I’m just going to post about pancakes, and then go to sleep.

Yes, I did actually just say that out loud a minute ago. And then decided that that should be my post title.

Once again, it is late, and the day passed by without me having a grand plan for my daily post. The day was a fairly mellow one. I started the day waking up too early, and considering trying to do some work before the rest of the family got up. But I puttered on my phone, had my tea, and walked the dog and then decided to use a package of gluten-free pumpkin pancakes I’d gotten a few weeks ago. That’s not a very interesting story (flat as a pancake, as far as stories go), but the pancakes were pretty tasty. Also, at least one of them appeared to be happy.

Also, in the last little odd-shaped pancakes I get when scraping the last of the batter out of the bowl, I found this critter.

At first I thought, “hey, those look like rabbit ears.” And then I thought, “or like a duck bill.” And so it was that I stumbled across another naturally occuring instance of the rabbit-duck illusion. It does seem like I’m fairly often entertained by faces and other shapes I find around in unexpected places. (Though if I’m often finding them, are they really so unexpected?) Are you this way as well?

Tomorrow we are all back to the grind after a lovely long holiday weekend. Theo is back to his in-person school (he’s doing hybrid), and Phoebe has to do a sort of extended independent study for her school. John and I both have work. Plus I have to get back to the pile of volunteer/community commitments that I energetically offered to do before getting side-stracked.

Only one more day of my traditional November daily blogging commitment. I keep wishing that I were better about keeping up the blog during the rest of the year.

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.)

2020 vision revision

As of November 6th, there is a new mandate in Massachusetts requiring that masks be worn whenever people are out in public, even outdoors and when social distancing is possible. Previously, the state didn’t require masks for outdoor spaces where it was possible to keep 6 feet or more of distance. Up until the new requirement, whereas I wore a mask for any shopping or outdoor group events, I wasn’t wearing a mask while walking the dog. (I live in a pretty uncrowded area.)

In any case, with the new requirement, I’ve started wearing a mask while walking the dog. I have collected a few different styles of cloth masks, of varying degrees of comfort. The one I wore this morning is one that I like, style-wise, but I couldn’t get the nose-wire adjusted well enough. My glasses kept fogging up in the frosty morning air. After a number of unsuccessful adjustments as I headed down my street, I decided to just take off my glasses, and deal with a bit of blur. I put my glasses in my coat pocket, and we continued on our way. With my perfect 2020 hindsight, I realize now that this was a Bad Idea.

I didn’t really have too much trouble seeing. (It’s not like I need to read any road signs while walking the dog). However, further along in our walk, I saw another person and dog in the distance. I couldn’t make out who it was, so I decided to put my glasses back on. This was when I discovered that my glasses were not in my pocket.

Much to my dog’s disappointment, I turned us around to head back, so that we could retrace our steps, all the while hoping that I hadn’t dropped them in the busy street we’d crossed. I looked carefully on the ground as we walked, hoping to find them somewhere, uncrushed.

There were two major challenges to this endeavor. 1) Much of the ground looked like this:

And 2) I was not wearing my glasses, so I couldn’t see the ground very clearly.

I rushed us back home to get an old pair of glasses so that I could better stand a chance of seeing my glasses. And then we walked again, retracing our steps once more. And then all the way home again. And I saw a lot, I mean A LOT, of leaves.

What I did not see was my glasses.

On the bright side, my glasses were over a year old, and it was time to replace them. And I have some old glasses that are close enough to my current prescription. However I still didn’t like losing them. And I knew it was going to bug me endlessly. I was almost at the point of hoping to find them crushed somewhere, just to have the resolution of it.

When the time came for the dog’s afternoon walk, I bundled up again, put on an older pair of glasses, and a mask that doesn’t tend to causes fogginess. And we went back once again, retracing the path of the morning walk again. And on our way back home, I carefully stepped along the side of the road, pushing through the leaves with my feet. (And shuddering at the crunch any time I stepped on an acorn.) But then amazingly, miraculously, I saw an unexpected vision: my glasses peeking out from the leaves. They were remarkably unmarked from their ordeal.

Sending out thanks

I’m still feeling the joy of yesterday’s declaration of the Biden-Harris win. I love seeing the term “joyscrolling,” as people read about the excitement over this historic moment. I am feeling deeply thankful. I am sending out my thanks to the universe, but also to the people who worked tirelessly to combat voter suppression, and to make sure that more voices are heard in our democracy. And to many others who made this election and its results happen.

I’m also working on more directly thanking the group of people I connected with on my postcard and letter writing projects. I’m historically Very Bad at sending mail, especially thank you notes. (But also things like letters, emails, and even birth announcements¹. I usually send one Christmas card each year to one uncle, but rarely manage more than that.) So relatives of mine who have noticed my Postal Deficiency Disorder may be surprised to know that I personally mailed out over 600 pieces of mail to voters, and organized several thousand more. And they might be even more shocked that I am planning to send out handwritten thank you notes (or at least postcards) to the 50+ people who helped me with this project. I have finished writing 46 of them, and have only 9 to go.

So, I don’t have a lot of time to write tonight, because I need to write tonight. (Though now I’m realizing that I did just spend a fair amount of time writing this post explaining why I didn’t have time to write a post.)

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¹ Let it be known that I only ever sent off one (yes, count them: one) birth announcement when Theo was born. And it was somewhat by mistake, because I had meant to wait to send that one until the rest (or at least some others) were finished. However, John saw the stamped and addressed envelope ready to go and helpfully mailed it. And then who knows what happened to interrupt the writing and sending of the rest of the pile. Here it is, over 12 years later, and I probably still have relatives who don’t know I have a second child.

Doing a happy dance

This morning the news broke that the presidential election was called for Biden. While votes are still being tallied, it looks like the Biden/Harris campaign has surpassed the needed 270 electoral votes. (Thank you, Pennsylvania!) The rest of my day has been a whirl of emotions. I’ve cried some tears of joy and relief, talked and texted with friends and family, and spent a good hour and a half dancing around my house. (Bonus: this was a pretty solid cardio workout.)

I know there’s still a lot of work to be done. The pandemic is still raging, and this country is more divided than ever. But for today and tonight, I’m going to drink in the joy and relief. (I also drank in a bit of sparkling wine that I had in the fridge.)