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Friday, November 29, 2013

Neighborhood Walk

Our Thanksgiving celebration was very low-key this year. There were no family holiday visits or gatherings at The Frog & PenguINN — no aromas of roasted turkey, no stuffing, gravy or mashed potatoes. And, worst of all, no pumpkin pie for dessert.

WHY?
Grenville was unwell feeling icky all week from a nasty sinus infection — enough said, as some of you may have been there.

On the other hand, we received many good wishes from wonderful blog friends and are SO thankful and grateful all your comments on the Thanksgiving post. We hope that your observances were happy (and fulfilling) gatherings of family and friends.

Our celebration wasn’t cancelled but postponed until Sunday when friends will join us for dinner. We’ll need help with the turkey and fixings which (thankfully) were not prepared early; we’ll enjoy a fresh-baked pumpkin pie too.

Grenville napped most of the holiday, and I snapped. NO shopping trips, just a walk outdoors with camera in hand. After 2 days of blowing rains and wind, chillier temps set in, but felt good great. Nature’s beauty was more cause for thanks.

The clear sky was wonderful to see again and a colorful backdrop to the trees.treetop collage

Lots of lines and lights in the trees around the neighborhood.light-lines collage

Unsure of the names of any of these colorful berries, but they were plentiful.berries collage

Photos of a single leaf were taken in the same spot as the lighting subtly changed.single leaf collage

Surrounding wooded areas were colorful in red with small holly plants and pine needles hung on tree branches.reds-white collage

Freezing temps overnight produced interesting ice patterns — can you see a dancer, side profile or bird’s head, here?ice collage1

How about an angel with wings, after all it is the holiday season.ice angel

Hmm, maybe too much of that cold air went to my head.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks and Gratitude

Thanksgiving is a day of celebration and giving thanks in the U.S. There are countless quotations about being thankful, many reflective and insightful.

It was particularly striking to read this quote attributed to the late President John F. Kennedy, especially as this month marks the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them” —John Kennedy

For us, It comes down to some simple words — thanks and gratitude.

We, Pat and Dorothy (Grenville & Beatrice here) are very grateful for all our blessings and thankful for family and friends, including all of you.

thanksgiving 2013

“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.” — Eric Hoffer

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gobbler Goodies

Earlier this week, a friend sent a link to a funny Thanksgiving e-card withturkey inflate edit2 flat turkey vocalist “Gloria Gobbler” warbling “I Will Survive.” I posted it, then a fellow blogger alerted me that the link didn’t work. I deleted it and learned about GG vs. posting a pirated video (this isn’t her).

What I didn’t know, but do now is that this e-card is not new. Created by AG Interactive, the media subsidiary of American Greetings, the #2 U.S. based card company (Hallmark is #1), it racked up over 30 million internet views before 2010 Thanksgiving day. The Ohio-based American Greetings estimated were that it had been seen by about 1 in every 10 Americans (except myself).

Gloria Gobbler’s performance is a parody set to “I Will Survive” a hit of Gloria Gaynor, 70s disco star. Its lyrics state that she will not be eaten for Thanksgiving as she dances and sings with two disco turkeys and belts out:

"And now you're back, think you're the boss. Wanna put me on a plate next to your wife's cranberry sauce. I should know this day would come, I should have known not to relax. If I thought just for one second you'd come in here with that ax . . ."

Also learned that the original video e-card was later blocked by Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG Publishing) on copyright grounds. It has since re-circulated on other channels. This parody (and more) can be found on YouTube (just saying).

By now a star, Ms. Gobbler re-appeared 2 years later in another turkey day funny to the tune of “You Can’t Hurry Love” called “You Can’t Gobble Me” with lines such as:

“Keep way back, I’m not your meal. Find another menu. You can’t gobble me on Thanksgiving Day. . . Feed yourself the vegan way...Why can’t I find a place to live in peace where I’m not a part of someone’s Thanksgiving feast. Don’t want my giblets touched, don’t want my drumsticks gnawed . . .”

turkey inflate edit1 flat_thumb[2]That same year, AG Interactive came up with a turkey hip-hop challenger to Gloria, and introduced “MC Gobbler” This turkey rapped “U Can’t Stuff This” a singing parody of MC Hammer’s “U can’t touch this.”  Accompanied by three groupie hens, MC Gobbler sings to an audience of farmyard animals that he will not be dinner (this is not him):

“U can’t stuff this. My My My. Ladies think I’m so hot. Makes me think it’s time to strut my stuff around the farm cuz this hayseed here can’t do me no harm. Feels good when you know you’re down, a super Tom Turkey you can’t sell by the pound and I’m known as such, U can’t stuff this, I told you farmboy . . .U can’t stuff this . . .”

AND, this year, Ms. Gobbler is back with a new parody “This turkey won’t be stuffed” and accompanying vocalists singing:

“I thought I'd seen the last of you, And you want to see the end of me, Well Honey, this turkey won't be deceased for your Thanksgiving feast (just listen to me now!) I'm gonna make it! I know I can! I'm gonna live to see December, put away your roasting pan . . .Hope mashed potatoes fill you up Cuz this turkey won't be stuffed . . . Yes I'm a winner, not your family dinner . . .”

The creators of these e-cards, American Greetings has a website where you can preview and email cards.There’s an annual subscription fee and  a 7-day free trial period. OR, search YouTube for these and even more turkey day funnies. You can enjoy some HAPPY Thanksgiving treats preferably before dinner sans calories.

And a question — ANYONE shopping on Thanksgiving Day for Christmas?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Few Good Eggs

And, not just for breakfast — at holiday time, this colorful dish would can serve large gatherings of family and friends.
Eggs and an assortment of vegetables, cheese, and seasonings combined to make a very easy casserole. WHY did I never try this before? It was very easy (really). I modified a couple of online recipes for this variation. Yours may differ.
This dish was enjoyed at The Frog & PenguINN with homemade soup for an evening meal. This recipe was enough for 4-5 servings, but you can adjust ingredients as needed for larger (or smaller) servings.
Eggs and Vegetables Casserole
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 C roughly chopped broccoli, zucchini, peppers, asparagus – your choice or some of each (my choice)
  • 1/2 C roughly chopped mushrooms (any variety)
  • 2 white potatoes, peeled, sliced, cooked – enough to line bottom of dish 
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 TBSP milk or half & half
  • 1 C shredded cheese, cheddar was my choice 
  • 1 TBSP dried thyme leaf, or 2 TBSP fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter bottom of baking dish or use cooking spray.
  2. Sauté veggies in butter. (Note: Some websites suggested microwaving about 2 minutes in 1 tablespoon of water by covering with plastic wrap, and leaving a vent hole.)  If the broccoli hasn't softened, cook on high for another minute. Uncover, drain off any liquid, and set aside.
  3. Peel, slice potatoes, place in microwave-able dish with water to cover, then cover with plastic wrap (remember to vent it) and microwave until soft (mine cooked in under 5 minutes).
  4. Spread potatoes on bottom of dish, cover with other vegetables and set aside.
  5. Whisk eggs in large bowl, until slightly frothy. Add milk and flour and continue to whisk. Using a rubber spatula, stir in shredded cheese, herbs of choice, salt and pepper.
  6. Pour egg mixture over vegetables in baking dish. Draw spatula through mixture to bring some vegetables to surface.
1118 egg-veg-potato cass (1)
Bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes, until eggs are puffy. Serve warm or cold, but it’s easier to cut and serve when cooled a bit.1118 egg-veg-potato cass (3)
It’s also a very colorful dish with red and green peppers added.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Seeing the Blues

This year there’s been an unusually large number of blue jays at the backyard feeders. They are often hoggish at the feeders, scaring other bird species away. To their credit, however, they are more colorful to see than the even more hoggish, but very unattractive, starlings and grackles.

But to their credit, the blue jay can be beneficial to other birds, as it has been known to chase predatory birds, like hawks and owls, calling loudly if it sees a predator within its territory. Jays have also been known to sound an alarm call when hawks or other dangers are near; smaller birds recognize this call and hide away. A blue jay may impersonate a raptor’s call, especially those of the Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, possibly to test if one is in the area or to scare off other birds that may compete for food sources.

A few months ago, this young bird was a frequent feeder visitor. Young jays can remain with their parents for one to two months. The male blue jay feeds the female while she sits on the eggs and when they hatch, both parents feed the young. Blue jays fledge in about 3 weeks. Sexual maturity is reached after one year of age.

Young jay

Blue jays have quiet, almost subliminal calls which they use among themselves in proximity. While in other parts, blue jays migrate for the winter, they are usually seen year-round here in Virginia. Single jays

Blue jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. Sexes are similar in size and plumage, which doesn’t vary in color through the year.

Blue jay pair

Blue jays are mostly vegetarians and most of their diet is composed of acorns, nuts, and seeds, and also caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles. They also control insect populations by eating large numbers of tent caterpillars when they leave the tents. And, blue jays are credited with aiding the spread of forests as they often store acorns in the ground and fail to retrieve them.

Jay trio

The blue jay is the team symbol of the major league baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s also the official bird of the province of Prince Edward Island in Canada.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Blinded

Not by the light, or even blindsided, blindfolded, or up a blind alley.  NONE of these terms fit my experience today, including:

  • turn a blind eye, blind as a bat, rob someone blind
  • blind leading the blind, love is blind
  • blind luck, blind date, blind spot, fly blind
  • not 3 blind mice

THIS is what had me blinded today — cleaning window blinds  at The Frog & PenguINN —  18 sets. Thankfully, there are several other windows which don’t have blinds (and never will), but, these do . . .blinded

Lots of people call these Venetian (or venetian) blinds, yet despite the name, they were not invented in Venice, Italy. Window blinds with slats existed in ancient Egypt and Pompeii long before the city of Venice was founded in AD 452. Those slats were fixed, but in 1757, a French craftsman advertised blinds with adjustable slats, perhaps not his invention but a new “twist.”

By the end of the 1700s, window blinds were common in England’s wealthier houses,why venetian shops, churches, and public buildings. In 1767, a Philadelphia craftsman advertised, “newest invented Venetian sun blinds for windows . . . stained to any color, move to any position.” They were so named as a marketing ploy since, at the time, Italian furnishings were considered very sophisticated in England.

Only the English called them Venetian blinds. In Italy, they were persiana; in France, jalousie a la persienne, lending credence to their origination in the East, perhaps in the Persian Empire or beyond, in China or India.

In 1769, British designer, Edward Beran enclosed adjustable wooden slats into a frame in order to regulate the amount of light coming into a room. In 1841, the first U.S. patent for a Venetian blind was issued to John Hampson of New Orleans, LA.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Venetian blinds were widely adopted in office buildings to regulate light and air. New York’s Rockefeller Center RCA Building (Radio City) completed in the 1930s also used them. One of the largest orders ever was to the Vermont Burlington Venetian Blind Co., which supplied blinds for the windows of the Empire State Building in NYC.

NOT sure how folks in those buildings, or other homes, clean them, but here it’s a much disliked fall ritual. Good news is that these window treatments will be included with the eventual house sale.

Paraphrasing actress Faye Dunaway (as Joan Crawford in the 1981 bio-pic, Mommie Dearest . . .  NO MORE wire hangers venetian blinds ever.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Oatmeal Apple Crisp

Fall colors, cooler temps and apples — a perfect trio, especially when the apples are what’s for dessert, which isn’t something we enjoy every night at The Frog & PenguINN. Treats are always welcome and we spread this one over 2 nights.

Most apple crisp recipes advise using firm apples like Granny Smith or combining a couple of different varieties. Instead, I used a couple of golden delicious and Gala apples combined with oatmeal, sugar, brown sugar (Splenda ® brand), butter, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange juice, flour, and salt.

Add-ins, like raisins or dried cranberries would have been added if thought of beforehand, but there’s always next time. Also, I  left the peel on and diced not sliced unlike in some recipes that advise peeling and slicing. 

Oatmeal Apple Crisp

  • 4-5 apples
  • 1/2 C orange juice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 C granulated sugar and brown sugar mixed together
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 C dried raisins or cranberries (optional)
  • 1/2 C chopped nuts (optional)

Topping

  • 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 1/2 C sugar divided: 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 C butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 9-inch square or 2-quart baking dish.

  1. Core apples and cut into pieces. Add apples to a large bowl with orange zest, orange apple crisp (2)juice, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir then add to baking dish.
  2. To make the crisp topping, combine flour, oats, sugar in a bowl. Add melted butter and stir to moisten flour. Topping should be crumbly before spreading over apples. This can be a “hands on” task.
  3. Bake 45-50 minutes until juices thicken, apples are soft, and topping has turned golden brown. If the topping browns too fast, cover with aluminum foil bake until apples are done.

apple crisp (1)

Top with ice cream, whipped cream, or Cool Whip®. This time, we substituted vanilla flavored yogurt as ice cream isn’t a staple here. No topping is OK too, but life’s too short not to treat ourselves. Next time it’s vanilla bean ice cream!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Homes with a View

NJ fall color1112 (1)

This is the view crossing the Hudson River on the Tappanzee Bridge in New York heading to New Jersey.

Imagine being one of the folks who live on this hill when autumn is in full color.NJ fall color1112 (4)

And, without all those highway lights on Rte 287, the views are much prettier.NJ fall color1112 (8)NJ fall color1112 (9)

These photos were taken enroute as there were no scenic overlooks.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fall Cleanup

It was finally looking like fall had arrived at The Frog & PenguINN this past weekend. The leaves were turning colors and piling up in the yard, even though the crepe myrtles are stubbornly retaining most of their leaves. Those trees won’t be bare for another week or more.
fall yard colors
The wildflowers in Grenville’s backyard meadow were all just about bloomed out. While there were a few stragglers, they all met Grenville and his “friend,” John Deere. First, they cut down all the stalks and then pine straw was added.meadow mowed1118 (1)meadow mulched (2)
Pine straw is our preferred mulching material. There’s plenty in our own backyard thanks to the pine trees; also there’s more on a couple of back streets near our home. There’s lots of reasons why we prefer pine straw (called shatters by some) — it decomposes well, lets air and water through, looks more natural than store bought pine nuggets, and best of all it’s FREE as long as you’re willing to work at gathering it.DSCN4781
This supply, which is actually the second and third piles we’ve collected, will be completely used up by the time we’ve finishing mulching all the flowerbeds.pine straw piled (2)mulched flowerbeds
By the end of this week, we’re hoping that all the leaves are off the crepe myrtle trees so we can complete our fall yard work.yard workers
How did you spend your weekend?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Blog Label Bloat

When we started The Frog & PenguINN blog over 2 years ago, it was not done with a lot of advance planning. Consequently, as we kept adding posts, Grenville and I would separately assign labels to our individual posts.blog labels

One thing we never considered was a “master” labels (post categories) listing beforehand. That would have required advance planning, which we do for other things, but didn’t for the blog.

Big HUGE mistake as we now know as we have a lot of labels (referred to on the F&P blog as What We Blog About) for the same topic — for example, New Jersey, NJ and NJ trip when just NJ would have been shorter and easier. Similarly there were posts with a label of crockpot; others with crock pot.

BIG ? was how could labels be deleted once created?

Easy, peasy as I learned by experimenting, otherwise called playing around. Here’s what to do: at the top of the blog window, select Design, when the next screen displays, select Posts and on the top right side, select Labels. A drop down box shows all the post labels, each has a number to show how many posts use that  label. Click on the label to see only posts with that label.

To delete, add, or change labels, select Edit under each post and then choose a different label from your master labels list. Click Update to save the post, then continue with the next one that has the same label.

Using the NJ example above, I selected all posts with a New Jersey label and changed each to NJ.

When there are NO posts with a specific label, it will not display under Labels. This can take awhile, depending on HOW many labels you want to chance or delete.

This is what worked for our blog created with Blogger. I’m not sure if the procedure would be similar procedure (or easier) with a in WordPress created blog.

If anyone has a better — easier would be good too — solution to Label Bloat, please let me know because this is gonna take awhile.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Crockpot Lemon Chicken & Veggies

Now that we’re back home from a week-long road trip visiting family, home cooking crockpot lemon chicken (1)is back on the menu. Since it has finally gotten a bit colder this week, the crockpot has taken up residence on The Frog & PenguINN kitchen counter.

Chicken is on the menu quite often here; lemon and varied herbs are great partners. I came across a few recipes for this recipe, then altered and combined a couple for this version. (Does anyone else do this too?)crockpot lemon chicken (3)

Crockpot Lemon Chicken & Veggies

  • 1/3 C flour (save leftover flour to thicken sauce later)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 4-5 skinless chicken thighs (bone in OR boneless)
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-4 carrots, cut up OR 1 bag baby carrots
  • 2 stalks celery, cut up
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp each: dried oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme 
  • 1/4 C lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 C  chicken broth (low-sodium is our choice)
  • 1 TBSP cornstarch OR use reserved flour
  • 1/2 C chicken broth (or water) to thicken sauce
  1. Combine flour, salt and pepper in shallow dish and coat chicken pieces, shaking off excess flour. Brown chicken in butter in nonstick skillet over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove chicken and drain on paper towels, then place on top of onion, carrots and celery in a 3-4 quart crockpot.
  2. Add oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme (sing if you must), lemon juice, brown sugar, garlic and chicken broth to the skillet. Cook and stir, scrape to remove browned bits, until mixture comes to a boil. Pour over chicken in crockpot.
  3. Cook on LOW for 7-8 hours (or HIGH for 3-4 hours if short on time). Remove chicken and shred with fork, then place back in crockpot.crockpot lemon chicken (12)

When ready to serve, combine cornstarch and 1/2C chicken broth (or water), mix well and stir into sauce. Cook on HIGH for 20-30 minutes until thickened. Serve over hot rice or noodles to soak up the sauce. crockpot lemon chicken (14)

Serves 4 for dinner and in our case that’s dinner twice with a side salad.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Say it Isn’t Snow

It’s not exactly that or even close (yet). This is what the sky looked like when we were leaving for our morning workout at the “Y” today around 8 a.m.IMG_2606

Within a few minutes, there were snow flurries after an overnight low of about 30 degrees F. Those dark spots in the photo below aren’t on the camera lens, but snowflakes falling on the windshield and melting as the car was heating up.

IMG_2602

And, this is Grenville trying to catch snowflakes — notice the big smile on his face?IMG_2604

We went from highs in the 60s a week ago with leaves still on the trees to overnight lows in the 30s this week. This weekend, temperatures are predicted to be in the 60s and near 70 degrees.

Maybe Grenville should put the snow shovel on the back porch?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Older and Richer

Today, marked a major milestone — officially adding to my “senior” status.

WHY Older?

I filed for Medicare to start in Feb on my 65th birthday.

And RICHER?

While searching for my birth certificate, I re-located some savings bonds received years ago when folks gave them as gifts for birthdays, weddings and similar celebrations. Curious if any had matured, I went to the TreasuryDirect site, where you can calculate the value of paper savings bonds.

One bond had matured as of last year. Its value with accrued interest was over 5X the initial purchase cost.

When it comes to savings bonds — older is better — BUT not so much for humans.

Happy 85th

Grenville and I have been on a family visit road trip with stops in NJ, RI and CT. Along our travels, we were able to enjoy and share here some beautiful fall foliage.

The culmination of this trip was the 85th birthday celebration of Pat’s Aunt Anne in New London, CT, this past weekend. 

Aunt Anne is a purist and doesn’t believe in celebrating her Special Day on any day other than the actual day. And, her favorite birthday gift is lottery tickets.

We hope she get a winning one cause she received a lot of "birthday" tickets.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hug A Veteran Day

If you love your freedom,

Take a moment today to

Thank A Veteran



Life

Liberty

And the pursuit of any who deny it.

Grenville, US Navy Veteran, RVAH-13/ USS Enterprise CVN-65


 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Whale of a City

That would be New London, Connecticut, a seaport city and a port of entry on the Northeast coast of the U.S. It’s located at the mouth of the Thames River (rhymes with “James”) in southeastern Connecticut and in terms of land area is one of the smallest cities in the state of CT. 

CT NL sunrise

For several decades beginning in the early 19th century, New London was the world’s 3rd busiest whaling port after New Bedford and Nantucket in Massachusetts. Whaling brought wealth to the city that provided the funds to construct much of the city’s present architecture.

CT NL buildings1

CT NL buildings2

New London subsequently became home to other shipping and manufacturing industries, but has gradually lost its commercial and industrial appeal and is now more well-known as home to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and several collages. New London Harbor is home port to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Cutter Chinook and tall ship Eagle.

CT NL images

New London has several outdoor murals, included in a six-block walking tour, as part of the “Wall to Wall: The New London Mural Walk.” Some of the murals include underwater spacemen, exotic shells, geometric shapes, community portraits, and musicians, shown below.

New London mural2

Theatre mural collage

While it’s not yet near the Thanksgiving holiday, city lampposts were already decorated for the upcoming holiday season as of early November when we visited.

CT NL wreaths

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