Monday, December 31, 2012

Christening the new Catan board

After rolling 3 3s in a row (each roll got Christie 4 wheat and 3 ore) Christie had 26 cards in her hand, rolled a 7 next and still beat us handily :)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

At Tami & Auxford's

Doing guess what?

Playing Settlers! :)

Snowy woods

What is it about a fresh fall of snow that turns every dog into a puppy? :)

Early and cold

28F, but 17F with the wind chill, the sleet from last night has frozen into a nice layer of ice- I think I'm gonna have no choice but to hit it with the ice melter before I can do anything else :(

Saturday, December 29, 2012

More Munchkin

What do you do on a snowy Saturday evening? Take your family across the street and distract the curate from writing his 8am sermon by playing Munchkin with him and his good lady :)

4 years...

Holly then

It was 4 years ago today that Holly came home with us.

Since then she has become an essential part of our family and, exasperating though she can be, we wouldn't be without her!

Holly today

She and I have covered about 4,000 miles through the woods together (and I would probably be quite a lot larger if it wasn't for our daily walks), she is always ready to leap up to announce and greet visitors or to accompany me to take out the garbage, she greets us lovingly when we come home, she sleeps on guard outside our rooms as we sleep, and she watches carefully when we do anything in the kitchen. In short she is one of the family and we love her.

Holly and I on sitting on the rock from where I take the daily picture for my other blog
If you are considering adopting a rescue dog I would recommend you do it! I had huge reservations about bringing a dog into our small apartment 4 years ago, but I'm so glad we did!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Les Mis

Warning, if you haven't seen the movie this post may contain spoilers.

Jackie and I went to see Les Mis yesterday, and both thoroughly enjoyed it...mostly.

I saw the original production in London quite a few times, and the cast album has been on my phone forever, so numbers from it come up in my usual random playlist fairly regularly. Jackie has never seen the stage version, but has heard the cast recording. Jackie loved the movie, I was impressed but was not as blown away as she was.

The movie has taken the unusual route of recording the actors singing live for each take (rather than the usual pre-record and lipsync), they wore hidden earpieces so they could listen to a live piano accompanist and the orchestral score was added later. This brings a new level of acting to the songs that is wonderful and intimate, but for me almost too intimate.

There is also a disconnect between the voices and the music that is subtle but annoying, I don't know if it's to do with the mix or what, but there was no connection between the actors and the orchestra- I know this is probably because I'm comparing it to the stage version and it's not what they were trying to achieve here, but it bothered me, like an itch, all the way through.

And added to this was the fact that almost the entire movie was shot in EXTREME CLOSE-UP with the actors faces almost filling the screen most of the time. This double-whammy of the raw emotion of the songs and the fact that you could count the the beard stubble of the actors (for example) was too much for me- while I have to applaud the performance of Anne Hathaway singing I Dreamed a Dream (she has totally raised the bar for any and all Fantines to come), I really didn't need to see her nose running as she sang it!

I think this was my main problem with it, I missed the spectacle I remembered from the stage show. The extreme close-ups became annoying as I constantly wanted the camera to pull back and show me more- I felt like I was sitting too close to the screen at an iMax movie.

The individual performances were mostly great- Jackman, Hathaway and Redmayne were very good, Amanda Seyfried as Cossette was a wonderful surprise, but the standouts, for me, were Samantha Barks as Eponine and Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche (a smallish part but one that can make or break the stage show- I remember seeing one fantastic Gavroche on stage and one awful one that spoiled the whole evening for me).

Russell Crowe was OK, just OK. He sang fine, looked the part, but I really couldn't have cared less when he killed himself, and that moment should be gut-wrenching as you see the awful confusion of a man whose whole life's meaning has been ripped apart. And while he is very good at this kind of thing (though a little held back in this performance), I have to say I'm getting a little bored with Sacha Baron Cohen getting all of these kind of parts- it's time to let someone else have a turn (and the same could be said for Helena Bonham Carter).

So, don't let me put you off- reading back I realise that it looks like I didn't like it at all- I did- it is a wonderful version of the musical with many good points, I'm just being picky (don't get me started on the huge, obviously fake, ship at the beginning that would have dragged all those puny little figures out to sea in a heartbeat). Go see it and let me know what you think :)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Another Game Night...

... another game, this time it's Munchkin. CJ won the first game, and Colin is currently in the lead in the second-  though it's early days yet :)

Update- I won the second game! :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It's a dog's life...

... you know, I've never really understood why that phrase means having it tough ;)

Game night

While it's snowing outside we are playing Carcassonne inside :)


And here are all the grandkids together- a special prize if you can tell me whose closed eyes I had to replace with those from one of the other shots from this series :)

Christmas Eve

It looks like the new lens is a keeper :)

Here are a few from Christmas Eve in the church- all shot handheld in the available light.

And you can see a few more in the public album I posted on the church Facebook page here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

So cool!

This is the awesome custom Settlers board Jackie got me for Christmas- if we weren't so tired and there wasn't a Doctor Who Christmas special on TV in an hour we'd be playing right now :)

Desert table

And there's still a couple to bring out :)

And after the meal...

... the dividing and packaging of the leftovers :)

Christmas plate

... and after :)

Christmas plate


Christmas dinner ;)

My wife has done her usual stellar job!

Christmas breakfast

Thanks to the Gordon Ramsey special we watched the other day: toasted croissant slices with smoked salmon & scrambled eggs- yum!

Merry Christmas!

All done for tonight, Merry Christmas and good night ;)

11pm service...

... candles and smoke and KJV :)

Monday, December 24, 2012

White Christmas?

Just looked outside before heading home to grab a bite, and it's snowing gently!

And once more with feeling!

All reset (again, thanks to my two helpers, Jackie & Dorothee), one more tonight and then just one tomorrow :)

And all ready to do it again...

... HUGE thanks to Jackie, Tami & Dorothee for helping reset everything!

Getting ready for the 3pm

And this is really where it starts...


At Pathmark picking up some last minute groceries and slightly surprised to see these above the frozen food aisle- 77 gallon shipping drums for $22.99. Even stranger is that I have to resist an odd urge to buy one...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sisters...and a boy

Just for fun, here's another couple of pictures from the last couple of days...Jake and Kathie, and a freshly showered boy :)


Here are a few pictures of the Altar Guild flowers around the church- you can see more on the CCRye page on Facebook here :)

We're ready!

Flowers are finished, candles are up, altar creche is prepared, bulletins are stacked and ready, and altar silver is polished and set out. Let the hordes descend!

Saturday, December 22, 2012


... the base greens are in place, the wall candles are filled, the bulletins are all printed, and everything is in it's place.

Now we just need to get through tomorrow morning's regular Sunday services and then the Altar Guild can finish the flowers, I can put up the pew candles and we'll be ready for Christmas Eve :)

At Stew Leonards...

... the Saturday before Christmas- are we crazy?!?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hi-res Tree

Couldn't resist a picture of the tree all decorated with the new lens :)

28mm, f/2.8, 1/4s, ISO 320

New Toy!

Well, for a couple of weeks :)

Holly,  46mm, f/2.8, 1/5s, ISO 400
I have been lusting after a faster lens for my 60D for a while, and the particular object of my lust has become the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM. This is a very well reviewed lens for a crop body like my 60D (it ends up being about a 27-88mm when you figure in the 1.6 crop factor) with a constant f/2.8 aperture through it's full range. This means it's fast in low light (and it has image stabilization as well) and it's generally regarded to be as sharp as some of the "L" lenses.
Jack, 55mm, f/2.8, 1/15s, ISO 100

It can be had for about $1,000, which is a little more than I can afford right now- and a little more than I can ask Jackie to spend on me ;)

But when I saw that was doing a holiday special of a free extra week if you rent this lens over Christmas I just couldn't resist. I figured this would let me give it a proper workout, get some lovely Christmas pictures of the family and church, and see if it is worth saving up for, or maybe it isn't that good and I can stop lusting after it.

So, it arrived today, and it's mine for the next couple of weeks. And I'm very sad to say that I'm already in's going to be very hard to give it up when it's time to send it back! I know I'm going to be posting lots of pictures while I have it, and I've only just started to scratch the surface of what this lens can do, but I was so excited about the low light abilities of it that all the pictures on this page were taken wide open at f/2.8, handheld in available light, and it can only get sharper and crisper when it's stopped down a bit :)

Natalie & Christie, 50mm, f/2.8, 1/30s, ISO 320
More to come I'm sure...

Cross on Colin's desk,
37mm, f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO 320

Sasaha, 33mm, f/2.8, 1/10s, ISO 320

And Holly again,
55mm, f/2.8, 1/4s, ISO 320