Wednesday, December 26, 2012

'Twas the Day After Christmas and All Through the House . . .

After all the preparations, expectations, wrapping and the like --- Christmas is over. We had a very nice one this year with a day full of laid back family time. I've got a bit to catch up on, so I'll start with Sunday.

December 23: We woke up to a reading on the outside thermometer of 16'F and a reading on the inside thermometer of 62'F --- near the stove! We spent a freezing morning stoking the fire and trying to get the place warmed up. A plus to this weather is that some snow came with it. We all bundled up and went to church, being sure to load the wood stove up before we left. Came home and finished the prep on the Cuban dinner, though we had done a good job of getting everything possible ready in advance. The Keultjeses arrived around 4:30pm, and we ate a bit later. As always, it was a wonderful evening with lots of gab and general fun. Claire brought her fiance, Luke, so we had a nice time talking about wedding stuff and things like that!

We always exchange little presents, and Mom and Elizabeth had made all-natural doggie treats on Saturday. These were for Hannah's dog, Toby. We got several varieties of really cute little treat treat bags at Hobby Lobby, so this gave us a chance to use them. Mom and I had also made some granola, so we packaged that up in little baggies with some tea for everybody. (See pictures above.) We didn't even go to bed until midnight!

December 24: The day before Christmas, and we were all a bit slow in waking up. There was still some snow on the ground, but we also had some freezing rain --- so things were bit icy. We all took a leisurely time with breakfast, then Mom and Dad ran into town to pick up a few last-minute groceries. Elizabeth and I stayed home and worked on finishing one last present for a friend. There was an evening service at church, so we went to that and it was nice. We sang all kinds of Christmas hymns and read the Christmas story. By the time we got home it was time to go to bed. Elizabeth and I talked to each other for a little while, since we were pretty excited about exchanging gifts the next day.

December 25: Christmas morning dawned gray and foggy, but there was still some snow on the ground. We all got up not too early (about 7:30am) and came down to feed a Christmas breakfast to the kitties (lovely canned wet food!). Next, we made a big breakfast for ourselves. Elizabeth and I went upstairs and got all of the wrapped presents out and under the tree. Due to Oliver's enthusiasm (and that of a few others) for fancy Christmas ribbons and tags, we don't put our presents out in advance! Everyone had a large gift bag this year, and we put the presents for each person in those. We started unwrapping around 10:30am, took a lunch break and didn't finish until almost 4:00pm! There was all kinds of fun stuff this year --- including John Wayne Monopoly!

Mom and Elizabeth found a paperweight that's shaped like a little leather book, and it is called "Not Gone with the Wind". This was released at the time of the book as presents to employees within Brown & Bigelow Publishing. I've looked for one for quite some time, so that was pretty exciting. Also got the DVD of Bing and Barry Fitzgerald's film Welcome, Stranger. I love that one. One of the really cool things was a British penny from 1797 (bottom of photo at left). This was the first year that England issued a copper penny, but what was cool to me is that it is the year that Edward James Eliot died. Not bad to own a coin that he could have had at some point. Hey, I mean, who can prove that wrong?!

These pictures show some of the fun and the unwrapped presents. Of course, Oliver joined in the fun, too. We had coffee while we were unwrapping. Elizabeth got all three seasons (that have been released) of Green Acres! That's her new favorite TV show. Elizabeth gave me a really cute set of china figurines. They are four little boys dressed as Pierrot-type clowns. We also got Wagon Train seasons three and four, the complete set of Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes films . . .

All in all, it was a nice Christmas. We ate dinner and watched Miracle on 34th Street --- which was a gift from Jennie. That was sweet and a nice one for yesterday evening. We were a little sad all day, though, because it looks like Olivia (our Mama Cat) may have the same tooth disease that three of our other kitties have died of. It may not be, but signs are pretty sure. We'll be taking her to the vet this week --- as soon as the roads are good enough.

December 26: Today is cold and it has snowed all morning! In fact, it's still snowing. That's pretty nice, because it looks like a beautiful postcard out there. The roads are covered, though, so we couldn't make a trip to the vet or to the stores to check out some of those after-Christmas sales. Maybe tomorrow. Elizabeth and I are planning on spending the afternoon writing thank you cards, felting and watching one of the DVDs that we got yesterday. More later.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas to All of You!

As a Christmas post here, I've decided to use a piece of Charles Spurgeon's 1854 Christmas Eve sermon. Apparently, lots of people are familiar with this fabulous message, but I'd never heard it before. Our pastor played this video at church yesterday, and I thought it was fabulous. This is the reason that we celebrate Christmas. A transcript of the sermon passage used in the video is included below.

It is wisdom’s mystery, “God with us.”
Sages look at it and wonder. Angels desire to see it.
The plumb-line of reason cannot reach half-way into its depths.
The eagle wings of science cannot fly so high and
the piercing eye of the vulture of research cannot see it!
“God with us.” It is Hell’s terror! Satan trembles at the sound of it.
His legions fly apace, the black-winged dragon of the Pit quails before it!
Let Satan come to you suddenly and do you but whisper that word,
“God with us”—back he falls—confounded and confused!
Satan trembles when he hears that  name, “God with us.”
It is the laborer’s strength—how could he preach the Gospel,
how could he bend his knees in prayer,
how could the missionary go into foreign lands,
how could the martyr stand at the stake,
how could the confessor acknowledge his Master,
how could men labor if that one word were taken away?
“God with us,” is the sufferer’s comfort, is the balm of his woe,
is the alleviation of his misery, is the sleep which God gives to His beloved,
is their rest after exertion and toil.
Ah, and to finish, “God with us” is eternity’s sonnet,
is Heaven’s hallelujah, is the shout of the glorified,
is the song of the redeemed, is the chorus of angels,
is the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky!
God with us.”

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Concerning Little Beatrice . . .

Today marks the anniversary of the day that we brought my little cat Beatrice home from the shelter. She was seven and a half months old when we got her, and she had lived at the shelter for six months. All of her siblings and her Mama had been adopted, but no one wanted "Little Bee" --- because she was black.

Elizabeth's cat, Deanna, had died that morning, so we were out to get another baby. Well, Beatrice came right over to me and started "frenzy-ing" all over. I picked her up and she just climbed into the hood of my coat and fell asleep. How can you resist that?! We had to bring her home with us.

She took a couple of days to adjust to her new house. She wasn't used to having any space to play in, so she spent three days just sitting in and next to her little cat bed. That didn't last long. She figured that she was the only girl cat (at that time), so she might as well take advantage of the situation. She laid down the law and has been Queen of the House ever since. She's the smallest cat in the place --- weighing in at 7-1/2 pounds.

She still frenzies all over the place, and her favorite play is running. She has a sensitive stomach and kitty "asthma" (there's a fancy name for it), but she's actually pretty healthy. She loves music --- particularly Country Western. Her all-time favorite is Brenda Lee, and her favorite song is Cryin' Time. Funny kitty. She liked Johnny Cash when we played a record of his, but I'm afraid that I had to draw the line there. Another type of music that appeals to her is traditional Jewish chanting and songs. I wonder what makes a little kitty like her love music?

The picture above shows Beatrice when she was a kitten in the shelter. The picture on the right was taken this Summer. Isn't she precious?! It's hard to get a picture of her, because she is so black that the camera can't focus on her --- never mind the fact that she won't sit still, because she thinks you are just dying to pet her!

Christmas is pretty much here, and we're almost ready! Lots of pictures and blogging to come. More later.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Dinner Arrives via UPS

How many people get their Christmas dinner delivered via UPS? Well, our Grampa sends it to us that way every year. Today was the big day, and the box arrived at the front door this morning. Perfect timing, too, as the Keultjeses are coming over on Sunday!

Every year, Grampa mails a box full of all the Cuban "fixin's" for a really grand dinner. Plantains, yuca, garlic, guava paste . . . We've got the black beans and rice here, so everything is ready to be cooked. Just take a look at that delicious box of food!

It just isn't feeling like Christmas around here, and I can't believe how close it is. We felt really "Christmas-y" for several weeks there while we wrapped, packed and shipped presents to out-of-town family and friends. While we got all of our Christmas cards ready and while we packed up the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. Now that all that fun is finished, though, it's just not feeling very festive. You don't get Christmas cards in the mail like you used to. People are just "too busy". People don't even exchange gifts or have parties or dinners together, anymore. And we don't have any snow. It's sitting in the 40s around here with rain and mud.

We've got some fun lined up for a few days, though, what with our Christmas dinner on Sunday, special church service on Monday and a nice laid-back Christmas on Tuesday. We're planning on staying home all day. Have a nice slow breakfast and have fun exchanging presents with each other. Elizabeth and I have some wrapping to do. Oh boy!

The two of us spent all afternoon (and evening) on Saturday working on a present for a friend. We were sitting on the floor from about two o'clock in the afternoon until eleven o'clock at night! Mom and Dad had already gone to bed, and we were sure stiff for a while after that. It was pretty fun, though.

We're really working on ideas for the Etsy store. Haven't listed anything else in it yet, but we've got some more things ready and even more in the makings. Come on January! We're hoping to spend the winter making and listing . . . and, Lord willing, selling! :) More later.

Monday, December 10, 2012

We've opened an Etsy Store: The Fogleberry Shoppe

Mom and I have talked about it and talked about it some more. We finally decided to open an Etsy store yesterday afternoon. The main thing that we wanted to list there were the felted dolls (called "Fogleberries"), so the name of the store is The Fogleberry Shoppe. We listed the four Fogleberries last night, and I've got plans for making a few more to put in there.

Elizabeth and I are also planning on making some small wired dolls (of the four inch or less variety) with felt clothes and needle felted heads. We've made quite a few dolls like this, including a WWII sailor, a little Jeanette MacDonald, a William Wilberforce and a set of the "nine" from The Fellowship of the Ring --- see this entry for photo. While those dolls won't be for sale, it's more of this type that we've got in mind. That should give us some more things to offer, more easily made (not three to four months a piece) and at a low price.

Mom and I had to make a banner for the store, so we spent an hour or so on that. Here is the finished result:

This has given Elizabeth and me the idea to make a "Fogleberries" page for our website. So, that's on the agenda. I'm coming right along with the next doll --- the little guitar player. My family cast a unanimous vote that he should not be a gnome. They agreed that he should look like a modern little man, so that's what he's going to be. He's actually going to look pretty sleek when finished. I modified his shoes last night (removing those little "gnome" buckles, etc.), and we've found quite a cool "seat" for him. Pictures to come as soon as he's finished --- hopefully, before Christmas. Be sure to check out the Etsy store!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Saying Goodbye to the Little Man-Cub

One of the saddest things happened on Tuesday. We had to put sweet, baby Manly to sleep. He was six and a half years old, and he was one of the first batch of kittens born in our dining room. I hardly even know how to write this. It makes me so sad.

Manly  (April 15, 2006 - December 4, 2012)
Click Here to View Manly's Photo Album

Manly was a big kitty. Thirty pounds (and sometimes a wee bit more!) and all solid orange stripes. He was the last of the seven kittens born in his litter, and he was never a small "rat-like" babe. He was born a real kitten --- and way bigger than any of the others. Despite his size, he was a little baby at heart. He never learned to bathe himself, didn't really know how to play and got "lost" if he walked into a wall or corner. He could sure love, though. Never a bad thought entered his little mind, and nothing made him happier than lovin's, pettin's and brushing.

The only toy that he liked was a big old rabbit-fur muff. He had successfully ripped all of the stuffing out of it, and he would carry it around the house as a present for anyone he might think of. There was usually a big piece of fur lying in front of the bedroom doors in the morning.

Elizabeth and I had just been sitting together this weekend, admiring Manly as he slept in his big basket in the living room. We had said that of all our ten kitties (Oliver excluded, that is), Manly would be one of the two that we wouldn't want to lose. Just two days later he was gone. What a picture of how fleeting life is.

He was sure a precious little baby. He had a loud meow and wasn't afraid to use it if you weren't petting him enough. He loved clean clothes. If I was sorting them on the bed, he'd have to sit right on a stack of them --- then, I'd shoo him off. But his favorite thing was sitting in the clothes dryer. Didn't matter if it was full or empty, either --- he liked it any way. And it was sure a hard job to budge him out of there.

One of the first three kitty babes that we got was a little six-week old kitten named Sydney. That kitten was the sweetest little thing, but he died three months after we got him. Well, Manly came along three short months later, and he was pretty much a clone of Sydney. You can't even tell their pictures apart.

Manly was a very healthy cat, but he had shallow hip socket. He (and his siblings) could sit with his back legs completely stuck out behind him (see photo). He also had a tendency to freak out over small things. On Tuesday morning, the vacuum scared him, and he jumped off of the tree house from the very top story. It broke his back leg, and possibly the hip socket as well. With his size and hip defects, there just wasn't anything they could do for him.

So, we now have nine kitties left, but Manly leaves a big hole. There are three of his six siblings left, and they aren't taking this well. They are all pretty sad and lonely. I know that the acute sadness will pass eventually, but I think Manly is one of those kittens that you never quite get over losing. You can't replace a baby like him. He was sure a sweetheart.

Elizabeth made it through writing a lot more about Man Cub than I could, so be sure to read her blog entry HERE.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The 'Fogleberries' are finally for sale!

After two and a half years of working, I've finished seventeen needle-felted dolls. Some of them have been given away, and the Rainbow's End gnomes are all Elizabeth's, but that still leaves some of them sitting around. Selling them seems like a great way to make a little spending money (especially since I have an expensive set of stamp books that I'd like to own), and we've been talking about putting them on an online auction of some kind for about a year and a half.

Well, Mom and I finally did it yesterday. We put our noses to the grindstone and got to work, and as of last night, four of the felted dolls are for sale on eBay. Mom wanted a "name" for them, so we hashed out all kinds of options --- finally deciding on "Fogleberry". So, if you just search for "Fogleberries" on eBay, you'll find them. The pictures below show the four dolls that are listed.

It took a lot of work to take all of the pictures for each doll. They are not the easiest thing to photograph (being natural fiber), but the end results look just like the little dolls. I had all kinds of lamps out and a good portion of the front room turned topsy-turvy. I was pretty pleased with the end result, though. Elizabeth and I are planning on making a "Fogleberry" page on our website in the next week!
More later.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend and Lots of Visiting

Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is less than a month away. It's hard to realize that. We had a fabulous weekend. Spent Thursday at Buddy and Kay's house. Elizabeth and I had a really great time playing music with Buddy. I guess you never grow too old to want to have a "play day" with your friend --- what you play just changes. :) Buddy was teaching Elizabeth how to play along on the Stand-Up Bass, and she really took to it. We even wore Buddy out a bit and ended up serenading him and Mom for a while with some folk songs. Here are some pictures that Kay took of us while we were "warming up". Elizabeth is holding a banjo in the first one.

On Friday, Buddy came up and he and Dad spent the afternoon together. Plans had been to go fishing, but it was gray and windy --- so they went to lunch and a local sporting goods store together. While they were off having fun, we "girls" went up to the Keultjes' house for dinner. Hannah was up, too, and Mrs. Furr came. All in all, it was a great evening. It's always a fun time visiting them and talking. So fun, in fact, that we stayed late. Somehow, I never get a picture. Too bad.

We were pretty worn out on Saturday, so we didn't do much at all. Went to church on Sunday, but we spent the afternoon around here. Yesterday, Mom and Elizabeth had a "secret" errand to run --- so, I stayed around here and got caught up on some laundry and vacuuming and the like. Never a bad thing to catch up on, right?! That was good, because Buddy and Kay came over in the afternoon and stayed until late in the evening. We watched two movies together. A Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy film called Boom Town. That was really interesting, because it's all about oil drilling and wildcatting. And since Buddy worked with his Dad in the oil fields, he was able to explain all kinds of things. I know a lot more about oil drilling this morning than I did yesterday, that's for sure!

We also watched a mystery with Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich. This one was Witness for the Prosecution. We've seen this quite a few times --- but never with them. Kay is a fabulous mystery guesser, so Elizabeth and I really wanted her to see this one. It even stumped her! No more on that, though, because the plot is great. If you haven't seen it, well --- see it! More later.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gearing Up for Thanksgiving and Christmas

It's really starting to look and feel like Winter. We've had some real heavy frost this week, and we're all gearing up for the holidays. Thanksgiving is just days away, and Elizabeth and I are feeling very "Christmas-y". We've been playing, singing and listening to Christmas music, watching some Christmas movies and getting presents shipped to the out-of-state family. We've got about half of our Christmas boxes shipped now, and the rest are well on their way to being packed and ready. Of course, Oliver has found all of this preparation extremely tiring. Poor boy.

Thanksgiving should be a lot of fun this year. Most people have one Thanksgiving, but we're having two! We get to spend Thursday at Buddy and Kay's house for their dinner. That will be fun, since we should be able to get a little jam session in with Buddy --- and some gab sessions, too! Our menu plans are lasagna (or some form of stuffed shells, roll-ups etc.), waldorf salad (Mom's family's recipe and traditional fruit salad), regular salad and sweet potato casserole. Kay is making pumpkin bars, by popular request, so that will take care of dessert.

Happily, we're also having Thanksgiving with the Keultjeses on Friday! Hannah is coming up, which meant they planned their dinner for the weekend. That means we'll get to be with them as well. Elizabeth and I are just thrilled. It's great to spend holidays with people that you love. :)

Mom and I took the Operation Christmas Child boxes in to a local church (and drop-off location) on Friday morning, then we decided to run a few errands. We stopped in Lowe's to pick up a new wall outlet for the kitchen, but I'm telling you --- you've got to be careful! All of the displays were out for the Christmas gift ideas, and we couldn't help looking. The cutest things were these little junior tool kits for children. Complete with a tool bag and apron, the child gets a hammer, screwdrivers, wrench, pliers and more. The price? Only $10.00! We had to buy two (along with extra packs of nails and screws), because Mom and I thought we'd spend the evening making two more shoe boxes. Look a little more and you find the cutest little "Build You Own Tonka" set, so we got two of those. Then, we went across the street to the dollar store and bought some glue, tape, colored pencils, paper and toothbrushes. Add in a Hot Wheel and a little beanie dog, and it made for some really cute boxes. Dad was able to take them up to a church yesterday. Can't wait to start collecting for next year.

Well, that pretty much brings you all up to date with our holiday preparations. We have watched Holiday Inn, Christmas in Connecticut and Going My Way --- getting in the mood, you know. Last night, we saw The Bells of St. Mary's for the "first" time (okay, so we'd seen it when we were about nine years old, but that's not saying much for remembering it), and it was so sweet. I wonder why we've not watched that over the years?

It doesn't look like we're going to put up a full-size Christmas tree this year, as Oliver was a pretty naughty fellow last time. Plans are leaning toward a couple of table-top varieties, but . . . more on that later.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The 'Operation Christmas Child' Boxes Are Finished

This is the first year that we've done the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. We didn't have an exact number in mind when we started, but we've ended up with ten boxes. I just finished filling them, so we're dropping them off at a local church tomorrow. There are five "boy" boxes and five "girl" boxes.

You have to mark the boxes with special little labels (in picture above). The labels show whether the box is for a girl or a boy, and there is a space to mark the age bracket of the toys inside.

We watched a lot of the online video tutorials in order to get ideas of what to put inside. Mom and I also spent several afternoons shopping at various places like Odd Lots, Dollar Tree and Dollar General for little school and craft supplies. We've also collected toys, pads of paper, paints, stickers, hair accessories, jewelry and dress up things, sewing supplies, small stuffed animals etc.

Getting some of these packed in a way so that the lids were able to close was quite a challenge! You have the option of packing in a plastic "shoe box" bin, a decorated box from Operation Christmas Child or a used shoe box that you have wrapped in Christmas paper. I put my foot down on the plastic bin idea, because that doesn't seem half as nice to send to a little kid. Okay, I know that it's kind of practical (if you don't mind plastic) to have the bin left over, but it's a lot nicer looking for a child to get a fancy colored box. So, I spent hours wrapping the boxes --- but the end result is pretty cheerful. :)

I didn't think to take pictures of all the toys and things while they were spread out and being packed, so here are pictures of the insides of some of the boxes as they look finished. We made two boxes for older girls (10-14 years) that had some sewing supplies. Little packs of thread (lots of different colors), scissors, flannel and cotton fabric, ribbon and trim. We also packed two boxes for boys in that same bracket, but they got watercolors, notebooks, modeling clay, models and some other things.

This has been really fun, and I can't wait to work on next year's boxes. Mom and I are planning on collecting the toys and supplies throughout the year. More later.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How Do You Describe Bing Crosby?

Bing Crosby. What can you say to describe him? Try it. It's pretty much impossible to do with words alone. You can't describe his singing. A person just has to hear it to believe it. If you were to describe him by his appearance --- well, it wouldn't help anybody to understand what's so unique about Bing. He looked like a normal guy. But it wasn't just his singing that sets him apart from everybody else. (Of course, he didn't need anything but his singing to be fabulous!) His whole persona in front of a camera or behind a microphone contributes to his international appeal. In short, there never has been a performer like Bing --- and there certainly won't be again.

I'm in a bit of a Bing Crosby kick the last two days. He's been my all-time favorite singer as long as I can remember. In fact, I can't remember a time of not listening to Bing. Mom and Dad played his records for us from  . . . well, forever. I've collected sheet music of his songs (with his picture on it) for years and years, and Mom has found several lots of Bing sheet music on eBay lately. That's helped to add to the collection. Well, she and I were looking through Bing videos on YouTube yesterday, and that kind of sent me into this kick. Not to mention that I've spent the last couple hours sorting through my sheet music. Here's a picture of it, in fact. All counted up --- I've got 102 pieces of Bing's music!

Again, I'll break my rule and embed a couple of videos (these are what kind of started this kick). The first is Bing singing Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho with three of his sons. He's fifty-seven years old here, but his voice doesn't sound the least bit aged. Wow! The second clip shows Bing (at age 65) with his son, Gary, and Frank Sinatra, Jr. Listen to them sing. Amazing!

Bing's must have been the perfect voice, and it seems like that must be a peek at what men were created to sound like in a state of perfection before sin. I mean, no training but never a bad note. Velvet notes in fifty years of styles and songs. To quote Frank Sinatra: You know, you can wait around and hope, but I'm telling you --- you'll never see the likes of this again.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Watching 'Zero Hour!' and 'Branded' --- Two Great Films!

In the last week we have found two "new" movies that we really enjoyed! I mentioned these (briefly) in the previous blog post, but they really deserve an entry of their own. Elizabeth came across them in the library catalogue, and we're always on the look out for a "new" old movie.

The first was Zero Hour!, starring Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell and Sterling Hayden. The movie was released in 1957, and it is the film that the later re-make, Airplane, is based on. Elizabeth and I had seen The High and the Mighty some years ago. That's another of these airliner catastrophe pictures (starring John Wayne and Robert Stack), and I didn't enjoy it. Too much personal junk and wimpy characters. Well, Zero Hour! is anything but wimpy.

This is a man's picture, despite Linda Darnell's second billing. She plays her part perfectly, but she's not a main force in the story --- and she won't be the one that you remember. Dana Andrews plays Capt. Ted Stryker, an ex-flier from the war. He can't get over his wartime experiences, and he is having trouble just holding a job. It's been ten years since the end of the war, and Stryker hasn't been in a plane since. When his wife and son board a plane (intending to leave him), Stryker manages to get the last seat on the plane just before take off.

Disaster strikes on board (I won't spoil the whole story here!), and both pilots are rendered unconscious. The only man on board with any flying experience is Stryker --- and he's scared stiff. All of his flying has been done in a single-engine fighter, whereas this is a four-engine passenger plane. He takes the pilot's seat, and the tensest fifty minutes of film begins.

Sterling Hayden plays Capt. Martin Treleaven, the senior pilot at Vancouver Airport. His job is to talk Dana Andrews down to the ground. I've never had a high opinion of Hayden as an actor (just watch him in Prince Valiant to see what I mean!), but this is an amazing performance. Hayden and Andrews are a perfect team as they battle problems out over the radio.

We've watched the movie twice now, and it is no less captivating the second time. Wow! Really a fabulous film, and it's a shame that it's forgotten. It does key you up, and the last ten minutes is kind of hard to breathe through!


The second film that we watched was an Alan Ladd Western called Branded. No, it's nothing like the TV show of the same name. Co-stars are Mona Freeman and Charles Bickford (one of my all-time favorite character actors --- thanks to his role as "Mr. Clancy" in The Farmer's Daughter).

This is now one of my top three favorite Western films, but it's quite different from the average plot. You won't be able to guess this one as it goes along, and besides the tried-and-true hint of the white hat and black hat --- well, you won't get anymore help on figuring the plot.

Alan Ladd begins the story as a small-time crook and gunman (despite his white hat --- which does hint at a happy ending). His background is a complete mystery, since he had no parents and has no name. Such a sad upbringing for our hero is a Western form of vindication for his less than legal actions at the start of the film.

He lands a job on the biggest ranch in Texas (which is owned by Charles Bickford) --- intending to commit his crime against the family there. Of course, he didn't realize that the daughter was so beautiful and wonderful. He is smitten, and that changes things. I won't spoil the plot, as this is a fabulous story and worth viewing. To tell any more would be to spoil the ending.

This is not the typical Western. No saloon girl. Only one short fist fight (which is necessary for the plot --- not just put in for violence), and no gory shooting. It's got horse chases, a stampede, a showdown and plenty of excitement. We were positive that everyone was just going to die at the end, but it actually has the happiest ending we've ever seen in a Western! I can't recommend it enough! If you weren't a fan of Alan Ladd before, then you certainly will be after this one.

The First Week of November (and John Wayne Monopoly)

Wow! I can't believe that the first week of November has actually come . . . and gone. Again, we've been pretty busy. On Saturday, Mom and the two of us went out shopping for some things like long-sleeved tops for the Winter and slippers. Shopping has gotten to be a rather depressing thing these days, as items get lower and lower in quality and the prices get higher by the week. We've really gone to making old things last and make do. Every now and then, though, it's necessary to buy something new.

We went into the mall, which is something that we only do around Christmas. There is a game and calendar store there that comes in at the end of the year, so we went in there. We found two really cool things --- one of which, we bought. That was a deck of playing cards, but very special cards. They have John Wayne's photo on the back, and each of the fifty-two cards has a different photo of him on the face side of the card. They are really cool! And after learning all those new games last weekend, we thought these were just the perfect thing.

There was another thing that we would sure like to have. I guess we need to start dropping some serious hints to Mom and Dad about what we'd like for Christmas! It was a John Wayne Monopoly game. The whole center is a picture of him in a Western, and the different properties are all places from his films --- including Ireland (for The Quiet Man). The game tokens are all "John Wayne" related items, and the "Chance" and "Community Chest" cards are all film related as well. So, this is now on the top of our Christmas list! :)

Sunday was a fun day, as we had a nice morning at church. Our pastor played a sermon (on voting and the upcoming election) by David Jeremiah. It was really wonderful. We also had some time to chat with Sarah --- bringing her up to date on the weekend down in Cinci, etc. The day just kept on getting better, since Buddy and Kay were able to spend the whole afternoon at our house. We watched two "new" movies. One was an Alan Ladd Western, and the other was an airplane movie with Dana Andrews and Sterling Hayden. See the next post for more on these films. We haven't gotten to have Buddy and Kay up in months. Literally. So, we all had a really nice time. Lots of gab and relaxation.

Mom's aunt passed away last Thursday. She lived in Cleveland, so we were able to go up on Monday for the funeral. The service was at the cemetery chapel, and the message was given by Aunt June's pastor. He's fabulous! We've met him a few times, as we had gone up to go to church with Aunt June a couple of times. He also did Uncle Fred's funeral eight years ago. It is unusual to find such a conservative pastor in the middle of a large city like Cleveland. After the funeral was over, we all went up to a Denny's in Parma town. Both of Aunt June's daughters (Mom's cousins) were there, as were a lot of their children. It's always fun to get together.

We're reaching the end of all this cleaning out and organizing. We've finally gone through pretty much all of the books --- and gotten the new ones on the shelves. Not bad. It's kind of a nice thing to see the house getting cleaned out. Elizabeth and I went through all of our 45rpm records this morning. We've also been getting the camera situation all sorted out, but that's a long story --- for another post! More later.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Signed Copy of Ken Ham's New Book: 'The Lie'

We finally got to hook up with Buddy and Kay this week. They were at home for a day, so we went down to their place on Monday afternoon for a few hours. I was really thrilled, because Ken had signed copies of his updated book, The Lie, for us. I've been dying to see it. It's really cool, too, because he actually signed the front cover.

The book has just been updated after twenty-five years, and it looks even better than the original --- which is saying something! I'm not prone to seeing people as "heroes" or suffering from what's known as "hero worship". Neither is Elizabeth. We've known too many people that come under some heading of "famous", and if we haven't known them, then we've read too many biographies and memoirs to see anyone as anything but an ordinary person. Not to say that there aren't exceptional people in their fields. Absolutely. I think that God has given everyone gifts in different areas, and some people are exceptional in those areas.

Both Elizabeth and I admire a lot of people for their talents in various areas like music, writing, acting, etc. But we don't have "heroes", in the sense of seeing someone in a "super-human" light.

I guess, though, that the closest I'll ever get to the idea of a "hero" would be Ken Ham. We grew up listening to his lectures, but I was thrilled in October of 2003 when we finally saw him in person. As things worked out, we ended up volunteering with Answers in Genesis for three years and working with Ken a lot. That was a fabulous experience, and one that Elizabeth and I are very thankful for.

We've never really had more than a few friends our own age. Our friends have always been at least the age of our parents (if not older), and it was certainly that way while working the conventions with AiG. We were blessed to meet a lot of speakers from all over the world, and to become dear friends with some of them. We really learned a lot in those years of volunteering, and it's a great thing to work with such strong Christians who really have hearts for their ministry.

We got to know Ken very well. It's pretty special to actually be friends with your "hero". His heart for spreading the Truth of God's Word is amazing. He has an amazing gift for communicating with crowds, and there is nothing like actually seeing the reaction of a huge audience after they hear him for the first time. The amazing thing is that Ken is a normal guy, but God has given him a real gift. I guess that is what makes him a "hero" --- he has been willing to use his whole life sharing that gift.

Well . . . this post ended up a little more serious than I'd started out to be. I'm just thrilled with the new book. Ken is always really sweet and sends copies of his new books. Autographed, of course! My very favorite of Ken's books is The Genesis of a Legacy, but that is partly because of the fun we had while he was writing it. It's a fabulous book! More later.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thoughts on the Canon Rebel EOS T3 DSLR Camera

I've been wanting to replace our camera for a couple of years, and we finally sold enough on eBay to buy a new one. Mom and I spent loads of time reading reviews and looking up various DSLR cameras online. Everything finally narrowed down to the Canon Rebel EOS T3. It looked like a fair replacement camera. The old one was an Olympus C-5050 5.0 megapixel DSLR. Gramma had given it to us about four or five years ago (having just gotten a C-8080), and we've really loved it. You can use it like a point-and-click (or not!), and the results are really beautiful.

We ordered the Canon about a week and a half ago on It arrived last Thursday, but I didn't get a chance to take more than a couple "out of the box" pictures --- since we left for Cincinnati on Saturday morning. I finally sat down this morning and spent some time playing with settings, options and reading the instruction manual. In fact, I've been working with it all day.

It is awful. The main problem comes from the fact that the focus (whether automatic or manual) only focuses on a small area of the photo (about equivalent to the size of a quarter on a 5x7" image). The rest of the picture is blurry. The photos are also completely "grainy" in appearance --- with a real pixelated  appearance. Nothing about the image is sharp.

You can't use the "Live View" window on the back of the camera, because what you see there is nowhere near what you actually get. That leaves you with the viewfinder, but that actually isn't completely accurate, either. The image is actually wider than the area in the viewfinder.

The construction of the camera is rather cheap, though it's not quite as bad as I had expected. Because of the light weight plastic used in the construction of the camera body, many people have trouble attaching any lens of a substantial weight. I could certainly see that this would be a problem.

Another irritating thing about this camera is the lack of flash. There is a flash that pops up from the top center of the camera when activated by auto-focusing a shot in certain settings. Apparently, the flash uses a lot of battery power, so the designers of this camera must have been trying to save juice, because the flash hardly ever pops on. The flash cannot be opened manually, so you are stuck with dark, blurry photos quite often when shooting inside.

The above cat photos are two that I shot with the Canon. If you click on them (enlarges them), you'll see that the focus is really only over the eyes and nose. For $500.00, this camera isn't giving any better results than a pocket camera for half the price (or less).

All in all, I'm sitting here rather deflated and disappointed. The camera is packed up in a box and headed for the Amazon return department. We're not totally sure what we're going to do, as far as replacing the camera, so that'll be good for another blog post later on. More later.