Sunday, October 23, 2016

Monday, September 19, 2016

National Museum of African American History and Culture

An engrossing visit to the soon to be open National Museum of African American History and Culture. 4 hours and we were still not done with all the exhibits.

A statue of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, with a wall behind that had a slab for each of the slaves he "owned" at his Monticello estate.
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Black power salute at the '68 Olympics

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Found on the sidewalk

A sign that fall is approaching

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Chilli peppers

Earlier this year I scattered a few chilli seeds into a couple of pots. The little seedlings that emerged have grown into plants that are about 3 feet tall and replete with flowers and fruit. For a while I had only flowers, that would drop off (probably because of the high summer temperatures) and I thought I would have to engage in some "artificial" pollination techniques (one youtube video showed how to sort of tickle the flower in order to disperse the pollen within itself) but very soon I had little chillis all over. There seem to be about 15-20 on one plant and I am busy thinking of ways in which I can use them in my cooking.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Taking care of an orchid plant

Last September we were gifted with a phalaenopsis orchid plant, whose blooms lasted a long time, maybe two months or so. Once they fell off, I repotted it - soon there was a little shoot growing off the stalk that sprouted buds and it bloomed again this June!

Here are some pictures:

June 10th, 2016

June 21st, 2016

I recently found an excellent video on how to take care of these orchids - a must read for anyone who has been gifted with an orchid plant! It answered ALL my questions -
why were the leaves turning yellow?
should I move it to a bigger pot?
how often should I water?
what do I do once the blooms fall off?
Why is the stalk drying up?

I cannot recommend the video enough. I have acted on its advice, cut off the dried up roots and the stalk, repotted into a slightly bigger pot. Now I am going to sit tight and wait for the two small leaves (and the two tiny ones that are just sprouting) to grow as the root system adjusts to the new environment.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The White House Spring Garden Tour

Every year (possibly since the 70s), in spring and fall the white house throws open its gates to the general public so they may have a glimpse of its garden. We were one of the lucky ones to visit this year, reaching at around 8:00am to join the line for tickets.

I quite liked the design of the ticket with its doodle of flowers and leaves, green and white. Very elegant!

And so we strolled in, admiring the lawns and huge trees, each of which had a signboard in front of it showing which president or first lady was the one who planted it. Quite a few were by the Bushes - senior and junior, and some by the Clintons.
We were handed a booklet during the tour, a publication that was made possible through the generosity of the White House Historical Association, a private, non- profit educational organization. Here is some information from this excellent resource:
"The White House grounds are the oldest continuously maintained landscape in the United States.
The White House's first resident, John Adams, requested that a garden be planted before his arrival in 1800. Unfortunately, he was defeated shortly thereafter by Thomas Jefferson and never enjoyed the produce from the White House Grounds. While in office, Jefferson made plans for planting trees and established winding pathways surrounded by rhododendron and other American shrubbery.
In the 1820s, John Quincy Adams formally established a White House gardening program. It is said that he liked to dig in the flower beds early in the morning and claimed to have planted over a thousand plants during his tenure. His successor, Andrew Jackson, continued to develop the gardening program, adding an orangery in which to grow fruit during the winter."
We were excited to be so up close; apparently in one of the past tours President Obama had come out and waved to the crowds. No such thrills this time though.
 This sight was familiar, thanks to the media coverage of the President's addresses.
It was nice to have the band playing while we waited in the lines

The most recent addition to the grounds is the kitchen garden, established in 2009 by First Lady Michelle Obama along with students from local schools. I read (again in the lovely booklet provided along with the ticket) that the food grown here is used to provide for the first family and State dinners. One third of it is donated to a local charitable organization that provides services around homelessness.
We thought we were done with the sights for the day as we strolled out, but there was more - horses from the National Parks service, standing outside, much to the amusement and excitement of all the kids (and some adults).

Monday, May 9, 2016

Chilli seedlings

Sometime in the middle of April, I scattered five seeds of the dried red chillies that I have been using in my cooking and have been watching the emergence of the seedlings with great interest and enthusiasm.
Im hoping the spring showers we've been having give way to sunshine as these little babies now need some light.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Hiking along Difficult Run

We went on yet another hike this weekend with a local group to explore the trails of Northern Virginia and take in the beauty of spring. This time we met at historic Colvin Run Mill, a mill established in the late 18th century and walked the trail along Difficult Run - a tributary of the Potomac that flows from Fairfax county to Great Falls.

What was perhaps most enchanting to me about the mill were the bright red and pink azaleas just off the millers house and the blooming white dogwood around it. So idyllic, it reminded me of happy valley in Manderlay from the book Rebecca.
The trail was muddy and wet from the morning rains , the trees and undergrowth a beautiful spring green and wildflowers all along the way bobbing their heads heralding spring. We saw plenty of buttercups and quite a bit of ginger mustard. (some of which earlier hikers had uprooted and put on the path, knowing their invasive nature).
Annual Fleabane

There were a couple of stream crossings which were a delight to traverse, the clear water running under the rocks, the cool air and lush greenery all around.

I noticed many trees fallen, some right across the water, and much root exposure along the banks.
At the end of the trail we were hit by the captivating fragrance of a honeysuckle tree in full bloom.
In all it was a great 5.6mile hike - the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning.