i figured drew would be leaving early for his ambitious trip to see the town of concord, walden pond, the gropius house, and maybe even fitchburg. so i was surprised to find him still asleep when i woke up around 9:00. he finally did get up around 10:00 and left by 11:00 with his bike to take the commuter rail from porter square into the western suburbs.

my father and his friend were at the harvard natural history museum this morning. i thought about going as well (free for massachusetts residents on sunday mornings, otherwise $10) but ended up staying in. i did leave for belmont around noontime, to rendezvous with them back at the house, where my sister was taking everyone to winchester fells to walk the dog and sample some early winter new england wilderness.

they didn't get back until after 1:00 and we didn't leave for winchester until 1:30. i'm sure i've seen it before but i really took notice this time of winchester center, where there was several fine examples of late 19th century architecture, including the town hall (1887, 71 mount vernon street, rand & taylor, queen anne style) and winchester savings bank (1892, 26 mount vernon street, william blaikie, romanesque style).1

my sister may know the fells' trails (she says she comes here a few times a week with the dog), but i know the nature. i was on the lookout for interesting things to show my father's friend, things he may not find back home in los angeles. it wasn't that easy, since during the winter most things are dormant.

i got lucky early, rolling over a log and finding 2 salamanders hiding underneath. the discovery even surprised me, since i figured with the low temperatures (40's) all cold-blooded critters had long gone into long-term hibernation for the season. i didn't even see the second salamander at first, noticing only the red-back. the second one was a lead-back variant. we spent a few minutes looking, but when the lead-back slithered away, i slowly put the log back into place.

we also came across some colorful turkey tail mushrooms.

we followed the skyline trail to the reservoirs. i was hoping we might see some interesting birds at least. a bluejay or a cardinal would've been great (they don't have those on the west coast), but all we saw were some robins (which wasn't bad, my father's friend had never seen them before).

there are actually several variety of evergreens growing along the edge of the water: red pine, white pine, and blue spruce (those were just the ones i could identify, there could be more). my sister already went up the hill while we were still down below, taking photos by the reservoir. hailey seemed distressed that we'd separated into 2 groups and kept running back and forth between us and crying, trying to get us back together.

we returned to the car by around 3:00 and went back to belmont.

we were supposed to eat homemade shenjianbao yesterday, but because we had all that chinese restaurant takeout, we ate that instead, postponing the shenjianbao to tonight.

my mother seems to have a habit of injuring her hands at these dinner parties. back in october, she managed to burn her hand. tonight, she managed to cut her hand. my sister wrapped up my mother's hand so tightly it was cutting off circulation so she had to get it rewrapped.

after the main course of shengjianbao, there was 5 different desserts: corn bread, chocolate eclairs, cranberry raisin glutinous rice cake, traditional chinese niangao, and finally a fruitcake.

i didn't get back home until 9:30. drew told me about his lincoln-concord adventure. the way he was sounding, i thought he didn't get to see the gropius house; he did, but just didn't like the tour guide, didn't think she knew her stuff. drew also wanted to ride back to cambridge via the minuteman bike trail, but he couldn't find it (having never riden on it before), and it was getting late, so he took the commuter rail instead.

1 looking up the architectural information for these winchester landmarks made me curious about other supposedly romanesque architecture. they might not've been built by h.h.richardson himself, but maybe by some of his disciples. take for example belmont town hall, which has certain romanesque features. turns out that was designed by hartwell and richardson (no relations to h.h.richardson) in 1881. that practice also designed odd fellows hall (1884) and the first baptist church in central square cambridge (1881), as well as the exeter street theatre near copley square (1885). the most direct descent of h.h.richardson's work was the practice he left behind upon his death in 1886, that of shepley, rutan, and coolidge. the group was responsible for some of my favorite boston architecture, including the flour and grain exchange building (1892) and the ames building (1893) - all in the richardsonian romanesque style. they were also responsible for the boston south station (1892) but in a classical revival style.