Turtley Trendy

Our pet glass turtles, named Turtley and Turtoo, are looking turtley trendy in their new hats. Livia’s designs are on the cutting edge of turtle fashion.
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Totally Ineffective

I’m good at giving up addictions, and I’ve given up many of them over the years, but it would be more effective if I didn’t keep replacing them with new ones.

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Berry Tempting

These leaves of this shrub caught my eye as I was walking down the path one day in October.
When I looked closer, I noticed that the shrub had speckled red berries on it.

My field guides did not have any information on this plant, so I had to depend on the Internet. The search phrase “tree with speckled red berries” brought up results for autumn olive, and I believe that’s what this shrub is. Here are several websites that mention it: one, two, three, and four. The last of the four has a good picture of the flowers. The flowers make me even more sure of the identification. I have definitely seen their kind before. If my media server were working right now, I’m sure that I could find my own pictures of autumn olive flowers from a few years ago.

It’s unfortunate that autumn olive is considered to be an invasive plant, but I figure all plants are, if given the chance. So are people, when you think about it. Everything wants to live and grow to the greatest extent it can.

Autumn olive berries are said to be edible, and they certainly do look tempting. I’m naturally cautious, though, and I would want to be extra careful when foraging in this area. Mixed in among the shrubs that appeared to be autumn olive were other berrying shrubs and vines, some of which I know to be poisonous. I read somewhere that if you don’t know what you’re doing, never eat a red berry that you find in the woods, because the odds of it being poisonous are high. Happy thought. But I suppose I’ll get better at identifying plants, and more confident about it, as I continue, and I’ll work up the courage to sample the edible types of berries someday.

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A Confession of Sorts

I understand why the Hogwarts first years are nervous about being sorted. I wouldn’t want to face the Sorting Hat myself. I’d be crushed to be placed in Hufflepuff and terrified to be placed in Slytherin. Only Gryffindor or Ravenclaw would do, but only half the kids can be sorted into those two houses. Half the kids have to go elsewhere.

Hufflepuff is, let’s be honest, the uncoolest of the four houses. It’s for the mediocre and the dull, for the kids who aren’t brave enough, smart enough, or interesting enough to get into the other houses. It’s terrible to say so, because Hufflepuffs are good, hard workers, the kind of people without which this world would grind to a halt. But, J.K. Rowling herself made it clear that Gryffindor was the best house and Ravenclaw the second best. Hufflepuff is meh. You can tell just by the name. It’s the only one that’s silly.

I am tempted to say that I would pick Slytherin over Hufflepuff, that I’d rather be evil than dull, but that’s not true. I like to flirt with danger. I can be rebellious. But I’m certain the other Slytherins would scare me and that I would balk at doing anything truly evil, which would make Slytherin an intolerable place to be.

Which leaves Gryffindor, for which I am not brave enough, and Ravenclaw, for which I might not be smart enough. So, there’s a very good chance I’d be a Hufflepuff, crushed.

In the end, the problem with the four houses is that they’re too much like cliques. Cliques tend to generate strong feelings. And the Sorting Hat, to a degree, has the power to decide if the feelings will be good or bad. So keep that Sorting Hat far away from me!

Plus, I doubt it’s ever been washed, so ew 😉

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Practice Makes Perfect

They say that practice makes perfect, which means that if you do something often enough you’ll get good at it. So how come I can’t even eat without getting food all over myself? You’d think I’d have eaten food often enough to be good at it by now. Oh, but wait. This makes sense. I wasn’t paying enough attention to what I was practicing. I was actually practicing getting food all over myself, and now I’m really good at it. So what they say is true. Practice does make perfect, and now I’m a perfect slob. 😉

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Mission Accomplished

One of my missions today was to identify a mystery plant (pictured above) that I found on a previous walk. I had decided that it was probably bearberry or mountain cranberry, two plants that are said to be similar in appearance and often found growing in the same areas. My plan was to look for berries and examine the leaves more closely.
Berries: check!
OK, not a lot of berries, and not exactly fresh, but enough to prove that it is indeed a berrying plant.
Small, shiny leaves: check!
Black specks on the back of the leaves: check!

The black specks make me think that it’s mountain cranberry, but that’s a problematic identification. Mountain cranberry is rare in Massachusetts and its status is listed as “Endangered.” According to the state’s Fisheries & Wildlife page for mountain cranberry, “only one occurrence of this species has been documented recently, on Mt. Greylock; historically, two occurrences were reported, but are still unverified.” Mt. Greylock is a long way from here. I’d like to think that I’ve discovered a rare plant in an unexpected place, so I might contact the state to report it. We’ll see.

For now, since I specifically looked for the black specks on the plant and found them, I’m calling it mountain cranberry (or, as my inner Swede prefers to call it, lingonberry). Maybe if I’m feeling courageous next year I’ll try tasting a few of the berries. Bearberries and lingonberries are said to taste quite different. One is bland and the other tart. My palate is not exactly sophisticated, but I should be able to tell the difference between bland and tart.

Before then, I have a new mission to undertake. When I was pregnant with Marshall, my hubby and I hiked up another local hill. There I found a plant that, at the time, I thought could be bearberry. Having a baby was a huge distraction from my ramblings, though, and I never got back up there again. I really should go see now, shouldn’t I? Because whether it’s bearberry or mountain cranberry or something else, it’s bound to be interesting. Even if it’s not there anymore (ten years have passed, after all), I’m sure I’ll find something else worth looking at. I always do!

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Movie Grudge

I haven’t been reading much (too tired), but on the bright and fiery side, I finally watched Dante’s Peak. I like disaster movies, so why hadn’t I yet seen this film from 1997? I had a reason, and it was that it took me all these years to get over the disappointment that was Volcano, another disaster movie that came out the same year. After you’ve been “burned” that badly by a volcano movie, you become leery of volcano movies.

Roger Ebert, in his review of Dante’s Peak, said that the film “follows the disaster formula so faithfully that if you walk in while the movie is in progress, you can estimate how long the story has to run. That it is skillful is a tribute to the filmmakers.”

I agree with Ebert. The movie was entirely formulaic, but it hit all the notes on pitch. As I watched, I was concerned about the characters as they crossed an acidic lake in a sinking boat. I felt sorry for the guy about to be swept away by the obligatory flood, but also satisfied, because movie justice demanded his death (it was his fault that the town hadn’t evacuated in time). I was impressed that the “crossing the lava” scene included some flames. One of my pet peeves about movie lava is that the flammable things touching the lava don’t catch fire, because shouldn’t they? Sure, the scene was ridiculous, because crossing a lava flow in a truck isn’t remotely feasible, but at least the truck caught fire. Give me a realistic detail or two and I can let the rest of the nonsense pass, even the missing dog who suddenly reappeared and jumped into the truck mid-lava and survived unscathed even though the truck was on fire. In fact, that was one of the best scenes in the movie. A good disaster movie combines the ridiculous and the believable in just the right measure.

Now, if I could just go back in time to 1997, I would watch Dante’s Peak instead of Volcano and save myself 20+ years of movie grudge-holding.

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Tomorrow’s Missions

My husband and I have finally agreed on which curtains to get for our bedroom, so one of my missions for tomorrow is to go buy them. The other mission is to hike one of the local paths again to find out if the mystery plants I saw in September now have any berries on them. If they do, then they’re probably either bearberry or mountain cranberry (a.k.a., lingonberry). I must try to remember the differences between them: bearberry leaves are said to be leathery; lingonberry leaves are supposed to be smaller and shinier and have black spots on the back. An alternative name for bearberry is “kinnikinnick,” which is a cool-looking word that’s also fun to say, and lingonberries are sort of exotic, so the discovery of either one would be exciting. I just hope it’s not too late in the season for berries!

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An Ostentation of Asters

This is one of the types of asters that grows along the edges of my yard and in the woods nearby. This particular plant was chosen to act as an example of the type. Not by me, but by the sun, a ray of which was bursting through the darkness of the woods to land on these flowers. To me, it was a sign, and I followed the sign. I believe this type of aster is what would be called a “white wood aster,” but that’s the extent of naming that I’m going to do for this post. There are too many kinds of asters for me to try to distinguish between them. (Most of the names are awfully boring anyway, with descriptors such as “stiff,” “panicled,” “big-leaved,” etc.)
This type of aster also grows in my yard. It’s different from the other, but equally aster-y.
I found these asters growing in the woods near the library. They were blue but different from the blue asters in my post from the other day.
Ooh. A fuzzy aster. I found this one on a meadow path.
OMG, it’s an aster bush!
Aster from Massachusetts
Blue asters are the most gorgeous, but these white ones almost give them a run for their money, don’t they?
But why limit ourselves to white and blue. Let’s try a little pink/purple.
And why limit ourselves to just a little color when we can have so much more? Wow!
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The problem with Saturday is that it looks so much bigger on Friday.

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