Today was a snow day, for those in other countries who haven’t a clue what that means, it generally means the weather is so frightful outside that it’s more delightful to stay indoors – so no school, no working, a free day so to speak where you can stay in bed and read or binge watch your favourite show and not feel guilty.

lemon pieI decided I was going to bake a lemon meringue pie ( see photo to left); now the purist out there would think that would be from scratch but you’d be wrong.  One of my best friends made me a real lemon meringue pie (not from a box) and the ungrateful brat inside me didn’t even bother to have the decency to thank her and pretend I liked it because I can be an unthinking individual unable to see the amount of time and love that went into the gesture.  I have since apologized profusely and she eventually forgave me.  Now where was I, oh yeah, I had the filling cooling while I was whipping up the egg whites and sugar into high peaks of deliciousness when I started daydreaming, like you do, about how they discovered merinque in the first place and if you could use other eggs besides hens.  So to the trusty internet I went and here’s what I found out.
A whipped mixture of sugar and egg whites, meringue is used to lighten soufflés, mousses, and cake mixtures; to make pie toppings and to make desserts like baked Alaska and crisp baked meringues. There are three types of meringue; their differences lie in when and how the sugar is added:

French Meringue -This uncooked meringue is the one most people are familiar with. The sugar is gradually beaten into the egg whites once they have reached soft peaks, and then the mixture is whipped to firm peaks. This type of meringue is the least stable but also the lightest, which makes it perfect for soufflés.

Swiss meringue is smoother, silkier, and somewhat denser than French meringue and is often used as a base for buttercream frostings. Egg whites and sugar are whisked over a double boiler or bain marie to warm them, and then the mixture is whipped with an electric mixer into stiff, glossy peaks. Similar to Italian Meringue, the egg whites in this method are cooked and safe to eat without further baking.

Italian meringue is made by boiling a 240-degree Fahrenheit sugar syrup and then drizzling into whites that have already been whipped to hold stiff and glossy peaks. This creates a very stable soft meringue. For those concerned about eating raw eggs, this type of meringue is also safe to use without further baking.

Meringue is magical. It is incredibly versatile. It can be spooned onto pies, or piped into any number of beautiful shapes. It can be baked or poached, whipped into silky frostings, or folded into cakes to make them fluffier. It can be combined with ground nuts, chocolate or any number of flavorings. It can be formed into various vessels for Chantilly cream and fresh berries.

Meringue is a light, airy, and sweet cookie-sized dessert. They are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside that seems like it will melt in your mouth. (YUM!) In order to achieve that texture meringue cookies require preparations such as beating ingredients until foamy and fluffy, and cooking for a longer time under a lower temperature until meringue becomes dry on the outside.


Meringue drops for Valentines                                                   Marbeled meringue hearts                                         

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Food coloring, optional
  • 3/4 cup sugar

    DIRECTIONS

  • Place egg whites in a large bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Preheat oven to 200°. Add vanilla and cream of tartar to egg whites; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until stiff peaks form. Remove 1/4 cup and tint pink. Lightly swirl pink mixture into remaining meringue. Fill pastry bag with meringue. Pipe 2-in. heart shapes 2 in. apart onto prepared baking sheets.
  • Bake until set and dry, about 20 minutes. Turn oven off; leave meringues in oven until oven has completely cooled. Store in an airtight container.

Many bakers comment that duck eggs have a higher fat content that make cakes rise higher and the meringues are more stable and can get more volume.  As for who invented merinque, there is some confusion around who, and why but the when is in the 17th century.

Fun Fact:  August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie day!!  Wouldn’t be at all humid that time of year in North America. LOL

Favourite Christmas Movie??

With the Christmas season upon us I have been watching some of the old classic Christmas movies and some of the new ones and yes, even the Hallmark Christmas Movie specials which seem to boil down to the same plot lines in all.  Girl meets boy, they like each other, some ex is in the picture, there’s a misunderstanding, girl and boy realize they love each other, happy days are here again.  In all of these films, the town comes together to do something amazing, or someone completely changes their life.

There are certain movies however that have become a tradition in our family.  A Christmas Story about the kid who wants a BB gun for Christmas – The Grinch Who Stole Christmas which is self-explanatory and Miracle on 34th Street (original) where a New York lawyer proves the existence of Santa Claus.  There is also It’s A Wonderful Life that shows one young man what his world would have been like if he never existed and how we should be thankful for what we do have.

I also like The Holiday where a woman from LA changes homes with a woman from England and love ensues and Love, Actually which is bittersweet as not everyone ends up happy.  The scene where Emma Thompson is listening to Joni Mitchell after finding out her husband has cheated on her and having to get it together to go out that evening makes me cry every time.

One of the funniest movies at this time of year stars Will Ferrell as Elf (one of his best roles) and how you can be different but still belong.  The thread in all these movies is how you need to believe in the spirit of Christmas and magic will happen!  Next to A Nightmare before Christmas which is 50% Halloween and 50% Christmas; one of the best animated movies is the Polar Express.

I know I have left off a lot of movies here but these are the ones I make sure I see every year.  What are your favourites?


 

Parker Family Home in A Christmas StoryThis house at 3159 West 11th Street, Cleveland, Ohio, stood in for the exterior of Ralphie Parker’s fictional Hohman, Indiana home in the 1983 cult classic A Christmas Story.  The actual house has been renovated inside and out to capture the look of the movie and is now a museum. 

homealoneThe Georgian home Kevin McCallister protects from a pair of burglars is not actually in Chicago.  The house in which Kevin gets left Home Alone in the 1990 movie still stands, as beautiful as ever, at 671 Lincoln Avenue in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka, Illinois. The property was sold for $1.585 million in 2012. 

Elf Manhattan apt building

In Elf, Buddy tracks down his real father, Walter Hobbs, who reluctantly allows him to come stay in his Manhattan apartment. The exterior of the Hobbs’s apartment building was shot at 55 Central Park West, a 1929 Art Deco building that also served as the location of Dana Barrett’s apartment in Ghostbusters.

The Holiday farmhouse

Nancy Meyers’s 2006 movie stars two gorgeous homes. The charming English country cottage that belongs to Iris (Kate Winslet) in the 2006 film The Holiday is completely enchanting. Sadly, it’s not real—a facade was built in the middle of an empty field that was extensively landscaped for the movie.

The Holiday LA home

All The exterior scenes of Amanda’s house in the movie were filmed at a real house in the small, affluent city of San Marino, California. The property was designed by acclaimed West Coast architect Wallace Neff in 1928.  Located at 1883 Orlando Road, the house is a stunning, distinctive Mediterranean-influenced California mansion, filled with all the luxurious, modern conveniences. It also belonged at one point to the architect and his family (sometime in the 1930’s).  It now has iron gates as opposed to the wooden ones in the film and a fountain in the driveway.

Amanda's kitchen

Amanda’s kitchen is beautiful; if I could have her home, I would take it in an instant, beautiful, pool, bedroom, swimming pool – what is not to like!  Mind you, I’d also want a chef, pool boy and cleaning lady to go along with it.

Die Hard buildingYou may not think of Die Hard as being a Christmas movie especially considering the violence, etc. but it is set on Christmas Eve. This classic 1988 (celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018) action flick has Bruce Willis fighting terrorists who’ve taken over Nakatomi Tower in Los Angeles although its real name is Fox Plaza tower. Both the exterior and the interior of the tower were used to film the movie and who can forget the opening song, Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC.

Regardless of what Christmas movie rocks your stockings, make that popcorn, snuggle under the blanket with family, friends, or that certain someone and relive those warm and fuzzy moments again.  Believe in the magic!

The smallest Province in Canada

I was born in the smallest province in Canada – Prince Edward Island, although we moved to Ontario when I was two years old we have always gone back periodically for visits to our relatives.  When I was sixteen, a friend and I travelled by train then bus to Charlottetown (cradle of Confederation) and couldn’t believe how friendly everyone was down there or talented for that matter.  All my cousins and their kids play some kind of musical instrument and sing.  I loved when we all got together and had old fashioned square dances or ceilidhs (kitchen party).  They are some of the warmest and happiest memories for me.

I feel it is my duty to give you a little taste of what life is like on the Island at least in the summer months, as there and elsewhere in Canada we are now moving into the snow season which lasts up till March, early April.  Here is the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of nuggets regarding PEI.

 

The floral emblem of PEI is the Pink Lady’s Slipper established in 1965.  This perennial orchid grows from a height of six inches to 15 inches (15-40 cm).  You can find her in early summer in mixed woodland and bog areas of the Island.  These are rare flowers and you are not allowed to pick them.  Other names for it are Whip-Poor-Wills Shoe, Stemless Lady’s Slipper or Moccasin Flower.  The Lupins or lupines above grow wild and populate the ditches and meadows unfolding a carpet of colour in early summer.

 

Showy Ladyslipper

This is the land of Anne (of Green Gables fame) and is a popular destination for the Japanese tourists who think of her as a role model who personifies virtues that they admire.  The musical play based on the book has been running in Charlottetown every summer since 1965.

Lucy Maude Montgomery published 20 novels, over 500 short stories, 30 essays, an autobiography and a book of poetry. Many of them are still read around the world.

Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables has been translated into 25 languages and the historic site of Prince Edward Island National Park, which is technically Anne’s birth place, sees over 125,000 visitors each year.

Province House

The birthplace of Confederation and the seat of PEI’s provincial legislature since 1847, Province House National Historic Site is Charlottetown’s most significant cultural landmark. A magnificent example of neo-classical architecture set in a beautiful and quiet garden you can learn about the history of the Fathers of Confederation and see how the house remains a centre of political life for Islanders today.  

Fun Facts about PEI  LOBSTER

 

  • The famous P.E.I red dirt actually gets its colour from the high iron content which oxidizes when exposed to air.
  • The Confederation Bridge, completed in 1997, connects P.E.I. to New Brunswick and it is the longest bridge in the world over ice covered waters!
  • Potatoes are big in P.E.I. as it is the number one crop in the province!
  • Ten million world-class Malpeque oysters are harvested annually.
  • PEI is known for it’s lobster suppers and homemade pies and internationally renowned mussels.
  • Seaweed from PEI’s famous beaches (Irish Moss) ends up in your shampoo, cheese and ice cream.
  • P.E.I. is so small that it accounts for only 0.1% of the total area of Canada!
  • Prince Edward Island’s flag was adopted on March 24, 1964.  It mimics the province’s shield, showing an oak tree and three saplings.  The Oak is known as the “Oak of England”  the saplings represent the three counties of the province:  King’s, Queen’s and Prince
  • Charlottetown is the capital of Prince Edward Island. In 2017 it had a population of 36,000 plus.
  • The Mi’kmaqs were the first people to live on Prince Edward Island. They called the island Epekwik – meaning Resting On The Waves.
  • The island was named Prince Edward in 1799 in honour of Queen Victoria’s father – Edward, Duke of Kent.
  • Charlottetown takes its name from Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III.
  • The population of PEI is approximately 153,000. About 46% of the population lives in a city or town; the rest of the population lives in a rural setting.
  • Prince Edward Island is 220 kilometers long by six to sixty-four kilometers wide. There is no place on the island that is more than 16 kilometers from the sea.
  • The 273 kilometer Confederation Trail – is open to walkers, cyclists, runners and wheelchairs in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter. It takes you from one tip of the island to the other on old railway lines.


    Stay tuned for some more information on the beautiful lighthouses that dot the countryside.  img232 - Copy

 

Jump, go ahead and jump!

With no disrespect to Van Halen, I will recount for you my version of events oh so many years ago when I did go ahead and jump – out of an airplane extremely high above the ground.  To this day I am not sure what tempted me to proceed in this adventure where in all probability I could have been killed but let’s just say I was young and foolish and leave it at that.  The photo above was borrowed from the internet as they didn’t have cameras in my day.  Just kidding but we didn’t take shots (other than vodka) back then.

My co-conspirator in crime was my boss at the time and he was the one who suggested we go parachuting and I of course readily agreed.  The week-end came and we drove to the small airfield where like-minded individuals met us. The course began with a 3 to 5 hour training program completed in classroom.  Here, you learn everything you need to know to successfully complete a skydive, including parachute equipment, exit procedures, freefall body position (arch), canopy control and emergency protocol to jump from the plane and descend safely.

arch for jumpingThere is a little bit of listening and then some practicing where you hurl yourself spread-eagled off this tower-like structure and into a big bag of air (no, not your local politician) and then scramble up again and do it all over until we have the idea down pat.  One small problem with this being you are not falling from thousands of feet and there is no air bag upon landing, just good, old hard ground if you are lucky.

At an altitude of 4,000 feet, guided by the instructor, you exit the airplane with the static line automatically deploying your main parachute during a free fall of up to 5 seconds. You then steer your gliding canopy down into the landing field with the assistance of a ground radio instructor who transmits instructions to the radio attached to front of the harness.

Now, that particular week-end it was too windy for beginners to go up but more experienced jumpers went and we decided to stick around and watch them drifting peacefully down.  Unfortunately, this was not the case because of said wind and some of these experienced people ended up hanging from trees and being slammed into the cars in the parking lot by buffeting chutes.  Any sane individual would say okay not coming  back next week but no, we did go back.

I loved being up in a small plane watching the dwindling landscape out the open door waiting for my turn to throw myself out and the next thing I knew I was out and according to those watching kicking and scrambling to get back to the plane, not that wonderful arms and legs flung out style – more like riding an imaginary bike with legs flailing.  Once the chute opened by static line (you have to be prepared to pull the cord yourself if it doesn’t open within a certain time frame), it was spectacular, so peaceful.  As the ground approached however, I began to wonder why they weren’t contacting me by radio to assist with which line to pull left or right so I could land close to the big target on the airfield because I seemed to be drifting further afield.

I really had a sense of panic though when it looked like I was headed straight into power lines and then smack dab in the middle of the road and all of a sudden the ditch was there and it flashed through my mind I could actually die.  This happens in a matter of seconds, one thought forming in your mind being replaced before being finished by a much more pressing one and all of a sudden you hit the ground and roll like they taught you and you realize you are still in one piece except for the cut on your chin from the helmet strap when you left the plane and the sore knee from landing improperly before executing the ninja roll.  They sent out a truck to gather up the strays and discovered my radio wasn’t working so I couldn’t hear them trying to steer me in the right direction.  Then, they asked me if I wanted to go again.  Hell no!  Just get me to the nearest bar, thanks!  Not something I would do again but I am glad I did do it!  There certainly was an adrenaline rush involved, that’s for sure!  I can strike that off the bucket list!

Spirit Bears, Eagles and Orcas of BC

In the summer of 1999, Chicago cooked up a tourism ploy that not only worked like a charm, but also inspired countless imitators. Fiberglass cows–300 strong–decorated by local artists were placed around the city. The “Cows on Parade”–inspired by a Swiss project in 1998–began in early June and lasted through Halloween.

“Moose in the City” was a year 2000 project by the City of Toronto in which 326 life-sized moose sculptures were placed throughout the city and decorated by local artists.

orcas_eventlogo“Orcas in the City” was a 2004 British Columbia fund-raising project for the B C Lion’s Society, the first of four such events that I am aware of.  Many locals do not share the idea that this ‘art’ represents their city and find some of them downright embarrassing or kitschy and would just as soon not have them displayed throughout the downtown.  I, however am one of those people that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and I commend the imagination and artistic ability that is showcased in many of the works of art and the camp in some.

 


‘Bears in the City’, was a British Columbia charity fund-raising initiative in 2006 where life size (approx. 7ft) custom formed fiberglass Spirit Bears were distributed across BC to local artists who created a unique design and applied it to the surface in the medium of their choosing. The Bear became the artist’s canvas. Once the work was completed the Spirit Bear was displayed in prominent public spaces around the participating cities.

The bear was actually the rare “Spirit Bear” or “Kermode Bear”. A First Nation legend states that the Raven, their creator, made these bears white as a reminder of the time when the world was pure and clean and covered with snowdrifts and ice blue glaciers. Raven promised that these bears would live in peace and harmony forever.

The exhibit ended with the great ‘Spirit Bear Auction’, a gala event where the Spirit Bears were put on the block and auctioned to the highest bidder. Spirit Bear auction proceeds benefited the BC Lions Society’s Easter Seal Operations and the Vancouver Canucks for Kids Fund.


‘Nazzy Bear’ was named in honour of Marcus Naslund – the captain of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.  The artist was Dean Lauze who painted it for Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment.  More of a promotional piece than ‘art’ could be argued here but definitely a more light-hearted version of spirit. Besides, how do we know that kermodes don’t appreciate hockey!

The ‘Kody’ bear was designed by my brother-in-law Gene Sebelius who did all the mosaic work and his good friend and artist, Bonnie Spencer who did all the painting.


 

Note:  The Eagles can be found on this website with an explanation of the project and photos of the work.  Keep in mind however that this was from 2010 and I could not find any contact info on this site so the eagles they say were not purchased at that time may indeed have sold by now.  www.eaglesinthecity.com

The front and back photos on right were by the renowned artist Jerry Whitehead


 

Below is a link to a newsletter regarding the Terra Cotta Warriors initiative of 2012

Terra Cotta Warriors 2012


Presently in Bonn, Germany you can find these and other representations of their beloved Ludwig van Beethoven who was born in this city.

 

If you know of other artistic displays of fiberglass statues that are auctioned off to raise funds for worthwhile charities, I would love to hear about them and see some of your photos!  Thanks for visiting and have a tremendous day!

Is being Wealthy the same as being Rich?

Money symbolRecently I finished another book on financial planning and how to become wealthy that my boss passed on to me.  While it is a little late for me as I am now retired (working part-time) and far from wealthy – I consider myself to be very rich.  For those 25 years and under I’ll give you the gist of what I have read on the subject of making money at the end of this post…because while money is a factor it isn’t just money that makes one rich.

For instance, I love to travel and wish I had started much sooner in life because the experiences while travelling have been educational, entertaining and life sustaining – not always – sometimes it is a vacation after all where the purpose is to relax and get away from it all … and sometimes things happen that dampen the enjoyment, but that is life.

I had a discussion with some of my friends recently on the topic of what makes one rich and surprisingly most didn’t say money but things like health, family, having a child, creating art, being in a job/career they loved, being in love, and getting out.  Don’t get me wrong they all thought having more money would help but they aren’t obsessed with it and the societal pressures from advertising to buy, buy, buy – spend, spend, spend!  By the way when I said getting out I meant outside the house, either on some level of fitness, to take in an event, interacting with others in some form of sport or recreation, just getting fresh air or watching a beautiful sunset.

 

Many people, usually ones that realize late in life their aches and pains are going to be a constant part of their lives are happy they are still able to do things and have their health so they consider themselves rich.  Others get together often with their families not just for Christmas and Thanksgiving but for summer barbecues, winter “games nights” and think that family is very important and that they are richer because of the number and quality of their friends and siblings or daughters and sons, etc.  And some people are interested in art and architecture, creating something, music and history and get out to have another shared experience and feel richer for it!  just like Scotia Bank says … you are richer than you think!

And now for that little nugget of info I promised at the beginning!  Pay yourself first, put that money into an investment and through the miracle of compound interest – watch it grow!  In other words, have your employer deduct a certain amount from your pay check at source – that way you will never miss it and put into a separate investment and leave it alone for twenty years – you’ll be surprised what you have at the end of that time period!  Easy, peasy! Lemon squeezy!  Right!!!


 

“Song for Zulu”

Song for Zulu

This song by Phosphorescent is featured on their Dead Oceans Album and is on the soundtrack of The Spectacular Now coming of age movie from 2013.  It got a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes website and is considered to be a thoughtful and poignant representation of teen angst.  I, however, have not seen it.  I am just enthralled with the song, it calms my being and allows me to delve deep into my own emotions and heartbreaks and come out on the other side.  I play it whenever I am feeling down because it gives me hope.  It is painful and beautiful all in one!

It is also on the soundtrack for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from 2014.  Again, another movie I have not seen!

I believe music can help change your life.  Both my husband and I have a list of songs we want played at our funerals that meant something to us as a couple and independently.  This may seem a little macabre to some but we feel it will help our friends remember the good times shared and not the sadness in our passing.

Image result for death quotes Image result for death quotes Image result for death quotes

The message here – enjoy life, it’s the only one you’ll have!

My older brother

Recently my older brother passed away.  He had been in a long term care home for seven years and had all his faculties until the end.  He had a sardonic sense of humour and I visited him regularly for all that time.  We got to know each other a bit better but he always considered me the scatter-brained sister who made lots of mistakes which he was quite willing to point out but I loved him because he was my brother and that is what family is all about.  You don’t have to agree with them or even like them all the time but you are there for them and vice versa.

I remember when we were all still at home and some of us believed in Santa Claus as children and we would all have stockings stuffed with various kinds of nuts and an orange or an apple, a few bits of candy and practical stuff like mittens or socks for the cold winter months.  We would draw names in our household and buy only one gift and everyone hoped that my brother would draw their name as he wrapped his small gift elaborately, taping and hiding coins and bills throughout and putting that small box into a bigger box like Russian nesting dolls (Matryoshka dolls) and when you were done, the rest of the kids could go through it all again and anything missed would become theirs so it was a very exciting game you didn’t want to lose and you felt special because he put so much time and effort into it.

Brothers can be a real pain in the ass at times but when they are gone, you really miss the sarcasm and the kindness shown, the teasing and laughter.  He was a book worm and having a conversation was sometimes awkward but when we played card games or board games he was very competitive and very good at trash talking.  May he rest in peace!

The best selling author of all time

Who is the greatest selling author in the world?  If you said William Shakespeare you wouldn’t be wrong as he is tied with Agatha Christie for that distinctive honour according to Google.  This forty years after her death in 1976.  Of course, William has been dead a few centuries longer than that (1616).

Why do I bring this up at all – because my sister-in-law has been gadding about Europe for the past two years mostly in France, Spain and Italy but with a few exotics thrown in for good measure like Morocco.  To say that I am livid with envy would be an understatement.  Naturally I comment positively on all the photos she posts on Facebook but the whole time I’m wishing it were me.  I am very proud of her for leaving the rat race, storing all her stuff and taking off to see all the places she’s read about for years… unlike her fine arts family member she is a history and literature buff so some of the places she has chosen to visit might not have occurred to me.  For instance, visiting the summer home of Agatha Christie as mentioned.  After seeing the pictures I decided to do a little research and thought I’d share with you.

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on September 15 1890 in Ashfield on the northern edge of Torquay, a seaside town in Devon, England. The Victorian villa was demolished in the Sixties – a blue plaque marks the spot – but the town is replete with sites associated with the author’s life. Educated at home by her mother, Christie began writing detective fiction while working as a nurse during World War I.  It was due to this avocation that she developed a knowledge of poisons which she used quite liberally in a lot of her novels.  She did not like violence – a side effect I’m sure of seeing it first hand during the war.  When she married Lieutenant Archibald Christie, they honeymooned at the Grand Hotel.   Her marriage to Archibald did not last, perhaps yet another casualty of that devastating war. In 1930, Christie married noted archaeologist Max Mallowen.

She travelled extensively with both her husbands, and owned many houses during the course of her long life – including several in London, important homes in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and even one in Baghdad.

QuoteHer first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), introduced Hercule Poirot, her eccentric and egotistic Belgian detective;  Poirot is one of Christie’s most famous and long-lived characters, appearing in 33 novels, one play, and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975 before returning to Styles, where, in Curtain (1975), he died.  Believe it or not, this fictional character had his obit published in the New York Times, that’s how popular he was.  The Nicaraguan government put Poirot’s face on a postage stamp.

The elderly spinster  Miss Jane Marple, her other principal detective figure, first appeared in Murder at the Vicarage (1930).  She featured in 12 of Agatha Christie’s crime novels and in 20 short stories.

Dame Agatha Christie is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Bestselling Author.  Her books have sold over 2 billion copies in 44 languages.  Royalties are about $4 million per year.  Agatha Christie is also one of the world’s most prolific writers, or authoress (as she called herself).  She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1971.

Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap has the longest theatrical run, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on November 25, 1952. It moved next door to the St. Martin’s Theatre on March 25, 1974, not missing a single performance. It continues to this day.

3,000,000 copies of Murder on the Orient Express (published in 1934) were sold in 1974 alone when the Albert Finney film adaptation opened!  Recently, Sir Kenneth Branagh brought the fussy detective Poirot back to life in his movie adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express which also starred Johnny Depp and a certain other grand Dame — Judi Dench and an all star cast.

Later on I will post some of my sister-in-laws photos of Agatha’s summer home with information on where and how it came to be on the National Historic register.  Right now I will leave you with a few quotes from the great authoress herself.

An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her.

Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.

The art of Nick Park and Peter Lord

Chicken runAardman Animations was co-founded in 1972 by David Sproxton and Peter Lord in Bristol, England and are famous worldwide for their Wallace and Gromit features.  Nick Park who joined them won Aardman Animations first Oscar with “Creature Comforts”. Until Chicken Run, the focus of Aardman Animations had been animated shorts and TV commercials. Three of Aardman’s animated shorts have won Academy Awards for “Best Animated Short.” This includes “Creature Comforts (above),” “The Wrong Trousers,” and “A Close Shave.”

In Chicken Run a total of 534 puppets were made with 16 Gingers (heroine) and 12 Rockys (hero). Each puppet costs around £3,000 to make.

Chicken Run took 3 1/2 years to complete and the research into the film included a visit to a chicken farm in Yorkshire.  In case you don’t remember Chicken Run which came out in 2000 it is loosely based on “The Great Escape” – you know the movie where prisoners of war in Germany are digging all these tunnels and Steve McQueen is flying around on a motorcycle.

Chicken Run is an animation film wherein the characters are painstakingly created out of clay and filmed in a stop motion sequence where they take a shot, move the arm or change the expression and then take another shot of film.  It is something that I would never have the patience for but I certainly admire the talent and the process involved.

In Chicken Run, audiences will notice that nearly every chicken wears some sort of scarf or necklace. While this method served well to help identify each chicken, it served a more important purpose of hiding the seams from where the heads of the chickens detach. Each chicken had up to 60 different beaks to properly recreate vowel and consonant sounds for realistic talking. Like the chickens, the humans had a series of detachable mouths to properly recreate speech patterns. Forty animators worked on the film to bring the chickens to life and the process is highly time consuming.  Consider that one second of film requires 24 frames.  Aardman had to shoot one frame at a time with the chickens being animated in each frame for seamless transition of movement….so, for just ten seconds of film, Aardman had to worry about 240 individual frames.  One minute of film is 1,440 frames long.  They also had to be diligent about lighting, synchronization, speed, camera control, shadows, etc.  One scene could take weeks to accomplish.

And that my friends is where the art comes in because as a member of the audience you are not even aware of all this work – you are caught up in the action, the characters and the story being told just like any Bruce Willis Die Hard, Transformer, Iron Man movies – ONLY WITH CHICKENS.

Trivia note:  Mrs. Tweedy, the ‘villainous’ of the piece was based on Alan Rickman’s villain in Die Hard apparently.

If you have never seen it, I highly recommend you stream it, rent it, buy it, borrow it, whatever you like and watch it.  If you love animated movies like I do you will thoroughly enjoy it though you might have a little problem with the accents but then that’s why you have subtitles!