Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's a Leap Year!

Hooray for today! It's a Leap Year. I love the date of "February 29". Mom actually has a great uncle and aunt who were married on a leap year. That would be pretty cool. :)

It's been the craziest weather ever this Winter, and you'd never know that it wasn't April already. Today was actually 61'F! We went out to Mt. Gilead yesterday to the genealogical society. Elizabeth wanted to look up some names for her "Swetland" family tree. We did a little grocery shopping and then went to eat at Pizza Hut. That was a pretty fun afternoon.

Today, we've just been hanging around. Doing some ordinary things like laundry and dusting and that stuff. The weather has been so warm that we're all dying of heat. Tonight, we're planning on watching the last of the five George Sanders "Saint" movies. We had to take a small break and spend a couple evenings watching Perry Mason shows instead, as we only got them for one week from the library. I really enjoyed The Case of the Libelous Locket. Raymond Burr was in the hospital when they filmed that one, so Michael Rennie guest-starred as the defense attorney. I love Michael Rennie --- he's a great actor with a fabulous voice.

I've been working on the latest little wool needle-felted doll. It's an Indian, American Indian that is. Have I mentioned that before? He's almost finished now, except for his head piece and a little mat to sit on. Boy, am I happy with him. Hopefully, there will be pictures of him coming soon!

Tomorrow is Dad's birthday, so we've got some plans, but they're under wraps right now. More later!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Goodbye to a Lovely Baby-Kin

Another of our baby-kins went to sleep today. Little Aramintie was five years and five months old. She was born in our dining room on September 29, 2006, along with two brothers, Samwise and Frodo. These three cuties are what we call "The Babies", and no cats come sweeter.

29 Sept 2006 - 25 Feb 2012

I don't usually do this, but Elizabeth wrote some really sweet stuff about her, so I've copied some of it here: She was the first of the babies of Olivia's last litter to pop into this world. She was the cutest little thing from her first appearance. She was a very dark tortie who looked so much like her mother that it was disconcerting. She had her mother's round face, her mother's buff chin, her mother's round legs, and even her mother's three buff toes on her back foot. It took us about a week to pick the perfect names for the three surviving litter-mates. We debated on Arwen and Tinkerbell before settling on Aramintie. She fit the name perfectly and acquired several nicknames over the years. Maid Mintie, The Mintie-Fish, A Baramintie-Fish, Little Mama, and Mintiekins.

Aramintie was the cutest little kitty you've ever seen. Everything about her was round. She had perfect little peppermint toes and the roundest golden eyes that could look right through you. She was a little, live stuffed animal. Cuddly, soft, round, and wonderful. She didn't like being held, but she eventually got to like it enough that she would be pushing away from you as much as she could, all the while purring like a little motor boat. She never ate wet food, only kibbles. From a baby kitten she never cared.

Her favorite toys were little fur balls, which she would have full-blown wild-manzies with, stuffing them in her mouth as much as she could and growling away at it until she vanquished her little toy. Catnip was a wonderful thing, which made her totally nutsy, causing her to roll around the floor, going from one toy to the next. She never meowed, not even as a baby. However, she had no trouble growling. Mostly at toys while she was playing. You could here the low sound in another room. She usually played alone, and didn't require too much companionship. The other kitties, particularly the mama's babies, thought that she was there mama when she was sleeping. You would go upstairs and find Avis or Manly or Frodo cuddled up against the sleeping Mintie-Fish, and you would know that they thought she was Olivia. :o) Aramintie also loved to play with the laser toy. She would be a dark shadow zooming around the rooms after the little red dot. She was really amazingly fast and rarely ever missed it. Aramintie always loved another kitty to cuddle with her, although she never really sought companionship herself. Her human involvement consisted of a little frenzy every day around 2:30pm. Like clockwork, she would be at the computer chairs, stretching one paw onto your legs. Her claws were unmistakable! ;o) You would pet her, brush her, sometimes even hold her. She really was a little stuffed animal. She would sleep with her chin stuck straight out in front of her on the bed, or curled up into such a tight little upside down ball. Her favorite spots were on dirty towels in the bathroom (sometimes she would even pull a towel onto the floor so she could sleep on it), against Mom's pillow on her bed, the top story of the kitty tree house while we would be upstairs watching movies, or on the top of my piano. She was a very musical kitty, I could play my piano while she was sleeping on the top and she would care. Of course, she would stare at me through one opened eye over the top of the sheet music, but if I pretended not to notice her, she would go back to sleep. However, if I hit a wrong note, the eyes would pop open and I'd be in for more staring. Funny baby. But she didn't mind showtoons, classical, even opera, as long as it was on-key.

This morning Dad had to take her to the vet. You know, it doesn't matter how many we have or have lost, each one is so special in their own way that it really hurts to lose them. At least she won't hurt anymore. Knowing that she is waiting for us with Dee, Sydney, Caddy, Aline, and Little Joe, I still can't help crying.

Aramintie looked and felt like a little plush animal with soft, thick fur and all of her features were really found. Poor girlie, she had the same tooth disease and cancer that Aline and Little Joe died of in the last two years, and she probably never remembers a time without some problems. We've known this day would come for over a year now, but it doesn't make it any easier. She was a beautiful kitty and a fabulous pet, and God was so good to give her to us for those five and a half years. I love you, Aramintie.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just Having Some Fun

Yesterday was just one of those fun afternoons that works out on the spur-of-the-moment. The weather yesterday morning was gorgeous, so we all had a hankering to "get out" and do something. So, we decided to see what Buddy and Kay were up to at their place. Mom and Kay have been trying to "dig up" the history of their cabin, and to do that we needed to go out to the original site. With such swell weather yesterday seemed like the perfect opportunity.

By the time that we got down to their house, the weather was already cloudy and a bit windy. Good old Ohio weather --- but it wasn't too bad, so we headed out to the site. From everything that Mom has found, it appears that the cabin was actually a church. The church later took down the cabin and built a frame building on the old foundation. That frame building has since been expanded, but we were hoping that traces of the old foundation are still visible. Sure enough, we went over there yesterday and it is not only still visible, but also still intact.

There is a cemetery on the church grounds, so we walked through that for a little while. The original pastor (who also built and owned the cabin) is buried there. All of the graves are literally on the side of a hill, and not a little hill either! This is one of Ohio's famous rolling hills! Here is a view from half way up the cemetery, and a picture of Elizabeth and Kay enjoying themselves.

We headed back to Buddy and Kay's once everybody was a bit cold. We made some hot tea, set up the lap top and Mom started plowing through online records again to verify our findings. While she was hard at work there, Kay and the two of us decided to watch a movie. She just bought a new DVD that has four old-time westerns that none of us have ever seen. The first one that we put on was Whispering Smith, starring Alan Ladd and Brenda Marshall and Robert Preston. That was one great western! We were on the edge of our seats the whole time. And the color film for a 1947 movie was fabulous. Wow! After that, we decided to make some pizza and watch another movie. This one was Albuquerque starring Randolph Scott. That was another great one about a gang of crooks in the mining business. Definitely two winners.

For the past several days, in the evenings, we've been watching "The Saint" mystery films starring George Sanders. This is the first time that we've been able to get them from a library, and are we enjoying them!? I just love George Sanders, and we've never gotten to see a film where he actually stars. So far, our favorite one has been The Saint's Double Trouble. Elizabeth and I could barely breath through most of it --- everything happens that could possibly happen in a mystery! There's more fun on the horizon today, so it's off to get at it.
More later.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Celebrating Valentine's Day --- A Bit Late

Dare to be different. That saying was all the rage when we were growing up. Mom's family has been doing that for over ninety years at least, so it's nothing new to go against the flow. This year, we finally decided to get back to celebrating the little holidays. We had pretty much cut that out years ago --- just because it kind of happened that way.

Valentine's Day rolled around this year, but it was in the middle of the week. Not convenient with Dad at work. Besides, we really wanted to have Buddy and Kay over and they weren't home that day. Oh well, we waited until Sunday afternoon and did our thing then. Before Buddy and Kay got here, Mom and Dad had a scavenger hunt for us. That was FUN! The clues were written on vintage Valentines --- which I love. It probably took us an hour and a half to find all of the clues, and at the end of the quest: chocolates and presents. :) Elizabeth got a little silver charm for her bracelet of a hippo. It looks exactly liked her dearly-loved stuffed animal hippo, Priscilla. I got a whole bunch of vintage valentines to use in a scrapbook or something. Above are just a few of them.

Buddy and Kay came over right after we finished that, so we had lunch together and talked for a while. Then, we adjourned upstairs and watched a movie. Stagecoach, starring John Wayne and Claire Trevor. Everybody so enjoyed that one that we made it a double feature and watched Allegheny Uprising, also starring John Wayne and Claire Trevor. It's always fun to have friends over for movies, and we've already got a couple more films lined up for next time!

The weather is really warm these days, and Kay's wood ducks are already back. Canada Geese are here in droves, and a skunk was actually out and about our lawn the other night. He had the nerve to spray our car. Great. Just lovely. The trees, believe it or not, have actually started to bud. Two days ago, we had driving snow --- all the while the weather reports were saying partly cloudy with small chances of rain showers. Whatever.

We're signed up to go to a behind-the-scenes event at Stan Hywet in a couple weekends or so, and I can't wait. More on that later. One of the stamp shows is coming up, too, and we're thinking to go for a day to that. I've been working on felting lately, and the next doll is almost finished. Just a few more hours!
More later.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Art of Faberge

Visiting the Cleveland Museum of Art last week has really gotten me interested in Faberge items. There is a small "room" at the museum devoted entirely to The India Early Minshall Collection of pieces from the House of Faberge. I knew about the Easter Eggs, but didn't realize that Faberge made other jewels. Also, I didn't realize that there were so few eggs. It seemed a little disappointing while there at the size of the collection and the lack of eggs --- only to come home and start reading to find out that The Cleveland Collection is actually a very fine one, and one of the most well-rounded examples of Faberge's work! In fact, Cleveland is even the owner of an Imperial Egg. Unfortunately, that egg was not on display (I wonder why not?), but we were able to see pictures on their online catalogue.

So, this has inspired me to do a little reading, in order to better appreciate the collection that we saw. I ordered in some books from the library and have been reading through those and searching online articles, too. Very interesting. To quote from one of the books: "One surprising fact about Faberge's work is that no design or even finished work from his own hand is known to exist. Our knowledge of what constitutes the Faberge style can be based only on the production of the Faberge workshops."

That statement really surprised me. Still more interesting than that is the fact that, in the heyday of the House of Faberge, more than 500 people were employed there! Above are views of the exterior and interior of the St. Petersburg shop.

Reading about each individual egg reveals that different artist
s (many of them) worked on the different eggs. That was an amazing collection of talent that was hidden under one man's name. What seemed so cool to me is the fact that each Imperial Egg was such a personal gift. These weren't, as so often implied, just lavish trinkets belonging to the Russian Zsars and their Zsarinas that were nothing than mere show of wealth and social status. When you actually read what each egg represents, it is obvious that these were thoughtful gifts. They were also not the most expensive jewels purchased by Nicholas II. They were exactly what they appear to be: the Royal version of an Easter Egg. To spotlight a few of my favorites:

The Mosaic Egg, given to Alexandra by Nicholas II for Easter 1914. This egg is made to resemble Petit Point embroidery, and is now in Queen Elizabeth II's collection. The surprise is a miniature frame with relief portraits of Nicholas and Alexandra's five children in a pink and white cameo-look setting. The back of the frame is enameled with a basket of flowers and framed by the names of the Romanov children.

The Pansy Egg, is carved from green-colored Nephrite set in a silver gilt base decorated in diamonds. This was given by Nicholas II to his Mother, the Dowager Empress for Easter 1899. The egg opens to reveal a folding easel of white enamel. Eleven miniature portraits are hidden by red lids, and when opened reveal images of the Empress's children and grandchildren.

The Lilies of the Valley Egg, was the Easter present for Alexandra in 1898 and is one of the most famous. Not without just cause, either. It is a pink enameled egg, sitting on gold legs, and covered in pearls of all sizes. The surprise in this one is a little set of tiny portraits that "pop" out of the top of the egg when a knob is released. Represented in the paintings are the Tsar and their two oldest daughters, Olga and Tatiana.

The Winter Egg, is the 1913 Easter gift to the Dowager Empress from her son and was the most expensive Easter Egg at 24,700 rubels. Well worth it, in my opinion! The egg itself is made of quartz and platinum and studded with 1,660 diamonds. Not to mention the little surprise: a flower basket, set with 1,378 diamonds, and made of platinum and gold. What a gift.

The Spring Flowers Egg, a gift from Alexander III to his wife somewhere between 1891-1899. This is a simply breath-taking and certainly one of my favorites. The red-enameled egg sits on a stand of gold and green set with diamonds. The jewel-studded flower basket is the hidden surprise, and apparently can be removed from the egg --- if so desired. Interesting tidbit: this is one of the few Faberge Eggs to still have its original case!


Now that you've seen my favorites, back to a few more interesting facts. The eggs made for the Easters during the First World War, were "economy style". They lacked the precious jewels, the ostentatious design and often, the precious metal. Two of the eggs were made with a "Red Cross" theme, and it is one of these gems that is owned by the Cleveland Museum. Can't wait until it's back on display.

One of the most interesting war-time eggs, to me, was The Steel Military Egg. This was a gift from Nicholas to Alexandra for Easter 1916, the last year that the Zsar was in power. The outside of the egg is made of steel, trimmed in gold, and coated in enamel. This impressive example of art is standing on a base of Jade and supported by four legs made of steel artillery shells. The inside of the egg is covered in silk and velvet and houses a steel easel that boasts a miniature watercolor on ivory painting of Nicholas II at the Front. What an ingenious way to deal with wartime shortages.

So, what happened to the Easter Eggs for 1917? Nicholas II had a standing order for two eggs every year --- one for his mother and one for Alexandra. Then, on March 15, Nicholas abdicated as Zsar of All the Russias. Faberge had already completed the egg for the Dowager Empress, so he sent this to the palace and demanded payment from Nicholas. This was The Karelian Birch Egg, and cost 12,500 rubles. This is the only egg made of an organic substance as the primary material. The Grand Duchess never received this egg, and it was lost from 1927 until 2001.

The final Imperial Easter Egg was called The Constellation Egg, and would have been the present for Alexandra. The egg was made of Lapis Lazuli and Crystal and was supposed to have a clock inside. Nothing more was known about this egg until the later 1990s when the design was published. The owner of the "Faberge Museum' in Germany owns what he, and experts, believe to be The Constellation Egg (below left). It is complete except for the angels floating in the clouds that form the base for the egg. Also, in 2001, the Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Russia claims to have found the unfinished egg in their collection (below right). More experts believe that this is the real egg. So, one of them must be it, but it's up to anybody to form their own opinion of which one is genuine. My guess would be that the first one that is in Russia looks more like a prototype, especially since it does not look as much like the drawing. Also, the one at the "Faberge Museum" is almost complete, which makes much more sense since it would have needed to be finished in a few weeks time. But, I'm far from an expert!

So, this is what I've been thinking about lately. I think that there's nothing quite like these eggs, and it kind of appeals to the 'fairy-tale lover' inside of me. The World doesn't produce beauty in art like this anymore. How amazing to be able to get a glimpse of an era that's gone forever.
More later.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Valentine's Day Fun and Presents

Sure, it's a bit early for Valentine's Day, but --- that only depends on what you're doing. We were actually mailing some things, so it's practically a bit late. Mom found these really cute little "goodie bag" kits at Hobby Lobby a couple of weeks ago, so we were putting those together. I'm ashamed to say that I sort of brushed them off in the store, as they didn't seem that cute. A person should always listen to their mother. Mothers are always right. No matter how hard it is to one's pride to admit it! :)

So, we packed some of those up and mailed them off to friends. Don't worry, none of them read this blog, so they'll not spoil the surprise. In fact, I'm not sure anybody reads this . . . but it's fun to do. Anyway, here are some pictures of a couple of the things that we made. We used conversation hearts and pastel jelly beans in the bottoms of the bags, then we added the little animals on top. What I thought was really cool were the "Jesus" conversation hearts. They have a Bible verse on each individual package and little Christian sayings on the actual candy.

It's cold today, and there's been sleety snow coming down all day. We're supposed to have four inches by tomorrow night! Whoa! Mom made cream of potato soup for lunch, and I made these to go with it. So, what are they? Biscuits with cheese-stuffed hot dogs (vegetarian ones, of course) rolled inside. Amazing things, but you can't eat too many at once --- talk about filling.

We went down to Buddy and Kay's house on Wednesday afternoon. That was quite fun, as we sat around and talked all evening. We watched Buddy's latest show together and then hashed out all sorts of good ideas for other projects --- probably none of which will actually happen. ;) You know, it's like solving the problems of the world in one afternoon. We're still trying to research their house, but the weather was so bad that we couldn't drive anyplace to look into things. Maybe in the next couple weeks some nice weather will come back.

I ordered a set of books in to the library last week. Our branch is part of a fabulous program that has linked a lot of Ohio libraries from all parts of the state, which means that we can order books in from a lot of places. So, I was able to order in a 2-volume set of a complete catalogue of the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds --- but they aren't in yet! I'm dying. Crazy, I know, but I really can't wait. Ugh. Guess I'll have to. ;)
More later.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nelson Eddy & Jeanette MacDonald on DVD

You know, it's a crazy thing that Warner Movies didn't release the Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald films on DVD years ago. In fact, there's been an online petition about it since the early 2000s. Finally, they have decided to open the canisters and let the films out. Last May, Elizabeth and I were so thrilled that we counted the days. The reason: Naughty Marietta and Sweethearts came out on disc. Sweethearts is our favorite Eddy and MacDonald film, so we were pretty happy that it was one of the first two.

Then, we were again thrilled to see Bittersweet on the 'new releases' announcements for last Fall. Not one of their best films, granted, but still worth getting. We haven't actually gotten it yet, as we've been waiting for to sell it --- but they just got it!

It gets even better: Today, Warner Movies released Balalaika (a Nelson Eddy solo film) and two solo films for Jeanette MacDonald, The Firefly and Broadway Serenade. I Married an Angel also came out today, but even the most loyal fans have to draw the line somewhere and that one is over our line. So, this gives us three more DVDs to "procure". I certainly hope that Warner keeps up the good work and continues to make these hidden gems available to the public. Elizabeth and I are still waiting on New Moon and Rose-Marie, so maybe those will be on the 'new releases' list in a few months!

Well, nothing extraordinary happened today --- other than having two un-solicited phone calls. I got caught up on laundry and worked around here. Made some Zucchini bread with the zucchini that I grated in the Summer. Can't wait to see how it turned out. Fun stuff in store for tomorrow, so that'll be another post.
More later.

Monday, February 6, 2012

KGVI and QEII: 60 Years Ago Today

The King is Dead --- Long Live the Queen!

Sixty years ago today, that phrase, and others like it, filled the front pages of newspapers around the world. Sorrow and joy mingled as people mourned a dearly-loved King and rejoiced for a new Queen. The King lay in state at Westminster for three days, and over 300,000 people filed by to pay their respect. The funeral service, held at St. George's Chapel, was concluded by two minutes of silence stretching throughout Great Britain and its Commonwealth. A final tribute to a monarch that had sacrificed all and led his people to victory throughout a World War.

Often quoted though it may be, I don't think that anything can sum up the reign of King George VI as the finale of his Christmas Speech in 1939:

"And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'
And he replied:
Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.'”

Sixty years ago today, Elizabeth II was proclaimed Queen of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions Beyond the Seas. In a country that was still recovering heavy losses during World War II, she waited a year before her Coronation --- but that didn't stop her loyal subjects from celebrating in the customary way. Now, she is only the second British Monarch to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. She is also the second British Monarch to reign past the age of 81.

The majority of people in the World don't remember a time without her. I certainly can't imagine another Monarch! Wow. I'm taking a copy of a speech that Elizabeth posted on her blog earlier. Winston Churchill on the New Queen:

"Now I must leave the treasures of the past and turn to the future. Famous have been the reigns of our queens. Some of the greatest periods in our history have unfolded under their sceptre. Now that we have the second Queen Elizabeth, also ascending the Throne in her twenty-sixth year, our thoughts are carried back nearly four hundred years to the magnificent figure who presided over and, in many ways, embodied and inspired the grandeur and genius of the Elizabethan age. . . . I, whose youth was passed in the august, unchallenged and tranquil glories of the Victorian era, may well feel a thrill in invoking once more the prayer and the anthem, "God save the Queen!"

American or not, there's a special place in my heart for Britain's fabulous queen. It is my hope that she lives to reign longer than her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Elizabeth Regina. God Bless Her. Long May She Reign.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Meeting Jennie at the Art Museum

Today was special. Elizabeth's pen-pal, Jennie, came to Cleveland. She lives in MA, and she and Elizabeth have never met. Well, she was over in PA visiting some friends and was able to meet us in Cleveland. We met at the Cleveland Museum of Art this morning and walked through everything but the modern art wing. And that's a pretty decent trek.

The Museum is in the midst of a huge renovation at this time, so only about half of the collection seems to be on display. We were a bit disappointed by the lack of displays, but I didn't really remember anything but the Armour Court, so it didn't seem as obvious to me that things were missing as it was to Mom. The thing that really thrilled me was that they have a painting by Reynolds! I'd really been dying to see one. It was a lot bigger than I ever expected. We saw items made by Faberge and Tiffany. Swords. Armour. Tapestries.

After walking through the Museum for a couple hours, we got hungry --- so, we went out for pizza. That gave us a while to sit and talk to Jennie and just chat. It was great to finally meet her. We almost forgot to take a photo, but as we were pulling out of the parking lot Mom thought of it. So, we pulled back in and got a photo. :) This is Elizabeth with Jennie. More later.