This year’s crop of cherry blossoms has come and gone, but they were oh, so lovely while they lasted. Peak bloom was expected to be late this year, but nobody seemed to anticipate just how late that would be.
Cherry blossoms. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 8, 2013)
According to RestonPatch.com, the National Weather Service originally forecast peak bloom on March 23-30, and then shifted their predicted peak bloom dates to April 3-6. The Washington Post’s final prediction was for April 6-10. The dates kept shifting back because of an unusually stubborn cold spell in the D.C. area this spring.
I was at a conference in Baltimore during the predicted peak bloom days, and I was so worried that I would miss the blossoms. I needn’t have worried, though. This year, the blossoms started peaking on April 8, with the absolute peak on April 9, and I was there, camera at the ready, on both days.
Tourists, cameras in hand, attempt to capture of the beauty of the cherry blossoms. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 9, 2012)
So were thousands of others, all snapping away in an attempt to capture the ephemeral beauty of the cherry trees in full bloom. I’ve seen some beautiful photos others have taken of the same subject over the years, and I know mine don’t hold a candle to those. But, still… I want to share my photos with anyone who missed the blossoms this year and wants to take a look.
I want to say one more thing, and then I will just let you look at some pictures. If you’ve never seen the Washington, D.C., cherry blossoms for yourself, you really should put that on your bucket list. The experience is like strolling through soft, pink clouds under a clear blue sky. Add to that the warm sun and the gentle spring breezes — you couldn’t experience those if you gazed at a million photographs. As I said earlier, it’s kind of hard to predict when the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom, so, if you’re from out of town, you should plan to stay in D.C. for at least a week. Fortunately, there are plenty of other things you can do here while you’re waiting for the cherry blossoms to pop.
Jefferson Memorial, framed by blossoming cherry trees. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 8, 2013)
A couple poses for wedding portraits at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 8, 2013)
An artist captures the cherry blossoms in pastels. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 9, 2013)
Ducks paddle beneath a flowering cherry branch. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 9, 2013)
A stately old cherry tree shows off its spring finery. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 9, 2013)
Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper (Jacket Design: Victoria Allen, Jacket Images: Shutterstock)
It’s winter in the mid-Atlantic. It’s dark it’s cold it’s bleak. What a delight then to read a book that’s so full of life, of color, of warmth and music and, oh yes, of cats
I started reading Gwen Cooper’s new novel, Love Saves the Day, on the Washington, D.C., Metro. I had to stop reading several times to blink back tears. Cooper’s story is funny, sad, touching, and infuriating, but always readable and entertaining. I couldn’t put it down.
Be forewarned, though: There will be tears, especially toward the story’s end. But your sadness for the characters will turn to joy as you learn that — in the end — love truly does save the day!
It’s the story of Prudence, a sweet brown tabby; Sarah, the human who rescues Prudence from the mean streets of New York City; and Laura, Sarah’s estranged daughter. The story is narrated, in turn, by each of the three main characters. Little by little, a picture emerges of the heartaches and hardships Sarah, Laura, and Prudence each experienced as they made their way through a world that was never easy for any of them. But we also feel intense joy as the characters learn their own truths about life, love, and forgiveness.
Cooper does a wonderful job of painting a cat’s-eye view of the world. As I read the book, I found myself appreciating my own cats more as I thought about how they might be seeing the day-to-day goings-on in our household.
I need to mention music again, because music was woven throughout the story so much it almost seemed like another character. After I finished reading the book, I looked up many of the songs Cooper mentioned. Some were familiar to me; others weren’t. Taken together, they make up a sound track that underscores and adds color to the story. Hollywood, are you listening? This story comes with its own built-in sound track!
And now, for your listening pleasure here are YouTube videos I found for songs, albums, and artists mentioned in Love Saves the Day.
(The book mentioned the album, Mind Bomb, by The The.)
A couple of days ago, a Facebook friend posted a recipe for a slow cooker peach cobbler. Great!, I said. It’s peach season and I have a slow cooker. I want to try making it! So last night, I bought some peaches, and this morning, at around 9:30 a.m., I made up a batch and put it in the slow cooker. (Of course, a couple of peach slices didn’t make it into the cooker. Yummy!)
I’m writing this at about 9:30 p.m. So how did the cobbler turn out? I still don’t know.
At 10:15 a.m., we got a call from my brother-in-law Joe. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer a year ago, and was feeling very sick (I won’t go into the details here) and needed to go to the emergency room. My husband and I did a quick litter box cleanup, I turned off the slow cooker, and we left for the hospital. I hadn’t had a shower yet.
At about 3 p.m., we came home so my husband could get a break and I could get a shower. I turned on the slow cooker for about a half hour, then we had to leave again for the hospital.
Joe was released at about 5 p.m. We took him home and ran a few errands for him. We finally got home around 8 p.m.: just in time to feed the cats and watch My Cat From Hell on Animal Planet. I turned the slow cooker back on.
Here’s a picture of my poor burnt, undercooked peach cobbler, taken at about 9:45 p.m.
My poor, burnt, undercooked peach cobbler. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
The main thing really is that my brother-in-law is really, really sick, but he has taught me how important it is to live every day. To go ahead and make the cobbler, because peaches are in season now and you only get a couple of weeks in August to really, really enjoy their sun-kissed freshness and sweetness. And to thank my friend Chef Rooster for posting the recipe. And to thank you for reading this.
So, in case you’re curious, here’s the recipe. (I’m getting this third hand, so I’m attributing it the way I saw it in Chef Rooster’s FB posting):
SLOW COOK PEACH COBBLER ~ a Betty Crocker Recipe
4 cups fresh or frozen sliced peeled peaches
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup Original Bisquick® mix
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
Ice cream or whipped cream
1 Spray 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. In large bowl, gently toss peaches and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Turn into slow cooker.
2 In medium bowl, gently beat Bisquick mix, sugar and milk with whisk until blended. Pour over peaches in slow cooker.
3 Cover; cook on low heat setting 3 hours or until cobbler is set in center.
4 Serve cobbler with ice cream.
By: Oh So ShAbBy By Debbie Reynolds
And if you’re really curious, you might want to know how it turned out….
It’s delicious! Warm, sweet, and gooey, with a dollop of the sweetest, cool ice cream on top. It’s summer sun in a bowl.
On June 16, 2012, my husband Barry Jawer and I visited the Blind Cat Rescue & Sanctuary in St. Pauls, N.C. We had heard so much about this “forever home” for blind cats, and we wanted to experience it for ourselves. Also, I had recently completed my master’s program at American University in Washington, D.C., and Barry and I both felt that a road trip was in order!
Chex Mix, previously a local stray, surveyed the goings-on at the Blind Cat Rescue & Sanctuary in St. Pauls, N.C., on Saturday, June 16, 2012. Sadly, Chex Mix passed away on July 4, 2012. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
We visited during one of BCR’s monthly open house sessions. The staff couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming. They put us to work right away, brushing and playing with some of the blind cats who live at the sanctuary. The cats were so sweet! They ran right up to us and asked for skritches and head bonks. Many of the blind cats knew their surroundings so well, it was hard to tell they were blind.
According to BCR’s website, “Blind Cat Rescue & Sanctuary was started in 2005 to answer the need for a safe place for blind cats that were deemed unadoptable by regular shelters and were going to be killed just because they are blind.”
BCR founder Alana Miller said that she got the idea to start the sanctuary after she had adopted a couple of blind cats. “I was voluntering for a local shelter and that is how I got my first blind cat, then another blind cat came in, and then a third one, and then a fourth one… when I reached number four, I said it is time to do this officially,” Miller said.
BCR participates in a number of online voting competitions, such as the one sponsored by the Animal Rescue Site, and Miller said that she quickly learned that BCR was going to be very popular online. Miller said, “I realized as it was happening. I was shocked at how fast we have grown!” As of July 2012, BCR’s Facebook page had received more than 44,000 “Likes.”
When asked how people could help, Miller said, “Our needs are same as any other shelter… money and people. We would love to have some regular volunters that come to help every day, and you can never have too much money. We would love to find a way to get all of our Facebook people to see us.”
BCR is currently working on a cookbook that contains recipes contributed by its many online followers. The cookbook will be available for purchase online. BCR also has an Amazon Wish List that lets followers find and donate items the shelter needs.
The slide show below contains some photos Barry and I took when we visited BCR in June. I’m also planning to attend the open house on Aug. 11 with several of my Crazy Cat Lady friends. So stay tuned for more photos!
Got a flying disc and a pair of walking shoes? That’s all you need to start playing disc golf.
By ANDREA KENNER
PATAPSCO VALLEY STATE PARK, CARROLL COUNTY, Md. – Disc golf is a game that’s a lot like traditional “ball golf.” The rules are pretty much the same. The main difference is that you can start playing disc golf with equipment you probably already have in your closet: A flying disc and walking shoes.
The bad news is that you’ll need to get yourself to one of the area’s disc golf courses and none are in Washington, D.C. The good news, though, is that there are about 65 disc golf courses throughout Maryland and Virginia, and some of those are within a few miles of the District. The two closest courses are in College Park, Md., and Arlington, Va. The College Park course is about a 10-minute walk from the College Park Metro station, and the Arlington course is about two miles from the Ballston Metro station.
At a disc golf tournament called Patapsco Punisher, played on the disc golf course at Patapsco Valley State Park in Carroll County, Md., April 7, more than 70 players — from professionals to newcomers — took to the tees.
Stephen J. Badger, a naturalist with the Patapsco Valley State Park, is also a tournament director and a promoter of the game.
“Disc golf is open to a wide variety of players,” Badger said. “We certainly have an eclectic mix. People from all socioeconomic groups and of all ages are out here to play. Today, we have competitors from 14 up to about age 52 or 54.”
A disc golfer tees off at the Patapsco Punisher disc golf tournament at Maryland's Patapsco Valley State Park on Saturday, April 7, 2012. (Photo by Andrea Kenner/American Observer)
Badger said tournament play is open to everyone, and the tournament is divided into different expertise levels that make it possible for recreational players to play alongside the pros.
However, all of the players in the April 7 tournament were male. Badger said he has found it can be difficult for women to commit the time needed for tournament-level play.
“We’re always hoping to have new women come into the sport,” Badger said. “We do work on various promotional ways to get women into more tournaments. Sometimes we help by finding a sponsor to take care of the registration fees or add cash to their division.”
Matthew Kashima, 14, was one of the youngest players at the tournament. “My dad has always had a basket in the front yard, and I’ve just been playing in my front yard since I was two or three years old,” he said.
Kashima said he likes playing with the older guys, but “they’re a little bit slow.” Some of Kashima’s younger friends play in tournaments, too. “I have a couple of friends that live up in Pennsylvania that play, and a lot of times we get into some bigger tournaments.” Kashima said that the thing he likes best about disc golf is that “you don’t have to be in the best shape to play. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Badger said the Maryland Park Service offers disc golf clinics for people who want to improve their game. “There’s also the grassroots approach by just buying a single disc at a store and just going out and giving it a try,” Badger said.
He said some beginners use Frisbees, but “the discs don’t fly as far, and they’re certainly harder to control in a heavy wind.”
But tournament golfers don’t use Frisbees. Instead, they use specialized discs that are smaller but heavier than Frisbees. Just like “ball golfers,” many professional disc golfers select a different type of disc for different play situations, Badger said.
Course designer Jim Myers said every hole on the 18-hole course offers two tees and two baskets so that players can make the play harder or easier to suit their skill level.
“The thing that we wanted on this course was to incorporate all the elevation changes you see here and make the course something that could go from amateur play all the way out to professional play,” Myers said.
“This course here is one of the sweetest courses in the nation,” he said.
Many of the area’s disc golf courses are free, but for some require a small park entrance fee. The Patapsco Valley State Park charges a $3 entry fee for Maryland residents; the entry fee for out-of-state residents is $5. Once you’re in the park, the disc golf course itself is free.
Registration fees for tournament play varies. The entry fee for the Patapsco Punisher was $45 for pros and $25 for amateurs, but that helps to fund prizes for the top finisher. Mike Moser, the winner of this year’s Patapsco Punisher, brought home the day’s top prize: $195.
Here’s a tutorial to show you how to create a screen shot and then use Photoshop to place a pointing-finger icon onto your screen shot. You can watch the video, and then follow the steps below.
To get started, you’ll need a picture of a pointing finger. I found one on the web at wpclipart.com. I modified it slightly by changing the background color to gray. You can find a great tutorial for doing this at DigitalPhotoGuides.com.
You’ll also need to open the screen that you’d like to capture. For the tutorial in the video, I used the print dialog in Adobe Reader, but you can use any screen you’d like to capture instead. After you’ve got your screen open, follow the steps below.
NOTE: This tutorial assumes that you are using a Mac and that you have Adobe Photoshop version 4.0 or higher installed.
Right-click the pointing-finger image above, click Save image as, and save the image on your computer.
Create the screen shot. To do this, make sure the screen you want to capture is open on your desktop and press the Cmd+Shift+4 keys. (If you want to make a screen shot of your entire desktop, use Cmd+Shift+3 instead. If you are using a PC, you can click the screen you want to capture and then use the Alt+Prt Scrn keys to create the screen shot.)
If you used Cmd+Shift+4, a cross-hairs symbol appears. Click the upper-left corner of the screen you want to capture, and then drag your mouse all the way down to the lower-right corner of the screen.
Let go of the keys. You’ll hear the Mac’s "camera" sound. If you look on your desktop, you’ll see a new file that contains your screen shot. The file name will have "screen_shot" and today’s date in it.
Use Photoshop to open the screen shot file.
Use Photoshop’s Place command to add the pointing-finger image to the screen shot. To do this, click File, and then click Place.
Select the pointing_finger.png file, and then click Place.
Resize the pointing-finger image by "shift-dragging" one of its corner handles. You’ll want to make sure you keep the Shift key pressed down the whole time so that you don’t change the dimensions of the image. Also, make sure you let go of the mouse button before you let go of the Shift key. But don’t worry… if you don’t get it right the first time, you can always hit Undo.
Now drag the finger icon to where you want it to be on the screen shot. You may need to resize it some more to get it at just the right size and placement.
Once you get the finger icon exactly where you want it, release it. Then, double-click it right in the middle of the icon.
In the menu bar, select File, and then select Save as. Select a file type of PNG, and then save your file. You can now upload your screen shot to the web or insert it into a Word document.
Now that I’ve shown you this, I should tell you that there’s a tool called Snagit that can do most of this for you. Snagit has a feature called Include Cursor that lets you capture the mouse pointer right along with the screen. But if that option’s not available to you, you can do it the way I’ve shown you here.
Photo of my cat Emma in a red party gown. Based on the photo by Swing Candy, “20s Evening Gown” August 5, 2007, via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
Artichoke dip with roasted red peppers
Cantaloupe pops with crispy prosciutto
Brie and crab soup
Watermelon and mint margarita
Wait a minute! dog bones?
That’s right! Because when you’re a cool cat or a pawsome pup, you can eat and drink all you want and never get fat. You can dance all night and never get tired. You never have to clean up a mess the morning after. There’s a party just about every night, and you don’t have to look very far to find one. Just become a member at Catster, at its sister site Dogster, or at the newcomer site, Cathugger. All you really need to get started is to create an account and upload a couple of photos of your beloved feline or canine furriend. Each member has a separate page; many of the pages are lovingly decorated with photos, backgrounds, and music.
The sites let their members — mostly women, although a few men may slip in surreptitiously — build a fantasy world where anything can happen. Members stage weddings, dance parties, trips to Paris, Carribbean cruises, carnivals and shoe shopping trips. Food fights have been known to break out at even the poshest wedding.
My cat Emma posing with two brusselballs that Catster members mailed to each other in the "real" world.
There are lots of games too: trivia games, puzzles, word-association games, and holiday-themed games. Several years ago, Catster members invented a game called Brusselball, in which members kick a virtual brussels sprout to each other across a virtual playing field.
Members share the fun times, it’s true, but they also support each other through the sad times. When a beloved pet (or person) dies, someone is always there to lend a helping paw. Even after a cat or dog passes away in the real world (it’s called “crossing the rainbow bridge”), they can still participate as “angels” in the virutal world. “Wingmakers” create custom photos that angel pets can post on their online profiles.
Members on these sites can give each other virtual gifts, such as “cuppycakes,” “shrimpies,” and tennis balls. Catster and Dogster users purchase the gifts by using a virtual currency known as Zealies; Cathugger offers a point system that lets members earn points by giving virtual gifts to others. Members can participate for free, but paid members generally have more options
Are there any interactive exhibits at the Maryland Science Center at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor? I can answer that question in one word: Yes! All of the exhibits are designed to engage four of your five senses: sight, sound, touch, and smell. And if you’re willing to spend a little more than your entry fee… you can engage your sense of taste as well, at a snack bar or at the Breakers Cafe.
My husband, Barry, and I spent the day at the Maryland Science Center on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011. Here’s a little slide show to give you an idea of what our day was like.
The video features the song “See You Later” by Pitx (feat. Fireproof Babies, Bmccosar). Click credits, above, to see the complete music credit.
Today is September 11, 2011. It is evening now, moving into the night.
All day long, I’ve been seeing and hearing 9/11 tributes; so many, that I’ve started tuning them out — in some cases, actually recoiling and searching for something more uplifting to fill the “air spaces” in my life. I’ve mostly turned to music radio. TV doesn’t work, because every seven minutes or so, there’s another commercial or message about 9/11.
The 9/11 Decade: A Cultural View features interviews with eight artists whose world view has been shaped by 9/11 and its aftermath. It includes the standard “talking head” video interviews, but it also presents examples of the artists’ works, including musical compositions, comic book cover art, and videos inspired by 9/11. The video clip that affected me the most was Oh Say Can You See, by Laura Poltras, which shows the reactions of people looking at ground zero during the first two weeks after 9/11. I found myself emotionally affected by one young man who was apparently moved to tears by what he saw there.