Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Parade and a Movie Marathon

If you are wondering what a parade and a movie marathon have in common, the answer is nothing at all. It just describes how we spent part of the 3-day Memorial Day weekend. 

The weather was very uncooperative for the Memorial Day parade in downtown Nashua on Monday. It felt more like late fall than late spring with the under 60-degree temperature. Folks bundled up along Main Street. Overcast skies ruled the day, but thankfully the rains held off until the parade ended. It included a lot of red vehicles and attire.

The dreary weather was a possible factor in the absence of some groups. Those that did participate were applauded by parade watchers, including ourselves.

The movie part of our weekend was spent watching the first four fantasy swashbuckler Pirates of the Caribbean films. We saw the first release Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) in a theater and purchased the next 3 release for home viewing: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), At World’s End (2007) and On Stranger Tides (2011).
The Pirates of the Caribbean film series is produced by Walt Disney Pictures and film and TV producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The first was based on the name of a Disney theme park ride. Each film is well over 2 hours long, but our marathon wasn't non-stop viewing. We watched them over 4 nights to "catch up" before seeing the latest film, Dead Men Tell No Tales. It was released May 26, 2017 in time for holiday weekend movie viewing.

The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) - The film's plot follows eccentric pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) as they rescue Turner's love, kidnapped Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) from the cursed crew of the Black Pearl, captained by Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). Jack seeks revenge on Barbossa, who stranded him on an island and stole his ship along with 882 pieces of cursed Aztec gold, and named himself the ship's captain.

This initial outing was also the first film from Walt Disney Pictures to be rated PG-13 by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). Previous releases were rated G or PG. After its box-office bonanza, the same crew and cast signed on for two sequels to be shot back-to-back. Sequels filming began in February 2005. Dead Man's Chest finish filming in March 2006; At World's End was completed in January 2007.

Dead Man's Chest (2006)  — Taking up where the previous film ended, Lord Cutler Beckett of the East India Trading Company arrests Will and Elizabeth for helping Captain Jack Sparrow. In a bid to find the Dead Man's Chest, containing the heart of villainous Davy Jones. Beckett offers clemency if Will agrees to search for Jack's compass, which would give Beckett control of the seas. Jack wants the chest to escape from an unpaid debt with Jones, who made Jack captain of the Black Pearl for 13 years in exchange for 100 years of service aboard Jones' ship, the Flying Dutchman.

At World's End (2007) — Lord Beckett gains power over Davy Jones and, with the help of the Flying Dutchman, starts executing his plans to extinguish piracy. As one of nine pirate lords, Jack is needed in order to summon an ancient goddess with the power to defeat Beckett's forces. To stand against the East India Trading Co., Will, Elizabeth, Barbossa, and the crew of the Black Pearl set out to rescue Captain Jack Sparrow from Davy Jones' Locker.

On Stranger Tides (2011) Captain Jack Sparrow is seeking the fabled Fountain of Youth and crosses paths with Angelica, a former lover who forces him aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge, captained by her father, the infamous pirate BlackbeardThey are both also seeking the fountain. Angelica wants to save her father's soul. Blackbeard hopes to escape a prophecy of his demise at the hands of a one-legged man. Joining the hunt is Jack's former first mate and pirate captain Barbossa, now a privateer in King George II's Navy, and now a one-legged man. Jack, Angelica, and Blackbeard are in a race against the Spanish who seek to destroy the fountain.

Special effects were done  by Industrial Light and Magic, the motion picture video effects powerhouse founded by George Lucas (Star Wars). We were so awed by these effects that we overlooked many of the more violent scenes in the films (there were quite a few).

The best films, in most critics opinions (including ourselves) are in the first directed by Gore Verbinski, American film producer, director, and screenwriter. By comparison, the 4th film directed by Rob Marshall, American film and theater director, was a bit of a let-down. Verbinski was unavailable and reportedly uninterested in another Pirates film. We're looking forward to see how the current film, co-directed by Norwegian film directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg will compare to the earlier four films.

Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) — Ghost Spanish Royal Navy soldiers led by Jack Sparrow's former nemesis, Armando Salazar, escape from the Devil's Triangle. They plan to kill every pirate at sea, including Jack. To survive, Jack seeks the legendary Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact whose owner can control the seas.

Movie trailers have claimed this film is "the final adventure" leading many to believe that Disney is laying the groundwork for this film to be the last in the series. But, it may not be so as, as this "final" ruled the 3-day Memorial Day box office tallying over $62 million in U.S. sales alone. Projections are that the worldwide weekend box office receipts could exceed $275 million.

Overall, we enjoyed our movie marathon. As with any film series, like Star Wars, Harry Potter or Indiana Jones, you need to watch the films sequentially or you won't know what's going on. 

How about you— have you seen the "Pirates" series or watched a similar "marathon" (including binge watching Netflix series) ? 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Celebrate and Remember

2016 Memorial Day parade, Nashua, NH
Memorial Day, a solemn reminder that freedom is never free, honors men and women who have served and died in military service.

This U.S. federal holiday is observed annually on the last day in May (today). The 3-day holiday weekend is regarded as the "unofficial" start of summer. Many will attend parades, BBQs and picnics or go shopping for sales.   

The holiday was originally called Decoration Day and was started to honor soldiers who died in the Civil War. It was officially proclaimed in General Order No. 11 by General John Logan in May 1868. (Several southern states set aside an added separate day for honoring Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 28 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, and June 3 in Louisiana and Tennessee.) 

The best-known poem now associated with this day, In Flanders Fields, resulted in the remembrance poppy, an artificial flower used since 1921 to commemorate military members who have died in war. It's associated with U.S. Memorial Day as the American Legion symbol. Funds raised through selling remembrance poppies help support disabled veterans.

The poem was written in May 1915 during WWI by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae after presiding over the funeral of a friend and fellow soldier. 

In Flanders Fields (Lt. Col. John McCrae, 1872-1918)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row, 
That mark our place, and in the sky, 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly, 
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields. 

Take up our quarrel with the foe! 
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high! 
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution, passed in 2000, asks all Americans at 3 p.m. local time: “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.”
(Comments are off. Celebrate the holiday and remember.)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday Funnies

Another example of packaging being much larger than its contents. 
Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.
It's Memorial Day weekend here in the U.S. Take time to remember.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Yes, that was an awful pun as this post title is a hint to where we went on our anniversary getaway last week, Stowe VT. Living in Nashua, NH makes neighboring New England states easily accessible. The one-way trip was about 166 miles and took just over 2-1/2 hours.

Stowe is the second largest town in VT with a total area of 72.7 square miles and a population under 4,500 at the 2010 U.S. census. It’s in a broad valley between Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest mountain, and other peaks of the Green Mountains to the west, and the Worcester Range to the east. 

By the mid-1800’s, Stowe had developed into a well-known summer resort due to spectacular mountain scenery and good transportation connections. The Toll Road to the top of Mt. Mansfield was completed by 1870; the Summit House on the top of Mt. Mansfield was finished just as the Civil War broke out, and the 300-room Mansfield House occupied much of the present village on Main Street. Known as the “Big Hotel”, it burned to the ground in 1889.
Driving along VT roadways and mountain views

Today, Main Street includes the Green Mountain Inn, Butler House, Shaw’s General Store, the Community Church with its white steeple, a New England standard.
Community Church, Main St, Stowe, VT

The municipal  building also has a theater as do many New England town halls. A major manufacturer, the Tubbs Snowshoe Co. closed in 2009 and moved its operations overseas.
Stowe, VT Municipal Building and 2nd floor theater 

The Malt Shop is a 1950's style soda fountain and full service family restaurant open year-round, except on Tuesdays. It's where we shared a celebratory banana split.
A short distance drive from Stowe we passed several tourist attractions: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream (we visited a couple of years ago and not this time). We did re-visit the Cold Hollow Cider Mill for a fresh-baked apple cider donut.
Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Waterbury, VT

Other stops included: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Visitor’s Center and Cafe, Lake Champlain Chocolates, and the Cabot Creamery Annex in nearby Waterbury, VT. Craft beer brewing is popular in VT with many breweries, vintners, distillers and cider-makers. The Green Mountain state produces 15.1 gallons of beer annually per every adult 21 and older. We stopped for a tour and samples at the Magic Hat brewery in Shelburne, VT.
Magic Hat brewery, Shelburne, VT
Nearby places where we stopped included the Trapp Family Lodge (think Sound of Music fame), and the Stowe Mountain Inn. Since our visit was after ski season and before the start of summer tourist season, many places were well below occupancy.
Trapp Family Lodge and views

Stowe Mountain Inn and Grenville with "loaner" car
Our stay was at the Green Mountain Inn on Main Street. It was built as a private residence in 1833, and converted to a hotel in the mid-1800s. It became a favored stop for visitors. Famous visitors have included broadcaster Lowell Thomas, U.S. presidents Chester Arthur and Gerald Ford, inventor Thomas Edison and auto magnate Henry Ford. 

The GMI has 103 unique rooms in 8 buildings in the heart of Stowe Village. We were in the Depot Building, built in 1897 as a depot for the Mt. Mansfield Electric Railway and located adjacent to the GMI. The train ran 11 miles between Waterbury and Stowe carrying passengers and freight until 1932. A bridge connects the Depot Building to the Inn. It houses 16 guest rooms on the upper level and shops on the lower level.
Our room at The Green Mountain Inn, Stowe, VT

The GMI has been home to a railroad company offices, site of a grand dance. The Main Inn and Old Depot buildings and Sanborn House are listed as Numbers 13, 14 and 105, on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. A large stable housing over 100 horses, tack, carriages and stable hands was located behind the former Mount Mansfield (“Big Hotel”) at the present site of the GMI’s Annex wing. 
First Date, 20th Anniversary at The Whip & Bar Grill, Stowe, VT

The barn was torn down as a fire hazard in 1953 and several of the original beams were used in constructing The Whip Bar & Grill in the Green Mountain Inn. It's where we dined to celebrate our. The shared chocolate mousse dessert was delicious!

We visited several other places during our stay including the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory in Shelburne, VT and Smuggler's Notch. (These will be shown in future posts.)

We plan to continue celebrating annually and look forward to our 20th wedding anniversary in 2019. 🍾

Thanks for sharing this first part of our getaway trip. Also thanks for all your well wishes and comments on our May 16 anniversary post.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Back to the Beach

Nope, we're not going to the beach (sigh) and no we didn't go to one on our recent anniversary getaway. More on that recent and fun adventure comes in future posts.

The "beach" we're returning to this coming week is the South Beach (SB) Diet plan. The basics of this plan was detailed in an previous post, so I won't repeat them here. 

Our reasons are much the same as before. We need to alter our eating habits, especially after our anniversary road trip when we ate out every day. We have all the SB cookbooks with lots of recipes. This past weekend we stocked up on veggies, chicken, and seafood.

The SB diet, started by cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston in the 1990s, focuses on controlling insulin levels and the benefits of unrefined slow carbohydrates (whole wheat, brown rice, bran, beans, nuts, vegetables) vs. fast carbs (breads, sugar, fruits, starchy vegetables). 

Fast carbs rapidly break down into sugar. If eaten regularly, they keep blood sugar elevated and can lead to weight gain. Slow carbs are higher in fiber and provide the body with energy over a longer period without a rapid elevation in blood sugar. Another benefit is you won't feel hungry as often. In fairness to fast carbs, they're beneficial after exercising. According to some nutritionists, a rapid rise in blood sugar restores glycogen (sugars stored for energy) in the muscles and liver if eaten 2 hours afterwards.

No, we haven't avoided processed foods (as we thought)
We didn't consider ourselves to be processed food junkies. There's no hidden chips, cookies, canned soups, instant mixes in the pantry, no frozen or microwave foods in the freezer, and we avoid fast foods. That was before I fully understood about them.

Online reading was an eye-opener. I knew that the definition of processed food included ones packaged in boxes, cans, bags. It also applies to meats preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives: sausages, bacon (a breakfast favorite), ham, salami, pepperoni  (pizza favorite). 

Besides going through complex manufacturingprocessed foods usually have additives, artificial flavorings and "non-natural" ingredients. 

Is something processed or not? 

Check the ingredients; the rule is: if it's a longer list, the more the food is processed. These foods likely contain ingredients you can't recognize or ones you wouldn't have in your kitchen. To eat healthier, advocates advise shopping in the outer grocery food aisles, vegetables, dairy meats, seafood. That alone doesn't always ensure non-processed foods.

That said not all processed foods are off-limits. Minimally processed foods like bagged spinach, salads, pre-cut vegetables, nuts and others are packaged for convenience and can still be healthy. Others include foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness, such as canned tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables and canned tuna.

Processed foods can be beneficial. Milk and juices can be fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Canned fruit (packed in its own juice) is an option when fresh fruit is unavailable. The challenge is to distinguish between good-for-you lightly processed vs.heavily processed foods; these are foods not recognized as food in its original form (potato chips, crackers) or non-naturally occurring foods (soda, donuts, cookies, candy).

Not only are we now reading a lot much more about processed foods, but also all grocery store food labels. (This definitely adds more time to our grocery store trips.)

You may have heard of "clean eating." This buzzword term usually refers to how a food is produced. It means avoiding processed and refined foods and basing your eating on whole foods. In other words, farm = clean vs. manufacturing facility = not so much since these are foods have more "steps" along the way. 

"Clean eating" is not about eating more or less of certain foods, but being "mindful" (another buzz term these days) of the food's path between its origin and the plate. It's eating whole or "real" foods that are not or are minimally processed, refined, and handled, keeping them as close to their natural form as possible. 

It's not so much a diet, but an eating lifestyle: "If you can’t read it, don’t eat it. If it sounds complex, or like a word out of chemistry class, chances are it is." 

This past weekend we used foods from the freezer and pantry before starting on the SB plan:  Country style ribs with homemade BBQ sauce and sweet potato salad with Greek yogurt  and fresh veggies. (Recipes to come in a future post). 

Do you have an eating or diet plan you follow?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Funnies

An uplifting sight at St Patrick's Church in Nashua, NH, a couple of weeks ago.
From my vantage point across the street, it looked like the window repairs involved some sort of sealing. It's been a wet month and perhaps there were some water leaks.

Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Kickin' the Tires

The Frog & PenguINN, front porch
This blog, The Frog & PenguINN, is named after what our home on the VA eastern shore. It's the one in the blog header too and is neither an inn or a B&B. 

Readers of this blog may know we've been trying to sell this home for several years. The F&P has a blog site, which I created a few years ago to showcase it. 

We've relocated to NH, but haven't neglected the house. In winter, a  contractor checks it. In summer, a lawn care contractor maintains the grounds.We return several times a year to check on it, stay there and visit neighbors and friends. 

We've been asked (many times) why we removed from a warm to colder state and from a
house to apt living. There are several reasons: Family is a main reason; grandkids and other relatives are in New England. More leisure time is another. 

After years of yard work and house projects, we wanted time to kick-back, travel and enjoy ourselves (even more). Among the benefits of apt living is no home maintenance. If anything breaks down, we notify the on-site management office. Usually, repairs are completed quicker than waiting for a contractor, and we don't even have to stay home.
House rear and back patio
It's been suggested that we rent the house and it was a rental before we bought it. However, renters are not always good housekeepers. It needed repainting and updating, which we did as part of "making it our own." If rented, there's no property management companies in the area. We've heard horror stories from others who rented and later regretted it. Keeping the house "as is" gives us a place to stay and the VA eastern shore, is really quite a nice place. We're hoping that potential homeowners can see that too!

Our house is located in Onley, VA. pop. about 500, with a full-time police department, mayor and council, volunteer fire department and within 5-8 minutes of a "Super" Walmart, YMCA, supermarket, and newly-opened regional hospital. Annual taxes (city and county) are below $1200. There's no water or sewer bills, taxes include weekly garbage pickup. The next town over has restaurants, a dock, specialty shops, and a single-screen movie theater, open weekends. 

So WHY hasn't it sold ?
We wish we knew. It's small-town living that's for sure. Despite nearby amenities, the closest "large" shopping areas (think malls and big box stores) are 90 minutes away in either Virginia Beach, VA or Salisbury, MD. On the VA shore, the distance to anywhere is described as "being down the road."

We're had a couple of "close calls." Last summer, we had a signed contract and thought it would be sold, only to have the buyer default a week before closing. We were given the initial deposit, but would rather have had it sold. Just this week, we had an offer so far below the asking price that our sides ached from laughing. It was that ridiculous with a $100 deposit (no kidding). We turned that "offer" down with no regrets.

Which brings me, finally, to the title of this post — what's a tire-kicker?
Bear with me here, because it does relate. According to an online site: "tire kicker is someone who's going to ask, and ask and ask, with very little chance of ever paying for or buying something. A tire kicker is a low-baller, a time waster and someone to avoid, if at all possible."

In our house-selling case, it refers to folks who will look and come back and even tell a realtor they are "interested" and then go silent. Our realtor has another name for these folks, which is much less kinder. 

What does it have to do with tires?
In the early 20th century, automobile tires were made of thin rubber and often of poor quality. A prospective buyer might kick them to check the thickness or to see if they would deflate and delay a journey. 

It's been said that some folks kick tires before buying a car. It's not an accurate test of the car's quality, but may work as part of the "inspection" process. Some feel that if nothing happens to the car after its doors are slammed and tires kicked, then it's a good deal.

According to an online article, engineers at tire-maker Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Akron, Ohio had some ideas too:
  • Years ago, when autos and horses shared the road, it was an easy way for horse riders to get manure off their shoes. 
  • Truck drivers carried a tire billy tool, resembling a billy club, and struck the tire to see whether it had enough air.
  • It dates to the early days of trucking. With so many tires on one axle, a tire could look inflated but be flat as the other tires were holding it up. So, drivers would kick all the tires to determine if one had a flat.
  • When cars used balloon tires, customers knew tires could go flat. They would kick the tires to ensure that they could at least drive off the lot.
And, my favorite, "It reduced the number of lawsuits from slapping the salesmen instead." While I'm unsure whether any of these are entirely true, they were entertaining.

Meanwhile, we're buried a couple of statues of St. Joseph in the yard, front and back. We previously bought one and NH friends gave us another, so we figured the "more the merrier" and at least we're covered "front and back" (sorry, no more puns).

Maybe St. Joseph will be able to help the house find its new owners. We pray that it's soon. For anyone unfamiliar with this house sellers "tradition" of burying this statue in the yard, check this site. There is a procedure to follow including the prayers, and we did as instructed.. 

Now you know about tire-kickers and the side job of St. Joseph. 

By the way, if you know of anyone looking to relocate to a small southern town where the "living is easy and slow" let us know. We have just the house!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hats 🎩 Off to Us . . .

Because after 20 years together, we're still having a lot of really fun times together. And, this week we're off on a road trip to celebrate a milestone event!
It's not our wedding anniversary — instead it's the 20th anniversary of our 1st date which took place in our native NJ. We celebrate every year and usually in different locations. (Can you tell we're still having fun together?)

We'll tell next week where we celebrated.
Do you remember the anniversary of your first date & do you celebrate it?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Funnies

Think pink and not white snow. 
These pink blossoms covered the ground outside a NJ hotel during our recent Easter holiday road trip.

Happy Mother's Day 💐
Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

DW "Easy Peasy" Clean

Do you clean your dishwasher?
Sure, it saves time-saver in terms of kitchen chores, but it needs to be cleaned too. As grease, soap scum and food debris accumulate, efficiency is reduced and the DW can become a germ-magnet. (Yes, gross, I know ☹️) 

Here's a quick and easy 2-step method touted by home maintenance guru Bob Vila. It uses easy-to find ingredients — vinegar and baking soda and no chemicals. Sure, there are other ways: using the powdered breakfast drink Tang® (several YouTube videos show how). There's also marketed "dishwasher" cleaners. All cost more than this method.

We hate dislike spending more — and who doesn't like easy?
Take out the bottom dish rack. Check the DW drain. Remove any trapped food items. This can improve drainage, increase cleaning, and prevent damages.

Use vinegar for the wash, then add baking soda for a rinse. (NOTE: you can use any brand of these products; these are only shown for illustration.)

Vinegar Wash
Start with an empty dishwasher.
Fill a dishwasher-safe container with 1 cup of white vinegar and place it on the upper rack of the empty machine. 

Close the door. Run the dishwasher through a hot-water cycle. When it's done, you should see that the vinegar washed away grease and removed any odors.

Baking Soda Rinse
After the vinegar rinse is done, sprinkle a cupful of baking soda across the bottom of the appliance. Run it on a short hot-water cycle. When it's done, you should notice that your appliance has a brighter, stain and odor-free interior.

Vila recommends a monthly cleaning to maintain the dishwasher. This is a two-for one cleaning day. I use vinegar to clean the auto coffeemaker every month; usually on the same day as cleaning the DW — easy peasy.

FYI: The oft-used expression "easy peasy lemon squeezy" is said to come from a 1950s advertising slogan for Lemon Sqezy®, a “washing-up liquid." This British detergent was sold in a squeeze bottle. In earlier marketing campaigns, two other ad slogans were used: "Washing-Up? It's easy with Sqezy" and "Quick as a wink away from the sink." The phrasing everyone knows started after a lemon version was marketed. Sqezy® formerly marketed by British manufacturer Starbrands Limited is no longer made.