U.S Naval Academy and a bit of Annapolis

IMG_2970Spring has been busy! In April we were treated to a visit from family, and spent a few days taking in D.C., Baltimore, and Annapolis. Quite often when Frank and I have a day in Annapolis we usually spend an hour walking the grounds of the United States Naval Academy. The campus and buildings are impressive and it’s a chance to learn a little U.S. history. Certainly a visit is always worthwhile whenever family is in town.

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Kielbasa for Easter

A belated Happy Easter to you all! We celebrated by hosting friends for a backyard party complete with yard games, sunshine, and lots of food. This year Frank decided to smoke a ham outside and grill his homemade sausages for everyone. We both thought we had enough sausage stockpiled in the freezer to accommodate about 15-20 guests, but realized we were very wrong! I guess somehow over the winter our stores were depleted, and I’m sure I had nothing to do with it…

So it was the night before Easter and Frank is grinding pork shoulder and stuffing casings for fresh Polish kielbasa. I wasn’t able to document the whole process (too busy making deviled eggs and scalloped potatoes!), but will post a complete step by step soon.

For now here are a couple of quick shots of Frank stuffing the ground pork into casings. For this Frank uses a Mighty Bite 5lb. stainless steel vertical sausage stuffer. It’s worked well for our needs and he’s been pretty happy with it so far.

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New Garden Beds (with soil)

I finally have some photos of our new raised beds, now filled with soil. We had about four tons of a topsoil and organic compost blend, which was more than enough for the two new beds. We were able to give the other beds a soil “top off,” and have used the rest to freshen up the area where I removed the hosta plants.

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It’s still a bit early to plant out, but I’ve started seeds several weeks ago in a miniature greenhouse with a heat lamp that should be ready in May.

Transplanting Hostas

With all this great warm spring weather, we are tackling many outdoor projects left by the wayside. Unfortunately when we bought our home we inherited a lot of yard projects, and we’ve had to undo much of the previous landscaping that was either neglected beyond repair or ill-suited for the space.

My most recent project was thinning out and transplanting a patch of hosta plants that just didn’t work. We have hostas everywhere in our backyard. Along both sides of the the fence, at the top of the hill, framing the stairs…everywhere. We moved in during the fall of 2015, and the following spring didn’t expect to see so many hostas popping up. I managed to transplant about seven plants before I called it quits because we had so many other projects. Fall of 2016 slipped in a wink, but this year I went into spring with a plan to finally deal with these plants.

Some background on hosta plants. They love the shade but do not fare well in the sun at all. Aside from that, they are pretty hard to kill, and with minimal care will come back every spring and last through late summer. In the fall you can just cut down the leaves once they wither (or don’t, all depends on your aesthetic preference). But after a few years they can get too big for your space and may need to be thinned.

Fall is the ideal time to thin and transplant hostas, but you can do it in the spring if you’re like me and just didn’t get around to it. The catch is to work with them in the window of time when they’ve started to produce green shoots, but have not yet unfurled into broad leaves. Beware, that is a small, small window. You can practically watch these plants grow in the spring once the weather has warmed up. You can see a few of my plants are already looking leafy, but I think they will be ok.

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Cherry Blossoms and Ducky Love

We had some cold and rainy weather a few days in D.C., but the ducks seem to enjoy it. The Capitol Reflecting Pool often plays host to ducks and seagulls enjoying a swim and hoping to get a snack from human friends. However on a recent walk across the Mall I noticed that spring is certainly in the air, because nearly all the ducks were paired up! A quick internet search informed me that we are currently in “nesting season.” So soon these mama ducks will be laying their eggs, which will hatch in about a few weeks. I’m hoping to see some fuzzy duckies at the pool, however I imagine the actual nesting sites will be somewhere remote and marshy, like the Aquatic Gardens.

Parts of the Mall were quite soggy, but the ducks were taking advantage of the newly formed puddles. Here’s a pair that might be having a lovers’ quarrel, and you can see more ducky couples in the background. To the back left is the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

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Infinity Mirrors, Twinkle Lights, and Pumpkins

This morning I had the opportunity to visit the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, one of the Smithsonian art museums beside the National Mall. Currently on view at the Hirshhorn is Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, an exhibition celebrating the sixty-five year career of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The exhibit features various Kusama sculptures in-the-round, paintings, and light displays, but visitors mainly go to experience the Infinity Mirror Rooms. These small rooms are filled with LED lights and mirrors, and visitors are allowed to enter by themselves. Once the door is closed behind you, the dark, glittering reflection creates the illusion that the space goes on for, well, infinity. You’re only allowed to be in each room for about 15 seconds or so, but that’s just enough time to snap a unique photo and take a moment to enjoy the space.

I was able to enter all six of the Infinity Mirror Rooms on display at the Hirshhorn, which is the most ever to be shown together! It was such a surreal experience and I can see why so many visitors have waited hours to see this popular show. Here are a few images from the exhibit.

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