Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I started this a week ago . . . between the long Thanksgiving weekend and PMS, blogging just didn't make my list.

We are purists around here. No Christmas music, lights, or decorations until after Thanksgiving. We consider--and celebrate--Thanksgiving as a real, bonafide holiday of it's own rather than as a fattening meal between Halloween and Christmas. Who wants to miss out on this wonderfully easy, peaceful holiday that focuses on gratitude? Not me. In my mind, Thanksgiving is the perfect segue into the Christmas season. (I have a post  from last week on Deseret News about this very thing: THANKS and GIVING. I hope you'll read it. I LOVE the story.) Before my kids get too wrapped up in thinking about all the stuff they want for Christmas, I like to use Thanksgiving to set the stage by helping them see how much they already have and also think of ways to give in the coming weeks. Perfect, right?

Our traditions are so simple, but go a long way. Some night early in November we draw our Thanksgiving tree on a big piece of poster board I pick up from the grocery store and cut out a bunch of fall colored leaves from construction paper or card stock. Throughout the month we take some time in the evenings whenever we can to go around and say what we're thankful for, writing them down on the leaves and taping them to our tree. We keep this in front of the fireplace with the school made Thanksgiving decorations taped all around and a little pile of Thanksgiving books nearby. (Molly's Pilgrim is my all time favorite.) That's it!

The key is not to censor what makes it onto the tree, though I do reserve the right to ask why someone is grateful for something like intestines. (Among other things.) Here's what made the grateful list this year. (A few of these belong to my bro-in-law, Brent, and his girlfriend, Camille, who came to dinner one Sunday night.)

Good smells
Round leaves
Cultures of the world
Good movies
Creative writing
Dinner parties
Pumpkins, pinecones, & candles
Video games
Peanut butter
The sun
Being born at the end of the 20th century
Scientific theories
Napolean, Nacho & Kip
Honeycrisp apples
Not having kidney stones
Books, letters & language
Life & God
Daddy's happy heart
Little fishes
Japan & Japanese food
The letter B
Mom & Dad
Buttons (electronic)
Old guys
and . . . .
Technology (that was mine, and you do have to sing it like Kip)

Do a Thanksgiving Tree next year. It's so fun!
And while I have fond memories of my sisters and I serving food to the homeless at the mall on Thanksgiving evening when I was a teenager, our family isn't really there yet and I haven't found another good way to "give" on Thanksgiving day, which is once again why I say it's a perfect segue into Christmas. Christmas is when we have our giving traditions already in place.

This is what our Thanksgiving holiday looked like:

Wednesday--Dad's day with the kids (BYU Bookstore and Jump On It--indoor trampoline place) while I caught up on computer work and Christmas photo gifts. I do love making photo books as gifts through Shutterfly, but I've found the only advantage to them over the "real" scrapbooks is that there's no mess. They take just as much time in my experience. (But that may be because I'm a perfectionist in the virtual world, and only in the virtual world. You should see my linen closet.)

Thanksgiving morning I made Elaine Tuba's simple and scrumptious "Corn Casserole" before heading over the river and through the woods to Aunt Marsha and Uncle Don's house. (Elizabeth can't get enough of the "corn casserole" as she calls it, eating the leftovers for breakfast the next day.) Uncle Don is Brandon's Dad's younger brother, and 8 of their 10 kids were in attendance with their families. Throw in our family, Aunt Marsha's sister and father, and that makes 42 people!

This is exactly where I last saw Uncle Don a year ago:
 The 4-year-old table:

The tween to teen table. (That's Will covering his head.)
Three more long tables for the restivus:
Even after running two miles in the morning and taking two good walks after dinner, I was still up on the scale the next morning:
I made my best effort to eat all of this pie, but it was no use:

Friday we did what we always do: Black Friday shopping. We went Christmas tree hunting:

It has to be at least as tall as the stick to cut down:

A Charlie Brown tree:
Tree sap:
This is the one!
Removing the loose needles:

I never tire of looking at these mountains:

Another Charlie Brown tree:

We started going to Claim Jumper after tree hunting in California, but the next best thing close to us here in Utah is Texas Roadhouse where I'm quite certain I did more damage to my waistline than even Thanksgiving dinner.

Saturday was more Christmas decorating. Kate had the idea of gathering all our Santas together and lining them up in size order. I don't know who took these pictures:

The house was a mess for two days while we put everything in place:
The Christmas picture books are always a favorite:

Last but not least, we went to see the holiday lights at Thanksgiving Point.  

Not a bad kick off to the holiday season!  (More on Eat Like A Pilgrim later.) Life sure does seem picture perfect in the blogging world. You should try it. It does wonders. (Especially if you have PMS.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jackson Hole and The Grand Tetons

I know I already wrote about my 40th birthday trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming back here, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Following are some of my favorite nature pics I've ever taken, and I'm sure it has to do with the subject material. (You can't go wrong in a National Park.) One of my goals in life is to convince people to get off their couches and go outside, put down the remote and pick up a walking stick, trade in that nasty mall taco for some trail mix (or miso soup . . . you'll see). Natural beauty can be found everywhere, and there is something so calming, elevating, even transforming about being immersed in it every once in awhile. (Or as often as possible!) Not to mention--it's free, people! Other than room and board, a trip like this will cost you NOTHING depending on how much you have/want to spend when you aren't galavanting through the mountain/beach/forest/desert. So let's hit the road:

This guy was selling some prime jerky on the side of the road. We are suckers for road side stands, so of course we stopped. (He also threw in THE BEST garlic pistachios for free because it was my berfday-yum!) When we mentioned Alien Jerky down in Baker, California (I blogged about it here) he said he knew the place very well and that it's called Alien Jerky because the guy running the business is an illegal alien! The things you find out when you stop to talk to strangers on the side of the road . . .
I have only been to Jackson Hole one other time in my life when I was about 7 months pregnant with Kate. Brandon was still finishing up his undergraduate degree at BYU, and I was working with the youth at church when I wasn't working at Dr. Clark's office. We did a big fundraiser with the youth for a "high adventure" trip to Jackson Hole. I'll never forget river rafting in a hail and lightening storm while pregnant! What I did forget was how pretty the drive is. (We were too busy listening to the Bulls and the Jazz playing in the NBA Finals on the radio. Those were the days!)
We didn't know the weekend we were going up was also the weekend of LOTOJA, the 206 mile bike race from Logan, Utah to Jackson, WY. It was fun to see at first, but soon became rather slow and annoying. I think Brandon's blood pressure was going through the sunroof, so I kept reminding him to look at the gorgeous scenery and BREATH. ("We're not in a hurry, honey. We're on VACATION!") His partner was among the hundreds of bikers, but we never saw him:

Shortly after I took this next picture we picked up a hitch hiker who needed a ride into Jackson. (We have some interesting hitch hiker stories. You should try it some time. The most interesting was the American Indian named Elmo. We took him home and washed his suit for him. Yes, I'm serious.) This guy was a river rafting tour guide in the off season, and a ski instructor in the winter. What a life! But I wouldn't trade him places for the world.

It was this sight as we drove into town that led me to do it:
After our unexpectedly looooong drive up (thank you, LOTOJA) we immediately found a good place to eat. Yummy food is always part of a good vacation for us:

The next day we headed for the Tetons. I took about 5000 pictures at every angle imaginable. I should probably start a separate photography blog for all the nature pictures I like to take, but until I do you'll just have to indulge me:

The first signs of fall:

Bear Poop:

These were mostly picked over by the bears, but we ate a few here and there:

Loved the wildflowers and plant life everywhere:

One of Brandon's favorite back packing accessories. We brought it on our little day hike so we could have some tasty miso soup once we got to the top:

My favorite close up:

The next day we went to the National Museum of Wildlife Art. I included just a couple favorites:

It's right next to the National Elk Refuge:
More tasty food. Brandon said this was the best Rueben he's ever had. (And he's had a lot.)

While sweatshirt shopping we saw some pretty funny tees:

That night we went on a free wildlife tour through the National Park Service, but we didn't see anything as exciting as this female moose we saw right off the side of the road the day before:
It was still very pretty and we did get to hear an elk bugle. (I guess that's a big deal.) Some of my favorite pictures of the entire trip came from this tour:
Mule deer:

Look at this moon rise!

Waddell is my maiden name . . .
Our last night we went to dinner at the place everyone kept recommending, Snake River Grill, but first we checked out the By Nature Gallery and it's amazing finds. Our kids would have gone NUTS in there, but this isn't a store for children. Most of these natural treasures cost more than $50,000!

(Brandon checking his wallet to see if he's got an extra 50k in there . . .)
I had the tastiest sweet corn creme brulee at this place. I would go there again in a heartbeat:
The concierge at the hotel insisted we take this picture, plucking the little cougar off the fireplace mantle:
The next morning I did my big jump off the mountain, and then we did some last minute trinket shopping for the kids:

This is the picture everyone has to take when they go to Jackson Hole. Here's the story.
This is the place we went to no less than THREE times during our short stay:
I thought this was funny enough to snap a picture:
Even the drive home was gorgeous:

I always hate for these getaways to come to an end, but at least I like what I have to come home to!

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