petty potato predicament

discoball-colander
My colander (in which I rinsed my potatoes) looked rather like a disco ball in the bright morning light.

We had Thanksgiving dinner at our house this year, which has become a tradition in recent years. In addition to my family of four, plus my mother-in-law (who is in assisted living in a neighboring town), it has also become a tradition to invite a friend of mine and her two boys.  This year, we were happy to have my mother join us from California, bringing our grand total to 9.

I know that many people host big gatherings of 20 or even 40 people, which honestly sounds totally exhausting to this quiet introvert. (I’ll stick to my table for 9, thank you very much.)

While this relatively small and very comfortable gathering tends to be pretty low-key, I do go a bit crazy with the side dishes. For me, the “side” dishes are actually the main event of the meal. (My immediate family doesn’t eat turkey, and I’m not able to eat the Tofurkey that the rest of my family eats.) So we tend to have lots of different things: various roasted vegetables, stuffing (my famous “stuffed pan”), mashed potatoes, veggie gravy, cranberry sauce(s), as well as simple vegetables like corn and green beans. My mother and I spent much of yesterday chopping and prepping veggies. I went to bed feeling like we were in pretty good shape.

However, going through my mental list as I lay in bed, I got stuck on the potatoes. I intentionally hadn’t prepped the potatoes, as I didn’t want them to brown. But I also hadn’t really counted them.

Doing my mental calculations of person-to-potato ratios, I suddenly became convinced that I didn’t have nearly enough potatoes. It was almost midnight, and I knew that stores would be closed in the morning. (This didn’t stop me from searching online for various grocery stores and checking their hours). I mentally reconfigured the quantities of potatoes in the roasted root vegetables (in which they traditionally play a key role) and considered what remaining potatoes could be left to mash. I imagined rationing out the paltry portions of potatoes to family and guests.

I agonized over the potatoes. I seriously lost sleep. It was not so much a potato panic as a ponderous potato pessimism.

In the morning, I counted the potatoes. The situation was less dire than I’d imagined in my late-night ravings. But still, I apparently could not let it drop. While walking the dog, I persisted in pondering about potatoes. I texted my friend who would be joining us for dinner: “Do you have any potatoes?”

This is, of course, a totally normal question to ask a friend out of the blue.

potato-greeting

The story has a happy ending. My friend brought along her potatoes, and I added a few of them to my boiling pot of potatoes. The resulting mashed potatoes were of respectable quantities. No garments were rent over tiny potato allowances.

In the end, the meal and the day were successful and fulfilling. I am feeling full of both gratitude and potatoes.

And I have to laugh at myself for getting so worked up about such small potatoes.

 

rather fond of moss

As the leaves have mostly faded, I’ve found my eyes pulled to other splashes of color. I’m not sure whether the moss is particularly bright this time of year, or whether it’s bright by contrast with the largely gray and brown landscape. In any case, I’ve appreciated the many little mossy installations I’ve encountered on my morning walks.

This scene is on a neighbor’s retaining wall. It looks to me rather like a garden wall in miniature. Or perhaps a distant cliff overgrown and overhung with lush greenery.cliff-garden-moss

I couldn’t quite capture the striking colors of the rock in the photo below. The rock surface itself is almost completely covered in pale minty green lichen. And the floofs of bright green moss practically glow.

moss-rock

I find the little fuzzy shapes to be just *cute*. A friend suggested that this one looks a bit like a duckling.

moss-duckling

Then there’s this lush pillow of moss, also on the neighbor’s retaining wall. I took the photo just to capture the comfy softness of it, but then when I looked at it, I saw a sleeping dragon. (In case you don’t see it, I’ve added some visual aids here.)

moss-dragon1

Having taken a number of moss photos in the last few days, I was reminded that some of the very first photos I took with my new phone (in February of last year) were of some moss on my street.  I think this one looks rather like an aerial view of a scrubby landscape.first-moss

late hangers-on

Some leaves just haven’t gotten the memo that it’s time to let go.

japanese-maple1japanese-maple2japanese-maple4japanese-maple3

These are the same trees I posted about 3 years ago. That year, the leaves turned bright red, before being tossed down like a red carpet overnight in a rain storm. This year, the leaves have been continuing to cling. Most are pretty shrivelled, some have lost most of their color. But in the angled morning light, I liked the way their mottled coloration looked like watercolor.

umbrellas saved for a rainy day

It’s been a rainy day, today.  I didn’t think to grab an umbrella when I was out during the day, but I dug up a few from my photo library back at home.

When you have the opportunity to travel and visit exciting locations, you generally hope for clear skies and moderate temperatures. But sometimes (especially in some parts of the world) you get rain. If you are lucky, other visitors will come equipped with colorful umbrellas to add splashes of color to liven the scene.

These were taken near(ish) and far (some very far), mostly quite a few years ago.

First are visitors to Brú na Bóinne in Ireland, the site of ancient burial mounds in 2014. (I was in Ireland for a conference in Dublin.)

umbrellas-bru-na-boinne
Tourists with umbrellas visiting Brú na Bóinne.

The next photo was taken in Kyoto, when I visited in 2004. The specific locale may have been Nijō Castle. This was back when I only had a pretty so-so point-and-shoot digital camera. I was happy with a lot of photos at the time, but now when I look back at them, I’m sad I wasn’t able to take better quality photos. (This one turned out okay, but a lot of the ones I otherwise like are pretty blurry and/or grainy.) (I was in Japan for  a conference in Nara.)

umbrellas-kyoto
Tourists with umbrellas in Kyoto,

This next one was in London in 2015, on the Millennium Bridge. (I was in the UK for a conference in Glasgow. Magically, it didn’t rain at all for the nearly 2 weeks we were in Scotland. We visited London for 2 days, and it rained both of them.)

umbrellas-london-millenium-bridge
Tourists with umbrellas in London.

This is another one from my trip to Ireland in 2014. I believe this was in the garden of Malahide Castle.

umbrellas-malahide
Visitors with umbrellas at Malahide, Ireland.

Next we a visit to Plimoth Plantation (in Plymouth, Massachusetts) in 2014. (I was in Massachusetts because I live here. And visiting Plimoth Plantation for my daughter’s school project.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Visitors with umbrellas at Plimoth Plantation, Massachusetts.

And finally, a couple of photos from Versailles, France in 2007. (I had a conference in Saarbrucken, Germany, and visited Paris afterward.)

umbrellas-versailles2
Tourists with umbrellas at Versailles

This is possibly my favorite of the umbrella photos, because it appears to tell a story.

 

umbrellas-versailles
Woman pursued by group of umbrella-weilding tourists at Versailles.

 

late fall show

The curtains have closed on the fall production put on by the big trees, but some of the smaller ones decided to put on their own show. Whoever was in charge of wardrobe design for this production sure picked some striking color combinations. I was also impressed by the lighting, which really brought out some of the technical details of the sets and choreography. I can’t wait to see what they can pull off next season.

bittersweet revelations

Bittersweet is an adjective, meaning “both pleasant and painful or regretful“.

Bittersweet is also the name of a woody vine that is recognizable for its brightly colored berries. In the summer, they ripen to bright yellow. In the fall, however, the yellow berry husks open up to reveal a bright red berry.

bittersweet2

These cheerful red and yellow berries really catch the eye in the largely bleak gray post-foliage late fall landscape. These are some bittersweet berries I’ve passed on my morning walks.

bittersweet1

While there is a species of bittersweet that is native to North America (where I live), the variety I tend to see originates in Asia. It is not only non-native, but is considered to be highly invasive. And sadly, as was revealed when the foliage fell, the vines of this plant can strangle trees.

strangled-tree

Seeing the way the vines appear to dig deeply into the tree bark, it looks as if this slow strangulation has been going on for quite some time. Many seasons, and perhaps even many years.

Version 2

So while I can appreciate the beautiful looks of the berries, I can’t help but feel rather sad about the fate of the trees these vines choose as hosts.

bittersweet-riot

Bittersweet, indeed.