Shiny happy things

Quinceañera finery

Last month when J and I spent a long weekend visiting family in Houston, we saw a teenage girl in frilly pink finery posing for pictures aboard the Battleship Texas, her Kate Winslet “queen of the worldTitanic moment at the bow of the ship back-dropped by the nearby San Jacinto Monument.

San Jacinto Monument

“This is a popular place for Quinceañera pictures,” J’s niece noted, and both she and I explained to J the coming-of-age celebration that Mexican families typically throw for daughters on the occasion of their fifteenth birthday. “It’s like sweet sixteen,” J’s niece observed: a ceremonial celebration of a girl’s passage into womanhood, with appropriately feminine finery. When J expressed amazement that any girl would want to pose for a pink and frilly photo-shoot on a retired battleship, I shrugged. Is a war monument any less appropriate for coming-of-age pictures than a harborside Presidential library is for wedding photos?

I forgot all about this anonymous girl and her sweet fifteen photo-shoot until yesterday, when I realized that crabapples, cherries, and other flowering fruit trees get to pose for pink and frilly Quinceañera pictures every year.

Pink & frilly


In case you’ve ever wondered what the berries in your Thanksgiving cranberry sauce looked like before they got sauced, here’s your answer.

Water reel

At last month’s final regular-season New England Revolution soccer match, the folks from Ocean Spray set up an artificial cranberry bog outside the entrance to Gillette Stadium, where soccer fans could see what a New England cranberry harvest really looks like. Cranberry vines grow in marshy areas, and the fastest way to harvest cranberries is to flood the entire area, a process called wet harvesting. Once the vines are covered with water, machines called water reels rake the berries from the vines, and the cranberries–which contain pockets of air–float to the surface of the water, where they are gathered by growers.

Cranberry growers chat with passersby

The artificial bog outside Gillette Stadium had all the accoutrements of an actual cranberry bog: potted cranberry vines along the border of the bog, thousands of floating cranberries, a working water reel, and three men in hip-waders who stood up to their shins in wet cranberries while answering questions and chatting with passersby. In mid-October, it seems there isn’t anything lovelier than a New England cranberry bog, even if that cranberry bog is only a reasonable facsimile of the real thing.

Although I’ve never been much of a fan of cranberry sauce, I regularly drink cranberry juice. When I was growing up, my mom raved about the health benefits of cranberries, especially noting cranberries’ legendary ability to help women avoid bladder infections. The folks from Ocean Spray weren’t handing out any free samples of cranberry sauce or cranberry juice, but they were handing out packets of dried cranberries, which are just as tasty as a tall glass of cranberry juice. I guess that’s one more thing to be thankful for.

Click here for a complete photo set from the cranberry bog at Gillette Stadium last month. Whether or not you’re eating cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, I hope your holiday is safe, restful, and happy.


Technically, this ghoulish fellow (one of an entire tree of dangling ghosts, skeletons, and beasties that appears in a neighbor’s yard this time every year) is well dressed, not well groomed. But semantics aside, you have to admit he’s a delightfully dapper dude.

This is my contribution to yesterday’s Photo Friday theme, Well Groomed. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Police lineup

Checking out the motorcycles

Although there had been some concern that budget woes would prevent the city of Boston from providing security for Sail Boston 2009, the event happened regardless this weekend, with plenty of police officers on the waterfront to make sure everyone stayed safe while checking out the tall ships during their annual visit.

On Sunday afternoon, crowds at the Charlestown Navy Yard were well-behaved, giving several motorcycle cops a chance to take a rest in the shade while a throng of kids and camera-wielding parents admired their wheels. At least one little boy even got to live out every kid’s dream of climbing astride one of the big bikes while mom snapped pictures and dad waved to get Junior’s attention. Say cheese, son!

Boston PD's littlest rookie

Lest you think that Boston police officers were the only Good Guys on hand to garner positive PR by making friends with kids and parents, check out this picture of a Boston firefighter helping one little guy use a fire hose as an impromptu lawn sprinkler to cool off a handful of grateful kids.

It will probably take me a while to go through the hundreds of ship-pix I took this weekend; in the meantime, you can re-visit my photo-set of the Argentinean Navy training vessel La Libertad, which J and I toured in 2007. Enjoy!

Table & chair

Not long after I’d questioned the merit of short picture-posts, real life pulled me away from my laptop, precluding even those. But this week’s Photo Friday theme, Shiny, is an excellent excuse to share this image of the shiny metallic tables and neon-bright chairs at the new neighborhood ice cream parlor, a place which provides tasty treats for the eyes as well as the tongue.

Too lovely to toss

“If you like roses,” the cashier at Trader Joe’s in West Newton said this afternoon as she lifted the last bag of groceries into my cart, “you can select a bouquet to take with you.” On the floor at the end of her counter was a brimming bucket of flowers, and there were similar buckets lining the aisle to the exit.

“Leftover roses from Valentine’s Day,” I asked, the answer being obvious. “Yes,” she replied, “but you shouldn’t look at them as leftovers.” She’s exactly right. These aren’t this weekend’s trash but lonely flowers in need of adoption. Not being particular, I grabbed the first bouquet my hands fell upon: a double-dozen long-stemmed roses that would have cost a pretty penny a few days ago.

On my way to my car, I saw several women exiting the store with their carefully selected bouquets cradled like babies: one carried a mixed nosegay of roses and tulips, and another carried a small handful of still-closed rosebuds. Each woman was smiling, as I suspect I was, at her unforeseen good fortune.

Apologizing to "Chuck"

While flipping channels on Tuesday night, I happened upon the very end of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” (Yes, I shot these pictures straight from the television screen, probably breaking umpteen copyright laws in the process.)

It’s been years since I’ve seen any of the Charlie Brown holiday specials, but I watched them religiously when I was a child, and I confess to having in my car a copy of the soundtrack for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that I listen to every December. As a “weird kid,” I always related to Charlie Brown with his loser ways and “blockhead” inferiority. Couple those qualities with Linus’s soft-spoken nerdiness, Snoopy’s general goofiness, and Woodstock’s overall cuteness, and it all adds up to Peanuts being my favorite childhood cartoon.

Talking to grandma

Not having seen “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” in years, I had forgotten the basic gist of the story. I remembered Snoopy serving an impromptu Thanksgiving “dinner” of toast, popcorn, and pretzels to Charlie Brown’s guests–whenever my ex-husband and I found ourselves without a place to go for Thanksgiving, we’d sometimes joke that we’d cook a similar meal for ourselves. Typically, though, we’d decide to drive the 700-some miles back to either or both of our families in the Midwest for Thanksgiving, thereby saving ourselves the indignity of Thanksgiving popcorn, but that nontraditional menu was about all of the larger “Charlie Brown” story I really remembered.

Popcorn for Thanksgiving isn't so hot

Like all good children’s shows, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” makes its moral perfectly clear, even to blockheads. After Charlie Brown’s friends (in particular, a very vocal Peppermint Patty) start grumbling about the atrociously nontraditional meal Snoopy dishes out, Charlie Brown falls into his usual fit of self-deprecating depression while Marcie chides Patty for inviting herself and her friends to Charlie Brown’s house to begin with. On a roll, Marcie goes on to explain (again, in language even a blockhead can understand) the “real” meaning of Thanksgiving. It isn’t about what you eat, she explains. It’s about being grateful for who you’re with.

Everyone's invited to grandma's for dinner!

This year, J and I won’t be having a big turkey feast for Thanksgiving, but we won’t be moping over popcorn and toast, either. When I was married, my mother-in-law used to fret whenever she thought my then-husband and I weren’t going to have turkey on Turkey Day: in her mind, anything else just wasn’t the same. But the truth be told, I’ve never been a huge fan of turkey. Although I like it sliced in sandwiches, I’d really prefer just about anything else to a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings: it’s one of the ways I really am a “weird kid.” So in the spirit of Marcie’s message, J and I are having pasta, not turkey, for dinner tonight. It isn’t about what you eat, after all. It’s about being grateful for who you’re with.

Here’s hoping all of you have plenty to eat (turkey or otherwise), welcome companionship to share it with, and a grateful heart to receive it. In other words, happy Thanksgiving!

Three square meals

On the eve of America’s national holiday devoted to (over)eating, here’s a word in favor of moderation. Although we might, on Thanksgiving, skip breakfast and lunch in order to enjoy one really big meal, on all the other days of the year, it’s best to enjoy three square meals, even if all three of those squares are chocolate.

This divided chocolate bar, which I spotted at Borders while choosing a 2009 day-planner yesterday, reminds me of the one I spotted in Portsmouth, NH over a year ago. Whereas that chocolate bar was all about promoting marital happiness, this one is all about getting one’s own hungers fed: mine, mine, mine!

Out of the closet, but still inside the box

It looks like Ken’s come out of the closet, but he’s still thinking inside the box.

You look fabulous!

It’s not uncommon for my teaching colleagues at Keene State to leave boxes of graded papers and projects outside their offices for students to pick up after the semester’s over. It’s a little bit less common, though, for instructors to leave cross-dressing Ken dolls alongside piles of graded papers, but to each her or his own.

Several of the instructors whose offices neighbor mine teach in the Women’s Studies program, so a cross-dressing Ken doll decked out in faded jeans, a girly camisole, and a fabulous beaded handbag might very well represent some student’s final project on gender roles, children’s toys, and popular culture. Or, maybe one of my teaching colleagues simply likes to play with cross-dressing Ken dolls. At Keene State, we tolerate a diversity of toy preferences, so there’s nothing wrong with that.

I do feel a bit sorry for Ken, though. Now that it’s summer, he should be vacationing in Provincetown with the guys at Romeo’s Holiday rather than being stuck in a box in Keene.


I consider myself lucky to have a blog I can use an excuse to climb children’s playground equipment to snap curious and colorful photos. Most grown-ups, of course, need to have children to justify their spending any time at a playground…and when you’re a mom or dad, you presumably stay on the ground and observe while Junior tests out the equipment. But if you have a hungry blog to feed, you can engage in all kinds of playful and otherwise odd behavior. How could you tell, for instance, exactly what the inside of a jungle-gym tunnel looks like unless you climbed upon the thing to look for yourself?

Pretty pony

As adults, we easily acquire a kind of tunnel vision that looks at the world from strictly an adult-level view. How difficult it is for us grown-ups to remember how even the prettiest playground pony must have looked tall and daunting when we first looked upon it as tiny tots. Walking the usual streets and sidewalks of our mundane lives, it’s easy to forget the amazement and wonder that fills folks newer to our neighborhood. To a child, even a small, otherwise ordinary playground can be a miraculous spot where make-believe characters come alive, childhood lasts forever, and a kiss from Mom or Dad makes everything instantly All Better.

If our adult lives seem less magical than now-distant childhood days, perhaps that’s because we walk the same streets and sidewalks that children do, but our grown-up perspectives prevent us from seeing the color, whimsy, and wonder that’s so apparent to those closer to the ground. Walking past a playground, we adults see ordinary swings and slides…but if we allow ourselves to experience the same at eye-level–climbing up, crouching down, or otherwise deviating from our usual upright business–we might find an entirely new world of wonder in a neighborhood we thought we knew.

Make it better

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