On the Seventh Day of Christmas

I slept in, until six o’clock.  That’s an hour longer than I usually laze around in bed.  I knew I had two things to get done before long after waking up.  The first involved the annual dissemination of sticky buns to friends.  I started two batches of dough going, one in the bread machine and one via the mixer, with about fifteen minutes to spare before the sun rose at twenty of eight.

Since I had over an hour to wait for the dough to rise, I grabbed my camera bag and tripod and ran for the van.  I drove a block to my south and setup on the grounds of the Lansing City Hall cul-de-sac.  I experimented with the aperture priority setting so I can attempt to get a star like effect when the sun rose.  I succeeded (see below) but also forgot I had accidentally smudged my lens with my fingers a couple of days ago and forgot to clean it.  So some of the later photos with more star-five effect had to be trashed thanks to smudgy fingerprints obscuring the sunlight.

Last Sunrise of 2011

Click here for the slideshow of the rest of the photos.

I packed up the camera and gear as soon as the sun cleared the horizon.  I still had plenty of time before the dough needed to be rolled out and sweetened with brown sugar and cinnamon.  I made a quick run to the grocery store to buy the disposable aluminum lidded cake pans I needed to place the sticky buns in for delivery to our friends.  Once I returned home, I woke up Rachelle, who helped make the caramel glaze to pour into the pans and evenly distribute the individual rolls among the six pans.  This year we only made about sixty rolls, instead of the usual hundred or hundred and twenty.  We covered them with the clear plastic lids and attached the storage and baking directions to them.  Rachelle and I then left to deliver the rolls.

Once we returned home, Derek and Royna had also arrived back from their overnight visit with their friends.  I suggested that Rachelle, Royna and I drive to downtown Leavenworth to sample some of the loose tea available from the Queen’s Pantry.   Royna found three she liked and Rachelle found one.  We walked across the street to the antique mall where Rachelle found some jewelry and I found a paperweight for a coworker.  Our last stop downtown was the Kansas Country Store where I tried to find some rawhide treats for the Rotts, but found a half-price Rottweiler 2012 calendar instead. I dropped Rachelle off at her friend’s house and Royna and I returned home to while away the afternoon watching movies.

We decided on Mexican for a family dinner out and traveled to Zona Rosa to revisit Aubelos.  Terry and I had tried that restaurant back in October for my birthday.  Derek and Royna had also tried and liked it previously.  I called ahead and reserved a table for the five of us.  I missed the sunset at five o’clock because I was busy getting ready to leave for dinner.  I did step outside briefly, but the sky was so clear and devoid of haze or clouds that the sunset would have been ‘boring’ for me to photograph.  The drive to Zona Rosa via K-5 and MO-152 was uneventful and our dinner was delicious (and fast).  We were back home before half past seven.  Rachelle donned her excessively ugly Christmas sweater and left to spend New Year’s Eve with her friends.  Derek and Royna will start packing and get some rest before hitting the road southbound for North Texas tomorrow morning.

And so I come to my final paragraph of my final blog post for 2011.  I believe we’ve had a good year.  We had a couple of milestones (25th wedding anniversary and 15th year at my employer).  We started renovating our house, replacing the roof and the driveway and repairing the chimney.  I’m keeping the miles down on both our cars by participating in a vanpool, which also helps reduce my carbon footprint by taking at least four other vehicles off the roadways five days a week.  We spent the holidays with our kids, always the highlight of our year.  I hope and pray 2012 will bring all of us peace and prosperity, harmony and grace.

Have a very Happy New Year!

Movie Review: The Final Countdown (1980)

The Final Countdown (1980)

3.5 out of 5 stars

My daughter had not previously seen this movie, which my husband and I have watched several times.  Terry thinks he may have seen it in the theatre when it was released in 1980.  I don’t think I did, though; I think I have only seen it rebroadcast or on VHS.  Thanks to our Netflix streaming, we were able to revisit this interesting take on time travel and Pearl Harbor Day (somewhat fitting since we just celebrated the 70th anniversary of the original attack on Pearl Harbor earlier this month).

While the officers and crew of the USS Nimitz (a nuclear powered supercarrier) and our token civilian observer (a very young Martin Sheen) pondered taking on the entire Japanese fleet, taking full advantage of forty years of technological advancement in aircraft, weapons, radar and communications, I sat and wondered how dated everything looked from another thirty years in the future.  Crew members had a library of hardcover books to read, were putting together puzzles or playing board games or card games, listened to the radio (instead of plugging in to their iPad or iPod or iPhone), had no Internet, no cell phones (not that they would be of any use in the middle of the Pacific Ocean), no video games, no flat screen television screens or monitors, no personal computers or laptops of any kind.

I realized this time around that the story seemed a bit thin and most of the film seemed to be an advertisement for the capabilities of our Navy, demonstrating take offs, landings, emergency landings, emergency helicopter water rescues, reconnaissance, dog fighting (although not much of a dog fight between a Japanese Zero and a F-14 Tomcat).  Since this film was made ten years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, I assume the Cold War influenced some of this.

Despite these observations, I still enjoyed watching this movie.  Perhaps it’s time this one got a makeover similar to what happened with 3:10 to Yuma.  Maybe before the 75th anniversary rolls around.

A Few of My Favorite Things (My Best Books of 2011)

I met my self-imposed reading goal of seventy-five books read during 2011.  That’s approximately twenty-five fewer books than I read in the previous two years, but only about two thousand pages off my normal pace.

Click on this picture for further information and drill-down granularity

Seventy-five books seems to be the maximum number I can read and still squeeze in exercise and employment.

Some of my favorite reads included the following (click on the link to see my review … if there isn’t a link it’s because I haven’t written a review yet):

Printed Books:


  • Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper
  • Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Initiate’s Trial by Janny Wurts
  • Field of Dishonor by David Weber

I will set my reading goal for 2012 to 75 or 80 books.  I am also limiting myself to only purchasing ebooks for my Nook Color.  Another goal I’ve set for myself is to reduce the number of books I have in my house by reading and disposing of them (through donations most likely).

On the Sixth Day of Christmas

I learned something today.  I try to learn something every day, but I am not always successful (translation: distracted by the practical side of life).  Today I remembered to peruse the ‘front page’ of the Wikipedia web site.  I like the serendipitousness of the daily featured article as well as the ‘On this day …’ section. 

On this day . . .

The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. The image also shows Messier Objects 32 and 110, as well as NGC 206 (a bright star cloud in the Andromeda Galaxy) and the star Nu Andromedae. This image was taken using a hydrogen-alpha filter.

The second thing I learned came from the ‘Today’s Featured Picture’ section:

Pure (99.97+%) iron chips, electrolytically refined, as well as a high purity 1 cm3 iron cube for comparison. Iron is the most common element (by mass) on Earth, forming much of the outer and inner core, as well as the fourth most common element in the Earth’s crust.

Who knows what else I’ll stumble into learning today?  I have an entire afternoon to explore since my employer will set me free at noon. 

You’ve been warned. 

Oh, and just in case you missed it last night, here’s a snapshot from my cell phone of the sunset:

Only two more sunsets left in 2011

Only two more sunsets left this year!

Movie Review: Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

1 out of 5 stars

If only I could get those ninety minutes back I spent watching this movie last night.  Even the respectable talents of Peter Cushing as Doctor Who could not save this film (although his character did manage to save the world from the Daleks).  If the rest of the 60s era Doctor Who movies and television series overflowed with such bad acting, inept stunts, God-awful music and exceptionally fictional science, it’s a miracle Doctor Who survived to the 21st century. 

Some of the ‘shocks’ for me in this movie included a girl who called the Doctor who grandfather and a woman companion who professed to be his niece.  Having watched the Moffat version of Doctor Who for the last few years, I assumed the Doctor had no relatives (except for one episode involving a regenerated hand during the Tenant season).  And I realized this morning that the police officer who rushed into the TARDIS thinking it was an actual police call box is the very same actor who portrayed Donna Noble‘s grandfather, Wilfred Mott (also during the David Tenant Doctor Who seasons). 

I can thank my husband for finding this gem on TCM.  Even though this movie was the sequel to the previous year’s Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965), I won’t be rushing over to Netflix to place it in my queue.  And, thankfully, the BBC does NOT consider anything but the television series to be ‘canon’ with respect to the Doctor Who universe.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas

I received a welcome call from our family tax preparer.  He graciously answered all our questions concerning some last minute year-end tax savings we could take advantage of.  Terry and I discussed and weighed the pros and cons but ultimately decided to take advantage of the tax deduction to offset a one-time heavy tax load we will have to deal with for 2011.

The second even better phone call came in mid-afternoon from my hubby.  He had just received good news from his doctor at his follow-up appointment.  The biopsy results confirmed the growth in his hand was completely benign.  No cancer!  And no need for any drastic treatments to combat any further cancerous growths.   He will need to go through some extensive occupational therapy, since the orthopedic surgeon does NOT want him moving his fingers, hand or wrists at all for several weeks.

Thanks to God and everyone who offered prayers on behalf of Terry.  And thanks to Rachelle for driving him to his appointment today.

God is Good!  All the Time!

Movie Review: Cowboys & Aliens (BluRay)

Cowboys & Aliens (BluRay)

4 out of 5 stars

My father lent me his BluRay of Cowboys & Aliens when he came for dinner Tuesday evening.  We would not have been able to view it via Netflix for another week or two otherwise.  After a dinner of leftovers (more ham and home-made bread), we sat down to watch the BluRay.  As usual, the combination of dinner and a movie put Terry into a food coma within thirty minutes, but Rachelle and I made it through to the credits without dozing off.

Daniel Craig did well, if stoically, as an archetypical Western character. Olivia Wilde’s performance didn’t wow me, but that’s usual for her.   I still think her best performance to be Quorra in Tron: Legacy.  I enjoyed Harrison Ford in a different type of role than what I’ve seen him do before. I also enjoyed Rockwell and Beach’s performances.

But by far my favorite, albeit not a long lived character, was rendered by Clancy Brown, who normally suffers under the stigma of villainous typecasting, this time around he stretched his wings as a gun toting man of the cloth who delivered some of the most memorable dialogue.

Overall, the movie was much better than I thought it would be and I’m sorry I skipped seeing it at the movie theater this past summer, especially after seeing the incredible cinematography (courtesy of the great state of New Mexico).  While four out of five stars might be stretching it a bit (considering the believability of the story and circumstances), I can’t say I didn’t completely enjoy my evening mash-up of two of my favorite movie genres:  westerns and scifi flicks.  The Old West has never been wilder!

On the Fourth Day of Christmas

I endured endless meetings all morning, but received a last-minute reprieve from my final early afternoon meeting.  A co-worker hand-delivered a belated Christmas gift from my favorite baking supply company (King Arthur Flour) to me when she arrived this morning, for which I thanked her.  I attempted to deal with a last-minute tax deduction question, still unanswered and unresolved with the end-of-the-year clock ticking inexorably on.  I even tortured myself by waiting more than thirty minutes on hold with the IRS before having to abandon that exercise in futility because of another incoming call.  I tried to schedule my daughter for an eye doctor’s appointment since she informed me at the airport she is on her last set of contacts, yet much to my surprise (not!) the eye doctor’s office is closed every Wednesday.   I did speak to my Internet service provider about moving up to the next tier of broadband service and will discuss my findings with my spouse this evening before ordering the upgrade.  I wrapped up my goals for the final quarter Health Enhancement Challenge at work and will strive to turn them into New Year’s resolutions.

I have no plans for this evening (or the rest of the week nights) so that my kids are free to visit their local friends.  Terry and I might watch a DVD my father lent us yesterday: Cowboys & Aliens.  Or we could continue cleaning off the DVR, which may be leaving us soon if we decide to drop DirecTV and move to Dish or just stick with Netflix (or some other provider’s) streaming.

I am thankful for the gift of the Four Gospels, often associated with the fourth day of Christmas.

On the Third Day of Christmas

I got the best gift of all . . . my family.  My daughter flew in from North Texas this morning.  My son and his wife arrived on Christmas Eve, so today I had all of them together, as well as my father.  We enjoyed dinner and then opened all of the presents.  The dogs got a treat as well, since both Derek and Rachelle got down on the floor and played with them.

But tomorrow I return to work (for the rest of the week) so Terry will get to enjoy their company exclusively.

Merry Christmas!


On the Second Day of Christmas

I spent the day baking bread.  Always enjoyable for me and any of my house guests.  The aroma of baking bread permeates our home.

My first loaf of the morning I made for my father.  Since our family is celebrating Christmas (by opening presents and feasting on an Italian themed dinner) tomorrow, I wanted to make a fresh loaf of his favorite: White Sandwich Bread <= (click link for recipe).

The second loaf will be my version of the Italian Supermarket bread recipe I found last year at the King Arthur Flour web site.

The third and final loaf will be Rustic Sourdough, modified to mix and rise in the dough cycle of my bread machine.  The original recipe from King Arthur is really a double batch (makes two loaves) and I would have to drag out my Kitchen Aid mixer to accommodate five cups of flour and the other ingredients.

Once the loaves are all baked and cooled, I will take some photographs and post them below.

Merry Christmas!