Saturday, December 29, 2007

We Need Our Greens and Gift From Above

I have been asked how Stryker has been doing. Is he back to normal after the whole broken leg incident?

I think that Stryker is back to normal. I, however, am not.

Any crash I hear, I run upstairs to make sure everyone is o.k. -- no broken bones, no eyes poked out, that kind of thing.

Crash! I run upstairs to find both Scout and Stryker digging in my Christmas Cactus. Good grief! Scout, hate to say, is usually the instigator and Styker follows. However, Stryker really likes dirt. I yelled - - Scout immediately took off and hid under the table (where there was more dirt). Stryker, however, remained contentedly sniffing and licking at the potting soil.

It was late and I didn't feel like cleaning the mess up. So I left it for the morning. When I came downstairs, there was my Styker (who could have been named Pig Pen) sleeping in the pile of dirt under the table.

Now, remember, this is the little guy who attacked the vacuum cleaner when I was cleaning all their fur off the sofa.

And he is the little guy who attacks the broom when I sweep the kitchen floor - - and of course once I have the pile of dirt, he rolls around in it to spread it out again. ARGH!

Oh, this morning I heard Ranger making a fuss at the back door. He is my cat that really doesn't meow. But he was meowing. Upon investigation, I found this on my deck.

Lovely isn't it? It was huge! The body itself, not accounting for the legs, was about six inches long. I'm not sure if one of the feral cats caught it and decided to munch on it there or if one of the resident hawks dropped it. (yes, we have hawks in the woods behind my house, they often go on dive bombing runs across our decks - - fascinating to watch). Upon further observation - - I notice its missing its lower jaw but most of the innards were still there (intestines, liver, stomach - - the heart was missing). So, I'm leaning toward it was accidentally dropped.

Well, I purposely flung it off my deck and into the woods! Bleck!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

First, I must scream! AAAAAAAH!

I blogged, put a bunch of photos in and the darn thing *poof* disappeared!

So, getting back into the holiday spirit, you know good will toward mankind and computers - - I shall wrap up my Ranger's Girl Does Washington DC Holiday Lights series with the Festival of Lights at the Mormon Temple. Honestly, I thought this was going to be bigger than it was. It was very pretty. If I were to explain it to someone who couldn't see my photos, it would be frozen fireworks.

Above, this is me before heading into the Visitors Center (photo just below) to check out the Christmas trees. Amazingly, no one tried to evangelize me. The women missionaries were inside the Visitor's Center greeting folks and yes evangelizing with The Book of Mormon in hand. They seemed to target the foreigners that were visiting. By the way, some nice German ladies too the photo of me above.

Frozen fireworks, yes?

I was fascinated by these 'flowers'. Maybe I'll have to get some of these for my walkway. How annoying would that be for my neighbors? I think they looked pretty.

This is the fountain in front of the Temple looking toward the Visitors Center. Very pretty. This must have taken them a long time to do. I bet they had every church sponsored Boy Scout troop stringing lights Thanksgiving weekend.

Below is the temple. I like how they did red, white and blue lights leading up to the Temple. Very patriotic.
The Temple is visible from I-495 (the infamous Washington, DC Beltway). It looks huge and imposing from the highway. However, walking up to it, it didn't seem as big as I thought. It does have beautiful stained glass.

Christmas Trees at the Mormon Temple

Christmas evening, I headed out to Kensington, Maryland to the Mormon Temple's Festival of lights. I decided to post the Christmas trees first - - I'll post the lights later. The festival of lights will continue through December 30th.

I would recommend looking at the lights outside first and then coming inside, where it is warm. Now, you don't actually get to go into the Mormon Temple (only Mormons can go in the temple), when I say "inside" you are going into the Visitor Center.

In the visitor center, they have regional Christmas trees decorated with dolls from different parts of the world. The tree below is decorated with dolls from Asian countries.

Here is a close-up of some of the dolls, which had been donated by the various embassies.

This is the European tree. The photo below this tree shows the detail of a couple of the dolls on the tree.

The tree below is the African tree. Not as full as the other trees. Hmm, did the the African continent embassies not send as many dolls? The photo below shows the detail of some of the items around the African tree.

There were two trees on either side of the Jesus statue. The photo of the Jesus statue is shown above in my blog intro photo. As you can tell, there were a lot of people, despite it being Christmas Evening, checking out the lights.

Yes, there was a house inside the visitor center. The house is used to depict the importance of family to Mormons. In the home, they had a display about researching family history.

Next to the family history alcove, was this tree. While I am not a Mormon, my family has been very good about researching and maintaining our family tree. I spent 5 years scanning hundreds of antique pictures of my family, I thought this tree was neat. It had family pictures used as ornaments.

Here are details of the ornaments. I liked the garland also, ovals tied together with gold ribbon with words that are the "fruit of the spirit" written on the ovals. I think I may do something like this for my tree next year.

The remaining trees were decorated by the various Mormon churches in the Washington, DC area.
I found the tree below was interesting. I liked the blue star beaded ornaments. Not sure what I think about the gold straw things sticking up from the top of the tree.

I really liked this tree below, maybe because it looks a lot like my tree. Yes, I was getting tree decorating ideas for next year (I love Christmas and decorating for Christmas). For garland, this tree had a leaf garland - - how clever! I am going to throw the berry garland I have around my tree out because the cats keep eating the berries off the garland - - and they aren't real berries! The fabric leaf garland may hold up better.

I also loved the berry wreaths with the birds. I have berry wreaths on my my tree and they have been pretty much been left alone by the cats. I wonder if I incorporated birds -- how long they would last on my tree?

My next blog will feature the lights on the grounds of the Mormon Temple. And that will end my blog series, Christmas in DC.

More Christmas Trees

Christmas Eve, I ran (walked really fast) into all of the Smithsonian museums along The Mall in Washington, DC. I found trees inside the Smithsonian Castle, the Natural History Museum and the Botanic Garden. The American Indian Museum had pointsettas. The blog intro photo is the photo of the tree at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

They were all so beautiful!

The tree below was in the Smithsonian Castle.

You all have seen this one before, it is the tree from the Botanic Garden.

This is from the Natural History Museum. I really liked the little gold butterflies.

Tomorrow, The Festival of Lights at the Morman Temple.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Washington, DC's Hidden Christmas Treasure

Have you ever been to the United States Botanic Garden?


Well, neither had I. Boy have I missed out! It is a magical place, a refuge just south of the Capital building. And to think, I almost passed this up and headed straight to the Capital building.

What pulled me in? I noticed Christmas lights on the trees in the outside garden. Then, I noticed all the Christmas trees lining the outside of the building. My goal Christmas Eve was to photograph all of the Christmas trees in the Smithsonian Museums, so I headed over. Then, I saw this!

Yes a giant model train set! Oh boy was this cool! I also noticed lights inside the building and it was about to close in half an hour so I thought I'd run in and see what I could see. There was a gorgeous Christmas tree (pictured at the opening of this blog). Around the tree, another train set!

Gosh, it was so magical!

So many little children were lined up along the edge of the tree, mesmerized by the train. Every time it reappeared, there were many squeals of "Look mom!" "Look dad!" in various forms of toddlereze. Lots of chubby index fingers pointed excitedly in the direction of the 'racing' locomotive.

You know, I didn't notice they even had 'little people' set up outside the buildings along the railway! Just noticed now as I was writing this.

But wait, there is more!

Along the walls of the courtyard were miniatures of the buildings along 'The Mall' in Washington, DC. Below, The Capital building.

Below, the Supreme Court building with The Capital building in the background.

This is the Lincoln Memorial, and yes, look inside, there is a miniature Lincoln!

Finally, the White House.

Aren't these cool? I can just imagine little fairies stepping out when the building closes, dancing in the flowers and having elegant parties in the buildings.

The building closed at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve. They stay open later on many nights during the holiday, if you are interested in visiting, check out the link to their web page for hours. In my opinion, this is a must see!

Even though the Botanic Garden closes at 5 p.m., the train set outside remains open until 10 p.m.

They did a wonderful job with this. Its made of all natural materials. Those are real trees.
I had to chuckle at the families trying to take pictures of their children by the display. The parents wanted their children to turn their backs to the display and look at the camera. That was not working! The children were transfixed. No amount of yelling or threats of a spanking would make them turn around for a picture. Why the parents didn't just take a shot of their kids back then then get a side shot of their kid focused on the trains, I don't know. For one little boy, it was like his face was glued to an invisible 'glass pane'. His father tried to turn him around to face the camera - - the little boys body moved, but his face remained in the same position, locked on to the magical train.

Yes, there was a bridge joining the three (I think there were three) islands. Haha! I didn't even know I captured a trian crossing the bridge. I tried to capture this but thought I missed it every time (I need to get a digital SLR!!!!).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The National Christmas Tree

The last stop on my Capital Christmas adventure was the National Christmas Tree. This however will not be my last blog about the festive displays in Washington, DC. I just wanted everyone to see how different the National Tree was from the tree at the Capital building.

An odd thing happened at the tree -- I ran into someone I know. That NEVER happens in DC. The photo above is me and my friend Jess. Her husband actually spotted me and yelled out my name.

The National Tree is a live tree planted in the Elipse infront of the White House. As I was researching the history of the National Tree - - I found a lot of information. Check out the National Park Service's History of the National Christmas tree to find out how this tradition began - - and to see photos of Christmas trees of the past.

There are 50 smaller trees that line the perimeter of the National Tree. These are the 'State" trees. There were quite a few people down here this evening.

I really like this photo because the Washington monument is in the background. Tomorrow - - a hidden treasure!

A Capital Christmas

Well, I headed down to Washington, DC today to take photos of the decorations. Above, is a photo of The Capital Building from the American Indian Museum. The setting sun lit the building up beautifully!

Once the sun set, the holiday lights illuminated the night - - along with the normal city lights of Washington, DC. Below, a look at the Capital building through the branches of the Christmas tree.

The final shot, looking up at the star on top. This was one of my most enjoyable Christmas Eve's in years (sorry mom, dad, and family).