We’re starting in the Christmas decorations a bit early (for us) this year, trying to get the most of the Thanksgiving visit from my mom and having the kids home from school. Lest you think we are totally on top of things, we only just finished taking down the Halloween decorations. Today Theo swapped out the black garland for the tinselly ones in time to welcome in the tree.
We got the tree in, but that’s as far as we got. I’ve been trying to get some work done today, as I haven’t found as much time to do work as I’d hoped. And tomorrow is a big day, driving up to Vermont and back.
I’m not totally sure where today went, but I guess a lot of today involved trees. We had a couple of excursions, plus I wrote a bunch more postcards for Georgia. (I got a lot of help from my mom, plus Phoebe and her friend helped with some, too. Which is good, because today was the mailing deadline for the big project I signed on for.)
In the evening, we headed back out to go the Winterlights at the Bradley estate in Canton, MA. Again, there were colorful trees that caught my eye. This was an event we hadn’t been to before, but it sounded like it would be a fun thing to do with the kids and other guests. It was quite pretty, and happily the weather was pretty mild.
On the topic of trees, I use an app called Forest to help me track my time on projects, as well as to keep me focused in my tomatoes. I like that it plants little virtual trees in my virtual forest for each chunk of time that I dedicate to a task. But that’s neither here nor there, though it is in the screenshot that is here (or there). What amused me and inspired me to take the screenshot was that my phone’s predictive text clearly knows what I’ve been up to. (I guess I’ve been logging a lot of time writing postcards for Geogia.)
Of course, my phone also made a pretty unexpected suggestion in the predictive text in a message I was sending. Note that the tree farm starts with the letters “vand.” For the record, I don’t remember every making plans to vandalize in the past. So maybe my phone doesn’t know me so well after all.
Very long full day. Dinner was a bounteous feast with family and friends. My belly is still full, and my feet are tired. I’m thankful for the wonderful people in my life, as well as my life’s many comforts and joys. Much work still to do tomorrow, so I need to get to bed.
I didn’t take too many photos today, but here is one of the highlights. (See the slideshow for a more complete sequence. Note that Brodie did not get to have any of the pumpkin custard. He did get some treats, though.)
Very long day again, largely filled with home and family things.
We are fortunate enough to have a cleaning service come to clean our house every other week, which helps us fight back the chaos. We typically spend quite a bit of time before they come decluttering and organizing, basically trying to expose surfaces that potentially could be cleaned. To make things less stressful on both the people who come into the house and on the dog (who is very anxious), we get ourselves out of the way when they come. For the last couple years, at least since the pandemic, the tradition when the kids have been home has been to bundle us all into the car, and then go to the Starbucks drive-through in a nearby town. (Before the pandemic, Brodie would go to doggie daycare and John and I would typically go to work. But this stopped when quarantine shut everything down. The doggy daycare presumably reopened after not too much time, but we didn’t get back into that pattern. And now Brodie hasn’t been socializing enough with other dogs to manage that kind of thing. He didn’t really like it that much in the first place, but it was good to get him to socialize with other dogs. But I digress.)
Anyhow, the morning was spent cleaning and organizing, then we had the brief excursion, and then back to the house for more preparations. I’m still trying to find the dining room table, which I believe to be the surface under the months worth of accumulation of papers and other work and project-related items.
Phoebe then had a couple of friends coming over, so we all took Covid tests to make sure we were safe. (Of the friends has a medically vulnerable family member.) Then I walked Brodie again around 3:30. (Afternoon walks have to get earlier and earlier, as the sun sets a little after 4 now.)
More cleaning and organizing followed. Then dinner (take-out, happily), and then food prep for tomorrow. Various vegetables were washed and cut, and I made my traditional pumpkin custard. (Effectively a crustless dairy-free pumpkin pie.) My mom and the kids helped with lots of the vegetable tasks. Tomorrow will involve more cooking and food preparation, and the final push to make the dining room presentable for guests. (Happily, the friends who are coming know us and our home well enough that they won’t be too alarmed the by a bit of clutter. Or more than a bit of clutter, as the case may be.)
The other big task that needs to happen this week (by the time the post office closes on Friday) is the writing of another 80 or so postcards to Georgia. As is my way, I committed to the sending of a lot of handwritten postcards. After the Georgia runoff was announced, a couple of my friends contacted me expressing interested in writing cards for the runoff. When I was in DC (actually, having a rest on a bench in the National Gallery), I got an email with details on a project with a mailing deadline of 11/25. I optimistically signed up for 500 addresses. I contacted the 2 friends who’d first expressed interest, and then reached out to more people. I got permission from the group organizing the postcards to get mailing addresses printed, and very quickly the 500 addresses were claimed. So I requested more addresses. And then I reached out to more people, and requested more addresses. I spent quite a bit of time over the last couple of weeks printing labels, assembling packets, contacting people, and doing a few deliveries. In the end, I requested a total of 1150 addresses, and distributed 1040 of them to friends and acquaintances. Which is a lot, and fantastic. But, if you do the math, that leaves a not insignificant number for me to get written. Happily, my mom is lending a hand with the hand-writing, and I plan to recruit others in the household as well. Maybe even after the feast tomorrow.
Off to bed for me now, as tomorrow will be a full day.
rutabaga (n.)“Swedish turnip,” 1799, from Swedish dialectal (West Götland) rotabagge, from rot “root” (from PIE root *wrād- “branch, root”) + bagge “bag” (see bag (n.)). (from Etymology Online)
There was a time in my life when I had never, to my knowledge, eaten rutabaga. That day has long since passed. At some point, maybe 20 years ago or so, rutabaga became a key component of the roasted root vegetables that I make as part of our fall and winter holiday feasts. But it turns out that I can’t always find rutabaga at the grocery store. So it was that when I was in Vermont on Saturday, I brought home not only my firstborn child, but also a rather substantial rutabaga. We had stopped in to the local co-op/grocery store for snacks for the road, and I poked my head into the rather small produce section. Having not scored a rutabaga at my local store, I was happy to see rutabagas in stock. There were only a few, and all of them looked pretty big. I picked out the smallest one. Which, it turns out, was still quite large. I didn’t think too much of it until checking out, at which point the cashier said, “wow, that’s a big rutabaga.” It turned out to be over 3 pounds, and to cost over $10. I considered putting it back (because this seemed a rather hefty commitment for one root vegetable), but in the end, decided to pay the hefty sum and heft the hefty root home.
Below are some of the photos that I took of this venerable vegetable. I wasn’t sure what the appropriate light would be for its portrait session, so I tried several options and backdrops.
Brodie was uncertain of the threat-level of this rutabaga.
One thing that struck me about this rutabaga was its resemblance to an old-fashioned ice bag or cold compress. (And one thing that strikes me in writing this is that the hefty rutabaga is one thing that I would not want to be struck with. Especially about the head. Because I would certainly need an ice pack to recover.)
I was also amused to note that the etymology of rutabaga contains roots meaning “root” and “bag.” So aptly named. I think my rutabaga should be the poster child for rutabaga etymology.
Today was a long day, in the sense that I was up early and did a lot. (But given that we are approaching the winter solstice here in the northern hemisphere, the day in terms of actual daylight is getting short.) This morning I drove up to Vermont to collect my daughter and her friend to bring them home for the Thanksgiving break. And then we drove back down in the afternoon. It was about 3:30 by the time we got home. Just in time to take Brodie on his afternoon walk before it got dark. You can see the sun setting at a little after 4 in the bottom set of photos. The top photo, take around 9 this morning, amused me with the cartoonish shape of Brodie’s long shadow. (Those ears!)
I was in a ridiculously good mood today. Very excited to have both children home, and then my mom coming on Monday. I’m really looking forward to have a full house for Thanksgiving, with family and friends. I’ve started to stock up on produce for the big day, but still have to acquire more potatoes. (I don’t want to relive the great potato panic of 2019.)
These dramatic weather shifts (warm, frosty, and warmish again) take their toll on a pumpkin. Especially one that has been carved and left to sit on a porch.
We carved our pumpkins quite late, only a couple of days before Halloween. Even though we haven’t been getting trick-or-treaters in the last couple of years (no more small children on our street), I still put them out with their lights on Halloween.
And then, as it is wont to do, time passed. Mostly I would forget the pumpkins. I would walk out past them in the morning when walking the dog, and mostly they looked okay. And then I returned from my trip to DC, and they definitely had passed over into a next stage.
A couple more days passed, and again, the pumpkins mostly passed right out of my mind. Until I was putting out a crate full of postcard packets on my porch for people to pick up. (I’m not even trying to be alliterative!) And then I noticed how very smooshed the pumpkins were looking. Yesterday morning, I attempted to carry one of the pumpkins from the porch to toss it into the woods as I headed out with the dog. It did not go well.
The pumpkin started to fall apart in my hands, and I just dropped it on the lawn. (And went back inside to wash my hands before walking the dog.) And then I went about the rest of my day.
Today I finally resorted once more to using the snow shovel to help the pumpkins pass on to their next phase. (Also glad that no one was watching me. In my attempts to get a photo of the pumpkin in the shovel, I managed to drop the contents of the shovel onto the grass once more. It was not pretty.)
On another note, observe that my traditional pumpkin was reborn once more into a new pumpkin body.
Good-bye little pumpkin. Until we meet again next year.
There were a couple more photos from yesterday’s trip to the Christmas tree farm that didn’t make it into yesterday’s post. There must have been a bit of rain yesterday (though I don’t remember it), as some of the trees were nicely decorated with beads of water. The little tiny pine cones also made for some cute embellishments.
The kids and I did finish decorating the tree today. While we did find some of the little fuses for the old strands of lights, we ended up adding a long new strand that I’d bought a couple years ago in an after-Christmas sale light-buying spree. Then we added strands of beads, and then the other miscellaneous ornaments.
Strands of beads were never part of the Christmas trees of my childhood, but I have grown to appreciate them. I like the way they add the lines zig-zagging and draping around the tree. Plus I do love their added shininess.
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.