Monday, June 30, 2014

Beaching It

That's what we did Sunday on a biking/beach trip to Cape Charles, VA, which is about an hour drive from our home. We drove there transporting the bikes and then cycled along town streets, all of which have a 25 MPH speed limit, before going to the beach.  East-west streets are named after Virginia statesmen and north-south streets are named after fruits. 

Cape Charles, VA is the Eastern Shore's southern most town, located 10 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. It's a Victorian-era town included in the National Register of Historic Places. In years gone by, the town had a booming railroad and ferry business.

The public beach here is free — making it the only beach on the ES which doesn't require a parking or entrance fee. It's on the Chesapeake Bay and the waters are relatively shallow which make this location safe for those with young children. Unlike other VA beaches which are off the Atlantic Ocean, there are small to no waves here. And, like most other beaches, It's a favorite for gulls, always scavenging the shoreline.

And sometimes gators too; this youngster was having a touch time managing this float . . .

Until his older brother came to cart off the beast.
When we visited, there were lots of family groups out for a day of fun in the sun — sunbathing, swimming, boating and playing. Coolers are allowed, but there's no food stands, amusement rides, or other vendors here, which make this beach a perfect getaway for many folks, including ourselves, to relax — under the boardwalk or hanging ten off the edge of a lounge chair.
We hope everyone had a great weekend, no matter how or where it was spent.
Any special plans for this week's major holidays — Canada Day (July 1) and July 4th?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Kids at Play

These photos were taken several months ago during a family visit road trip, which included egg hunts, egg coloring. and a playground visit. As you can tell by their clothing, it was fairly chilly even for April. 

Grandson showed off his latest hair style.

Granddaughterhas a head full of curls, which are au naturel.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Funnies

Today's humor is courtesy of our friend, Thomas, who saw this sign at a rest stop in Bend, Oregon.

Wonder if the port-o-johns would be puppy poopers? 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rats — Crocked Summer Veggie Stew

The post title refers partly to the 2007 computer animated Pixar-Disney film, Ratatouille, which starred Remy, a Parisian rate interested in cooking. This is a fun movie for all ages. 

But it's really about Ratatouille, a vegetable stew that aside from Gazpacho (a soup made from raw veggies and served cold). And, it's one of the best ways to use an abundance of summer vegetables, your own or ones gifted by friends with overflow gardens.

Not only is this a great-tasting meal, but it's also good for you (imagine that)Over the years, I've tried various versions, most required some form of stove top cooking, but this recipe differed — veggies were cut up, seasoned and broiled before being added to the crock pot. The result was they held up better even after several hours in the crock pot. And, to give credit where due, this adapted version is from Cook's Country (Aug/Sep 2013).

Slow Cooker Ratatouille
  • 2 lbs eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2-3 zucchini (about 8 oz. ea) quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 6 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp Herbs de Provence *
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese (or a blend of grated Italian cheeses)
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh basil
* If you don't have Herbs de Provence, substitute 1 tsp each dried rosemary and dried thyme. I had to search for this seasoning, but it was worth the effort.

  1. Adjust oven rack 4 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. If your oven has different broiler heat settings, set it to medium (which varies if you have an electric vs. gas oven). Line backing sheet(s) or a large broiler pan bottom with foil (easier cleanup). In a large bowl, combine all the veggies also olive oil, sugar, garlic, Herbs de Provence. Toss until mixed and combined.
  2. Divide vegetables evenly between prepared sheets (or single large sheet) and spread into a single layer (mine overlapped a bit). Broil until vegetables begin to brown, about 10 minutes or faster if your broiler has only 1 heat setting, which is very hot). While vegetables are broiling, turn a couple of times to evenly cook. When done, transfer to crock pot and add drained tomatoes.
  3. Stir flour, 2-1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper into slow cooker. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender (about 4 hours on LOW). Stir in balsamic vinegar, cheese, and basil. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Yield: about 8 cups.
No need to serve with a side salad as this dish is loaded with veggies. However, some crusty bread makes a perfect accompaniment. Leftovers are delicious too, hot or cold.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hare Today

Every spring/summer, several backyard bunnies (eastern cottontail rabbits) visit the F&P yard. We're not sure if any are related, because the average life span in the wild is under 5 years. It's always nice when they return as sadly these are a popular game animal for hunters and other animals. 

Some info about rabbits: males are called bucks, females are does, the young are kits (kittens). A group of rabbits is a herd, and a herd of rabbits live in a warren. (More info can be found here and this site did not have any annoying pop-ups.)

After grooming was done, this buck or doe posed long enough for a close-up photo. The photos were taken from an indoor window, so may seem a bit less clear.

And then he/she was gone . . . dare say hopped outta here (and very quickly).

We have a fondness for bunnies — this pillow is on our bed; corny, I know, but true.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Gettysburg and Beyond

We took a road trip just before Father's Day. Our destinations were historical Gettysburg, PA and then onto Lancaster, PA for a family get together.. 
Our decision to visit to Gettysburg National Military Park, also called the Gettysburg Battlefield came after we had  "prepped" a bit by watching Gettysburg, the 1993 epic (just under 4 hour) film that focused on this significant Civil War battle.

The Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863 was a major turning point in the Civil War. The Union Northern Army of the Potomac's victory ended the Southern Army of Northern Virginia's second invasion of the North. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee concentrated his army around Gettysburg on the approach of Union Gen. George G. Meade’s forces. 

Gettysburg was by far the bloodiest battle of the entire war with over 50,000 killed. To this day, it remains the single bloodiest battle ever fought on U.S. soil. 

Touring sites that previously were just names we had read or heard about including: Devil's Den, McPherson's Ridge, Seminary Ridge, Big Round Top, Little Round Top, Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield, Culp’s Hill and East Cemetery Hill we tried to imagine the battles fought there. We viewed Cemetery Ridge where the infamous and ill-advised Pickett's Charge with  heavy casualties ended the battle. 

We walked through the Soldiers National Cemetery, burial site for the Union dead, the site is in the anchor of the Union battle line and includes a portion of the battlefield. The cemetery served as the inspiration for the Gettysburg Address delivered by President Abraham Lincoln's on November 1863 here. It is also the burial site for U.S. soldiers from other wars.

This was a first time visit for and we found it to be a somber experience especially on the very rainy days we were there. We took a guided bus tour the first day, then a self-guided auto tour, stopping at many of the memorials and viewpoints a second time. 

We started at the Gettysburg NMP Visitor's Center run by the U.S. National Park Service. It has exhibits featuring battle relics, inter-active exhibits, and a resource center which provides computerized information on soldiers who served at Gettysburg and elsewhere. The center features A New Birth of Freedom narrated by actor Morgan Freeman and the restored Gettysburg Cyclorama depicting the fury of Pickett's Charge. There is an entry fee for museum admission, the film, and the sight and sound cyclorama. (More about this amazing artwork in a future post.) FYI, America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands, Golden Age and Golden Eagle passes are not accepted for admission. There are discounts for active military, seniors and youth (6-12 years) AAA members, and children under 6 years are free.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a Father's Day weekend in PA visiting with daughter and son-in-law and grand puppy Lola.
The trip also included a steam train ride (no surprise) which Grenville will post about later.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Big Soup

More often, it's called, Minestrone, an Italian-heritage dish that's a thick soup filled with beans, veggies, pasta. It's big because of the number and variety of ingredients and is nearly a complete meal when prepared at The Frog & PenguINN. While NOT exactly a hot weather meal, rainy summer days can be great soup days too.

Soup making is one of my favorite kitchen activities (next to crock pot meals) as after prep work is done, the rest is fairly easy. There are countless minestrone recipes, this one was created with items already in the fridge, freezer or pantry. The recipe was adapted from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook, Mastering Soups & Stews.

Most nearly all of the vegetables used in this recipe were the frozen varieties as it was prepared before the summer gardening season. Fresh varieties, when available, are always preferred.

Minestrone Soup (aka BIG Soup)
  • 2-3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 slices of bacon, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut up
  • 2 stalks celery, cut up
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 6 C low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 can (20 oz) peeled tomatoes
  • 1 package spinach, frozen was in freezer
  • 6 oz. green beans, frozen was also in freezer
  • 1 can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 TBSP parsley
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher (or sea) salt
  • 1/2 C orzo or any small pasta of your choice
  • 1/2 C freshly ground cheese, Parmesan-Romano , etc.
  1. Add olive oil to large soup pot over medium-low heat. When oil heats up, add bacon and cook until it starts to shrivel. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic and stir to coat with oil. Cover and cook vegetables until soft, but not browned (about 15 minutes).
  2. Add broth and tomatoes, raise heat to medium and cook until large bubbles appear on surface. Stir in beans and herbs, salt and pepper. Stir to combine ingredients. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables soften.
  3. Add pasta and simmer gently, uncovered until pasta has cooked and soup has thickened, about 20 minutes. If soup is too thick add a little water. If too thin, raise  heat and cook uncovered until liquid reduces and soup thickens.
  4. Adjust seasonings; add more salt and/or pepper as needed. 
Serve with a side salad and bread and enjoy.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Phriday Phunny

Captain!!!!!!! I think we've sprung a leak!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Last to Leave

Crepe myrtle trees in The Frog & PenguINN yard have hosted many nests over the years, most recently two robin nests.

This was the mama robin a couple of weeks ago — sitting and waiting . . .

And this was the last hatching ready to fledge and leave the nest, but in no hurry.

Under the watchful eyes of its parent who perched on the nearby patio fence.
We didn't see any other nest-mates before they left and hope they fly off safely.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Good Reads X 3

Finding a good book to read is pure enjoyment for many folks, myself included. But, there can be too much of a good thing — all at once. That was my very happy dilemma when reserves placed on 3 library books ALL became available simultaneously. And, all were new books with a shorter checkout time which meant some fast reading on my part.

Walking on Water is the 5th (and final) book in the Walk series by Richard Paul Evans posted about earlier. The fictional series details life-changing events for Alan Christoffersen, who after losing his wife, ad business, and home within a month, decided to walk cross-country from Seattle to Key West. Previous books detailed his journey and lessons learned about love, forgiveness and hope. Here, he heads back west to face a crisis that could threaten his new-found well-being. But the love of a new friend and the wisdom of an old friend help him move ahead. 

It's best to read this series in sequence: The Walk (2010), Miles to Go (2011), The Road to Grace (2012), A Step of Faith (2013), Walking on Water (May 2014). 

Irish author Maeve Binchy, who died in 2012, was among my favorite authors. Her writing, however, didn't end with her death. Chestnut Street is one of several posthumous publications. When not immersed in novel writing, Ms. Binchy composed short stories about residents of this fictional street in Dublin and in these short stories, all the characters live or work on Chestnut Street. 

Assembled by her longtime editors and husband, Gordon Snell, the stories are vintage Binchy: tales of friends, neighbors, parents, children, husbands and wives. Binchy explores relationships presenting short vignettes of people's lives.  Before she died, she had completed over 30 sketches; all filled with her trademark humor and emotion. I was glad to have more of her work to enjoy.
Donna Leon's, By Its Cover, is the 23rd novel in a series featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. Although the setting is Venice, this story resembles an actual 2012 event in Naples with the theft of rare books from the Girolamini Library by its director. Typically with a Brunetti mystery, there are many subplots. This story includes theft, blackmail, violence, murder, and assorted characters, from an aristocratic library benefactor to a murdered ex-priest

I've just completed two books in the past week and have been savoring Ms. Binchy's stories before bedtime. It's nice to fall asleep in the company of "friends" as her characters quickly become to longtime readers like myself.

What good reads have you enjoyed recently?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Color Him Father

Today is Father's Day, a day set aside to celebrate paternal bonds and honor fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers — all men who have raised or help raise children. There are countless famous (and not so famous) quotes about fathers. However, for me, the verse from this 1969 song* best expresses the truest sentiments about love for a father:

Think I'll color this man father
I think I'll color him love
Said I'm gonna color him father
I think I'll color the man love, yes I will

This post is for Grenville, who is a very special father and grandfather (and husband too.)

And, in memory of our dads, who would have also celebrated their birthdays this month, and sadly passed away many years ago.

Color Him Father was a hit song released in 1969 by The Winstons,a R&B group. The song is a sentimental ballad wherein a young boy expresses his love for his stepfather, a hardworking and generous man who married his widowed mother and raised her children as his own. 
The use of the word "color," in the song, refers to  “label” or “call.” 

Color Him Father sold over 1 million copies, and was awarded a gold record by the Recording Industry Association of America in July 1969. The song was composed by Richard Lewis Spencer, lead singer for The Winstons, who was awarded a Grammy for Best R&B song in 1970. 
Wishing all dads a very Happy Father's Day

Friday, June 13, 2014

Phriday Phunny

Seen in Alexandria. Wonder what they are mad about?????

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Alexandria's Knockers

I'm sure you remember that we recently spent a weekend in Alexandria Virginia. This is a town steeped with history of the early days of our country. A place you can have lunch at the same place George and Thomas ate!!!! (maybe not at the same table though) Where you may you find a couple celebrating their 5th wedding annaversary dressed as they were on their wedding day (Mitch & Maggie..... if your out there we say HI!!!!!!)

As some of you remember, my eye for photography tends to run to the eclectic and less noticed. Things we see every day but blend into the blur of life. The 'Doors of Strasbourg PA." and the "Windows of Maine" are examples as is "Under your Feet in Portsmouth" (NH). What caught my eye in Alexandria was the variety of "Door Knockers" (if your minds have fallen into the gutter you may now pick them up).

Strolling through the Historic Section, it was so refreshing to see how history was being preserved with an almost passion. Gas lamps out side many a door gave a feel of the past to our evening walk. We were to be hunting ghosts, which we never saw, and could almost feel their presence.

Today door knockers are rarely seen and seldom used when present. Much like the mechanical door bell at the F&P. Even though it works, it is seldom used.
What caught my eye was the variety of designs. I found 32 different variations of these simple door adornments and would like to share some with you.

Lions definitely ruled the animal kingdom and on many of the doors.

People were the next most popular. Notice that one face is repeated. And the hairdo's were almost enough to scare a visitor away. HHHMMM,,,, what a novel idea for the politicians at election time.

Then there were the elliptical variations.  Many of these designs have lasted into this century.

As you can imagine, patriotic knockers were popular. Remember that many of the elite of Washington actually lived on this side of the Potomac River. I bet the traffic in DC was terrible even back then.

Sporadically I found the truly eclectic ones. A Claddagh for an Irish family, a Trident for a seafarer, a pineapple to welcome, a hand of friendship, and a squirrel,,,,,,, well you figure that one.
There were even double knockers on the homes of the rich who could afford double doors.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

CNWR Sunday Cycle

As on a recent cycle trip, we returned to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge for another weekend outing. Once again, the weather was perfect with just enough breeze to ward off any annoying skeeters.

We know this won't be true in another few weeks once hot and humid weather sets in and the drained marshlands become water-filled.  

The Glossy Ibis is recognized by its scarlet and iridescent green and found usually in wetlands on every continent except Antarctica. It uses its bill to probe in mud and silt looking for fiddler crabs, craw fish, insects and small snakes. It is a lightweight, large-footed relative of spoonbills with a long and curved bill to feel for prey and was once called the “Black Curlew.” 

The slender Snowy Egret is among the most elegant of the heron family. Its immaculate white plumage is set off with black legs and bright yellow feet, which play a role in stirring up or herding small aquatic animals as it forages. When breeding, they grow filmy, curving plumes that were once in great demand as decorations on women's hats and fetched astronomical prices. The species became endangered and early conservationists rallied to protect egrets which led to protective legislation in the early 1900s.

Snowy Egrets wade in shallow water to spear fish and other small aquatic animals and often use a sit-and-wait technique to capture their food, but more often are very animated, running back and forth through the water, searching for fish, insects and small reptilesThey concentrate on mudflats, beaches, and wetlands, but also can be seen in wet agricultural fields and along the edges of rivers and lakes. 

Although related, the elegant Great Egret is smaller than a Great Blue Heron. This large bird is about 3-feet tall with a wingspan of over 5 feet. Its feathers are white; it has a long, sharp yellow bill and long gray to black legs with non-webbed feet. Males are larger, but the sexes look alike. The Great Egret hunts in classic heron fashion, standing immobile or wading through wetlands to spear fish with a jab of its bill. Like the Snowy Egret, it was hunted almost to extinction for its feathers and is now the symbol of the National Audubon Society. This North American environmental organization was founded to protect birds from being killed for their plumage.

Mallards are the forerunners of most breeds of domestic ducks, and among the most familiar ducks. These are “dabbling ducks” and almost never dive. They feed in the water by tipping forward and grazing on underwater plants. Their body is long and the tail rides high out of the water. In flight their wings are broad and set back toward the rear. They can be very tame especially in city ponds, and often group together with other species of dabbling ducks. Males have a dark, iridescent-green head and bright yellow bill. Females and juveniles are mottled brown with orange-and-brown bills.

We saw this grey squirrel and many Red-Winged Blackbirds, which are a familiar sight atop cattails in the marsh areas. Glossy-black males have scarlet and yellow shoulder patches; females are a subdued brown color. 

Hhere we are taking a break from yet another biking adventure. While we are not long-distance cyclists by any means, we enjoy these weekend outings.