Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Deck the Monument

Baltimore's Washington Monument in holiday finery. I strolled by the Monument on Sunday night on the way back to my car, after an afternoon of brunch at City Cafe, wandering around the Walters Art Museum and attending OperaBelle's wonderful recital at An die Musik.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cha Ya Cafe Expanding; Royal Taj

Cha Ya Cafe in the restaurant park on McGaw Road in Columbia is expanding into the space of the former Orinoco Coffee next door. I had dinner there last night, and the dividing wall is gone already as remodeling work progresses.

Also notice the pair of Siamese fighting fish bowls on the sushi counter. Fortunately, the bowls are on different levels so that the fierce little fish don't see each other all the time and can take a break from sparring.

Cha Ya is Japanese and Thai cuisine. On the other side of them is Royal Taj, Indian cuisine. Both restaurants have been great dining destinations, and I find myself heading to McGaw Road and parking while still trying to decide which one to visit.


Ollie is quite well...

I know that Ollie, my cat, has cancer, but he doesn't know that he has cancer. It's hard to believe that about a month ago it looked like he would be gone very soon and that right now daily doses of steroid and laxative are keeping him going. Lots of love and extra spoiling also help. Oh, and if we could have some sunny days now and then -- lounging in sunlight seems to have a therapeutic effect, but I should add that this cat likes watching snow, too.

He sleeps or snoozes more than he used to. On the other hand, he'll surprise me by suddenly clambering around atop the fridge and kitchen cabinets. Yesterday afternoon, I caught him tossing and bopping one of his toy mice around in a way I had not seen for a very long time, even long before the recent diagnosis.

I have let several musical events slip by while dealing with my own anxiety over leaving Ollie alone too much. This afternoon, I'm going to try a foray into Baltimore, brunch at City Cafe and a vocal recital at An die Musik. Or I might just stay home with him. I've learned that it's just as important to spend time with him on his good days as well as his bad days.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Welcome, Books-A-Million at Columbia Crossing!

Missing a late evening place to browse and buy, I've been checking out the Books-A-Million store that occupied the former Borders location in the Columbia Crossing shopping center. They're still getting established but they have been serving customers for quite a few weeks now. (Will there be a classical section in the CD department?) I've spotted a few former Borders employees, too. Customer traffic isn't very high so far, and I was amazed at how few there were last Saturday night.

I will resist buying a membership account for further discount on purchases. I don't want to put up with the extra e-mail from yet another store, and I've been getting mysterious e-mail from Barnes & Noble since Borders closed. (Stores: Just keep your prices down for everybody, and we'll come back!) BAM's prices seem to be a little lower than Borders' any way, though not as low as Daedalus.

I picked up "Aliens" in the DVD section for about $12. So far, the DVD department seems smaller than Borders', but I'm still very impressed by the selection of Criterion Collection titles. (Did they acquire a lot of Borders' stock?) BAM's Criterion prices are a little bit below Borders', not quite as low as what you can get on Amazon. Still, they have the recent release of "Island of Lost Souls", a promising sign for future browsing.

///What is going on with the parking lot lights in the section adjacent to BAM? They're all out, and they were like that when Borders was still there. There is some ambient light coming from other sections of the lot.///


Sunday, December 4, 2011

On the Lake: Drainage Ditch Turned Garden Spot

Over the past few weeks, a landscaping crew has been turning this formerly brush-choked drainage ditch into a new garden spot on the path around Lake Kittamaqundi. This is the ditch that runs from the side of the Columbia Sheraton into the Lake. (All of the slabs of rock along the sides and top of the ditch are new.) Work is still in progress, and more small trees are being planted nearby, but this project certainly adds to Columbia's garden city look.


Update on Ollie, #1 Opera Cat

I make these posts about Ollie, because they help me and they might help someone else whose beloved pet has cancer. I'm not saying that what we're doing for Ollie will work for every cat -- you must consult with your vet -- but I'm saying it's possible to keep your companion quite comfortable and happy for a while if you try things suggested by your vet.

About a month ago, after he had been displaying horrible symptoms, the vets found a lymphoma tumor in Ollie's colon. Prognosis was awful. It seemed that he would be gone very soon. After agonizing over potential chemotherapy in Annapolis, I took a less stressful, simpler route with heavy consultations with Ollie's regular vet. Prednisalone (a steroid sometimes called poor man's chemo by the vets), laxative (Miralax from a regular drug store in this case) and prescription i/d canned food have kept the disease under control for the time being after a couple of mishaps and one emergency vet visit. Hypoallergenic pill pockets and safe treats (pellets of the dry version of the i/d, though Ollie needs mostly the canned food to help his bowels) also help, and lots of love and spoiling. Lots of lap time.

Vets are reluctant to update his vaccines, because the cancer and/or current medicine compromises his immune system. Although his new boarding place can handle medical problems, I decided not to board him at the busy holiday time of year and canceled a trip to see family. We might try later, if his present state of wellness continues.

Ollie always had inflammatory bowel disease, IBD, which predisposed him to some kind of gastrointestinal cancer. I had hoped that the Science Diet Sensitive Stomach bought off the shelf at the pet store would protect him. It certainly was better than regular cat food, but we still had to switch to prescription food bought at the vet this fall. Fortunately, he loves the new canned food, something he could not have before. Lately I find that an empty pill pocket or a few pellets of the dry food pushed into the top of the wet food mound might be needed to encourage him to eat it. That was a remedy when his appetite was down a week or two ago, but now I think he expects the tasty garnish on top.

A month later, Ollie seems to be more like a happy old cat with an inconvenient disease. In some ways, he's even healthier than he was before the cancer was found. I don't know if this will go on for just a few weeks or months or if I can hope that he will live longer. We're just having one big party while he feels well and watching for signs of trouble.

(The "Ollie is your host" label will take you to photos recent and older.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I hope you're having a good holiday. Here are some happy moments in Ollie's day today -- and I'm very thankful for them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ollie Outdoors

Just inside the patio slider is an extra comfort station dubbed Ollie's campsite.

These photos were taken over the last two weekends, and him with his lowered appetite, too. Today he's almost inhaling his food again. These closely supervised sessions have been something regular in the past, but I'm spoiling him more now.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Ollie is lounging in my lap right now. Something that's been happening more often lately.

I'm reluctant to go to performances or go very far afield for the time being as I spend time with Ollie and monitor his health. Rather than feeling like I'm missing something, I'm enjoying the time with my feline companion of nine years (adopted when he was two), or I should say enjoying the time when nothing bad is happening. There was a late night trip up to the emergency vet in Ellicott City last Tuesday when a particularly bad episode of blockage happened, accompanied by some weird low moaning I'd never heard before. On the gory side, these episodes of straining in the pan with little or no result sometimes trigger a vomiting reflex, and that happened this time, too. All we have to do is get things around the lymphoma tumor in his colon, and he's just fine. Thought he was dying on the way to the emergency vet, but after he was treated they let me see him stretched out so happy and relaxing in the post-treatment cage.

Cancelled chemo in Annapolis for him at the last minute late last week. Discussions with regular vets (no charge -- thanks!). Continuing prednisolone, two pills a day for the time being; switched from pumpkin to Miralax after the emergency vet episode; Lactulose on stand-by in case something extra is needed. (Pumpkin, plain puree, was moving things but turned out to be just another substance to get through around the tumor.) Miralax started working for the first time after about two days.

Ravenous at first about new prescription canned food -- was never allowed canned before because of his chronic IBD. Now his appetite fluctuates but he likes treats and small portions served on a spoon. If I can't get a pred pill into him because I have to crush it in his regular food, vets introduced me to Pill Pockets. Wow! A way to get a whole pill into him without any fuss. Unfortunately, he's crazy about the flavor and has been raiding the kitchen counter and maybe even less enthusiastic about the regular food.

Maintaining about 15 pounds. (17 pounds before, which was overweight.) Fur has not grown back where they shaved his tummy weeks ago to do ultrasounding before the cancer was diagnosed. A taste of chemo after all? (I read that cats don't lose fur during chemo but it can grow back slowly or not at all if shaved for any procedures.)

He still likes to go out on the patio for supervised outdoor time. I'm watching a lot of movies or listening to music, often with Ollie in my lap or on the ottoman -- something that had stopped for a while, so it's good to see that again.

Addendum, Mon., Nov. 21: Made a couple of corrections above. The emergency trip happened one night earlier than I recalled. Today, Miralax worked very well, and Ollie's appetite seems to be back up this evening. I gave him his second pill in a pill pocket any way -- we need to celebrate! (Oh, and they have to be the hypoallergenic Pill Pockets for him.)

Friday, November 11, 2011


I'm sorry, but between edits, Blogger has lost most of this post.

This has been happening recently.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ollie's Kingdom

I just snapped this shot a few minutes ago. After noticing that he sleeps more than before and doesn't climb around as much, I was happy to find him on an old favorite perch: the back of the sofa, then a shorter CD case help him get to the top of the CD tower. I have not seen him up there for ages.

I made improvements on his "porch" -- the wrap-around corner window in our little sun room -- that allow him to lounge at full length and watch the world outside in more comfort. He's been loving that. If you've seen the shots of him through the window screen on the "Ollie is your host" label, that's his porch. Those pictures were taken the day after Irene blew through. He was already quite ill then, but I didn't know how ill.

More pictures of Ollie might appear here later, but I want to avoid documenting any decline in his health here. I'd rather share more with friends in private forums, and I have some tough decisions coming up, and I don't know how much longer I can share life with Ollie in his present better-than-expected state.

I'm still getting out a little bit, and I hope to go to a concert nearby next weekend, so my notices of music and art might continue. I wish I could bring Ollie with me. He'd love to meet you.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Ollie's biopsy results indicate lymphoma, and there's some debate over whether spots further up his tract are cancerous or just more inflammation. Steroid pills I'm giving him already might help with the cancer, and I'm considering options for further treatment.

We had a comforting and productive chat with the vet at Columbia Animal Hospital this morning, and Ollie was pleased with a visit that was less eventful than recent visits. If you saw him right now, you wouldn't think anything was wrong.

No new pictures on this post, but for convenience of some friends of Ollie who might visit the blog, just click on the "Ollie is your host" label at the bottom of this post. It will pull up more posts with Ollie's photos. (They are thumbnails that you can click on for a larger view.) I might post more photos later, but for now I must take care of him and spend more time with him.

Many thanks to the vets and staff members at Hickory Ridge Columbia Animal Hospital who have taken such wonderful care of Ollie over the years.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pastel Landscapes at Artists' Gallery, Columbia

The monthly reception is this evening at the Artists' Gallery near Columbia Town Center's Lakefront. Featured works this month are pastel landscapes (many local scenes) by Barbara Steinacker and Deborah Maklowski.

Note that the Gallery has extended its Saturday hours, closing at 3:30pm instead of 12:30.

Maklowski also will be represented in an exhibit along with other artists at Bethesda's Ratner Museum, December 1 - 26.
See ratnermuseum.com for details. (The card I picked up says that Ratner admission is free.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My little man...

as they started calling him at Columbia Animal Hospital, is at home after spending most of Monday undergoing procedures and tests. Now we wait for the results, but meanwhile Ollie has been extremely playful and affectionate since coming home yesterday evening.

Movie Cake from Touche Touchet Bakery

My movie night didn't happen, but the cake did. It was ordered and bought already, and I was eager to see what Touche Touchet Bakery had achieved with my few suggestions for a theme, so I picked it up at the bakery on Saturday afternoon. I've seen their work before and I was amazed again.

The cake was shared with friends, but I finally had to assume the responsibility of cutting the first slice. Nobody wanted to spoil it. It tasted as good as it looked, and I noticed that it wasn't overwhelmed with sugar.

hocofood@@@ -- I understand that this string will reflect this post in the food section of Hocoblogs. I'm using my restaurants label for now to cover anything to do with food and drink. This bakery does have a cozy area of tables and chairs for dining on coffee and treats, too.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Update on Ollie

The vet found a "mass" in the side of Ollie's colon while treating him today. They couldn't determine the extent of it nor whether it was just an irritated spot or something more sinister. He goes back on Monday for tests and a sample for biopsy. Right now, he's back at home behaving normally and enjoying what will be a diet of only the canned version of the new prescription food. (Yes, he will love that.) The problem manifests itself more when he's in the litter pan, and we'll wait and see how that goes.

Apologies to friends who are seeing double notices about Ollie, if they read here and on Facebook, where I have also posted. As things progress with Ollie, I might not share everything, but it is a situation in which we hope for the best and still must be ready for the worst. If I slow down or stop posting for a while, I'm taking care of my #1 Opera Cat.

The blog will stay in place for its collection of links to other blogs, music and art.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

a special new cat bed

He's over the pancreatitis and back to complaining about emptybowlitis. Thanks to the great people at Columbia Animal Hospital! He has really taken to an extra bed which I fashioned from an old quilt and towel when he was really sick, so we'll keep it in operation in a favorite spot overlooking the back garden.

And why not let him have that Ralph Lauren designer towel you weren't using any more? It looks much better on him!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In Columbia: Bird Club Event and a New Garden

(and some Howard County history)

Two events in Columbia coming up, both free:

The Howard County Bird Club will have its first meeting and presentation at its new meeting place in the Robinson Nature Center this Thursday evening, October 13. The presentation will focus on Cape May, New Jersey. (Bird club members have sighted and photographed the Cape May warbler in Howard County -- see the site's photo gallery.) Social time begins at 7:30pm with meeting and presentation following at 8pm. I'm told that the Nature Center will lock its doors at 8:15pm, so late comers will miss the presentation. See the events page on the site for details.

Over the summer, a new garden has been developing at Kittamaqundi Community Church on Vantage Point Road. New plantings are getting established, but the Sacred Garden already looks quite picturesque nestled against a knoll in the field beside the church. I've been including it in my strolls around the neighborhood -- another nearby garden spot in addition to the grounds of Oakland Manor across the road. The Church is eager to share the garden with the community and will hold an open garden afternoon with refreshments and music on Sunday, October 16, 12 noon to 2pm.

We're surrounded by artifacts of history in our suburban community of condominiums and townhouses! Many neighbors are aware that Kittamaqundi Church occupies what was the carriage house or stable for Oakland. At the manor's recent 200th birthday celebration, more "secrets" of the manor were revealed in presentations and tours. Among them, I learned that the strip of asphalt running up the slope between the Church's new garden and one side of Waterbury Condominium, stopping just short of the sidewalk on Vantage Point Road, is the remnant of a path which connected what is now Route 29 to the estate house. Today, walkers make use of this remnant as a shortcut between sections of the neighborhood.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Orchids at the Arboretum ~ Bonsai ~ Maple Walnut Cake

An unplanned trip to the National Arboretum yesterday led me to the National Capital Orchid Society's annual show happening this weekend in the Arboretum's Bonsai and Penjing Museum. Multiple gorgeous specimens in artful settings fill the museum's International Pavilion, which luckily is well-designed to allow visitors to walk along and view exhibits like this one. Some visitors were training serious photographic equipment on the flowers, but will their photographs capture the singular odor of orchids that filled the pavilion's air? Not a connoisseur myself, I was stunned nevertheless by the many varieties and noticed Cattleyas in colors I haven't seen before. (In art galleries and books, you might come across Hudson School painter Martin Johnson Heade's series of wild Cattleyas with humingbirds in South America.) A favorite of mine in the present exhibit is a "Coos Bay" variety of a Brassia species: I couldn't help thinking that this flower, so gorgeous and bizarre at the same time, might have been the inspiration for the aliens in Roland Emmerich's movie, "Independence Day".


Yesterday was one of those "make lemonade when life gives you lemons" kind of days for me. When I set out from home, I was headed for the National Mall in DC. No particular exhibit in the art galleries was in mind -- just a general exploration of a favorite place I have not seen for a while. Well, I was stymied again by Metro's progress. I'd checked the DC Metro site before leaving home, but the full significance of delays and detours on my intended route didn't sink in until I saw the signs posted on fare card machines at the Greenbelt station. (We understand that the track work is necessary after some serious problems in recent years.) Not in the mood for a longer trip and potential hassles, I decided to head for the National Arboretum, which was also due for a visit from me. The weather is so nice this weekend, after our long spell of rain and overcast skies, that whether I was wandering around the Mall or the Arboretum didn't really matter. It turned out that the Arboretum's roads near the main center are undergoing some progress, too, but signs and friendly guides on the optional roads made for easy navigation.

Once I park near the main center -- that is, the area of the Visitor's Center, the bonsai complex and the Capital Columns overlooking the huge central meadow -- I can cover a lot of Arboretum territory on foot before having to return to the car to tour other garden areas. I took in the orchid exhibit described above, as well as the permanent bonsai and penjing exhibit, and noticed developments around the Columns and nearby Fern Valley. We have a huge bonsai and penjing collection here, and it rewards repeated visits. Besides the Japanese and Chinese sections, there is a North American section and a greenhouse with tropical specimens. (Oh, my! There's a large white pine bonsai donated by the Japanese Imperial Family that was begun in the late 18th century.)


Continuing with the lemons-to-lemonade theme: My aborted Mall visit necessitated finding something to eat before I proceeded to the Arboretum. That led to fast food on US 1 in Beltsville, but while there I spotted Raulin's Bakery in a plaza just north of the Beltway. F. puskini appreciates the art of baking as much as any other art. Here in Howard County, for example, we have Touche Touchet in Columbia and Bonaparte at Savage Mill. I remembered buying from Raulin's some years ago and decided to visit while in the neighborhood. Among other items, I came away with a lovely maple walnut cake, Bundt-type. I'd had this item before and was happy to see it still available. There's still plenty of it today. Come on over, or I'll have to take it to the office!


Another reality of touring our nation's capital: I missed it, fortunately, but there was an incident at the Air and Space Museum yesterday afternoon.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Colored Pencil Exhibit in Rockville

The Colored Pencil Society of America has an exhibit at the Glenview Mansion's art gallery in Rockville this month.* Deborah Maklowski of Columbia's Artists' Gallery has a few of her own works in the exhibit. Fascinated by the detail and intricacy possible in this medium, I had to buy a small sample by Maklowski last year.

Maklowski's page at the Artists' Gallery

(Maklowski works in other mediums, too, and her plein air pastel blog is in my blog roll. Her blog has also been a good source for tips on places to visit in the area.)

*Note the Glenview gallery's hours in the link. No weekend hours?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

At Columbia Artists' Gallery: Horses, Horses, Horses, and a Few Sunflowers

One of Rana Geralis' paintings of equine subjects hangs in my home now. I was pleasantly surprised at the range of styles in which she paints mostly horses and ponies when I visited the Artists' Gallery near the Lakefront in Columbia Town Center today. Geralis is the featured artist this month, and the monthly reception is tomorrow evening (Friday, October 7). There are some stunning works of all kinds of horses and some sunflower subjects. Look for "The Hunters"! Even if you don't care for the sport, its surreal, almost abstract look with the red highlights of the riders' jackets has been getting some attention in the gallery.

Pictured here is "The Horse Race", part of this month's exhibit. My purchase, made two or three years ago, is a row of ponies done in the style of George Stubbs' thoroughbreds -- frieze-like against a solid buff background.

Artists' Gallery .... Rana Geralis' page

a note for Ollie's fans

I think Ollie, my cat and #1 Opera Cat, has some fans here, so I'd like to pass on that he seems to be getting better very quickly. I've come home from work before to find that he has had a bad day, but Monday was the scariest. (The rugs had a bad day, too. I threw away two small woven grass rugs. Nylon floor coverings fared much better.) We're not through this yet, and more tests and scans will be done at the vet next week, but he's eating again without getting sick and meeting me at the door when I come home, so things are looking brighter. I've even opted to stop giving him the painkiller to avoid certain side effects.

Cat lovers will understand the fuss I make here. This little guy follows me around the house when I'm home, and he is a constant companion and playful stalker. On the practical side, he has proven that he keeps the rodents at bay, if you must have the practical side. He's also great at parties! He turns 11 at the end of this month, and I've had him for 9 of his 11 years.

(Briefly, from previous post: Bowel disease and sensitivity to regular cat food has always been a problem. It's been worse lately, but we have him on even more special food now. This week, pancreatitis threw a wrench into the works.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Looking after Ollie

He has had a reversal in his illness, and I'm taking him to the vet in the morning. Things were really looking better since the vet treated him last week, so I hope this is just a temporary setback.

///Update, afternoon of October 4: The treatments for Ollie's chronic bowel problem are doing their job. Meanwhile, today's vet visit indicates that he has developed pancreatitis. He's on some powerful painkiller until the ailment passes. He has had a little bit of food today without getting sick, and he's mainly resting but has moved around and talked to me a little.///

Thursday, September 29, 2011

sick opera cat

~~ Ollie, #1 Opera Cat on this blog, has been to the vet a couple of times recently. Inflammatory Bowel Disease which he has probably had all his life is getting worse. On the first visit, he had stopped eating by the time I took him in. This last time, he was acting fine but there were trouble signs in the litter pans, so I took him back before things got worse. An anti-inflammatory steroid shot reverses the IBD symptoms sharply for a while at least. Pills of the same medicine given at home might be necessary later. You just grab his head from behind, hold his lower jaw down with a finger, drop the pill down the V-shaped groove at the back of his tongue, blow lightly down his nostrils (not kidding!) and release him. Just like the vet does with him in the clinic. Easy. The nostril-blowing maneuver apparently discourages him from ejecting the pill. For now, we are gradually switching his food from the sensitive stomach formula I've been buying off the shelf to a prescription food from the vet clinic. It's supposed to be a gradual switch, but he seems to be relishing the pellets of the new food before he eats his old stuff. Except for that spell of not eating, which was an extra worry during the recent hurricane, the little rascal and love bug has been carrying on with his usual playing and antics. You wouldn't think anything was wrong with him until you saw his pitiful efforts in the pans.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Howard County Bird Club and Robinson Nature Center

The Bird Club has been holding its regular meetings and presentations open to the public at various locations in Howard County for many years. It's taking up residence at the county's new Robinson Nature Center and will have it's first public presentation in the evening on October 13 -- slides and a talk focusing on Cape May by a speaker and birdwatching friend who will be very interesting to hear.

howardbirds.org has the details about this and other ornithological events.

If you have not seen the Robinson Nature Center, please visit! This will be one of the county's gems in the years to come -- a wild beauty spot, and the building itself is a fine piece of architecture even with its low profile on the site. A forest canopy and understorey exhibit with a handicapped-friendly walk wrapping around it from top to bottom looks like a kids-of-all-ages pleaser. There is a small admission fee, or you can get an annual membership. I'll have to return for the trail down to the Middle Patuxent River when this rain lets up. (I made a gallant attempt but had to turn back.)

We're very, very fortunate that the founders and organizers created this facility and preserved the surrounding slice of wilderness.

Robinson Nature Center


Friday, September 16, 2011

200th Birthday of Oakland Manor Celebrated, Saturday, Sept. 17

Walking tour part of Historic Oakland’s 200th birthday celebration

Columbia Archives and Howard County Historical Society partner to lead tour Barbara Kellner, director of the Columbia Archives, and Lauren McCormack, executive director of the Howard County Historical Society, will lead a walking tour of Historic Oakland and its environs as part of the Town Center Celebration of Historic Oakland’s 200th Birthday on Saturday, September 17. The free event, which begins with the tour at 11 a.m. and continues to 3 p.m., will also include a concert by the U.S. Army Field Band; a talk about Oakland by Ken Short, architectural historian of Howard County; period dance demonstrations;  hands-on games and toys that harken back to the 19th century; and light refreshments.Historic Oakland was built in 1811 by Charles Sterrett Ridgely.  It was one of the most elegant homes in the area when it was built.  Today it is a unique and elegant building in the middle of Columbia that has a rich history that includes ownership by prominent Maryland families in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and an equally interesting history as a community resource since being purchased by The Rouse Company for the development of Columbia.Kellner and McCormack will share the stage to bring alive the pre-Columbian and Columbian history as they lead a walk from Historic Oakland on Vantage Point Road to the historic structures on Hyla Brook Road that were all once part of the Oakland estate.Tour reservations are encouraged but not necessary.  For more information about the celebration, please contact Pat Loeber of the Town Center Community Association at 410-730-4744.  For information about the tour, please contact Barbara Kellner at Columbia.Archives@ColumbiaAssociation.com or 410-715-3103.

Historic Oakland 200th Birthday Celebration
Saturday, September 17, 2011

Schedule of Events

11:00–11:30 a.m.              Tree Planting                     Rear Lawn                  

11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.      Walking Tour of Estate      Front Steps

11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.        Indoor Games                   Sterrett Room

11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.        Historic Displays              Foyer

11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.        Time Capsule         Foyer                                      

11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.        Oakland History Video      Ridgely Room

12:00–2:00 p.m.                Light Refreshments          Verandah

1:00–1:30 p.m.                  U.S. Army Field Band        Ballroom

1:00–3:00 p.m.                  Outdoor Games                Front Lawn

1:30–2:00 p.m.                  Architectural Presentation   Library

2:00–2:30 p.m.                  Dances From the 1800’s     Ballroom

Historic Oakland Manor
5430 Vantage Point Road, Columbia, MD 21044

Patricia B. Laidig
Village Manager
5430 Vantage Point Road, Columbia, MD 21044

(Notice and graphics copied from Columbia Town Center e-mail.)


Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Nature Center; Gardening

Joe Pye weed and black-eyed Susan beds along Lake Kittamaqundi. Butterflies' delight! (Taken a few summers ago -- this area is currently closed to the public and butterflies during the dredging and infrastructure work.)

The Robinson Nature Center has its grand opening today. I'm adding it to my list of Garden Spots.

This afternoon, I'll be at the previously mentioned Bay-Wise garden tour in Ellicott City organized by the Howard County Master Gardeners. (Reservations by e-mail were required.)

Another huge concert at the Post Pavilion takes place today. Town Center advisory warned us about the event traffic / traffic event. I've mapped my way out of Town Center to get to the Ellicott City area for the garden event.


Friday, September 9, 2011

A White Wine Perfect for Opera Cats

An Australian friend many years ago introduced me to sauvignon blancs from New Zealand's Marlborough wine region, and I've been a fan ever since. I like the crisp, slightly grassy flavor and pale greenish hue, though some descriptions mention fruit flavors. One I had at Clyde's here in Columbia a few weeks ago was as peachy as the menu description said and perhaps too peachy for me. (If it had been sold as something other than a sauvignon blanc, I might have liked it more!)

At the time in Australia, the one we were trying was Cloudy Bay's "sauv blanc". This would have been in 1987 or '88. My friend quoted an Aussie wine reviewer whose assessment (and she was admiring the wine) went something like this: "The bouquet reminds me of the gooseberry bush in the garden on a cold, frosty morning right after the cat has pissed on it."

Well, if that doesn't entice you, I don't know what will. Fortunately, Cloudy Bay is going strong still, and I just opened a chilled bottle of their 2009 sauv blanc found at the Perfect Pour in Howard County. (It has a screw top instead of a cork! Some good wines come with screw tops now.)

link to Cloudy Bay's site (There is a quick age check gateway where you enter birth date and country of residence before you get into the site.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Storm Stories

My little storm cloud is really a ray of sunshine.

~~ I heard William Byrd's Fitzwilliam Suite for brass on WBJC on the way home in today's rainy weather. I think they've played that one before. There's a slow, stately movement that really affects me, and I must get the recording.

~~ The whole beach cottage is gone. I spent a magical summer afternoon there a couple of years ago relaxing and watching dolphins out in the water. Irene's storm surge up the estuary on North Carolina's coast obliterated the cottage along with other houses on the shore. My folks arrived from town nearby after the storm expecting to find the pier gone, and the whole house had disappeared. Pieces are strewn around the woods behind the lot, but they don't want to investigate further until "snake season" is over. The loss seems more than severe property damage...Houses on stilts were not immune to the hurricane either. A neighbor in one such house found himself swimming for his life when the surge came up through the floor. He returned to rescue his dog and spent the next twelve hours in a small boat before the waters receded...Peacocks belonging to one of the residents some how knew to go to high ground before it was too late and were alive and well after Irene passed...Voices sometimes sounded fatigued and near to cracking when I talked to family over the phone last week. I'm heading down to see them soon.

~~ "Der Sturm" by Frank Martin is on its way to me in the mail.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Falling Trees Still a Hazard after Last Week's Storm?

I sent e-mail to Town Center, so they're aware of it. I heard the large tree fall and saw its top going down before I knew what was happening. This was while I was walking down Vantage Point Road in Columbia Town Center just before 4pm. It's in the strip of woods between the park on Vantage Point and Oakland Manor and the African American Museum. The tree is leaning against some smaller trees and still settling.

I'm guessing that the tree cracked near its base during the storm but didn't fall right away. This is a nice little safety hazard and further tree loss to worry about a week after Irene has passed by.


Howard County Scenery: Go West!


After celebrating upstate New York's scenery during my recent vacation, I was reminded that we have our own version of rural vistas with real rolling countryside here in Howard County. They're to be found mainly in the western part of the county -- so far, I've enjoyed them on drives down 144 west from 32, on my way to Sun Nurseries. I headed out that way twice this weekend while making a gardening decision, and I didn't mind having to do the second drive at all. (On the first drive, I also went as far as Lisbon before stopping at Sun Nurseries.) Many Hocoblog readers might already know this area, if they've been going to the Howard County Fairgrounds, the Howard County Conservancy or Sun Nurseries.

On my latest drives, I couldn't see much, if any, damage from last weekend's hurricane from the road, but there must have been some effect: Temporary signs along 144 advise local residents about place and time for picking up emergency water supplies.

Even closer to Columbia, not to be overlooked is some scenery along 108 between River Hill Garden Center in Clarksville and Lake Centennial. The Garden Center's parking lot enjoys a view of farm and woodland sloping away on the other side of the road. Further down 108, there's a patch that almost looks like an English country lane with large old trees separating the road from a sheep pasture. [Well, that stretch of 108 isn't quite as charming as I recall it, and the sheep pasture might have been switched to other purposes. It's a nice drive on the weekend, but the English country lane feeling is gone.]

Wildflower note for late July/early August: Stately stands of Joe Pye weed at peak bloom can be seen in a couple of places where 144 dips into dales where there are small streams or marshy areas. When you reach Sun Nurseries on Bushy Park Road off 144, you can buy your own Joe Pye weed!

My Joe Pye purchase will have to wait as I continue to develop the garden area where I might plant it. This weekend's garden project involved making sure that a problem area on my front patio would support a Hydrangea bush. After checking out the soil, I made the second trip to Sun to buy "Lady in Red", a Hydrangea macrophylla cultivar that will provide much foliage interest even when the plant is not in summer bloom.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

a walk after the storm

To Ollie's delight, windows are open on a very nice day.

I had other pictures, but I'm having technical problems. I think I got the most important picture posted. Being a monochromatic sort of cat, Ollie is easy to upload. Any way, it's a beautiful day in spite of a ton of tree debris on the path to the Lake, and the lakefront restaurants are open.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

a walk before the storm

These coneflowers appeared to be floating in the air as I viewed them in the woods on a walk to Lakeside Roastery this morning. It was darker and raining by the time I returned with my camera shortly before noon.

Everyone stay safe.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Vacation Skies; Maryland Weather blog

The Catskill Mountains from Clermont in the Hudson River Valley (August 3, 2011). The Catskills were constantly in view as I roamed the east bank of the Hudson. That sky won't be so sunny as Hurricane Irene passes up the coast this weekend.

From earthquake to hurricane this week -- the Baltimore Sun's Maryland Weather blog in my blog roll has been a great source of information for both.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rain Garden

Ollie was highly entertained by Sunday's downpour. Whatever he made of today's little earthquake, he was over it by the time I came home.

Definitely, I could make a rain garden out of this back area. It catches a lot of run-off from a slope behind my unit. The pavers were salvaged from an old patio buried under sediment and moss after years of this kind of flooding. I'm using them to make an informal path on a thick bed of mulch. The flooding looks bad, but the water recedes quickly once the rain stops. That is, provided the rain stops soon. (A couple of minutes after I snapped this shot, the mat outside the door was completely under water.)

Planted new ostrich fern and Christmas ferns in one corner of this area on Saturday. Later, with the rain garden idea in mind: cinnamon ferns, Joe Pye weed, and some turtlehead to attract the Baltimore checkerspot?

A large slug, which normally stays out of sight, was less enthused about the downpour.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gehry's Fisher Performing Arts Center, Bard College, NY

Frank Gehry's building at Bard College viewed from the side. (At home in Columbia, Maryland, we enjoy several very early designs by Gehry around the Town Center area.) The main Sosnoff Theater inside the Fisher Center is what I would say is an average or medium-sized opera house -- ideal, considering other discussion about some modern houses being too large? The orchestra pit looks relatively spacious. Seating at least in the orchestra section is some of the most comfortable I've encountered in any opera house.

Photo from my 2008 visit shows the front and main entrance of the building.

///Blogger went down for maintenance while I was trying to load photos in this post. Scroll down or click to a couple of recent posts for other photos. I'll be posting more later.///

Monday, August 8, 2011

Tivoli Diary, August 2011

Tivoli is a village on the east bank of the Hudson River in New York. This is the Middle Hudson Valley, as the tour guides generally refer to the area where Tivoli is located. For the second time it was my base for roughly a week's stay with nearby Bard Summerscape as main objective. (I last visited in 2008.) I will post an overview of my latest visit here, and maybe we can plan a little group event next time!

I found Tivoli and its Madalin Hotel on the Internet in 2008 when I was looking for lodgings that would be super-convenient to Bard Summerscape. Bard and the village of Annadale-on-the-Hudson are just a few minutes' drive south on Route 9G from Tivoli. There are larger tourist hubs with more hotels and restaurants at nearby Red Hook and Rhinebeck. Beyond this Internet find, my main guides to the area have been Fodor's New York State and Tim Mulligan's excellent, personable "The Traveler's Guide to the Hudson River Valley". (Latest edition is 2007, but the book indicates a web site, which I'll seek out and link later.)

Madalin Hotel

Anyway, Monday, August 1: I drop Ollie off at his boarding place and head up I-83 and I-81 through Pennsylvania, as I did in 2008. I'm avoiding the congested corridor of I-95 and other more eastward roads, but there are still some road work back-ups and detours in the middle of Pennsylvania. By late afternoon, I'm on I-88 East in New York State approaching Oneonta and Glimmerglass Opera country around Cooperstown. I decide to stop in Oneonta for the night and discover that it's not a good idea to travel like this in upstate NY during the summer without booking lodgings in advance, even if you only need a place for one night. Hampton Inn refers me to the Clarion Hotel, which has a few rooms left, and this turns out to be the better deal for convenience. The Clarion is right on Oneonta's main street, and I'm able to leave my car in the lot and walk up and down this classic American small city street with my pick of restaurants for dinner. I finally choose the little Greek place right next to the hotel (Athens?). Typical of many places where I eat on this trip, the windows are all open, ceiling fans are turning, there's optional outdoor dining, and it's still comfortable inside in spite of summer heat. Very nice.

Tuesday, August 2: One of the reasons for my Oneonta detour on my way to Tivoli is the chance to visit Beekman 1802 at Sharon Springs in the Mohawk Valley. After a huge fruit platter for breakfast at the Oneonta Clarion (I really need it after yesterday's road trip food), I drive up one of the country highways north from Oneonta and come to scenic Highway (Route?) 20. All through the whole vacation, I'm thinking that I'm seeing small towns and houses that I thought were inhabited only by movie or literature characters. And shouldn't they be either in black and white or Technicolor? I reach tiny Sharon Springs well before noon, and the town clerk and the mayor (speaking Oz-like from behind an office partition) at the community center tell me how to spot the Beekman 1802 mercantile store on the village's main street down in its hidden dale. Neighbors have put me on to Beekman's, and I want to investigate and make purchases from their selection of goat milk products. (Presents!) One of the owners or staff members helps me select goat milk soap and jars of various sauces based on goat milk. There are also locally made craft items. The farm where the goat milk items are made is not open to visitors, but apparently this is quite an enterprise and orders can be made on the Internet.

The Beekman store shares a sprawling old white-painted timber building with the Roseboro Hotel, which is being renovated. I also need to check out the American Hotel up the street, and there's a Paradise Inn with rainbow flag behind the Roseboro. While still in Sharon Springs, I had a nice sandwich and carrot cake at the Black Cat Cafe, also on the main street.

I head down 145 and into the Catskills area and soon I'm on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and looking up at Olana high on the slopes on the other side of the Hudson. Only a dollar toll to use the bridge (and they didn't charge toll coming back across). I'm checking into the Madalin before 3pm (and later realize this is before the official check-in time of 4pm). I decide to drive down to Bard, where I discover the new sculpture-installation, the Parliament of Reality, by Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, near the Gehry-designed Fisher Center where the opera is taking place.

My first dinner in Tivoli on this trip is at the new Panzur down Broadway, the village's main street. The Madalin's owner suggests it and expresses an interest in keeping this newest place in Tivoli in business. It turns out to be a novel dining experience for me -- besides tapas, a prominent feature of the menu is several varieties of gourmet ham and an Iberian pork that is 100 percent acorn-fed. I go for the "jamon serrano" and a side dish of very nicely done mustard greens that have some other ingredients in them. Dessert is homemade blueberry cobbler and homemade lemon and (thyme?) ice cream. And my choice of wine is a lovely Spanish Ambar Torrentes. Don't ask how much it all cost, but I do hope Panzur is still there on my next visit to Tivoli.


Wednesday, August 3: Anticipating Richard Strauss' "Die Liebe der Danae" at Bard this afternoon. I meet other Madalin Hotel guests over the continental breakfast. If I name one of them, I'd be dropping names. I think he would be well-known in some circles, and I don't want to intrude on his privacy. We chat a lot during the next couple of days, and I don't reveal that I write a blog. What I will share is that this wonderful gentleman attended the "official" premiere of this opera in Salzburg in 1952, and he is a curator and archivist at the Percy Grainger House in New York.

Another guest is/was a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company, and she tells me about the Kaatsbaan International Dance Center further down Broadway in Tivoli. Some prominent dance companies have been at the Madalin recently or have staged events at Kaatsbaan, and there is much talk during this breakfast about the secret lives of dancers. They are amazing people. (I don't discuss them lightly. Please see my blog labels for ballet and The Red Shoes.)

Kaatsbaan International Dance Center

Where did I go this morning before the opera? Ah, Clermont, which I didn't see on my last visit. It's very close, north on 9G. This is the oldest surviving estate on the Hudson and home of one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence. (Sorry about my sketchy history notes, but I might get something wrong.) Clermont is beautiful, a relatively modest all-white mansion, and the park with lots of picnic tables offers a close-up view of the River. The formal walled garden seems a little drab, perhaps because of late summer, as did other gardens of this type that I saw, but the butterflies, hummingbird moths and real hummingbirds are not fussy about that.

By the way, on a budget note, all the estates and gardens have either free or very low-priced parking and admission if you just want to see the grounds. I didn't do any guided house tours on this trip. I sometimes switch into serious garden exploration mode, and guided indoor tours sometimes seem TMI to me, though some are on my list for future visits.

The opera that afternoon is superb. I might write a separate post about it, but for now I'll say that the updated setting worked well, the singing and playing were wonderful and the stagecraft and effects also wonderful. Jupiter's Golden Rain and the scene in which Danae turns into gold, both supported by Strauss's glorious score, are most memorable moments.

I'm back at the Madalin after 6pm after the 3-hour opera. First dinner this trip at the famous restaurant, Madalin's Table. No tables are available, or it seems so, so I eat at the bar. Note, by the way, the wonderful outdoor dining on the wrap-around porch -- I want to call it a veranda -- but the bar indoors, beautifully restored by the owner, is also a fine place to eat. There are some nice gourmet things on the menu, but tonight I have the generous plate of buttermilk fried chicken with hockey-puck-sized cheddar biscuit and other delicious items accompanied by a Hooker Blond Ale. (The menu could change before my next visit. I'm not sure how fluid the menu selection is here. You better hurry.)

Thursday, August 4: Well, it might have been yesterday afternoon or today when I drove onto the grounds of Kaatsbaan. I learn that it's not really open to the public between events, but an administrator shows me around a little and gets my name for their e-mail list. (Yes, I'm already getting Kaatsbaan e-mail.) This looks like an interesting destination for presentations and performances in future visits. I get to see the lobby of the new studio and theater building, and a query about the rather distinctive old stables and barns all over the place reveals that this was once the estate of a Polish count who raised thoroughbred horses. (There are still many other such horse farms in the area.)

Either yesterday or today for a late lunch, I find another new business on Tivoli's Broadway. Actually, Murray's is an older place which has been bought and remodeled by enterprising young partners since my 2008 visit. They just opened this summer and thankfully provide a place where you can get something to eat at lower prices than elsewhere on this street. Also, they might be the only place for lunch in Tivoli other than the village's excellent bakery across the way. Murray's had homemade sandwiches, muffins, coffee cake....and some of the best scones I've had anywhere. Sorry, but I raved about the scones while I was in Tivoli. They also serve as a small grocery store, as did the former establishment.

home page for Murray's

So today's big destination is Innisfree Garden, which I learned about in Tim Mulligan's book only after my previous visit. It's further south but really worth the drive. I use the somewhat scenic Taconic State Parkway to get there in the morning. Only 4 dollars to park. I spend at least three hours exploring and viewing the rather special Chinese concept used in Innisfree's design, built around a large glacial lake. Expect to be awed when you go. Personally, I left my little digital camera in its pouch for a long time as I first appreciated what Innisfree had to reveal to the beholder before any kind of documentation took place. Nearby Millbrook is another one of the area's larger tourist hubs. I park along the street and walk by crowded restaurants and several antique stores. Yes, I think this is when I headed back to Tivoli for a late, small lunch at Murray's.

Innisfree Garden

Perhaps it was today that I make a first quick visit to Olana just to look around the grounds and buy some books in the excellent museum shop. I did do this house tour on my last visit, well worth it for any admirer of the Hudson School painters. This time, I make a point of buying a membership (40 dollars a year at basic individual level). This gets me discounts in the shop and admission any time without further payment.

Dinner again at Madalin's Table. I learn that the restaurant will be closed Saturday evening, because the staff will be working at a wedding (lucky wedding guests), so I want to enjoy it as much as I can. Salad with blueberries and ricotta cheese, hangar steak, more Hooker Blond Ale, pear tart. I'm spending upwards of 40 dollars at each dinner, though it's worth it and the hefty meals are needed after lots of walking on estate grounds or in gardens. Lunches are either at Murray's or quick snacks I'm carrying with me and bread from that excellent bakery.

Evenings, I'm collapsed in my room either perusing new art books and guides or surfing the TV stations. Thanks to comedian Daniel Tosh for putting our Founding Fathers in perspective for me as I explore some of their estates. (Tosh is definitely not for everyone.)

Friday, August 5: My friend from the Percy Grainger House left yesterday. We had a longer chat at breakfast and I learn more about his own opera adventures. It must be mentioned that he liked the updating of the Bard production of Danae.

I walk around the grounds of nearby Montgomery Place this morning, then I head down the Taconic Parkway again. This time, I'm visiting the Mary Flagler Arboretum and associated Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Well, the store at the Gifford House, which Mulligan's guide claims that no "gardener worth his salt can leave empty-handed", has been closed for several years. However, a huge plot of blooming perennials at the Cary Institute center is swarming with butterflies and I pick up several pamphlets from the center. One of these identifies one of the more stunning species of butterflies on the flowers as the Great Spangled Fritillary. My own photos are not so good, but I might post later.

Fern Glen Trail on the Cary grounds is good to see, and I learn that the Hudson Valley is not immune to tornados -- one touched down in these woods in 1992. Note deer tick and Lyme disease warnings here and everywhere else. I avoid paths and trails where I might be brushing against any tall grass or foliage.

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Also note deer along the roads day and night. Coming back from Olana on 9G around 5:30pm, I spotted a doe who looked for all the world like she was teaching her fawn how to cross the road safely.

Last dinner at Madalin's before they do their wedding duty. After today's hiking, another plate of the buttermilk fried chicken and a tall bubbling glass of Warsteiner beer is just right. However, this time I skip dessert and any appetizers or salads.

One of these evenings, I find Tivoli's Village Books and Artists' Co-op open. Watch for Village Books' big OPEN flag to catch when he is open. I think he's avoiding the heat of mid-day during the summer. This is a great used book store, and opera cats should note that there is a selection of vintage opera and music books. Nearby Bard College assures a selection of other interesting older volumes here. You'll have to ask me what I found on this visit that I had to have when you see me.

Village Books of Tivoli ... Tivoli Artists Co-op and Gallery

Saturday, August 6: Anticipating the featured operetta at Bard this evening. I spend the day revisiting Montgomery Place, Olana (see picture and links in preceding post) and Clermont. And then I'm too tired to go to the operetta, and I'm trying to decompress before tomorrow's long road trip home. I'm wondering if a ticket to an afternoon peformance, such as I had for the opera on Wednesday, elminates the urge to go out and about during the day before show time.

The repeated visits to the estates pay off with discoveries of new things and purchases at the shops. What species is that huge green butterfly that wafts through Montgomery Place's formal garden area on this second visit today? It's not in the Cary Institute pamphlet. Also, the ancient black locusts at Montgomery are amazing. And so are the locusts at Clermont, but that's a black walnut growing right over one corner of the house (the third largest of its kind in the state). I spend a lot on books and gifts at Clermont and Olana and try one of the shorter Olana trails near the house -- more spectacular views of the River and its Valley.

The shop at Montgomery Place and Merritt Books in Red Hook are no longer open. I think the shops at Olana and Clermont are the best sources (only sources?) near Tivoli for new publications and art books about the Hudson.

With Madalin's Table closed tonight, I wanted to try Panzur again, but instead I was drawn to Santa Fe across the road from the Madalin. This is Tivoli's only Southwestern-Mexican-Tex-Mex-Texican restaurant, and it's better than many Mexican places I've tried before. Anyone after strictly vegetarian fare should note Luna 61 next door to the Madalin. There is also a Japanese sushi place called Osaka that I have not tried yet and a bar called the Black Swan.

Sunday, August 7: Check out from the Madalin Hotel. I opt for Highway 23 along the northern edge of the Catskills to get back to I-88. It was 23-A right through the Catskills Park when I drove out of the area on my 2008 visit, but either way offers great scenery. When I reach 88, it's interstate driving all the way back to Maryland, but I make it home without having to stop for the night anywhere.

Monday, August 8: My short drive to go get Ollie shows me how fatigued I am from yesterday's long drive. But I typed this long post. I hope we can use it for planning for another Hudson River Valley visit. I might include links later and maybe more photos in new posts.

Historic Hudson Valley ... Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area

The Hudson From Olana

The views from Church's home at Olana, famous in American landscape painting, continue to inspire artists. Thanks to painter Richard F. Lisle for letting me include his work in my picture (taken this past Saturday).

I'm now a dues-paying member at Olana!

Scenic Hudson helps to protect that viewshed -- a word which I kept seeing in local signage and literature.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Columbia Borders Twilight

I must have been in that store almost weekly, sometimes more than that, while it was here. My visit to the Columbia Borders last night might be my last one. The cafe and the restrooms are closed, both blocked off from access. It was so weird browsing the magazines and not having the usual crowd and activity of the cafe next to that section. The sign outside the restrooms that prohibits taking merchandise into them had been modified to read, "People may not be taken into the restrooms," so some humor seems to prevail among the employees. They seemed to be generally in good spirits yesterday, and we hope for the best for them.

Borders Express was still operating in the Columbia Mall a couple of days ago when I was there.

It's a vicious circle: The Towson Borders forced the wonderful independent An die Musik to close up shop there, but luckily for the arts scene in Baltimore, An die Musik found a niche as a CD store and performance space in the Mount Vernon neighborhood. Later, Borders left Towson after Barnes and Noble moved in nearby.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A favorite Columbia haunt going away?

I heard rumor today, and Howard County blogger Frank Hecker has the story about Borders and the Columbia branch.

I've known the Columbia Borders since it was in its old location at Snowden Square. (It has been at Columbia Crossing for a few years now. Daedalus Books Outlet in Columbia has the old CD bins from Borders' former Snowden location.) Many of the CDs, books and DVDs in my library were purchased at the Columbia Borders. I was there last week, and it still looked like business as usual. Honest, I would have checked there first for the opera album featured in my last post before going to Amazon. I'm still very much a hands-on shopper, but I could see a certain trend at Borders. A sign of the times: When I went looking for "Mamontov's Private Opera", recently quoted here, Borders only offered it as a download for an e-reader device. To get the hardcopy book, I had to order it online from Amazon!


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bumble Bees in Their Hydrangea Arbor

Bumble bee passion. They were giving a new twist to the phrase, "mate for life", on an oak leaf hydrangea. (Brookside Gardens, Montgomery County, Maryland, last month.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

blanketworks (and take care with pets during the fireworks)

I snapped these photos of Columbia's Lakefront on July 4th a couple of years ago. The scene will be repeated today as people stake out prime viewing spots for this evening's fireworks.

Reconsider taking pets to the fireworks! Some dogs get severely stressed by the noise, and I know of two cases in my neighborhood last year. My house is close to the Lakefront, and my own cat will hide under the bed during the display. I prefer to stay around the house and reassure him until it's over, but I can watch a good part of it from here.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Lotus Blossoms, Brookside Gardens

A pleasant afternoon was had at the public gardens -- free admission -- in Montgomery County, Maryland, yesterday.

Brookside Gardens

Thursday, May 26, 2011

dwarf sunflowers

This photo shows some miniature sunflowers in the cool house at Biltmore, Asheville.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Orchid Fantasy

My photo shows the greenhouse at the WhiteGate Inn, Asheville, where I spent a few days last week.

Friday, May 13, 2011

photo: Beauty at Biltmore

I'm just back from another visit to North Carolina. My photograph shows the display that currently fills the entrance to the conservatory in Biltmore Estate's glorious gardens in Asheville.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bloggers dine, party and go to the library.

HowChow is my main guide to dining out and food shopping in Howard County and parts nearby. Many thanks to Mr. HowChow and his commenters for addressing a couple of questions from me about reserving for large groups.

Hocoblogs, a forum for blogs in Howard County, has organized another bloggers' party. This one is on May 19 at Union Jack's, so close to my home that I really ought to show up. See the event details and registration currently at the top of Hocoblogs' home page.

The main branch of the Howard County Public Library, within sight of Union Jack's, is now in my resources links in the margin. I visit the library for the computers when I need to do some serious blog maintenance or interact with Facebook, and I sometimes do some actual reading of periodicals while I'm there.

Dwarf Crested Iris

Iris cristata, an American woodland native, blooms for the first time in my garden and greets me as I return home at the end of the day. I bought this specimen a few years ago at River Hill Garden Center, but it fell victim to the ravages of indiscriminate groundskeepers. I moved it to a more sheltered site where I hope it will spread and bloom freely.

(Ollie greets me, too, and waits for me to stop fooling around with the camera and get inside.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

photo: Oakland Manor After Scary Weather

Taken earlier this evening, just down the street from me.



My photo is from my August 2008 visit to the Hudson River Valley. There are many grand estates up and down the valley, and I know I haven't seen all of them, but for me the grandest is painter Frederic Edwin Church's Olana. I'm making plans to see opera at nearby Bard College this August, so I'll visit Olana again while I'm there.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

June 1 speaker for walkable urbanism in Columbia

hocoblogs@@@ ... A quick post -- I'll fix links later. This is from the Town Center e-mail list:

21st Century Development Trends – How will Columbia Measure Up?
·        Hear Chris Leinberger – noted land use strategist, teacher, developer, researcher and author – speak about pent up demand for communities that embody “walkable urbanism”
·        Learn how walkable urbanism and other real estate trends will impact downtown revitalization and other development patterns.
When: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 7 PM coffee/dessert/registration 7:30 program
Where: The Spear Center – The Howard Hughes Corporation Bldg., 10275 Little Patuxent Pkwy, Columbia 21044
Registration: Registration is appreciated but not required. To register, go to: http://21st-century-columbia.eventbrite.com/ or copy/type this URL into your browser. For more information, please call 410-992-1451.
This presentation is the third in CA’s Community Building Speakers Series. This event is brought to you through a partnership of Columbia Association and The Howard Hughes Corporation.
Mr. Leinberger is a:
·       Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington, DC.,
·       Professor and founding Director of the Graduate Real Estate Development Program at the University of Michigan,
·       Founding Partner of Arcadia Land Company, a New Urbanism/transit-oriented development and consulting firm, and
·       President of Locus; Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors
His most recent book is The Option of Urbanism, Investing in a New American Dream, published in 2008 by Island Press. He is also the author of Strategic Planning for Real Estate Companies. He has written for numerous publications, such as The Atlantic Monthly and Urban Land magazine. He has been profiled by CNN, National Public Radio, Infrastructurist, and Washington Post among other broadcast, web and print media.
Leinberger was voted one of the “Top 100 Urban Thinkers” in a  poll conducted by Planetizen, the international urban planning and architecture website, in 2009. He was the William H. Whyte Award winner by Partners for Livable Communities in 2010.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kittamaqundi Plans? ~~ Lake Links

In answer to the comment on my last post: I wondered whether a footbridge connecting the peninsulas is in the plans, too. I have not seen any confirmation of it yet, though. When the controversy about upgrading Columbia Town Center began and people started citing original plans, some of the information pointed out that those plans included a footbridge crossing the lake to the island (which is now part of one of those peninsulas). (I had a private joke that if such a bridge materialized, somebody would build a high-rise condominium on that tiny island.)

A bridge seems to make sense, but I can't tell yet how much of the new landscaping around the lake is intended for people or for wildlife habitat, which is also part of the current lake upgrading plans. Also, regarding a complete path around the lake, there's the unpaved portion around the northern end which is possibly going to be paved....? If there was any public discussion to confirm these plans, I'm afraid I missed it.

Did you know that the tiny island now subsumed by the peninsula construction had a name? "Nomanizan Island."

Links: Here is a soon-to-be historical web page about our Lake and its island before the current project. And here is the Howard County Bird Club's page about the Lake and its wildlife.


photo: Lake Kittamaqundi status

Taken last Sunday, late morning. Photos from my new camera are taking a long time to upload, thanks to my current settings. I'll work on that. Here is one shot from a stroll along the Lake showing some boaters near the new peninsulas. The far peninsula used to be the little island.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hudson River from the Catskills

In summer 2008, I spent a wonderful couple of weeks exploring the Finger Lakes and the upper Hudson River Valley in New York State and took in the Catskills on the way home. The photo was taken from the site of the old Catskills Mountain House. My main objective was Bard Summerscape at Bard College, where I saw Karol Szymanowski's ballet, "Harnasie", and opera, "Krol Roger" ("King Roger").