Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Nashville Tribute Band CD Winners

I'm finally getting going this morning after a late but extremely fun night with my family. My mom, sisters, sisters-in-law, cousins, aunt and grandma got together last night to celebrate with my youngest sister-in-law who is expecting her first baby this September. Since most of us in my family are finished having babies it was an exciting party as we anticipate another little one in the family.

Did you know babies are born without kneecaps? I didn't. Learn something new every day. My brother and his wife have been given the job of finding out just when babies develop their kneecaps. I want to know the exact day their little baby girlie gets her kneecaps! I'm weird like that.

But, I'm sure you are much more excited to find out who won The Nashville Tribute Band CD give-away. So . . .

The winners are :

Mom of 12

Congratulations! You have each won one CD of THE WORK by The Nashville Tribute Band. Please send me an email with your contact information.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lavendar Fields

Some nights it's just an absolute pleasure to be a photographer. This was one of those nights. We went to Young Living Farms near Mona, Utah. They grow the lavendar to produce essential oils. It makes a beautiful landscape. I'm definitely going to return.

Here are just a few from the session tonight. Darling, darling girls. Gorgeous location. No rain. Perfect!

All Different Kinds of Free - Book Review

Last fall I read and reviewed the surprisingly well written Am I Not a Man? The Dred Scott Story by Mark Shurtleff. In history class we learn of the importance and influence the Supreme Court decision on Dred Scott's case had on the United States of America and Lincoln. Eventually the country would resort to war.

Years earlier, in the 1830's, a free black woman living in Pennsylvania with her free husband and free children was kidnapped by a bounty hunter, taken to Maryland and sold into slavery. Margaret Morgan's life would never be the same. She would taste and know all the bitterness and evil associated with slavery.

All Different Kinds of Free, a novel by Jessica McCann tells Margaret Morgan's story for the first time. Who was this woman who dared to stand up for her own rights and take her case to court?

The case Prigg vs. Pennsylvania would go to the Supreme Court. It's decision flamed the fire of hostility between the free and slave states. The case gets barely a mention in history and I had never even heard of Margaret Morgan before. In this novel, McCann brings the courageous Margaret Morgan and her personal misery to life. In doing so, McCann tells the passionate and desperate story of every slave and the dream for freedom.

McCann writes well. She is especially effective of drawing out the emotion and the feeling of absolute helplessness and hopelessness in the reader. Yet Margaret Morgan refuses to give in to this feeling. Her strength of character is refreshing and admirable. The story is captivating and enthralling and enlightening. It was a dark period in the nation's history and McCann writes to remind us.

All Different Kinds of Free is a powerful, well written novel that tells the story of a truly remarkable woman.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. This is my honest opinion. No additional compensation was received.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Nashville Tribute Band CD Give-away

I go through periods where I especially love country music and listen to it exclusively in the car. So, I was recently delighted to learn about The Nashville Tribute Band. A group of successful song-writers (they work with some of the greatest talent in Nashville) formed their own band in 2005 to record their music for an LDS audience. Writing songs about the Restoration and the Pioneers, The Nashville Tribute Band has developed quite a following.

On August 4th The Nashville Tribute Band will celebrate the release of their newest album The Work, a tribute to missionaries, with a concert in Sandy, Utah. They will follow this concert with a tour through the west. Check their website for dates and sites.

Three of my very lucky readers can enter to win a CD of The Work by The Nashville Tribute Band.

It's easy to enter.

1. Become a follower of Utah Mom's Life Blog and leave a comment on this post.

For extra opportunities to win:
1. "Like" The Nashville Tribute Band on Facebook.
2. Share the information and links about this give-away on Facebook, Twitter or your own blog.
3. Be sure to leave an extra comment for each thing you do on this post.

This contest will be open to entries until Friday, July 29th at 11:59 pm MST.
The winners will be chosen randomly from the comments on this post and will be announced on Saturday, July 30th.

Good luck!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg - Book Review

I am pleased to introduce a guest blogger/reviewer today. Neal, my ten year old son, is willingly writing this review to earn a later bedtime (because I'm cruel like that).

My mom read The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick to us in the car while we were going on trips this summer. It is a book about a twelve-year-old boy trying to save his brother who was recruited to fight for the Union in the Civil War when he was underage. Homer has many adventures. At one point he's trapped in a pen of pigs and becomes part of a small traveling circus as the "Amazing Pig Boy". Homer likes Professor Fleabottom, who runs the circus, but he might not be who he says he is. He escapes in a silk reconnaissance balloon only to discover that he's landed on the wrong side of the war.

This is a very interesting and funny book. I learned a lot about the Civil War. Homer is a daring and brave kid. He and his brother are orphans so his brother is the only family he's got. He is very good about getting out of scary situations. He thinks quickly on his feet and he can sure tell a whopper. Homer is also very smart.

I recommend this book to anyone from 10 to 95 years old. Actually my five-year-old brother liked it too.

Art Class

Amberly spent last week with her Mamau and Gramps. Each afternoon she attended art classes at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Amberly loves art and she was anxious to learn to work with various mediums this year.

On Friday, the last day of class, they held an "art show" for the family members to come and see the masterpieces they created during the week. Amberly was excited to show us her work. We were all very impressed.

We also enjoyed seeing the art displayed throughout the museum. I was surprised how interested my children were in the art. Right now there is an interesting display featuring art from Africa.

Amberly had a great week with her grandparents. The best part -- not having to comb her hair for five days.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Little Princesses

Other than my own three little princesses, I don't think there are cuter girls than my little friends. I get to photograph them a couple of times a year when they dress up for fun events like the Witches Breakfast at Gardner Village or the annual Princess Festival held at Thanksgiving Point.

I was so sad that I missed them at the Princess Festival this year. I was away in Yellowstone. Fortunately, their mom and the girls were willing to dress up again so that we could get in a photo session. The staged session actually worked out so well. The girls were completely focused on getting their pictures taken instead of just enjoying the fun day of the festival.

I've posted pictures of the girls on photography blog but I wanted to include some here too. Aren't they just darling?! Together with their mom and some glue guns, the girls made their own headdresses.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Book Review

Several years ago my brother-in-law suggested that I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I added it to my to-read list which is approximately 400 books long at present. It wasn't until the last few weeks when I fell in love with Lisa See's books Shanghai Sisters and Dreams of Joy, that I knew I would have to read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan very, very soon. My friend, who has also recently become a fan of Lisa See, and I conspired together to read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan for our neighborhood book club. That would give me an excuse to buy it and bump it up on my to-read-immediately list.

Lily and Snow Flower are just small girls living in nineteenth century China when they are bound together as laotongs or "old sames" by an influential Match Maker. Contractually, they will be closer than best friends for their entire lives. They begin the process of having their feet bound on the same day. Their relationship and love for each other continues to grow as they prepare their dowries together and look forward to marriage. Even following their marriages, the two women will be closer to each other than to anyone else. They love each other intensely, until a misunderstanding drives a bitter and heartbreaking wedge between them.

I already knew Lisa See was a fabulous writer and so I wasn't surprised how fully developed the characters are in the this novel. I likewise was not surprised by the powerful emotions evoked while reading this story. Lisa See is gifted at making the reader care and care deeply. I believe even the most cynical person could not resist becoming emotionally involved in this story.

While I read the sections about the feet binding process, I cringed as I read of the young girl's agony and I imagined my own daughters' perfect feet. How could a mother do this? And yet not do it knowing the consequences? I practically ran to the computer to Google "Foot Binding" and found websites that documented the stories of women who had the feet bound when they were children. You can read more and see pictures of the results of this tradition here and here and many other places on the web.

While the Chinese historical and cultural aspects of this novel are absolutely fascinating, there are many other powerful and still pertinent aspects of human nature within the story that beg to be discussed, such as Mother Love, friendship, loyalty and betrayal.

Originally published in 2005 and intensely popular, I'm sure that Snow Flower and the Secret Fan has already been read by many book clubs. I'm definitely looking forward to discussing it with mine. A movie based on the book is releasing in select theaters very soon, so I'm sure we will see another surge of popularity for this novel. It really is fantastic. Get it. Read it. Soon.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Middle of the Night Giggles

Thomas woke up around two am last night with a bloody nose. I can generally do all the middle of the night "mom business" in the complete darkness (whatever it takes to prevent the others from waking). However, since I spilled the glass of ice water on my night stand as I clumsily climbed out of bed, I turned on a light which made it harder for Utah Dad to pretend he was still sleeping.

We got the bleeding stopped; cleaned up Thomas and got him back in bed. I got a towel to clean up the spilled water near my bed and climbed back into bed expecting to fall immediately back into blissful sleep. But I didn't. I tossed and turned and when I realized that Utah Dad wasn't snoring (which means he was also awake) we started to talk.

The first thing that I fell in love with about Utah Dad was the easy conversation and the way we can always find something interesting to talk about. Utah Dad is never short on opinions and always willing to express them (just ask the folks at the party last night). Other than the Friday night when we were purposefully giving each other the silent treatment, we talk a lot.

So, in the middle of the night, we lay in bed, exhausted yet unable to sleep. We talked about politics and religion and religion in politics and moral issues involving religion and politics. It was deep. Then we started talking about naming babies.

When we were first married, we were hanging out with some of Utah Dad's little nieces and we were making up ridiculous names for our future children. The little girls were adding some fabulously crazy names to the mix and we laughed so hard tears rolled down our faces. I won't mention any of these names so that I won't accidentally offend any of my readers and/or relatives.

Utah Dad and I have officially finished our career of naming babies. Our own children have very traditional names (different from the names I use to refer to them on the blog, by the way. I know I've been blogging too much when I mistakenly call them by their blog names). This is not to say that I only like traditional names. There are many less traditional names that I think are absolutely lovely.

But last night, in our silly state of complete exhaustion, we got the giggles as we thought of various, hilarious and odd names (mostly used by celebrities or my ancestors). Or strange combinations. I once knew a Harry Barber. Utah Dad knew a Harry Beaver. Warning: just be especially careful if you consider naming your child Harry.

We giggled like children.

And then Utah Dad started telling me about an episode of Law and Order that he recently watched and I fell right asleep.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bright's Passage - Book Review

Henry Bright has survived World War I with the special help of an angel that he takes home with him after the war. The angel tells Bright what to do and Bright obeys. Now, Bright is the father of a newborn son. His dear wife is dead and his revengeful father-in-law is chasing him through the woods of West Virginia. But the angel has a plan.

Song-writer turned novelist, Josh Ritter writes a captivating and beautiful story with unique characters and a touch of the super-natural in his first novel Bright's Passage. I imagine that as a song-writer, Ritter has honed his skills with lyrics. Writing a song, one is limited by length and must choose the perfect few words to create all the emotion and meaning of a song. With these skills, Ritter has created a story that is succinct and yet not diminutive. In fact, his use of the language is stirring and lovely.

Often humorous, Bright's Passage is also mysterious. Ritter gives the reader just enough information to keep the reader turning the pages in suspense and anxiety. He builds the palpable tension through brief yet effective scenes of the past and the dogged pursuit and flight of Henry Bright and his tiny son. However, the ending feels incomplete and some of the questions and mysteries are left unanswered.

Bright's Passage is also a novel that has left me a bit perplexed and it is completely possible that my views and opinions of the novel will change as I have more time to reflect on the characters, plot and themes. The novel is short enough that I may have to read it again.

One thing remains, Josh Ritter has a way with words and this compelling novel is a standard to his extreme talent.

I received a free copy of Bright's Passage through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my honest opinion. No additional compensation has been received.


Fifteen years ago Utah Dad and I got engaged (it was actually on July 12th). We had known each other for exactly 14 days. Seriously.

Two of my roommates had been dating two of Utah Dad's roommates (they would eventually marry each other) so I regularly hung out with my friends in their boyfriends' apartment. Six guys lived in the apartment and during the summer I had casually dated three of them. The remaining roommate (Utah Dad) I had heard about but not yet met. He spent much of his time in Salt Lake with his family.

One weekend at the end of June, one of my roommates, her boyfriend, Dale (a roommate whose name has been changed) and I went on a double date up the canyon. We built a camp fire and roasted our dinner before heading back to the guys' apartment. Dale left to go help his parents with a project for a few weeks and I stayed to visit with my roommate and her boyfriend. Utah Dad and his friend came back to the apartment and joined us. Before long, Utah Dad and I were deep in conversation and when it was time for my roommate and I to return to our own apartment, Utah Dad walked us to the car.

Just as I was about to get in the car, Utah Dad asked me if I was dating any of his roommates. "No," I answered and our relationship was started with a lie. He asked me out on a date for the next day.

For our first date, Utah Dad and I drove up Provo Canyon and drove Alpine Loop. He had prepared a picnic dinner which we ate in a quiet meadow. Talking with him was immediately comfortable and we conversed about everything from our families and our studies to our hopes and dreams for the future.

I went with him to church in his ward the next day to hear him teach his Sunday School class and we saw each other every day after that.

He had already scheduled a date with another girl on Tuesday. I insisted that he keep the date. We had only been dating for four days and I was freaked out about how serious our relationship was already. He left on his other date and returned a half an hour later. I was planning to break it off or at least slow it down. We talked all night, went to breakfast and knew then that we would get married.

I met his family on the Fourth of July and I really felt like I had known them (even the crazy ones) forever.

My family had a family reunion planned to raft the Green River. My dear cousin and I had made a pact that we wouldn't take anyone else with us since many of our other cousins were bringing "significant others". However, things had suddenly changed and I took Utah Dad home with me to meet my family. He had insisted on meeting them before making anything "official". My cousin did forgive me, thank goodness.

I wasn't expecting an actual proposal yet. That Friday evening, Utah Dad and I sat together near the fire pit in my parents' backyard and he suddenly asked me if I would marry him. I, of course, said yes. I believe we had ten minutes to ourselves before we were joined by my younger brothers and sisters. Spontaneous and simple. Perfect for me.

We told my parents our news the next day after my extended family left. What could my parents say? They had gotten engaged on their second date. I don't think they were terribly surprised. Utah Dad was the only boyfriend I had ever taken home. We told Utah Dad's parents when we returned to Salt Lake. They weren't surprised. In fact, their lack of surprise actually surprised me.

Perhaps the most surprised person was Dale. When he returned from his parents', he called to ask me out and I had to tell him that I was now engaged--to his roommate.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

DownEast Basics Warehouse Sale

When flipping through our catalogs or shopping online on DownEast Basics and Modbe websites, do you sometimes debate on what you’ll buy based on what’s in your budget? Maybe you consider buying 3 or 4 pieces instead of 10 or more to fill your closet for a season? Well – come this Friday – that will be a stress of the past – as your only worry starting this weekend will be how much stuff you can fit into your shopping bags – as they’re having a WAREHOUSE SALE with clothing from DownEast Basics AND Modbe – and everything is $10 or less! (Meaning some stuff is $5!). Here’s the where and when!

The Warehouse Sale takes place at a location next to our DownEast Basics store at the Layton Hills Mall:
1076 Layton Hills Mall
Layton, UT 84041

Event starts on Friday, July 15, 2011 at 10AM, and will run daily during the following hours of operation:
- Monday through Saturday 10AM to 9PM
- Sundays 12-6

*Please note the discounted pricing is offered for warehouse sale event merchandise only, and doesn’t apply to new styles available for sale inside our permanent DownEast Basics’ store at the Layton Hills Mall.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer Nights

My extended family and many of our in-laws gathered last week to view the firework show in North Salt Lake. It had been extremely hot all day but it started to cool down nicely in the evening and we enjoyed snacking and visiting with each other until it got dark.

I love summer nights when it starts to cool off and the sun goes down later. And I especially love hanging out with family.


(A few months ago I was sent a Sony Bloggie Duo to try and review. I've used it to take the pictures and videos included in this post. It's picture quality is not as good as my DSLR or my digital video camera but it is so easy to use and very convenient. About the size of a smart phone, it fits nicely in my purse. The included software also allows for super easy upload to YouTube or Facebook.)

Aunts and Uncles are just so much fun!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Think - Book Review

My father-in-law has a simple note pinned to the door that leads to his garage. It reads : THINK.
The simple word is meant to help him remember the things he needs to take with him when he leaves the house to run errands. One final reminder to check to make sure he didn't forget the checks he needs to deposit at the bank or the the books he means to return to the library.

Lisa Bloom's recently published book Think : Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in A Dumbed-Down World is a reminder for women to use our brains. Quite simply, to think.

You probably already know Lisa Bloom. I didn't. I don't watch television and so I haven't seen her as a legal analyst on shows like The Early Show and Dr. Phil's or on CNN. I just got acquainted with her in this book. Ms. Bloom and I are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. We don't see eye-to-eye on many issues. However, on a few very important things we absolutely agree.

We both agree that women are smart. Women have amazing brains and are capable of doing most everything. Unfortunately, so many of us fail to use our brains to think. As Bloom points out in her book, too many women become overly enmeshed and concerned with pop culture. We know everything about the personal lives of celebrities, yet ignore the crises and horrors taking place around the world. We are too focused and spend too much time and money on our appearance, even risking our lives and health for dangerous procedures and the perfect tan. And many women think it is actually better to be "hot" than "smart". One third of the population won't read a single book after graduating from high school. SAY IT ISN'T SO!

As Bloom writes in her hard-hitting, honest style, it's hard not to be defensive. Really. Even so, her arguments ring true and even though I think I use my brain quite a bit, I know there are always ways I can use it more. Obviously.

In spite of our political differences, by the time I got to the section about books (hello! read more good books, people), I felt like Lisa Bloom and I were old friends chatting about our favorites. She and I also have similar parenting styles or at least a style I am attempting to apply in my home. Bloom even mentions my personal favorite parenting expert Wendy Mogel. (Read my review of her fabulous book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee.)

Lisa Bloom is funny. She points out the obvious with a wicked wit. I chuckled out loud several times and then read whole sections aloud for Utah Dad's enjoyment and enlightenment.

Bloom's advice is brilliant and simple and frankly rather straight forward if you think about it. Following her suggestions and using your brain more will help you be happier, smarter and will even help the world be a better place. You have a brain. Use it.

By the way, check out Lisa's website : for more ideas on ways to use your brain; for easy recipes and fabulous books.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions here are my own. No additional compensation was received.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chinese Zodiac Signs

Reading Lisa See's fabulous books Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy last week sparked my curiosity and interest in the Chinese Zodiac Signs. The characters in the novels frequently referred to their own signs and corresponding personality traits. Just for fun I found a web site about each of the twelve different Chinese Zodiac Signs that also included a feature that allowed me to easily look up the signs of each of the members of my family.

I should mention that I have very little personal belief in horoscopes or zodiac signs. I think other cultures are fascinating and this is just for fun. Because it is fun.

According to the Chinese calendar, I was born in the year of the Rabbit.

Creates romance
Slow to Anger
Likely to Escape Reality

Utah Dad was born in the year of the Pig.
Don't laugh. This is actually good, because according to the compatibility chart, a rabbit and a pig will make a supreme match.

Calm Appearance
Strong Heart
Loyal to Friends
Few Friends
Quick Tempered
Hate Arguments
Light Hearted
Sleep Easily

Neal was born in the year of the Snake.

Good Temper
Skillful Communicator
Gracious Morality
Great Wisdom
Financially Secure

Amberly was born in the year of Sheep/Goat.

Sensitive to Art and Beauty

Thomas was born in the year of the Rooster.

Quick Mind
Hot Temper
Narrow minded

Lilly was born in the year of (and this is perfect, considering her favorite stuffed animal and her recent birthday cake) the Pig.

Calm Appearance
Strong Heart
Loyal to Friends
Few Friends
Quick Tempered
Hate Arguments
Light Hearted
Sleep Easily

Molly was born in the year of the Ox.

Strong Will
Hard Worker

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dreams of Joy - Book Review

As soon as I finished reading Shanghai Girls by Lisa See last week I was anxious to start reading the sequel Dreams of Joy. The ending of the first novel would have been frustrating if I didn't already know that there was a second book. And fortunately, it was already waiting on my night stand.

I've been hearing the buzz about Lisa See's novels (especially Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which I hope to read very soon) for years but these are the first of her novels that I have had the privilege to read. I have definitely become a fan.

Dreams of Joy picks up right where Shanghai Girls ends. Joy, deeply upset by the family secrets and a new believer in The New China, she sets off to China. Pearl, determined to find and save her naive but determined daughter, returns to her homeland.

It's been nearly twenty years since Pearl escaped the Japanese invaders of China and immigrated to the United States of America. Since then, China has undergone vast changes. Now under the leadership of Chairman Mao Tse Dung and a Communist country, it is hardly the home she left. Yet, Pearl only wants Joy to be happy and safe and she'll try her best to assimilate in this new world. Pearl will renew old friendships and find love.

Reading of the rule of Chairman Mao, Communism and the socialistic changes in China, reminded me of the popular dystopian novels. However, this is all too real and painful. Millions suffered and starved under this rule. The important and essential family unit was broken. Pearl and Joy are determined not to have their free spirits broken. Reading of their brave struggles and harrowing trials in China, also made me even more grateful for the freedoms I enjoy in America.

Lisa See's characters are richly developed. Each has his or her own flaws and strengths. While I found myself frustrated with Joy and her decisions, I also admired her determination and personal strength. The plot moves along steadily. The history and details of Communist China are vastly important but are woven into the plot so expertly that they do not detract from the characters and the story. See's style is effortless and readable while maintaining an almost conversational tone between the main characters and the readers.

Powerful and compelling, Dreams of Joy is a novel that surpassed the first. It is a valuable and enlightening piece of literature.

I obtained a copy of Dreams of Joy through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and no additional compensation was received.