December 31, 2013

Christmas Eve 2013

Christmas Eve couldn't come soon enough. My and Katie's lives have been so hectic with school and work. We were still busy on Christmas Eve, but at least it was with stuff we wanted to do. The day began with homemade English scones, clotted cream, preserves, and herbal tea made by Katie. As we ate, we listened to the "Nine Lessons and Carols" broadcast live from King's College at Cambridge. Katie really gets into this reading the script along the way. For the boys and I, it's more like background music. However, we all still love the tradition. I think I'm going to have to bring Katie some day to see it performed live.

The breakfast of champions...or kings.
One of our family traditions on Christmas Eve is to make a dinner and dessert from a different country. Since Chloe is serving a Spanish-speaking mission this year, we decided to do something a little different. Instead of making the dinner, we thought we would take Frontrunner up to Salt Lake to see the lights at Temple Square and follow it up with dinner at an amazing Mexican restaurant, The Red Iguana.

I saw Liam's reflection in the window and thought I'd go for an artistic shot. While I still think it's a cool photo, all I can see are his filthy glasses. I could have possibly done something with them in Photoshop, but it's just not worth the effort. Plus, one way I will always remember Liam as a teenager is his dirty lenses.

We had a nice time walking around Temple Square looking at the lights. It was bitter cold though. I wanted to practice taking photos of Christmas lights, but got repeatedly outvoted. Here are some of the photos.

I got some nice bokeh, but I need to figure out how to take these kinds of photos without them being so grainy.


Tomas is now going through that stage where he doesn't want to smile for the camera. Liam, who just got his braces off, has thankfully left that stage.

Yeah, that's about as good of a smile I'm getting these days.

Inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, I found a guy who also had a Nikon. I asked him to take our picture.
Will someone goose Tomas?
After Temple Square, we to TRAX and walked a little to The Red Iguana. By this time, we were hungry and couldn't wait to try some of the many different types of molĂ© they sell. 

But...

Sadly...

When we arrived, the outside lights were off. It looked like since they didn't have many customers, they were closing up shop early. We were so bummed. And starving.

No Mexican food to honor Chloe's mission.

So, we did the next best thing, which was actually the fastest--Crown Burger. You can't ever really go wrong with Crown Burger, can you? Anyway, we had a grand time.


After dinner, we headed back to the Frontrunner station. Unfortunately, we had just missed the train to Provo and had to wait another hour. Also, it turns out that at this time of night, all the crazies are out. There was one especially crazy guy who threatened another family. I reported him to the train station worker who basically told me there was nothing he could do. What the heck? We just waited at the opposite end of the platform for the rest of the time.

When we arrived home, we ended the evening with our final Christmas Eve traditions. We opened our Christmas jammies (Alabama themed in honor of Chloe, of course) and then read Luke 2.


We missed having our Schmoe with us, but it was a wonderful day together.


December 30, 2013

Manzanar

We spent part of the Christmas break at Grandma and Grandpa's in Ridgecrest. Ridgecrest isn't a very big town, and it's in the middle of nowhere. Thus, there isn't a whole lot to do. However, I remembered hearing about a WWII Japanese interment camp nearby that added a visitors center since I was last in the area. We decided to visit.

Manzanar is one of 10 remote camps built in 1942. The US government ordered more than 110,000 Japanese Amercian citizens and resident aliens to leave their homes to be detained in one of these camps.

The visitors center is very well done. We began by watching a movie about the camp's history. My favorite part about the exhibits was learning the stories of individuals who stayed there. While the camp was nowhere near anything like the Nazi concentration camps, it was still basically a prison. It was sad to learn how these families were forced to leave their homes and businesses to live in such poor conditions. The camp is in the middle of the Mojave dessert. It must have been unbearably hot in the summer, and very cold in the winter.

After the visitors center, we drove around to look at some camp's sites and rebuilt structures. Here's a view of the mountains with a camp delivery truck and the visitors center in the background.


Aunt Bita came along with us. Here's the group in front of the camp cafeteria. All the buildings built for the camp basically looked the same.

Liam is in that great teenage phase where he doesn't like to be in photos, especially with the family.
Lori wondered why they had replica dishes just sitting out where anyone could take one as a souvenir. She discovered they were all glued together.
Tomas standing outside the cafeteria where we learned about the people who worked there.
I was surprised to find out how many people they crammed into each of the barracks. Families divided them up with sheets. The barracks didn't have any kind of insulation and probably did just the minimum to protect the people from the elements.

Tomas in one of the barracks.
Seeing the foundation for the latrines made a big impact. You could see how close the toilets were to each other, and we read that there were no dividers. There was basically no privacy in the camp.


I was impressed to learn how the people did try to make the best of their situation. Below are some photos of what once was an orchard and a Japanese garden with a pond. It looks like they are in the process of restoring one of the gardens to how it was back then.




I love to visit cemeteries, but this was definitely a special one. It was sad to think that people died here in a place far from home where they were forced to be. Most of the people who died were relocated to other cemeteries after the war, but there are still a handful of graves.




Paper cranes hung from the fence surrounding the main monument and the perimeter fence. According to Japanese legend, the person who folds 1,000 paper cranes is granted a wish or eternal good luck.



Here are a few landscape shots.






Our little outing to Manzanar turned out to be very educational and a highlight of our trip. One of the other camps, Topaz, is located only a couple hours away from our home in Utah. I think I'd like to go see that one as well.

November 18, 2013

Liam the Master Thespian

This year, Liam was bitten by the acting bug.

He tried out and made the SCERA Center for the Arts' musical theater group, Acting Up. This requires a lot of time, practice, and money, but it's been a great experience for Liam so far. In addition to performing a main stage musical each year, the group also does monthly firesides and outreach shows, and they will go on tour and compete in California in February.

At school, Liam has been taking a theater tech class, and he auditioned for the school's musical. This year, they performed Seussical the Musical, a conglomeration of different Seuss stories. Liam got the part of Yertle the Turtle, as well as playing a bunch of chorus roles. I've only seen this musical once, and it was done at a junior high. It was honestly a painful experience. Hence, I wasn't super excited to see this production. However, Provo High did a great job. It's basically nonstop singing and dancing, and Provo has some very talented kids. I really enjoyed the show.

I wasn't familiar with Liam's role of Yertle, but he did a great job. He had a few solo parts, and he gave it 100%. All in all, I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats. Liam gets two thumbs way up!



I wasn't sure if any kind of photography was allowed. When Chloe went to Mountain View, there were people everywhere in the audience photographing and filming at every one of her performances. At Provo, however, I didn't see any cameras, so I took a few shots with my cell phone hidden in my jacket. Here what I got.

Liam is up on his big rock singing his solo. 
For a turtle, he's got some pretty smooth moves.
 And here are a couple of shots after the show.

Liam with his good friend, Sam. I can't remember the name of Sam's character, but just before the show's opening, Sam broke his arm. He made it work rather well with his character.

A side view of the Yertle costume. And, a great photobomb.

October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013

Here's the roundup for Halloween 2013.

To begin things, Katie and I got to chaperone the stake youth dance. Because Chloe used to go to all the dances, we were strictly forbidden from ever chaperoning a youth dance. Now that she's on a mission and Liam refuses to go to a dance, we snatched the opportunity. Consider it our date night...Yeah, it's that bad. We went with our tried-and-true costumes, the wizard and the Punjabi outfit. 




Amazingly, we got our pumpkins done early this year. The norm is madly trying to finish them up while trick-or-treaters are banging on the door. Tomas carved his pumpkin completely by himself. He even helped out his big brother, who has a thing against pumpkin guts.


Katie's pumpkin is on the left and Tomas's is on the right.

This is Liam's idea of a true nightmare.

I carved two pumpkins, both in honor of Chloe serving a mission in Alabama. I copied a photo of Chloe onto a transparency sheet and put it into a frame. I think it turned out really cool. The other one says, "B'Ham," which is a nickname for Birmingham. I was surprised by how many people thought it said Obama.
Even though our pumpkins were done early, Katie followed tradition and pulled an all-nighter finishing up costumes. Tomas wanted to dress up as John Lennon during his hippie phase. Finding a wig and round glasses was easy, but an inexpensive white suit was nowhere to be found. Katie ended up making one from scratch.


Liam as John Lennon and Jeffrey has "Guerrilla Warfare" —a monkey suit with camouflage makeup.     
Liam and a group of his friends decided to go as the Aquabats, a oddball rock group that has a strange TV show (kind of a mixture of The Monkees, The Power Ranger, and Pee Wee's Playhouse). Katie somehow got roped into making ALL the costumes for the boysYou know, she just has so much extra time on her hands.



Liam would not let me take a photo of him before heading off in the morning, but he PROMISED me he would have someone take a picture of him together with the other boys at school. Well...that didn't happen. Good thing Maryann got a picture of Maddie, dressed as Wonder Woman, and Liam. However, Liam is not wearing the best part of the costume—the mask. Oh well. 



We been teasing Katie for years that she is really a vampire. She doesn't sleep, she likes her meat rare, she has "alabaster" skin, and she has a superpower of finding things. This year for Halloween night, she decided to let her true self come out. I like how the different lighting gives each photo a very different look, so I'm including both.


Weather for Halloween in Utah is always iffy, but we lucked out this year. I stayed a the house and handed out candy. We had a good crowd stop by with lots of cute kids. Katie didn't purchase as many Reese's Peanut Butter Cups as I would have liked. There were hardly any leftover at the end of the night. Plus, I think the Halloween versions of the cups has gotten smaller. The nerve... My goal for next year is to come up with a new costume. I think I'd better get working on it soon because I don't want to add to Katie's all-nighters.

August 15, 2013

SLC Mini-Vacay

So...

Today's date is August 24, 2014. I was looking at photos on my memory card and found pictures from about this same time last year that I never posted. I thought I'd do it now, and just back date the blog entry.

Last August, we were scheduled to take a little road trip up to visit our friends in Cananda. As we were making our final preparations, Katie got out our passports and noticed they were all current except for one–mine. Somehow we had forgotten that the expiration date on mine was different from everyone else's. This shot down our trip up north. 

I was pretty bummed, but Katie helped the boys and me look on the bright side, and we decided to take a min-vacation to Salt Lake. 

Our first morning in SLC, we visited This Is the Place State Park located where Brigham Young first looked over the valley and decided this is where the Saints would make their new home. Below is the monument dedicated to Brigham Young and the others who made that first trip from Nauvoo.


The park has a pioneer village with a bunch of authentic and replica buildings. We wanted to see Brigham Young's farm house where Katie's grandmother's pioneer stove is on display, but it was closed for an event. Each of the buildings has volunteers dressed up in pioneer clothing who teach about life back then and who lived in the some of the cabins.

Tomas learned how the pioneers tilled the ground.
We learned how to play some popular pioneer games.
It was a super hot day, so we were more than happy to take the train to get around the park.

One of our favorite activities was panning for gold in the stream. It sort of ruined the illusion when I saw the volunteer throw a handful of fool's gold in the stream just as we were approaching. But still, it was next to water in the shade, and we had fun.



If only it were real, we could have done a heck of a lot more on our vacation.
We saw the home of Mary Fielding Smith, wife of Hyrum Smith and pretty awesome pioneer woman.


They had some Navajo Indians doing beadwork and teaching a craft. 


In one of the homes, the volunteer taught Tomas about a courting bench where a young man and woman could sit and talk while almost facing each other.

Tomas doesn't look impressed.
Liam tried his hand (and foot) at a pioneer sewing machine.


We also spent some time in the petting zoo.

I loved this pig taking a nap.



Here are a couple of photos of pioneer cabins.



In the Zion's Mercantile, we saw a sign advertising the best root beer floats in Utah. Liam and I had to try the out. 

Our verdict: mighty tasty!
Later in the day, we headed to Temple Square. We were looking around at every sister missionary to see if we could find Sister Mendoza, Chloe's first companion who returned to finish her time at Temple Square after serving a few months in Alabama. We didn't find Sister Mendoza but talked to several missionaries who knew her. The boys had never been in the Brigham Young's Beehive House. It's not quite on par with touring the palaces in Vienna, but it was a great tour.






And after the Beehive House, we naturally had to eat at the Lion House.


Below is a photo of Katie and the boys bored out of their minds while I walked around taking photos.







One of my goals while visiting SLC was to stop by the Genealogy Library to see if I could find any information on an ancestor from Germany. I'm a newbie to family history, so I asked for help. I think only the crazies were working that night. This lady wasn't interested in helping me but rather telling all kinds of weird, wacko stories. I could not get away. Liam took our picture. Eventually, Katie and boys left me there to go to the planetarium.

I think I'll try BYU next time.
At the planetarium, we got to see bits of the meteor that landed in Chelyabinsk, Russia in February 2013. Pretty cool.


The boys pretended they were on the Moon.


And then on Mars.

Maybe Mars isn't ready to be inhabited yet.

We spent considerable time mesmerized in front of this giant marble contraption thing.



We also had fun playing with the static electricity thing.


Here we learned how clouds form.


Boil, boil, toil and trouble.
The following day, we went to Lagoon. I hadn't been there in more than 30 years. I really couldn't remember much about it other than I liked Disneyland better. This time, I'm sure I took pictures, but I can't find them anywhere. I remember the Katie and the boys had a great time. For me, I just remember Liam talked me into doing all the big roller coasters first thing so I got so sick to my stomach I felt like barfing the rest of the day. I think it will definitely be another 30 years before I go back.

All in all, it was a fun little getaway–a much needed break. We should do it more often.