Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Alexandria, Sunrise Over the Potomac

There was a 15 minute window this morning just before sunrise when the eastern sky over the Potomac River in Alexandria burned a deep red.  By sunrise the sky was overcast and grey, but between 7:05 and 7:20, the color was incredible.  These shots were taken from the Old Town waterfront, just above and below the Old Dominion Boat Club (the club's initials are outlined in Christmas lights on the boat in the second photo).  The Woodrow Wilson bridge and Gaylord Hotel can be seen to the right (south) in the first and third photos.   

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Sunday, December 27, 2009


Will loves drawing, but often tends toward cartoons and plays on words more than technically exacting art.  He (unfortunately) does a lot of his drawing at school during class (or so it seems from looking through the doodles on his homework and even his tests).  Fortunately art is a graded class at his school and he does consistently well which helps his overall GPA.  This is one of many different dinosaur drawings based on plays on words.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Lyra & Will in OPMH Children's Service

Will and Lyra were both in the Old Presbyterian Meeting House children's Christmas Eve service yesterday, Will as the prophet Micah and Lyra as an angel.  The overall service was really well done.  All the children were excellent, and the baby Jesus did his(?) part and slept peacefully through the performance.  Will had a speaking part which he enjoyed and performed well.  Lyra only needed to sing.  She dutifully held up the sheet to read from with the lyrics.  (The fact that she can't read yet seemingly only a minor inconvenience.)  

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lyra sees Santa

A couple of weeks ago, I took Lyra to the firehouse to see Santa.  She was determined not be afraid of him as she was last year.  But you know what?  When it came down to it, she was still scared so that is why I am in the pictures too.  Wells P. Wilson took the photographs in support of the Alexandria Firefighters Helping Hands Fund. Check out his web site and you will see this was a very generous donation on his part!  Today we hope to go see the waterskiing Santa!  We missed him last year.  So there may be more Santa pictures coming.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Ice & Snow in Old Town

It snowed all day Saturday, dropping 19" in Old Town, then dawned with sunshine and a beautiful blue sky on Sunday.  All day Saturday, the snow came down hard, blowing and drifting.  When I went out to take pictures, I kept my camera in a big zip lock, but it still ended up getting more snow on it than I was happy about.  I thought I would do some Christmas shopping on Saturday, but almost everything was closed, except Grape & Bean where I stopped for a glass of wine and to warm up.   

In the morning, it was warm enough to start melting the snow, but cold enough to form icicles, some large.  There were many 'beware of falling snow (ice)" signs around town.  On many buildings with metal roofs, the snow slowly slid off, forming wonderful snow sculptures, then breaking off in big sheets.  Cars were buried, and many people spent Sunday afternoon digging their cars out of the snowbanks, but quite a few cars were left buried, looking like big snow mounds. 

I went out Christmas shopping with Eva on Sunday afternoon, and lots of snow had turned to slush, but it was still sliding off the roofs of buildings and cars.  I took a lot of photos.  Snow is very photogenic, and with a new camera I had lots of fun recording the big snowstorm.  

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Eva's Ceramic Super Squirrel

Eva creates a lot of art at school, in many forms.  I love how this squirrel is juggling three acorns, with one in each hand and one suspended on the wire.  The gray in the lower right foreground is his(?) tail.  I am not sure why a brown squirrel has a gray tail.  

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Snow Eva!

Lyra has never seen enough snow to build a snowman so Will and I took her in the back yard to help her build one.  Our decorating supplies are very limited; there are penny eyes and penny buttons and pine needle hair.  As our creation is wearing Eva's hat and scarf, it is not really a snowman at all but a "Snow Eva." 

Posted via email from Cathleen Phelps

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sledding at Lee Street Park

As everyone probably knows, the Washington Metro area was hit today with a major snowstorm.  Usually when the weather service reports they are expecting a major snowstorm here we end up being disappointed (or relieved), but today was the real deal.  Alexandria (or at least our backyard) received 19" of beautiful fluffy powder.  Too bad we don't have a good ski hill nearby.

The snow started last night around 9:30pm, so the kids new it was on its way.  When Lyra woke up this morning she was beside herself.  "Daddy, look at the snow"  "Come see the snow" "Look at all the snow" She was in her snow suit before we even had breakfast.  

The older kids were pretty excited too.  The last two years have been pretty weak in terms of snow, and so not much sledding.  We were out of the house just after 9:00am this orning to Lee Street Park (aka Windmill Hill Park) to sled.  The hill is not big, but it is walking distance and always draws a small crowd of kids, parents and dogs on snow days.  

Everyone had a great time.  Lyra actually got to try going down the hill by herself, and no one got hurt or too cold.  Often by the time the kids admit they are ready to go home from sledding, they are close to frost bitten but today we had no problems.  Of course we still took the opportunity to make hot cocoa when we arrived back home.

It turned out that the storm was just getting started this morning, I think we only had about 9" when we went sledding, much less than we had on the ground by day's end.  We will be back for more sledding tomorrow and hopefully the sun will be out and the snow will be packed down for some fast runs.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Our Smallest Climber

Lyra is almost four and she cannot wait to start climbing at SportRock like her big sister.  When we go to pick Eva up from climbing practice, Lyra loves to get in a few minutes on the boulders.  She is already a hard working climber, just like Eva.

Sent from my iPhone

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Monday, December 14, 2009

2005 WS Zinfandel

2005 was not that long ago, but the bottle age was very (positively) evident when Cath and I opened this last night. We were using the jumbo tasting glasses my sister Edie sent us last Christmas (that you can get your whole face in) and the nose almost made me want to sniff more than drink. However the taste was also great, with the youthful fruitiness mellowed and more complex aged red flavors joining the party. One of the best Zins I have had.

Sent from my iPhone

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

FUN! Christmas Revels

Last night I took Will and Eva to see the Washington Revels Christmas performance and it was GREAT!  This year's production is around the Renaissance in Italy.  Leonardo Da Vinci celebrates two pagan feast days, Saturnalia and Sol Invictus, and it is full of Italian folk music and dancing from the renaissance period.  The music is beautiful, the costumes are magnificent, it is educational (I didn't know Italy had any tradition of bagpipes) and there is lots of audience participation.  We had some carols to sing (some familiar and some not), we sang in rounds, and the best part is the Lord of the Dance just before intermission.  The cast invites the audience to dance and leads everyone, singing and with hands joined, out of the house and around the lobby area upstairs downstairs....according to one actor, they never know quite where they will end up.  Will jumped into that congo line immediately.  Eva was exhausted from her climbing meet and so was less enthusiastic.  I thought it was a lot of fun because I love to sing, especially in a big group like that, and I have never seen anything like this. 

Will and Eva had two friends in the children's chorus and that is how we found out about this performance in the first place.  It was so much fun to see them on stage and impressive too, that children's chorus had to learn a lot of music.  The Christmas Revels may have to become a Phelps family tradition.

Posted via email from Cathleen Phelps

Catching Up - Thanksgiving

There are sure to be lots of photos over Christmas so I am going through my camera chip now.  Here are some pictures from Thanksgiving.  We were too busy cooking to take too many and somehow I did not get many pictures of the food (which is the main thing worth photographing as it such an unusual amount of cooking of individual things as opposed to something served from one pot).  The kids had a lot of fun making the cranberry relish.  Auntie Cheryl made these INCREDIBLE cookies that tasted as great as they looked.  Mom and Dad, we missed you!

Posted via email from Cathleen Phelps

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Earth Treks Timonium American Bouldering Series Comp Photos

Today at Earth Treks climbing gym in Timonium, MD Eva competed in the fifth and final leg of the local American Bouldering Series / Friction Bouldering Series indoor bouldering competition.  Her next comp is the ABS regional at The Gravity Vault in Upper Saddle River, NJ on January 16th.  

This was our first time at Earth Treks in Timonium and it is a beautiful climbing gym.  It was big (so it did not feel too crowded), and the climbing problems were varied and good.  It was a long day.  Because there were so many youth competitors (over 100) and only twelve climbing stations, the comp was extended to four hours, from 10:30 to 2:30.  We spent two more hours after that waiting for results to be announced and did not get back to Alexandria until just after 6:00.  

We car pooled up to the comp with Eva's friend Ellie and her mom Janice, and that made the drive go by quickly.  Eva's friends Emma and Rebecca were also competing, and we saw lots of other familiar faces from other comps so Eva was in a comfortable environment.  She got of to a slow start climbing and the waits for each climb were long, so she only carded one finished climb in the first hour.  After that she picked up the pace quickly, and ended up with five successful climbs by 12:30.  Eva had several very strong climbs and ended up with an overall score she thought was pretty good.

While Eva was climbing, I was trying out a new camera, the Canon 7D.  I have been using a Canon D20 for several years, and it is a wonderful camera.  However, digital SLRs follow the same trend line as PCs, and the 7D is about four generations ahead of the D20.  It is way too early for any objective assessment of the new camera, but my initial impression is that it is fantastic. It's low light performance and focusing speed and accuracy were both evident today.  I have not even had time to read the manual, and now I can't wait to dig in and really understand the camera's capabilities.  I tried today to get photos of a variety of our friends and other people we see regularly at the climbing comps.  

Eva did do well today in the comp, ending up with another First Place in Youth D Female.  This was the last leg of the five event Friction Bouldering Series, and Eva also placed first overall in the series, so it was a good (and very tiring) day for her.   She is looking forward to Regionals.  

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