A Marshmallow World Today

Exeter NHWe were told it would be a big storm for most of New Hampshire but living on the coast, we expected mostly rain and wet snow yesterday. And that’s exactly what we got. The city, with help from the sun and rising temperatures, took care of snow and ice on the roads and we could be out the door early on our errands.

The year is drawing to a close and we are looking forward to moving on in 2017. We had a wonderful Christmas with the wee grandchildren doing all the things that make the holiday special. Baking and dining seemed to take up a lot of our energy so resolutions for getting back in shape top the list for 2017.

Christmas Cookies 2016

Christmas Dinner

Phone calls, FaceTime, photo sharing albums of family, festive decorations, gatherings from Kentucky, Virginia, and Ohio brightened our December days. Garden club activities… Christmas luncheons, a fun Yankee Swap, decorating the Exeter Historical Building, and annual neighborhood gatherings capped off the month…..

Neighborhood Christmas Party 2016

…..until finally the big day arrived and excited wee youngsters hurried up to bed with visions of sugarplums keeping them awake way too late!

Off to bed...

Hope everyone had a wonderful and meaningful Christmas. Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2017 and I’ll be right back here in the new year.

 

Bringing the outdoors in…

On a snowy day like today with dangerous roads, we decided to stay home rather than continue holiday errands, a very wise decision. Hot chocolate and a fire in the fireplace was the theme of the day. But, we were also warmed by wonderful  blooms of an outdoor plant brought indoors several weeks ago.  In Virginia, I’d just stick geranium pots in the garage to overwinter but that doesn’t work in our New England climate. Brrrr…!

A year ago, encouraged a couple of years ago by Judy over at NewEnglandGardenAndThread, I brought my favorite annual geranium indoors as an experiment. The first year it stayed in the original large clay pot until spring. It did fine, never got leggy, and bloomed regularly. Outdoors it happily went in the spring, but at summer’s end, it had grown too huge for our windowsill.

So I cut that mammoth geranium down to small nubs, dipped each in a rooting hormone and stuck them in a soilless mix in a trough that now sits in my sunny kitchen window. I thought I’d lose most but, no…. the results really surprised me!  Every wee plant rooted quickly and flourished. Blooms seem to multiply overnight even on the tiniest plants. As soon as one fades, there are 4 or 5 blooms waiting to take its place. It’s our winter flower garden on the windowsill and those sweet blooms warmed us on this wintry day.

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Playing catch-up

Make sure you knock on wood when you utter a statement like I did a few weeks ago: “I don’t remember the last time I had a cold.” Actually the statement was true. It had been at least 15 years… probably more… since I’d had a crummy cold. But I can’t say that now. It’s been three weeks of coughing, sniffling, sneezing, moaning, swollen glands, fever, red nose, aching, sweats, sore throat, joint pain, watery eyes, headache, runny nose and boxes of tissues.

I’m well now and just beginning my Christmas shopping, trying my best to choose the shops and times that beat the holiday crowds. I glance over at the check-out lines when I enter a shop… and when the line looks sparse like the birds in the picture below, I grab a basket and hurry to fill it up with wonderful gifts.

However, Murphy’s Law trumps a light check-out line and I often see this sight as I hurry to check out. It seems everyone has the same idea and it’s a rush to the cash register.

And here is where I seem to find myself….the last person in line.  Friends and family: if your gifts are delivered late this year, please forgive me!

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Hoarfrost

We’ve had a little snow this week, not much, but it did cover the shrubs and grounds with a heavy moist snowfall. I was surprised to see snowplows clearing the roads and sanding for this small amount that fell. They knew much more than we knew. The next morning was a drive-at-your-own-risk in getting to work. Temperatures had quickly plunged during the night and black ice warnings were everywhere early in the day. We read and saw photos of cars in ditches in our area, spin-outs, flipped, collisions, all due to the ice on the roads. It was the perfect storm for dreaded black ice.

Conditions were perfect for another interesting phenomena…. hoarfrost. We’ve all seen it but maybe you didn’t know it had a name. Hoarfrost forms on cold, clear nights with high moisture content and very little wind.

What happened: Our wet snowfall began to melt and added humidity to the air. The frigid night air caused water vapor molecules to attach to freezing surfaces, coating everything with tiny ice crystals. If conditions are right with more moisture in the air, the crystals can be quite long and feathery. Ours were tiny but, still everything glittered brightly in the morning light.

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As the sun rose through the trees, I could see the delicate crystals in the sunlight so I walked out to see if I could capture some photos. I had to hurry because as soon as the sun rises, the crystals melt. It was already happening.

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hoarfrost

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Getting there…

We’re lagging behind everyone we know in decorating the home for Christmas. Two daughters are sharing photos of their multiple trees adored thousands of lights, themed tree ornaments, and rooms devoted to Dickens, Williamsburg, Disney…. so clearly I needed some inspiration this year get started. First things first: Santa came out of storage yesterday and, as he has for 30-some years, greets visitors at the front door.
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Churchill’s Gardens, just down the street, provided the perfect showcase for inspiration with their holiday greens, twigs, and berries for sale and a wonderland of Christmas in their showroom. Holiday music, themed trees, several Santas and reindeer were there to greet us in this North Pole atmosphere. mister gardener and I spent time absorbing the ambience, bought a ribbon and some southern magnolia leaves, and returned home to invite Christmas to our home.

So far, something simple for the door…..

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…..and our planter we filled with gathered greens, berries, twigs, and the southern magnolia, which greeted us this morning with the season’s first snow. I can’t think of anything better than a nice snowfall to inspire us for the Christmas atmosphere.

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iPhone’s new Portrait Mode…

The iPhone has introduced a fun new setting for photos called Portrait that gives the photo background a blur. It’s not the first phone to add depth of field but for iPhone owners, it’s a brand new feature that can be lots of fun. I have not experimented with humans yet but judging from these quick shots around the house, it is effective.

It uses two cameras on the back of iPhone 7 Plus to give a similar effect delivered by your DSLR camera. The phone snaps two photos: one regular photo in focus and one digitally blurred for the background and it does a pretty darn good job. Behind the spotted laurel (Aucuba japonica) in the blue container sits a yellow 15 lb. bag of birdseed that’s unrecognizable in the photo. In a regular photo, I could read the printing on the bag.

Not too grand when you enlarge these, but it works fine. I can see blurred branches on the crabapple tree that should not be, and the edges of the main subject in photos isn’t always sharp. But it’s just fine for my needs.

I found by experimentation that the camera needs lots of light to take an effective photo and the blur is more dramatic the farther the subject is from the background. Once you are at the correct distance from the subject, a yellow ‘depth effect’ memo pops up and you’re ready to go.

This neat new setting makes it less likely I’d have to pack an additional camera when traveling!