Monday, December 29, 2014

In Her Memory

In a pre-holiday post, I wrote that due to a family health issue and out of state travel, we would be taking a temporary blog break. Comments were off then (as now). Pat and I knew that your collective good wishes would be with us. 
The family crisis was my mother's unexpected hospitalization in our home state of NJ. Sadly, she passed away a few days before Christmas. She collapsed in her home, and thankfully my brother was with her. She was transported to the hospital, which is listed as the "official" place of death. Although my mother had been in failing health the past few years, she refused to reside anyplace else. Her desire was to die "at home" and we know that is exactly what happened.

The passing of a loved one, family or friend, is a sad event, even more so at the holidays. I know that my mother is now free from pain, suffering and most of all, I know that she is reunited with my father, whom she's missed since his passing over 30 years ago. Despite that loss, she maintained a strong and independent spirit. While not "tech-savy" in terms of computers and the like, she could tell "what was what." She kept current on world-wide events, watched the nightly news, and read the paper daily.

My mother was 92 years old. Two years ago, she told us wanted to celebrate her 90th year with a blowout birthday party surrounded by family and friends. It was a memorable occasion for everyone especially her. 

I believe that my mother celebrated a wonderful Christmas even though she was not with us. My fondest wish is that she know how much her family loved her and admired her strength, wisdom and generous spirit.

Mom, we love you and are already missing you. You will always be with us in memory and spirit till we meet again one day.

(Thanks to fellow bloggers who sent private emails of concern which were much appreciated by myself and my family.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

It's Christmas Eve again. Another year has past and we again are getting ready to celebrate that very special birthday that is the center of Christendom. The birthday of a simple man with a simple message. A simple message that came from God. Love one another. Jesus put it a little differently when he said "what ever you do for the least of mine, you do for me."
Many of us make donations to national and international organizations at this time of year, and this is fine. But how many of you helped a stranger on the street lately? That troubled soul you pass every day? Made up with that neighbor you quarreled with? Or just hugged someone that was having a really bad day.

In 1947 a movie staring David Niven, Loretta Young, and Cary Grant came out. The simple name, "The Bishops Wife", understated the message. It has gone on to become a Christmas classic. I won't give away the plot, but will share with you the sermon that closes the movie. Like Jesus's message, it is short and to the point.

With that, we wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, Good Solstice, and hope you take this simple message to heart. Love one another, and make peace on earth a reality.

Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking. Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry. A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries; we celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, the sound of bells and with gifts. But especially with gifts. You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer, and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe. We forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled -- all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It's His birthday we are celebrating. Don't ever let us forget that. Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most, and then let each put in His share. Loving kindness, warm hearts and the stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Blog Break

Because of a family health issue and the need to travel out of state, we are taking an extended blog break. Comments are off as we know that your well wishes go with us and we appreciate all of them. 

In return, we wish everyone a wonderful holiday season filled with joy, love, family and friends, however and wherever you will celebrate.

Dorothy & Pat (aka Beatrice & Grenville)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Holiday Films

We watch holiday films this time of year . . . 

Our collection includes about 50 holiday films and/or classic TV shows on DVD (we upgraded from VHS). We view them from Thanksgiving to New Year's and try to average one per night, but sometimes miss a night so double up other nights.

With some classics, we watch the original and the remake. For example, 1947 The Bishop's Wife (Cary Grant, David Niven, Loretta Young) was re-made and re-titled in 1996 as The Preacher's Wife (Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston, Courtney B. Vance). Another example is the 1947 and then 1994 versions of Miracle on 34th Street. Our preference is for the vintage B&W film. 
Then, there are the weekend movie marathons when we watch several films in sequence, notably the series of Santa comedies with Tim Allen: Santa Clause (1994), Santa Clause 2: The Mrs Clause (2002), Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006). A second marathon is 1990 Home Alone and the 1992 sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Of course, there's numerous versions of the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol of which we have several: 1984 version with George C. Scott, 1998 comedy Scrooged with Bill Murray, 2009 animated film with Jim Carrey, and the 1992 Muppets animation.

Then, there are the "unusual" holiday films, like the 1994 Mixed Nuts, with Steve Martin (named one of the worst films ever made). 
The 1950 The Great Rupert (re-titled A Christmas Wishwith Jimmy Durante featured a dancing squirrel. A 1940 film, Beyond Tomorrow (re-titled Beyond Christmas) is a sentimental tear-jerker.

There's also the classic films, we watch every year: White Christmas, Holiday Inn, It's a Wonderful Life. Our favorites also include these more recent seasonal romantic-comedies:  Love Actually (2003) and The Holiday (2006).

How about YOU . . .

If you enjoy holiday films, which ones and do you watch them every holiday season?

Happy Holiday viewing !

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fairies in the Yard

Have fairies danced in your yard? — they have in ours and in neighborhood yards too.

According to legend, fairies or pixies often gather at night. Dancing in a circle, wearing down the grass and leaving a trampled ring of brown or dead grass. A day later, mushrooms spring up encircling the dance ring. It's been said that since toads sat on the mushrooms, they became referred to as “toadstools.”

Many believed fairies caused this phenomena and called the circles fairy rings, fairy circles, or pixie rings.
A mushroom ring provides the most obvious evidence of these rings. When "fairy" ring mushrooms first appear, there are numerous fruiting bodies (mushrooms) that look like small bulbs on top of long stalks. 

When mature, mushrooms are large and the bulb expands. The circles are the result of a pattern of mycelium growth. 

Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus and is the underground organism that produces the reproductive fruit bodies known as mushrooms. The circular growth pattern is a factor of soil type,condition, soil nutrients, obstructions underground, and dirt composition. The ground needs to be even and well composed, which is why the rings appear on lawns.

The organic matter that fairy rings break down is often tree stumps, roots, logs, and pieces of organic material in soil below the lawn. As these depletes, the fairy ring(s) disappear.

Several fairy rings may look together on lawns that were wooded. Yet, they don’t cross each other; fungal activity stops when fungi from different rings contact each other. (It seems mushrooms are not as social as they look.)
You can only notice these rings once mushrooms crop up on grassy lawn areas. However, the circular mycelium underground is always present and growing.

Yes, I believe that fairies dance in the rings on our lawn.

And, just wondering . . .

Do you believe it too? ('tis the season for believing)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Modified Chicken Florentine

IF you were wondering about the post title it's because this recipe from the Kraft Foods website underwent some minor major modifications.


Because I didn't fully read the recipe and check that we had all the listed ingredients before actually starting dinner preparations.

SO, there were some substitutions made, but the recipe listed below IS the original one from the website should you ever want to try it -- BUT substitutions are always good (especially when you've already started dinner and there's no time to get to the store). The asterisk (*) denotes substituted ingredients, which are noted below. 

Chicken Florentine Casserole
  • 1 tub (8 oz.) Philadelphia cream cheese spread *
  • ¾ C plus 2 tbsp. milk, divided *
  • ½ tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in bite-size pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 C farfalle (bow-tie pasta), cooked
  • 1 pkg (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed & drained
  • 1 C shredded, part-skim Mozzarella cheese *
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled *
  1. Heat oven to 375ºF.
  2. Mix cream cheese spread, 2 tbsp. milk and seasoning until blended.
  3. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add chicken and garlic; cook and stir 6 to 7 min. or until chicken is done. Stir in cream cheese mixture and all remaining ingredients except bacon. Spoon into 1-1/2-qt. casserole sprayed with cooking spray. Cover and bake 10 minutes.
  4. Uncover, top with bacon, bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
* Used 1/2 Philadelphia cream cheese "brick" placed in microwave 30 sec. to soften
* Combined 2% milk and half &amp half
* Substituted 3-cheese Mexican blend 
* Used diced pepperoni (will have to buy more for homemade pizza)

Except for the ingredient substitutions, all the preparation and cooking steps were followed. Here's the resulting meal. Serve with a tossed salad (if you have any salad fixings available, which we did not) OR instead substitute a glass of wine, which I did.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Eight is Great !

Grandson celebrated his 8th birthday this week. It doesn't seems so long ago that we boarded a plane in Norfolk, VA and headed to CA to await his early morning arrival. 
We will miss this weekend's party, but sent gifts early — and watched them opened by way of a video chat this week.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Funnies

Maybe I missed something, but when did a dachshund AND a pig become associated with Christmas decorations?

These yard decorations were on display in a local store. Have you seen any holiday oddities this year and what were they?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Snowy Travels

Driving on interstate highways to spend Thanksgiving in our native NJ visiting with family and friend brought a number of wintry sights.

A winter storm hit the east coast on Wednesday just as many folks, like ourselves, were heading on the roads.
Luckily, we didn't experience any major backups or delays during our trip. Even though the day before Thanksgiving is predictably the "heaviest" travel day, traffic moved along smoothly.

Our only "delays" were when traffic slowed to let salt and plow truck drivers to do their job for which we were thankful.
And 2 days afterwards this was the scene as we traveled NJ roadways — what a difference in road and weather conditions.

We hope that all our U.S. blogger friends enjoyed a safe and wonderful holiday, as we certainly did.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Funnies

This wild turkey "escaped" a Presidential pardon this week . . .

and flew away (after dining).

(A friend in Oregon "captured" this bird on his back porch using his cell phone.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

We wish EVERYONE a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration, whether you're spending the day dining with family, friends or both.

At this special time, we are thankful for so many blessings — family, friends and YOU, our blogger friends. Thanks for your comments which we always appreciate.

If any of you will be traveling on the East Coast to visit family and friends, as we're doing, we hope that all our travels are safe. Wintry weather is predicted for many states, which could make this holiday even more memorable.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Holiday Treets

No, it's not a misspelling, but, a play on holiday "treats" because this is about decorated Christmas trees.

We've been in NH the past week and took a road trip to the Sticks and Stones Farm in Barnstead, NH, which was hosting its 4th annual Festival of Trees. This event takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving and is a fundraiser for several area organizations through an admission fee.

Farm owners invite local businesses, organizations and individuals to decorate trees that are displayed outdoors on the farm. Visitors vote for their favorites using pennies placed in containers near each tree. Previously, the festival has hosted 50 decorated trees, but far less this year. After judging and the festival's end, decorated trees are donated to families in need. 

We missed the Friday and Saturday choral groups since we visited on Sunday afternoon, the final day. Still, there was outdoor marshmallow roasting, cookies, cider and hot chocolate treats, and a wagon ride around the farm grounds. 
It was a nice way to spend time before Thanksgiving and to contribute towards a worthwhile event. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

What's in the Lawn?

Large groupings of mushrooms cropped up in the F&P front lawn the past couple of weeks. In the past several years, we've had two large trees removed, yet this is the first time these large mushrooms have appeared.

In doing online research, I learned that it could take quite awhile for some of the former tree matter to decay causing a delay in the appearance of these "shrooms," which are actually fungal matter. 

And, unlike in the human world where fungi is often not a good thing, it's actually beneficial in many parts of the plant world.

Mushrooms grow where there is healthy organic matter in the soil. While they are not necessarily bad for the lawn, most homeowners find them unattractive and remove them down or apply fungicide treatment.

The ones in our front yard provided some good photo opps. These photos were au natural with no post processing or special effects applied.

Shortly after this photo session, I eliminated them from the lawn because our home is "on the market" and these clumps may not seem attractive to a prospective buyer of which they were none recently. And, there is that whole issue of "curb appeal."

For a short time they were great subject matter. You don't need to go far to find photo possibilities, just take a walk in your front (or back) yard

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Late in the Season?

Last week's Friday Funnies drew a lot of comments. Thanks to all who told me it was an amazing capture. Sometimes, the unexpected happens when I take my camera and go exploring, many times close to home.

There were quite a few of these colorful caterpillars on the dill which was growing unexpectedly and very late in the season in our small garden -- long after the tomatoes and peppers had been harvested and enjoyed by Grenville and myself. 

And, just as unexpectedly and late, there were up to a dozen of these caterpillars on nearly every available dill stalk.

When these larvae mature, they become eastern black swallowtail butterflies. The host plant is any of the carrot family: dill, parsley, fennel and others. The adult female lays fertilized yellow eggs on the host plant. The stages (instars) feed voraciously on the host plant as they mature. Many dill plants were already stripped of their leaves.

This is a younger version of this caterpillar larvae. Its "skin" is armor-like with spikes of bright orange. Several of these were munching on parsley. Two weeks earlier, I saw over a dozen of these in the dill and parsley.; all were gone by morning, perhaps as a bird treat? 

Later, I read that not seeing a black swallowtail chrysalis is not unusual; the instars hide in nearby vegetation, then later string up and morph into a chrysalis and then a butterfly.

The (Eastern) Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) is also called the American Swallowtail or Parsnip Swallowtail. It's the state butterfly of Oklahoma and is found throughout much of North America.

Monday, November 17, 2014

More Happenings

It's been a couple of weeks since an update on what's been happening around The Frog & PenguINN. The last update described how we've been downsizing by selling, donating and tossing "stuff" that seems to have accumulated in our nearly 11 years here on the VA eastern shore.

Recent efforts have been focused on outside house projects and yard work. Luckily, we've had some really warm fall temps.

Grenville did some touch-ups on the front porch trim. It needed a freshening after the humid summers here.

He's quite handy with a paint brush and does great work.

I left him to that task as he said he didn't need help. I've learned to only ask once so it was OK with me to skip that project.

Instead, my project was clearing out the front flower beds to ready them for winter. They look pretty barren in this photo, but were soon covered up with pine straw.

Pine straw is simply fallen pine needles. In some areas, folks pay money for this type of mulch, it's free for us thanks to the neighbor's pine trees in the back yard. (No, he doesn't mind if we gather it.)  

A few years ago, fellow blogger, Possum, explained about the various names for dropped pine needles here on the VA eastern shore. Being natives of NJ, we would call them pine straw, whereas folks in different areas here call them "shatters" or "shatts." The idiosyncrasies of local language.

The wildflower meadow was the next yard project. It was tackled by Grenville and his friend, John Deere (the tractor). An earlier post late last week showed off these blooms.

Before and after shots. Pine straw came in very handy once again.

While all this outdoor activity was going on, there were a couple of observers — Percival, the front porch penguin, and Francis, the head garden frog. 

These were gifts given by a friend before we left NJ, who knew what we planned to name our home. They were the first of many future frog and penguins to reside here. All were non-living, of course, unless we include the numerous garden frogs and toads which would visit every spring and summer. But, never a live penguin.

And, in all the years of living here, these two (and others) have never helped with chores.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembering . . .

Today is Veterans Day, which celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans as opposed to Memorial Day, which is a day of remembering those who died while serving. 

In 1918, World War I ended with a  truce on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. November 11 is generally regarded as the "war to end all wars." 

Since 1938, Veterans Day has been designated as a federal holiday which means that many U.S. workers and students have the day off. Non-essential federal government office are closes as are many state and local offices. There is no mail delivery.
While the holiday is commonly printed as Veteran's Day or Veterans' Day in calendars and advertisements (spellings that are grammatically acceptable), the U.S. government has declared that the attributive (no apostrophe) rather than the possessive case is the official spelling; Veterans Day is the official designation.

Today's images were taken in Old Lyme, CT.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

How Many Days ?

If you live in the U.S. (eastern time zone) it's 45 days from today not counting minutes and seconds. If you need an exact number, there's  many sites that will do a daily countdown in days, hours, minutes, even seconds. Sadly, it's getting closer every year in retailing terms and could start even earlier in a few years — bathing suits next to Christmas trees?.

A few many stores had holiday decorations up way before Halloween. These photos were taken inside two local stores, one is a major retailer whose name starts with "W" at the beginning of October.
As we were travelling out of state in mid-October, there was no shortage of decorated trees in this major home improvement store — in various colors too for those wanting a blue Christmas (are you seeing this, Elvis?)

And, where there are trees, there are also lights; don't forget extension cords and candles.

Plus, decorative balls in colors other than green and red; blue for a blue or white tree?

Add in stars, angels candles and holiday jingles too.
And, don't forget the gift wrap and cards as if retailers would let us.

When we were growing up (OK we're dating ourselves), holiday decorations were held off until post Thanksgiving — not like now when several holidays converge or overlap. Back then when Halloween and Thanksgiving ended, department stores started the Christmas decorating/selling season. Christmas is already a bit too hectic and loses more of its special magic each year thanks to retailers and the buying public. 

So...have you started, finished with shopping/decorating or do you want to forget about Christmas before it arrives? 

Psst . . .it will be over soon and Valentines decorations could be out by Dec. 26, maybe sooner.

Yes, a rant