Full of thanks (and full of food)

Today we celebrated Thanksgiving, which is a holiday bound in tradition for me. And much of that tradition involves food. Not just the eating of it, but the preparing of it, the serving of it, and the discussing of it. I love that we have this holiday which centers around spending time with family and friends, and about sharing a meal with them.

Thanksgiving always leaves me full of thanks and of food, but also of nostalgia. More than anything, I think of Thanksgivings past at my grandmother’s house. I remember setting the table with the special china, fancy glasses and candlesticks. I remember being shooed out of the kitchen so my grandmother could manage the entire feat of feast-making in her own way. (Also because her kitchen was tiny, and she didn’t want us in the way.) I remember enjoying so much of the feast when it came time to eat, pretty much loving all of it, except for the dreaded liver lumps in the gravy. (My grandmother would cook up and dice up the giblets, and toss them into the otherwise smooth and tasty gravy.) And I remember the extended time in the kitchen after the meal, typically with one or two other family members, hand-washing and hand-drying all of the dishes from the meal. (Because my grandmother’s house did not have a dishwasher. Also, my grandmother was happy to get out of the kitchen at the end of the day.) I usually got the job of drying. I can still remember the feel of the dishtowels in my hand, typically linen and worn rather thin from years of use, and getting more and more damp until finally you had to get out a fresh dry towel.

I spent much of yesterday and most of today preparing food and preparing the space to eat that food. (Our dining room had gotten rather buried over the past 8 months or so, but I was bound and determined to unearth it.)  We had a few guests (my mother-in-law, and a friend and her 2 kids), so there were eight of us. In spite of the moderate numbers, we had an immoderate number of food items on the menu.

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Some of the dishes I prepared: roasted root vegetables, roasted butternut squash with shallots and cranberries, roasted dijon cauliflower, and vegetarian stuffing.

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My plate. The plate itself is from our good set, a pattern that John and picked out when we had our wedding. I love using the good china for special holiday meals, because that is what we always did at my grandmother’s house. As for the food, the plate holds the 4 dishes listed above, plus green beans, mashed potatoes and vegetarian gravy, and cranberry sauce. 

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Pumpkin pie. The dairy-free version that has become a tradition for me. I had delusions that I would have time to also make something like an apple crisp. Ha.

Now that the day is done, and I’ve turned in for the night, I am still feeling full from the feast (which was blissfully free of liver lumps). I am also feeling full of thanks for the bounty of our feast, for our comfort and safety, and for the people in my life who make my life so full.

funky acorns of Central Park

Yes, this post is really about acorns. In particular, some acorns that looked a bit funny to me, compared to those that my local oak trees drop. For one thing the acorns are really long. While they are probably of a similar thickness to those acorns I see locally, or maybe even a bit skinnier, they are quite a bit longer. Some of them even about twice as long as I expect an acorn to be.

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Long acorns.

Second, they have these crazy-looking hairy tops. They remind me of see anemones and rambutans. Or shaggy wigs.

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The caps from these acorns look like crazy hair. Or sea anemones. Or rambutans.

These acorns (and  presumably the trees they fell from) were near the reservoir in Central Park. I’m sure there is a way to identify them, but I’m not going to do so tonight. However, if any tree-lovers are out there who know the answer, let me know!

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I liked the way these acorns lined themselves up along the sticks or vines on the ground.

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This is just a stray leaf that caught my eye. I don’t know whether it is related to the acorns, but I believe it to be some sort of oak leaf.

Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving, and since I’m going a little nuts getting ready, I figured I’d post a bit about some nutty-looking nuts.

multilayered, multicolored

I do love the way paint looks when it’s past its prime. Well, I don’t love it that way on my own house, but out in the rest of world, I find the patterns and texture of weathered paint to be very appealing. Especially when such weathering reveals multiple layers of paint of different colors. The effect can range from map, to marbelizing, to abstract composition. Here are a few examples that have caught my eye, in my travels, and around my town.

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This was a railing at Canobie Lake Park, an amusement park in New Hampshire. Many of the rides and attractions have been around for decades, and display a colorful history of paint color trends. I saw this on our visit to the park this August. This looked to me like a map.

pink-blue-green-red-white-rail

This was likewise a railing at Canobie Lake Park. This particular railing was at the mirror maze, and caught my eye in 2014. I was sad that the mirror maze was no longer at the park this year.

red-black-green-fence

This was a fence in or around Dublin, as seen on my 2014 trip.

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This more subtle set of paint layers graced a pedestrian bridge in Central Park. It caught my eye this past Saturday.

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This colorful and curvy composition can be seen on the back of a turtle-shaped climbing structure at our local zoo. I took this photo in 2013. I’m sort of curious to see the turtle again, and see if it has a (boring) layer of fresh paint.

yellow-purple-wheel

This yellow wheel was in a town near Dublin. It appears to have once been purple, and possibly green before that.  

This is far from the first time I’ve posted photos of peeling paint, but I think only one of the above (the pink railing) was included in another set. (Admittedly, though, it’s become harder for me to keep track of what I’ve posted here.)

I recall Central Park in Fall

It’s really not all that remarkable that I can remember Fall in Central Park, since it was just yesterday that I was there. However, Cental Park is pretty remarkable in the fall. Even late as it was in the foliage season, there was some striking color to be seen.

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Various waterfowl in the pond by the Gapstow Bridge.

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A trio of Muscovy ducks preening on some rocks in front of the foliage.

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A single juggler preening on The Mall.

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Dark iron lamp post and iron dark tree trunks among the vibrant leaves.

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A graceful little Japanese maple.

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A very twisty tree.

And in case you don’t recognize the title I used for this post, it’s a line from the song Danke Schoen. (Where “schoen” rhymes with “rain.”) I remember this song primarily for having been in the movie Ferris Bueller’s day off.

waiting for it

I mentioned yesterday that my family and I were in New York to see a show. What I didn’t say was which show. (I did leave a couple of hints for those who know the show.)

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I caught Hamilton Fever from some friends about a year and a half ago. When another friend with the same affliction decided to buy tickets for the show in New York, I plunged in and got tickets for my family, too. This was back in March. That is to say, eight months ago. We were willing to wait for it.

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I may write more about seeing the show (which was amazing), but we just drove home to Massachusetts, and I’m wiped out. So you, too, will have to wait for it.

dispatch from the greatest city in the world

We are travelling this weekend, something we haven’t been doing as much of lately. We’ve headed down to New York City to see a show.

We’re staying in a hotel somewhat near both the theater and Central Park, and as our room is on the 65th floor, and on a corner to boot, our views are pretty amazing.

Even though we arrived after 10 last night, we got up at the crack of dawn. You see, we have an avid birder in the family, and we have been talking about going birding in Central Park for a while. (I’ll probably write more about this later.) Early morning is one of the better times to see birds. And so it is that I have photos of the view at sunrise. (I usually avoid being awake at sunrise. Especially on weekends.)

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I was looking at the map to see what is in the direction of these views, past the water. I was vaguely aware that New Jersey was to the west. In particular, it appears to be Weehawken.

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View towards Weehawken. Dawn.

In the other direction, we can see a bit of Central Park.

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This room must have had an amazing view of Central Park before those two new buildings sprang up.

We spent basically the whole day today in Central Park, birding. We got to see a number of interesting water birds (wood ducks, coots and shovelers, for example), as well as many of the bird types that frequent our neck of the woods (jays and cardinals). All my bird photos are on my camera, and it’s too much work to download them to my laptop for now. (These photos are a few from my phone.)

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A very expressive tree in Central Park

(For those friends of mine who live in the greater NY area, I’m sorry that I can’t see you this trip. It’s a rather short trip–less than 48 hours in town, sadly. And we have committed to birding for most of the trip. At least for the hours that are not spent in the theater for the show tomorrow.)

And now I need to get to bed, because we’ve got more birds to see bright and early. (The early worm catches the bird?)

lasting impressions and life goals

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In addition to being the 11th anniversary of my blog, yesterday also marked the 10th anniversary of a dear friend’s death.

My friend Elizabeth continues to be one of my personal heroes. She was an extraordinary person, but chose to live an ordinary life. Or at least what might appear from a distance to be an ordinary life. She didn’t seek fame or fortune, but valued the richness of her life, her friends, her family, and the many things in life that brought her joy. She was witty and insightful. She was warm and kind and incredibly supportive, but could show biting sense of humor. She cared deeply and passionately about the world, but also loved to let loose and get silly.

She died far too young, and I feel her loss still. There have been so many things over the past 10 years that I have wanted to share with her. To discuss, to celebrate, to lament.

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I know that I am not the only one who continues to miss her. She had an impact on so many who knew and loved her. Her impact was not from any single great feat or action, but from the sum of countless moments of connection with others.

Her life was indeed extraordinary.