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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bisquick Blueberry Cobbler


Dessert is not a regular occurrence at The Frog & PenguINN, but last weekend we had some blueberries just begging to be used in a dessert. OK maybe it was Grenville who was begging for a treat. We had an open box of Bisquick mix with enough left for a treat and cobbler came to mind. An online search produced many recipes and some included a topping. This one does not, but we topped it with ice cream.

Bisquick Blueberry Cobbler

First, a recipe mix-up confession is needed here. When I read the recipe, I completely missed the fact that the batter was supposed to go in first. Instead, I put the blueberries and lemon in first over the melted butter, then poured the Bisquick mix on top.
  • 6 TBSP butter, melted
  • 1-1/4 C Bisquick 
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 2/3  C milk
  • 3 C fresh blueberries (frozen would work too I read)
  • 2 tsp lemon zest (orange zest works too)
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
Pre-heat oven to 350°F. 
  1. Pour melted butter into 8 or 9-inch square baking dish.
  2. Whisk together Bisquick, sugar, milk; pour over melted butter.
  3. Stir lemon zest, lemon juice and blueberries together.
  4. Place evenly over Bisquick batter.
Bake 42 to 47 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm alone or with a scoop of ice cream. (It was also good when served cold the next couple of evenings.)

Even with my mix-up, the dessert was delicious — just ask Grenville.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

After the Storm

Family and Friends who live in various parts of the East Coast are digging out this week after the big HUMONGOUS weekend snowstorm. All are safe, but a bit very tired.
Thanks to everyone for your comments on the previous post. 

While we were disappointed at being bypassed this time, we know there's a lot more winter left to come. We will most likely "get ours" speaking of snowfall that is.

We were very envious of everyone's bonanza snowfall, so it was hard to understand their collective lack of enthusiasm. After listening to friends' stories of spending hours clearing drives and walkways, we know WHY — been there and done that ourselves for many years, especially when living in NJ.

Here's a few more photos sent by family and friends after the storm was over. My brother, who lives in NJ, said the headgear we gave him came in handy. Two friends, also in NJ, sent photos of the snow piles in their front yards. Granddaughter Ellie in RI had the most fun making snow angels in the yard. 


With no new snowfall in Nashua, NH, we  took a weekend walk in nearby Mine Falls Park. The leftovers from two earlier and very small January snowfalls are slowly melting away. 

Most of that snow has been trampled down and refrozen so it's bumpy and lumpy ice in many places. But we navigated fine, thanks to wearing the STABILicers Walk cleats that we bought in the sporting goods store with our snowshoes. We've heard fellow bloggers to the north, like ACtalk about the benefits of wearing pull-on rubber cleats for walking on ice. This was our first experience wearing them. We highly recommend theses or one of other similar brands for anyone who treads on icy walkways. A plus is that this brand is USA made in Maine by Stabil.

Warmer daytime temps in the 40s this week will put our snowshoeing excursions on the back burner until a significant storm occurs. Still, there were some nice images to see on our walk. All were taken with a cell phone.



We hope all those who had snow this weekend were safe. 
(Could you deliver just a little to us?)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Got Snow?

Today in Nashua, NH, the snowfall total from the current East Coast storm is . . . 

0
Zip
Nada

Yup, not a single flake fell here this weekend — not even a flurry (or two).

That wasn't true for many areas along the East Coast hit with a massive nor'easter blizzard that blanketed states with the heaviest snow seen in years, shutting down Washington D.C. and New York City.

We phoned family and friends in PA, RI NJ, and DC, who were all hard hit as well, asking if they could send us some of their snow bounty  without hesitation, they all said YES!

The grands, Bobby and Ellie, shoveled out at their RI home where they got 8-10 inches.

Friends in southern NJ sent us this photo taken from their front door. Over 18 inches had fallen there by mid-day on Saturday.


In PA, "Grand" puppy Lola romped in more than 2 feet of snow in her back yard.


Her owners, daughter Coleen and husband Paulo, were kept busy clearing a path an estimated 2 feet of snow.



And, the only "flakes" found in our area were ourselves

Since there wasn't enough snow cover to snowshoe on Friday, we went for a chilly morning walk through Mine Falls Park. Yes, we know that there's a lot more winter to go and before long we will have more than our share of s-n-o-w.

Meanwhile, our family and friends were all safe. We hope everyone else was as well.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Funnies

Vacancy  — how quickly it's over.

This photo was taken a few days after Christmas at an area mall. We were back last week and, of course, everything is long-gone. But if you're wondering how many days until the 2016 holiday season, here's a countdown.

A winter storm is predicted for the east coast this weekend. Many states are expected to be hard hit, including our home state of NJ and where we formerly lived in VA. Oddly enough, forecasters are not predicting much snow (if any) to affect Nashua, NH. While we'd like some snow, we recognize that it can create havoc and danger for many others. We hope that fellow bloggers and others will be safe. (And, if anyone wants to send some snow, that's OK with us and lots of skiers too we're sure.)
  
Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Unexpected Nice Surprise

Perhaps it's happened to you as well — you receive an unexpected gift.
On the weekend, Grenville (Pat) helped fellow apartment residents whose car had a dead battery. Yesterday morning we had a surprise visit from them; they brought wine and a very nice card.

Not only was their visit unexpected, but we will be thankful again when we enjoy the wine with dinner this week.

Unexpected surprises are always good — Ever happen to you?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Snowshoeing We Went

Now that life has settled back to (near) normal and the excitement and disappointment of not sharing in any Powerball bounty has passed, we've resumed our (not-so) everyday routines, and added a new one.

We went snowshoeing last week.

Yes, that's the correct way to spell it, a single word, no space or hyphens.

No, these are not our snowshoes. 

Funny guy that he is, Grenville's figured it would be amusing to show these "snowshoes".

We used snowshoes that we bought as a  gift to ourselves. A "bargain" set that included snowshoes, poles and a carry bag. A real bargain or maybe not, because as we learned during our first outing, the adage applies and, you will probably know it too . . . you get what you pay for . . .

That's what we were told by the coordinator of the city's winter snowshoe program. So, we returned our bargain buys (saving receipts is a very good thing). We now have a well-known brand that should last many years. As to what was "wrong" with our bargains, a lot it seemed from being too large to clamps that didn't hold our boots tight. 

The City of Nashua/Parks & Recreation Department sponsors many outdoor events  including a winter snowshoe program. It's co-sponsored by the Nashua Senior Center; we're members there too, although membership is not a requirement for the outings.

The outings are held in Mine Falls Park, which encompasses 325 acres within the city limits. The name "Mine Falls" dates from the 18th century, when low-quality lead was supposedly mined from the island below the falls.


The property was part of a massive complex owned by the Nashua Manufacturing Company, which harnessed the river's flow for power in its mills downstream on Factory Street. The mills closed in 1948 and the owner sold it to the Nashua, New Hampshire Foundation (a group of local businessmen). It was purchased in 1969 from the Foundation with city and federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) money and is now used for recreational purposes.   


We plan to go on as many future snowshoe outings as possible. That, of course, depends on whether or not there's enough snow cover. Compared to last year, the snowfall here has been scant with a few inches in two separate snowfalls since this new year started.

Any one else tried snowshoeing ?   

Thursday, January 14, 2016

WWWHHHHHEEEEWWWWWW!!!!!!!

WOWIE!!!! We dodged another bullet. Squeezed by. Ducked in the nick of time. AND luckily, Lady Luck missed us by a Country Mile (thats down the road a bit).

After getting the Princess her coffee this morning, and groggily reading the news that there were three winners in PowerBall last night, i remained calm. Didn't run off to check our too numerous numbers. Didn't even look them up on line, till later.

Grenville in Disguise showing tickets
YES,,,, that is me, Grenville in disguise, checking out our numbers. First i checked the PowerBall number. You know the one that has to be there or "you're out". Number 10. Not a one on any of the tickets. You remember all those extra tickets???? The No Change tickets???? The ones i thought might have been an 'Omen", an sign from above of good luck to come. Or was that the omen to  "Read directions BEFORE inserting cash".

Well, that took a lot of weight off the shoulders. No wondering what to do with all that money. No
Unknowns we all have
My Favorite Sign
worrying where to hide from the 'Wood Pile' relatives. No debating whether to splurge and have Hot Dogs with our daily Beans. I tell
ya, i was relieved!!!!!

Now, being a PowerBall neophyte, i starting checking the tickets to see if any ticket had more than one of the picked numbers. One by one the tickets came up losers. The best we had was two on a ticket.
Later today we will take them to the store and have them checked. Of course we have a better chance of seeing a Snowy Owl flying into our window.
QUICK!!!!!! Open the window!!!!!!
SO loyal readers of our mundane adventures, fear not that we will succumb to the power of the Lotto Cash Cow, retire from blogging, and leave you in a lurch without our exciting posts. (who is he kidding?????)
Grenville, still poor, but happy with his Princess. ;-}}}

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Power Ball and the Art of Following Directions

Yes kiddies,,,,, Its POWERBALL night. Thought for today is "Ya gotta be in it to win it". I guess that means that you need to buy a ticket if you want to take that 292 million to one chance of being the only winner of 1.5 BILLION dollars.

So yesterday i went in search of a Lottery Machine. Now i have to tell ya, we don't play the lottery often. In fact, the last time was in NJ when they only picked three, yes just 3 numbers. That said, these new games truly baffle me. BUT never the less i was determined to get us a PowerBall ticket. Hey, it only takes one ticket to be a winner.
But the bafflement continued when i got to the machine. Lots of buttons to choose from. Lots of ways to lose money. Yes, lots of confusion on my part. Finally i see the Power Ball button. The choices are $2, $4, $10, or $20. So i pushed the $2 button and waited for the machine to do something. And waited. And waited some more. Finally i asked if i was supposed to put the money in first and then make a selection.
Have you ever asked a question and had folks just stare at you? You know, that incredulous stare that says "is this guy for real"? Or worse, in the south they look at you with pity in their eyes and say "OH, Bless your heart darlin'".

Well, that was what i was getting. Finally, after the internal hysterical laughing ceased (i know they were laughing,,,,, i could feel it) a woman said " Yes, just put in the money and make a selection".
OK. That seemed simple enough. Put in my money and i would push the $4 button, and get 2 Power Ball tickets. We would each have a chance of beating the 292,000,000 to 1 odds.

This is where the "read and follow directions" comes in. 
I only had a $20. So i put it in, and pushed the $4 button. 
Out poped a ticket with two lines of numbers on it. So far so good. 
Now i just needed my change from the $20. I waited. Then waited some more. 
Then started looking at the writing near the slot where i had put my $20. 
Directions. HHHMMMM!!! 
THIS MACHINE DOES NOT GIVE CHANGE
We now each have 5 chances of beating those 292,000,000 to 1 odds. Ill let you know tomorrow how this turned out. Grenville

Easy Roasted Veggies

Chicken and fish are served quite very often for main meals in our home and there's always an assortment of fresh vegetables available. But there can be TOO veggies and some need to be used before our next grocery shopping; we try not to waste any — doesn't everyone?

What to do?

Roast them — it's easy and we get a side dish that pairs well with various main entrees.

There's so many variations in roasting vegetables; using harder ones like  carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash means longer roast time. The basic method is the same, just leave them in large chunks — no need to dice small. This recipe only used veggies in the fridge last week that included:

  • Cauliflower florets
  • Green beans, cut in large pieces
  • Zucchini and/or yellow squash, chunked
  • Bell pepper various colors, seeded and chunked
  • Yellow (or red) onion, sliced (or chunked)
  • 2-3 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar to taste
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tsp herbs of your choice. I alternate using herbes de provence (savory, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, oregano) or Italian herbs (oregano, basil,rosemary, thyme, sage). These come pre-mixed or use a personal spice combo. 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Most times I spread the veggies out on a baking sheet, which is the preferred method. However, last week I used a large baking dish instead. Admittedly, the veggies were a bit crowded, but still delicious. There were leftovers for another meal too.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. 

Lightly oil the baking dish (or baking sheet) with nonstick spray or a light coat of olive oil. Place the veggies onto the dish or sheet. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and seasonings, season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

Gently toss to combine. Place into oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the veggies are tender, turning once with spatula. Mind the oven which will be very hot; I very carefully removed the dish to give them a stir (remembering to take my glasses off first).

Cooking times can vary depending on: amount and type of veggies combined, chunk size, and preference as to crispness or tenderness.


Serve immediately. Yes, these veggies were a bit over-crowded, but delicious and the best thing is . . . there were leftovers for another meal.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mystery Solved

Actually, it wasn't very much of a mystery as we very much appreciated the "secret Snowman" who left us several new additions to our apt entry. An earlier post showed photos of our ever-increasing snow-folk gathering.

After that post, this personalized snow couple joined the group. 

As before, we asked fellow neighbors if they "did the deed" to no avail. We also posted on the resident portal here seeking to thank the culprits responsible folks. No one fessed up, which was OK as surprises are always welcome as are mysteries!

But NOW we know — recently as we welcomed in the new year with some bubbly, our neighbor, Cathy, told us that she was our anonymous donor.

As the shelf is full, we're hoping the snow-folk population remains stable — until next year, at least.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Friday Funnies

Got that after Christmas Bug ?



(This roadside novelty is on on the southbound lane of I-95 in Providence, RI. We pass it every time we go to see the grands.)

Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Good Reads

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore might suggest the well-known singing group, but it has nothing to do with that famous trio, The main characters Barbara Jean, Clarice, and Odette don't even sing. Instead, this is the story of the life-long friendship of these three women through both good and bad times.

The storyline transverses between the past and the present interweaving the life stories of these childhood friends. The trio was dubbed "The Supremes" by Big Earl, owner of the fictional All-You-Can-Eat diner, a black-owned business in Plainview, Indiana. Big Earl even reserved a special table whenever they met at his eatery.

Earl's diner is a social gathering hub not only for the Supremes, but for many others in the community  It's a meeting place and a refuge offering solace, humor and support when most needed. The women and their husbands gather at the diner every Sunday after services at their respective churches to hear the latest news and to gossip about the town's eccentric characters. And, there are many characters including fortuneteller Miss Minnie, Veronica (Clarice's cousin) and her donut-addicted daughter, Sharon.

I soon became involved in each woman's life through the tale of their individual and shared histories that are filled with drama, tragedy and hard choices. Clarice, a promising pianist, gave up a career to marry Richmond, a former college football star and notorious womanizer. Barbara Jean struggles with alcoholism after the death of her young son and later her husband, Lester. Odette has a stabile marriage to James and thinks she is going through symptoms of menopause only to learn she has a serious disease.  She learns that like her deceased mother she sees ghosts, including that of her mother and, as unlikely as it sounds, Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Supremes at Earl's is a debut novel and has been optioned for a movie adaptation. The author, Edward Kelsey Moore, was born in the Midwest (Indiana) where he still resides (Chicago). His essays and short fiction have been published in literary magazines and The New York Times. Kelsey is a professional cellist who has performed with the Chicago Philharmonic and the Joffrey Ballet Orchestra and  toured nationally and internationally.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Crockpot Garlic Beef Stew

Winter has arrived here in NH as of last week when we had a couple inches of snow that has managed to stay around because of the cold temps that followed. And, colder nights are forecast for several days this week. It's  hard to beef a stew for comfort food in winter.

This new (to me) recipe was tried a couple of weeks ago after we bought this Cuisinart programmable crockpot. We an older one which this one replaced as that one only had a control settings of high/low. This one can be set for a specified number of hours and then turns to Warm.  

Whoops, I prepared and served this recipe without photos. Trust me, it was delicious and will be served again — there's a lot more winter a'coming!

The original recipe was adapted from an original on BudgetBytes. There's some prep time needed, but the result is well worth it. And, once it's in the slow cooker, the work is all done, so go and r-e-l-a-x. (Hint: cutting veggies the night before saves time.)

Crockpot Garlic Beef Stew
  • ½ lb (4 medium) carrots
  • 3-4 celery pieces, sliced
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 lbs red potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • 2 TBSP olive oil 
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ lbs. beef stew meat
  •  Salt and pepper
  • ¼ C all-purpose flour
  • 2 C beef broth
  • 2 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • ½ TBSP brown sugar
  • ½ TBSP dried rosemary
  • ½ tsp thyme
  1. Dice onion; slice carrots and celery. Wash potatoes well and cut them 1-inch cubes. Place onion, carrots, celery, and potatoes into a large slow cooker. Place stew meat in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add flour and toss meat until it is coated, then set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Sauté garlic in hot oil for about a minute, or until soft and fragrant. Add floured meat and all the flour from the bottom of the bowl to skillet. Let beef cook without stirring for a few minutes to allow it to brown on one side. Stir and repeat until most or all sides of beef pieces are browned. Add browned beef to slow cooker and stir to combine with vegetables.
  3. Return skillet to burner and turn heat to low. Add beef broth, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, rosemary, and thyme to the skillet. Stir to combine the ingredients and dissolve browned bits from bottom of skillet. Once everything is dissolved off the skillet bottom, pour sauce over ingredients in the crock pot. The sauce will not cover the contents of the slow cooker as moisture is released when it cooks.
  4. Cook on high 4 hours, then remove lid and stir, breaking beef into smaller pieces as you stir. Adjust salt, if needed. Serve hot as is with bread or salad or over rice or pasta.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

First Day Hike

First Day Hikes are part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks to encourage people to get outdoors. The hikes are held on New Year’s Day as states throughout the U.S. sponsor free, guided hikes in their state parks to encourage adults and children to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of a natural resource.  

While I didn't see any estimates on this year's First Day Hikes, last year nearly 28,000 people rang in the New Year by collectively hiking over 66,000 miles throughout the country.

In our home state of NJ, there were not only numerous First Day Hikes, but a selection of state parks to choose from; however, choices were more limited when we lived in a small VA eastern shore town. Now, the situation has changed and we have a choice of NH state parks, several less than an hour driving time away.

That's why on New Year's Day 2016, we put on our walking hiking shoes and joined over 75 people at Silver Lake State Park in Hollis, NH, for an walk that went through woods, an apple orchard, and a small tree farm. 

As you can see, we also had snow on the ground thanks to a snowfall (first of the season) two days earlier. Christmas was unseasonably warm here in New England as in many other states, but all that changed here within a few days. And, while the going was a bit sloppy and slushy at times, it was fun to be outdoors hiking in the snow — at least for us.

We hiked through wooded areas and yes took some selfies enroute.

We followed paths that went around an apple orchard, which looked quite forlorn with the fruit long gone.

Still being holiday time, I found natural ornaments there — still red apples.

And in some years to come, these trees may be ready for Christmas time.

It was a quite overcast during most of the walk which made this old barn all the more dramatic. It was monochromatic even before I altered it to become a B&W image.


As we neared the end of our walk, which as about 2 miles, the skies cleared and presented me with some dramatic skies.

Afterwards, we explored some backroad areas by auto. However, by late afternoon we found that outdoors hiking builds up an appetite, so there was only one thing to do . . .
We found a local tavern that served good burgers (and sweet potato fries) to satisfy our appetites. We also each received a hat to mark our hiking experience.

Just wondering — How did you spend the 1st day of this 2016 New Year? 
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