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Showing posts from December, 2015

Happy New Year from the Grand Duchy of Stollen!

A suitably 18th century New Year's Greeting!
Here's wishing all of you a happy and peaceful 2016.  May it see more figure painting, more reading of actual history rather than rule sets, and more tabletop gaming than the year just ending.  Happy New Year!

-- Stokes


The situation during Move Three of our Sittangbad refight, as seen from General MacDuff's side of the table, before additional exchanges of musketry, cannon fire, and melees are assessed.  Greg is, as usual, doing yeoman's work moving the troops for us according to our orders as well as communicating what Ross and I must take into consideration and do relative to the changing situation on the tabletop.

Sittangbad 2015: The Situation at the End of Move Two. . .

A panoramic view of the general situation at the close of Move Two.
Starting to shuttle my own troops across the River Weser, and General MacDuff's regiments are now visible in the distance.  As Princess Lea said to Han Solo way back in the original Star Wars (1977) as the Millennium Falcon sped away from the docking bay of the Death Star and the Tie Fighters appeared on their tails, "Here they come!"

-- Stokes

Christmas Wednesday. . .

 Not Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota, but it sure looked like this at times during the winters when I lived there.  There was one time during January 2004 when the temperature never climbed above zero degrees Fahrenheit for three weeks.  When, finally, we had an early February day where the mercury reached the low 20s, people walked around without hats, unzipped their winter coats, and removed their gloves.  It felt like balmy springtime. . .  and then the temperature dropped below zero degrees F. once more.
Not much happening here at the moment.  Quiet is good.  The Young Master and Grand Duchess have gone to a dentist appointment and thence to the area IKEA in search o thoe oddly sized seven watt light bulbs that some of their accent lamps take.  What a shame that it is so difficult to find and purchase these in other places, but you can't begrudge anyone for wanting to take a periodic browse around the place.

Our play-by-email refight of Sittangbad is underway, and my task, in …

A Slushy Christmas Tuesday. . .

Not our own front gates here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold, of course, but suitably quiet and suitably festive looking front gates from somewhere for Christmas Week.  
Listening to quiet Christmas jazz online at the moment with black coffee, nibbling a few Reese's Peanut Butter Cups brought by Santa Claus, and with a purring cat in my lap.  What could be better?  A cold, gray day here with a few inches of what fell as ice yesterday and turned to slush in the night.  It is supposed to grow colder here in Lower Michigan, so I imagine things will become crunchy and treacherous before long.  But otherwise, it's hard to get up in arms about much given the relaxed nature of the afternoon so far.

I managed to unpack three plastic tubs of my soldier collection yesterday evening and this morning. Thus far, everything seems to have survived the move swimmingly.  For any readers moving anytime soon, I recommend styrofoam packing peanuts packed within and around the smaller boxes/tubs holding the…

Melee Reults -- End of Move Six. . .

The situation around Fickmuhlen Village at the end of Move Six.
Well, my cavalry have fared rather badly against General MacDuff's infantry.  Something like 30 casualties to his 11 when all calculations were said and done.  I've had to fall back the usual 6" while MacDuff's outside the village have had to all back 3".  His inantry within the village are firmly in control of it at this point.  As singer Gilbert O' Sullivan might have asked 40+ years ago, "What to do?  What to do?"  While not a military man by training, experience, or profession, I am well aware of how hard it is to dislodge troops from built up areas.  Hmmm. . .

In better news, the Grand Duchess' stollen was wonderful to sample yesterday evening with fresh coffee by the fire.  Buttery and good.  The Young Master demonstrated last year that he also enjoys it, so it won't be around long enough to dry out I fear, and there will be just one this year since we got a late start on Ch…

Move, um, Six?

A close-up of one of General von Tschatschke's two forward cavalry regiments charging General MacDuff's infantry.
Currently awaiting the removal of musketry casualties and adjudication of hand-to-hand combat as well as the removal of a fresh Dresdner Stollen from the kitchen oven.

-- Stokes

A balloon shot in which we observe von Tschatschke's  three regiments of cavalry.  The right-hand unit has charged MacDuff's infantry, which reached Fickmuhlen Village first and ensconced itself at once.  The left-hand cavalry regiment has charged into contact  with another of MacDuff's infantry units just outside the village, while von Tschatschke's third regiment of cavalry remains in support.  



 Unfortunately, however, the left flank of General von Tschatschke's reserve cavalry is now dangerously exposed to possible artillery fire from General MacDuff's battery stationed atop the hill in the middle of the picture above.  In the foreground, you'll see MacDuff's…

Happy Christmas Sunday!

A pair of Norwegian Fjord Horses in the snow.  I'm not necessarily pining or the fjords myself this morning, but some snow for Nordic/Cross-Country skiing would be nice.
Another blissfully quiet morning here today although things are beginning to heat up in the Raid on Fickmuhlen play-by-email game between General MacDuff (Ross MacFarlane) and General von Tschatschke (yours truly), hosted by Greg Horne.  Watch this space for a photograph or two later today.

-- Stokes


The latest Kodak Moment in The Raid on Fickmuhlen.  General MacDuff's infantry have occupied the village ahead of General von Tschatschke's cavalry.  Drat!  Meanwhile von Tschatschke's guns at the far left have fired on MacDuff's cavalry, inflicting only minimal casualties for their trouble.  It seems von Tschatschke's troops are having difficulty establishing a line.  And what of the good von Tschatschke himself?  After one ale too many, he looks woozy and wobbly in the saddle.  Time for two aspirin …

The Painting Plan for 2016. . .

Here is a suitably 18th century Christmas greeting that I found online somewhere or other.
Letting the ol' mind (or what's let of it) wander here these last few days about what the painting queue will look like for the next 12 months.  Here is what I came up with:

1) Finish the latter half that monster 80-figure infantry regiment I began in January 2015.  Another 40 figures or so.

2) Paint the four Minden personality figures, Russian artillery crew, and two cannon I received for Christmas 2015.

3) Paint limbers, four-horse teams, and limber riders for the approximately one dozen cannon in my two 25-30mm imaginary mid-18th century armies, the Army of Stollen and its nemesis the Army of Zichenau.  Yikes!  If I'm not careful, the wargaming table will need to grow in order to accommodate these and that pontoon/wagon train I assembled back in 2014.

4) Finish painting a series of female camp followers (laundresses, ladies of ill-repute, and a Lutheran pastor who has his work cut out …

Happy Feast of Stephen.. .

A cheery seasonal street scene from somewhere that caught my fancy when I saw it.
A clear, starry, moonlit Christmas night has given way to a frosty Boxing Day here at the new Stollen Central.  As I have written here in previous years, the calm of Christmas Week following the big day is always a welcome part of the holiday season, and we will continue enjoying the Christmas Festival today with quiet seasonal jazz, our usual mix of traditional German and English carols on CD (remember those?), and a family stroll in another nearby park or nature preserve this morning before more seasonal goodies and yet another fine meal prepared jointly by yours truly and the Grand Duchess.  

There is also the daydreaming about how I might paint the Minden SYW personality figures and Russian artillery given to me by the Grand Duchess for Christmas.  It's just the added impetus needed to get my painting gear set up on the new painting table.  And I have it on good authority that one of the Grand Duch…

Merry Christmas. . .

A cheery Victorian-era Christmas card for your holiday enjoyment.
Merry Christmas from all of us here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold!

-- Stokes


The Young Master and his recently completed (a joint effort) Christmas Lego Snowplow and Salt Truck, Christmas Day 2015.


 And here is a close-up of the completed model.  Whew!  Lego kits were not this complicated way back in the 1970s when I enjoyed building and playing with them.

It's Chrstmas Eve in the Grand Duchy. . .

Yet another quiet, seasonal photograph of some snow-covered valleys somewhere. 
Another quiet morning here in Zum Stollenkeller -- Christmas Eve here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold -- with fresh coffee waiting to hear A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College in Cambridge on BBC Radio 4 in just over 10 minutes.  I've listened for many, many years, first via BBC World service on the shortwaves for close to 30 years, and more recently online.  It is, for me, a very pleasant and reflective way to begin the Christmas festival in earnest.  To those who celebrate, Merry Christmas!/ God Jul!/ Frohe Weihnachten!  To everyone, peace and goodwill.  Undoubtedly, we could have done with more of it in 2015.

-- Stokes


Here's the situation at the start of Move Four.  My own army is in the foreground, with Ross's in the background.  Things are about to become interesting.  Meanwhile, General von Tschatschke observes from horseback outside The Elector's Arms in the center of…

The Situation at End of Move 2. . .

The state of affairs at the end of Move Two.
No shooting has started yet, but you can see that both Ross's troops (foreground) and mine (background) are racing to seize and control Fickmuhlen Village.  Since the flanks of my lead cavalryrgiment is already exposed, I hope they can make some headway and  wheel to attack the infantry to their left before the enemy cavalry can take effective action.  Greg's move/fire stick is marked at six inch intervals by the way.
-- Stokes

Another Quiet Pre-Christmas Greeting. . .

Squirrels are not everbody's cup of tea, especially when they find their way into the attic, but I find them fascinating to watch outdoors.  Especially in the snow.  A bold and very large red squirrel once stole a cookie from my brown bag lunch as I picnicked on Bascom Hill at the University of Wisconsin-Madison about 18 years ago!  I wisely chose not to pursue the culprit.  The family story goes that my maternal Great Grandmother "Myrtle" had a pet squirrel as a girl.
Another quiet, dark, foggy morning with a bit of rain here in Lower Michigan today.  Snow would be nice, but I'm not complaining.  The delivery of our new Sears Craftsman snowblower is scheduled for later this afternoon, and I finally found our Nordic/cross-country skiing boots two evenings ago, so we are probably now jinxed and destined to have a snowless winter this (El Nino) year.  

In any case, I am enjoying another mug of coffee with the cats nearby following the Young Master's breakfast before …

It's almost Christmas in the Grand Duchy of Stollen. . .

One of my favorite old illustrations of Father Christmas.
The ground is white with fresh snow east of the sun and west of the moon in the Grand Duchy of Stollen. Billowing, silvery drifts are piled throughout the country. The rivers and lakes are frozen solid. The woods are still but for the distant jingle of sleigh bells in the bracing air. The sky is slate grey, and heavy coal smoke hangs over the villages and towns. It is almost Christmas here in the far-off Grand Duchy of Stollen, somewhere to the northeast of Frederick’s Prussia, sometime during the latter third of the 18th century.

Citizens of Krankenstadt bustle to and fro through snow-covered streets in the small capital city of the Grand Duchy, running last minute errands before the Christmas festival begins in earnest. The red brick North German Gothic storefronts feature special Christmas items and treats, and the happy faces of children peek in through the frosty windows at the cheerful seasonal d…

Christmas Coffee Blend. . .

Not one of ours, but we observed both cats lounging for quite some time yesterday evening beneath the larger of our two Christmas trees.  They seem to be very interested in the the aroma of the tree and in the spectacle of the white lights and glass ornaments.  Thus far, no attempts to make off with anything or climb up the tree.
Enjoying an early morning mug of Starbuck's (I know, I know) dark Christmas blend at the moment.  following a haircut for the Young Master and myself later this morning, I've got final grades to tally and enter for the semester just ended.  With any luck, that will be finished by supper, and then there are some gifts to wrap this evening.


The situation at the close of Move One.  That's General von Tschatschke heading to the local tavern for a refresher.

In the meantime, you can observe the situation after Move One in the Raid on Fickmuhlen currently being fought between Greg Horne and yours truly.  We are using Greg's collection of vintage Spence…

More Seasonal Quiet. . .

A snowy, cold Christmas Market in the center of Bremen, Germany where I spent about a week as a young buck in the winter of 1986 and another week 23 years later in June of 2009 with the Grand Duchess.  I would happily return for longer if ever the opportunity were to present itself.
Quiet is underrated in 2015.  What a shame since being able to hear oneself think without distractions from traffic, people, or digital gizmos of one kind or another is fast becoming one of the joys of life for yours truly.

In other news, and speaking of digital gizmos, the Raid on Fickmuhlen (sp?) is about to begin via email between Greg Horne and myself.  My money is, naturally, on General von Tschatschke, but you never know.

-- Stokes

A Quiet Sunday Morning. . . .

Another lovely seasonal photograph in keeping with this year's theme of calm and quiet.
With coffee.  Another game via email with Mr. Greg Horne is afoot.  This time a raid.  General von Tschatschke has a chance to keep his head if he manages to redeem himself.  More details to emerge later.  Watch this space.

-- Stokes


A Dusting of Snow comes to Totleigh-in-the-Wold. . .

Another quiet, seasonal photograph "borrowed" from somewhere on the web.  We will fetch in our own Christmas trees later this afternoon and decorate tomorrow.  Now where in the world are those tree stands and tiny white lights?
Cold winter weather has finally found its way to us here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold.  We've also had a dusting of snow in the night with more expected intermittently today.  The first (ground) floor of the house is just about pulled together, the cats have settled in, we've hung some of our own curtains on the second, and it is finally beginning to look like home (and Chirstmastime) around here.  

I've also slept the best I have in months for the last five (count 'em), five nights. . . Through the night, something that rarely happens anymore.  And if I rouse briefly, I am able to return to sleep within minutes.  Funny what an almost total absence of noise will do for you. We should have moved out here to the country years ago!

At any rate, t…

And Now for Something a Little Festive. . .

A little something to brighten an otherwise dark (almost) Winter's morn.  While stylized toys and other kinds of similar things are a nice way to decorate one's tree -- and for many years we covered ours primarily in red apples and white doves with small white lights when I was a teenager -- I've always had a thing for pretty glass tree ornaments.  Hence this morning's seasonal photograph.  My particular preference is for mostly silver and clear glass, but greens, reds, and golds like you see here are lovely too. 

-- Stokes

All Quiet at Totleigh-in-the-Wold. . .

Here is another seasonal photograph culled from somewhere on the web.  Not especially Christmas, but I like the quietude it suggests.  In a way, it reminds me of walking along the Nidar River in downtown Trondheim, Norway as snow fell during the winter of 1999-2000.
The Grand Duchess and Young Master left for work and school half an hour or so ago, and it's just yours truly with the two cats at home.  It is mercifully and wonderfully quiet  here at the moment since we are on the edge of open country well away from highways, apartment buildings, and our street is not a major thoroughfare in any way, shape, or form.  It is delightful.  As soon as I finish the current mug of coffee, I am off to the local hardware store in Williamston (purposefully avoiding the big box stores, thank you very much) to purchase some picture hanging hardware and then some Christmas wrapping paper and ribbon at the local Fresh Market outlet nearby. 

As for my play-by-email game with Mr. Horne, well, I wish …

Prince Albert Slippers for Painting. . .

Navy blue Smythe and Digby Prince Albert slippers, won on Ebay for a song last October (2015).  Call it an early birthday gift to myself.  The Grand Duchess, on seeing them for the first time, said, "They're really you.  But good God, don't let the neighbors see you!"
In Wargaming Bloglandia we almost never hear anything about painting attire.  Strange.  Surely for many of us who paint in the evenings after suppers and children's bedtimes, our painting attire usually consists of pajamas. . .  or a t-shirt and sweatpants for those more adventurous souls out there.  Or maybe not.  But what about painting footwear?  Ladies and gentlemen?  I give you the velvet Prince Albert slipper. . . the ideal footwear for figure painting or, indeed, any other indoor wargaming related activity from games, to scratch-building scenery, to post-game musings. . .  to clearing the clutter from your tabletop before you can actually have that game.   These might be just the thing for Mes…

Now that things are back on track. . .

A snowy pre-Christmas Market scene in Bolzano, Italy.  This is a part of the world I have yet to visit, but one day we will.  A few years ago, I tried repeatedly to convince the Grand Duchess to chuck it all and move lock, stock, and barrel to the city.  A place in the north of Italy where German is the second language with mountains (for her) and snow (for me), plus the cafe culture we both love, and at least two universities for employment possibilities.  And the opportunity to learn Italian on top of that.  What could be better?  My efforts thus far have been, sadly, for naught.
Let's finish the run up to Christmas this year with a few carefully chosen, quiet seasonal and Christmas-related pictures, a December tradition of long standing here in the Grand Duchy of Stollen.  The Grand Duchess informs me that her authentic Dresdner Stollen will be delayed by a bit this year given the interruption in our lives caused by the move to Michigan from Illinois last June, hanging around in…

Hold on to your hats!

Here is a photograph of the main area of the "new and improved" Stollenkeller.  This was, naturally, the room that sold me on this particular house when first we viewed it back in early September.  Please ignore the crazed gentleman wearing his pajamas in the mirror.  He came with the place.
Well, after several less than pleasant and extremely busy days -- and I can definitely tell that I no longer have the lower back of a 20-year old -- I am able to catch my breath and take a few impromptu shots of the interior of Totleigh-in-the-Wold.  For your viewing pleasure, then, here are two of the new Stollenkeller.  
Still lots to unpack, but at least the wargaming table has been set up, and the cats -- siblings Gunnlaug and Onyx -- gave their stamp of approval by occupying it immediately as is their wont .  Tomorrow we tour the Young Master's new school, where he'll start in January after the Christmas and New Year's break, meet his teachers, and meet the school principa…

And to think I almost forgot. . .

The terminally befuddled Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II (in crsimson), his man Hives, and a couple of Stollenian officers attempt to determine which way is up in a 2013 tabletop encounter in the former Stollenkeller.
Wargaming blogs come and go, but The Grand Duchy of Stollen celebrates its 10th year of being this mid-December!  Long-time visitors might recall that the idea of the Grand Duchy was born in early December 2005 as the Grand Duchess baked her authentic Dresdner Stollen in the kitchen of our old apartment right across the street from the lovely Franklin Park way back in Bloomington, Illinois while yours truly mused about model soldiers, doing something completely different, and the mid-18th century across the hall in the spare bedroom that served at the time as my den. . .  the wonderful Purple Room as we referred to it.  

It was about this time that I also stumbled onto The Old School Wargaming Yahoo group, which was abuzz at the time with all manner of wargaming related conver…

Preparing for the Move. . .

A seasonally appropriate and very pretty, quiet winter photograph ofGold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset (Great Britain) [Thank you, Simon!] that I found online somewhere.
Well Sir, we are in the home stretch and move into our new house on Monday.  My classes for the fall term finished yesterday, and I have spent the day here taking two carloads of clothing and various odds and ends we don't wish to repack into boxes over to the house and stowing them in bedroom and hall closets.  

Since yours truly will be working with the crew of movers come Monday while the Grand Duchess and Young Master are at work and school respectively, I've also spent some time spotting where the various larger pieces of furniture will go and measuring where my wife's eventual baby grand piano will go when we get around to making that addition.  Funny how several hours to oneself to get things done and think quietly without interruption eases and even cheers the spirit.  A good day all the way around I t…

Coming out from My Dark Place. . .

Not a house belonging to anyone I know, but it reminds me of my maternal grandparents' house in SE Pennsylvania whenever there was snow, which we had many Decembers and Christmases in the 1970s and 1980s.
Closing on the new house tomorrow afternoon with moving day a week later when we'll take up residence.  Lots to do in that time, of course, but we'll manage.  I cannot wait to bid goodbye to the movers, shut the front door that first evening at home, have some kind of supper with the Grand Duchess and Young Master, tuck the latter into bed in his new room at 8 o'clock, and then poor a glass of something medicinal to celebrate with the Grand Duchess in front of the working fireplace in the library.  While the style of our new house is more modern than the one pictured above, it does nestle down much like it in a bunch of trees at the edge of a large wood, hence my borrowing unashamedly from Mr. Wodehouse.  Totleigh-in-the-Wold, which my sister finds riotousl…

We need a little Christmas. . .

A quiet, sedate, yet seasonal photograph that caught my fancy the instant I saw it.
Truly we do.  And we'll have it soon enough here at Stollen Central.  Peace, tranquility, and a return to being settled.  We finally -- FINALLY -- received news yesterday afternoon on the closing date for our new house.  We will close on Monday, December 7th at 4pm and move into our house, which I am christening Totleigh-in-the-Wold, the following Monday the 14th!  I cannot tell you how much this news raises my spirits. As I remarked to my mother late yesterday afternoon when I called her in Mexico with our good news, I neither need, nor want anything for Christmas this year.  I simply want to unpack our things and settle into our new house.  Quietly.

Those of you who drop by The Grand Duchy of Stollen now and then might recall that 2015 has, in many ways, been a momentous year.  Most notably, the Grand Duchess and I were both offered new academic positions at Michigan State University, which was qui…