for all the kids in the lower grades.

Ms. Catalano served fried chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, corn bread, and sweet potato pie for dessert. We all enjoyed, including Gus. After two hours or so, we left the kids to other lessons.

The school desks are all lined up to make a banquet table. Ms. Catalano is dishing in the back.

Reading lesson for Gus.

Inviting, lively classroom.

Pam and Charlie.

Hand made place-mats.

Producing a selfie.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Snow Surprise.

11-20-16 SHORT HILLS: After a couple days in the sixties, we got the snowstorm that ravaged the north and west. We got a dusting over night and some frozen patches in the driveway. No shoveling or salting required. The thermometers say upper thirties, but it must have been freezing at some point,  and that counts as our first frost here.

We saw Moonlight last night. It’s probably not for everyone, but I thought it is probably the picture of the year. The cinematography and casting are special, the story is both touching and haunting. However, it’s December, almost, and other Best Picture contenders will be released soon.

Surprise, but barely got a frost.

Likes bird food.

We still have color, accented by the white.

The magnolia in the center is covered with flower buds.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Burning Bush, Super Moon, Powerful Aida.

11-17-16 SHORT HILLS: We’ve been back in NJ for a few days. Unlike Vermont, there are still lots of leaves here, some still green. The burning bushes are doing their fall fire-dance. I know they are non-native, but, in their defense, they are beautiful, trouble-free and the birds gobble up the berries.

We had a big rain here two days ago and got about two inches and an electric display. The rain helps with the, hopefully, resolving drought. Since the rain, we have had lovely weather with temps in the sixties, a little too warm for late November. I don’t think there has been a frost here yet.

It was clear for the super moon. I tweaked the camera settings and got a nice hand-held shot.

We heard Aida Tuesday night at the Met. It’s a gorgeous production with great, carved deities, stone temples and live horses in the triumphal march, my favorite scene. Liudmyla Monastyrska, a Ukrainian soprano, sang the title role. She has pipes powerful enough to wake the pharaohs and rock the opera house. There were some empty seats, but the audience loved it, there were ‘bravas’ and a standing O.

Before the opera we had dinner with Richard and Elaine at Café Fiorello. Last night we had diner with Bill in Chatham, and today I go back to Lincoln Center to meet old friend Dr. Donald for lunch.

Fiery burning bush.

Red burning bush and orange chokecherry.

More burning bushes. [I know they're a non-native, but they feed a lot of birds.]

My shot of the super moon. [Hand held, BTW.]

Curtain call with standing O for the cast and conductor of Aida. Liudmyla Monastyrka is in blue.