Thursday, July 31, 2014

Top 10 Unusual Measures

Have you ever heard someone say this will take extreme measures? I roll my eyes because I am still trying to conceptualize these.

a dash

a pinch

a smidgen


it takes forever

older than dirt

bigger than a bread box

billions and billions of light years

gigabyte? related to a giggle or a music job?

tolerate to a point.. Which point? Whose point? What's the point?

All I can say is convert me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Top 10 National Delectable Cheesecake Day

Pick your pleasure.

1. New York Style straight up and plain is perfect for me but I would never deny a opportunity to try

2. Chocolate Chip

3. Strawberry Swirl

4. Turtle

5. Raspberry Swirl

6. Topped with fresh strawberries and a dab of whipped cream

7. Topped with cherry or blueberry pie filling

8. Topped with fresh blueberries

9. Oreo cookie crust is not too shabby

10. I am more of a traditional gal with the graham crackers but I am flexible.

My cheesecake is to die for and the recipe is on the back of Nabisco graham cracker crumbs box or it used to be.  I know it by heart now.

1 3/4 c. Nabisco graham cracker crumbs
1/3 c. butter, softened
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
3 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 c. dairy sour cream
1 (21 oz.) can cherry or blueberry pie filling
New York Style Cheesecake (the best) 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Blend the butter and 1/4 cup sugar. Press firmly against bottom and sides of an 8 inch spring-form pan. Place in freezer to chill while you mix the rest of the ingredients. (Not really sure why but it is a requirement so I do it).

Beat softened cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add remaining 1 cup sugar and vanilla extract.

Beat in eggs, one at a time. Blend in sour cream.

Take the crust out of the freezer and pour the batter on top

Bake for 60 minutes or until firm. Do the toothpick test or if it is cracked in the middle and a little brown around the edges, you got it. Turn off oven. Leaving door slightly ajar, allow cheesecake to remain in oven for 1 hour. Cool in pan. Chill in the refrigerator. Top anything you desire or nothing at all.  It's all good.

Pressed for time look up the mini cheesecakes quick and very easy but you will need vanilla wafers for the crust and a cupcake tray and paper inserts. It seems like it may be getting complicated, if you have to go to the store anyway maybe you can just buy one and eat it on the way home.  Everyone celebrates differently. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top 10 Features of a Beach House

1. Must be sand tolerant.

2. Must have a porch or deck to see and be seen. Show off the tan, private sun-bathing, catch up on that novel, coffee in the morning or cocktails in the evening are all excellent use of space.

3. Air conditioning can be a plus in humid weather but it is hard to beat an ocean breeze and the not so distant sound of the surf.

4. An outdoor shower is roughing it in style.

5. Within short walking distance of the beach if no restrooms at the beach (ocean does not count).

6. An outside eating area for picnics and crab day and a grill is a plus. Just don't do this fine dining on green head day, they are worse than ants.

7. Friendly but not too friendly neighbors. If you like Pina Colda, I'm cool but if you like loud music I think you should go out to the bars.

8. Walking distance to a few decent restaurants (seafood, breakfast and ice cream). You are on vacation, a few meals out of the kitchen are highly recommended.

9. A pool? (some people are not sand and surf tolerant) maybe you should seek a mountain house but maybe a pool, it is an additional luxury.

10. Sunrise and sunset can be seen from the deck but just enough to make you get up and walk to the beach or bay.  You can sleep in but me, I'm on vacation I want to get up and enjoy as much of the day "off" as possible. The only thing that should keep you away from such a spectacular "free" event is cloud cover but sometimes if you are patient clouds can add a flash of color and shape.

not too promising

but within a little time
patience can pay off

Let the sunset at Sunset Beach in Cape May County, New Jersey.

Feeling beachy this week.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Top 10 Upcoming Events This Week July 28

Never too early to plan ahead.

July 28 - August 2 Chincoteague Pony Swim Event Week including Pony Swim, Auction and return Swim.

July 31 Tyler Arboretum Wine and Bluegrass Chiller 6-8 p.m.
Suitable for adults 21 and older; pre-registration required by calling Joanne Landau at 610-566-9134, ext. 215; limited capacity; first come, first served; $20 members, $25 non-members; rain or shine.

August 1 Bacon Fest 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Oval on Ben Franklin Parkway. Topped off with the screening of Apollo 13 starring Kevin Bacon!

August 1 - 3 AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival, Johnstown, PA.

August 1 - 10 Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA.

August 1 Pirate Family Overnight Encampment Aboard the Battleship New Jersey. The price is a $59.95 donation. To reserve your bunk for the Pirates Overnight Encampment on Friday, Aug. 1, call 866-877-6262 ext. 203.

August 2 Southeast Asian Dragonboat Festival part of the PECO Multicultural Series at Penn's Landing. Free to the public and take place at the Great Plaza at Penn's Landing, Columbus Boulevard at Chestnut Street.

August 3 The 6th Annual Philadelphia's 2nd Street Festival at North 2nd between Germantown and Green Streets in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia noon till 10 p.m.

August 3 ACANA Festival African Cultural Alliance of North America part of the PECO Multicultural Series at Penn's Landing. Free to the public and take place at the Great Plaza at Penn's Landing, Columbus Boulevard at Chestnut Street.

14th Annual Friends of Heinz Wildlife Refuge Photo Group Nature Photo Contest $5 entry fee. Check link for full details. Entries may be dropped off at the refuge visitor center between 8:30am-3:45pm or mailed to the refuge at 8601 Lindbergh Blvd., Philadelphia, PA. 19153, Attention: Photo Contest. Please include a self addressed stamped envelope for return of your photos. Mailed submissions will only be returned if a pre-stamped, self addressed envelope is enclosed. Checks for entry fees should be made payable to “FOHR Tinicum”. Late, damaged or previous winning photographs will not be accepted. Improperly sized or mounted photos will not be submitted to the jurors. All cash prizes must be claimed at the refuge by December 10, 2014. Deadline for submissions is Sunday, August 24, 2014 at 3:30pm for ALL entries including those mailed or sent via other couriers.

If you plan on attending any of these events, please verify times with the links and for further information.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Top 10 Songs To Set the Vacation Tone

The last day before vacation and every one wants a piece of you.  You may want to hum this song to yourself.  We Gotta Get Outta This Place by The Animals

Now take a deep breath and focus, pick a song and just zen. Go to your happy place. Here are a few choices in song I might pick.

Leaving On A Jet Plane Peter, Paul and Mary

Rocky Mountain High John Denver

Margaritaville Jimmy Buffet

If You're Going To San Francisco Scot McKensie

Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay. Otis Redding

Two Tickets to Paradise Eddie Money

Island in the Sun Weezer

Jet Airliner Steve Miller

Come Sail Away Styx

Truckin Grateful Dead

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Top 10 Positive Points for Pittsburgh

Nobody and I mean nobody from the eastern part of the state wants to throw extra points to the west.  However, being a good sport that I am, I have to give credit where credit is due. Pittsburgh you had mighty Fine Fireworks on the Fourth of July. Here were all the outstanding points.


1.  The Three Rivers, Allegheny and Monongahela meet to form the Ohio River. Not only is it a most picturesque view, it brings a whole new meaning to confluence. The city was quiet, driving in was almost like a ghost town, until you got to the rivers.  Every body was there. It wasn't loud, it wasn't rowdy, just an air of anticipation gathering for all the excitement of the fireworks. Only we had no idea what we had just driven into. Fireworks!!

2. Pittsburgh is a hilly town.  If you walk down, you know you have to walk back up on the return trip. It is a workout, unless of course you take the incline.  I believe there are two in the city.  I was on Monongahela Incline about twenty years ago, if I really searched I could find those pictures.  This year I stood for two hours at the Duquesne Incline and watched the sights. What a view!

3. Heinz Field in Pittsburgh is home to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have won an NFL-record six Super Bowls. I ain't gonna lie Steeler's Nation looked very comfortable on top of the mountain but I would only whisper that in Philadelphia.

4. PNC Park Baseball Stadium was a hopping spot as the Pittsburgh Pirates played the Philadelphia Phillies on July 4th. I read an article at CBSlocal that said in the last 11 years the Phillies have only lost twice in 11 years on Independence Day.  Guess who beat them both times? They shot off early fireworks at the end of the game.  It was a teaser. I added the base runner so you can pick out the stadium. I wish I could had added a few more base runners for the Phillies that day.

5. USS Requin submarine was commissioned in 1945, and is now located along the river as part of Carnegie Science Center.

6. Here is a short clip of the "barge conversation".  We all know that fireworks over the water begin with a barge correct? The question is who can find the barge? and How many times was the word barge repeated? I selected our viewing area based on the "barge" BUT I had the wrong one. See the next item on the list to see what was on my barge. Luckily, later in the evening the "barge" arrived and settled right in front of us!

7. Coal is not something you see every day in the eastern part of Pennsylvania. Apparently it is such the norm in Pittsburgh along the river that moving past the fireworks enthusiasts was a real challenge. Those boats didn't want to move.  Compare the pictures. I thought the barges full of coal were the fireworks.  I admit I was incorrect.

8.  The Fountain at Point State Park is a phenomenon, by the end of the evening it was illuminated in red, white and blue.  You can read more about the "Underground River" and the "Wisconsin Glacier Flow" at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh website. Is that why those sports teams seem to tapping into some sort of special talent?  Many of the stadiums are in close proximity of the fountain. I could not locate it but the area where the Penguins play must be there too. Should we move our stadiums or perhaps install a phenomenal phountain in Philadelphia?

9. The Point of View bronze sculpture by James A. West, located on the Grand View Scenic Byway represents the meeting between George Washington and Seneca leader Guyasuta, once allies , then veterans on opposing side in the French and Indian War.

10. Pittsburgh is known as the City of Bridges. Here is a wikipedia link to lists all bridges crossing the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers in the City of Pittsburgh limits, and a photograph of as many as I could fit into one picture.

Watching the Pittsburgh skyline change as the sun went down was majestic all on its own.
 The fireworks were just the icing on the cake.

 Pittsburgh is the second largest city in the state of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is the largest. Okay we got them there but they sure do know how to celebrate Independence Day, thanks to their sibling rivalry in the east. We gave you that one. There was a lot of  Philadelphia in the crowd that evening, the Philadelphia Phillies hats and shirts mingled in with the Pirate and Steelers. 

Well done Pittsburgh! You have a beautiful city.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Top 10 Things To Hunt For At Heinz Wildlife Refuge

The best way to approach a day at Heinz is to not have any expectations and you will be eminently surprised. I am every time I go.

1. I believe this plant is Queen Anne's lace or daucus carota, as we plant people call it with the help of Wikipedia. I was fascinated by how it unfolds.  It gets mixed reviews in Wikipedia and can resemble poisonous hemlock, so I advise admiring it from afar just in case. I do think I have identified it properly, I googled white lacy plant.

2. People are going to like this one but remember you are not permitted to sample any of the species.  This is bee balm according to the sign and it has medicinal uses, another name is horsemint. It has many uses, as a primary active ingredient in some modern commercial mouthwash formulas and Native Americans have used it to prevent excessive flatulence. This one does look like it has been used but I really have no reference point.

3. This was an interesting sculpture found in the woods.  Intriguing to me with wonder.  Was this done by man or beast? Whomever is responsible, it is pretty cool looking. It was in the general area where I spotted this creature amongst the green goop in the water.  I had an obstructed view. Is it a muskrat or a beaver? It was hard to tell but since he was headed in my direction, I took an alternative route. If he did indeed do that work of art, I didn't want him practicing on me.

4. As I quote Kermit the Frog, it's not easy being green, the color of the water on this day seemed to be a top advantage for the greens. Walking along the water trail, all you could hear were frogs croaking. You have to stand still and really focus on the sound to find them, but there were many frolicking out there. I'll give you the first one.  Can you spot the other two in the next picture? There could be more, look for green.

5. A rabbit hopping along the trail isn't all that magnificent or is it?  Look at those eyes. I think he is an alien.  Rabbits are funny creatures whether we want to allow them in our borders or not. My bad, I am on their turf. They just sit there along the edge of the woods in plain view and seem to be chanting, you can't see me.  Yes, I can.

6. Speaking of aliens, check this guy or gal out.  I try not to be sexist especially when I lack specific knowledge on a species, both the male and the female have caused one or the other to believe they are possibly from another planet.  This is a dragonfly and there are 225 different types.  I tried to identify it but the best I can give you is, an orange dragonfly. If I look at too many pictures, I get buggy and itchy. It could also be a damselfly. They are quick but will amuse, if you are patient enough, they will stay and buzz for a few seconds just make sure your camera is on and ready to shoot. Manual setting seems to work best. I only within the last year have become interested in dragonflies. Dragonflies are among the fastest flying insects in the world. Capture a picture of one and I feel you are entitled to add oding to your resume.

7. Orange seemed to be a striking color that stood out among the green at Heinz on Saturday.  I had to look this one up.  Is there such a thing as an orange lady bug? Yes there is and it is called an Asian Ladybug, maybe. Orange though, it was definitely orange.

8. Keeping with the color scheme, I present an orange butterfly. Luckily for my viewers this butterfly was spotted close to the visitor's center where we ran into a woman who asked if we wanted to join the butterfly count walk. I mentioned we saw butterflies on our 4 hour circle around the refuge and she had a professional identify this one.  It is either a comma or a question mark.  At first I thought question mark meant she didn't know either, but no that is a species of butterfly so it is either , or ? What she said exactly was it was hard to tell from the picture. Okay, I can absorb that National Geographic will not be requiring my services at this time but there is always next time.

Here's my butterfly count and I wasn't even trying.  My husband says the last one is a moth.  I am not sure when he turned pro but I was the spotter and it counts on my list of small blue, cabbage, attracted to purple flowers, swallowtail and I call the last one skipper.

9. Of course most people go to Heinz to jog, stroll, photograph, learn something new and appreciate nature.  Do they still have the egrets and herons? Yes, they grow on trees there.  That was a very cool sight to behold.

10. As it goes, there is always one and on this particular day, I am not sure who was following whom but this Green Heron was putting on a show for me and made sure he made the blog. As a matter of fact, he takes Top 10 of the day.

Did I mention Heinz Wildlife Refuge is a family friendly, free, oh wow experience at every turn, just ask the ducks and turkeys.

 You never know what you will find there.  That is the magnificence of nature.
You may not come away with the best photograph but peace of mind is a guarantee. It's a beautiful thing, fauna and flora.

The Friends of Heinz Wildlife Refuge are always offering bird walks, butterfly walks, photography walks and other special events. Check them out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top 10 Things You Might See Along the PA Turnpike

1. Rocks along the side of the highway always remind me of the opportunity we were given in our primary years to write to the capitol of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg and they would send you samples of the rocks found in Pennsylvania. They arrived in a plastic tray separated by compartments.  Does anyone remember doing this and receiving their free rocks?  I am going back many years but a lady never tells how far back. It was however before the stone-age. I never got the full educational experience and became a geologist but I do still collect rocks. I always wonder why some sections of rock along the highway have nets while others do not.

2. The Three Mile Island towers near Harrisburg always attract my eye. I know just where to look as you cross the Susquehanna River. Again you may have to be a certain age to remember that day. March 28, 1979.  It was a partial nuclear meltdown. At the time you had to be a nuclear scientist to really know what that meant but for the average American living in Pennsylvania it meant a tinge of panic. How far away from here is that? How far does that leak travel? What does it look like?  Does it smell? The "accident" was rated 5 on a scale of  7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) so not so bad but it did take 14 years to completely clean it up at a price of 1 billion dollars. The glow is the guardrail but when I first looked at the picture I was stunned.  Is that water glowing?

3. Tires aren't really that extraordinary to see on the turnpike in any state.  Sometimes you even see shredding remnants along the side of the road from the big rigs but this was a first for me, a truck carrying many of those big rig tires or possibly heavy machinery tires.  Those are for the big guys. I can't tell if these are new tires or those headed for proper disposal. Especially this time of year we are reminded that tires lying around accumulate water which attracts mosquitoes that could potentially carry the West Nile Virus. It is also a fire hazard, the rubber on the tires can burn for days. Here is a link to the Waste Tire Program in Pennsylvania, where you can dispose of tires.

4. Rain may not be inevitable for you but it seems to be for us on the major highways especially around dusk. I am confident with my driver, he has a CDL license and I am constantly getting an education whilst driving during inclement weather. As far as I can tell, it is a courtesy and a good idea to use your flashers during a huge deluge. The best thing to do is to pull off to the side of the road if you can't see in front of you but flashing lights can give other motorists an indication that you are there and to use caution.  It is in the drivers manual, "if legal to do so", to use your flashers if you are traveling below the speed limit. I have also seen forums where people and they get kinda mean about it, find the flashers hazardous and distracting. PA people were flashing.

5. Depending on the direction you are heading there are 7 tunnels and maybe even a double tunnel.

6. A spectacular sunset can be found if you are heading west and there are mountains too!

7. Construction happens, and it mystifies me that every summer I am traveling it's not on my map, itinerary or on my GPS but always lies between myself and my destination.  How do they know?  Unfortunately, I was not quick enough with the camera to snap a picture of the sign, but there are certain things your state representatives DO want you to know. I jotted them down, $48 Million for a new bridge along the Pennsylvania Turnpike and $49 million to widen the road to 3 lanes. I am not a fan of the cattle shoots and three does sound better than one. These are our tax dollars at work.

8. Green Power is evident from the wind farm near Altoona. You can usually spot the wind turbines in the general area but I have seen the best display heading east on the turnpike. It is a majestic sight in my eyes. This video was taken on Route 30 but some of these same windmills are visible on the PA Turnpike.

9. The current "legal" speed limit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike is 65 M.P.H., tomorrow July 23 this rate of speed will increase to 70 M.P.H. in "some" sections, other areas are still being evaluated. This is the maximum freeway speed in the state of Pennsylvania. There is no universal set minimum maximum in the United States.  These limits are set by state. The highest rate of speed, 85 M.P.H. allowed in the United States is in an area in Texas a 41 mile portion of Texas State Highway 130. The PA Turnpike increase of speed will run from the Blue Mountain interchange to the Morgantown interchange.  My thoughts are not everyone does the speed limit but if you are a conscientious driver, now you have to know exactly where you are and when this speed limit will fluctuate from 65 to 70. Watch for the signs. The alternative route is pay the piper if you are caught speeding or see the sights at a lower rate of speed on the Lincoln Highway. We all have options.

10. Safety and security is always the top priority on the highway. You are now being observed and if you are not comfortable doing the "legal" speed limit in the left lane....moooove to the right.

Always learning something new, for further reading, Abandoned PA Turnpike
is now a tourist attraction and during the 1930s the Pennsylvania Turnpike was designed to improve automobile transportation across the mountains of Pennsylvania, using seven tunnels built for the abandoned South Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1880s.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike was added to  List of Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks in 1988.