Friday, October 31, 2014

Black Cats & Superstition

It's been a myth since the Middle Ages: a black cat crossing your path means that bad luck will follow — and lots of people still believe this is true.

How about you?

During the Middle Ages, black cats were first associated with witches. Lonely, old women who lived on the outskirts of town would adopt and care for stray stay cats for companionship. Townspeople became wary of women who kept too many cats, believing that the women were witches and the cats were sent out to do their bidding.
The myth began . . .
If black cats were sent by witches, then witches were sent by the devil. And, when a black cat crossed your path, it was because the devil sent it to block your way to heaven.
Over time, this myth evolved to those believing that witches transform into black cats to travel anonymously. If a woman was accused of being a witch, she could turn into a cat and flee from the village unnoticed. People became suspicious of towns with too many stray cats; they thought it meant the area was safe for witches and demons.
Even now, people believe that black cats bring worse luck than walking under ladders and spilling salt. There are lots of other black cat superstitions, like these:
  • In Scotland a strange black cat appearing on your porch is a good omen and means that prosperity is on the way. 
  • If you hear a cat sneeze in Italy, you are in for a streak of good luck
  • In the U.S., if you dream of a white cat, good luck may follow. But, if you spot a white cat as the sun sets you might be in trouble.
  • Cats are not allowed in the room in the Netherlands if a family is having a private talk. It's feared that the cat will spread gossip and family secrets all over town.
  • In Ireland killing a cat can bring 17 years of bad luck.
  • In Japan, many believe that a black cat crossing your path is good luck. 
  • If a cat scratches behind its ear, rain is coming. If a cat runs around crazily, expect a windy day. Kittens born in May will bring snakes into your house (Celtic myth).
My pet cat, who has since died, was named Sambuca. She was a black cat who never brought me any bad luck — but then I never thought she would.)
Happy Halloween

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fall Dinner - Pork Chops, Onions, Apples

Ever not know how you will cook dinner? 

That's what happened last night at the Frog & PenguINN. The pork chops were ready and the plan was to grill or bake them. But, this being fall, I wanted something different

A quick search online produced this recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's website with credit to Lucinda Scala Quinn's Mad Hungry cookbook. The portions listed on the website were for 6 servings, so I modified them for 2.  Not only was this a (very) easy recipe, but a great dinner choice for fall weather and apple season.

Pork Chops with Apples & Onions

The list of needed ingredients is small and includes items that were already in the fridge or pantry.

  • 2 bone-in pork chops, cut 3/4-inch thick
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, sliced (variations include using leeks or adding a sliced potato)
  • 1 apple, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 C beer, white wine, cider or chicken broth or water to deglaze pan

  1. Trim chops of some excess fat. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over high heat, and swirl in the olive oil. 
  2. Place pork chops in pan and don't move for a few minutes, to assure a good golden sear. Turn and brown well on second side for a total of about 10 minutes. Transfer chops to a warm plate. (I used a cold plate and it was OK.)
  3. Swirl butter into pan. Add onion and apples. Saute until onion slices are lightly caramelized and apples have begun to soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in liquid of your choice. 
  4. Return chops to pan. Cook until pork is tender, about 10-12 minutes (depending on size of chops), turn halfway through and cover chops with apple mixture. Serve with a spoonful of apple-onion mixture on top. 
If you prefer, serve the pork chop, apple-onion mix over mashed potatoes or rice. Our choice was a side of fresh green beans. This recipe is another "keeper" according to Grenville — high praise for a first-time recipe, but it won't be the last.

Friday, October 24, 2014

What's Been Happening

We haven't been soaring in the clouds  

Or climbing mountains.

What have we been doing?

Selling "stuff."

That best describes accumulations we've acquired — household items, outdoor items, tools, holiday decorations and lots MORE stuff.

As many fellow bloggers know, we've listed our home, The Frog & PenguINN for saleWe plan to live in a smaller space, which means we don't need to take all this stuff. It's actually a very nice feeling — knowing that we can and will make do with less stuff.

Where did all this stuff come from?
Sometimes, we can't even recall buying or (worse yet) why we bought some things. Moving here from NJ we left a small cottage to move into a 2-story Victorian house. And, it's so true that the more space, the more stuff to fill it — for us that took over 11 years.
Lately, we've been selling stuff through postings on Craigslist and a local "Trash & Treasures" buy and sell site. 

What have we sold?
Lots of stuff — outdoor furniture, patio boxes, beach chairs, table lights, chairs, small tables, etc. It's been working out well, and listing things for sale and answering comments can be quite interesting, as anyone who has ever sold stuff knows. 

Things we've learned . . .
  • If a man calls about an item and after asking about it says, "I have to check with my wife" — he will not be back. (If a man wants something, he buys it.)
  • As long as an ad remains posted, the item is unsold, yet we get folks who ask "is this still available?"  (We delete a listing once an item sells, others don't.)
  • No matter how low/reasonable we price something, folks want it for even less than your price. (We've learned to just say, "No.")
  • We always include our phone number, yet people let their fingers do the walking on a keyboard. But, we're not always online (really) so a call is faster.
This is why blog posting and reading has fallen behind. We enjoy sharing what we're doing, where we've been but (as most bloggers know) it can take some a lot of time. We're still in blog-land, just less active now. Soon, we'll share news of our latest adventures.

And, in case you wondered . . . we haven't sold the F&P yet, but remain hopeful. So, if you know of anyone looking for a nice home in a nice place, let us know.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Hills Are Alive . . .

Not with the sound of music (apologies to Julie Andrews) but with autumn color.
At least in New England.

As we drove through several New England states this week, it was clearly evident that the colors of fall had arrived there.

Leaf peeping season is in full force the next few weeks with yellows, golds and reds seen everywhere.

All these shots were taken from the car by myself as Grenville was driving us through Connecticut  Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

Images were captured using an iPhone and a Canon Digital Elph. Shooting through a car windshield is problematic. No matter how much window cleaner is applied, many road smears never clear. Also, skies were quite overcast so leaf colors were not the most brilliant.

Still it's always fun to try and capture shots along the way regardless. We will be in and around this area for a few days and expect to find a lot more colors along our travels.

And, perhaps by the time we return to the VA Eastern Shore, fall will have started it's colorful display there (we hope).

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Easy Chicken Thighs

As most blog readers here might know, we eat a LOT of chicken based dinners at the Frog & PenguINN. So, I'm always looking for a new recipe and ones that are  easy and delicious are always in favor — maybe for you too?

That said, here's a really easy (no kidding) recipe for oven-roasted chicken thighs. Grenville and I prefer using chicken thighs vs. chicken breasts. Thighs seem more flavorful and are usually less costly. All that’s needed for this recipe are skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs plus a handful of ingredients that may already be in the pantry or fridge.

You can reduce the recipe ingredients if using less chicken pieces. I used 4 thighs and substituted lemon juice for a fresh lemon.

Easy Roasted Chicken Thighs
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • ½ C olive oil
  • 1 lemon juiced or 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • Coarse salt & ground pepper
  • 1 TBSP grainy mustard
  • 1-2 TBSP honey
  1. Toss chicken thighs with olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and marinate for 1 hour or up to 1 day.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roast chicken 20-25 minutes skin side down in oiled roasting pa. Flip over and roast 10 minutes longer.
  3. Stir together mustard and honey and season with salt and pepper, then brush glaze onto chicken and place under broiler for 5 minutes. (Chicken is done when the internal temp reaches 165 degrees.)
The accompanying vegetables were an oven-roasted assortment of peppers, zucchini, onion, and broccoli seasoned with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and assorted herbs: oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary and thyme and mixed together using olive oil. 

That's not mashed potatoes for the other side vegetable. It's mashed cauliflower, which is easy to prepare and healthier too. Cut a head of cauliflower into small florets, boil in a a can of chicken stock until tender (out of chicken stock, substitute chicken bouillon). Drain and add some chopped fresh/jarred garlic or garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mash using a hand masher or immersion blender. Grenville prefers to add some butter to his mashed cauliflower too.
This entire meal was ready in less than an hour from start to finish. And, it's another keeper at the Frog & PenguINN.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Funnies

Natural bird bath for very small creatures?
(There's been no recent rainfall to fill these.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hardly Fall(ing)

Talking about leaves.

Fall has come to many areas in the U.S. and abroad, but slower to arrive in other places, including the VA eastern shore. Walking around the neighborhood last week looking for visible signs of fall proved slow-going, as you can see.

While pine needles have started falling, most other trees remain green and leafy.

Yet, there are some slight variations with the most colorful leaves on the numerous poison ivy plants, which are always viewed from a distance and never touched.

There was still plenty of pollen gathering activity in the backyard wildflower meadow and in the front yard too. Notice all the pollen on the hind leg of the bee in the second photo.

Monarch butterflies traditionally will have started their fall migration to warmer climates, but there's still some stragglers around, although not in great numbers. These butterflies are the only insect that migrate to warmer temps over 2,000 miles away by wintering in Mexico and some parts of southern California. That's not a bad way to spend the winter months.

Warmth also applies to imagery. Here's a before collage taken around our yard last week. 

Now those same images after a quick-fix edit in Picasa which was done just by selecting heat map under the image editing choices.

Around here, the next few weeks will bring slowly increasing color changes, but peak color won't be until November depending on the weather. Right now we are still fairly warm with daytime temps in the 70s.

Are YOU enjoying fall weather and colors now?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Funnies

We are subscribers to Yankee Magazine which prides itself on being "New England's Magazine" on its front cover each month.

So, it was amusing to notice that subscription requests are sent here . . .

Just maybe New England reaches farther south than first thought? (just wondering)