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.