an appointment with a Christmas tree

I have recurring lab meetings on Fridays, for a couple of my various research/teaching projects. My colleagues suggested that we could still meet as usual, since none of us would be travelling this year. I, on the other hand, suggested that I’d prefer to skip the meetings. Our family had pencilled in a sort of meeting of our own.

What with this year being so challenging, with things like family visits and travel and fun summer activities mostly cancelled, we have really been looking forward to the home-focused activities of our traditional Christmas. Whereas I know quite a lot of people who have been decorating for Christmas early, we decided to wait until after Thanksgiving. But we did want to jump right in today. And that first jump involves getting a tree.

For the last several years, it’s been our tradition to go to a tree farm in our town. We’ve brought the dog with us most years since we’ve had him. John and I were both feeling a bit tired today, and thought that maybe it would be a bit less stressful to leave the dog at home. However, as soon as I started putting on my shoes to go, the dog put together a very compelling argument as to why he should come. I mean, look at that face.

So we bundled him and ourselves into the car and started on our way for the quick drive across town. And then turned around at the end of our street to go back home for another mask. (For John. The dog doesn’t need to wear one.) And then we were off again.

The farm was really busy today, but we went after our spy network let us know that things had calmed down. It took us a while to find a tree that met our specifications, but we persevered.

We didn’t get around to putting up the tree until quite a bit later tonight. And then we brought down some of the bins to start decorating. We started with the topper, and started putting on strands of lights, working our way up from the bottom. Unfortunately, half of our usual strings of lights seem to have given up the ghost since last year. (I spent more time digging through bins trying to find the little fuses, but gave up for tonight.)

So, the tree is only about half lit for now. Tomorrow, we’ll either see about replacing some fuses, or bringing down some different lights. But it does look pretty festive, if rather bottom-heavy.

replete, complete

As I mentioned in passing, my daughter headed to boarding school this fall. (Those of you who have been reading my blog for many years may be shocked to learn that time has passed, and that Phoebe is now high-school aged.) When we first worked out this plan, over a year ago, the world was a completely different place. Since Phoebe was only looking at schools in New England, we expected that we could have some weekend visits. What with COVID restrictions, though, the school wanted to bubble as much as possible. This meant that the plan was for the kids to stay at school (and not have visits from family) between drop-off in September, and collection in November before Thanksgiving break. This was a very long time for us to go without seeing Phoebe. Something like 2 and a half months. To help us to mark this time, Theo and I made a sort of advent calendar to count down the days. We made little fall-themed paper cutouts, one for each day. Mostly simple leaves, but a few acorns and oak leaves (for weekends) and some other shapes for holidays (a pumpkin for Halloween, and a squirrel for John’s birthday.) We put each cut-out up in the windows in the breakfast nook on one side of the room, and moved them over to the windows on the other side of the room for each day that passed.

The first few days of the calendar.
2 days worth of leaves moved over, in September. Note how green the background was.

Since it seemed sort of creepy-talkerish to have it just be a countdown to seeing Phoebe, we made our calendar run up to Thanksgiving. So our final paper cutout was a little turkey. This morning the turkey crossed over to the other side. (In this case to the next window over.) And so the countdown is complete.

Why did the turkey cross the window?
The completed Thanksgiving countdown calendar.

Today I spent most of the day cooking, and we had our small family feast tonight. Well, the family was small. The feast was rather large.

We usually have Thanksgiving dinner in the formal dining room. But this year, with just the four of us humans, we decided to eat in the breakfast nook. For one thing, I’ve been using the dining room as an office and a voter postcard distribution center. So I was fine with not dismantling that set-up. Plus the breakfast nook is looking so festive with all its leaves.

I also decided that we could skip the fancy dishes this year. I love to use the formal china, but it is a lot more work, especially since it’s not dishwasher safe. So, maybe not as fancy as some years, but still festive and bountiful.

As an aside, I’ve realized something rather funny about this blog. Because I have a tradition of blogging daily in November, our Thanksgiving plans have been remarkably well-documented every year. Much more so than other holidays and events. For most of the rest of the year, my blogging about life is rather sporadic.

In any case, much as I say this time every year, I am currently feeling very full, both of food and of gratitude.

pie are square (and other pumpkin tidbits)

This year, our Thanksgiving will be a smaller affair. While we’ve never had a particularly big gathering, we have traditionally shared the day with at least one other household. For years, we would always go down to my in-laws’ house. More recently, we started having Thanksgiving at home, and my mother-in-law would join us. Then we started having over a friend of mine and her two sons. There have also been years when my mother has visited, and one year (4 years ago), when my sister and nephews also visited in addition to my mother. That was our biggest gathering, with a total of 12 people.

This year, our number will just be the 4 humans who live in our house, plus our doggo. The plan is still to have most of our usual feast items, but maybe in slightly smaller quantities. (Although it is possible that we will still have copious quantities of potatoes. You know how I hate the thought of being short on potatoes.) One standard we have is a pumpkin custard that I make, which is basically a dairy-free pumpkin pie without the crust. I can’t remember when or why I started making it without the shell, but it works for us. And I typically bake it in a square pan. Which reminds me of the old “pie are round, son” joke. (You can find a version of the joke here, which was possibly my first Pi Day post, from 2008.)

On other pumpkin related topics, here Theo and I put together a fall display on our breakfast nook table. I have a growing collection of glass pumpkins, plus we have a few other decorative pumpkins of other materials. Then the CSA I’ve been participating in this year provided me with some rather pretty squashes. And then we joked about all the varieties of pumpkin in our display, so decided we should add the canned pumpkin, too. And then the goofy jack-o-lantern bucket.

And just because, here’s one more pumpkin photo.

Brodie, our doggo, sniffing one of our Halloween pumpkins. (Before the pumpkins collapsed and had to be sent off into the woods.)

a muddle and a puddle

Once again, I’m exceedingly tired, so can’t really think tonight, much less write. There are some days when I do so much switching of gears, going from parenting to professional to personal to political to community commitments that the day passes with me feeling somehow like I’ve done too much and not gotten much done at all.

I did take a few photos today, mostly while out walking the dog. It was a very wet morning. I liked the way this assortment of leaves had arranged itself in this puddle.

full home, full heart

I collected my daughter from boarding school this morning, where she’s been since September. So now our home is full again with all residents accounted for. I still miss my out-of-state family, and look forward to the day we can travel to see each other once more, but for now, my heart is full.

And because I like to post photos, here are several photos of leaves and ferns that made me see a heart shape. (For what I intended to be a quick post, it’s a little crazy how long it took me to decide on what photos to share.)

20 twenty things

The other day, when I was making my little jokes about 20/20 vision and losing my glasses (in a very 2020 way), I found myself pondering things about the number 20. And that pondering led to some enumerating, and that enumerating became a list. On this 20th day of the month, and in the tradition of my ThThTh lists (but breaking tradition since it’s not Thursday), I present a list of things around the theme of 20. And it seemed only right to have a list of 20 of them.

1) 20/20 vision: Normal vision. It is based on what row of an eye chart you can read from 20 feet. 

2) The 20-20-20 rule. To help with eyestrain. For every 20 minutes you find yourself staring at a screen, spend 20 seconds looking at something that is 20 feet away.

3) 20/20 hindsight. An expression meaning that things are clear in retrospect, typically after some misjudgment.

4) venti: size at Starbucks. It’s 20 ounces, and it means twenty in Italian. It’s sort of the “large” size, though there is also grande (which means “large” in Italian), but is smaller than the venti.

A 20-sided die. (image credit)

5) icosagon or 20-gon is a twenty-sided polygon

6) icosahedron: a polyhedron with 20 sides. The shape of a 20-sided die.

7) Twenty questions: a guessing game whereby one person thinks of a thing, and the second person tries to guess what it is by way of asking yes-no questions. The guesser wins if they name the correct thing before reaching the twentieth questions. (Experienced players know that it’s a good idea to narrow down the categories early on, rather than guessing one item in the universe of millions of things, i.e: Is it pants? This is the game for which “Is it bigger than a breadbox” and “is it smaller than a house” are frequent size-establishing questions.)

Mayan base 20 number system. (Credit: Bryan Derksen source)

8) Vigesimal: base 20 number system

9) a score: a term meaning the number twenty. Fairly infrequent, excepting in quotations of the Gettysburg Address. (“Four score and seven years ago…”)

10) XX: The Roman numeral for 20

11) 20th anniversary gift: china/porcelain

12) a dart board has 20 sections

Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com
US 20 dollar bills. Photo by Shane on Pexels.com

13) The (current) US twenty dollar bill. A frequent denomination distributed in ATMs in the U.S. Currently bears the face of Andrew Jackson.

For those who can’t wait for the new bills to be minted, stamps are sold to make the adjustment manually. (source)

14) Harriet Tubman 20 dollar bill. 2020 was supposed to be the year when abolitionist and historical bad-ass Harriet Tubman was supposed to replace Jackson on the 20 dollar bill. This has been put off, but many have taken the transformation into their own hands and used a stamp. (See image above.)

15) 20 is the smallest primitive abundant number.

20: The atomic number for calcium. (Image source.)

16) 20 is the atomic number of calcium.

17) 20/20: a new-oriented US TV program.18) Twenty (2015): a South Korea film.

19) Twenty (2017-2018) a webseries.

20) The Roaring 20s. A nickname for the decade of 1920 to 1929. Now that we are in another decade of the 20s, we can only guess what it will be nicknamed.

Some ’20s fashion illustrations. (Source)

 

pumpkin reincarnation

Carving pumpkins is a favorite Halloween tradition in our household. For me, as well as the kids. I guess there have been some years when I haven’t carved my pumpkin, but I think I do most. And more often than not, I seem to do variations on the same expression. Here was this year’s pumpkin:

My 2020 pumpkin. Probably also a frequent expression that I wear myself this year.

And here is last year’s:

My 2019 pumpkin.

It’s a little like my pumpkin gets reincarnated each year. Except that as a vegetable, re-incarnation is probably not quite the right term. It’s not flesh, exactly. Reinvegetation, perhaps?

My 2018 pumpkin.

I do wonder how many similar pumpkins I’ve carved over the years. The earliest version I could find was this little guy from 2009. It even got its own blog post.

2009. The year we first met?

This year’s pumpkin has left for now–sent off into the woods to reconnect with nature, as it were. Until we meet again next year, little pumpkin.