Friday, January 30, 2009

Gratuitous Hanna Pictures

As promised previously, here's Hanna in her new jacket we got for her "walkies," and we think she looks quite fetching, though what exactly she thinks about it in this photo is anyone's guess! It was a bit difficult to get her to sit still for these photos since she had just returned from her jaunt with Fernymoss ... tonight was quick (again, it was cold!) and just around a couple of blocks, but she got to meet some people who made over her, so she was quite happy to oblige them by playing happy puppy....
This shot gives a better view of the whole jacket, which to us looks like a jogging suit, and though it has a hoodie, she's having none of that, so we just let it hang behind her head ... I've yet to meet a dog who really likes having anything on her head, and though Pepa used to tolerate the Devil horns at Halloween, it was clear she was no fan of them! Shortly after taking this picture, the jacket came off for the night so she could play freely, bouncing around the room with her Kongs and squeaking the evil mouse madly until we could take it no more and put it up! I do agree with the yawn though, and need to be heading to bed myself very soon! It's all quiet downstairs, so I know what that means ... there's a snoozing couple in one of the recliners who needs to be revived and trundled off to bed!

Sunday Hanna will be officially ours, so we're going to have to plan for extra walkies and treats that day to celebrate ... by all indications, she has chosen us and our house and plans to stay. We couldn't be happier about it, and when we asked her tonight if she wants this to be her "forever home," she just wagged madly and jumped into the air a few times to give us her answer....

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Tinkering Continues ...

Hanna says: My computer dude daddy is way too obsessed with this blog thing, but he says that I'm going to be a star, so I guess I should cut him some slack for now, even if I don't understand just yet what it's all about. He says that I'll be appearing regularly in something called "posts" so as long as I'm part of it, I'm okay with that!

As you can see, I've been tinkering with more templates again tonight, and have tentatively settled on this one for now ... at least it is not cropping my photos or breaking margins (that I don't know yet how to control), so I'm somewhat pleased with where I ended up tonight. I do like the expanded flexibility to play around with fonts and colors the new templates offer, though not being able to center or alter the header photo still perturbs me. So if any of you more Blogger savvy folks have suggestions on how to do that, please let me know in the comments! And general suggestions or thoughts about the design are always appreciated as well.

I really wish I had the time to truly learn HTML and create something even more flashy, but given my coding limitations and general lack of free time, I'd rather focus my energies on what I think I do best, which is garden chronicling, the original intent of the blog after all. But any tips folks may want to pass along will definitely be welcomed!

I'm really getting antsy for winter to just move on, but we're only about to start the beginning of February, which historically can be a brutal month snow wise, so I think I should head to the archives for some previously un-posted shots to get us all in the mood for the warmer months to come! Though work continues in crazy busy mode, I'm going to be making a better effort to keep up with posting around here ... after all, this activity has always been my sanity refuge, so I owe it to myself to keep it up!

I really need to get some flowers back up here, so I don't risk turning this into a total "dog blog!" But for the moment, forgive me the new puppy infatuation and just enjoy (tolerate?) the puppy pictures! The evil side of me sees this as a bit of revenge for all the baby pictures I've had to endure over the years ... you know the ones ...Oh yes, that's lovely drool, what a cute smile (I bet the kid just crapped the diaper!) ... why doesn't that kid have any hair? Ok, time for this old curmudgeon to commune with the puppy and call it a day at the newly reconstituted blog. I hope you regulars are liking the changes you're seeing!

I'd like to offer a special shout out to Botanical Interests, who I noticed added me as a followed blog today! They're a great family based company that provides a lot of really great organic seeds ... flowers, veggies and herbs. Whenever we're looking for particular seeds, if we can find the Botanical Interests label for what we want, we always buy theirs, even if they might be a bit more expensive than the run of the mill Burpee or other companies. We've always had great success with their seeds, and it's nice to support a family owned business that isn't some overly commercialized operation. And did I mention? Their seeds are organic. Nuff said.

Thanks for all the fish,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Redecorating: Pardon the Mess!

Regular readers may have already noticed that there's a bit of redecorating going on here around the Oasis ... for quite a while, I've felt that my old "design" was looking really tired and tattered and needed an updating, so I finally screwed up my courage to the sticking point, and made the scary transition to the new Blogger templates. Now I'm glad I did, though it did scramble up quite a few things in the process, but now that I've restored some semblance of its original order, I think the ole Oasis has a lot of room to grow in the coming months. I hope you'll continue to like what you see, especially when the snows recede and venturing outside isn't dangerous anymore (as it has been frequently of late!) ... the promise of the bulbs and spring flowers is already making me impatient!

Au salon de la rue des moulins
, Toulouse Lautrec, 1894

Now, some of you may be wondering what Toulouse Lautrec has to do with all this ... trust me, it does go with the redecorating theme. This piece was a placement we made back in August when we had a major rearrangement and decorating of the living room, and it somehow didn't make the cut at the time. When we watched Moulin Rouge again on New Year's Eve, I was reminded that I'd never posted this Lautrec lithograph and decided it was about time to do so! This lithograph is from a series of numbered and stamped editions from the Musée Toulouse Lautrec in Albi, France ... though it's not one of his more famous works, the subject matter is well known in his work. Yes, these are filles de joie from a maison privée on Rue des moulins in Paris, where he was reputed to have spent some time living around this time period. I know little else about this particular work, but, as a long time Lautrec admirer, I'm really glad it's part of my collection.

I came by this print rather by accident ... one of the former owners of the company where I work had bought this for the office and it arrived damaged (broken glass and frame), and no one really wanted to put it up in the office. Quite frankly, I was the only admirer (other than the purchaser) who liked it and it wandered about the office before ending up in my cube. When our office went 'virtual' a year ago, all of the artwork was divvied up among the employees, and this, the ugly duckling was unwanted ... except by me! So I got to bring it home in its ramshackle frame to await better treatment, which took a few months but finally happened. Since Fernymoss is a professional framer (he's the frame shop manager for a local retail big box craft store), he was delighted to take it on as a project. Believe me, the framing work wasn't cheap, but the results more than made up for the expense! This photo doesn't do justice to it really, because it looks like it should be hanging in a museum ... well in a sense it is, the museum of our eclectic delights ... thus the inclusion in this post devoted to spiffing up the familial spaces, such as this blog.
Of course you must have guessed that more puppy pictures were inevitable, didn't you? Here are a couple of candids of Hanna playing with her new squeaky puppy Kong earlier tonight ... we've just about decided that Kongs are the only way to go for her in terms of toys right now, because she manages to destroy just about anything else (even apparently durable) at this point. And boy, do the Kong toys keep her entertained and busy! Just what a growing puppy needs to slake that chewing instinct. One of our dear friends from the neighborhood dropped by last night with a welcome bag of toys and treats for her, only to see her destroy two of them in minutes ... I felt so bad about that, but at least a few of the things she gave Hanna seem like they may survive to play another day. As responsive and obedient as she is already, I have to keep reminding myself that she is still a puppy and any kind of insane idiosyncratic behavior is indeed possible ... but isn't that part of why we love pups? Their in the moment way of living and their downright funny-crazy antics ... honestly, I'd forgotten about a lot of that, since Pepa was a bit older when I got her, but still wild and crazy ... but that was 13 years ago and many things have changed since then. Anyway, here's Hanna chewing away on her Kong and reveling in the squeakitude!
Here's the happy pup taking a break and holding one of her new favorite toys securely in her paws. I set her loose earlier tonight with the evil alien squeaky mouse for a while and she went wild, bounding across the room squeaking and growling at it as she lept about ... despite the noise (I was trying to watch Countdown and The Rachel Maddow Show at the time, with varying degrees of success), she was having such a great time entertaining herself (and me) after being such a good girl while I worked today. Now in our second week, we sort of have a routine established now ... out in the morning, breakfast, lounging on the futon in my office for most of the day (with regular outs) and then romping at night. And, despite the cold, she even looks forward to "walkies" with Fernymoss when he gets home from work ... and for that, he's declared that she is going to get boots very soon to protect those puppy paws that aren't quite tough enough yet for the snow and cold. We'll see how that works out, but she does get chilly quickly outside with her short coat, so anything we can do to ease that, we'll do (though I've always thought doggie boots silly ... curmudgeonly me).

So, tonight at Casa IVG, the new doggie era continues to evolve, and we couldn't be happier with our new little girl ... I'm glad that my previous dogs Coco and Pepa had a paw in her being here ... before we got Hanna I had a series of dreams about them, and in retrospect, I feel they were messages to seek Hanna out and make her a member of the extended family, but that's a post to come when I can do them justice. Suffice to say, Coco the corgi tipped me off about her and Pepa gave her approval ... you'll have to wait for the rest at some future point.

So ... please let me know what you think of the new look around the place (I've even posted a poll, lol), and make any suggestions you think would improve the overall look! I believe in evolution in blogs as well! It's about time this one had a bit of a shake up!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hanna's Grand Day Out (UPDATED)

So here we are, at the end of Hanna's first week in residence here at Casa IVG ... and so far, she's been settling in remarkably well, though there have been a few missteps on her and our parts, but nothing truly dramatic or game changing (meaning, she's here to stay if it's all up to us), mostly just puppy blunders, which are bound to happen with any young dog. After all, Hanna is probably just barely 9 months old and is still a total pup, despite her oh so adult demeanor ... Personally, I think she's just exhilarated with how she's been living large the past week, and she has developed a quick taste for it! Sure, there will have to be some rules and boundaries laid down and enforced, but that's what she needs ... and the pack is just getting itself organized at this point.

Hanna's had a couple of piddling accidents in the house, which I attribute to us not all communicating on the same signals just yet, but that will come quickly in time, I think. In any case, it's just all a part of puppyhood ... she's still learning and has had an awful lot to take in and process in the last week! Overall, if I had to grade her, it would be a close A-. Now, there was the toilet paper incident on Thursday when I had to be away (her first time alone) for several hours for meetings ... when I returned after her having spent
about 4 hours alone, I found that she had found the extra rolls of toilet paper we had stored on a marble shelf in the bathroom ... think of that commercial with the terrier who drags the toilet paper from the bathroom all over the house, and that was pretty much the scene I found when I got home. Part of me had to laugh, while the other took on the role of the stern daddy who expressed his deep disappointment with the errant child ... no physical retribution, but stern words of dissatisfaction, mixed with reassurances that this little incident by no means jeopardized her status here, just that she had to learn boundaries. Having raised terriers previously, I know we'll be reinforcing that for many years, but they do respond and learn their manners. And where Hanna's concerned, she's way beyond most pups her age, so we have no reason to believe she won't be a star very soon!

So, in celebration of her first week and incipient Star status, Hanna got to experience her first dogsumer shopping experience at Petco today! We had a lot of things on the list, most importantly durable rubber squeaky toys that she couldn't destroy in about 20 minutes, like those previously given ones we started out with (they've since gone to the trash). Hanna had a blast at Petco, meeting other dogs and playing in the squeaky aisle, even if the ones we got her weren't her first choices, but the two we did choose for her have been real hits since we got home. She's now the proud owner of a Puppy Squeaky Kong (practically indestructible) and a bizarre heavy rubber bug eyed mouse. So far, she hasn't been able to leave as much as a scratch on either one, despite the heavy play ... whew, one issue resolved.

Here's about a minute of video I took tonight as she retrieved, and then proceeded to attack the squeaky mouse toy at length ... pardon the darkish exposure, we've got to work on the lighting still for indoors video! Anyway, check it out as she brings forth some downright eerie cries from her new squeaky mouse....

And here she is working on her squeaky puppy Kong, almost as popular as the mouse, but less strident in its squeakiness, but apparently no less fun for her ... even though she'd already been playing with both for several hours ... I think she came out well from her excursion with two great new toys that will last her quite a while. Whew. We were worried she'd wipe us out with her appetite for destroying the cheap squeakies, so we raised the bar quite a bit, and she seems even more pleased with the results so far. So here's fun with Squeaky Puppy Kong!

After we picked up some new dog necessities --which probably weren't as exciting for Hanna-- including her own new bowl, a stylin' jogging jacket (for those increasingly chilly walks around the neighborhood here lately), a new collar, new food and treats (Science Diet Puppy Food and treats), we headed to the checkout, where one of the cashiers gave her a treat.... She got to leave the store in a joyous mood. She was soo good on her visit, I think we'll be taking her back when we need more supplies, but after today (and all we spent) that may be a while, but a dog can dream, eh? In any case, her visit to Petco was certainly sensory overload for her ... all the great smells, the presence of other dogs and people to make over her (and there were several!), I'm sure she's eager to go back as soon as she can!

Once home, she got to play --incessantly-- with her new squeaky toys, had a quick walk around the neighborhood she's just getting to know, (it had to be quick because of the cold, even with her jacket), she started winding down (as much as terriers ever do), and for the first time since she's been here, she took possession of Pepa's old cushy bed. This was a big step for me, because it most surely smells of Pepa and she has avoided it until today ... Somehow, she felt the proper permission to use it today and I'm glad to see that happen. Most of this week though, she has spent the day lounging on the futon couch in my office that Pepa used to frequent ... and what's more, in almost the same spot on the blanket Pepa favored. Make of that what you will. No matter what the case, she obviously had a Grand Day Out, and as you can see in this last (very typical tonight) shot, she ended the day quite contented. So ends Hanna's first week here ... where she has witenessed the inauguration of a new president, gotten acquainted with the sights, smells and stimulations of a new home ... no wonder she was exhausted with all this processing!

It looks like living large agrees with her here ... and we're certainly remaining thrilled to have her along for the ride ... there's a lot of good things to look forward to in the future, not to mention spring! We're betting she's really going to enjoy spring and summer here as the new garden mascot! So stay tuned, and be ready to indulge our currently endless puppy love!
Sunday night Pupdate at 11:10 PM.
Hanna's foster mom called us tonight to see how Hanna was doing, and of course we gave her a glowing report about how great she's working out with us. She was very happy and gratified to hear how thrilled we are to have her, and appreciated hearing the squeaky Kong in the background, lol. She thought that Hanna's expedition to Petco sounded like lots of fun and was glad to hear she's getting to go places with us (she's great in the car!), so there will be lots more of that, especially as the weather gets warmer. Anyway, we have the last "official" paperwork to take care of next weekend, but that should just be pro forma at this point, as neither she nor we have any reservations about her staying here for good. At this point, I think she's as good as ours for her "forever" home ... and she sure seems to be loving it here living in the lap of doggie luxury!

--end puppy gushing--

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Please Let the Door Hit You in the Ass!

I know, I know, I generally try to keep this a g-rated blog and my political rants are relatively infrequent, but sometimes I just can't resist a good swift kick in the (choose your body part) for certain people who poison the world around us. This. Worst. President. Ever. Has been a terrifying thorn in our nation's heart for eight long, dark years now and it's finally time to shovel the ample execrement he has made of our Constitution out the door of the White House and turn a new, more hopeful --though risky-- page in our history. I say risky, not because I fear Obama (quite the contrary, I was an avid supporter after he beat out John Edwards in the caucuses a year ago), it's because of all of the messes this Shrub, this Constitution shredding, spoiled rich kid leaves behind for others to clean up.

Way back in the 90's, the prescient (now, alas departed) Molly Ivins tried to warn the nation about SHRUB as he prepared to run for the presidency. She correctly predicted, that if given the chance to "govern" (using that term very loosely), he would leave the country in smoldering ruins, just like every business he had attempted to run up to that point in his life ... a failed oil company, a failed baseball team, you name it, he managed to muck up everything he attempted with his reverse Midas touch. Now we've seen the results of the vaunted "CEO Presidency" and the Nation has finally woken up to the disaster the Supreme Court wrought with its meddling in the Florida recount in 2000. When you appoint idiots to run the country, nothing good can come from it! And now, our long national nightmare is over... though when Gerald Ford uttered those words in 1974, I doubt he realized what an understatement it was, given what followed from Nixon's famous "Southern Strategy" that laid the groundwork for the coup of 2000. Having lived through the Nixon years from ages 10-16 and having thoroughly loathed him as evil, in retrospect, Nixon was a veritable bleeding heart liberal! Back in those days, I would have never believed that one day I would look back at Nixon somewhat positively, but that's one of those ironies that history sometimes cruelly makes us realize as we experience more of the world as we get older....

In any case, it will all be over in a matter of hours, and President Obama will assume the burden of power and enter the White House, thus ending what has to be the darkest political period of my adult life. Obama won't be perfect. He'll make mistakes, to be sure. But at his core, Barack Obama has a kind heart and a conscience, something the SHRUB never figured out in all the years of his pampered nepotistic existence. Let's all give Obama the chance he deserves to try to get things back on track! After all, look at the latitude that other one had for eight disastrous years and where that got us....

We'll be celebrating the Inauguration after work today with a few toasts and blessings for Barack and catch up with what we missed during the day (yeah, there's that thing called work), along with our new little bouncing bundle of joy who's going to get lots of treats so she can celebrate the new era with us!

So on to the fun stuff, and enough political rants. I feel better now that the calendar (which seemed so fat and interminable a year ago) only has one more page to tear off....

Here's a fun shot of Hanna I took tonight as Fernymoss had her pose for a treat ... she's quite good at sitting on her hind legs (as well as walking around that way), and doesn't the camera just love her?

I took this second shot last night as I was making dinner (French potage and fresh baguettes) and she was asking permission to enter the kitchen. I can already see that Hanna, just like Rolly and Pepa is going to be haunting the kitchen when I cook, and after all, what doggie can resist the room of good smells? Not to mention, it's where they eat their food and get their water, so it's a natural. In fact, I'd be wondering what was wrong with Hanna if she hadn't so quickly figured that one out!
Hanna's settling in remarkably well so far and when I took her out first thing this morning (it was about 12F) she headed straight for the back door, waited for me to put the leash on and then charged outside and got right down to her business. Once done (oh, maybe in a couple of minutes) she headed right back to the door and inside, where it was warm and cozy, to eat her breakfast. She spent some more quality time with Fernymoss before he went to work, then joined me in my office for the rest of the day as I worked, spending much of the time curled up by my feet under the desk. I think she's already liking it here at Casa IVG and is getting good coaching from Pepa and Rolly on the fine arts of being a good dog. Yeah, there are those little "manners" things we have to teach her, but so far she's so way ahead of most dogs her age. But then, I'm not exactly an objective observer, but what new parent is? So cut me some slack, at least for a little while, as we all enter the post-SHRUB era as a newly reconstituted family!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Meet the New Member of the IVG Pack!

As you regular readers know all too well by now, we lost our beloved Pepa and Rolly back in early December, and ever since, the house has seemed so empty, lifeless and devoid of energy or much joy ... at first we vowed we'd wait until at least Spring before we thought about adopting another dog, but we were sure we wanted her to be at least part terrier. A couple of weeks ago, just out of curiosity I started looking at adoptable dogs on the Petfinder website, The local Animal Rescue league, and a few other sites ... then I stumbled one night upon Hanna's web page, sponsored by T.A.R.A, a Kansas City based rescue organization. It was love at first sight, at least for me ... so I rounded up Fernymoss and had him come up and take a look at her ... He liked her immediately, just based on her web page and we talked a bit about maybe asking for more information about her. He went to bed early that night, and I thought to myself, I'm smitten enough by this little girl, I should at least fill out an application to adopt her and see what happens.
I didn't have to wait long, as it turned out ... the following day, Fernymoss called me from work and asked me: "You know that little dog we were looking at last night? How serious are you about seeing if we can adopt her?" I laughed and replied: "Serious enough to have spent the time filling out the adoption application last night!" Sometimes even our sporadically great minds think alike!

A little later I was contacted by Hanna's foster mom (and rescuer from the pound), with whom I had a very nice conversation about possibly adopting her. I explained our circumstances and said that we hadn't really intended to adopt so soon, but that she had already stolen our hearts, or at least attention! I said we were quite serious about at least giving her their standard "2 week trial home stay" and if she was willing, we'd love to meet her as soon as possible. As it turned out, little Hanna was suffering with a mild case of kennel cough (that seems to be going around all over in the kennels right now) and that she still had a week to complete her course of antibiotics, but she would likely be ready to come up January 18. I talked to her a few more times in between now and then, as we worked out more of the details and questions ... I tell you, the waiting between January 7 (our first contact) and today was excruciatingly interminable! I think it was even worse for Fernymoss than I (though I was exceedingly antsy!), but I was more than willing for the right time for her to come and see if she'd like living at Casa IVG ... she's such a unique little girl (part Corgi-Jack Russell Terrier), she was more than worth the wait!

The wait finally ended late this afternoon, as Hanna and her foster mom rolled into the drive, provoking cries from Fernymoss of "She's Here! She's HERE!!!" While everyone got acquainted (her foster mom is a lovely person, btw!), Hanna quickly discovered our somewhat limited supply of squeaky toys and set about playing, jumping up and down and generally making herself quite at home! After we took care of all the necessary paperwork, her foster mom took off back to Kansas City, and we began to get to know our new little girl, and boy, is she a honey! Lots of puppy kisses, playing and exploring the various rooms of the house, all totally new and intriguing territory for her, obviously....

She definitely loves her squeaky toys, and I can see that she's going to keep us busy finding her new ones ... here she is positively demolishing one of Pepa's old toys, the evil stuffed squirrel, and after a while we decided we should take the plushie squeakies away from her, because we are afraid she'll ingest some of the stuffing, but I remembered some old rubber squeakies people had given us in the past (Pepa and Rolly appreciated the gifts, but never quite got into them) that were stored away down in the basement ... so I pulled all the good ones and gave them a try, then brought them upstairs. Fernymoss said that she had heard me squeaking them downstairs and was checking out all the registers trying to figure out where the noise was coming from, lol. So, when I returned, I regaled her with a veritable bonanza of toys which kept her quite busy and active for a good amount of time ... enough that she seems to have forgotten the plushies and is having fun playing with these rubber ones.
Though she's only been here a little over six hours, she's already brought such a positive and energetic change to our lives and household ... we're honored to have her here and are sure she will make a wonderful new addition to our pack (even the ones who are now gone, but who watch over the house).
I have to admit, I expected her to be bigger than she turned out to be, but no matter what size, she is positively adorable and very bright ... and for a puppy of about 8 months old, she's remarkably obedient and polite ... at least so far! She clearly wants to please and have fun, and we're right on board with that, even though we're going to need to work with her on a few puppy issues (boundaries mostly), she's astonishingly mature for a dog her age. Though she clearly has the Corgi body, she really favors the Jack Russell Terrier more, and she's got the terrier vim and vigor and big dog attitude nailed down already. Just the thing to warm any terrier lover's heart and bring a great sense of pride and joy to have such an inquisitive, energetic and sweet pup in the house!

So, a new pup era begins here at Casa IVG, and though we still miss Pepa and Rolly very much, Hanna is not intended to be a replacement for them, no ... she is a follower in their very big paw prints, and with time, we already think she's going to fill them admirably and spend many good years here with us. We're hoping she enjoys them as much as we think we are going to! She's already been on a walk around the neighborhood tonight to get acquainted with the smells and sights and sounds ... and she's clearly fascinated by the different sounds around the house (the furnace kicking in, the refrigerator running, etc.), so it's going to take a little time for her to adjust to her new surroundings, but she already seems very comfortable here and is, as I write, napping with Fernymoss on the couch downstairs. It's so quiet that I know that's where she is (as she was a bit earlier before I began this post) ... She had a very big day! After a 3+ hour drive up here, and all the stimulation and playing she had earlier, even she, the terrier, seems ready to settle down and recharge! And boy, will she recharge, I'm sure! As active as Pepa was (even toward the end), it's been a while since we've had such energy loose in the house ... and we're loving every minute of it!

Aaron, Fernymoss' brother (the vet) told me when I first discovered her and sent her link to him, that he thought it was probably a good idea for us to adopt now, to ease the pain of our losses and refocus our energies ... therapy, if you will. He referred to the "Jedi doggie magic" another pup can exert on grieving people, and if tonight's been any indication, she's really working the magic well! This is a very happy day here at our house, and as we hurtle toward the Obama inauguration, we feel so privileged to have such a positive little honey ushering in the new era with us! It truly does seem like we've turned the page definitively on a very sad 2008 and we are advancing into the challenges of a better 2009, and she'll be along for every joyous step of the ride.

So, regular, faithful readers who have offered us so much consolation and very kind thoughts since we lost our precious pair of devoted friends, what do you think? She's definitely got "Queen" potential (if Pepa is willing to relinquish her crown ... as I think she would), don't you think?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Frigid, Snowy January Doldrums!

We're having another cold and snowy night here at Casa IVG, as we head into the snowiest and coldest week yet of the winter where our forecast high on Thursday is -1 F (and down to -15 F tomorrow night), so it's no surprise I didn't venture out today to get any photos of the snowy carnage around us. Unlikely tomorrow either, but I sure would like to get some shots of those snowy hollies out in the Woodland Garden ... maybe I'll get brave after all ... but then, after another forecast 3-5" of snow tonight (on top of the 7" from Friday and 4" from Monday!) maybe I won't! I will say that if it happens, you'll see it here...!

On cold nights such as these, when blogging inspiration flags and thoughts often turn to food and idle entertainments, I thought I'd venture over to YouTube and see what other Wallace and Gromit videos I could post since I'm still literally buried in snow and work, and definitely bereft of gardening subjects. So tonight's treats
naturally deal with meal preparation, à la Wallace and Gromit ... our first Cracking Contraption is called The Autochef, yet another of Wallace's inventions that just doesn't work quite the way it was supposed to:

And, as if the results of that one weren't disastrous enough, in classic Wallace form, never daunted, he and Gromit take it one step further in our next short, The Turbo Diner.
These didn't quite assuage my hunger for warm, cozy comfort foods on a cold and snowy night, but they did make me smile and chuckle.... I hope they will do the same for you, wherever you are, and if you're also currently buried like my other garden blog cohorts (you know who you are Marnie, MMD and Shady!), at least these videos will advance you about another 3 minutes closer to Spring!

Stay warm everyone!!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Adam Elliot: "Brother"

Hi folks! Hope your 2009 is going well so far where you are ... here it remains cold and somewhat dreary, only compounded by a malingering cold and overheated work schedule, thus my infrequent posting (again) of late. Honestly, with all the analysis and report writing I've had to do before and since the "holidays," I've been more than a bit tapped out in the word department. So, unless anyone objects, I'm going to continue to feature a few short films by the very talented Australian, Adam Elliot, creator of Harvie Krumpet most recently posted here. I do hope some of you have taken a look and enjoyed what you have seen....

Tonight's little film, Brother, is from 1999 and recounts the obviously eccentric relationship between young "Adam" and his older brother. If you're familiar with his more recent work, you'll certainly notice there's a definite stylistic evolution that has occurred since the earlier films. Though he always works (as far as I know) in the claymation medium, he has definitely become much more polished over the ensuing years ... so take a look at this odd little film!

And finally, it's no surprise that my favorite claymation characters are the wonderfully realized Wallace and Gromit ... and I can never recommend them enthusiastically enough. Though Wallace is overly (and eccentrically) chatty, I've always loved Gromit for her/his ability to convey a wonderfully rich array of ideas and emotions with nary a blink or wrinkling of an eyebrow. If you've never seen any of the Wallace and Gromit films or short subjects, you're missing some real treats, just chock full of humor of that oh so British kind, but lacking the sometimes insufferable "forced wit" that characterizes some attempts. This little film is for those who are already tired of winter (me among them), and is one of the Cracking Contraptions series of short films ... it's called The Snowmanatron. Enjoy!!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Saturday Cinema: Harvie Krumpet

I mentioned this short film by Adam Elliot recently in my post about Christmas Eve, and was delighted to find that the entire film is now posted on YouTube, so I just had to share with my readers here. Adam Elliot is a remarkable animator and short film maker, perhaps one of Australia's best, given that this wonderful effort earned him the 2004 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. I've seen others he's done on the Sundance Channel, but this is the one I keep coming back to and loving every time I see it. It's only about 20 minutes long, but packs a lot of punch into it, chronicling the life of Harvie Krumpet from his humble beginnings in Poland (pre-WWII) to his later (and final) years in Australia.

This is a short film of remarkable humanity and compassion for its subject ... although there are moments of truly hilarious circumstances, the overall trajectory of his life is curiously tragicomic, yet ultimately life reaffirming. I think that all of us can see someone we have known (or will know) in this film and it may help us to put things into proper perspective at some point. But until such moments, just enjoy Harvie Krumpet for what it is ... it's a great little film and just don't answer the iron when it rings!

Friday, January 02, 2009

As the Holidays Fade Out ...

Here we are, now two full days into the new year of 2009 and I'm reluctant to let our beautiful tree go just yet, though it's inevitable some time soon.... So here are a couple more shots of some favorites that hadn't made it up here yet this season. I call this one the "Double Dog and Dragon Dare," for rather obvious reasons, lol. The Jack Russell Terrier is of course one of my favorites (another find from the infamous Denver airport delay), as is the (now) antique flocked plastic dog (bearing a faded tree) at the upper right ... this one is especially nostalgic for me, as I used to love seeing it on my sister's tree back in the early 1970s when it was actually in fashion! Back in my single days, when all I had for a tree was a small artificial table top 2 ft tree, my sister went through a bunch of her old ornaments and gave this one to me ... much to my delight! He's been on every tree I've had since about 1992 and as long as he holds out (he has faded quite a bit over the years) he'll always have a place of honor on our trees. The dragon is of much more recent vintage, having come to our house for the first time in December of 2007, when I found it at World Market and just had to get it for Fernymoss, who of course was delighted to now have a dragon gracing the tree!
Here's another favorite making a tardive appearance this year, the seahorse I found a few years ago (along with the pink flamingo) and just couldn't pass up ... I think it's easy to see why, because he brings such a lovely sparkle of blue and gold to the tree, and when seen in just the right light, he really seems to glow! And if you look closely in this shot, you can see a bit of yet another dog ornament hiding in the branches ... a little plush black and white pup wearing a Santa hat, yet another World Market find from last year I couldn't resist tucking into the tree this year (Fernymoss had forgotten or neglected him, but not I).

Speaking of World Market, we both had the 31st off from work and since we needed to run an errand in that neighborhood, we decided to swing by and check out their "huge 75% off after holiday sale." Usually we avoid these kinds of sales, because at least for me, they're rather depressing as one peruses all the unsold items picked through and rejected for whatever reason, but then again, sometimes one finds unusual and delightful bargains. The store looked rather bleak (like many just after the holiday blitz) but they had an incredible selection of ornaments still left, all 75% off, so of course we couldn't resist at least looking! We ended up being pretty judicious and only purchased 3 items for the tree (one of which is a gift for my sister): A lovely red and gold pagoda with tons of sparkle magic, a Big Ben ornament (roughly the scale of my Eiffel Tower) and a small (really small!) cluster of sparkly mushrooms I picked up for Fernymoss. All in all, I thought we demonstrated incredible restraint, despite the major discounts. There were still some good holiday food items still left, so I got a couple of boxes of European style cookies and grabbed a couple of marzipan pigs for Fernymoss (he loves the stuff, I hate it) ... but the best discovery was a magnum of Cristalino Nature Brut Spanish champagne that was on sale for $15.99 ... based on the posted reviews I decided to give it a try and we were quite delighted with it as we sipped our way through it while watching Moulin Rouge! on New Year's Eve. In fact, we liked it so much I'd like to go back and buy a few more bottles while they have it in stock, just to keep around for special occasions or gifts.

Ok, with Moulin Rouge, I suppose Absinthe might have been more appropriate given the historical context, but we were really more into the bubbly mood than Absinthian contemplation, since it was New Year's Eve and all! If you're a fan of vin mousseux (bubbly wine, not technically champagne), the Cristalino Nature Brut is a good choice, especiallly for entertaining, because it won't break your budget! As much as I love the fine French champagnes (I usually spring for a Perrier Jouët or Veuve Cliquot, but not this year), I've become more and more of a fan of the more moderately priced Spanish alternatives (such as Segura Viudas) over the past several years. There are some really good ones out there, you just have to give them a try and see if they fit your own palate....