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Artsy Fartsy Pics: Greenfield Village Edition

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My family went up to see Thomas the tank engine at Greenfield Village this weekend. We all had fun even though the weather didn’t cooperate. I can’t call it a “typical Michigan spring day” because I only experienced rain, sun, clouds, and wind. I didn’t see any snow until the next day.

I had fun taking pictures. I had even more fun after I got home adding filters and effects to them and generally making a gloomy day appear a little brighter. Some might think this is overkill, but I love them.


Steam Tractor


 Back in the days when anthropomorphic engines regularly crossed the countryside.

Back in the days when anthropomorphic engines regularly crossed the countryside.


The Depot

The Depot


The Roundhouse

The Roundhouse


The Workshop

The Workshop


Train Crane

Train Crane


The gnome that lives under the buffer.

The gnome that lives under the buffer.


I can picture this flickering as some sort of stop-motion movie you would pay a nickel to watch inside a machine.

I can picture this flickering as some sort of stop-motion movie you would pay a nickel to watch inside a machine.


You gotta have a caboose...

You gotta have a caboose…


Vibrant Thomas

Vibrant Thomas


An out-of-sight very orange engine, by request of my child.

An out-of-sight very orange engine, by request of my child.


Sir Topham Hat’s view, or as I like to remember it: Too dang cold to stand outside any longer.

Sir Topham Hat’s view, or as I like to remember it: Too dang cold to stand outside any longer.

Hope you enjoyed it!


Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!



The other day I happened to have on America’s Funniest Home Videos, which I rarely watch. My son sat next to me on the couch, constantly asking, “What happened? What happened, Mommy?”

There are only so many times I can answer, “He fell down, honey.”

America's Funniest Home Videos

America’s Funniest Home Videos

There was a time when I thought that America’s Funniest Home Videos wold run out of material.

Wait, listen to me before you judge. It was a past century, a very different time.

When the show debuted in 1989, the viewing audience sent in their videotaped bloopers. At that time, not every household could even afford a video camera. And not everyone who owned one captured something funny enough for the show. Then, in a cash grab, people went through their old 8mm film looking for comedy gold.

But, at some point, I figured people would run out accidents from the past to send in. And there was no way recent footage could keep up with the demand to keep the show on the air, right?

I didn’t foresee the birth of the smart phone. (If I had, I would be sitting here naked in a pile of money right now.) People overnight were able to capture absolutely every single second of their lives in a file of moving pictures. I mean, look at the tragedy of 9/11/2001. BOTH planes crashing into the World Trade Center were caught on tape.

Falling down has gone from being shot on film to recorded on video tape to saved in a file. No more worrying about that pesky trip to the post office to ship your bulky old black plastic VHS to California. Now you can just email the footage for free. The evolution of earning money for clumsiness in the last three decades is staggering.


Speaking of AFV, I have always wondered why the audience dresses up in suits and fancy dresses. Am I the only one that thinks that is bizarre? It is a show a show where people obtain groin injuries for others’ entertainment. Are the audience members planning to dine at a hoity-toity restaurant after? AFV is always promoting Disney. Couldn’t they just have some tourists from Disneyland file into the studio wearing their shorts and Hawaiian shirts and ball caps? (Confession: I have never been to a Disney theme park, but that is what I imagine the people all wear.)

Please check out my updated EVENTS page, as I have just added a few new ones for this year.

And speaking of events, I have a NEW CONTEST running where you can win a pair of passes to the GREAT LAKES BOOK BASH October 10th in Kalamazoo, MI. Winner provides own transportation and/or lodging. See contest for complete rules. Contest ends September 15, 2015.

The Clinton Theater

There is a little place I sometimes go. It is cheap and entertaining (Not many places can say that these days).

Do you know how in movies whenever they show a small town street scene from the 1950’s there is always a tiny movie theater? Unbelievably, some of them still exist.

Clinton Theater, Clinton, Michigan. Image owned by The Clinton Theater

The Clinton Theater is one of these theaters. Located in Clinton, Michigan, pop. 2,336, their movies were only $3 when my husband and I first went to a show there. The refreshment prices were incredibly reasonable as well. The theater only has one screen. They only have one showtime a day in the evening, sometimes two on Saturday and Sunday. My theory is that everyone who works there also has a day job and is therefore unavailable to show movies during the day. And that whoever works there are probably the same people who own it as well.

If the Clinton Theater is showing a popular movie, it is usually necessary to get there early, as seats are limited. The lobby is very small and is usually filled with the people in line for refreshments. The theater is small and cozy. They play an eclectic selection of interesting music (or maybe it is just really old music) while you wait for movie time. They store their extra bottles of pop in the front of the theater. They are very trusting of their customers. It adds to the small-town feel. I am not that trusting.

When the film (yes, 35mm film) begins to roll, first you see hand-drawn animation of…an alien maybe? (The official website informs me they are a bird and a fish.) who welcome you to The Clinton Theater. Then the previews. Watching the previews, you have no idea which films will play in this actual theater. Unlike the ten screen multiplex, this theater only has one screen, remember?

Which movie they show each week is based firstly on a website vote (how modern for such an old theater). Secondly, it is based on when they can get a physical copy of the film. Those are becoming harder and harder to come by, with all movie studios moving to release all their films in digital. This causes a delay for when The Clinton Theater can get a new hit movie. I assume that this process probably frustrates the hell out of the owners. I kind of like it because if I missed a movie when it was at the multiplex, (ex. Snow White and The Huntsman) I can watch for it to be showing in Clinton. Or if it was a movie I wanted to see again in theaters (ex. all Twilight Saga movies) without having to pay full price, I can go to Clinton.

They have since raised admission to $4 a movie, although they usually still have a $3 bargain night if you check their website. Which is a perfect price point if you see a movie advertised that you think you might want to rent, but you don’t want to have to wait that long (ex. Joyous Noise). They also sell refillable fountain cups and popcorn tubs that you can bring in on future visits and get a refill for a fraction of the price.

The Clinton Theater had a few fundraisers to raise money to buy a digital projector, as they knew the future of their business depended on it. I kept meaning to attend one of their fundraisers or send them a check. I figured I had plenty of time, as they would be collecting money for it for years to come.

Then last week they announced that they will be getting a digital projector, possibly as early as November. Well, dang. That was fast. I am guessing they must have received one huge donation to fill in the gaps in funding. I saw an article in Readers Digest where a small town won a contest run by the magazine to put in a digital projector for their own down-home movie house. They only won $25,000 toward their goal of the $70,000 needed to convert their theater.

Well, since I missed my chance to donate to The Clinton Theater, I guess I will just have to support local business and watch movies there more often. Nowadays, I have to go to the movies by myself, as my husband and I have a shortage of babysitters. I can’t wait until my son is old enough to sit through a movie with us. Maybe in a few years…

My parting thought: The Clinton Theater is awesome and cool! If you live close by, drive there for a movie sometime (additional parking in the back). If not, find the closest similar theater to you and enjoy the savings and fun. (The Maumee Indoor Theater is another great small theater I have been to.)

Image owned by The Clinton Theater

132 West Michigan Ave. (US-12)
Clinton, MI 49236

For Showtimes:
Call: 517-456-4315

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I flippin’ love this picture!

I totally love this picture of my son. But alas, I seem to be the only one who sees the ultimate beauty and meaning in it. It was taken of my son playing in a gazebo when we visited the Huckleberry Railroad and Crossroads Village earlier this year (for more info on that adventure, click here.)

I took the picture with my old 5 megapixel camera. But I totally love that camera. The sun was shining, so I couldn’t even really tell what I was getting as it was hard to see my LCD screen.

The picture turned out so stinking well!!! The steps draw you in. They are wonderfully aged and crisp white at the same time. The railing and even the beams of the ceiling draw you in to the picture as they head for their unseen point of convergence. (And looking at it I don’t even think about how many bee’s nests are up in the rafters, although I did think that when I was there in person.) The plant life is so green and well balanced. I love the hint of yellow in the upper right corner. Except for the clothing, this picture could have been taken a hundred years ago, or yesterday. (Timeless.) I especially like that you can’t see any hint of his diaper between the bottom of his shirt and the top of his shorts.

I had an 8″ X 10″ made of this photo. (As a print, all the colors and objects totally pop.) I put it in a matted frame. I feel like the picture should come with a great quote about climbing into your future or stepping into your life. (I Googled. I couldn’t find one:( The image just represents so much for me. I see it as my son aging with each step he climbs. And I am so thankful for that, especially after having the same major surgery twice in 2011. He is stepping up into a world of endless possibilities.

It also looks like it could be used for a motivational poster in a corporate office. It would have to have a motto like “No progress is made until we take the first step”, or something boring like that.

I know years from now, he will be all grown up and I will look at that picture and wonder what happened to that little boy. My little boy.

I also think the picture looks like one that might come in a picture frame when you buy it (except then it would probably be black and white–Oooooo. How good would that picture look in black and white?!!) I strive in life for things like that–to meet the standard of consumerism. I sometimes make dinner and try to get it to look like a restaurant meal when it hits the plate or table. I even do it with simple things. I love getting a dill pickle spear with my sandwich at a restaurant, but normally don’t think to add it to my plate with my chips unless I am thinking with the “restaurant” state-of-mind.

It turns out black and white didn’t rock, but blue-tint is awesome!

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Dead Dad Movie (Non-Feature Film Edition)

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(Click here to see my previous post about Dead Dad feature films.)

[This the only footage I have of my dad. My dad died before I was born. My mom said that her dad (my grandpa) died in December 1973. She was using up the film on his movie camera, so this was probably taken in 1974.]

Family movies. About once a year, when I was young, my mom would force my Gramma to get out the films (Super 8?) and the projector and we would watch them. Usually this was a few months after it was first discussed, because it seemed like my Gramma always needed to buy a new light bulb for the projector. There were about 15 reels of film. My mom always wanted to watch the one with my dad on it first. No one could ever remember which reel it was on.

The family movies contained relatives I had never met and would never meet. Relatives that my mom and Gramma had (it seemed) endless stories about. There were movies of my Gramma’s house before the porch was built and before it was screened in. There were movies of my mom and Gramma helping to build my uncle’s house. An uncle I did actually get to meet before he died, but he moved out of that house before I ever saw it.

In the movies, there were many scenes of dogs pooping (Ginger, who was our dog when I was young, and Suzy, my Gramma’s dog that died shortly after I was born, and my Great Grandpa’s future dog, Rusty). There was a flood rushing through my Gramma’s front yard. There were boring movies of driving out West to Yellowstone, taken from car windows. There was a more endlessly boring boat trip to Lower Tahquamenon Falls, which sort of blends in to another at Pictured Rocks. These trip movies also featured everyone walking from the car to the restroom and back again.

I was always disappointed that I was not represented in those movies. Here were my mom and Gramma and uncle, who I actually knew, fraternizing with all these strangers. They were living lives I would never know anything of, except for their stories and these movies. My lack of representation bothered me so much so that in college, studying Communications-Radio & TV Broadcasting, I checked the video camera out one weekend and shot my own home movies. One problem, my movies had sound. My Gramma’s did not. When I watch my home movies now, I watch them on mute. I prattle on about this and that. What I really want to see are my old clothes and furniture and posters on my walls. And I love on the video when my asbestos friend and I go to the gas station (which in a year would be the site of my first real job) and gas is $1.24. She says “$1.24! I should be able to put gold in my car for $1.24!”

In the late 1980’s my mom decided to have the films transferred to VHS. We numbered what order to transfer them in, placing the film with my dad first. At the time, Sears was running a promotion where they gave you a free extra VHS copy to send to America’s Funniest Home Videos (The new hit show:P). It even came in a cardboard box with the show’s address on it, all ready to mail. (Of course, our only funny scene, of a bear trying to get into the sunroof of a Volkswagen Beetle, had long ago been lost to the unfortunate break and scotch tape repair.) So, we kept one tape and my Gramma kept the other. My mom and I could watch it whenever we wanted. We would watch the beginning, with family and dogs. We stopped it when the Mackinac Bridge came into view, always skipping the boat trips.

In the 2000’s, my work had a discount offer to get film/slides/VHS converted to DVD. I decided I should torture the old footage and have it converted one last time. But, what to convert? The film had continued to deteriorate in my Gramma’s hot apartment. So then, which VHS? The one that had been kept in our hot trailer or my Gramma’s hot apartment? (Boy, analog is sure fragile.) I believe I chose my Gramma’s VHS tape, because it had been viewed very few times, as she had given us her VCR, which is what we watched our copy of the tape on.

Yes, the quality is iffy. And all the ritual is gone out of it. No setting the date, buying the light bulb. No guessing what was on each reel, no popcorn. No narration by those who had lived it. But it still feels like preserving history. My history. And now my son can watch them too. He can see the few fleeting seconds that are captured of my dad.

Then, he will know him as well as I do.

Looking to convert your own memories? I recommend The Archival Company. Who do I NOT recommend? Walmart.

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