Category Archives: holidays

stars, stripes, hearts, cupcakes

In honor of American Independence Day, I present an assorted collection of American flag things from my archives. Happy 4th of July!

Easy as pie

pi pie
My 2010 Pi Pie

Happy Pi Day! In celebration of Pi Day¹, and its auspicious landing on a Thursday, I offer to you this very large helping of pie-themed things. Mmmm, pie.

  • Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie: a line from the nursery rhyme Sing of song of sixpence²:

    Sing a song of sixpence
    a pocket full of rye
    four and twenty blackbirds
    baked in a pie

  • Little Jack Horner: Another nursery rhyme with pie.

    Little Jack Horner
    Sat in the corner,
    Eating a Christmas pie;
    He put in his thumb,
    And pulled out a plum,
    And said ‘What a good boy am I!

  • little jack horner  wsatterlee 1882 king with pie 012

  • Can she make a cherry pie?: A line from the folk song Billy Boy.
  • pie in the sky: used to describe plans or hopes considered unrealistic and overly optimistic
  • “high apple pie in the sky hopes”: a line from the song High Hopes, a song sung by Frank Sinatra
  • as easy as pie: an expression meaning “very easy.” In my experience, pie is not the easiest thing in the world to make. It involves crust, an oven, preparation of ingredients.³
  • “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe,” a quote by Carl Sagan
  • As American as apple pie: an expression meant to describe something quintessentially American. Of course, many cultures have versions of apple pies.⁴ Apple pie has nevertheless achieved a place in American culture:

    Although apple pies have been eaten since long before the European colonisation of the Americas, “as American as apple pie” is a saying in the United States, meaning “typically American”.[14] In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, apple pie became a symbol of American prosperity and national pride. A newspaper article published in 1902 declared that “No pie-eating people can be permanently vanquished.”[15] The dish was also commemorated in the phrase “for Mom and apple pie” – supposedly the stock answer of American soldiers in World War II, whenever journalists asked why they were going to war.[16]

    (From the Apple Pie Wiki Page⁵.)

  • American Pie: Don McLean’s signature song, first released in 1971. Bye-bye Miss American Pie… (I’m quite fond of this large-scale lip dub video version of the song produced by the city of Grand Rapids Michigan.)
  • American Pie (1999): a movie that includes various analogies of sex and pie.
  • pie-eyed: drunk
  • piebald: having patches of black and white (or other colors), especially describing the coat of an animal.
  • pie chart: a type of graph in which proportions of a whole (such as a whole data set) are depicted as wedges of a circle
    pie-pie-chart
  • piece of the pie: an expression meaning a share in something, such as a reward or credit.
  • mud pie: a pattie-shaped blob of mud, commonly made when playing in the mud
  • sweetie pie: a common term of endearment
  • cow pie: Not actually a pie made of cow (that would would be a beef pot pie), but a lump of cow manure. (Definitely not a term of endearment)
  • pie in the face: a bit of slapstick comedy, usually involving a whipped cream pie. Just like it sounds, it involves someone getting a pie in the face.
  • 10 banana cream pies: Sesame Street once featured a rather clumsy baker who would stand at the top of a flight of stairs, and announce the number of some sort of dessert he was holding, before falling and spilling all of them. He may not actually have used banana cream pies for 10, but the phrase seems to have stuck. (cf. the use on the show The Family Guy.)

Have more pies to bring to the table? Throw ‘em in the comments.

¹ So-called, as the date (at least as it is written here in the US) is 3-14, is reminiscent of the number Pi’s initial 3 digits: 3.14. My past celebrations of Pi Day have included easy as pi, my personal gallery of Pi Pies, and a Pi-themed list.
²I was surprised to learn that this nursery rhyme was actual used by pirates to convey messages. This is the sort of thing that would usually send me to Snopes to check, but in this case Snopes is where I found it.
³ Toast is much easier to make.
⁴ I love tarte aux pommes as made in France. You know what was hard to get in France when I lived there, though? Doritos.
⁵Really. Apple pie has a Wiki page. So do pumpkin pie, pecan pie and cherry pie.

Images: Little Jack Horner and the king with the pie are both from Project Gutenberg.

cheesy valentine


Heart of cheese.

Roses are red,
Roquefort is blue
Actually, it’s more of a green
But this photo’s of provolone, anyway.

Happy Year of the Snake!

Today is the day to ring in the Year of the Snake.


These are some Japanese clay bells that I bought in San Francisco’s Japantown 12 years ago. I’m quite fond of them. Who knew that snakes could be so cute?

photographing fireworks (friday foto finder: fireworks)

In the US, the 4th of July (aka Independence Day) is traditionally celebrated with (among other things¹) displays of fireworks. We took the kids to see some fireworks a couple of years ago at a nearby town, and this year we went to a school field at a different nearby town. (Our own town doesn’t host any such displays.) Both times, I enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture the fireworks in photos. I’ve learned a bit more about how to use my camera² in the past 2 years, so I think I had a higher success to failure ratio this time around. (So funny to realize that July of 2010 was before I embarked on my daily photography adventure for project 365.)

As best I can tell, it helps to have a camera that you can set to full manual mode: you’ll want to set the aperture, shutter speed and ISO levels, and also not try to rely on auto focus. (Things typically move too fast with fireworks for my camera to find a focus on its own.) I played around quite a bit with the settings, and took probably well over a hundred photos, to get some shots that I liked. (Two of the great things about digital photography are the cheapness of taking so many exposures, and the near-live feedback about how your photos have worked out, letting you make adjustments accordingly.)

Here are a few of my favorite shots.


A big poof of red, with white and blue accents. (This was taken with my telephoto lens, zoomed to 45 mm: aperture f/4, iso 1400, shutter speed 1/50.)

Next I switched over to my 20 mm fixed-length lens, which can open to a really wide aperture. It looks like I stuck around an aperture of f/1.8, set the iso down to 400, and then a shutter speed of 1/10 (a tenth of a second).


This is one of my favorites, as it reminds me of a dandelion gone to seed.


This was taken at a lower shutter speed (1/2, or a half second), and the added blur gave the effect of shards of ice crystals.


This was another slow one, and it reminds me of ribbon.


This upward-dripping effect may have been due to me playing around with moving the camera as I took the shot. (I do remember intentionally moving the camera for some shots, but don’t remember whether this was one of them. It’s also possible that somebody bumped me. Or maybe I sneezed.)


Many of the colors didn’t come out for me, except when a single color dominated. I liked the way this one, while sparse as the blooms went, showed a wide range of intense colors.


I love all the shapes formed by the puffs of smoke in this one. I see butterflies and flowers and ducks. Also a few blobs of oatmeal.


Here’s an early one from the show, where I was still trying to work out the focus. Clearly, I missed, but I like the result anyhow.


Theo was quite scared by the fireworks 2 years ago, or at least by the loud noises. (He did like the pretty lights.) This year, he only half-heartedly covered his ears. Phoebe was fully entranced. (Here I had to crank the ISO way up to 1600 to see anything. The red glow is likely from some red fireworks–the only light I had in this shot.)

I have a few more shots in the slideshow below in case you are compelled to see more. Click on the photos above to see them bigger.

And in case you are wondering why I’m now posting 6-month old photos, it’s to participate in …um… last week’s³ friday foto finder with the theme of “fireworks.” (The photos would have been exactly 6 months old if I’d managed to post on Friday!)

To see what fireworks people were celebrating, go check out the friday foto finder blog. And if you’d like to participate this Friday, the theme will chocolate.

¹ Also hot dogs, potato salad and flag-waving.
² An Olympus Pen E-P1, which I have been known to refer to as “my epi-pen.”
³ It was a hectic week, and the last few days were a crunch of presentation preparation followed by a bit of conference attending. This time without traveling.

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Tidings of comfort and joy.

For the past several years, Neil of Citizen of the Month has put together a remarkable online concert to celebrate the many and varied holidays of the winter season, and he has graciously hosted once more. Please go check out the amazing musical and photographic stylings on exhibit at The Seventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert. As always, the entries are varied and wondrous.

I didn’t manage to get my act together this round, for a variety of reasons, but I hope to again next year. You can find me and my voice in several of the past concerts, but I’m too lazy to see which. Last year was one.

I have been in a dark place since Friday, but I’m not yet ready to share those thoughts. Too many thoughts. I wrote something on Monday, but it is still too raw to post. In the meantime, I have taken comfort in many things, including music. Most of all, I take comfort in having my little ones with me and holding them close.

May they remember only joy this holiday season.

Happy Turkey Day

Here are some happy turkeys.

Here in New England, it is not uncommon to come across roving flocks of wild turkeys. I came across these guys a couple years ago while heading to a nearby farm to buy some eggs. (Chicken eggs, mind you.) They were in the long winding driveway, and as I drove up, they just kept running ahead, seemingly reluctant to spend the extra energy to get over the towering snowbanks. (That was the winter of Too Much Winter.) All the way at the top of the hill, they figured I was in it for the long chase, and took flight.