Monday, November 28, 2011

Daniel's Favorite Christmas Movie Was/Is "Home Alone"

"Kevin McCallister" from "Home Alone"/ Macaulay Culkin who played him,in the present day.

The film "Home Alone" actually came out in the early nineties, and Daniel was not born until the late middle of that decade, however it quickly became Daniel's favorite Christmas film. For those of you who haven't seen it, or don't remember it well, it's the story of a large Chicago suburban family whose cousins come to visit and the entire family is to make a trip to Europe on a plane Christmas week. Sometimes things in large families go awry, and Kevin is relegated to the third floor of the big house, on the night before they must leave early for the airport. A power outage causes the family to oversleep, and somehow, the family takes off at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, with only seconds to spare, leaving Kevin asleep in the attic. This is the story of how highly intelligent and resourceful Kevin works, eats, plays, worships, all while simaltaneously defending his home from Christmas thieves. Macaulay Culkin is absolutely excellent in the role of Kevin, and this indeed helped to propel him to stardom. The film is the work of filmmaker John Hughes who died suddenly in 2002.
Macaulay Culkin has since grown to be thirty. My kids follow his career, He is quite interested and quite gifted in art himself, and attended art school in Rhode Island. He occasionally buys fine art for his own collection. Our older kids, both being professional artists, hope he buys some of their art work someday. Macaulay has also known sorrow in the past few years. His older sister, Dakota Culkin died just two weeks after Daniel's passing in Los Angeles, following an accidental hit by a car while walking. This time of year is likely bittersweet for him as well.
Daniel loved the "Home Alone" movie. The character Kevin not only resembled our son Matthew at about eight, but Daniel memorized long stretches of the dialogue from the film. When Daniel was only about four, he deemed the entire film where an eight year old defends his home against serial robbers as "entirely plausible". Daniel himself would have been a fine filmmaker. He had an eye for detail, irony, pathos, etc. He watched this film many times, and probably related to how busy a large family can be sometimes, and how easily siblings can hurt each other ibn the course of sibling rivalry, as they grow. If you have a chance to catch it this season, please do.
On this day, the third actual anniversary of Daniel's departure from Earth, we wish all of you well. We also hope that Macaulay and his family have found some peace too, following the passing of Dakota. Everyone, please make this holiday season memorable for all the right reasons, not for the material ones.

This is one of the original trailers to the film. Interestingly, changes were made between the time this trailer was made and the final cut of the film. You will however, get the idea.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Blackest Friday Yet

Daniel, Since your passing on the day after Thanksgiving, now three years ago, a lot has happened. American jobs continued to be sent overseas. Plants here closed. New jobs became a thing of the past, even for new college graduates. The educational system in the US continues to slip and slide. Many graduates of high school are not what I would consider truly functionally literate, and they admit to not being able to do relatively simple mathematical functions. This certainly makes graduates of our homeschool look very good when they go to college and excel. Typical American students are often ill prepared for job training, even if there were jobs and training available. The community colleges are full, and there are waiting lists at many of the vocational schools and technical colleges. Some schools are trying to anticipate need by training substandard medical or dental assistants or certified nursing assistants. Unfortunately, none of these people are going to be qualified to make judgments. Some university programs are valuable, but many are overpriced monuments to a time which no longer exists, and makes the mistake of programming students with liberal ideas, which frankly haven't worked here.
This week, during "Black Friday" early shopping, a woman used pepper spray to keep other shoppers away from things she wanted. Two men were shot in parking lots over disputes for X-Boxes. People are behaving like animals and sheep. They are doing what the television box tells them, and heading out to "shop til they drop", even in an economy where they cannot afford it, and may actually lose their jobs when Christmas is over, as I think many people will.
We still prepare for Christmas well in advance, and don't attend the sales. It is a solemn day of remembering the birth of Christ, and how grateful I am to God for you, for Dad, for your Dad and for your siblings.
In the coming year I think that it is at least possible that there will be numerous governmental collapses. Europe is in deep trouble as it tries to bail out Greece, then Italy and Portugal. Belgium is not doing much better. Germany and France carry a boat load of debt also. England is not doing well and smart citizens anticipate food shortages. America cannot be far behind.
Most Americans are not using this prep time for potential collapse wisely. There is still a rush to grab STUFF, in lieu of wisdom, support, charity or kindness to one another. Today, the ads say......."Come shopping at Black Saturday !"
We miss you both immensely and remain the people you know and love. Yes, we still love you both wider than the oceans and deeper than the seas.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fuzzy Anniversaries

Daniel, today is the day after Thanksgiving, when you passed to Heaven, three years ago. It is not the actual date of your passing because Thanksgiving comes on a different date each year, and so the actual date is next week, but it is an anniversary of sorts anyway. It is about a month after my Dad's passing, and the actual date of my Mother's passing, the year before your own. It's a momentously confusing day no matter how you slice it. This morning when the oral surgeon had a last minute cancellation, I chose to have my oral surgery today, so I am typing now, while as high as a kite, and with about as much clarity and insight as one.I survive by clinging to the promise that I will see you again, and that we can share all the thoughts and feelings we have had while we were apart (those that you don't already know). I am trying to spend these days as well as I can spending the remaining days of my life honoring you, my Dad, my Mom, and all our ancestors, who have been prominent in my thoughts lately. My bug, I hope you hear me when I speak with you, and that I hear you when you direct me. I know you were always closer to hearing God than I ever have been. I remember you clearly, fondly and with a deep love. Please send our love to everyone with you. Love, Mom

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, 2011

This used to be one of Daniel's favorite holidays. He used to like playing computer games with his brothers while we cooked Thanksgiving dinner. Then later that day, he enjoyed lots of turkey, carrots, cauliflower, brussel sprouts,broccoli, mashed potatoes, homemade rolls etc. He liked baked sweet potatoes, not the candied variety and he also liked cranberry sauce. He liked cheese sauce on both his broccoli and his mashed potatoes. He also liked "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" on his roll, rather than butter. He would say that he liked it because of the taste, and not because Fabio endorsed it. The mere mention of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" would prompt him to do an entire scene as done by the Alice character on BBC's "The Vicar of Dibley". Later in the day, he would share saved treats for each of the animals, all the way from the alpacas to the dogs, and then to the chickens and ducks because it was not fair for us to have a holiday and not to share it with them. When Thanksgiving was cleared away, he would help me decorate for Christmas. Of all our kids, he was the one who appreciated the holidays and time spent together, the most. Our Thankgivings tended to be just our family, my husband and I and the kids. From the time that our daughter developed juvenile diabetes, and we took sugar out of most things, people gradually decided that they would rather do their own. Christmas was more the time on which we got together. For dessert on Thanksgiving, we would make a "No Sugar Added" apple pie, and Daniel's favorite dessert.

Version 2 of Daniel's Favorite Dessert (Rich enough to eat once a year !
Ingredients or maybe even twice)

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup white flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts {or pecans}
1/2 stick of butter
1st Layer Ingredients:
8 ounce package of cream cheese
1 cup of Cool Whip {buy the large size because you will use more for the top layer}
2nd Layer Ingredients:
1 package of instant chocolate pudding {3 ounces}
1 package of instant vanilla pudding {3 ounces}
4 cups of Milk
Large Cadbury's Dairy Milk Bar for topping


Preheat the oven to 325, use a Pyrex dish.

For the Crust:

Finely chop the walnuts and put them in a mixing bowl.
On a cutting board cut up the butter into super small pieces. Pour the flour over the top of the butter.
Now continue chopping the butter into the flour.
Add the flower and butter to the chopped walnuts and stir together.
Put the mixture in the bottom of your cake pan. Use size 10×13 pan. Use the palm of your hand to firmly pack the mixture into a thin crust on the bottom of the pan.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Bake at 325 if you are using a glass pan.

For the Cream Cheese Layer:

Combine the cream cheese, and cool whip. Mix until creamy and fluffy {about 1-2 minutes}.
Spread the cream cheese layer over the COOLED crust.

For the Chocolate Pudding Layer:

Combine the instant chocolate pudding and the vanilla pudding. Follow the directions on the box for the puddings.
Spread the pudding mixture evenly over the cream cheese layer.
Now spread the remaining Cool Whip over the top. Be sure the Cool Whip is melted enough to spread easily.
Use a potato peeler to shave the chocolate bar in to pretty pieces, and spread evenly over the Cool Whip layer. Enjoy!

This can be made for diabetics using the sugar free cool whip, sugar free puddings, very few Cadbury's shavings on top, and in lieu of the crust, placing some walnuts at the bottom of the dessert, and skipping the baking part entirely. I actually prefer the sugar free one.


The male singer featured in this Katharine McPhee video is Zachary Levi who plays "Chuck" in the TV series of the same name.  Daniel enjoyed this show very much.  Tonight we honor one of Daniel's favorites in a new endeavor.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dawn Steele is Due Anytime !


UPDATE: Information on Dawn, the birth, and her recovery from complications, and her new daughter, are found on our post below:

Dawn, in South Africa

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that one of Daniel's favorite actresses and one of Daniel's favorite television programs was "Monarch of the Glen". Following MOTG, Scottish actress and Daniel's fave, Dawn Steele has gone on to do a number of plays and series television. Her latest series in called "Wild at Heart" and is filmed in Gauteng Province in South Africa. In the program, she plays a bush veterinarian, named Alice Collins.

Dawn's personal life is very busy. She lives in London while commuting to South Africa periodically for this role. She is excitedly expecting her first child, any time now, with the Scottish actor Paul Blair. They have been together almost five years, and are engaged. Both are keeping mum about any wedding plans.

Dawn, if Daniel were still on Earth, he would wish you much luck at this time, and tell you that you would be a fun and loving mum. Love and best wishes. Everyone else, say some happy prayers for Dawn and for Paul,and their baby, and try to catch some of her films and series television. For a young woman in her thirties, she has quite a body of good acting works.

UPDATE: Information on Dawn, the birth, and her recovery from complications, and her new daughter, are found on our post dated January 08, 2012 !

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Sparkler-Like Meteor

From Not our meteor, but it captures the trajectory, at least.

This is a tough time of year for us. This is the week in which three years ago, Daniel passed. No matter how faithful we are to God, and no matter how philosophical one becomes, we are still preparing for a holiday which he and Dad will miss in the flesh. We are still reliving some of those difficult moments from three years ago. We are still dreaming about some of those sadder moments, and of our sorrow. This weeks sorrow was furthur compounded by two more earthquakes, of 2.3 and 2.4, which continue to be unsettling. In addition, I had a a filling in a tooth replaced a week ago, and now have continued pain so severe, I can't think straight ! In all, it's been a crummy week. The best way to weather these weeks we have found is to be busy doing things you enjoy doing. This week, Adam and I were on our way home from an errand visiting a friend in a nursing home. We stopped at another friend's shop afterward and stayed too long. By the time we finally reached the long road which leads home, it was already pretty dark. We try to come home before dark when possible, because the abundant deer will actually jump into cars damaging them, and causing serious accidents at this time of year. And so, we were watching carefully as I drove home. Then, we saw it, a moderately sized sparkler like meteor, traveling over our heads. Thank Heaven for that car's moon roof !   It sparkled over head, seeming to match our trajectory for a moment, passing us, and headed toward its final resting place, which appeared to be in the woods up ahead. It always looks to me as if the sparkler portion will start a fire, but they don't seem to. In reality, one can never really tell where they land from the land below, and certainly not from a moving car. We have seen one or two like this in Novembers past. Daniel and Dad, I hope you see these miracles, and that you know how much we love you both, this time of year, and all year round.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thoughts in Autumn

This is not an easy time of year. Today we sit eleven days from the day that your body had to leave us, three years ago. That was a nicer autumn than this one. This autumn has been far wetter, and has even had thunderstorms, and the leaves are gone from the trees. In 2008, when you had to go, the Autumn was vibrant, somehow back- lit and brighter. The leaves remained on the trees in beautiful autumn colors, making the Shenandoah Valley look muted that year, in comparison.
This week I got around to completely cleaning out the vitamin cabinet. I tossed expired fish oil capsules, B-12 from 2010, Claritin from 2009. I found two small prescription bottles which had fallen behind the little wire shelves I have in there. They were prescriptions for you for fluoride tablets, which had been written by your pediatrician. From the look of them, you took about half and then misplaced them, and didn't take anymore afterward. I felt an exaggerated feeling of sadness, as I thought, "I not only couldn't keep my precious boy here, but I couldn't even see to it that he finished his fluoride pills, when he was here !" Maternal guilt is like that sometimes. I had finished cleaning and organizing the rest of the cabinet before I realized that you had only ever had one cavity in your short life, and that it left your mouth as a primary tooth, right on schedule. Sometimes this little traps come up in the course of my day. Most of the time, however, I am happy to see remembrances of you, or things you left here.
There is a very nice new Asian restaurant which has opened about 30 minutes from here. We were there yesterday, and I very much thought of you as we ate their cucumber salad, and then white meat General Tso's chicken. I think it would very much meet with your approval Daniel. If you and Dad want to come for a visit, you would both be most welcome. We are having the Thanksgiving at home that you always loved.

Daniel, the video below shows a deputy removing a deer from the road after she is frozen with fear following a minor collision with a car. I thought it might remind you of all the deer we have running around the farm especially at this time of year.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Another Black Friday Approaches

Three years ago, it was the day after Thanksgiving that Daniel left Earth. This day is known by most Americans as "Black Friday". Interestingly, many stores operate at a loss, or "in the red" all year, until the day after Thanksgiving, when the Christmas shopping season begins. Traditionally, sales are so brisk between the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas, that the books quickly move from red ink, to black ink from an accounting standpoint, hence the "Black Friday". Of course for me, it's Black Friday because it's the day Daniel had to leave us, and the beginning of a darker, sadder and more serious chapter of our lives, until we are reunited after our own passings.
Consequently, I really do dislike "Black Friday". Families rush about spending money, and they don't really understand that no gift, no holiday is anything approaching spending time with and holding your child, no matter what his age. I don't shop on Black Friday. I clean, take care of animals, think of Daniel and my Dad, and try to spend time with my remaining kids who also find it to be a difficult day. God doesn't need you to spend money in worship of the adjusted day of the birth of our Savior. What matters is what you do, and how you treat Him and others during the entire year.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Rare Black Fox

This is the excellent work of nature photographer Gary A. Haines who can be reached at the Grizzly Creek Gallery or at
This is the only photographic example of a black fox I could find. The one we saw was larger and more muscular, a young adult I would suppose.

About a week ago, one afternoon, James and I were coming home from a dentist's appointment in the city. It's a long trip and we were about three miles from the farm, when a black fox jumped across the road. It was very clearly a completely black fox, and I had never seen one before. I imagined it to be a spontaneous mutation of some kind. In this area we have numerous gray foxes and numerous red ones also. The local populations were boosted some years ago when someone in the next county bred both varieties for fox hunting which used to be quite fashionable locally. The foxes here are never killed, and do seem to enjoy the hunt until the little hounds corner them, and then they are caged to go home for the next time. Twelve or thirteen years ago, there was a flood in the next county which liberated the entire groups of the gray and silver foxes which were being bred for hunting. For the longest time, foxes were everywhere. They were a rather nervy bunch and very tame, in part because they were raised by human beings, and because their numbers were so large, they felt pretty comfortable. This is however, the first time I have ever seen a black one. This is a beautiful animal and moved in a stealthy sleek fashion. He is a young adult and strong and healthy looking. I was glad to see him three miles from the farm, so that he stays away from the chickens and ducks.
This afternoon, our son Adam came in armed. He had just noticed a large healthy looking entirely black fox here in the late afternoon. I should have known that he would decide to come here. Sometimes I think we have a sign out......."Lost animals in need of a meal come here". Over the years mountain lions,a mule, numerous hunting dogs, a bevy of bobcats, numerous hummingbirds, egrets, varietal foxes, numerous deer, including a snow white one, and now a rare black fox have come here. No wonder the dogs have been noisy, and the cat is jumpy. We do have to be very watchful here. Rabies is very common among wild animals here, and can often afflict foxes. We are sure to keep all of our mammals immunized against tabies, and to be alert to wild animals which are behaving atypically.

UPDATE: In the six weeks since we saw the black fox here at the farm, none of our chickens or ducks have been disturbed. If he is here then there must be sufficient small game for him to hunt in the forested areas here so that trying to obtain the domestically housed animals has been unnecessary for him. Either that, or he has simply moved on.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Goodnight Little Henry

Henry and siblings when just a couple of weeks old. Henry is one of the smallest birds in the nesting box.

Those of you who are ardent followers of this blog may remember that two days before Daniel's sudden Autumn passing,now three years ago, that Daniel purchased a beautiful young rooster to watch our chickens. Daniel named him "Ross the Rooster" because Ross is a Rhode Island Red. Ross is still very much with us, and has sired about a hundred chickens and young roosters. One of those young roosters hatched about a year and a half ago was "Little Henry". "Little Henry" was the same size as his siblings as a hatchling, but very quickly, they surpassed him in size and in speed and agility. It wasn't long until we had to place Little Henry in a cage beside them,so that he would not have to compete with them for food, wouldn't get stepped on, could get water, and wouldn't be picked on by his more aggressive larger teen brothers. I did some research as to why Little Henry appeared not to be growing, and why he appeared to have a much paler comb than his counterparts and I came to the conclusion from references,and from the vet's suggestions, that he likely had a heart defect which would limit his abilities as a rooster and likely shorten his life. Most good farmers would have ended his life, but I never said I was a good farmer, and as long as an animal appears to be enjoying his time on Earth, in the warm sun, enjoying pecking the insects in the grass, and getting those tick eggs out of here on occasion, I tend to allow animals to eat and live, until they are called home. Little Henry has been doing rather well. He has been enjoying his life, periodically ambulating alone around the outside of the cages, basking in sunlight, and even seems to be gradually putting on some weight. Our plan for the winter was to shelter him more than his brothers, so that he would not be subject to as broad temperature excursions as his brothers would likely easily tolerate. With a heart defect, he would be more prone to pneumonia.
Last night, my husband brought little Henry into the barn, where it is warmer over night especially since we have had two hard frosts overnight the last two nights. He ate his grains and comfortably closed his eyes, as if to go to sleep. This morning, when my husband checked on him to consider putting him out again, in his neighboring cage, Little Henry had passed. Little Henry will not be enduring the long winter. He will not be here to bask in the sunlight of Spring next year. He will however, join a sister and a brother who passed before him, and a few hatchlings who did not make it into this world, and the sweet little rooster who never got beyond half normal size will bring joy to Daniel, who will be pleased to see the legacy of his rooster.
I am pleased that if Little Henry had to pass, that he did so, quietly and comfortably in his sleep. Goodnight Little Henry. I really enjoyed our time with you. Thanks for coming. Tell Daniel and Dad hello and that we love them too.