Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday Funnies

Ordinarily, there would be nothing unusual about where these vehicles were parked. 

Except that the sign posted in front of each read . . .
Perhaps, the sign was only a suggestion ?

Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Home Sweet Home

Home is where the heart is. Pliny the Elder

It's been said that you can't go home again. And, in many cases, that's true for differing reasons. For myself, it's because the sale of my family home in Plainfield, NJ was completed last week after a few previous delays and postponements.

As readers of this blog may know, my mother passed away in December 2014. As estate executor, my brother handled the sale of the house, per our late mother's wishes.

Home is where one starts from. T. S. Eliot

This house was a family home in the truest sense. It had belonged not only to my parents, but previously to my paternal grandparents. My father grew up in the house with his parents and siblings. At one time, it was a boarding house. My mother lived there briefly as a young child with her father and sister after her mother died. When her father remarried, they moved to their own home. 

There were a lot of changes to the family home in the years between my grandparents and parents ownership. I learned that at one time, my grandparents operated a small store on the property. My parents also had a large vegetable garden and at one time raised chickens. Sadly, there are no photos of the property taken many years ago. (The photo above was taken over 10 years ago.)

You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.
Maya Angelou 

My earliest days were spent on the lawn with my Aunts Ann and Sophie and "older" cousin, Mary Ann. 

My brother took out his first steps in the backyard; remembered in photos with his proud parents.

As in many homes, our house was the scene of many birthday and holiday celebrations as well as special events.

My late mother's wishes were very specific; her will dictated that we "sell the house as quickly as possible" upon her passing. Last year, we spent several weeks emptying its contents. 

My parents, like others who grew up in the depression era, did not easily part with things in their lifetime. My brother and I learned much more about our parents lives by going through this process. It was often bittersweet and sometimes provoked laughter at a shared memory.

Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.  Oliver Wendell Holmes

The home where my family shared their lives is now "home" to another family, but the memories of time spent there will always remain with us.
Dorothy (aka Beatrice)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Non-Shopping the Mall

We've been spending time at the Pheasant Lane mall in Nashua, NH, but we haven't been shopping.

Really—no shopping.

Instead, we've been taking a few workshops at the Apple retail store there. We know there's always some useful tip or different way to do something. We freely confess to not being "know-it-alls" about Apple products we both own. 

Forgot to mention that these workshops are offered free-of-charge to anyone who has an Apple product and a corresponding AppleID. A major drawback is that the classroom setting isn't ideal because, after all, it's a retail store. Depending on the day or time, it can be very busy or noisy — quite often both. To fill in any time between sessions, there's always time to look at and try products with all those helpful Apple folks around.

Pre-registration is required and the workshops conveniently are listed on the store's website. You then receive a confirmation, which can be added to your electronic calendar quite easily.

Some of the recent workshops we've attended were iPad Basics, Shoot More Artistic Photos with iPhone, and Mac Basics

The workshops are conducted by Apple advisors who work within the retail store. Of course, not every question or concern can be addressed in a single hour-long session. But there's no worries about getting all your questions and concerns addressed in a single session — you can re-take workshops as often as they're offered.

Admittedly, we also have a great time meeting and talking with other Apple users. As you can see, Grenville and his seat-mate became quick friends at least for the workshop session.

We'll make some "new" friends in weeks to come as we always have more questions and are already planning to attend future workshops.

It's one of the advantages of now living in a larger area with a mall so easily accessible and with an Apple retail store inside.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday Funnies

Grenville got a bear hug (even if the bear lost its head in the photo) . . .

From the guard bear outside Zeb's General Store in North Conway, NH.

The store is named for Zebulon Northrop Tilton (1866-1952), the colorful captain of a coastal schooner, the Alice S. Wentworth, that delivered cargo along the NE coast from the late 1800’s to 1940. Zeb's claims to have the largest collection of New England made specialty foods with a wide variety of hard-to-find and nostalgic items in a 5,000 product inventory housed in over 6,600 square feet of retail space. It's a not-to-be-missed experience if you are traveling in this part of NH.

Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Good Reads

Reading a James Patterson thriller to me is what fast food is to others. 

That's because I know what to expect, the story moves along very quickly, and I'm generally well satisfied

Then there's the added perks — readable type size (unlike tiny fonts in some books), very short chapters often no more than 3-5 pages long. One recent read had more than 105 chapters in just over 350 pages. That makes reading a few chapters before bed an easy chore.

These two books, NYPD Red 4 and 14th Deadly Sin, are the latest in two series by Patterson and another writer. One of the most prolific best-selling authors, James Patterson has written 137 books, many with co-authors. 

NYPD 4 (James Patterson and Marshall Karp) is Patterson's 25th book that recently debuted at No. 1 on bestseller lists. It's the story of a murdered actress, a bold jewel theft, and a cold-blooded killer. NYPD Red is the code name assigned to an elite NYC task force set up to protect the wealthy, famous, and connected. Detective Zach Jordan and partner, Kylie MacDonald are   investigators who work non-stop to solve a case, despite their own complicated lives. MacDonald is struggling with the ongoing issues of her husband’s drug addiction; Jordan is adjusting to the complications of his girlfriend moving in with him.

At a Manhattan movie premiere, a jewelry theft turns into murder as the actress wearing a million dollar necklace is killed and the jewels are stolen. 

But this is not the only storyline, there are three others, two involve NYPD Red cases and two center around the personal lives of Jordan and MacDonald. The jewelry theft is the main plot with other subplots, including a series of medical equipment thefts from NYC hospitals. aside from the detectives, t
here's no shortage many added characters such as a 70-year old grifter, Annie Ryder. She may be the smartest character and her son, Teddy, one of the jewelry thieves may be the dumbest. 

NYPD Red 4 is the first in this series to hit no. 1. NYPD Red 3 ranked no. 2 in 2015; NYPD Red 2  reached no. 7 in 2014, and NYPD Red hit no. 3 in 2012.

14th Deadly Sin (Women's Murder Club) was co-written by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. The WMC consists of four friends: Lindsay Boxer, a homicide detective for the San Francisco Police Department; Cindy Thomas, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle; Claire Washburn, the Chief Medical Examiner for San Francisco; and Yuki Castellano, a San Francisco district attorney.

Books in this series are: 1st to Die, 2nd Chance, 3rd Degree, 4th of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment, 10th Anniversary, 11th Hour, 12th of Never, Unlucky 13, 14th Deadly Sin, and the upcoming latest addition,15th Affair. 

Every one except 7th Heaven and 10th Anniversary were No. 1 New York Times best sellers. A NYT article stated that Patterson set the WMC series in San Francisco to attract West Coast fans because fellow author John Grisham was leading in book sales there. Patterson was the sole author on the first novel,1st to Die. Books 2 and 3 in the series were co-authored with Andrew Gross and books 4 to 15 were co-authored with Maxine Paetro.

Here's some brief "non-spoiler" highlights of this book. Everything is going well for WMC members who meet to celebrate Claire's birthday. The event is cut short when Detective Boxer is summoned to a gruesome crime scene. A woman has been murdered in broad daylight; there's plenty of eyewitnesses, but no suspects or clues. Is this a random murder or part of a pattern that's resulted in the similar deaths of 4 other women. 

While the investigation is underway, video footage of another crime surfaces. Gunmen wearing San Francisco police department windbreakers with faces hidden behind masks conduct a series of robberies and murders. All of Detective Boxer's fellow officers are suspects until this crime spree is solved. Meanwhile, Yuki is working on a case in which the actions of two police officers caused the death of a teenager who was falsely accused of murder.

The WMC books delve right into the murders with no long build-up. The action is quick and while the crimes are gruesome, the authors move the pace along quickly. There's no need to overanalyze the plot. If you like a fast read with strong female characters, I would recommend this series.

What's are you currently reading and have you read any James Patterson books?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Birthday & Hearts Day

Last week we combined a belated birthday celebration (mine) with an early Hearts Day celebration and took a road trip. Our destination was a 2-1/2 drive to the 1785 Inn, a B&B in North Conway that we had read about in Yankee Magazine.

It was a wonderfully destination — even more so because we were the sole inn guests for our entire 4-day stay.

No, we didn't reserve the entire inn for this getaway. We arrived Monday and left Friday, just before (many) weekend guests would be arriving. In addition to Valentine's Day this past Sunday, it was President's Day on Monday and so a long weekend for many families. We were told the Inn would be filled by Sat and Sun, so our timing was really perfect. 

The 1785 Inn is a classic New England country inn in the White Mountains of NH. It is known for spectacular views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range — and it did not disappoint us.

The Inn's "Scenic Vista" is one of the most photographed and painted scenes in America and a long-time favorite for artists and photographers; a historical marker notes that it was a favorite spot for paintings from the White Mountain School of Art. 

These are some views we enjoyed each morning during breakfast.

The Inn is located on 5+ acres and is one of the oldest buildings in the Mount Washington Valley. Owners Charlie and Becky have been providing comfortable lodging and friendly service for nearly 30 years. There are 17 guest rooms, all uniquely different and comfortable, although we only stayed in one of these it was fun to look in on all the other unoccupied bedrooms; most include a private bath. 

The main dining room is used for breakfast and features the original center chimney with three fireplaces, and a brick oven that's no longer in use. In recent years, the 1785 Inn was  recognized for fine dining in this room; but dinners are no longer being served. Becky served up delicious omelettes and pancakes for breakfast during our stay. Grenville caught up on the local happenings each morning. 

There are fireplaces in two guest lounges which Charlie will light on request. 

Hand-hewn beams can be seen throughout the Inn and highlight its original colonial construction. The seasonal decorations are left up through mid-March.

There's also a cozy Victorian-styled lounge and bar which was a great place to relax.

We enjoyed our stay and are already planning on a return trip before the busy summer  season in this popular White Mountains area of New Hampshire.

Although there has not been a lot of snow in this area, we were able to get out and  use our snowshoes 3 days during our stay. (More about those adventures in a future post.)

We hope that your Valentine's Day was spent with those you love.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Funnies

You've heard of snow blowing . . .
How about Snow Mowing?
Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

MmMm Good for You

There's no cure for the common cold. 

That isn't especially good news for folks like Grenville and myself right now. Over the counter medications have eased our symptoms, but none make a cold go away faster.

There is something that really helps us . . .
Our grandmothers, mothers (and yours) would agree — chicken soup

Scientific studies agree too that chicken soup really has medicinal value. Years ago, Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro was the title of a clinical study by Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Dr. Rennard conducted tests using his wife's homemade chicken soup. He concluded that the soup significantly reduced cold symptoms by clearing congestion and preventing dehydration. 

And, if you're feeling too sick to make your own soup . . . just open a can. 

Dr. Rennard tested over a dozen canned and packaged chicken vegetable and chicken noodle soup brands and found many worked as well (or better) than homemade.

For us, there's nothing better than homemade anything especially soup. This basic chicken soup recipe is from the Martha Stewart website; a video can be seen here

While I used this recipe, mine included add-ins such as herbs (thyme, sage and parsley) and freshly ground pepper (not too much). I used a mix of low-sodium chicken broth and water. I also added a half bag of fresh spinach at the end of the soup preparation. Be sure to leave the skin on the chicken while cooking as this adds flavor and some necessary fat.

Basic Chicken Soup
(courtesy of Martha Stewart & Food Editor Sara Carey)
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut in pieces (including back) 
  • 8 C water 
  • 1 TBSP coarse salt (not table salt) 
  • 3 medium onions, thinly sliced (4 cups) 
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick 
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed 
  • 6 medium carrots, sliced 1/2-inch thick

  1. Bring chicken, water, and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a large stockpot. Skim foam. Add onions, celery, and garlic. Reduce heat. 
  2. Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. 
  3. Remove breast, and set aside. Add carrots. 
  4. Simmer, partially covered, for 40 minutes. 
  5. Remove remaining chicken; discard back and wings, skin. Let cool slightly. Remove meat from bones, and cut into bite-size pieces. 
  6. Stir desired amount of chicken into soup; reserve the rest for another use. Skim fat. Season with salt.
While chicken soup many not sure a cold, it does help ease some of the symptoms, even if temporarily.

But most researches agreed that chicken soup and vegetables contains healthy nutrients that increase hydration.

We always feel better after having a bowlful. It's even tastier the following day.

Does chicken soup work for you?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Snow We Got

Yes, we (finally) had almost a whole day of snow here in Nashua, NH last Friday. What was supposed to be a light snow of 2-3 inches ended up leaving behind about 5-6 inches. It was a beautiful snowfall that clung to the trees and branches.

When the storm was over by early afternoon, the temperature was warming up and so I took a walk outdoors. 

The maintenance crew here at the mill apartment where we live always do a great job of keeping the walkways cleared.  

There were some nice views from our apartment windows; the grounds and trees were snow-covered and the late afternoon sky was a tapestry of pale hues.

The imagery is a bit blurred in this shot as shooting through the windows was challenging due to condensation. This view shows the Nashua River and at the very far end is Main Street in downtown Nashua, NH.

This view across the Nashua River shows another mill building which is undergoing renovations and will be converted to apartments.

All of these mill buildings are located in what is known as the Nashua Millyard district and many were formerly connected to the Nashua Manufacturing Company, a textile mill. The district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Some buildings have been converted into apartment housing, artist workshops, and a technology complex.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Funnies

This one says it all . . .
Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

(BIG Thanks to All for the birthday wishes this week — they were much appreciated!)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Color Me Happy

Because it's my birthday and unexpected surprises came in the mail this week.
Coloring books, markers and LOTS of cards with well wishes — happiness abounds!

The books and markers are gifts from daughter Coleen and husband Paulo. 
The cards are from friends, family and fellow bloggers. 

A couple of months ago we started going to adult coloring sessions at the public library. The daytime session meets weekly and an evening session meets twice a month. The library provides supplies: coloring books, pencils, markers, gel pens, crayons. Many participants bring their own supplies too. I hadn't invested in books and was using an older set of pencils. Getting my own book and pens was thought about, but not yet accomplished. 
Now, I am all set for the next sessions!

Today, I am graciously sharing my birthday with many notable personalities, including:  Joey Bishop, Shelly Berman, James Michener, Amal Aladdin Clooney, Gertrude Stein, Norman Rockwell, Elizabeth Blackwell, Horace Greeley, Nathan Lane, Blythe Danner, Henry Heimlich, Felix Mendelssohn.

And especially my cousins Rick (Feb 3) on the left below and John (Feb 5) on the right. That's younger cousin Michael in the middle. We were ALL younger then — can't you tell by the wallpaper and sofa?

Do you color too ?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Rise and Shine - It's Groundhog Day !

YES, folks it's that day again

Time for our annual viewing of the film, Groundhog Day.

For anyone unfamiliar with the film, here's a (very) quick rundown: Phil Connors (Bill Murray), a weatherman, is out to cover the annual emergence of the groundhog from its burrow in Punxsutawney, PA. He gets caught in a blizzard that he didn't predict and finds himself trapped in a time warp. He's doomed to re-live the same day over and over again until he gets it right with some hilarious results.

Contrary to its title, the film was released after Groundhog Day on February 12, 1993. It was directed by the late Harold Ramis. The featured song was "I Got You Babe."

The 6 a.m. time is crucial in the film because it signals the start of yet a(another) new day for Phil to re-live.  it always starts this same way:

D.J. #1: Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today. 
D.J. #2: It's coooold out there every day. What is this, Miami Beach? 
D.J. #1: Not hardly. And you know, you can expect hazardous travel later today with that, you know, that, uh, that blizzard thing. 
D.J. #2: [mockingly] That blizzard - thing. That blizzard - thing. Oh, well, here's the report! The National Weather Service is calling for a "big blizzard thing!" 
D.J. #1: Yessss, they are. But you know, there's another reason why today is especially exciting. 
D.J. #2: Especially cold! 
D.J. #1: Especially cold, okay, but the big question on everybody's lips... 
D.J. #2: On their chapped lips... 
D.J. #1: On their chapped lips, right: Do ya think Phil is gonna come out and see his shadow? 
D.J. #2: Punxsutawney Phil! 
D.J. #1: That's right, woodchuck-chuckers - it's... 
D.J. #1D.J. #2: [in unison] GROUNDHOG DAY!
Compared to last Feb 2, we haven't had much winter weather in Nashua, NH. We dodged even a snowflake in the recent major snowstorm that buried hit the East Coast. So a prediction of 6 more weeks of winter would be just a start.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Love It or Leave It

Good advice — most times, especially when decluttering your clothing wardrobe.

And easier to say then do, so maybe its why organizing consultant Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, is an international best seller.

Sure, I've tackled this task by other names  simplifying, de-cluttering, downsizing. What’s different now?

Ms. Kondo’s approach, the KonMari Method, is two-fold: First, place your hands on things you own and, this is very important, ask yourself if it sparks joy. If it doesn't, then chuck it. When only your most joyful items are left, organize each where its visible, accessible and easily put back.

Following this approach this per Ms. Kondo’s directions will not only clear your place, but also your mind. That's what's the book states, but I can't vouch for that claim. And don't yoga and gate chai classes make similar claims?

Admittedly, I haven’t read the entire book, only some portions; however, have read about Ms. Kondo and her methods, and various watched online videos.

Almost forgot, a very important tenant before discarding/donating items — remember to thank them for their service. So, yes, you will be talking to your belongings and this might best be done in private, depending on how emotionally attached you are to your shirts, socks, jeans. If any talk back, be very afraid. There's no advice on how to handle sassy clothes. 

And, it’s not OK to say everything brings you joy without handling it first. “Don’t just
open up your closet (drawer) and decide after a quick look that everything in it gives you a thrill,” Ms. Kondo states, adding: “You must take each outfit in your hand."

“When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly,” she writes, “we are, I believe, transmitting energy, which has a positive effect on our clothes.”

Sounds far-fetched, I agree. But she emits a positive energy in photos and online videos, so I figured a couple of dresser drawers could benefit from positive vibes.

Prepare to spend time doing this because the book states that “tidying is a dialogue with oneself.”

Like I said before, best done in private. Admittedly, you might forget to thank all toss-outs after several hours of talking to them. (And, who could blame you?)

After you’re all talked out, what's next for those items that spark joy?

Items stored in a drawer, you fold neatly. The KonMari Method of folding can be widely seen on YouTube videos. Basically, you fold everything into a long rectangle, then fold that in upon itself to make a smaller rectangle, then roll that up into a tube, like a sushi roll, then set items upright in the drawers.

Hanging clothes gets more challenging as Ms. Kondo advises hanging anything that “looks
happier hung up.”

How to know? Maybe once you get some experience talking to your things, just ask them their preferences?

According to Ms. Kondo: “Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type, and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure.”

After all, we want our clothing to feel secure, don’t we? (No need to answer this.)

I didn’t follow the exact KonMari Method in purging a couple of dresser drawers last week, then rearranging contents based on the visibility and accessibility principles. It was neater than before (forgot that photo). Maybe these turtlenecks and socks are happy too as they made the cut and got to stay. (Lots of socks, I know, but we are living in New England now. I foresee more clothes talking/purging at a future date.)

It’s worth mentioning that Ms. Kondo’s instruction on paper sorting is the most liberating of all her advice: Just throw them all away. She writes: “There is nothing more annoying than papers . . . After all, they will never spark joy, no matter how carefully you keep them.”

Amen to that, Ms. Kondo. (Except I'm not sure how the IRS would feel if we were called in to explain something on a filed return without supporting documentation.)

Have you sorted out things that no longer bring you joy?