Shiny happy things

The aliens have landed


Every now and then, I like to take pictures at the grocery store as a way of reminding myself of the abundance so many of us enjoy.


Today is Thanksgiving, a day officially devoted an attitude we should cultivate every day. As I explained last year, I always feel a bit tongue-tied at Thanksgiving, when one is officially expected to count one’s blessings. In my mind, I’ve been blessed with gifts too numerous to count: a loving husband, meaningful work, healthy pets, a roof over my head. Those are the obvious blessings, but less obvious are the simple pleasures that grace one’s life in unexpected ways.

Sometimes while I’m grocery shopping, for instance, I’m stunned by the simple wonder of so many choices–so many pumpkins, so many gourds, so many apples–that surround us daily. Isn’t every pumpkin, every gourd, every apple itself an infinite blessing? And yet we live in a world where we are surrounded by fruit and fruitfulness like leaves pouring down in the fall, the very picture of plenty. How is it, then, that we need an annual holiday to remind us of such riches?

Here’s wishing you and yours a happy Thanksgiving, filled to overflowing with a cornucopia of contentment.

Pumpkin cannibalism

This past weekend was the 20th annual Keene Pumpkin Festival, where you can see carved jack-o-lanterns of all shapes, sizes, and styles. Given all the cute, pretty, and aesthetically pleasing pumpkins on display, it’s always difficult to choose a favorite…but I always seem to gravitate toward those pumpkins that are just a little bit warped.

In addition to the act of pumpkin cannibalism depicted above, for example, J and I spotted a random act of pumpkin violence…

Random act of violence

…along with one pumpkin-person who looked like he’d been in a particularly nasty barroom brawl.

You should see the other guy!

Jack-o-lanterns with odd anatomical deformities naturally grab one’s attention…

Zucchini nose

…as do pumpkins in curious colors.

Pumpkin skulls

One ghoulish gourd displayed such monstrous features, he might best be termed a “Franken-pumpkin.”


Some of the “pumpkins” at the Keene Pumpkin Fest played freely with the definition of “jack-o-lantern,” as in the case of this gourd-geous green swan.

Gourd-geous green swan

Things of beauty notwithstanding, the most creative–and arguably most warped–carved creation we saw at Saturday’s Pumpkin Festival was a gutted spaghetti-squash “baby” with a disgustingly dirty diaper.

Stinky spaghetti-squash diaper

This is my belated contribution to last week’s Photo Friday theme, Warped. Saturday’s Pumpkin Festival reportedly attracted a crowd of 70,000 humans and 22,943 lit jack-o-lanterns, a bunch of which you can see in my 2010 Pumpkin Festival photo-set. Enjoy!

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!

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