Thursday, September 30, 2010

Our Heavenly Weekend Part Four: Deep Dishing


By the time we finished with the temple, ran back to our hotel and changed, and drove into downtown Chicago (no train this time), it was already 4:45.  We had both looked forward to going to the Art Institute, but alas, it closed at 5:00 Saturdays and it was no use trying.  Next time we'll get there.

Brownie Sunday

In looking for a parking garage along "The Magnificent Mile," we found something that was almost as good as the Art Institute.  Ghirardelli!  It's always a must stop for us while in San Francisco so we (especially Joel) were very happy to find it in Chicago.  Joel had a brownie sundae and I had pumpkin spice caramel hot chocolate.  Mmmmm.....good!

Chocolate Art Institute

And since we couldn't go see real art, we just had to be satisfied with the chocolate art that Ghirardelli provided for us.


We also ran a super secret errand for my mom at The American Girl Place.  I cannot wait for my girls to open their gifts from Mamah and Grandpa on Christmas morning and I cannot wait to take them to Chicago to that amazing store (which is so much more than just a store!)!  They have all been obsessed with The American Girl dolls for months.

The Windy City

So after we stashed the loot in the car, we just walked around the city for a while and took as much as we could in.

Orchestra Hall

Like Orchestra Hall in the daylight.


Then we got kind of hungry.  And we decided to go to that deep dish pizza place that Joel once went to when he was in Chicago almost 20 years ago.  I honestly had no idea what the big deal was about Chicago Deep Dish.


But after waiting more than an hour in the line outside of the restaurant, and another half hour inside, I get it.

It's worth the wait

We were promised it was worth the wait, so I hoped they were right.  Although, I didn't even order pizza.  Believe it or not, it's not my favorite thing to eat, so I got pasta.  Which was great.  Joel ordered the deep dish.  And it took 45 minutes for them to cook it!

Still more waitingLara with Graffiti

Pretty much every surface in Gino's is covered in graffiti.  I'm guessing it's because it's the only thing to do after you have waited so long for your food and have long since run out of conversation options.

Joel says the experience was worth the wait.  The pizza?  Not so much.  But this is the food snob speaking, so don't let that deter you from trying the deep dish.

After we ate it was time to drive back to the hotel and get a good sleep for the seven hour drive back home in the morning and back to regularly scheduled life.

Which is just a little bit easier to stomach after a heavenly weekend such as ours.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Interrupting Our Heavenly Weekend for Some Book Winners

The winners of the book Naked in Eden by Robin Easton are  (insert drum roll here....)

Melissa (Commenter #25)  (I don't have a link or contact info for you, Melissa, please contact me asap)


Congratulations!  Email me your info and I will pass it on to the publisher right away so you can start reading.

As for me, I am still editing a bunch of Chicago photos while also trying to balance the rest of my life on the end of my nose.  Lessons, housekeeping and all that entails, children, children and more children, preschool board duties, church duties, and everything else.  It never ends.

But I did get to go to book group tonight...our first meeting of the newly formed group.  It was heavenly, I have missed being in a discussion group.

The end.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Our Heavenly Weekend Part Three: Temple Blessings


When the Stake President gave me my temple recommend interview a few months ago, he inquired about how I was liking the area.  I told him that I loved it.  But when he handed me my recommend and told me to use it often, I amended my response.  I love it here except for the distance from the temple.

Chicago Temple

From Stake headquarters, it is only about 3 hours to Chicago, but we are another 4 hours beyond that.  So to go to the temple requires a lot of planning and forethought and at least 7 hours of driving time.  I honestly don't see us making the trek more than once per year, but maybe we'll be able to do better than that.  We'll see.

Temple with Fountain

But anyway, we went!  On Saturday morning we drove out to the Chicago temple and did a session.  It was wonderful, we are blessed, end of story.

I can't wait to go back.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Our Heavenly Weekend Part Two: Celestial Music

Almost there!

(Okay.  So it probably couldn't really be termed "Celestial" since it's all about witches and beheadings and opium and stuff.  But it was amazing.)

When The Maestro and I were dating, we went to see Keith Lockhart's debut as the music director of the Utah Symphony.  The orchestra played Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz that night.  The BYU Philharmonic had actually recently played it, and Joel played his trumpet fingerings on my hand for the entire piece. (How romantic, right?)

I should also say that Joel is pretty much obsessed with Berlioz.  He did his dissertation on Berlioz' music, his CD collection has an entire shelf devoted only to Berlioz, and he knows so much about the man, he could probably teach a Berlioz history class for an entire year and never even have to open a book.  So, when he saw that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was playing a "Berlioz Spectacular" and that it was the debut of music director Riccardo Muti, it pretty much decided when we would be taking the temple trip we had planned for sometime this fall.

And who can do a Berlioz Spectacular without playing Symphonie Fantastique?  No one, that's who.  So, 12 years later, we sat in another symphony hall listening to another orchestra and another music director conducting the same symphony.  Only this time The Maestro conducted in my hand instead of playing his trumpet fingerings.

The Chicago Symphony has always been Joel's favorite, and it was a dream come true for him to be there.  I almost got more pleasure from watching my husband's transcendent facial expressions than I did from the symphony itself.

So, here's how our evening went down.

We arrived into Chicago a lot later than we had planned due to construction traffic and a small matter of taking the wrong interstate.  It still led to Chicago, just a little bit more round aboutly.  So, by the time we checked into our hotel, the train we had planned to take into the city was already long gone.  So, we got ready and ate Chipotle near the hotel (instead of deep dish downtown) and headed for the train station.

My Hero

Even though we were hurrying as fast as we could, we still arrived at the station only 5 minutes before the train was due to arrive.  In fact, a train rolled in as we parked our car, so we ran to catch it, only to find out it wasn't the right one.  (Phewsh.)  But, then I realized it was pretty cold and I had left my coat in the car, so Joel ran back to get it.  And he booked it back to the station, because a train was obviously coming.  My hero.  Too bad the train still wasn't the right one!


And so we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.

Metra Train

Our train finally came about 1/2 hour late.  But, at least we didn't miss it, so we didn't mind.

Orchestra Hall

After about an hour of riding on the train, we arrived at Union Station where we promptly caught a cab to Orchestra Hall, just in time to find our seats before the baton came down.

At the Chicago Symphony

And the concert was seriously amazing.  I've heard some pretty good orchestras in my life, but Chicago has one of the best.  And you think orchestras are good, until you hear the best, and you realize just how amazing the best is.  Besides Symphonie Fantastique, they also performed Lelio, which uses a narrator, vocal soloists and chorus along with the orchestra.  Gerard Depardieu narrated in his native French and he was brilliant.  Never broke character once.  The soloists were fantastic, and the chorus heavenly.  Truly a perfect concert.

Joel with Orchestra Hall

After the concert was over, we realized that we only had 3 minutes to catch the train, so we stayed downtown for a few more hours.  We walked around the cultural center for a while, then decided to get some dessert somewhere.

Chicago at Night

We ended up at the Rhapsody Restaurant, which is right next to Orchestra Hall.  Not only did we have some pretty fancy dessert that was really, really good, we got to see Maestro Muti, Gerard Depardieu, the Chorus Master, and several of the other musicians eating there.  The Maestro and other VIP's had their own room, but they walked right by our table en route, and everyone applauded them.

Union Station

Then it was time to find our way back to Union Station to catch the train back to the hotel.  I loved the green lights shining up on the pillars at the station.  This kind of old world big city architecture is one of my favorite things in the entire word.

Right next to fabulous fall vistas.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Our Heavenly Weekend Part One: Fall Splendor


Joel and I took a road trip to Chicago this weekend to attend the temple and the symphony and to spend time with each other.  Our weekend was, in a word, heavenly.  I hope you don't mind the rehashing of it for a few days, because I definitely had my camera out plenty.

Fall came fast and furious here in the Upper Peninsula and we're in the thick of the colors.  It is so gorgeous it makes me cry.  Autumn has always been my favorite, but nothing compares to autumn up here.  We're not quite in full blown color changes in town, but as we drove down toward Wisconsin, it took our breath away as it got more and more beautiful.

Here are lots of pictures, but just know that they really don't do the whole scene justice.

It was rainy and cold the day we left.  This is the Quincy mine across the canal from our house, right before we left town on Friday morning.

Quincy Mine

About an hour or so from our house is this little town.  I always love driving down the hill and seeing the cute white church.

A churchStormy Autumn

Across the street from the church.


Also, we saw some wild turkeys along the side of the road.  I thought they were kind of cute, although they weren't too keen on having their picture taken.

Gobble Gobble

Coming back home today, the weather was much nicer, and we could see the brilliant blue sky that has always been my one of my favorite parts of fall (see, I like blue just fine!).

Orange Tree

Proof that The Maestro was there, poofy hair and all.

Joel in yellow

I made Joel stop at a few places on the way. I especially loved Lake Plumbago (I think that's what it's called), but there are a few pictures here of other places too.

A bench, some water, and the fall leavesFall BeautyRed LeafOn FireReflected

And more proof of our presence amongst the leaves...I was there too!

We were both there

More of our heavenly weekend coming soon...

Friday, September 24, 2010

It Is a Truth Universally Acknowledged

That a married woman in possession of a little extra weight, must be in want of a good pair of jeans.

And that nothing will convince her to go on (yet another) diet better than going to the department store to try a few (hundred) pair on.  Especially when said department store has decidedly unflattering mirrors.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Out of the Archives:
I Missed My Calling in Life
(Why I Should Have Been a Spy)

I wrote this one about two years ago.  I was just thinking about this story again last night because I was wearing a baseball cap, so I thought I'd post it again.  Happy Thursday!

Once upon a time, when I was one and twenty, I looked like this.

To read the original post click here:  I Missed My Calling in Life (Why I Should Have Been a Spy)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Little Chippy

Sophia's latest obsession is acorns.

Her preschool is surrounded by giant oak trees and the playground is full of the things.  Which means that whenever I come to pick her up from school I find her gathering acorns.  The first day, she had them all gathered in her shirt.  The next time, her pockets were stuffed full of them.  By the third day of school, her teachers gave her a bucket to gather them in and finally, an old juice container that she could bring home.

The problem is, I didn't really want a million acorns all over the house.  As it was, they were all over the car and the front porch from spilling out of her backpack and pockets every time we got home from school.  But she wouldn't hear of letting me put them in the yard for the squirrels. She worked hard for those acorns!

Until last night.  She brought her Juicy Juice container down to the living room and proceeded to dump three thousand acorns out on the floor.  Somehow, I convinced her that we should put the container out on the deck with a few acorns on the ground around it and see if the squirrels would come find them.

Then I promptly forgot about it.

Until today after school when Bria was practicing her violin.  I was standing with her, making sure she was doing the right shifts on her piece, when I noticed a little chipmunk on the deck gathering Sophia's acorns.  Violin practice was immediately forgotten as we all pressed our noses (and camera lens) against the window to watch the little guy fill his cheek pockets with the nuts and scamper off, only to return a few minutes later for more.

GatheringLittle Chippy

Isn't he so cute?  The girls and I were enthralled.

He finished up gathering all the acorns that were on the ground, so he knocked over the juice bottle and he climbed right inside to get some more!  The funniest thing was that once he filled up his cheeks, he couldn't get back out.  But he was a smart little guy, so he spit them outside, climbed out of the bottle and filled right back up.

Chipmunk in a Bottle

Then Sophia and I went to dump out a few more for him so he didn't have to go through that rigmarole anymore.

His very full cheeks tell me that he appreciated it.  Don't you think?

Chipmunk Cheeks

He worked hard for about 3 hours to finally get every last acorn, minus the ones that he deemed unworthy--it was very fun to watch him inspect each nut and throw the rejects behind him.

And guess who is more excited than ever to get more acorns at school for "Little Chippy"?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Naked in Eden

When TLC Book Tours first contacted me about this particular book, I wasn't really sure what I would think of it.  It definitely sounded intriguing--a woman living in the Australian rain forest for over a year with her husband?  I wanted to know just what on earth would possess someone to do something so crazy (and I had no idea how crazy it really was) since I pretty much throw a fit if I have to do anything remotely resembling camping.  But this was no ordinary camping trip.  Robin and her husband completely left civilization (including clothing eventually, as the title suggests) to live amongst nature.

And since I really had no idea, maybe you have no idea, either.  The Australian rain forest is a very scary place chock full of deadly wildlife.  Crocodiles, poisonous snakes and spiders, box jellyfish and leeches, and even terrible plants that could kill you, or at least inflict horrible pain.  Naked in Eden's prologue begins with Robin Easton's first encounter with a poisonous snake.  Face to face with the animal, and with certain death, she begins to learn how to coexist with the rain forest as she imagines what the snake is feeling.  By the end of the book she is able to walk freely through her surroundings and not bat an eye when a snake drops from a tree and lands on her.

Ms. Easton's writing draws you in, and gradually gives you context into her life through flashbacks and memories as she navigates nature.  And then her experiences begin to change her, as she reconnects with herself and with God.  This is the true meat of the story.  She was mildly autistic when she entered the rain forest, and her struggles and triumphs within it began to heal her from the disconnect she had always felt in her life.

Truly a fascinating read, full of adventure, suspense and inspiration.

But, I must admit, it also cemented my aversion to camping.  I'll leave the camping up to Robin Easton, she does it best, I think.


I have two copies of this book to give away to those who comment on this post.  So tell me, what would YOU do if your spouse decided it would be a great idea to go live in the rain forest for a year?  Winners announced Wednesday, September 29.


Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sacrifice Really Does Bring Blessings

About an hour ago, we returned home from Stake Conference.  And because we live in the booniest of the boonies and our drive to Stake Conference is 4 hours each way, it wasn't exactly an easy feat for us to go.

I don't tell you this for pats on the back at all.  In fact, I often have a pretty bad attitude about going.  It means I have to give up my entire weekend to driving in a car with all of my kids for lots of hours.  It means figuring out how to pay for the gas and other extra expenditures when we're still trying to recover from the summer of no paycheck.  It means attending a bunch of meetings with wiggly children.  It means sacrifice.

But it also means spiritual edification, spending time with wonderful people, opportunities to serve, and family togetherness.  And sometimes it even means being blessed in ways you didn't expect.

I don't have to tell you how tight the finances have been around here lately.  Even though we squeezed by in the summer, and Joel's getting paid again, a lot of bills are coming up that we don't have in the summer.  Music lessons, preschool, school expenses for the older girls and just plain catch up with a few things that we couldn't pay for over the summer.  The trip down to Green Bay was a financial strain, and we were going to be completely strapped until the next pay check.  And since we're also planning a temple trip to Chicago (yes, that's the closest one), we want to make sure we can pay for that, too.

Imagine my feelings when we picked up yesterday's mail tonight and found a packet from our mortgage company.  I thought it was weird, because they already sent us the payment booklet thingy for the next year, so I couldn't figure out why they were sending another.  So I opened it and found that our monthly payment had been adjusted down a bit, which is always a nice surprise.

But then I realized that there was a pretty hefty check in there as well.  Turns out we had an unexpected overage in the escrow account.  I have no doubt that this is a blessing from above because we are making sacrifices.  I'm still crying over it.

Heavenly Father loves us, and don't you ever forget it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Two Conversations

"Mommy, I promise never to say the S-word again" proclaimed Sophia, as we walked out to the car.

"What's the S-word?"  (I was pretty sure I knew, but I was just making certain.  You never know what kids are thinking, after all!)

"You know!  St...oo..."


"Yes!  That's the S-word, Mommy.  And we shouldn't say it, right?"

"Right.  It isn't a very nice word."

Later, while I was driving with Sophia and Chloe in tow...

"Mommy, I decided that movies are bad for you" proclaimed Chloe.

"Oh yeah?  Why is that?"

"Because they just fill your mind up with that stuff."

"What stuff?"

"Movie stuff!  Your mind just gets filled up with movies, and then there's no room for math and reading.  So I decided I'm not going to watch movies anymore!"

Sophia looked at her sister as if she had grown another head and said, "You're never not going to watch movies again? Ever?"


"Well that's S-word."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sophie's Choice

I don't wanna go home!
Last night, Sophia sat at the kitchen table with her chin on hand and asked, "Why ehbody calls me Sophie?"

"Because they like to--it's a cute name," said Joel.

"But I don't like it."

"Who calls you Sophie?" I asked her.

"Ehbody in the 'tire, whole world"

"What do you want them to call you?"


When we named Sophia, we had every intention of calling her Sophie.  I adore the name Sophie.  In fact, I think I would have just named her Sophie, except it didn't seem to work with the middle names we chose, and Sophia seemed like the right name.  And we did call her Sophie for a long time and, obviously, many people do.

For about a year now, I have realized that she actually prefers to be called Sophia.  Only because I noticed that she will always refer to herself that way.  If someone asks her what her name is, she invariably says "Sophia."  Knowing that, I have started to gravitate to calling her Sophia pretty exclusively--I've even noticed in reading through old blog posts that there has been a definite changeover from Sophie to Sophia.

And yet, it still surprised me last night when she expressed that she didn't really like being called Sophie.  She's only 4 years old, and I suppose I don't think of someone so young as having such a definite opinion of her name.  Of course, this is Sophia we're talking about, and she has definite opinions about everything!

Like she hates wearing pants, especially if they're denim and would rather wear a skirt or a dress every day.  She loathes pizza, she insists her hot dogs be served "normal" (without anything on them) and refuses to let a single person leave the house without kissing and hugging her.

And she wants people to call her Sophia, and it was worrying her little soul that not everyone does.

So, I taught her to say, "Please call me Sophia.  I like that better," whenever anyone calls her Sophie.  And then we practiced.  We all took turns calling her Sophie and she would politely correct us, while looking down at her plate so she didn't have to make eye contact.

I hope she really does tell people her preference.  I know it's hard, because I've had to do it my entire life so that people won't call me Lora (rhymes with Cora) or Laira (rhymes with bear-a).  Sometimes I just give up on trying to teach people what I prefer to be called, but I always regret it while I am answering to a name that really isn't mine.

And the nickname thing that Sophia will have to deal with is a whole different issue.  People just naturally shorten names, which is fine and great for some people, and not so much for others.  Maybe someday she'll prefer Sophie again, and then again, maybe she won't.

But for now, she is Sophia.

And it fits.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Winners

According to, where the atmospheric noise chooses the winners, those most deserving of the title Paranoid Parents are:



The Atomic Mom

Congratulations girls!  Get me your info and I'll have the books mailed to you pronto! 

As for me, I'll be buried under a few piles of laundry and dishes today, completely unable to muster up any cleverness for blogging purposes.  Maybe tomorrow.

Happy Midweek!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It Never Fails

I always seem to get sick the first or second week of school.  Always.  So it isn't any surprise that I got spectacularly sick this weekend.  Totally confined to my bed by Saturday afternoon.

I think Joel must have somehow conveyed to the people at church that I am dying or something, because so many people have called and dropped treats and dinner by or offered to take the kids.  I'm so blessed to have good friends in my life.  Thank you wonderful friends!

And since I've already been whining for a while, I'll just leave it at that and go back to bed.

(Lest you worry about me too much, I am on the upswing and I was well enough to teach all day today.  That is, if you consider being so congested that my ears may explode being "well."  And if you consider a practically deaf person whose ears may explode at any time to be any sort of a good singing teacher.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Red Kitchen

So I'm finally showing you my kitchen, which was the first room we ever painted in this house!  It's been pretty much a year, since I remember we painted it while listening to the first BYU game of the season last year.

Here is what it looked like when we first moved in.  I'm sure many of you are going to say, but it's so lovely!   Why would you ever want to get rid of that beautiful blue kitchen?  But, here's the deal.  I don't do blue.  I can't feel happy in a blue room.  I've never been able to, and never will.  So it really did have to go, or I wouldn't want to ever go in my kitchen!

Kitchen beforeKitchen beforeKitchen beforeKitchen before

And here it is now!  I've gradually added things for the walls here and there, and I really love my kitchen.  I will eventually replace the countertops (or maybe even paint them...I've seen people do cool things with painting the laminate).  I love the red, and it makes me want to be in the kitchen.  So that's what matters.

Also, you can get a glimpse of my dining room, and what I've done to the will come soon enough.

Or maybe next year.  :)

Kitchen afterKitchen afterKitchen afterKitchen afterKitchen afterKitchen afterKitchen after

Happy Monday!