Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Three Sentence Book Review: A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

This classic hardly needs another review, except to say that it is much better than the many plays and movies that it has inspired.  To me, Charles Dickens is the Beethoven of literature -- every element is purposefully placed in the perfect spot to create the desired effect, which in this case is a delightful and inspiring story.  Surprisingly, the key message is not delivered by those famous Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, or Future, but by the first visiting spirit, Marley, Scrooge's deceased business partner, who returns to teach Scrooge that life gives us one short chance to forget ourselves and bless others.  (And, in that spirit, a special thanks to our friend Clint for giving us this story as a gift!)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eight Years - A Pretty Good Start

When I was in Cologne, I walked across the Hohenzollern Bridge, which crosses the Rhine, to find a better view of the Kolner Dom.  But I ended up forgetting about the Dom for a while because the bridge  was so fascinating.  Well, not the bridge itself, but the tens-of-thousands of padlocks that were locked to the fences lining the bridge.  This was my introduction to Love Padlocks - a phenomenon that is spreading to cities around the globe.  It took me a minute to figure out, because nearly all the inscriptions are in German, but the padlocks are engraved with the names of love-birds, and sometimes a small saying, dates, names of children, and so on.  It was an impressive collection, and the individual variations were so interesting that I spent nearly an hour viewing and trying to read the locks.

Love Padlocks
It's really such a simple symbol and concept, but I really did love just walking around and looking at how people came together collectively to publicly express their love - a common, daily occurrence - but tried to make their padlock unique (with colors, sayings, size, etc.) to show that their love was unique and lasting.

Stainless Love

Shortly thereafter, I went inside the Dom to climb the 500+ steps to the top of the tower, and nearly every inch of the walls and stairs of that enormous stone staircase was lined with layer upon layer of scrawled and painted love notes (e.g., Peter und Corentin).  It got me thinking about how people try to memorialize what they're feeling at the moment.

Graffiti Love

It also got me thinking about how Suzanne and I have never really done anything like this.  Our names are not scrawled in any sidewalks, carved on any trees, written on any bathroom stalls, or etched on a padlock on a bridge.  Of course, we did have that wonderful initial period where we were madly in love with each other, and couldn't think about anything else, and wanted to publish it to the world.  But our love has grown and matured so much over the years that it now feels strange to think of those initial feelings as love.  The padlocks and etchings are sweet, but they don't compare to what we now have to memorialize our love (including two perfect sons).

And so, my SiouxZQ, I'm glad I locked you up when I could, and I'm glad that you're mine forever. 

St. George Temple (where it all began)

Forever.  Like a padlock, only better.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Palette Bend

(Here's to remembering warmer, and more adventurous days.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tragic Irony and Tender Mercy

The Story behind the Photograph

This is my favorite picture of my dad.  It is exactly the way I remember him.  It was taken by Bonnie Bracken in St. George, Utah just a few  weeks before his surgery.  My dad had to have this picture taken because the philanthropic organization, The Foundation of Dixie Regional Medical Center, wanted to honor him on May 24, 2010 for his long-time support of the hospital.  Two weeks later on June 1, 2010 my dad had his surgery.  What none of us anticipated is that the hospital he esteemed so highly and supported for decades would be the very place where he would lose his life.  He died six months ago today on June 16, 2010.  I feel so blessed to have such an exceptional, current photograph by which to remember him.  His smile.  His eyes.  This picture has already been worth a thousand words to me.  This is how I imagine his angel face, except now he does not need glasses and now he has two eyes, not one.  His Mona Lisa smile changes according to my mood.  He looks concerned when I am sad.  And when I am happy or laughing at something Tennyson has said, that is when his smile seems to be the biggest.  This picture is at once a tragic irony and a tender mercy of the Lord.  Would I rather have my dad, instead of a photograph?  Without question, yes.  But I cannot turn back time, so I am grateful that I have it.  In this photograph he looks as alive as I remember him being.  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Four Candles


(Three, Two, One - Oh, how the time flies.)

Ready to Party (including a delicious cake from our friend at Whipped Bakery)

 Sing to me!

Mighty Wind


Party Animal

Happy birthday, Tenny!  We love you and we're so glad you're part of our madness.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Three Sentence Book Review: The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner

I can see how people who are really into literature could latch on to this book -- its four chapters employ four unique and, frankly, amazing narrative styles that take you right into the minds of their subjects.  But really, who wants to go into the mind of a severely handicapped man, a suicidally depressed student, or a self-obsessed money grubber?  Like a 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of a bowl of fruit, this unremarkable story of a Southern family in decline is simply not worth the work (and trust me, it's work).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Food Nanny

I knew that if I could just sit down and plan dinners ahead of time before I went grocery shopping that I would save money.  But I never really have.  Whenever I would try to do this it would just take way too long.  I would find myself sitting in frustration among a pile of recipe books trying to figure out what I already had in the fridge and cupboards.  It was annoying.  Do housewives really do this?  Gimme a break.  My time is worth so much more than this!  So I've just been showing up at the grocery store with a vague idea of 2 or 3 dinners that I wanted to make that week and would hope I remembered everything.  But sometimes I would forget something or think I had it at home and end up being wrong.  So it didn't really work.  And we would spend more money on food we didn't end up eating.  I've been doing it this way for, say....8 years?  Then this summer my sister introduced me to a new reality TV series called The Food Nanny on BYU television.  

The best part about The Food Nanny is that she has a website where you can make your own "Nanny Plan."  It is SO easy.  It takes 5 minutes to plan 2 weeks of meals.  And it makes your grocery list for you.  I love it.  You just click and drag meal themes onto the calendar and then pick the food that goes with the theme.  You can use your recipes or you can use The Food Nanny's.  This may sound dorky but it has changed our little family's life.  We are actually eating food now.  Real Food.  But the best part is that we are spending less.  And even though I am spending less we are eating more quality food because the money I am spending goes towards products I love, like yummy cheeses.  Thank you Food Nanny.  We love you so much!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 - West Virginia Edition

Ye Stewart Clan spent Thanksgiving hiding away in Canaan Valley, West Virginia.  It was almost heaven.  A huge thanks to our friend McArthur for tipping us off to this delightful spot (and it's only a 3-hour drive from DC!).

Canaan Valley

Importantly (as we found out the hard way), Canaan is pronounced "Cunane" (which, as the locals will tell you, rhymes with "insane").  And it was insanely cold.  Oh, and the wind!  The wind!

Blown Downstream

Mostly it was just nice to be together as a family in a place where Blackberries grow but don't get reception.

 Tennyson loved it!

Can you tell how much he loved it?

He really did love it.  But you know how teenage boys think it's cool to not smile in pictures?  Well, Tennyson is advanced for his age.

We kicked off the perfect Christmas season in the mountains, and we even got our first snowstorm (well, a dusting, but it was so pretty).

Country Roads, Take Me Home

 Winter Wonderland

West Virginia - Wild and Wonderful

One of the highlights of the trip was dinner at The Purple Fiddle in Thomas, WV.  This is a super fun, family-friendly restaurant that hosts local blue grass (and other) bands every night.  We saw Furnace Mountain play, and they were spectacular.

Tennyson even sat still for over an hour.  Tait, not so much.

We had so much fun that we put West Virginia back on our to-do list.  There's so much exploring to be done there (particularly when it warms back up).

Blackwater Falls

So this Thanksgiving we are especially grateful for the beauty of the earth, for time together as a family, and for the chance to put those two things together again.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

6 Months

Pretty Much Perfect

First Crouch

First Solid Food (Oatmeal)

First Soccer Practice