Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What We Did at Easter

We spent the recent Easter weekend celebrating with family in RI and CT.  It was hard to believe that the weather was chillier on this holiday than on Christmas Day in New England. We were outdoors without jackets in December, but not so in March.

Our indoor activities included one of our favorite "traditions" on the day before the holiday — coloring eggs.

The grandkids are just as enthusiastic as we are, it seems, so it was a fun afternoon.

And each of them has their own technique. Granddaughter called hers "rainbowing" the eggs.

Grandpa and mom were there to help and also help with the coloring and sampling afterwards.

Easter Sunday morning it was time for opening treats after we returned from services.

The grandkids "lent" us their bunny ears for our self-portrait — we really liked the noses.

The only "one" who didn't have fun was this large chocolate bunny which was demolished after a family dinner. (It was delicious.)

If you also celebrated Easter, we hope that your holiday celebration was happy (and joyous) too. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter, It's Not Just Candy

Today is Easter Sunday and we're spending it with family in RI and CT.  In anticipation, we decorated our apartment entry over the past couple of weeks.

Not only do we have a lot of bunnies hanging around and some multi-colored eggs on a "Charlie Brown" tree, but we also have Cyril, the Easter snowman. 

What? You've never heard of an Easter snowman — after all, this is New England.

Here's some things about Easter which you may (or may not) know besides that it 
marks the end of Lent. 

There's no connection between Christ's resurrection and modern-day traditions related to Easter Sunday. "Easter" doesn't appear in the Bible and some Christians feel that the Resurrection shouldn't be referred to as Easter Sunday but instead as "Resurrection Sunday" in keeping with the Bible.

Unlike holidays that fall on a set date, Easter is a movable feast that can fall between March 22 and April 25. Western Christian churches celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox (or Paschal Full Moon) on March 21. Orthodox Christians use the Julian calendar to calculate when Easter will occur and usually celebrate it a week or two after Western churches, which follow the Gregorian calendar.

After Halloween, it's the second top selling candy holiday in the U.S. Today, chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and marshmallow chicks (Peeps) form a standard part of the celebration. Easter, like Christmas is a very commercial holiday.

Many popular Easter traditions have been around for centuries. The holiday's most prominent secular symbol, the Easter bunny was reportedly introduced to the U.S. by German immigrants who told tales of an egg-laying hare. The decoration of eggs is believed to date back to the 13th century. 

The NYC Easter Parade tradition dates to the mid-1800s when high society folks would attend Easter Sunday services at 5th Ave churches, then stroll outside in their spring outfits and fancy headwear. Other folks started showing up to watch them and the tradition peaked by the mid-20th century.

Easter Parade, released in 1948, starred Fred Astaire and Judy Garland and featured the music of Irving Berlin. Gene Kelly, who had been scheduled to take the male lead, bowed out due to an injury. 

Astaire and Garland only acted together in this one film. Many people can recall the movie's famous lyrics: "In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it, you'll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade . . ."

Today, 5th Ave in New York is shut down from 49th to 57th Street. And, some participants still don fancy bonnets and hats.

My brother and I (years ago) dressed in Easter finery and were treated to bunny treats.

We wish you and your families a joyous and Happy Easter celebration.
Grenville & Beatrice

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday Observances

Today is Good Friday. 

This religious holiday is when Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. It is observed during Holy Week and also known as Black Friday, Easter Friday,  Holy Friday.

It's not a federal holiday in the U.S. 
But in Hawaii, it is a state holiday and city and state office are closed. In some states, specific counties have declared it as a school religious holiday. In Connecticut, the governor has named it as a day of fasting and prayer. Indiana state law mandates that state employees are given the day off as a religious holiday. In 1999, a state employee unsuccessfully sued the state government on this mandate, but was overruled.

Financial markets including the NY Stock Exchange, are closed on Good Friday as are many private businesses, public schools and colleges.

Some people may take the day off from work for a “Spring Break” weekend. Others often maintain a quiet day with limited outside activities including no radio, TV or electronics use. Some fast for the day and some play quiet music including Bach's St Matthew's Passion.

Hot Cross buns, a traditional Good Friday treat are often baked (and enjoyed) on this day. This sweet bun made with currants or raisins is marked with an iced cross on top. The treat traditionally marks the end of Lenten are often available year-round in some places. Some feel that the cross represents Christ's crucifixion.

(In accordance with the solemness of this day for many, the usual Friday Funnies has not been posted. Also, Comments are Off.)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Art of the Game

“Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!

There are points to be scored. There are games to be won."  Theodor Geisel (Dr Seuss)

Have you done any gaming lately?

We've been doing quite a lot in recent weeks. Not the electronic ones like PlayStation, although we do have an older unit that my brother gave us several months ago and e've yet to set up.

Like so many others, we also play some card and word games on our tablets and computers. However, the games I'm referring to are like those we played years ago called board games or card games, which have no electronic parts and don't need batteries.

Remember those?

For the past couple of months, the Nashua (NH) Public Library has been hosting an Adult game night event on Monday evenings. We attended nearly all and have been having a lot of fun playing games with several others who have also become "regulars."

"It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game."  American sportswriter Grantland Rice

In the past few weeks, we've played popular games like Scrabble, Dominoes, Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, Rummikub, and Clue. Many of these are provided by the library. We've also played some "lesser known" games such as 49, TransAmerica and Hey, That's My Fish, which were brought by another gamer.

"Life is more fun if you play games." author Roald Dahl

These game sessions last a couple of hours and time passes very fast once folks start interacting. Many evenings we've only played one game depending on the complexity and the number of participants.

“We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing!”  Benjamin Franklin

What's been interesting is that although the library publicizes this and other events, there hasn't been an overwhelming number of folks attending. Not that we mind because there's always been at least 4-5 people and the time goes. A game evening has been scheduled here at our apartment building next week — we hope folks attend.

Do you play board games and, if so, what are your favorites?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Snow Kidding

Spring will be a bit late.

March 21 is supposed to be the 1st day of Spring, but Winter apparently did not want to leave on time. This was the view from our window earlier this morning. 

Overnight snow from an offshore nor'easter storm dubbed Winter Storm Regis brought snow across eastern New England into Monday afternoon as it tracked off the East Coast.

This first day of Spring here in NH was actually colder than on Christmas Day.

It did make for some dramatic photos today.

The good news? 
Snow should melt quickly from this (hopefully) last winter blast. Forecasters are calling for warmer temperatures into the lower 50s mid-week. We're looking forward to seeing this view  as we did this past Friday.
Hope you are all doing OK if this wintry storm is in your area as well.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Get Your Irish Up

No, we don't mean as in starting a fight or getting mad — not at all.

As most folks know, St. Patricks Day is celebrated today. (This date marks the death of Ireland's patron saint.)

Tonight, we'll be enjoying a "traditional" dinner at home with friends — all prepared by Chef Grenville.

He's the Irish half or this relationship, whereas I am the Italian counterpart.

But, the meal he's preparing today — corned beef and cabbage is no more Irish than spaghetti and meatballs is Italian. This "classic" Irish fare is as American as apple pie.

Irish immigrants brought food traditions including soda bread and Irish stew to the U.S. Pork was inexpensive in their homeland and was the preferred meat with Irish bacon, a lean pork loin being the favorite. However, pork was costly for New York Irish families.

Irish workers, who frequented NYC Jewish delis and lunch carts, tasted corned beef. It was cured and cooked similar to Irish bacon and a cheaper alternative to pork. Potatoes were readily available, but cabbage was cheaper and when cooked with the spicy and salty corned beef, became very favorable  This simple, hearty dish soon became a staple of NY Irish families as it was affordable and easy to prepare.

As we enjoy this meal tonight, these are our wishes for you and yours . . . 

May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.

And . . .
May the road rise to meet you; May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face; and rains fall soft upon your field
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Grenville, Beatrice & Percy (the temporary Irish) Penguin

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Going Down the Shore

We're both from New Jersey where, back home, folks call a beach trip "going down the shore" which refers to heading south to any of the beach towns on the New Jersey shoreline. (Several years ago, The New York Times article, Beach-Blanket Lingo, explained  more about this Jersey phrase and other beach idioms.) 

That's what we did a couple of weekends ago when we took a 90-minute drive to Hampton Beach, NH. Since early March is still the "off season" for sun-loving beach goers, it's the best time to walk the beach with no crowds.

Going off-season to any beach area means there's no driving around looking for where to park. Not only are the parking lots uncrowded now, but they're all FREE. Try this in mid-summer and you may never get to the beach until mid-day for lack of a parking spot.

Hampton Beach is a state park and while the beach is "free" the in-season parking isn't Free. But, if (like us) you're a NH resident, 65 and over, then, you can park Free in a designated parking area, even during peak summer season.

Chances are that even with that Free parking we would steer clear since Hampton Beach is not only a popular tourist destination, but also the busiest beach community within NH. Ocean Boulevard, the main street along the beach, includes a boardwalk, souvenir shops, eateries, seasonal hotels, and the Casino Ballroom, a boardwalk favorite since 1899. The Ballroom hosts many national acts, but wasn't open during our visit. Many other places were closed as well, like the eatery shown below. 

In 2011, this beach was named one of four "Superstar" beaches in the US for having had perfect water quality testing results in each of the previous three years.

Brrr describes the water temperature which was 38 degrees, but that didn't deter these surfers. Yes, they were all wearing wet suits this early in the season.

Of course, no beach visit is complete without the foods. Our meal choices were fried claim strips, onion rings, and New England clam chowder (pronounced chowdah around here). It's not the healthiest meal, we know, but when in Rome . . .

Here's something that distinguishes a NH beach from the ones we knew in NJ . . .
That's right — ROCKS — and lots of (very) large ones.
This was a fun trip, which would have been even better with less wind and warmer temperatures.

We will most likely go down the shore again this year, maybe in the fall after the beach goers have left.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Phriday Phunny

Do you think the phrase 
"Let Sleeping Dogs Lie"
Applies here???

It all seems Black and White to me, BUT
somethin' smells phunny 'bout this!!!!

Have a Great Weekend, Grenville.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Do You Listen . . .

To podcasts?

Podcasts are like old-time radio story telling in the digital age. Formats include talk shows, call-in sports shows, audiobooks, poetry, music DJs, news, short stories, commentaries, and more. Podcasts differ from radio as a podcast is a series of audio or video files available on the Internet.

The word, podcast, is a portmanteau of the words iPod and and broadcast. (A portmanteau word is a linguistic blend of words in which parts of multiple words, or their sounds, and meanings are combined into a new word. 

You can listen to a podcast over wi-fi  on your computer, tablet, smartphone, iPod, or MP3 player or download it; then it becomes an MP3 file.

Podcasts offer variety and are not restricted by the FCC or "traditional" broadcast regulations. Anyone can create a podcast and share it. Podcasts offer listeners an escape from broadcast radio and commercials, although some do have commercials. There's thousands of podcasts and that number is rapidly expanding.

Video podcasts are called video casts, vidcasts or podcasts and combine the audio portion of podcasting with visual media providing a variety of video podcasters — filmmakers, artists, and vloggers (video bloggers).

In late 2014, podcasting reached a milestone when the Serial podcast investigated the 1999 murder of a Maryland high school student attracting millions of listeners, including myself.

In the past few weeks, here's some podcasts I've binged on . . .

Snap Judgment hosted by Glynn Washington mixes real stories with killer beats to produce cinematic, dramatic radio. It's often raw, musical brand of storytelling invites listeners to explore the world through the words of others.  It’s similar to the popular  This American Life podcast, but much edgier

Stories are only half of Snap Judgment which bills itself as “stories with a beat." It lives up to that tagline by infusing episodes with music that forms, in its host's words, “a bed to the story, that really brings out whatever the story is trying to evoke.”

Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! is NPR's weekly hour-long quiz program. Each week you can test your knowledge against some panelists from the news and entertainment world while figuring out what's real news and what's not. 

The show is hosted by playwright and actor Peter Sagal and is usually recorded before a live audience at Chicago's Chase Auditorium. Listeners telephone or send e-mails to nominate themselves as contestants playing various games featuring questions based on the week's news.

Here's the Thing is a public radio show and podcast interview series hosted by actor Alec Baldwin. It features interviews with those in the public eye including artists, policy makers and performers. Baldwin talks with artists, politicians and entertainers to hear their stories, learn what inspires them, what decisions changed their careers. Interviews vary from 20 minutes to an hour or more.

I'm always looking for new podcasts and in recent weeks have listened to episodes of these podcasts: A Prairie Home Companion, Car TalkStuff You Should Know, The Dinner Party Download, The Moth, Selected Shorts, Pop Culture Happy Hour, This American Life, Fresh Air, The Pixar Podcast

Do you listen — if you do, which ones do you enjoy?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Crockpot Pork, Sweet Potatoes & Apples

Over the past few blogging years, I've posted crockpot and pork recipes. This versatile meal ingredient ranks as one of our favorites besides chicken and fish. This recipe was easy to prepare using ingredients we already had available.The addition of apples and dried cranberries add a great flavor and sweetness.

Crockpot Pork Loin with Sweet Potatoes and Apples
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground thyme
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 lbs boneless pork tenderloin
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 C dried cranberries (Craisins® are a great pantry staple)
  • 1/2 C apple cider - I used apple juice

  1. Season pork loin with pepper and salt and brown on all sides.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the brown sugar and spices; set aside.
  3. Arrange sweet potato slices in the bottom of the crockpot; add chopped onion and sprinkle everything with half of the brown sugar mixture.
  4. After its browned and cooled, coat the pork in the rest of the spice mixture. Place in the crockpot on top of the vegetables; top with the apples and cranberries; add the cider/apple juice and cover.
  5. Set the crockpot to HIGH for 1 hour, then switch to LOW and cook for 5 to 6 hours. After 5 hours, quickly lift the lid to see if the sweet potatoes are tender and you can use an instant read thermometer to check the pork - cooked should read between 145-160°F. If it needs a little longer, replace the lid and cook for another 30-60 minutes. To serve, remove pork to a cutting board, let it set 5 minutes, then cut into thick slices.
Serve the sweet potatoes, apples, and onions with the pork too soft, so I mashed them with the apples and onions. Grenville added some flour to the leftover juices and made a delicious gravy. 
I sautéed mushrooms to serve on top of the pork. Steamed fresh green beans completed the meal. We really enjoyed this dinner and, except for the green beans, there are leftovers for a second meal. (This is the best part of crockpot cooking for me.)

Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday Funnies

Walking downtown yesterday afternoon, I saw this single boot against a brick wall.
And IF you (like me) were curious about the other boot, it wasn't found despite a search around the area — someone will have cold feet

For no special reason, I started thinking of phrases/idioms containing  the word "boot." Here's my list — 

You bet your boots,  Too big for your boots
Get the boot,  Tough as an old boot
Bet your boots,  Shaking in your boots,  Booted out
Die with your boots on,  Shaking in your boots
Pull yourself up by the bootstraps
Boots on the ground,  Boot licker
Too boot, Boot hill, Boot camp
Boot-up, Re-boot

Can you think of more? 
Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Space Challenged

Living in an apartment means there's less space in many areas, including the kitchen. And, it can also mean giving up some appliances, like a microwave.

At first, we thought that might be a problem since in the VA house our larger counter space gave us plenty of room for a microwave. It's still there, but it's an older, very large unit. We used it mainly for reheating rather than cooking meals. It was especially useful for reheating our morning coffee in the late afternoon.

Relocating it to NH wasn't an option because of the limited counter space shown in this photo. That meant we had to find a replacement appliance. We've owned and used toaster ovens before so that seemed the best choice. A friend suggested we get a toaster/convection oven.

convection (or fan) oven uses internal fans to circulate air while cooking. Conventional ovens, which don't have fans, rely primarily on radiation from oven walls, and to a lesser extent, on natural convection caused by temperature differences within the oven, to transfer heat to food. Convection oven fans allow more heat to be transferred via convective heat transfer. Translated it means that these ovens distribute heat more evenly around the food, which cooks more evenly in less time and at a lower temperature. So far, we've found that to be true.
We took our friend's suggestion on the make and model to buy — a Cuisinart CounterPro Convection Toaster Oven Broiler. Our decision was also based on its overall size. As shown here, the unit nearly fills the available cabinet space leaving just a bit of counter space.

A similar unit we liked was made by Breville. It was pricier with great reviews. Alas, its dimensions were too large for the available counter space. 
Overall, we've been satisfied with this unit which cost about $100; there's been no problems in a year of nearly daily use. As most folks know, when appliances like this break down, it's hardly worth a repair; replacing it can be about the same cost.

We've survived for over a year without a microwave and aren't interested in buying one. 

How about you — ever reconsidered an appliance because of space or other reasons ?