Sunday, May 17, 2015

Garter Snake in My Garden

I was ecstatic to see a small garter snake in my garden yesterday.  I couldn't have snapped a photo if I tried, since I only saw him as he was darting from my gravel walkway (where he presumably was sunning himself) into the greenery.  So this photo by Dr. Tom Titus of a Northwestern Garter Snake (Thamnophis ordinoides) from this University of Oregon page, is probably the closest to what my snaked looked like.  He was brown with bright yellow stripes down his body, and no sign of the checkered pattern that some garter snakes seem to have.

I have been musing whether this could be the same snake as I spotted in my garden quite a few years ago now.  Or maybe an offspring of that snake, since the colors look the same as I remember them.  I guess I'll never know, the the Garter Snakes of Canada page by Simply Wild Canada seems to indicate that in various species, their lifespan is long enough that this could be the same snake.  However, it also mentions that they may travel long distances, so this would tell me that it is not likely the case.  Either way, it was fun to discover a snake in my garden, and I hope it won't be the last time.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Prettier in Pink, and More Spring Flower Photos

That tree peony bloom is still getting bigger and fuller and more beautiful.  Here it is today :
Beautiful pink tree peony.

It's not the largest tree peony bloom I've seen, but then again, I haven't needed to prop the branches to support the blooms either, so I'm really happy with the size of it, and the colour.
Beautiful pink tree peony flower in the garden.

I like this pale helleborus flower, it has faded from pink, and is developing a seed pod.
Beautiful helleborus flower in the garden.

Pretty heart shaped leaves and cheery yellow flowers of my Epimedium.
Beautiful heart shaped leaves and yellow blooms of epimedium in the garden.
...complete with a monster lurking underneath.
Epimedium with yellow flowers and a rock painting lurking in the heart shaped leaves.
I am really impressed how these painted rocks have held up, we must have painted those about 8 years ago.  Then sealed them with several layers of clear acrylic sealer.

These fern fronds look like they're having a conference.  I wonder what they are discussing?
Fern fronds emerging in Spring.

Finally, one of my favourites in my garden, my little Cornus canadensis (bunchberry) :
Cornus canadensis or bunchberry in the garden in spring.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pretty in Pink

I love this time of year, when something new is blooming every time I visit the garden.  I am fortunate to be able to view my pink tree peony (I am too lazy to look up the name, which I have recorded somewhere) from my kitchen window.  A few days ago, a bud began to swell, and was quite large when I left for work yesterday.  When I returned home, the flower was open.
Beautiful pink tree peony in the garden.
How gorgeous is that?

I have another tree peony, with pure white blooms, but I managed to plant it so that it is hiding behind a bush, and not visible from the kitchen window.  So I'll need to visit it often, to make sure I don't miss the blooms.

Beautiful pink bleeding hearts.
I love my bleeding heart, which after a number of years, is finally taking hold, and produced a lot of blooms this year.  I like this branch.  It made me think of hearts, and love, and how it can be up and down sometimes.

Today it suddenly turned to rain, after a long (more than a week) stretch of dry warm weather in Vancouver.  So now it feels more like Spring again.  I'm glad for the garden, I think it needed a bit of watering.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sidewalk Slime Art - Why Not?

Today I thought I would be planting my new Cherry Cheesecake Rhodo, and applying moss killer to the lawn (so I don't sink into wetness up to my ankles when walking through it).  But instead, I ended up connecting up the hose, and pressure washing the side walkway and driveway.

I say "pressure wash", but I don't really have a pressure washer.  But our builder did provide us with a high pressure hose bib, which is almost as good.  It doesn't clean as thoroughly or effectively, but then again I don't need to fear losing control and losing toes either.  So every 5 years or so I hire a professional, and the other years I just spray down the concrete myself, mostly to remove the sand and dirt, but also to remove the build up of slime.

I know my family doesn't care or appreciate the work I do in the yard, but every so often I wish they would at least notice.  So today I had a thought that I could leave a small section of slime, so they could at least see the "before and after".  Then I had a more creative thought, to leave it in the form of our company logo, so when we have our summer BBQ and invite everyone from our company, they would also be able to see it.  Next thing I knew, I was blasting the company logo on our sidewalk, just inside the gate, so not visible except to real visitors.

That went so well, that I followed it by a flower :
Sidewalk slime art - design by pressure washing.
...then another flower :
Sidewalk slime art - design by pressure washing.
...then some paw prints, so people wouldn't think I can only do flowers :
Sidewalk slime art - design by pressure washing.
...then some more flowers :
Sidewalk slime art - design by pressure washing.
...and finally a question mark :
Sidewalk slime art - design by pressure washing.
...since I'm sure when people see this, this will prompt the question "Why?"

The answer, of course, is "Why not?"  Why can't I have a little fun with this?  After all, if we ever get tired of the designs, we can just blast them off with the hose.  So no harm done.

Sidewalk slime art exhibit - slime on concrete - design by pressure washing.
I'm naming the whole sidewalk decoration "Why the HE77 Not?"  Since after all, isn't life meant to be enjoyed, not taken so seriously?

I then proceeded to clean off the driveway.  But I found that the new hose sprayer gave me such a precise spray line, I ended up with lots of visible lines all over the driveway (as in the photo just above also).  So I suspect I may be criticized for my poor cleaning, if anyone notices at all.

When I got to the city sidewalk, I was planning to just wash down some of the dirt, but accidentally sprayed a white line through the grime.  Oops, now I had to follow it up some real cleaning, but as with my ceramics, I decided that perhaps where I lack in skill, I can make up in creativity.  After all, my kids are still teens, and the family next door (who will walk on that bit of sidewalk more than we will) has 3 girls, all school aged, so maybe somewhere in the whole group, there will be at least one of them who notices and smiles.  Or maybe I'm just fooling myself, and I will be the only one smiling, but at least it's visible from my livingroom window, where I can enjoy it.

Sidewalk slime art exhibit - slime on concrete - design by pressure washing.
I've named this sidewalk slime art exhibit "I Was Here".  I think it fits nicely with the neighbourhood, since we are close to a greenbelt, and have lots of wildlife (coyotes, skunks, raccoons and more) walking through our yards and even on our sidewalks.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Photos from Palermo, Sicily

Working my way through the vacation photos, these are some of favorites from our day in Palermo, Sicily, Italy.  The two things which stood out from the day were the beautiful stonework and sculptural features almost everywhere, and the crazy driving.  Here are a few photos of the driving.

Driving in Palermo Sicility Italy.
From inside the taxi, you get a bit of a sense of the lack of driving lanes, it seemed that cars were just cramming in wherever they fit, along with quite a few horse drawn carriages.  A bit like China, except in Palermo the roads were narrower, and there were no bicycles mixed in with the vehicle traffic.
Traffic in Palermo Sicility Italy.
I wouldn't enjoy driving in a place like this.  It was more enjoyable to walk, where we could find sidewalks to stay out of the traffic ourselves.

Our first attraction was the Palazzo Reale o dei Normanni.  It was a beautiful palace which turned out to also be the home of the legislature / parliament, so we were restricted in how much we could visit.

I loved this huge entranceway to the Palazzo, which looked like an enormous door.  You can see the real door (dwarfed in comparison) at the bottom right.
Grand door at the Palazzo Reale o dei Normanni in Palermo Sicility Italy.

There were lots of motorcycles parked at the Palazzo.  It seemed these were the vehicles of choice of the government representatives.
Motorcycles parked at the Palazzo Reale o dei Normanni in Palermo Sicility Italy.

Inside the Palazzo, we found the Cappella Palatina (Palatine Chapel), which was another attraction we had on our list.  It was very gold inside.
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.

Around the inside perimeter, it had the most illustrative summary of the book of Genesis which I've ever seen...
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
...starting from the story of creation, Adam and Eve's fall into sin...
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
...Cain and Abel...
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
...Jacob who was to become Israel...
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
...Noah's Ark...
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
...the Tower of Babel...
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
...Abraham entertaining angels, and all sorts of other good stories which one could identify if they spent enough time studying the photos.

Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
I'm not sure who this represents, but I liked this funky carved stone post.  I just cann't get enough of all the carved stonework in Europe.  We have nothing like that here in Vancouver.

I noticed this rat carving on the door, for AJ.  It's an animal which is not often featured in carvings.
Rat carving on the door to the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.

Intriguing thorny Ceiba tree near the Palazzo Reale o dei Normanni in Palermo Sicility Italy.
Just outside the Palazzo, I was intrigued by this tree with a very spiny trunk, and dried fruits hanging in the branches:
Intriguing thorny Ceiba Speciosa or Ceiba Pentandra tree near the Palazzo Reale o dei Normanni in Palermo Sicility Italy.
From my Google search, it seems it is a Ceiba tree, but I'm not sure if Ceiba Speciosa or Ceiba Pentandra.  And now I realize that I already posted these photos, but now I am enjoying them again.

There was another cathedral just a block or so further, so we went inside, and I took a few more photos:
Beautiful cathedral in Palermo Sicily Italy.
Beautiful cathedral in Palermo Sicily Italy.
Beautiful cathedral in Palermo Sicily Italy.

We really have nothing like this in Vancouver.

Stone statues outside a beautiful cathedral in Palermo Sicily Italy.
Good thing we retreated to our ship every evening, so my neck had a chance to recover from all the looking up.  Just so much to see  in every direction.
Beautiful stonework statues on a building in Palermo Sicily Italy.

There were some ordinary buildings too, like this one.
Typical building in Palermo Sicily Italy.

...and some familiar faces, too.  Fun.
Pinocchio theatre advertisement in Palermo Sicily Italy.
Overall, a very enjoyable day.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Photos from Rome

The day we were in Rome, it poured rain all day.  Funny thing, the port of Civitavecchia is nowhere near Rome.  So we had a choice of shuttle, taxi, or train to make our way into Rome.  I had read that the fastest and cheapest was the train.  But by the time we took the bus to the train station, waited for the train (which was about 20 minutes late), and then the train and a couple of metro stops to the Colosseum, 2 hours were gone already, which meant we had just over 4 hours there, before making the 2 hour return trip!  So we had to hustle.

We didn't even have time for lunch, we just grabbed sandwiches from a small shop at the metro, and ate as we travelled.
Quick lunch at the Metro in Rome.

First stop was the Roman Colosseum.  It was still an impressive structure, even after all these years.
Colosseum in Rome from the outside.
Colosseum in Rome from the inside.
Colosseum in Rome from the inside.

It was interesting to see all the passageways underneath the Colloseum, and a bit sobering to imagine the many men and beasts being led into the arena, many of them to their death.
Another view of the Colosseum in Rome, showing the underground passageways.

There was so history in such a small area.  In various directions there were other historic buildings and ruins.
View from the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

There was this impressive arch next to the Colosseum.
Arch / arc next to the Roman Colosseum.

We headed down the road to the Roman Forum, or what remains of it.
Roman Forum
I appreciated that seagull posing in the shot.  I waited for him to turn his head to get a nice profile.

Roman Forum with Colosseum in background, Rome Italy.
Another angle, with no visible seagulls, but with the Colosseum in the background.

There was a building marked as the Temple of Romolo.  Quite different than the other cathedrals we had seen on the trip.
Temple of Romolo (Tempio Di Romolo) in Rome Italy.
Temple of Romolo (Tempio Di Romolo) in Rome Italy.

In that same area, there was this Roman bath, still fairly well preserved, it seems.
Roman bath in Rome Italy.

If we had a few more days, we would have liked to see more in the area, and also would have visited the Vatican and especially the Sistine Chapel.  But we had just enough time to wander a bit further, to this impressive building, which housed a museum...
Beautiful museum in Rome Italy.
...complete with guards outside standing in their ponchos in the rain.
Beautiful museum in Rome Italy.
So many beautiful architectural details, I didn't know what to focus on...
Beautiful museum in Rome Italy.
...but I knew this shot with another posing seagull was a must.
Statuary outside beautiful museum in Rome Italy.

Inside was also very beautiful.
Inside a beautiful museum in Rome Italy.
This looked very Roman to me, with the horses and chariot.
Chariot with horses inside a beautiful museum in Rome Italy.

There was also a cathedral next to this building, so we stepped inside.  Beautiful.
Beautiful cathedral in Rome Italy.
Beautiful cathedral in Rome Italy.

It's funny, outside the cathedral was a big sign indicating that the entrance was free, and that anyone charging an entrance fee was not legitimate.  But there was also a beggar at the door holding out a dish, saying Grazie to each person entering the church, collecting coins.  I suppose that's what the sign was all about.  We saw this at two different locations, so it seemed that the beggar at the door of the church was a typical fixture of a Roman cathedral.

On the way back, we were all pretty exhausted.  I had the joy of seeing my teenagers sleeping.  It is something I don't get to see very often anymore.  (They'll shoot me when the found out I posted these photos of them.)

So other than the rain and the short timeframe, it was a successful visit to Rome, but we definitely left enough to warrant another visit in future.
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