Ho! Ho! Ho! Here comes the holiday season. Amid all the fun and jollity of the holiday season, over the years, we have experienced some epic highs and lows; the birth of one of our grandsons, the arrival of my Mum & Dad from England and the wedding of our eldest daughter last year were some of our happier moments, countered by the time said daughter had her car broken into while visiting and all the Christmas presents in the trunk stolen, same daughter having four wisdom teeth removed the day before she was due to host dinner resulting in the quick transfer of an enormous turkey to our house and finding the oven too small to cope with it, an exploding apple pie that sent shards of glass all over the kitchen (a story for another day) and countless times when the toilet malfunctioned while the house was filled with guests liberally supplied with soda and alcoholic beverages. Which leads me to this year’s debacle.
As I mentioned to a fellow blogger the other day, the only interaction we’ve had with anyone outside the family for most of this year, other than the grocery store cashier, has been with the guys who came to replace our wall oven and cook top, the chaps who put in a new furnace last month and the plumbers who showed up to mend a leaking water pipe in the basement three days ago. While we had them on the spot, we asked them if they would rod out the main sewer line and lo and behold they discovered 20ft of broken pipe.
We had already resigned ourselves to the fact that, because of COVID, we would be spending this Christmas on our own, something unheard of in the history of our family, but the idea that a large section of the garden, that I had worked hard to maintain throughout the year was about to be destroyed was the last straw.
I have to commend the plumbing company for their promptness. They were out here first thing yesterday morning, tearing everything out with a backhoe while I was still in my pajamas. I had hoped to nip out there and see if there was anything I could rescue before they started, but no chance. A beautiful mock orange shrub, whose roots were probably the cause of the trouble, was wrenched out of the ground along with hydrangeas, peonies, irises, daylilies, poppies and dozens of other perennials including next spring’s daffodils and tulips. I told myself I wouldn’t even look out of the window while all this was going on, but I did, and deeply regretted it.
On the bright side, everything in the house is functioning properly, and we can now well and truly say that, at least for us, this year has officially been flushed down the toilet!
Wishing everyone happy and healthy Seasons Greetings and an even brighter New Year. Goodness knows, we could use both!
Despite the current pandemic, life goes on. Preparations must be made for future events such as Spring at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The last time I was there they were planting thousands of bulbs which will eventually provide a colorful display of flowers in every area of the garden but more especially in the Crescent Garden.
They were also getting ready for their annual outdoor holiday display of lights, which I see from their website is already sold out. It certainly helped to make up for the lack of flowers on this trip. From what I could make out, part of the display will include installations depicting star constellations which would explain why they had the moon dangling from the bridge to the Japanese Garden.
Meanwhile, over at Brookfield Zoo, they were draining the ponds in preparation for winter and getting ready for their ‘Holiday Magic’ light display. Outdoor displays like this are an excellent way to lift our spirits while wearing masks and maintaining safe distances between fellow visitors. I just hope the weather cooperates.
It may be getting a little too chilly to be sitting about outside now, but when I was at the Chicago Botanic Garden recently it was perfect weather for Pulling Up A Seat and enjoying the view.
And of course, the wildlife don’t really mind where they sit. Any convenient spot in the sun will do.
It may be a while before I get to take pictures like this again. Things are getting so bad in Illinois, with the virus, that they are asking us to voluntarily stay at home whenever possible for the next three weeks. It would be easy to ignore the warning, goodness knows we all dislike being cooped up indoors for any length of time, but if using our common sense now means that we may be able to relax the rules when Christmas comes around, then let’s make the effort now. And this means wearing a mask when you do have to go out. Most people here in the Chicago area are pretty good about doing that, but it only takes the few who aren’t to really mess things up. So stay well, keep safe and PLEASE spare a thought for others.
This week, Patti asks that we Focus on the Subject for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. She has even been kind enough to offer a few suggestions on how we can achieve this. So, following her example, here are a few shots that I hope illustrate her recommendations.
Framing the shot. Taken at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Leading lines and color. This is like a two-for-one, taken at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg.
Freezing the action. Buckingham Fountain in downtown Chicago.
The eyes have it. In this shot of my grandson’s lovely wife and their dog Crush, while Christianna appears to be gazing out into the distance, Crush has definitely spotted something interesting. (probably someone walking around with food.)
Selective focus. Zooming in on the butterfly throws the background out of focus and leaves us to marvel at one of nature’s beauties.
We have seen quite a flurry of activity in our garden recently; birds flying south, and who can blame them, while critters get ready to hunker down for the winter along with the rest of us. Robins have flocked here by the dozens, attracted by the red berries in the shrubbery, that also appealed to some passing starlings.
My arch-nemesis, the rabbit, and his pals have been frequent visitors, as have the squirrels. The rabbits just get on with the job of eating whatever’s there, while the squirrels rush about like mad things, nibbling at tasty morsels and burying the rest, then looking around in puzzlement, scratching their heads and wondering where they left it. No wonder random plants keep popping up all over the garden! Squirrels are the first ones up to the buffet in the morning and the last to leave at night. They believe in getting their money’s worth.
Although I’ve often heard and glimpsed the flicker flying around the neighborhood, going from tree to tree, I’ve rarely seen it on the ground so I was quite happy to get this shot, even though he stubbornly refused to turn around so I could capture the black medallion on his chest.
Another fairly rare sighting in the garden was this woodpecker. We usually see the smaller downy woodpecker that shows up when I hang the suet basket out.
The blue jay caused a flurry as it usually does, squawking and making a fuss, so unlike the placid mourning doves that go about their business with just the occasional mild “Coo.”
Mr. & Mrs. cardinal arrived one afternoon, watched closely by a line of sparrows. Later, what appeared to be a dialog between the male cardinal and a male sparrow ensued. Perhaps they were sharing a joke.
Sparrow-: “Have you heard the one about the bishop and the actress?” Cardinal-: “Haha! Nice one!”
Sparrow-: “I figured being a cardinal, you’d appreciate that one. Know what I mean? Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.”
The juncos, goldfinches and purple finches snuck in when the sparrows were not hogging all the food. I think I identified them correctly but welcome any input if I didn’t.
Normally, at this time of year, if I saw these swallowtail caterpillars, I would bring them inside to await the emergence of some beautiful butterflies in the spring, but since the last batch produced almost nothing but parasitic wasps I decided to let this lot fend for themselves. Sorry!
Another opportunity to hideaway behind the camera presented itself recently on a trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden. This is my favorite time of year at the Garden, the colors are so spectacular.
Speaking of hiding away, I wonder if you can spot the chipmunk in this picture, helping himself to a tasty snack. I had a hard time pinning him down, he moved around so quickly, but he stopped just long enough for me to snap this one.
This week, Ann-Christine has chosen Hideaway as the topic for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. My hideaway may seem strange to many but this is my take on it. Being rather an introvert by nature, I feel more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it and photography seemed like an ideal hobby for me to pursue. I like the feeling of invisibility that it gives me while looking through the viewfinder, as though I’m the only person in the place. So that’s my hideaway, wherever I happen to be, behind the camera, which in this instance was Cantigny Park in Wheaton.
Just prior to us cutting down the last of the sunflowers in the garden, the goldfinches went on a feeding frenzy. It was as if they knew that they’d better make the most of what was left. (Just as an aside, I dislike this new block editing thing intensely, but, like everything else, I expect I’ll get used to it.)
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