Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Death of a Favorite Author

Favorite authors - Do you have them too?
Maeve Binchy
Sadly, one of mine, Maeve Binchy, died Monday in Dublin. Ms. Binchy was a bestselling Irish author selling over 40 million books worldwide. Her stories depicted family crisis and human relationships, mainly in the small towns of Ireland and London. She was 72 years old and in recent years had been in poor health due to arthritis and heart ailments.
Ms. Binchy wrote 16 novels, four collections of short stories, a play and a novella. Her novels were translated into over 30 languages and sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. Two novels, Circle of Friends (based on her days at University College Dublin) and Tara Road were turned into feature films.
Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982 and was rejected five times before being published. It was set during World War II and following years and featured elements that characterized nearly all her novels: life in small town Ireland and family relationships. Some novels are complete stories (Circle of Friends, Light a Penny Candle) but many revolve around a cast of inter-related characters (The Copper Beech, Silver Wedding, Heart and Soul). Others (Scarlet Feather, Quentins, Tara Road) featured recurring characters.
Her latest novel, A Week in Winter, is scheduled for publication later this year. In 2000, she had announced that Scarlet Feather would be her last book, prompting nearly 1,000 people to protest by writing to The Irish Times. A follow-up novel, Quentins was published in 2002. That year, after going through several heart-related health issues, she was cautioned to restrict her activities. Her time spent in hospitals inspired the 2009 novel, Heart and Soul which was followed up by Minding Frankie in 2010. She also received a lifetime achievement honor from the Irish Book Awards that same year.
Describing her childhood in Dalkey in County Dublin, Binchy wrote on her official website that she was "full of enthusiasm, mad fantasies . . . and anxious to be a saint."
After graduation from University College, Dublin, Binchy worked as a teacher and later became a journalist, columnist and women's editor at The Irish Times, one of the country's leading Binchy snellnewspapers. She moved to England and in the 1970s became the paper's London editor. She is survived by her husband, writer Gordon Snell, an author of children's books. She always referred to him by name on the dedication page of her books.
Immediate media reports described Binchy as "beloved, Ireland's most well-known novelist, and the best-loved writer of her generation." Her books have outsold top Irish writers including Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, and Samuel Beckett. Her novels were on the venerated US bestseller list of The New York Times many times. She was recognized for her "total absence of malice" and generosity to other writers as well. In a 2000 book poll, she finished ahead of authors that included Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Stephen King.
Scottish author Ian Rankin said, "She had time for everybody. Perhaps because her stories came from all of us and for all of us." British author, former politician, and personal friend Jeffrey Archer wrote, "She had the greatest God-given Irish gift of telling stories, who loved people and had a zest for life. She had that gift of making you feel life was worth living."
"We're nothing if we're not loved. When you meet somebody who is more important to you than yourself, that has to be the most important thing in life, really. And I think we are all striving for it in different ways. I also believe very, very strongly that everybody is the hero/heroine of his/her own life. I try to make my characters king of ordinary, somebody that anybody could be. Because we've all had loves, perhaps love and loss, people can relate to my characters." Maeve Binchy
  • Light a Penny Candle (1982)
  • Echoes (1985)
  • Firefly Summer (1987)
  • Silver Wedding (1988)
  • Circle of Friends (1990)
  • The Copper Beech (1992)
  • The Glass Lake (1994)
  • Evening Class (1996)
  • Tara Road (1998)
  • Scarlet Feather (2000)
  • Quentins (2002)
  • Nights of Rain and Stars (2004)
  • Whitethorn Woods (2006)
  • Heart and Soul (2008)
  • Minding Frankie (2010)
  • A Week in Winter (pending 2012 release)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Train Photofun

During our recent visit to Lancaster, PA for Grenville's birthday celebration which included the Chocolate Express train ride, he toured the engine shop of the Strasburg Rail Road. Since I'm not as big a train enthusiast as Grenville, I opted out of that tour and explored around the train yard. It was fun experimenting with the effects setting on my Canon PowerShot SX120IS digital camera. 

You might also have some of these or similar special effects settings  available on your digital point-and shoot camera. All these photos were taken with the camera's special effects settings without using any software programs afterward.

The steam train stopped at the water tower for a fill-up. This large and very red tower was a hard to resist photo "op."

RR water tower

Various images of the steam engine.

engine shots

The same passenger cars taken with various effects.

passenger cars

The fun image effects used for these photos included super vivid, color swap, monochrome, fish eye, and color accent. Unfortunately, I didn't keep track of which effect was used for each photo — it was a just a fun hour. The collages were put together using Picasa, Google's free photo editor — another way to have some photo fun.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Red Robin NOT the Bird

Red Robin logo

Red Robin is a chain of casual dining restaurants which Grenville and myself had never eaten in until yesterday as we usually avoid fast-food places. But, it was lunch time and, after spending several hours in an Apple store to download the new OSX Mountain Lion, other updates and get questions answered, we succumbed to the aroma of burgers. We had opted out of food court dining and gone to our car. Red Robin was a free-standing restaurant outside the mall. Also, Grenville reminded me of his scant breakfast 4 hours earlier.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers is a casual dining restaurant chain with a menu focused on burgers made of beef, chicken, turkey and vegan substitutes, as well as a appetizers, salads, soups, and pasta. There's also a long list of fountain-type drinks, including milkshakes. Red Robin's biggest sellers are the gourmet burgers, which account for nearly 50% of the company's food sales. The average per person meal cost is about $10, excluding a drink but including "bottomless steak fries." There are more than 100 Red Robin restaurants in 13 states across the US and Canada as well as franchise agreements with nearly 100 restaurants in 17 states and Canada.

Red Robin views

Red Robin started in 1969 in Seattle as Sam's Tavern, later changed to Sam's Red Robin and then to Red Robin. The restaurant no longer serves alcoholic beverages and is geared toward family and teen dining. A July 2010 post featured photos of real robins and background on the Red Robin restaurants.

red robin gourmet burger

Grenville rated it a 5 and still prefers Fuddrucker's burgers billed (by the company) as "the world's greatest hamburger."

burger remains

But, as you can see, there were no leftovers from this meal which included the cheddar burger for me and the bacon-cheddar burger for Grenville, and those bottomless stem fries, only one reorder, cause we KNOW they are bad for us.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Funnies

Boston has a lot of well-known sites and some unexpected new ones, like this sculpture at Fanueil Hall . . . 

giant noodle


The bright yellow fiberglass noodle displays the motto for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. It measures 20 feet long by 9 feet high by 4-1/2 feet wide and sits on a large white platform near Quincy Market. But you can't love this noodle "up close and personal" as a sign cautions "no climbing, sitting, or sliding down the noodle." 

If you can't get to Boston, there's giant noodles at Love Park, Philadelphia, PA and also at Pier 39 in San Francisco, CA. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Some Things About Boston

As Grenville posted earlier, we traveled to Beantown, otherwise known as Boston, yesterday. Driving Boston streets would be difficult and costly because of the shortage of downtown parking spaces and high parking garage fees. We opted for a comfortable bus ride instead, arriving at the South Station bus terminal (shown below) in slightly over an hour from Nashua, NH. 
south street terminal
south station2
Why is the city called Beantown? Boston was part of the triangular trade, whereby Caribbean slaves grew sugar cane to be shipped to Boston where it was turned into rum which was sent to West Africa to buy more slaves to send to the West Indies. Because of this trade, the area had lots of molasses; beans baked in the syrup became popular in Boston, giving it the nickname.

trolley tour
When you only have a single day to see the numerous tourist stops Boston and its environs have to offer, the best way to get around is by a trolley tour bus. You can unlimited on and off boardings. The tours are narrated. and as we made several re-boardings, here are some things we re-learned or found out for the FIRST time:

The Battle of Bunker Hill wasn't fought there, but on Breed's Hill where there's a 221-foot granite obelisk marking the site of the first major battle of the American revolution.

 It's not Samuel Adams face on bottles of Sam Adams beer. The brand named after Samuel Adams, an American patriot known for his role in the American Revolution and Boston Tea Party was also a brewer. But, it's Paul Revere who graces bottles of the Boston-founded brew. We heard two versions "why." Company founder Jim Koch had decided to name the beer in honor of Paul Revere, changing it after a poll by co-founders (Harry Rubin and Lorenzo LaMadrid) showed that the name Paul Revere Beer was not as appealing to the public as Samuel (now Sam) Adams beer, but since they had paid for the Paul Revere design and couldn't afford (then) to change it during start-up, it stuck. Today, the largest American-owned brewery could afford a re-design, but has kept the original design. 

The OTHER story we heard was that when the company could afford a design change, it decided to stick with Revere's image because of Adams' "bad" looks.
Here's a likeness of Paul Revere (top left), one of Samuel Adams and a bottle of Sam Adams beer — what do YOU think?
sam adams beer bottle
Paul Revere did NOT complete his route on his famous Midnight Ride as dramatized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Paul Revere's Ride). He was captured by the British before his task was completed. Two other men, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, rode with Revere and at least one completed the ride; Revere was held and later released.
IMG 0515
Prior to a 25-year long filling project in the 19th-century, what is nowBoston's Back Bay area was really a bay. Today, the entire Back Bay and neighboring Beacon Hill are among Boston's most expensive residential neighborhoods with numerous brownstones and luxury residences.
Trinity Church in Boston's Copley Square was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and still today is recognized as one of the finest examples of building architecture in the US. It's been designated as a National Historic Landmark. 
Trinity Church
It is the birthplace and archetype of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, characterized by a clay roof, polychromy, rough stone, heavy arches, and a massive tower. This style was later adopted for many public buildings across the US, and became the first American architectural style imitated in Europe and Canada.
Trinity Church2
This is one of the largest church buildings we have ever been in. The three-dimensional effect of its massive open interior bears no historical precedent. Construction went fro 1872 to 1879. Trinity Church's main building materials are Monson granite and Longmeadow sandstone. 

Its tower alone weighs 90 million pounds. To support this immense weight, 4000 cedar piles were pounded beneath the water table in a 90-foot square. all the piles supporting Trinity Church are made of wood. These piles support four granite pyramids (35 ft square, and 17 ft high) which form a "pass through" area where water rises and falls. If exposed to air, the wooden piles would begin to rot. A pumping system measures the underground water level, and keeps it somewhere in the 17 foot range of the pyramids. The same wooden piles have supported Trinity Church since its construction.

Boston is a city of diverse architectural styles from the old, not so old . . .
old Boston buildings
To the sleek and modern buildings of steel and lots of glass, which make for great reflections . . .
modern Boston2
Other ways to tour Boston, other than by trolley, include by "duck" or by a harbor tour boat.
trolley and ducks

Boston Baffles

Sometimes i get baffled by the strangest things. I'm sure you do too. Yesterday we were in downtown Boston, the home of many great institutions of higher learning. Some engineering, some law, some general studies, and some art. When they tore down the elevated highway through downtown and buried it, the city had all this open land. Today it is a wonderful greenway that runs right through the heart of downtown Boston with parks, ponds, and water playgrounds. When you mix parks with art schools the result is almost always 'pondering places'. And in these 'pondering places' are 'objects d' art' to ponder upon, or sit upon and ponder. I found this one Baffling….. I thing she did too.
IMG 1605
IMG 1610

Another ponderable point (is that even a word????) was this new definition of 'Sea Legs'.
IMG 1617

IMG 1618

While Beatrice was looking up at the reflections and buildings, i was checking what was under my feet. Some of you might remember the 'under your feet' posts from Maine. Well Boston was just as good.
Round col

Square col

I'm not sure what some of them are for but just imagine how much stuff is running under your feet there….. and that doesn't count the subways. The Gas Test baffled me the most. Is there some sort of insert that goes there, or do you have to sit on the sidewalk for the test???? A stinky situation at best.
Speaking of subways, we were Benedict Arnold's (a revolutionary thing) on this trip. Our choices to get from Nashua to Boston were train (15 minutes drive/$5 for parking/ $22.50 round trip/ hard seats/ NO Wi-Fi) or by bus (3 minute ride/ free parking/$22 round trip/ comfy seats/ FREE Wi-Fi). You guessed it, being cheap geeks we took the bus. The nice part was that the bus station is right next to South Train Station.
IMG 1627

Not the most imposing station but unique that it is built in an arc with the trains coming into the concave side and dead ending. This one was waiting to back out.
So these were my Boston Baffles

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

GPS - Friend or Foe?

Just Wondering . . .

GPS1Does your GPS gives you the correct route information — some of the time, all of the time, NEVER?

Have you screamed at the voice in frustration, anger, aggravation (take your pick, any or all)?

Did you ever turn left or right just to get it "mad."

Ever go a smarter way (presuming you've already traveled the route) when the GPS advised a completely different route?

Can you change the route OR does the GPS force you to follow its way?

Grenville recently bought his first Garmin GPS and is NOT having a great time; on our recent RI road trip he argued with Michelle (GPS voice NOT Mrs. Obama) sometimes VERY loudly. They were each telling the other where to go.

Beatrice has a new TomTom GPS to replace an older one and likes listening to Richard tell her where to go AND what to do.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why Neapolitan?

IMG 1400This was the recent topic of discussion between a friend and I. We remembered the popularity of this ice cream (way) back when we were growing up. This was a popular treat in many American households, before the introduction of SO many other flavors. Then, the choices were simple: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry ice cream OR all three together in Neapolitan ice cream.

But WHY and HOW was it named?

Talking about Neapolitan ice cream made me wonder about its name. Purely for research purposes (of course), I told Grenville that we  HAD to buy some — then sample it — again for the sake of research (of course).

ODD, but he didn't have a problem with this project and neither did I, especially when I mentioned that sampling part.

Traditional Neapolitan ice cream consists of blocks of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream side by side in the same container in brick form. I remembered that it had sheets of packaging in between the flavors similar to waxed paper to separate them. Now, there's usually no packaging between them; some brands even intermix the flavors.

The name Neapolitan has its origins in Naples, Italy (a resident of Naples is a Neapolitan). Naples has a long history of ice cream making  where classic tri-colored blocks were created and sold under the name "spumoni," a tricolored, three-flavored (usually cherry, chocolate and pistachio).
IMG 1403
Italian immigrants to the United States brought their frozen dessert making skills with them and renamed the product "Neapolitan" in the late 19th century. Spumoni was introduced to the US in the 1870s as "Neapolitan-style" ice cream. Early recipes used a variety of flavors; however the three molded together was a common denominator. Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry were the most popular flavors at the time of its introduction and so became the "standard" flavors — then and still today.

The traditional packaging of Neapolitan ice cream resembles a brick. However, the variety we bought today came an oval container and was labelled "Classic Trio."
Regardless of the packaging, to me it's still Neapolitan ice cream. We did a taste sample to "make sure" it tasted OK.
IMG 1405
Doesn't everyone DO that after bringing home ice cream?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

VERY Special Celebration

IMG 3809

A very special young lady in our lives, granddaughter Elizabeth ("Ellie") celebrated a BIG milestone this weekend — her 1st birthday.

Ellie was surrounded by family and friends to help her celebrate this event, the first of many more to follow.

Ellie's disposition is as bright and cheerful as her colorful birthday dress. She's a happy child, who's always laughing and chattering, unless tired or hungry (much like many of us).

The party had everything expected at such events from good food to presents, cake, and many good wishes. The special birthday cake was decorated by Ellie's mom, Shannon. There was also a crown for the birthday princess.

0721 Ellie Bday Party1

Wondering IF the birthday cake was good — just ask Ellie who found the best way to eat it is with two hands.

0721 Ellie Bday Party

What's a party without presents? Mom and big brother Bobby, also known as grandson #1, were there to help out.

0721 Ellie Bday Party2

Ellie modeled special and lovely birthday gifts from blogger friend Tammy (Simple Southern Happiness). Thanks !

0721 Ellie Bday Party3

What is This Answer

What is This1.jpg

A What is This post the other day was an odd one for me, and maybe for you too. I had no idea what these large items were Grenville explained they are channel marker buoys which can range in various sizes from "small" to very LARGE.

He managed to get alongside the flatbed that was transporting them to give me (and now you) a better view of their sizes.

What is This.jpg

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sadness and Prayers

Why such incidents occur, we don't know. But, sadly they do happen far too often these days.

The deaths of 12 people and injuring of 59 at a Colorado movie theatre last night stunned us this morning as we watched the news.

We're sure it did the same to you.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims of this senseless violence.

There's nothing more to say.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Look Who's 1 (Already)

0719 Ellie Bday3.jpg

Yes, it seems like yesterday, but was really a short year ago that we were announcing the arrival of granddaughterIMG_0950.JPG Elizabeth, known as "Ellie." Those 12 months have gone by quickly and we have been fortunate to spend several visits with Ellie and grandson Bobby during the past year, including our recent May family wedding get-together.

We first met Ellie when she was 2 weeks old and became besotted with her just as we had been upon the birth of her brother 5-1/2 years earlier.

Today, July 19, was Ellie's 1st Birthday. We were there to help celebrate with pizza and a birthday "cake."

Grandpa Grenville came up with the "perfect" cake. Can you guess what he had in mind?

If you thought Cinnamon buns, you were RIGHT — although these were from Ikea, because there was no Cinnabon on our way to Ellie's home. While not the same, these were still delicious, just ask Ellie (or Grenville).

0719 Ellie Bday5.jpg

0719 Ellie Bday4.jpg

THEN, it was time to for birthday gifts - NO, Ellie did not get her own iPhone, although she did prefer it to the play one she received from mom and dad. Mom Shannon helped Ellie answer a couple of birthday calls on her iPhone.

0719 Ellie Bday2.jpg

And, of course, what kid's birthday would be complete without some new (and noisy) toys from grandpa and grandma?

0719 Ellie Bday.jpg0719 Ellie Bday1.jpg

The BIG birthday party with lots of family and friends will be this coming Saturday. This will be a BIG event in this little one's young life and we will be there to help celebrate (once again). And, we continue to be besotted with her and Bobby too.

Happy 1st Birthday, Ellie !

What is This? and Gas

WOW here's another online quiz . . . do you know what this (these) are — there were several of them seen today as we travelled on Rte 95 through CT.


And, here's WHY we never buy gas in CT . . .  prices are ALWAYS this insanely HIGH. The fuel taxes are higher because there are no road tolls, so fuel costs are higher and everyone gets to pay.

0718 CT gas.JPG

The gas prices in PA last weekend were all over the place from a low $3.34 to a high of $3.57/gal.

0713 PA Gas Prices.jpg