Christmas Contest 2009

Congratulations to first place winner Graeme Rock! Check it out.


Chicago Lights

I recently made a sunset landing at Chicago O'Hare to visit Lenore and Paula in East Dundee, IL. Lenore had just had her surgery that removed a tumor and 8 inches of her intestine. I was supposed to be there to help out but Lenore was already doing well after her week of excellent post-surgery care from the nurses, doctors and Lyla . And Paula and their favorite neighborhood cafe - The Measuring Cup - did most of the cooking.

Lenore was well enough to take walks so we did just that. We walked to The Measuring Cup to eat a breakfast pizza and pick up chicken dumpling soup, ginger cookies, and apple and chocolate pie. We walked the nice trail behind the library and the deer posed for us. We walked with Paula around the neighborhood to take pictures of Christmas lights. And I heard the cackle of and saw a flock of cranes for the first time.

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Dancing Fools and Ornaments

I finally got my hands on the little performance that the non-dancers did for the dancers in Peru. Sara, Susan and Richard (from MIT) and I put together a dance, mostly based on dance movements from Dana's choreography. We put it together in about an hour which is obvious but the dancers loved it.

Also if you missed it as the Picture of the Week, the 2009 McDonald Family Christmas Contest has been announced:


The theme is Christmas ornaments! How fun is that! It has been on the list of suggestions for a while and we've had a lot of literary themes lately so I thought it was the right time. This year is a big anniversary of the contest. I started the contest 20 years ago to try and climb out of a pit of depression. I never would have believed we would still be doing and that it could be so challenging, frustrating and stressful yet so ultimately fun and creative. 20 years, can you believe it?

So as we say to each other every year: Let the procrastinating begin!

Recent Past

Well, Austin updated his blog before I did so I must have been gone a long time. So hopefully I'll make up for my prolonged absence with lots of content.

First, I added pictures from Lynda's party on the main Web page. Austin was responsible for some of those pictures. Lynda's party was a blast. She and my mother planned a perfect 50th birthday party and us worker bees did a great job with the furniture moving, cake, drink, music, entertainment. BoBo, a local Edisto caterer, did the party food (he and his wife are sleeping in the Photo Booth video). Here are some pictures that Dell took of the fun.

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Note the fingernail polish. I had my first ever professional manicure that morning.

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And now, going back in time, here are pictures from my Christmas at Washington Hospital Center and Williamsburg. It wasn't clear at first whether Austin would be able to join us after his quadruple bypass surgery but he managed to get out on good behaviour. And it was a treat to have William with us. Lenore's and possibly Austin's pictures are included.


Next I would like to document a weather and time related disaster that occurred on my balcony. Sad.

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Before and after.

And here are some recent pictures. I took some during our walk today in the very light snow. We are supposed to get a lot more snow tonight.

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A new fountain at the condo building next door and some pretty blue pots with matching shutters a couple of street over.

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Again from the condo building next door.

From Dana's party at a bar near his house. Lots of fun.


Every one's been bugging me so here it is:

Christmas Contest 2008

Christmas Contest 2007 Pictures!

The Christmas Contest 2007 pictures are up!

I am almost ready for the trip to Chennai, India. I have taken the Typhoid pills and am stocking up on anti-bacterial cleansing products and mosquito repellent. I bought a new mid-sized suitcase on super sale at Macy's on New Years Day. I went to Target and bought some cheap thin cotton Tshirts in some nice colors. And I bought a pair of sandals made in Israel. What else could I possibly need?

I hope to find some wi-fi hotspots in Chennai to blog and upload some pictures. If you are interested you can also check I actually may add some personal entries and pictures there

Baking Latvian food

Lyla, Austin, I and guest cook Shelly made Latvian bacon rolls (piragi) and cheese (Jani siers) for Christmas last weekend. We had Latvian cookbooks and various Latvian recipe resources from the internet. It took all day but I think everything turned out well. We'll know next weekend when family and friends stop by for the Holiday Party/Family Christmas Contest Judging.

Take a look at the pictures

Speaking of the Christmas contest I worked on it for several obsessive hours this weekend. I think I should be done on time! No Tardiness Award for me.

Databases and bike rides

I am helping Dana set up a database for mailings and to track donations. I sat on my butt most of Saturday entering the data and designing reports. Most of my work for Dana is creative (web site, video work, etc) so this was more left brain (nerdy) work. It's good to keep both sides in good shape.

So I exercised my brain Saturday and the rest of me on Sunday. We took a 33 mile bike ride on the Four Mile Run and W&OD bike trails in Virginia. The weather was perfect . The prettiest part was actually near the water treatment plant where the late summer wild flowers are at their peak. The most unusual part was the guy riding a low-riding recumbent bike pimped out with an aerodynamic shield and red and black zebra print spandex. Joe has seen him an number of times over the last couple of years. It used to be Captain America-themed This was the sort of bike he was riding. Picture the black and white part as red and black zebra print spandex:


And as a reward for reading my blog here is an advance copy of the Christmas Contest announcement.

Christmas Contest Entries

I am only missing one entry so I am releasing the Christmas Contest 2006 entries. Hopefully I'll get Wayne's sonnet soon. You better enjoy them. A lot of blood, sweat and tears were shed in their making

Here are some neighborhood pictures.

A pretty little house in Georgetown

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Toys In Yards

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I don't sleep well when I am not home. It probably has to do with increased activities and strange pillows and the coffee that is constantly being made at my parents' house. Anyway, I think I have finally caught up on my sleep.

The trip was good. A photo page will be up sometime next week. The Christmas Contest went well. It was a challenge to us all and although I cursed William for suggesting it every year for the past 4 years or so until I relented I am glad we did it. I can now die saying "I wrote a sonnet and it wasn't half bad."

Here are a couple of pics to tide you over:

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intense kitchen work............Austin is keeping Lenore from finding sharks teeth

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there is a little crab in this picture............the christmas table

Graeme in the driver's seat

Goodbye 2005

Christmas in SC was fun and the Christmas contest went well. I did not place or show but I was happy with my entry and I was glad my mother won 1st place. There were a couple of years when my grandfather was judging that she should have won. He was not always a good father but that's another long and twisted story for another time. My mother's entry this year was good. Wanna see them all?

Highlights of the trip:

  • Cooking and listening to new music on Christmas day with a short mid-afternoon break to play a highly competitive game of bocce. "Steve Holt!"
  • Eating Christmas dinner: goose with fruit and chestnut stuffing, standing rib roast, winter root vegetables in a mustard cream sauce, green beans with with mushrooms and almonds, salad and bread made by my dad and latvians. For dessert there were lots of sweets, including homemade (by Austin) egg-nog.
  • Driving around the island with Lenore and Austin taking pictures. Lyla, Tracy and I also took some pictures of an old plantation on the way to Savannah.
  • Christmas Eve dinner with Tommy, Sandy, Little T and Sandy's parents in Savannah. I always enjoying being there to see them and their yard which has beautiful old huge live oaks and tall southern pines. Sandy's parents brought over some southern iced teas which was a real treat.
  • Assembling the Christmas Contest prizes in the waiting room while waiting for Lynda's blood work results
  • Hiking the Edisto State Park 3.5 mile trail
  • Seeing that guy on the side of the road to Charleston speaking or singing into a microphone again. I saw him when I was there last August.

Haven't seen enough pictures? Look here

Hectic Times

Things are fairly under control. The alliances set up with the siblings for Christmas gift purchases are underway and my other preparations are progressing. The Christmas Contest sonnet, however, is not going well. I thought writing my short little haikus for the 1998 contest was hard.

Joe was at a mall recently and saw this for sale. The picture on the right is something recovering Catholics know well. This one though has lights and a garish clock attached. I kind of like the lights. The clock, not so much.
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My ankle is getting stronger but I still haven't been back to ballet class. I have gone to 2 jazzercise classes but done the low impact version of the moves and grooves. We biked 10 miles on Sunday and my ankle was a bit tender when we finished but it was not too bad.

This weekend Lyla, Tracy, Austin and I went to Baltimore to attend a birthday dinner party for my aunt Zita. It was a nice evening and it was nice to visit a new Baltimore neighborhood. The hosts live in a beautiful old row house in the Bolton Hill area.

Another highlight of the weekend was finishing a project. Joe asked me to make a cozy for our scanner so that it doesn't collect so much dust. Here is what I did:

scanner cozy

If you think it looks familiar you are right. It is the same material that I used for Running With Scissors Man.

scanner cozy

Cutthroat Competition

Austin is off and running with his new blog He's been very prolific - 11 posts in one week.

Lenore and Lynda are competing for the best scar from ovarian cancer surgery. Although Lenore's scar from her breast cancer surgery increases her total scarage, Lynda's stomach scar is longer and was cut into again for her second surgery. The prize is getting the most sympathy from the family. And you thought we only competed making puppets, writing sonnets and creating black velvet artwork. If you are squeamish, DO NOT GO HERE.

By the way, here is a list of our Christmas competitions:

  • 1990 Write a Story based on a Edward Gorey drawing
  • 1991 Make a 1992 Calendar
  • 1992 Make pages for a Alphabet Book for Graeme
  • 1993 Make a Mobile to hang in the Edisto house
  • 1994 Karaoke Gilbert and Sullivan
  • 1995 Puppets with a Purpose
  • 1996 Touchy Feely Book for Little T
  • 1997 Lawn Ornaments
  • 1998 Poetry: A Limerick and then one other poetry form
  • 1999 Mosaics
  • 2000 Photography (Photography By The Numbers)
  • 2001 Comic Strip
  • 2002 White Trash Cooking Show
  • 2003 Stuffed Toys
  • 2004 Dioramas
  • 2005 Black Velvet Art

Some more movie/DVD reviews

Kilnieks (Hostage) Lorella and I went to see this Latvian movie directed by Laila Pakalnina that was part of the European Union Film Festival. It is a story of a hijacker who forces a plane to land in Riga. He lets all the hostages go except an 8 year old boy who asked to stay on the plane. The story is about the hijacker and the boy's friendship as well as about a number of interconnected events that happen around the airport involving racing cyclists, farmers, detectives, biathletes, folk song choirs, bunnies, dogs, cats, cows, bees. The director manages to include many Latvian traditions and favorite foods in the stories. It was quite enjoyable although I am not really sure what happened at the end. Even though we see the hijacker and the boy sitting and talking in a tree it is not clear if they got away clean, died, or if they were just in the imagination of some children playing in the sand. The film was in English and Latvian. I recognized alot of words but unfortunately my grasp of the language has severely dwindled.