Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Surviving October

My calendar fills up so quickly in October. The beautiful light and wonderful outdoor colors are just perfect for photo shoots and families are often anxious to get their pictures done in time for Christmas cards. Besides the evening photo shoots, we've stuffed this month full of family outings, Halloween parties and other activities.

Since I've been feeling bad that I haven't updated the blog much lately with our family happenings, I've decided to do one quick post about all the happenings. It's a mind dump but there will be pictures.

We began the month of October by spending General Conference weekend with my in-laws. We love listening to the prophet and the other general authorities during conference. We were excited to hear the announcement of all the new temples. We're so happy that more people will be able to be closer to a temple. We're especially excited about the announcement of the Star Valley, Wyoming Temple since we have ancestral ties to the place and we're very happy for our family members who still live there.

We spent the weekend lounging in our jammies, eating good food and enjoying the perfect weather. We picked and ate delicious pears from my in-laws trees. Utah Dad got together with his brothers and nephews for the Priesthood session of conference. It was a wonderful weekend.

As a family, we drove up Alpine Loop and to Cascade Springs and enjoyed the beautiful changing colors. We have loved the warm weather this autumn.

Some of my children regularly experience car sickness. We started giving them Dramamine before we set off on trips and it has literally changed Lilly's life for the better. Road trips are much more enjoyable for all of us. Unfortunately, the medicine made Thomas grumpy and tired. He's almost always just a bundle of happy energy so it was especially sad that he didn't have a great day.

Neal is at the age when spending time with family away from a video game is not especially fun. I handed him the Bloggie camera and his entire mood changed. He still won't smile when I turn my camera on him (he's self conscious about the braces) but he had a great time snapping pictures of whatever he wanted to.

Here are a few of the pictures Neal took with the Bloggie.

I've had seven fun photo shoots--many of which I have squeezed in on nights when I have other things I also have to attend. I was actually late to book club which I hosted at my house.

We attended parent teacher conferences (the kids are having a great year and they love their teachers).  Another evening, we went to the Kindergarten Open House with Thomas.

We had  Stake Conference and I've been able to attend the temple three times--twice with Utah Dad and once with sisters from my Relief Society.

Neal and I built the Lighthouse at Alexandria for a school project. Yes, we know it's leaning. And I am also aware the kids' pictures on my wall are in serious need of updating. Some day.

We all attended the Picadilly Circus in Orem.

Utah Dad and Amberly dressed up and went to her Daddy Daughter Halloween party put on by her Primary Activity Day leaders.

We ate dinner with some neighbors and hosted them for dinner the following weekend.

We all went to Cub Scout Pack Meeting. All of us. Even me. In spite of my Pack Meeting Anxiety. It was a "blast".

Utah Dad attended the baby blessing of his newest great nephew.

I went to a recipe exchange party hosted by a new neighbor. She made the most amazing chili and pumpkin cookies. It was fun to visit with her and get to know her better.

One Saturday morning, several friends and I woke up early to leave our homes at 6 am to drive for an hour to the Salt Lake City Library for the semi-annual book sale so that we could be there just when it opened. This is one of my favorite weekends of the year. I give myself a monetary spending limit or I could just really get myself in trouble. This year I limited myself to $10. My friend ended up spotting me $3.50. I went over a little. But I found some great books that have been on my wish list. Happy winter reading for me! One of my dear bookish friends moved to Virginia this week, so this was our last adventure together. I will definitely miss her.

I dressed up as a cat and went to a Halloween Transition Sister Carnival with my dear Laurel friend Kathryn. She did our make-up and we looked very feline. We had a great time and I won the coloring contest. :) I definitely know my way around a box of crayons.

Utah Dad and I attended another Adult Halloween Party hosted by some friends in our neighborhood. Our team won the Scavenger Hunt. We were awesome and Utah Dad was a crazy driver. Our hosts threw a fabulous party. I can't believe I've already dressed up twice this season. What is the world coming to?

Molly and I went door to door to collect donations for Pennies by the Inch which supports Primary Children's Medical Center.

We went to my sister's house for a Family Halloween Party and bottled apple sauce.

We had a successful Primary Program. Amberly gave a talk about her baptism. The other kids said their parts nicely. We were glad that both sets of grandparents could attend. All the kids in my class were there and participated. Our Primary leaders did a great job putting it together. I appreciate all their hard work.

This Monday we went to Cornbelly's to enjoy the corn maze and the other fun attractions. As always, we had a great time.

Whew! And we still have another weekend full of Halloween festivities coming up. Hopefully, I'll survive.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

FHE at Cornbelly's - Out and About in Utah

Last night we took advantage of the warm weather (hopefully not the last) and spent the evening at Cornbelly's at Thanksgiving Point
It was a gorgeous evening. 
The kids played hard and we enjoyed every minute.

 See how much they enjoy it when I make them pose for a picture? Beautiful!

Molly was fascinated by the walking scare crow. When she first saw him, she clung to my leg but wouldn't stop staring at him as he walked by. Utah Dad finally took her over to meet him. She conquered whatever fear she had of him (he really did have a sort of freaky mask on) and gave him a "high five". She talked about it the rest of the night.

Lilly was so excited to discover her picture in the brochure. Utah Dad took the picture of Lilly and me when we were at Cornbelly's in 2009. Lilly carried around the brochure and tried to show it to everyone.

 Picture in Cornbelly's Corn Maze in October 2009. Lilly was so tiny and cute.

Apple Sauce and Cousins

My parents got a bumper crop of apples this year from the trees in their yard. After putting away over 60 quarts of apple sauce for themselves, they brought the remaining boxes of apples to us.

We joined other members of my family for a little apple sauce making/Halloween party at my sister's house last Saturday. My sister has a beautiful house with a kitchen just perfect for canning. She was gracious enough to host us all and the mess.

Some of the apples were "protein enhanced" but that just made them perfect for apple sauce. During the day, we turned seven boxes of apples into over 70 quarts of apple sauce. It was a long, hot, sticky job but we love the delicious sweetness of the apple sauce. I look forward to eating it all winter.

While we took turns working in the kitchen, the guys played football in the backyard and watched the kids (sort of). They cheered on BYU's football team and mourned Utah's loss.

My sister and sister-in-law prepared some fun Halloween games for the kids. They all looked so darn cute in their costumes. Unfortunately, many of the cousins were unable to attend. We missed them. Thomas especially missed all his boy cousins. We forced them to pose for pictures. They truly love it.

My little nephew is one darn handsome cowboy.
He's even mastered the bowlegged walk.
(Read that with a drawl. I'm typing it with one.)

We also got to meet and fall in love with our newest niece.
She is darling.

We all had a fabulous time.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Book Review

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare has been on my to-read list since I was a child. I don't know why I haven't read it before. As we were thinking about what book we should choose to read for our neighborhood book club, I was reminded of this novel. It is October, after all, and what would be better than a book about [supposed] witches?

Apparently, it was a good book club choice because more than the usual number of women have actually read the book this month. I, for one, am looking forward to discussing the book with them when we meet next week and will keep my review here short and sweet.

I liked it. A lot. It is just the kind of book I hope to encourage my children to read and love.

All Our Worldly Goods - Book Review

I am completely fascinated with the story of author Irene Nemirovsky. A Jewess, born in Russia at the turn of the twentieth century, Irene's family fled from Russia and resettled in France. Falling in love with France, Irene converted to Catholicism and considered it her home. She became a famous author, writing powerful and successful novels. All of this would not be enough to save her from the Nazis. During World War II, she was arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where she died.

I fell for her writing when I read Suite Francaise several years ago. Written during the war and published posthumously by her daughters, Suite Francaise describes life for the French during World War II. She is a talented writer with a gift for creating absolutely honest and believable characters. It's almost as if she is simply telling the reader about the neighbors she watches out her kitchen window. Yet, rather than just the voyeuristic reporter, she also understands and conveys their truly human desires, flaws and strengths.

I was anxious to read another novel by Irene Nemirovsky and was delighted to have the privilege to read and review All Our Worldly Goods. Published in French, the novel has been translated into English and is now being published in the United States.

As with Suite Francaise, in All Our Worldly Goods Nemirovsky again writes an elegant and beautiful book. Pierre and Agnes fall in love with each other in spite of the marriages their parents have carefully arranged for them. Breaking tradition and risking falling out of favor with family, they decide to marry each other. In brief snippets, Nemirovsky tells a family saga and how their brash and yet passionate decision will affect the generations. Her story and plot are so carefully planned that it rings absolutely true.

The love between Pierre and Agnes will survive two wars. Nemirovsky is at her greatest when describing the emotions of the French as they must evacuate their cities, yet again, as they are defeated by the Germans in the early years of World War II. Since she personally lived through this experience, she is in the unique position as observer and reporter. As I read the novel, my heart ached for the discouraged people who couldn't believe that they would see two great wars in one lifetime. Who simply didn't believe they could go on.Yet, in all the pain and depression of the war, Nemirovsky shows in her novels that life continues--people  are born and die. They love and they live.

Tragically, Nemirovsky was killed. We should be thankful that her powerful and beautiful work lives on.

**I received a complimentary copy of All Our Worldly Goods by Ireme Nemirovsky in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Buddah in the Attic - Book Review

I discovered this spare, little novel in my mailbox the other afternoon. I started reading it while I sat on my front steps watching my children ride their bikes and scooters down the sidewalks (I'm loving this warm, fall weather).

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka is compulsively readable. I really couldn't put it down, in spite of its unique and daring writing style. Otsuka doesn't just tell the story of one Japanese woman arriving on a boat to America as a mail-order bride. She simultaneously tells the stories of all the Japanese women arriving in America in the decades leading up to World War II. It is an interesting and mostly effective technique.

Most novels focus on a single or small group of characters. The reader comes to know and usually empathize with the characters. Novels are a powerful way to change perspective and thought processes. Perhaps they influence the reader to be more understanding of a certain group of people. They touch our hearts and open our minds--think beloved recent novels like The Help or A Thousand Splendid Suns. I don't believe someone can read a novel like this and not question their own perceptions and ideas at least a little.

In The Buddha in the Attic, Otsuka uses a very different style. She never focuses on a single woman. She doesn't give them names. They are like many of us see them--an immigrant group, indistinguishable from one another. Yet, at the same time, she tells their individual stories in America and then their common fate as the country rounds them up and sends them to internment camps during the war. 

Spend an afternoon with The Buddha in the Attic. Let your heart be touched and your mind be opened.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Buddha in the Attic in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Prayer for Owen Meany - Book Review

It's been so long since I posted a book review. In September I was celebrating the self-declared "Read What You Want" month and I was able to finally read some books that have been sitting on my shelf for awhile. At the end of September I started reading A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. I am just now finishing it.

Several of my favorite people read and loved A Prayer for Owen Meany and its setting is the beautiful New Hampshire, so I must admit that I was biased from the start. I was completely prepared to fall madly in love with this novel and I did.

Johnny Wheelwright tells the story of his very best friend Owen Meany, who is very small and has a distinctive voice. Owen believes, even as a child, that he is the hands of God--an instrument for God's purposes. A Prayer for Owen Meany is a story of family, friendship and faith. As the boys grow up in New Hampshire during the idyllic 1950s and the riotous 1960s, Johnny's own faith grows as a result of Owen's example and ultimate sacrifice.

The novel is witty, delightful, painful and emotionally stirring. It causes the reader to think and question, ponder and wonder. The characters in this small New England town are fabulously eccentric, yet completely believable. I adored Johnny and Owen as children. I liked them slightly less as adults. It is difficult to divorce the thought that it is a true story. It is fiction, yet it is tremendous fiction.

There were two factors involved in the length of time it took me to read this novel. First, I simply haven't had as much time to read. I have been so busy, good busy but too busy to read. Second, the novel is quite long. I'm not one to shy away from a long novel, but I did get bogged down in some sections. I felt that much of Johnny's adult rage could have been removed without much loss from the plot, characters and theme. Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed this powerful book and mourned its ending like the loss of an old friend.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving is a lovely piece of literature, destined to become a well beloved classic.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Picadilly Circus - Review

My family drove to Orem, Utah yesterday to attend the Picadilly Circus. As a family, we have never attended a circus before. This was probably a good thing. I should disclose immediately that we received complimentary vouchers for the family to attend in exchange for an honest review.

Neal and Amberly were already grumpy and determined not to like circuses even before we arrived. Amberly claimed and I quote, "circuses are for babies". I really wasn't expecting much and was actually surprised by the crowds waiting in line for tickets. Because of our passes, we were able to go right in and were lucky enough to get the few soft seats on the front row.

According to the web site and the advertising the show was supposed to start at 4:30. We waited at least until 5:00 before the show actually began. We spent that time reminding our children that we would not be paying money for them to pet the llamas or ride the ponies. We would also not be buying the over priced popcorn and cotton candy. We never buy the concessions at shows so they are already used to this rule. I'm sure the extra time between the advertised start time and the actual show time was an attempt to get more parents to relax this rule (assuming that other parents have this rule).

Once the show started, I have to admit that I was entertained. Thomas, at six years, old loved every minute--especially the clowns. He laughed and clapped and shouted. At one point I looked over to see that Thomas was so excited, he was literally trembling.

I caught Neal smiling once or twice at the motorcyclists in the cage. Amberly was slightly amused by the contortionist. They think they're too cool. Lilly and Molly watched the entire show in silence and it is still difficult to measure their pleasure or confusion. They appeared to be mesmerized.

The elephants were pretty impressive. I was disappointed that there were not very many animal acts. The performers made me think of "stupid human tricks" although they really are quite talented. Strange, but talented.

Even finding out that the tickets were fairly reasonably priced (If you buy one adult ticket, you get one free and each adult can get in some kids for free. Although I'm not sure how many), I'm still not sure if I would actually pay money to see the show.

If you go expecting the best show on earth, you will be disappointed. Think of it this way, the Picadilly Circus is to The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (which I only attended once as a child but can still remember as an amazing show) as the rides at the state fair are to Lagoon Amusement Park. We know the difference, but we still have a good time at the state fair. We still had a good time at the Picadilly Circus.

And because Thomas had such a fabulous time, it was definitely worth the trip.

The Picadilly Circus is in Orem for two more shows today and will be in West Valley City tomorrow.

Monday, October 10, 2011

DownEast Home and Clothing is Now in West Jordan

You already know that I love DownEast Home and Clothing. Nearly everything I wear to church I've purchased at their store. I don't love to shop. I know. I'm strange. I like to be able to go in one store, find clothes that I like and that are modest. For me, that one store is DownEast Home and Clothing. I dragged Utah Dad in the store on Saturday during our "date day". I always end up buying more when he's along. He's a generous guy.

Lucky me! They've opened another convenient location. DownEast Home and Clothing (with all their great values on clothing and home furnishings) have opened a new store in the
Jordan Landing shopping area in West Jordan, Utah. Stop by for some fabulous deals on clothing, furniture and don't forget the beautiful home decor items.

This is the perfect time to visit any of the DownEast stores.
They are celebrating their 20 year anniversary
and all clothing is on sale for 20% off!
I am loving the new fall styles and colors! Lovely and feminine.