Dec 12

Year-End Wrap-Up 2015.

We have an unknown yet finite number of years and each passing month, each changing season and each fading year is one less that we will experience and enjoy again…another closer to the last.


2015 -whew! This year flew by faster than any I can remember….perhaps in reality, as I get older I just feel a sense of time passing more quickly. I did seem to get a lot done over the course of the year too, so that’s a good thing.


A small sampling of the bounty from my garden in late summer.

A small sampling of the bounty from my garden in late summer.

In the garden this year- broccoli and blueberries were the best performers. Honorable mention for eggplant and the two asparagus plots continue to prosper.

It is a pleasure to reap the benefits after seven years of amending and improving the soil with plenty of organic material. I’ve been using cover crops, composted yard trimmings and kitchen scraps since the beginning. Even my neighbor commented on the quality of my soil.

Had I known that this year’s El Nino effect would provide such a mild autumn season, I would have planted more late season crops like lettuce, spinach, cabbage and leeks. This is the mildest autumn I can ever remember and it’s been quite dry as well. Forecast for the winter is expected to be below normal precipitation and above average temperatures in my area.


The old washer and dryer removed and walled prepared for shower installation.

The old washer and dryer removed and wall prepared for shower installation. The equipment was still in good working order so, I made friends with the new neighbors by giving both washer and dryer to the young family.


The most significant achievement around the homestead this year was the bathroom remodel. It was a major improvement for the convenience of visiting overnight guests. This project took longer than I expected, cost more than the budget I allotted and caused a lot of headaches during my summer months. While I am pleased to have it completed, it was a monumental struggle every step of the way! The Bathroom Remodel Episode is deserving of its own article with plenty of pics. Stay tuned. I will try to get around to it this winter.






A Koi pond in the Hutong of old Jinan.

A Koi pond in the Hutong of old Jinan.

On the travel scene- China was the main event for me in 2015. None of it would have been possible if not for dear friend Lana looking after Mom and Dear Echo as travel guide and activity planner…..Beijing,and Jinan and Xi’an and Qufu to name a few of the articles about some of the cities I visited….and twice in one year!

Once again, many thanks to everyone who made my travels in China more enjoyable and interesting. All of your suggestions on where to go and what to do have been terrific!

I also had a quick trip to Amsterdam in mid-November and anytime I get to spend a few days in the Dam is good for me!

Upcoming travel plans for 2016 include; Jinan in February for the Spring Festival, a trip to the Delaware Shore in May – before the beach season gets kicked off, also summer camping in PA and VA and possibly a trip to Taiwan in October. Asia will continue to be a focus of my long term travel plans in the coming years. There is so much to explore!

Early in the morning at the park near my hotel.

It was also great to have Miss Echo and young Mr. Pie for a visit. We did a day trip into NYC with stops in Central Park, a quick tour through Metropolitan Museum of Art and an evening walk around the Times Square district with a view of the lights on Broadway!

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In the sidebar of the home page for this blog I offer links to English learning resources among them is Recently I came across these three related articles from that worthy site and I recommend English language learners check out; Top 20 Figures of Speech, as well as, An Index of Commonly Confused Words, and if you are looking for a topic to write about there is a this link for 400 topics for Essays and Speeches. The last one may be useful for college level students who need practice improving their writing skills. The index of Commonly Confused Words is excellent as a reference resource and Figures of Speech are important bits of the language to help you better understand custom and culture.


Closing out the second week in December and the weather continues to be unseasonably mild. I normally leave my Brussels sprouts on the stalk and let them freeze outside. When I wish to use them I go and grab a full stalk and pull it out of the ground. The mild weather was not bringing the usual December freezing temperatures. So, this week, I picked all of the tiny cabbages and cleaned them for freezer storage. The greatest reward I receive from my gardening efforts is to harvest deliciously fresh home-grown food even in the off season. This seasons harvest of sprouts will be a regular item on my dinner menu much of the winter and into the spring!

This was a good haul of over 250 sprouts!

This was a good haul of over 250 sprouts!


I enjoy foreign films more than just about anything produced in Hollywood. Occasionally, I have some time to search online for a film that may be worth watching. This past year there were three films that I thought were exceptional!

None of these films are new releases. However they were new to me and I enjoyed them immensely. I will award a tie for first place between two films that share the same starring actor Mads Mikkelsen – After the Wedding is a 2006 Danish film. A touching story about human suffering on different levels and it has elements of redemption. It is a very compelling story with terrific acting. The Hunt – (2012, Danish) – also starring Mikkelsen. This film is full of suspense. The ending sends a powerful message about the stigma associated with certain crimes…even after the accused has been fully exonerated.

In second place; an Italian film from 2011 called Shun Li and the Poet starring Chinese actress, Zhao Tao. The film is a very human story about loneliness shared across culture. Nice story.

In addition to my top three of the year, I enjoyed Renoir. (2012, French film). The acting was okay, the story was interesting to learn a little bit of the inside info on the great French master. There are plenty of scenes depicting buxom young maidens in various stages of undress posing for the artist. What’s not to like about that?

If you have an interest in rock climbing or extreme adventure, The Summit (2013, Sweden) is a documentary about the tragic series of fatalities during the 2012 expedition season on K2. The world’s second highest peak and said to be the most dangerous mountain to climb. Eleven climbers lost their lives in one fateful day.

Honorable mention to Venus starring the late Peter O’Toole. The movie was not great but O’Toole plays the part of an eccentric, retired stage actor (maybe he was not actually acting at all!) in one of his final performance before his passing in 2013.


Regular readers understand my excitement to stumbled into this cool link to listen to 74 tracks from the Grateful Dead with Bob Dylan rehearsal sessions from the summer of 1987 tour and album production. Fellow Dead-Heads will enjoy it. It is an open source link so be sure to look around while you are there. You may find some other interesting items, like, free audio books, and free language lessons, free movies, or choose from over 1,000 free courses on subjects ranging from history, psychology and chemistry and economics, etc.


The bread and circuses political show continues to reach new lows in the U.S. As we enter 2016, an election year for the office of president, the rhetoric is deep and the promises are plentiful. Truth, however, is hard to come by when listening to the political class. Among the sane and rational people still awake in American there is a growing consensus that anyone who seeks and desires political power should automatically be disqualified from holding public office. I am convinced at this point that much of the world is controlled by sociopaths. Sociopaths who are duly placed in positions of authority over the populous and who self-serving behavior is the ruin of our nation. Sociopaths who have been given access to the power to wipe out millions of the earth’s population with just the push of a button.

Obama / Deep State / Pentagon have been exercising complete and utter recklessness in their foreign policy misadventures. U.S. lead activities in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Libya, and elsewhere are riling old foes and instigating unrest that is not helpful to good international relations.

To quote former Congressman and GOP Presidential hopeful, Ron Paul; “We are creating enemies faster than we can kill them!”

Let’s all pray things don’t get out of hand. I am not keen on being witness to World War III.
Peace, and have a Safe, Prosperous, Healthy and Happy New Year.


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    • Grayson on December 13, 2015 at 7:36 pm
    • Reply

    Wonderful 2015!

    • Summer on December 15, 2015 at 8:09 am
    • Reply

    In the article ,you looking back this year.
    The harvest in the garden;your travel in China and Amsterdam;and experiencing different cultures;
    After i read it , i would like to say you have a colorful year,and you have a colorful life.
    Especially,in this year,your student’s English skills are improved a lot including me.
    So,thank you!Wish you always have a yong heart to explore the world.

    1. Yes, great year!
      I’m also pleased with your progress and the teams improvement.
      Keep up the good work.

    • spring on December 17, 2015 at 8:38 am
    • Reply

    After reading this article,the idea of getting near
    to the official end of 2015 occurs to me. I coudn’t help
    wondering what i have acheived and what i should have done.
    From now on, i will let bygones be bygones and see what i can
    get in 2016.
    Dear, you did havest a lot in 2015. I truly hope another
    bumper harvest is in your sight.

    1. Many people make New Year resolutions and often they fail to meet the resolution.
      I think it is better to set goals and work to achieve them. Plans can be modified to suit changing circumstances, but personal initiative is required to start the process. What do you wish to achieve in the coming year? What goals do you have for your personal life? What about professional/career goals? What new knowledge and skills are interesting to you? Where do you want to travel? What’s on your reading list?
      Wishing you a great year!

    • Allen on December 21, 2015 at 7:55 pm
    • Reply

    what a fullfilling year! I like your lifestyle of growing your own vegetables, and wish your plan for trips in 2016 can be smoothly realized. Merry christmas and Happy new year!

    1. Yes, Allen, it was a fulfilling year! Looking forward to the coming year’s plans.

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