Monday, December 22, 2014

Old Friends at Yuletide

Jana in Reindeer mode
Old friends are the best.

We had a little mini-reunion over the weekend.  It was just me and three friends I have not seen for a very long time.

Randy and his antlers
I love these folks.  They are a lot of fun to be with!  Jana, Vicki and I used to sing together and performed all over the southland.

Vicki has since moved to Arizona, and I don't see any of them often enough.
As I get older I value more and more the things money can't buy, like spending time with cherished friends.  I hope this holiday season brings you in touch with people you love, too.  Good friends and family are great gifts that can't be purchased or exchanged - merely treasured for ever.

Goofy friends are the best, aren't they?
Only three more days until Christmas!  Ho Ho Ho!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas is Coming!

Look what we got, Mom!
You can tell that Christmas is around the corner.  We're all getting excited as packages and cards arrive in the mail!

It looks like it's from Aunt Kirsti and Uncle Jay!
Jack is excited about Christmas, too!  He knows that he's getting something special from Santa this year!

I hope he likes it!
Do you think there's anything else out there from the mailman?
It doesn't stop him from growling at the postman, though.  My brave boy growls at anyone who comes up our sidewalk!  Then he bravely runs and hides in the bedroom.

My hero!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Baby Tree

A couple of years ago, our company stopped putting up a real evergreen tree at Christmas, and bought a fake tree.  I really have no major problems with this, as I am allergic to the real ones and they plug up my nose and make me sneeze.

My chief objection to this is they bought a tree that was rather pathetic.  It's kinda scrawny and not very tall.

This year, a co-worker came up with a brilliant holiday plan to make this pathetic tree more interesting. 

In response, management sent around a notice to all the employees that work here in the corporate offices, asking everyone to submit a handmade ornament.

The ornament had to have certain characteristics, though!

It had to contain a baby picture of the employee!

What a great idea!

At first we didn't know if anyone would respond.  The tree sat empty of any decorations for days.

Then, slowly, the tree began to fill up with handmade ornaments bearing photos of some adorable kids.

It's now become a game to see if we can figure out who everyone is!

There are some cuties in this line-up!

Oddly enough, when you find out who is in some of these baby pictures you invariably go - wow, you haven't really changed at all, have you?

It's been a lot of fun!

Hope you are enjoying this wonderful season too!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Party!

Holiday Scene on the front lawn
Every year my friends up in North Hills have a lovely Christmas party.  It is packed with people and full of good food, good cheer and good conversation.

This year was no exception.

Bliss Lights at the front door
There were beautiful lights and holiday decorations to greet us as we arrived.

There were three separate tables set up with goodies of all kinds.

I managed to get a whole meal out of various pasta salads and sandwiches, and that doesn't begin to mention all the delicious things that were available to eat!

The house was decorated to the hilt, and a cozy fire was crackling in the ... well, the TV.  It doesn't matter, it may not have been warm, but it was delightful.

The tree was just marvelous

There were tons of people there.  Some people I hadn't seen for a long time!  Some people who were new and fun to meet.

It was a great evening.

As we get closer to Christmas, I hope you remember to enjoy yourself!

Please note: The top 2 photos are by J. Edwards

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Stetson Stratoliner

Back in the day when men wore hats on a regular basis, those hats were often named after really cool things.  That is the case with the Stetson Stratoliner, a hat named after one of the most advanced operational airplanes of its time.
An article about the Stratoliner airplane from Aero Digest, Circa 1940
Boeing's 307 Stratoliner entered into airline service in 1940.  It was immediately dubbed the "Flying Whale" for its chubby dimensions.

The Stratoliner at the airfield
This plane was remarkable, though. It's appearance ushered in a whole new era in avionics. It was the first in-service pressurized airplane and airliner. That's because it's cabin pressurization, air conditioning and heating that enable today's high altitude passenger jet airliners to fly above the weather and turbulence, where thin air and sub-zero temps could potentially kill passengers within minutes if they were unprotected.

The Stratoliner in flight
Only 10 of these remarkable aircraft were built, but they were so solid one was reported to still be carrying passengers in 1986!

The Stratoliner hat:  It's fun having a high-style husband... for a change!
The wide body airliner featured a luxurious 33-passenger cabin.  It was pressurized, air-conditioned and heated.  It had passenger compartments and sleeping berths with windows!  It also featured individual reclining sleeper seats, large seat windows (12 x 16 inches or so), men's and women's lavatories with skylights and a galley with a skylight.

An artist's conception of the Stratoliner interior
Howard Hughes had a special model built just for himself.  It featured more powerful engines and extra fuel tanks for a planned around-the-world flight.  This wonderful trip was cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II.

After the War, Hughes' plane was outfitted with a luxury interior, including a bedroom - and earned the nickname "The Flying Penthouse".

Boeing's Stratoliner factory
According to one website, it cost $12,000 for passage on one of these planes, and that was merely a small flight to the middle of the country from the Coast.  That $12,000 is the equivalent of a whopping hundred thousand dollars in today's money.

The Stratoliner men's hat was named after this amazing airplane.  It was produced by Stetson in the 1940s.   It had a classic style, and a wider brim than the popular urban fedora.  It also featured a lighter, quality fur felt construction made from a thinner, softer felt.  

The Stetson company decided to name the new hat after the Boeing Stratoliner, taking advantage of the press from Howard Hughes' purchase of one of the luxury planes and his association with TWA, the airline that flew the Stratoliners.      

A Vintage Stratoliner hatbox
In 2011, Stetson re-introduced the Stetson Hat using the same hat blocks used for the original.  They immediately discovered there was a lot of enthusiasm for this "retro" hat and that there were many collectors that were interested in it.

Enter my brother, the hat aficionado!

Did you know a real men's fedora - even a Stetson Stratoliner, comes without a 'bash' in it?  Here it is straight from the factory:

The Modern Stetson Stratoliner straight from the factory
 You have to steam it and shape it yourself:
The Stratoliner after shaping
And then you get a dashing man to model it for you.  That's an important part of the equation!

My handsome brother wearing his new Stetson Stratoliner
Hey (to quote the earlier ad), a High-Style Brother... for a change?  Naw! Not at all. He's always a class act in my book! 

Thanks for sharing the history of this very cool hat, Jay!

Thanks to the Fedora Lounge Website, and too!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Haul Out the Hollly!

My beautiful Swedish Sister-in-law, Kirsti, decorating the tree
We need a little Christmas!

My brother's family decorates the traditional Scandinavian way every year, with streamers of Norwegian and Swedish flags, just like they do in the "old country".

When the tree looked a little too Norwegian, my nephew Christian decided to remedy it!

Christian mischievously adding a Swedish flag to the Norwegian tree
It's been a battle fought at every Christmas that I can remember: which flag goes at the top?  The Norwegian flag of Jay's and my heritage, or the Swedish flag of my sister-in-law's?  Hmmmmm....

The kids have playfully made this a kind of Christmas game.

What a difference 3 years make!  Anders, a much shorter Christian and Nils with Santa in 2011
Since the above photo was taken with Santa in 2011, twelve-year-old Christian has grown a foot or two.  Anders (on the left) is currently serving as a missionary in Texas.  Nils (right) is finishing up his studies at BYU.

Ah, yes.  Being tall enough to plant the flag at the top of the tree is quite an accomplishment, Christian!

Way to go, Christian!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Once Upon a Time

In Norway these sisters are called: Tante Grøn, Tante Brun og Tante Fiolett
"Once upon a time there was a little town, and in this little town was a little street and on that street was a little yellow house where lived three sisters..."  So begins one of my favorite children's books, the Story of Aunt Green, Aunt Brown, and Aunt Lavender.

You may not have heard of author Elsa Beskow if you grew up here in America.  However, she is part of most children's literary experiences in Scandinavia.

Mother baking cookies
If you don't know about these books, you are missing out! These charming stories are known the world over, and are available in English translations.

Beskow's books often feature fairies and elves interacting with children
These are charming stories.

The Flower Festival
Elsa Beskow was born in Stockholm in 1874 of Norwegian parents.  She was educated at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design and began to contribute stories for a children's magazine called Jultomten (The Christmas Elf).
Elsa Beskow
From the Swedish Portrait Gallery
Overall she would publish some forty books with her own text and images.

Her books are often framed by decorative Art Nouveau styles.

My favorite stories are the ones about Peter and Lotta with their aunts and uncle.

Aunt Brown, Uncle Blue, Aunt Lavender and Aunt Green at Christmas
I remember well reading the stories of Aunt Green, Aunt Brown, and Aunt Lavender in my youth.  I really loved the beautiful illustrations.

Dancing around the Christmas tree with the Peter and Lotta
I also love this woman's imagination!  In her stories, children meet elves and goblins, and farm animals regularly chat with people.  Her themes concern relationships between children and adults and children taking independent initiative in their lives.

Singing Christmas Carols with Aunt Violet at the Pianoforte
These charming stories remind me of a happier, simpler world.

I went berry-picking with my grandfather as a child.  When I see pictures like these, it takes me right back to that time period.

Childhood should still be a time of innocence.  These books certainly evoke that!

As a side note: Almost all the Beskow books, and an Elsa Beskow calendar, are currently available on Amazon.