Monday, March 29, 2021

Time Spent in a Manor

We're fast running out of New England castles to visit. Of course, there are several we hope to visit, including some normally open to the public. But these are not currently open because of you know what precautions. So, it may be a while until we have another castle adventure.

That's why we've switched architectural styles even downsized a bit to visit once grand estates. Some of these have been converted into lodgings, which means an overnight road trip as well.
Our most recent excursion was to North Conway, NH, and a repeat stay at Stonehurst Manor, once the summer estate of carpet magnate Erastus Bigelow. He's the New Englander native credited with the invention of the 
power loom for carpet manufacture (as in Bigelow Carpets). The larger portion of more than 50 patents that Bigelow took out were directly or indirectly connected with textile arts. Today, Erastus Bigelow is widely credited with developing the textile arts and has been dubbed the father of the modern carpet industry.
Erastus Bigelow

Bigelow was born in West Boylston, MA, in 1814. His father was a cotton weaver. His parents wanted him to study medicine, when his father’s business struggled, he discontinued his studies to help in his father’s cotton mill. 

At 14, he invented machinery to manufacture piping cord. Then, at 25, in 1839, Bigelow invented a power-loom capable of weaving two-ply ingrain carpets. These had previously had been woven by a handloom, which only produced eight yards a day. With this first carpet loom he succeeded in obtaining 10 to 12 yards daily, and increased that number by improvements until a product of 25 yards was regularly obtained.

This was significant and changed the way Americans furnished their homes. A carpet weaver could produce 2 yards a day of 2-ply ingrain carpet. Such skilled laborers commanded high wages which meant that woven pile carpets were beyond the reach of most 18th and early 19th-century families before the carpet power loom was invented. Later, as quantity increased, prices lowered, and no longer could only wealthy families afford a parlor carpet.
Illustration of  Bigelow Carpet Company, Clinton, MA
The power loom that Bigelow developed was used to manufacture Brussels and Wilton carpets. Erastus and his brother, Horatio, formed a firm near Lancaster, MA, and founded the Bigelow carpet mills to manufacture the looms and produce Brussels and Wilton carpets. 

These terms were unfamiliar to me and here's what I learned online: Brussels carpet is a type of machine-made floor covering with the loops of the pile uncut. This process is believed to have originated in or near Brussels and became fashionable in the first half of the 19th century. All colors run with the warp, concealed, and are brought above the foundation in loops, as needed, to produce the pattern. Wilton carpets follow a similar process, but are often cut or loop products and different yarn types can be used to produce different surface textures.
Illustration of a carpet power loon: online source
In 1859, the Bigelow's factory village near Lancaster was officially incorporated as a separate town and named Clinton after the DeWitt Clinton Hotel, a favorite NYC hotel of the Bigelow brothers. A year later, U.S. carpet production doubled. The Bigelow Carpet Company became a leading manufacturer of carpeting in the late 19th century. The company made carpets for use in the White House, the U.S. Senate and House, Massachusetts State House, and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC.

Carpets ads appeared in widely available and highly popular consumer magazines. Later, TV commercials touted Bigelow Carpets, like this one from the 1950s. (The laugh track wasn't in the original, but the dated ad seems funny today). The ads below appeared in 1930s and 1940s magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and the Ladies Home Journal

Bigelow carpet ads from the 1930s and 1940s appeared in consumer magazines
The mill complex includes six brick buildings ranging in height from two to five stories.  Shut down in the 1930s, the buildings were either left vacant or used for storage, then in the 1970s,  began to see increased industrial use again. In 1983, the mill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In June 2020, a suspicious fire caused damage to the first floor and basement of the large factory. 

Bigelow's NH summer mansion, Stonehurst, was started in 1871 and completed in May 1872. The property included a gatekeeper's cottage, stables, and servants house.Three years later, the original house burned, and was rebuilt in 1877 following the same design. Unfortunately, Bigelow didn't enjoy the residence for many years as he died in 1879, 2 years later.

A manor is defined as an estate belonging to someone from the upper classes or nobility, (think duke or lord) with a large amount of land. The estate house is the manor home. Bigelow wasn't upper class or royalty, so his summer home was more of an estate with a very large mansion.
Vintage Stonehurst Manor photo and swimming pool, snow covered during our visit 
Since 1946, Stonehurst has been an upscale country inn which includes the manor house, a connected motel, privately owned condominiums, and recreational facilities set on 33 acres of secluded pine forest in the White Mountains of NH. 
Main stairway leading to the second and third floors
Drinks are served in the cocktail lounge which has varied seating
The grand manor house has retained much of its historical character largely intact. It includes 19th-century touches like intricate English oak woodwork and traditional light fixtures. Its 26 guest rooms are furnished in period decor as well.
Stonehurst Manor features an eclectic collection of lighting
Fireplace in the lounge area which was our favorite afternoon sitting spot
All rooms have dark wood furnishings and red carpets or hardwood floors, but exact color schemes and fabrics vary by room style. Some rooms have a fireplace, others a jacuzzi, which ours did and Grenville enjoyed during our stay.
Our second floor bedroom had a jacuzzi and small balcony
Admittedly, Stonehurst Manor can be considered dated with its dark brown wood furniture and floral prints. Overall it has a cozy bed-and-breakfast feel. For us, it's a unique and reasonably priced not-to-far getaway and offers full service breakfast and dinner included in the room rates.
There are several dining rooms in the Irish Rose restaurant
Meals are served in the Wild Rose restaurant which is also open to non-hotel guests. Our dinner options included among other choices, freshly made pasta, lobster ravioli, roast duck, seared salmon, trout,  scallops, and prime rib, and included a soup or salad; desserts are extra.
Despite physical alterations over the years, the historic hotel conveys an elegant impression as it did a century ago. It provides a glimpse of upper-class summer architecture and life in late-Victorian America. This was a time when families would travel either to their summer estates or to a grand hotel for the entire season
A snow-covered Mount Washington was visible from the hotel parking lot, it's the highest peak in the Northeastern U.S. As noted earlier, this was a repeat visit for us and this time we stayed on the second vs. the third floor. Befitting its time period, there's no elevator; assistance is provided if needed. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Friday Funnies

Here's a few car-themed photos with that made me smile, and maybe you as well. All of these photos were taken in Nashua, NH locales.

The only thought that came to mind for this photo was, of course . . .


Especially when compared with this model car. (No, you're not reading the lettering on the car backwards, the image was flipped for size comparison.)

This car owner seems to have a very unique auto-filing method in the true sense of the term.

And, this car owner won't easily forget his plate number with these similar numbers.
Any other titling ideas, 
p-le-a-s-e share yours in the comments below. 

Meanwhile, as this plate almost says, once again, It's Been a Hoot, folks. 

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
Weekend weather will be good here for a walk

Monday, March 22, 2021

It's Spring and That Means

It was time for a day trip (and more).

That's because the first day of spring arrived in NH this weekend with temps climbing to the mid-60s on Sunday. It was a perfect go for a ride day, and that's what we did. 

Grenville packed up his ham radio gear and we traveled about an hour to the Blackwater Dam in Webster, NH. The earthen dam was built in 1941 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers at a (then) cost of $1.32 million. The site includes 8 miles of river popular for canoeing and kayaking, and fishing for brown and rainbow trout. 
Grenville and portable ham radio setup
There was a lone picnic table in a small parking area where Grenville set up his "base" and I enjoying an audio book. We had brought sandwiches and enjoyed a "picnic" lunch. It was great being outdoors on an early spring afternoon. Friends joined us briefly as a fellow ham radio operator and his wife drove from Nashua to visit for a while. 

There was still a surprising amount of snow and ice in the area compared to hardly any left in Nashua, so we didn't do any walking around the area. Several other cars stopped in the parking area for short looks around

Heading home, we opted to take back roads and avoid major roadways for as long as possible. This was a very good thing as here's what we found in Boscawen, the Smoke Shack, which may be a food stop on a future trip to this area.
The Smoke Shack, Boscawen, NH
While not visible in the photo above, there was a steady line of (socially distanced) customers waiting for — as the sign shows — ice cream.  

As regular readers of this blog may know, this is one of our favorite road trip treats, so much so that it was a highlight of our cross-country trip several years ago.
First spring ice cream treats
Naturally, we had to stop and enjoy our first treats of spring which included mocha chip, chocolate peanut butter and rocky road ice cream in waffle cones. (Sorry, there's no sharing here, maybe another time and place.)

Hope your first weekend of spring got off to a fun and possibly delicious start.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Friday Funnies

 Have you logged in today?

This log carrier was in front of our vehicle for quite a while on a drive, so there's was plenty of time for a photo. Grenville provided the caption for my photo. He's very clever that way.

Many Thanks to everyone who left a comment on my previous post about our completion of the COVID vaccine process. It was encouraging to read that others have completed phase one, two or both. Also, discouraging that others have still unknown wait times both in the U.S. and other countries. 

We're thankful our experience went well with no side effects other than a sore arm, and hope that everyone will be vaccinated over time. Personally, we've heard about and even know some folks who are wavering on the vaccine, whether to or not get it. Hopefully, they and others will come to see that it's seen as an important hurdle to return to somewhat normal standards.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
Some warmer weather is here next week.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Two and Done

At least that's what we're hoping as there has talk about people possibly needing a booster vaccine at some future date.

But for now, we're done and within 2 weeks will be considered fully vaccinated. On Saturday, we received our second shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. We're planning to visit family in RI for Easter weekend. It's been 16 months since we last met face-to-face, but who's counting? (we are!)
View from our car at Nashua high school vaccination site
But for now, we're done and within 2 weeks will be considered fully vaccinated. On Saturday, we received our 2nd shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. We're planning to visit family in RI for Easter weekend. It's been 16 months since we last met face-to-face, but who's counting? (we are!)

Friends who are in our age group, but with later appointments, wanted to know how we felt afterwards, that night or on Sunday. We had read that the most common side effects were in the arm where the vaccine was administered. These could include pain, swelling, redness or soreness. And, side effects throughout the rest of the body could be flu-like symptoms (chills, tiredness, headache or fever) which would go away in a day or two. Several people we know experienced one or more of these symptoms, including a much younger daughter in PA.

What was our personal experience?
Nothing like we had read about. Grenville and myself both experienced soreness in the arm that received the injection. We were advised to keep well-hydrated, so we both drank a lot of water.

Honestly, we were really tired on Sunday not because of the vaccine, but having to set the clocks ahead for Daylight Savings Time after already staying up late to catch binge watch Twilight Zone on Netflix. There's 4 complete seasons: season 1 (36), season 2 (20), season 3 (37) and season 5 (36) that totals 136 shows. All are in B&W with a run time of under 30 minutes. For some reason, there's no season 4 available (but this is the Twilight Zone).

In the past, we haven't experienced after-effects with vaccines for flu, pneumonia or shingles, even when two doses were needed. And, we had also heard that older adults fared better than younger.

As with the first shot, vaccinations were done outdoors in a high school parking lot. We received a vaccination card after that one and were asked several times to produce it, along with ID (driver's license was OK). Other than those requirements, nothing was needed and no paperwork to complete.
Moving forward and waiting our turn
The Vaccination Record Card we received last month was updated with the latest dose info and date. We made copies to keep in our wallets and the original will be saved in our medical files. We're also sending scanned images to our medical provider this week.

Completed vaccine card
NH is currently administering COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1. Ironically, on St Patrick's Day, this week the state is launching its own Vaccine and Immunization Network Interface (VINI). The new website will replace the federally run Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS). State officials have said the state system is user-friendly and will be able to handle high amounts of web traffic. Something, many people have complained about with VAMS. Perhaps the new state system will be luckier for many.

Governor Chris Sununu says VINI will eliminate a major frustration with VAMS. Anyone who wanted to find an earlier vaccination appointment as vaccine shipments increased would have had to cancel a previously appointment first under VAMS. With VINI, a new appointment can be scheduled before an old one is canceled, easing concerns that someone could lose their appointment.
Lineup of cars was quite lengthy as we were leaving site
Our Saturday appointment was at 2:10 pm. We arrived at last 25 minutes early. The entire process took about 90 minutes. The waiting line didn't seem excessive when we arrived and we brought reading material. By the time we drove out of the parking lot, the line up was just about down to the traffic light intersection.

Last week, the NH governor announced that NH is lifting some of its coronavirus restrictions. Retail stores can once again operate at full capacity. Other restrictions being modified are for barber shops and salons  to allow walk-ins and waiting rooms, restaurants and bars  can have small bands and bar games. Domestic travelers will still be recommended to quarantine upon arriving in NH, but it's no longer required.

The mask mandate is not being lifted unlike in some other states.
Jersey barriers in downtown Nashua 2020

Meanwhile, downtownNashua restaurants are getting ready for another season of outdoor dining once again. The 2021 Outdoor Dining Season in Nashua is set to start today, March 15, and end on November 15,  2021. City officials have said that the Jersey barriers will begin going up this week. The city purchased the barriers last year and there's an initiative to have local artists paint them. That would be a welcome relief as they're certainly not eye-catching. A May 2020 post had complete information on their history.

Nashua joins other NH cities in bringing back outdoor dining with (quite literally) expanded on the street dining. Manchester, Concord, Derry, Portsmouth, Dover, Salem, Merrimack, Keene, Bedford, Exeter, Hanover, Lebanon, North Conway, Rochester and Peterborough are among communities that have already approved 2021 outdoor dining.
Homemade chicken soup and artisan bread, my COVID vaccine antidote
An after thought on our final COVID vaccination is that I prepared an antidote, in advance, because chicken soup cures everything (doesn't it). We enjoyed it with homemade bread last night before our season 1 Twilight Zone binge — only 3 more to go.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Stacks Are Open (Again)

The Nashua Public Library has finally re-opened to the public again which means so are the stacks (this time). 

That wording was because it's the third time since the March 2020 start of the pandemic that it has done so. Hopefully, this time it will remain open with more resources available in future months.

Early in the pandemic the library shut down, then reopened for a few weeks in early summer. Then it was shut down until the March 1 reopening.

Library occupancy now is limited to 45 people in the building at one time with social distancing. A monitor at the entry does a count and will provide a mask which is required. No mask, no service; if you can't wear a mask, a librarian will retrieve items and deliver outside the building.

Even though the library was closed, books and other materials (DVDs, CD, magazines) could be requested online and picked up through curbside pickup. An email would be sent that requested materials were available. You would park in a designed area, call and a librarian would deliver the items. Book drops remained open for return of materials.

Ebooks and audiobooks were also available for downloads and all my 2020 reading was done through books read on a Kindle or listened to on a cell phone. 

But, of course, the reopening comes with restrictions, as do most things these days.

Library users can enter the building to pick up reserved materials, browse and check out new materials. There's a limited collection of items for children and teens available for browsing.

Anyone who wants to browse the adult and teen stacks to select books and other items can do so specified hours from Monday-Thursday and Saturday. The library is closed on Friday and Sunday. After reopening, users had to call and select a browse time, but this requirement was lifted within a week. It may have been rescinded because of the scheduling effort and few callers. The library was rather empty when I was there over the weekend.
I didn't have any wait time to browse the stacks, which as shown above were rather very deserted. As an alternative, users can ask librarians to retrieve books from the stacks rather than doing it themselves. And, if you don't know what to read, you can ask a librarian for advice. That's never an issue for me, my problem is always too many books to read and too little time. Maybe it's yours as well?
Pre-pandemic, the library had a number of computer terminals available for public use. These could be reserved the day of a visit. Not so now, since most of the equipment has been removed and the use of computers and printers is by appointment only by an advance calling to the library. There's no walk-ins allowed now.
This area used to have tables and seating areas, but all that furniture has also been removed. And, the area is blocked off. Formerly busy areas such as the Children’s Room, Teen Room and meeting and study rooms are all closed now.
While the absence of computers, tables, chairs seating areas seemed excessive, the removal of paperback books seemed even more unusual. The arrow in the above photo shows the now-empty shelves which used to house this collection. 

Here's two books I checked out during my visit. Only a large print version of the Lennon was available which does make reading in bed much easier.

Checkout is self-service, just like a supermarket. The only items staff members check out are those for curbside pickup.

All returned items are quarantined 4 days before being checked in. This means that library users will find returned items still showing on their account even after being returned. 

But there's no late fines either right now.

I've missed going to the library these many months. While reserving books was possible, it was easier to download them to read or listen to. But, a major drawback was that not all books were available for downloading. 

How about where you live — did the local library close. If so, has it reopened? 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Friday Funnies

Like many of you, I'm familiar with the 1970s hit song, Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel. Yes, I know the tune did not mean a physical bridge (part) like this one.
It's not a totally unfamiliar sight to see a bridge part that's not over water, but a flatbread truck traveling on the highway. This one was spotted sometime last summer as evidenced by the greenery. (Sights that make me think of odd things are always saved for future use.)

Bridge over Troubled Water was composed by American singer-songwriter Paul Simon and recorded by the Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel in January 1970 and was the title of their fifth studio album. Art Garfunkel performs lead vocals over a piano accompaniment with a strong influence of gospel music. The original studio recording used elements of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound technique and Los Angeles session musicians from the Wrecking Crew.

If it's one of your favorites, then enjoy hearing again. This is not one of my favorites, but it's a favorite of Grenville's and so many other people, perhaps more so now than ever.
Considered their signature song, the tune became the duo's biggest hit single, selling over 6 million copies. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks, topped charts in the UK, Canada, France, and New Zealand, and was a top five hit in eight other countries. It ranked No. 48 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It's one of the 20th century's most performed songs, covered by artists, like Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, and Johnny Cash.

The Wall of Sound is a popular music production technique Spector developed in the 1960s, in which many musicians perform the same instruments/parts in unison and the sound is then re-recorded in an echo chamber. The Wrecking Crew was a loose collective of L.A. based session musicians used for thousands of 1960s and 1970s studio recordings, including hundreds of Top 40 hits. Although the musicians were not publicly recognized/credited then, many have since become well-known, including keyboardist Leon Russell and guitarist Glen Campbell, who became popular solo acts. Drummer Hal Blaine popularized the name in a 1990 memoir, also the title of a documentary (with ads) on YouTube, The Wrecking Crew. 

Another interesting and informative music documentary (available on Netflix) is the 2019 film, Echo In The Canyon. Hosted by Jakob Dylan (Bob's son) it celebrates popular music that came out of L.A.’s Laurel Canyon neighborhood in the mid-60s as folk went electric and the Byrds, the Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and the Mamas and the Papas cemented the California Sound. 

Enjoy Your Weekend Everyone
In Nashua, NH, it will be clear and in the 30's.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

More Good Eats at Home

In late August and late May, I posted about some of our at home meals. Back then, we were going to restaurants here in Nashua, NH, on a weekly basis after many re-opened for outdoor dining. While indoor dining returned in July, we preferred outdoor dining when the weather wasn't too hot or rainy. It was better watching people than walls. Today, most local restaurants remain open for indoor dining with a couple of exceptions offering take-out only. 

Luckily, Grenville and I enjoy cooking and haven't ordered take-out much aside from the occasional pizza, Chinese or Mexican cuisine. 

Even when we did dine out (literally) we still cooked at home most of the time and more often now. Of course, we dine out when on a day trip or longer getaway, now that we're able to travel somewhat although recent and upcoming travel has been limited to New England locations (for now). But after our 2nd vaccine and a two waiting period, we're hoping to see the RI grands this Easter.

Breakfast has always been a favorite dining out meal for us. Here, a favorite breakfast spot is the Midfield Cafe, located at the Nashua Airport, known as Boire Field. We may go this weekend and might see flights going out or landing while dining. This local airport has a lot of activity: flight training, and charter, corporate, military and recreational flights. 

Here's some of what's been cooking at our home with both of us sharing the kitchen. We usually take turns in our smallish galley kitchen and agree that we work better alone.
Home made soups: butternut squash, turkey noodle, zucchini
Soups have been on our dinner menu at least once a week, turkey or chicken noodle soup to various vegetable soups, including butternut squash and a more recent one, zucchini soup. As many of you know, it's possible to make soup out of a wide range of veggies. We've made batches of cauliflower soup and carrot soup and separately and together. 
Home made breads: artisan and peasant
There's nothing like homemade bread to go with a bowl of homemade soup. The problem is that we enjoy the bread too much. That's why it isn't on the dinner menu weekly.
English muffin and veggie egg bake
Many nights, breakfast has been dinner, like this English muffin bake which included cubed muffins, eggs and assorted vegetables including peppers, onions and zucchini. You can find so many different variations for this online. It comes together quickly and is delicious and we had leftovers too.
Baked French Toast by Grenville
This is a decadent baked French toast that Grenville has made several times. For this version he used Panettone, an Italian type of sweet bread with candied fruit and raisins that's popular during the holiday season. We bought a couple to enjoy in the New Year.
Cottage pie with mashed cauliflower topping
Cottage pie has many variations, but the basic ingredients are ground meat cooked in a gravy or sauce with onions and other vegetables such as peas, carrots and/or corn, then topped and baked. The usual topping is mashed potato, but I substitute mashed cauliflower. This large one provided us with leftovers for several meals, and leftovers are always tastier.
Apple crisp, chocolate chip cookies, apple turnover, apple bread
Desserts have not been made regularly this year, but when they have, apples are a main ingredient for apple crisp, apple turnovers (also called hand pies) and apple bread. Chocolate chip cookies were part of our holiday treats, which we have since refrained from baking. It's not that we're being especially good, but they disappear too fast in our home.

We have several shelves of various cookbooks, so there are a lot of meal choices. This year, I'm trying to reduce my online recipe searches. The problem is that many times, I have ingredients, but can't find a cookbook recipe that doesn't call for adding items I don't have. Yet, going online and entering what's on hand usually yields (too) many recipe variations.

As stated in earlier posts, simplicity and easy cleanup are goals in meal goals. One-pot dinners are favorites as are leftovers. There's no recipes or links here as everyone has favorite(s).

What's been cooking in your home? 

On another food note since peanut butter is a food group, as we all know, did you know that March 1 was National Peanut Butter Day? (neither did we) If you are a peanut butter fan like us, then here's some very good news.

Ultimate Peanut Butter Lovers Cup

That because on March 1, Reese's announced a new peanut butter cup, the Ultimate Peanut Butter Lovers Cup with a double dose of peanut butter and no chocolate. This is the first time in over 90 years that Hershey has released a variation of the favorite cups without chocolate.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are marketed by The Hershey Company. They were created in November 1928, by H. B. Reese, a former dairy farmer and shipping foreman for Milton S. Hershey. 

The new light golden cups are made entirely of peanut butter, inside and in the peanut butter candy-flavored outer shell. According to a company press release, the new option is every peanut butter lover's dream; we’re giving the truest peanut butter fans something to go wild about.

The new cups will be available in standard, king size and miniatures at retailers nationwide starting early April 2021, just in time for filling those Easter baskets with sweet treats.

I don't know about everyone else, but Grenville and I will definitely be sampling these.