Skating Season?


In late December or January, I usually take my daughter once or twice for a day of ice-skating at Washington DC’s Sculpture Garden rink, followed by hot cocoa and a cozy stroll through the National Gallery of Art or Museum of Natural History. As an urban skating experience, it’s hard to beat gliding round on a sunny winter day under an icy blue sky among sculptural masterpieces, with distant views of museum facades, the U.S. Capitol, and the Washington Monument.

However, since I fell and fractured my patella just before New Year’s Eve (no drinking was involved, I assure you!), our skating excursions have been put on hold… only temporarily, I hope. But DC’s “winter” weather has been so oddly and disconcertingly balmy this year that it feels more like roller-skating season. Fingers are crossed here for a snowy February.

This illustration is not from DC’s rink, but is my imagined depiction of the rink that existed on the World Trade Center plaza before September 11th, 2001. It was created for the book The Survivor Tree, about which I posted on the ten-year anniversary on September 11th, 2011.

And today is the birthday of Alexander Robey “Boss” Shepherd (1835–1902), whom Washington DC has to thank for much of its 19th-century infrastructure, however unconventionally (some might say illegally) it was obtained. For a mini-bio, please see “Boss” Shepherd.

It Works!

The Christmas before last, our friend Martha gave us a beautiful poinsettia plant that I repotted and set outside for the summer. It grew so large and bushy that, in November, I decided to try something I had never before attempted: getting it to bloom again.


To achieve this, one must fool the innocent poinsettia into thinking it has been suddenly transported to, say, Reykjavik, by keeping it in complete darkness from 5pm to 8am for ten weeks. This would mean: 1. putting it into a dark closet, assuming there was space among the family shoes, umbrellas, and vacuum cleaner; or, 2. lugging it downstairs to the basement every night and remembering to bring it up each morning (ha!); or, 3. covering it with an opaque material.

I opted for the third option. Every night (well, that is, when I remembered), I immersed the long-suffering poinsettia in a double layer of trash bags—kind of like covering a bird cage—and removed them in the morning. I stopped before Christmas, by which time, according to the instructions, “you should see flower buds.” Hmmm. No flower buds. Oh, well, I thought, I suppose I forgot to cover it too many times, and I returned it to its sunny alcove with other wintering-over plants. What a lot of bother for nothing.

When I went to water the plants this week, lo and behold: there were BUDS, some of them beginning to open! I am thrilled, and ready to try it again next winter.


Yahrzeit3Sister Mary Daniel

My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose

Today, on the birthday of Robert Burns (1759-1796), I post the words of his beautiful and heart-tugging verse, as well as this painting (created long ago for the cover of a CD by musicians Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton), because a romantic rugged landscape with a castle and a red, red rose—albeit a Lancaster Rose—says “Robert Burns” to me.

If you have your hankie ready, you can listen to it sung by Scottish singer Andy Stewart.

For another Robert Burns verse and a sketch, please see Call the Ewes to the Hills; for a mini-bio and a comic, please see Move Yer Hurdies. And pour yourself a wee dram o’ whisky.


O, my luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O, my luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun!
O I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

—Robert Burns

Déjeuner of the Dragon

I hope you have paid your debts, hung your lucky couplets on the door, swept your house clean of ill-fortune, and decked it and yourself in red, because today is the first day of Chinese New Year celebrations, and you have fifteen days of festivities ahead of you. Our own culinary interpretation of this holiday: tonight I will make crispy tofu and stir-fried broccoli and ginger but will order spicy eggplant and vegetarian dumplings from Mr. Chen’s Organic Chinese Restaurant around the corner. We’ve already prepared our New Year fortunes—more on that later.

2012 is the Year of the Dragon, and if you were born in a Dragon year, you are (according to Mr. Chen’s placemats) eccentric, and your life complex. You have a very passionate nature and abundant health. Marry a Monkey or Rat late in life, and avoid the Dog!

Today is also the birthday of painter Édouard Manet (1832-1883), who was himself born in the Year of the Dragon. I hope that, in addition to his other qualities, he had a sense of humor.

Winter Apples



Although branches are bare, and strawberries and peaches are a distant warm-weather memory, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy in the midst of winter the beautiful, varied, and ubiquitous apple: crisp and juicy when fresh, yet even after months of humble cellar-storage a shining star of the pie and the still-life. And, in my experience, pies from cellar-stored apples are superior to those made with fresh. But either is suitable for painting.

Today is the birthday of Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), creator of the Thesaurus. For a sketch and a mini-bio, please see Man of Many Words.



The Dream

All over the United States today, citizens are taking up one-day service projects (which will sometimes result in longer-term commitment) inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call to compassion and justice. What a refreshing alternative to our customary observation of a national holiday: shopping the sales.

This is a detail of an entry in my daughter’s second grade homeschooling block, Saints, Heroes, and Heroines. For the rest of the entry, please see Martin Luther King, Jr.