Fall 2015: Cardinal, Robin, Squirrel, Hawthorn Berry

Finally I had time to fill my bird feeder and take out my camera with the telephoto lens.

cardinal up close
I got really close to this cardinal, but it was a little dark.

robin in tree
I was surprised to see a robin in a tree, but I am guessing it was visiting the tree because the berries have come out.

hawthorn berries
Speaking of berries, the hawthorn berry tree around the corner is now boasting its red beautiful berries. You can also see hawthorn berries in this 2013 post.

black capped chickadee
I believe this little guy is a black-capped chickadee. Cute is the word that comes to mind.

black capped chickadee
And here is Mr. black-capped chickadee hanging out, munching in my window feeder.

I am quite fond of the lighting in this photo, highlighting the busy squirrel on top of my garage with a backdrop of yellow and orange autumn leaves.

blue jay
The blue jay hopped around way too much for me to get a clear picture.

What do you see in your backyard or in your neighborhood?

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Veterans Day Parade in Highland Park, NJ – 2015

Veteran's Day Parade in Highland Park, New Jersey
One of the nicest parts of living in Highland Park, New Jersey is the way the little borough celebrates events such as Veterans Day and Memorial Day. This year I was fortunate to be able to attend the Veterans Day Parade in Highland Park, NJ. The parade begins at the dough boy at the corner of Raritan Avenue and Woodbridge Avenue and goes down Raritan Avenue into New Brunswick.

Raritan Avenue
The whole avenue is closed for a few hours as the ceremony takes place at the dough boy, and then the marchers head down the avenue towards New Brunswick.

Rabbi Kaminetsky
Rabbi Kaminetsky (chaplain of the police department and rabbi emeritus of Congregation Ohav Emeth) read something – I think it was called a convocation? at the beginning of the ceremony. A talented teenager my daughter knows sang the Star Spangled Banner.

Gayle Brill Mittler speaks at Veteran's Day Parade
Mayor of Highland Park Gayle Brill Mittler spoke – her speech was posted online on the Highland Park, NJ Facebook page. Here is one piece of her speech: “If you are an employer, hire a veteran. If you own property for rent, seek out a veteran who is looking for a new home. Welcome our veterans back home with more than words and parades.”

Congressman Frank Pallone
Congressman Frank Pallone mentioned in his speech electing politicians that support benefits for veterans.

Jim Polos
Freeholder Jim Polos spoke as well.

dog at Veteran's Day Parade
I really enjoyed this dog who seemed to a spectator at the parade; he and his master were hanging out with the veterans before the parade began.

children at Veteran's Day Parade
There were lots of children at the Veteran’s Day Parade. I think they had school, and they came with their teachers for the parade.

cheerleaders at parade kicking up
This group of cheerleaders seemed to be having a great time at the parade. The Highland Park mascot is an owl.


I know the Jewish War Veterans were there as well – they were mentioned. You can see a post about the Jewish War Veterans from several years ago, when my son was in eighth grade.

There was a variety of people gathered – next to these young drummers, you can see older men wearing jackets and stars-and-stripes ties.

Gayle Brill Mittler
Here is Gayle Brill Mittler walking down Raritan Avenue – she and many others were handing out those little U.S. flags. It made the whole atmosphere festive.

New Brunswick
Groups from New Brunswick marched as well.

fire engines
It was neat to watch all those fire engines all lined up.

Have you ever seen a Veterans Day Parade? Do they celebrate and honor veterans where you live?

Colorful Fall Foliage 2015

fall foliage Highland Park, NJ 2015
It’s a lovely time of year in New Jersey – if you drive or walk about in various neighborhoods or on the highways, you will have the pleasure of beautiful, colorful foliage. As I have been quite busy with work, I decided to take my camera on a Sunday and just walk down my own street. The photos on this post are my vibrant, lively captures.

cat crossing road in front of foliage
I took these photos last week as I walked down the block. Happy to capture a cat crossing the road quickly.

red trees
I enjoy when the leaves turn all different colors – mostly red, orange, yellow and various shades of green or brown. When a tree turns brown, it has not gotten enough water – we had a few days of lots of rain, but then whole weeks of none at all.

tall autumn trees
It is nice to observe the various trees at varied times of the year.

snapdragons and roses
My neighbor’s display of roses and snapdragons is still looking good.

rose up close
Here is a rose in foreground, white snapdragons, and pink snapdragons behind.

rudbeckia and mums
The rudbeckia (yellow black-eyed susan) and maroon mums are in front of my house. Happy to say I still have a few flowers in bloom!

Your turn, please

What’s going on in your neighborhood? Any colorful fall foliage? Or do you live in a part of the world that stays green or brown?

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

Blog tips: at the end of a post, it is often a nice idea to ask a question or two of your audience. If you don’t get any responses at all, maybe you need to share the post on social media with those who might be interested. Or find out if your topic isn’t coming across clearly.

Squash Carrot Soup – Orange and Yummy

ingredients for Butternut Squash Carrot Soup - with a leek
I’ve been making this butternut squash carrot soup a few times this fall. Learn more about its creation in the note at the bottom. If you are creative, you can serve it in a pumpkin along with a pea soup by its side. I didn’t do the pumpkin.

Squash Carrot Soup – Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash (or one half if quite large)
  • 4 -8 carrots, peeled and cut in circles
  • 1 leek
  • 1 small onion or 1/2 large onion
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil or coconut oil for sauteing the onion and leek
  • A few small leaves of fresh rosemary (optional)
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh ginger root (optional and recommended – I left it out because my daughter doesn’t care for fresh ginger, sigh)

Peel the butternut squash. If really large and you just soup for 4 people, you might consider using just half a squash. Cut in half, and pull out the seeds. Place in a pot; fill the pot with water to cover the squash. Let it cook. Meanwhile, slice and cut 4-8 carrots – even more if you have the energy. Note: this was originally a carrot soup alone – see note below. Add the carrot circles to the butternut squash with water that is cooking. Next: get a pan ready to saute the onion and leek. You can saute in olive oil or coconut oil – whatever you prefer. Chop the onion and leek finely first and add the oil to the pan. When the pan is hot (add an onion piece and watch it sizzle), add the onion bits, stir for a few minutes, and when the onion is tender, add the chopped leek. After sauteing for about 10 minutes, add the leek and onion to the pot with squash and carrots. Add the spices (allspice, cumin and ginger if using). Add a bit of chopped, fresh rosemary if using. Let the squash soup cook for about 1/2 hour. Then either use an immersion stick directly in the pot to blend the soup, or transfer the solid parts of the soup to a food processor, blend it and transfer back to the liquid. The advantage of the latter method is you can add less liquid if you want and have a thicker soup. I do the food processor method. Serve warm, although if you are quite hungry, it tastes OK room temperature, too. Enjoy!

butternut carrot squash soup

Note: this was originally just a carrot soup. My neighbor told me verbally how to make it. She had made it along with a pea soup, and she served the carrot soup along the pea soup in a pumpkin. Yes, each of us had our own pumpkin as a bowl. It was yummy – even my daughter ate it. So this soup developed because my daughter wanted a carrot soup. However, the carrots I had when I first made it were organic and thin. I would have had to have peeled at least 20 or 30 to get a substantial soup. So I changed it to a squash/carrot soup so it would stay orange. My first attempt had two leeks, not enough carrots, and turned green. Green is a fine color for a soup, but not a fitting color for a carrot soup.

Soup Reaction – What’s in Your Soup?

Have you ever made a similar soup? What ingredients did you put in? Did you use any particular cooking methods?

Tech notes: if you look at the bottom of this post, you will see a link for both the category for recipes and tags for other carrot recipes or carrot topic posts. If you click on the recipes category, you will see a list of clickable tags in all the recipe posts. Starting now, at the end of each post, I will attempt to write a little about blogging that might help some up-and-coming blogger out there.

A Gerber Daisy Blooms

Gerber Daisy - September 18, 2015
I have been following this Gerber daisy plant with my camera for the past few weeks. These photos are posted with most recent at the top – you can watch the Gerber daisy bloom through my photos. My daughter and my husband originally bought this plant three Mother’s Days ago – it has survived two winters. At the bottom of this post, you can see what it looked like in the beginning of Spring 2015. The top photo was taken September 18, 2015.

Gerber Daisy - September 16
September 16, 2015

After a lovely day of rain:
Gerber Daisy - September 11
September 11, 2015

Gerber daisy September 10
September 10, 2015

gerber daisy bud
September 9, 2015

This is where the gerber daisy plant started last spring:
gerber daisy plant
March 29, 2015

How it looked two years ago (and virtually visit our sukkah):

Finally a few fun facts from Wikipedia:

Gerbera is a genus of plants in the Asteraceae (daisy family). It was named in honour of German botanist and medical doctor Traugott Gerber[3] | (1710-1743) who travelled extensively in Russia and was a friend of Carolus Linnaeus.

Gerbera is native to tropical regions of South America, Africa and Asia. The first scientific description of a Gerbera was made by J.D. Hooker in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1889 when he described Gerbera jamesonii, a South African species also known as Transvaal daisy or Barberton Daisy. Gerbera is also commonly known as the African Daisy.

Gerbera is important commercially. It is the fifth most used cut flower in the world (after rose, carnation, chrysanthemum, and tulip). It is also used as a model organism in studying flower formation.

For More Nature Notes:
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Enjoying Rosh Hashana: Celebrating with Simanim

Rosh Hashana tableOn the first night of Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) we have a table displayed with various foods – most are fruits and vegetables. These foods are called simanim – symbols. When I was growing up, I only remember dipping the apple in the honey as a siman – I don’t recall doing any of the others. It could be that doing so many of the simanim is more of a Sephardi than an Ashkenazi custom; however, the Ashkenazi prayer books do include the simanim. I described and illustrated simanim on past posts: you can see 9 illustrations or photos of simanim here. This past post has a list of the simanim. The Sephardim actually refer to eating the simanim as a Rosh Hashana seder.

Because the High Holidays (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) can be quite serious (the prayers are long and there is a lot of standing in shul), I like to emphasize the parts of each holiday that are enjoyable. Thus the beginning of the title of this post: Enjoying Rosh Hashana. Maybe I will make this a theme for other Jewish holidays as well; however, you won’t find such a title for Tisha B’Av (the saddest day on the Jewish calendar) – that would not be appropriate. Maybe for a day such that one I could say: Finding meaning in Tisha B’Av.

Below is one siman that I have been doing for the past few years. It represents the head of a fish. I did once buy the actual head of a fish. It smelled so bad I couldn’t wait to throw it. We do eat fish, but only if it is fresh! Maybe next August I will write a post on how to make the head of a fish using gefilte fish.

gefilte fish head

This post was written in honor of my blogger friend Batya. Many years ago she found an early post of mine and volunteered to submit to a blog carnival that she ran called Kosher Cooking Carnival. Recently, she has struggled to find people interested in the blog carnivals. I think more people are using Facebook for quick sharing. And the few bloggers that are left may have other ideas (SEO, social media) for sharing posts. Every now and then someone writes a “Is Blogging Dead?” kind of post. No, it’s not, but one does have to get creative. Batya wrote a recent post about Rosh Hashana fruit head (instead of a fish or lamb head or other animal).

Over to You

If you are Jewish, have you celebrated Rosh Hashana with simanim? Which ones have you done? Does it make your holiday more enjoyable?

Are you a blogger? Do you think people are blogging less in general? Do people share differently? Are blog carnivals a thing of the past?

rosh hashana simanim
On our Rosh Hashana table: apple, honey, dates, pomegranate, carrots