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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Hills Are Alive . . .

Not with the sound of music (apologies to Julie Andrews) but with autumn color.
At least in New England.

As we drove through several New England states this week, it was clearly evident that the colors of fall had arrived there.


Leaf peeping season is in full force the next few weeks with yellows, golds and reds seen everywhere.


All these shots were taken from the car by myself as Grenville was driving us through Connecticut  Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.


Images were captured using an iPhone and a Canon Digital Elph. Shooting through a car windshield is problematic. No matter how much window cleaner is applied, many road smears never clear. Also, skies were quite overcast so leaf colors were not the most brilliant.

Still it's always fun to try and capture shots along the way regardless. We will be in and around this area for a few days and expect to find a lot more colors along our travels.

And, perhaps by the time we return to the VA Eastern Shore, fall will have started it's colorful display there (we hope).

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Easy Chicken Thighs

As most blog readers here might know, we eat a LOT of chicken based dinners at the Frog & PenguINN. So, I'm always looking for a new recipe and ones that are  easy and delicious are always in favor — maybe for you too?

That said, here's a really easy (no kidding) recipe for oven-roasted chicken thighs. Grenville and I prefer using chicken thighs vs. chicken breasts. Thighs seem more flavorful and are usually less costly. All that’s needed for this recipe are skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs plus a handful of ingredients that may already be in the pantry or fridge.

You can reduce the recipe ingredients if using less chicken pieces. I used 4 thighs and substituted lemon juice for a fresh lemon.

Easy Roasted Chicken Thighs
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • ½ C olive oil
  • 1 lemon juiced or 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • Coarse salt & ground pepper
  • 1 TBSP grainy mustard
  • 1-2 TBSP honey
  1. Toss chicken thighs with olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and marinate for 1 hour or up to 1 day.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roast chicken 20-25 minutes skin side down in oiled roasting pa. Flip over and roast 10 minutes longer.
  3. Stir together mustard and honey and season with salt and pepper, then brush glaze onto chicken and place under broiler for 5 minutes. (Chicken is done when the internal temp reaches 165 degrees.)
The accompanying vegetables were an oven-roasted assortment of peppers, zucchini, onion, and broccoli seasoned with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and assorted herbs: oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary and thyme and mixed together using olive oil. 

That's not mashed potatoes for the other side vegetable. It's mashed cauliflower, which is easy to prepare and healthier too. Cut a head of cauliflower into small florets, boil in a a can of chicken stock until tender (out of chicken stock, substitute chicken bouillon). Drain and add some chopped fresh/jarred garlic or garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mash using a hand masher or immersion blender. Grenville prefers to add some butter to his mashed cauliflower too.
This entire meal was ready in less than an hour from start to finish. And, it's another keeper at the Frog & PenguINN.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Funnies

Natural bird bath for very small creatures?
(There's been no recent rainfall to fill these.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hardly Fall(ing)

Talking about leaves.

Fall has come to many areas in the U.S. and abroad, but slower to arrive in other places, including the VA eastern shore. Walking around the neighborhood last week looking for visible signs of fall proved slow-going, as you can see.

While pine needles have started falling, most other trees remain green and leafy.


Yet, there are some slight variations with the most colorful leaves on the numerous poison ivy plants, which are always viewed from a distance and never touched.


There was still plenty of pollen gathering activity in the backyard wildflower meadow and in the front yard too. Notice all the pollen on the hind leg of the bee in the second photo.




Monarch butterflies traditionally will have started their fall migration to warmer climates, but there's still some stragglers around, although not in great numbers. These butterflies are the only insect that migrate to warmer temps over 2,000 miles away by wintering in Mexico and some parts of southern California. That's not a bad way to spend the winter months.


Warmth also applies to imagery. Here's a before collage taken around our yard last week. 



Now those same images after a quick-fix edit in Picasa which was done just by selecting heat map under the image editing choices.


Around here, the next few weeks will bring slowly increasing color changes, but peak color won't be until November depending on the weather. Right now we are still fairly warm with daytime temps in the 70s.

Are YOU enjoying fall weather and colors now?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Funnies

We are subscribers to Yankee Magazine which prides itself on being "New England's Magazine" on its front cover each month.

So, it was amusing to notice that subscription requests are sent here . . .

Just maybe New England reaches farther south than first thought? (just wondering)

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Lot of Bull (and More)

Our grandkids are far too young to know about Urban Cowboy, the 1980 film in which actor John Travolta rode a mechanical bull at Gilley's Bar. All they knew was that they wanted to try a child-size version at two recent fall festivals. 

Bobby was first to give it a try and actually stayed on for several minutes before being pitched to the air mattress below.



Next up, his sister Ellie, who who only lasted a few (very brief) seconds.


By his second ride, Bobby was more experienced and managed to stay seated nearly the entire ride (this time.)

Face painting is always a popular event. Bobby's choice was "half robot" and "half clown." He sat patiently and was pleased with the results, even if we were thought it looked a bit like modern art.

Both grandkids posed for a photo with "Princess Elsa" from the movie, Frozen. If you are the parent or grandparent of a young girl, you will know HOW much Ellie liked loved this "photo opp."

For kid fun, there's nothing like a (very) large blow-up slide ride. Bobby & Ellie showed off unique downhill slides !
They had a great time, and so did we, even if we passed up bull riding and face painting.


Hope your weekend was filled with fun moments too.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Big E(xposition)

No, it's not a giant alphabet letter.

The Big E is known as New England's Great State Fair. It's not only the largest agricultural event on the eastern seaboard, but the 6th largest U.S. fair. The event runs for 17 days in West Springfield, MA, opening on the 2nd Friday after Labor Day. This year, it started on Sept 12 and ends on Sept 28. You still have time to make it this weekend.

This annual event was spearheaded by Joshua Brooks at the start of the 20th century. The first one was held in 1916. Brooks realized that New England farming was on the decline; his goal was to showcase New England farming and agriculture. First called the Eastern States Exposition, it was renamed to The Big E in 1967.


Each of the six NE states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont) is represented on the Avenue of States, one of the most popular attractions that features full-size replicas of the six original statehouses. It's a quick way to walk in each state as each individual state owns the building and land.


Other permanent buildings include the 5,900 seat Big E Coliseum, built in 1926, and former home to the Springfield Indians professional hockey team,later the New England Whalers and then Hartford Whalers. The ice rink has been dismantled and the arena is used for equestrian shows, rodeos and Shriner circuses. The Better Living Center is a large indoor vendor area featuring household wares, home services, cookware, health goods, and more. Every "as seen on TV" vendor seemed to be here, and we quickly avoided spending much time inside.

Elsewhere around the grounds, there was no shortage of agricultural exhibits, livestock displays and judging, daily horse shows, and racing pigs. Over 25 breeds of cattle, sheep, goats and hogs are entered in livestock events by breeders from around the country.






A very popular attraction was the chicken hatchery where newborns chicks would stagger around briefly like they had a night on the town.






Walking around the fairgrounds, you might catch The Mechanical Man performing as he has been for over 20 years. Randy Burns moves like a robot with an extension cord from his back plugged into a nearby outlet. (Search online to watch some videos.)



What's a fair without a signature dessert? The Big E Cream Puff introduced in 2002 fills that description. The Big (Chocolate) Eclair followed in 2004. We had to sample both !


But, we passed on other fair foods that included fried Oreos, corn dogs, funnel cake and the newest treat, the Craz-E Burger, a bacon cheeseburger on a glazed donut bun. 
This fair has rides and games of change featuring The Magic Midway labeled the world's largest traveling midway. It features the 115-foot high Giant Wheel, Drop of Fear ride and more, none of which we ventured to try — would you ?



The weekday we spent at The Big E was enough, even if we didn't see everything. 

Would we go again? Probably not because even without buying anything, it's costly with an admission charge and parking; homeowners around the event charge $5-$10 to park on their lawns. For us, it was a see-once adventure.

Fortunately, it which was not as crowded as it will be this final weekend. The all-time high record set in 2013 was nearly 1,482,000 attendees.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

What's Burning?

As odd as it's sounds, it's the water in downtown Providence, RI — it's been happening every year for the past 20 years.


And, it's an event we witnessed for the first time last night. Yes, we are on a(nother) road trip and a visit with the grandkids here.

Called WaterFire, it's the city's signature event. This fire sculpture installation on the three rivers (WoonasquatucketMoshassuck, and Providence Rivers) in downtown Providence was created by local artist Barnaby Evans and has been cited as the most popular work of art created in the state capital's history. Evans created First Fire in 1994 as a commission to celebrate the 10th anniversary of First Night Providence. In 1996, he created Second Fire for the International Sculpture Conference.


Art supporters urged Evans to create an on-going fire installation and eventually established WaterFire as a non-profit arts organization. With the support of volunteers, corporate contributions, visitors donations, plus city and state support, WaterFire regularly illuminates the cityscape and includes music from around the world.  In 1997, WaterFire expanded to 42 braziers attracting an estimated 350,000 people during 13 lightings. In response to growing attendance, it increased to 81 braziers in 1998, and 97 in 1999. The 1999 season culminated with 100 bonfires in a special WaterFire lighting for the millennium celebrations.


WaterFire centers around a series of over 80 bonfires ablaze above the surface of the three rivers at Full Lighting WaterFire events. This string of fires illuminates two-thirds of a mile of city public spaces and parks. Boats pass between the flames as the fire tenders attend to the fires from sunset to midnight during Full Lightings. (Yes, including a gondola, a bit pricey at $125, but then you do get really close-up fire views.)


There's also smaller Basin Fire WaterFire lightings are a smaller version of the event with the lighting of less than 30 total 22 braziers in the Waterplace Park Basin. The fires are light shortly after midnight and remain lit until 11 p.m. 


This year, WaterFire will be held twice a month, May through November, usually on Saturday nights, but sometimes on Fridays which was lucky for us even though we only saw the smaller Basin WaterFire (this time). We're looking forward to seeing the full lighting on a future visit, and with the grandkids living close by we will be back.

How is your weekend going?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

American Classic

It's long been recognized as the iconic American sports car with styling so unique that it's always easily recognized — the Corvette by General Motors. It's the only car that's been in production for nearly 60 years (and still counting). The first one rolled off the Flint, Michigan Chevrolet factory assembly line in June 1953.



The Corvette was created by GM designer Harley Earl in 1951. He was inspired by European sports cars and wanted an American counterpart to compete and win on the race track. The first model was a convertible introduced at the 1953  GM Motorama. (This discontinued auto stage show was run by that GM from 1949-1961 to show off concept and/or prototype cars.) 

Myron Scott, creator of the all-American soap box derby, is credited with naming the car when he as working for GM which anted a non-animal name starting with the letter "c." The name "corvette" was taken from a line of small, but fast Navy warships used in World War II.

While on a weekend trip to PA to attend a story-telling festival (more on that later), we saw nearly a dozen of these classics.
No, we didn't go to a cruisin' car show on this trip. Instead, during our weekend stay at a Holiday Inn, these Corvettes greeted our parking lot arrival. 


Their owners were a group of 60+ drivers who obviously did not let years stand in the way of having fun. They drove these beauties from Michigan to PA to visit Gettysburg National Military park and various points in between.

The Corvette was originally built in Flint, MI, and St. Louis, MO. The cars are now manufactured in a dedicated Corvette manufacturing facility in Bowling Green, KY. The Corvette is the official sports car of KY. 

We talked to a few of the owners who told us they enjoyed driving these cars on long trips, adding that they were always garage-kept when home. After all, it does get cold and snowy in Michigan.


Between the first and most current Corvette, about 1.5 million have been made in the US and sold worldwide. (No, Grenville, isn't planning to buy one, but I did catch him smiling as he watched these cars leave the hotel.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Grand Celebration

We're not sure where this metal art was on street exhibit, but, grandkids Ellie and Bobby certainly looked smaller by comparison. These photos came in celebration of  National Grandparents Day, which was marked earlier this month.


Since we had forgotten the date, I decided to learn more about this largely U.S. celebration. However, Grandparents Day is recognized in other countries on various days of the year, either as one holiday or sometimes as a separate Grandmother's and/or Grandfather's Day.

National Grandparents Day (NGD) has several origins in the U.S. and most often is attributed to the efforts of Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade of West Virginia. Throughout the 1970s, she worked to educate people about the contributions of seniors and urged people to adopt a grandparent, not only for a day or for gift-giving, but for a lifetime of experience. As a child, McQuade had visited her grandmother's 130-acre WV farm and recalled how she  would walk to visit elderly in the area after a day's work. NGD was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 and it was first observed on Sunday, Sept 9, 1979, the first Sunday in Sept after Labor Day.

What's a holiday without a flower or even a song — NGD has both.


The official National Grandparents Day flower is oddly the “forget-me-not” flower which blooms not in late summer, but in the spring. There's also an official song: A Song for Grandma and Grandpa by Johnny Prill, also a grandparent. Prill volunteered at a nursing home where his grandmother resided. (Yes, there's an official website where you can hear it performed, but I've mercifully left out that link. If you go there, you will thank me for this omission.)
Just so you, and we, will know — in 2015, Grandparents Day  will be celebrated on Sunday, Sept 13. The date changes yearly as it is tied to Labor Day, but it's never earlier than Sept 7 or later than Sept 13.

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