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Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Funnies

"John" on the run ?


(Spotted this porta-potty going down the road during a snowstorm this past winter.)

 Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Catching Some Sun

That's what has been happening here in Nashua, NH because the weather has finally been improving. It's not that this past winter was that severe, just long lasting with the final snowfall in early April. Now, things are much better.

Trees are budding and Spring flowers are blooming . . .





It's time to catch some sun . . .


And, take lots of walks in nearby Mine Falls Park . . .


Sidewalk art is colorful and cheerful, like the weather . . .



We hope that Spring has arrived for you too — and that you are enjoying it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Good Reads

Murder is always unpleasant and, by its very nature, it's nearly always violent.

It's one thing to read about fictionalized murders, but entirely different to hear, read about and/or see the aftermath of any violent and senseless crimes.

While I've read a great many books in the past year, many have also included scenarios where characters have died; some in quite unpleasant and very nasty ways. The difference is that in these accounts, horrendous events can be skimmed over and, perhaps, forgotten. Sadly, that's not the case with so many very real events today.

I won't go into all the plot details or outcomes of the books in this post. If you enjoy suspense novels, you may want to check these out for yourself. Both books grabbed (and held) my attention from start to finish.

Murder House revolves around murders committed in a long-neglected estate on Ocean Drive in the Hamptons of New York state. It's a story of money, revenge and murder. Years ago, the original mansion burnt down under suspicious circumstances killing a couple inside. 

It was later rebuilt but rumored to be cursed when a series of murders begin anew. A Hollywood agent and local waitress/aspiring actress are found murdered in a very gruesome manner. Later, two young women are murdered in the house, again in a very unpleasant way. 

Former NYC detective Jenna Murphy, who is seeking to escape and rehabilitate her police career moves to the Hamptons where her uncle is the police chief. 

When her uncle is also murdered, Jenna attempts to find the psychopathic killer before another murder is committed, possibly her own.

Career of Evil is the third book in the series featuring private investigator Cormoran Strike and his assistant (former secretary) Robin Elliott. It was written by J.K. Rawlings of Harry Potter fame under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. 

The book begins in a grisly fashion with the delivery of a severed woman's leg in a package addressed to Robin. A note was included quoting the Blue Öyster Cult song Mistress of the Salmon Salt, which was a tattoo that Strike's mother had on her leg. Because of that "coincidence" Strike knows several men in his past who could be responsible. He knows that any one of them is capable of such brutality. As the plot progresses, Robin is dealing with personal problems including a temporary split from her fiancé, Matthew. She learned that he cheated on her after she was forced to leave university after she was raped and nearly killed. 

The killer strikes twice more during the investigation, killing one victim, and maiming another who manages to survive the attack. After numerous dead ends, plot twists and turns, Strike is able to track down the killer, labelled the Shacklewell Ripper, who then attacks and nearly kills Robin. Strikes fires her as a result and goes in search of the killer on his own. To learn whether he succeeds, you will need to read the book. Sorry, no spoiler alerts here.

The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm preceded this novel in this series. While this current book is a stand-alone story, reading these earlier novels provides background details on Strike and Elliott, their relationship with each other and with others in their lives.

What type of books do you enjoy and do you have any recommended reads?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Funnies

Keeping in touch —  

This skier managed to text while on the ski lift at Cannon Mountain.

We took a tram ride when we when we went to a maple sugar weekend in this area.


Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Going on Safari

But only in our imaginations because we were too late to visit what was once a major New England attraction.

Benson's Wild Animal Farm in Hudson, NH was billed as "the strangest farm on earth."

It's closed now. But, in its heyday, this destination was so wildly popular (bad pun, I know) that a special Jungle Train operated on Sundays from Boston to Hudson. Admission to Benson's was included in the ticket price.


It all began when John T. Benson began an animal training center in 1924 in NH, opening it to the public after 2 years. There were exotic animals, a train ride, games, live shows and exhibits.

Benson expanded in the early 1930s, adding a permanent Wild Animal Circus. 

By 1934, the parking lot could hold over 5,000 cars. In 1940, the zoo added an animal trainer who gave performances with lions, bears and other animals. 
Benson’s menagerie included trained lions, bears of several species, llamas, a gorilla, elephants, monkeys, and exotic birds.


Boasting more than 100 animal exhibits and 50 rides and attractions, the combined zoo and amusement park charged one price for attractions, shows and rides. An all-day child’s pass was $5; an adult pass was $10. 

After Benson died in 1943, the property was sold and closed during WW II, reopening in 1945. It fell into decline in the 1960s. It was again sold in 1979 to Nashua, NH native Arthur Provencher, who invested money in improvements and attractions. 

"Colossus" (real name "Tony") was a 500-pound gorilla, reportedly one of the largest ever in captivity, was a feature attraction from the 1960s - 1987. Tony was entered as a candidate to run in the 1980 NH presidential primary against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. He died at age 40 in 2006 while undergoing a dental procedure under anesthesia.



Despite his best efforts,  Benson’s remained unprofitable. Provencher filed for bankruptcy in 1985 after an unsuccessful association with outside investors. It was renamed to “New England’s Playworld Amusement Park and Zoo.” With declining finances in the 1980s, the park added features to add family interest. Its notable attraction was a large statue of Mighty Mouse for its final year. The park closed forever at the end of the 1987 season.
In the following years, weeds, overgrowth, erosion, and vandalism took their toll. Former asphalt walkways led nowhere; most of the former animal cages and other buildings were gone. These below photos show views of the bear cage (top) and elephant barn (bottom) before and after restoration work.





A former polar bear enclosure is long gone, only its base was discovered during a clean-up project. Stairs that led to the exhibit are still standing.







This A-frame is all that remains of what was once a gift shop area. It was renovated and now shelters a picnic table area.

The state of NH acquired the property in 1989; Hudson, NH purchased it in 2009 and began development as a public park and nature area. Renamed Benson Park, it reopened in the spring of 2010 for recreational use with no admission fees.

The Old Lady in the Shoe is among several structures that have been repaired by volunteer groups. The pond where hippopotamus paddle boats once swam is now open for fishing.

The pond where hippopotamus paddle boats once swam is now open for fishing. A playground was added in 2011 and its animal and nature theme recalls the former Benson’s Wild Animal Farm. 

Today's “wild” attractions include turtles, frog and deer. The exotic ones—flamingoes, bears, elephants, gorillas will never return.

FYI — Most of the vintage photos shown herein of the former Benson's Animal Farm were on display at this ticket stand which has been restored by local Eagle Scouts and is now at the park entrance. This group is also planning to bring back a motor raceway for radio-controlled cars. 

This day trip was less than a 20-minute drive from our current home in Nashua, NH. While we were sorry to not have seen Benson's years ago, imagination is wonderful.


Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday Funnies

Grenville modeled this hat in the gift shop during our maple sugar road trip.

No, he didn't buy it; however, he gave it serious consideration.


Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How Sweet It Is

Maple Sugar is what the post title refers to as we recently, we took a road trip to Bethlehem, NH for a maple sugaring weekend. The event included a weekend stay at a B&B and  demonstrations at The Rocks Estate, a Conservation & Education Center. 

We took a horse-drawn wagon ride . . .

And a tractor ride as part of the weekend events. Forgot to mention that this time of year is also known as "mud season."


Mid-February to mid-April is maple sugar time in many parts of New England and Canada. Each year, the NH maple industry alone produces nearly 90,000 gallons of maple syrup.


And, while that seems like a lot of syrup, it's really not. About 40 gallons of sap are boiled down to make 1 gallon of maple syrup, which is usually produced from the xylem sap of sugar, red, or black maple trees. In cold climates, the trees store starch in their trunks and roots before winter; the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in late winter and early spring.


In late February, NH maple producers tap sugar maples by drilling a small hole through the bark and into the trunk and inserting a spout. As the frozen sap in the maple tree thaws, it begins to move and build up pressure within the tree.


The sap runs into a bucket or plastic tubing fastened to the spout as crystal clear sap drips from the tree. When the internal pressure reaches a certain point, sap will flow from any fresh wound in the tree. Freezing nights and sunny days create the pressure needed for a good sap harvest. 

The number of times one tree can be tapped is based on its diameter, health and growth rate. Any maple tree 8 inches (or more) in diameter can be tapped. Larger trees can be tapped more than once a season (3 taps maximum). The regulations ensure that tapping doesn't affect growth of the trees. A hole must be drilled in a new location each year; the natural healing process of trees is called walling-off.


After harvesting, the sap is transported to a sugar house and boiled down to maple syrup over a blazing fire. S
torage tank pipes feed sap to a long and narrow ridged pan — the evaporator. As it boils, the water evaporates leaving a concentrated syrup, that becomes denser and sweeter. About 10.5 gallons of sap boil down to .25 gallons or one quart of pure maple syrup. When the maple syrup reaches the right density to be classified as syrup, it's drawn from the evaporator, filtered, graded, and bottled.
For other maple products (taffy, sugar, etc.), the syrup is boiled longer in the evaporator to the temperature needed. After evaporation, the finished products are bottled or canned, then shipped.

Maple syrup is graded according to specified U.S. and Canadian scales based on its density and translucency.

This was an informative weekend excursion and we learned a lot about the production of maple syrup.

We really enjoy it, not only on pancakes, but we've also been using it in pork and fish recipes.

One of the recipes we saw prepared by a local chef was a balsamic-maple pork tenderloin. 

This one will be on our dinner menu in the next week or so. The taste sampling was so good (trust me).

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Panini Press Lessons Learned

The Great Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day has come and gone. AND as always, there were lessons to be learned. Since this was the first time making Panini’s i of course over stuffed the sandwich. I realized this as i closed down the press and the tomato went one direction while the avocado went the other. I’m sure your picturing this, and laughing. Well at least smirking. Even a snicker will do.
Rescuing tomatoes, avocados, and cheese from a hot panini grill was not a fun time. There were burnt fingertips, a few words mumbled, and of course some panicking as i watched eminent disaster unfolding right before my eyes.
Next lesson was that round toped Ciabatta Rolls DO NOT work well in a panini press. Something about the “Roundness” of the top caused the top to wobble a little and not make good contact with the buttered top. (Yes the butter was melting right down onto the grills….. I love that smell..) 
So the rescue entailed grabbing the round top of the roll off the sandwich, slipping the tomato and avocado out from between the two cheeses and off the hot grill, then placing the round top back on. As i said above, the Panini Grill did not close flat at this point.
By now i had opened the grill enough times to reduce the heat to a point of not grilling. Pressing down didn’t help either. Round top still caused a wobble, lack of heat slowed down the melting of the cheese, and those nice burned grill marks never appeared.
BUT never fear. After grilling just the two cheeses, and roll, i popped them onto a plate. Round top came off nicely, and the tomato and avocado slipped back on. It was time for a beer. 
SOOOO next time there will be no overloading. No slippery items to spurt out. AND finally, NO ROUND TOPS on the bread. A nice tuscan loaf sliced thick might be nice.

Thanks to all who chimed in and to those who might have even celebrated with us.

Chef? Grenville

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

It's Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day- Yiipppeeee!!!!


Yes Kiddies, Its Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. WHAT????? You didn't know this????? Oh, my you poor dears. You must have lived such a sheltered life. Well, read on and I will elucidate you on some fine American Cuisine. 

Grilled cheese sandwiches have always been a delicious, toasted delight popular all across the world. Growing up this was a real treat. Of course back then “Wonder Bread” or whatever was on the ‘Day Old’ rack, and some yellow American Processed Cheese was the only components my mother needed. Add a can of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup, and you had a feast. 

Now in Commemoration, Celebration, and Certification of Grilled Cheese Lovers everywhere, we have our own holiday, Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. An Honored Day when it’s your sacred duty to indulge in one of these melted cheese gastronomical delights.
Now melting cheese on bread is not a new culinary concept. In fact it has been around since the time of the Romans. On the other hand, grilled cheese sandwiches of today didn’t become popular until the 1920s. With the dawning of processed cheese and sliced enriched white bread they became an American staple, which soon spread worldwide. Simple to make. Easy to cook almost anywhere.

So what is the best way to celebrate Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day? Simple, make and eat a grilled cheese sandwich. If you are a traditionalist, just put some cheese of your choice between two slices of bread. Butter the bread on BOTH sides. Slap that baby onto a hot fry pan, brown on both sides, till the cheese melts, and your DONE!!!! The Grilled Cheese purist in you will be satisfied for sure.

 BUT, if you are like us, some experimenting is in order. Tomorrow the the Panini Maker will get pulled out. Next, some Swiss Cheese will be sliced ever so thinly off our block of cheese, and then some aged cheddar will be added. These will be laid onto fresh Ciabatta rolls. Some sliced Beef Steak Tomatoes comes next, followed by slices of Avocado. 

A mix of Mayo and Horseradish Dijon will be spread inside. Then a little butter on each side of the Ciabatta and into the Panini Grill it goes. Sounding good huh!!!

So what are you waiting for?????? Let your inner child loose and make that Grilled Cheese Sandwich. You know you want too....... Just Say Cheese!!!!!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Friday Funnies

Wondering if anyone has seen the Invisible Man ? — He left some things behind . . .



Maybe, he knows the person who left this boot a few weeks ago.

(This clothes pile was on the sidewalk outside our mill apt complex; seems someone left in a hurry. No need to make this stuff up, folks, we just keep looking around.)


Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.
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