"A (wo)man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of (her)his life in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of beautiful God has implanted in the human soul."- Goethe

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Remembrance Day

Do you have Remembrance Days? I have a day in December that I like to remember because it's the anniversary of the day that angel Lily passed away. It's a good time to reflect on the happy memories, feel sorrow that she's still not with us, and hope for another year full of healing and fond recollections.

In memory of Lily, I drew this picture of her:

Do you have Remembrance Days? For me, they aren't always associated with someone's death, but are other significant days I like to reflect on. What days do you like to remember and why?

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I've been slaving in the steamy kitchen for a while, and the following is the fruit (ba-doom ching!) of my labors:

The final tally was:
30 jars of apple juice and counting...(can you just imagine the wassail?)
9 bags of dried apples
2 bags of cinnamon dried apples
3 tubs of apple butter
4 bags of apple brittle (it was supposed to be fruit leather, but I accidentally overcooked it. Worry not, it is still delicious.)
Lots of applesauce too (I didn't make it, but I certainly enjoyed it.)

Thank you, bountiful apple tree, for giving us so much scrumptious fruit to work with this year. We shall lovingly remember you all year long.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Birthday Boy

We recently also had the pleasure of celebrating another birthday in our family:

We had to brave some arctic winds, but you'd never even know how cold it was from the pictures. In our family, my dad is the level-headed patient one, and we are lucky to have him. What can I say? I wouldn't be here without my daddy-o and I love him so!

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Month Full of Gratitude

The entire month of November is a time to reflect on the bounteous blessings we receive that we sometimes take for granted. I think one of the best ways to keep upbeat and kind is to cultivate a grateful heart. Here are a few ways we've been reminding ourselves how good life really is for our family:

The Baxters reflect on five things they are grateful for prior to feasting on Thanksgiving, and eat a candy corn kernel each time they think about what they are grateful for. It represents the first winter the pilgrims experienced in America, when there was only enough food for each person to eat five kernels of corn, and reminds us to remain grateful even through hard times.

The Nielsons compile a gratitude list, and bake each line on the list into its own roll. When anyone eats a roll from the Thanksgiving batch, they discover what someone in the family is thankful for. It's a gratitude fortune cookie of sorts, and it lasts long after the feast is through, or at least for a couple of extra days. It serves as a reminder to share your gratitude with others, and not keep it to yourself.

Also, we've started a new tradition with the three of us, wherein each of us writes a grateful bit on our Freedom of Speech Wall, turned Gratitude Wall during the month of November. Since the baby bumpkin can't write yet (or speak, for that matter) we take turns imagining what she must be grateful for. This helps us remember that gratitude isn't restricted to the fourth Thursday in November, but that it should be expressed constantly.

There are so many fun ways to keep a grateful heart all year 'round. What are some ways your family expresses gratitude?

Family Time

Fall time is family time for us. There's nothing as wonderful as spending time with family, laughing our guts out, and making too much delicious food. For the Thanksgiving weekend, we spent a few hours at the Discovery Park, or as we call it, the Castle Park That Looks Like It's Made From Popsicle Sticks. We played our little hearts out, I tell you what.

My family always makes sure to play outside regardless of the weather, and we have many fond memories because of it. What does your family do to create fond memories?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Birthday Happy!

My brother recently celebrated his 17th birthday, so now he's officially a Dancing Queen, or at least ABBA says so. I love that my bro has a zest for life and adventure. He's for sure the cool guy in our family.

We're so lucky to have my brother in our family! Being 17 is one of the best times of life, don't you think?

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Midsummer Night's Dream

This play is one of the classics that most people have seen or heard about, I'm willing to bet. If you haven't read it yet, you should.

Topics to discuss while reading or watching this play are:
  • Dreams
  • Pros and cons of celibacy
  • "What fools these mortals be"
  • Asses: idiots, celibacy, and jackasses
  • Lovers as madmen
  • Truth expressed when multiple people share the same dream

Friday, November 18, 2011

Love's Labor's Lost

Another silly play by Shakespeare is Love's Labor's Lost, which is all about a bunch of college guys who make a rediculous promise to one another only to break it. Sharp and witty dialog equals humorous.

Even though this play is a comedy, it has a somewhat sad ending that cuts the humor short. So, be prepared for that. Subjects that Shakespeare addresses in this play are:
  • Pain begets pain
  • Unnecessary restraint; creating more pain, sorrow, and complications than necessary
  • Light and Darkness: a light heart lives long
  • Breaking laws and oathes by necessity, keeping and breaking oathes forsworn
  • Sweet fellowship in shame
  • "No such sport as sport by sport o'erthrown"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Comedy of Errors

I've been on a kick lately of Shakespeare's comedies, so The Comedy of Errors was a fine piece of fuel to add to my chuckle fire. What's not to love about mistaken identities?

Themes to consider while enjoying this slapstick humor are:
  • Liberty: man as master of his liberty, liberty lashed with woe
  • Mastery and servitude
  • Jealousy: fond fools serving mad jealousy. jealousy and madness
  • Duplicity, a theme also addressed by Mark Twain in several different novels

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Makings of a Hairy Man

Here's a confession: I've always wanted to be able to grow facial hair because I think it would be so cool to have such an awesome canvas to express myself. If I was feeling particularly dapper, I would grow a well-trimmed pencil mustache. If I was feeling gruff, I could grow my 'burns out and braid my beard. If I wanted to take over the world, I could grow a Hitler 'stache or a pharaoh goatee.

Alas, my lot in life is not to have my own personal hair canvas. I have, however, found a solution to my desire for facial hair. I proudly present to you the beanie beard:

It took me a couple of attempts to get it just right, but I think it works. Now, I can grow a toasty beard in the winter in 4 seconds flat and shave it in the same amount of time. I bet no man on the planet can do that. Heck yes!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes is a sweet children's book that I've recently re-read as part of a church group reading project.

I was reminded again of the importance of being kind to others and the need to be proactively do good and not just avoid doing bad. Sometimes not doing or saying anything can mean that by default you support the negativity that is taking place. It's also a good refresher on not judging others nor being hypocritical.

I was also reminded of the need to be kind to those who may not be kind to you. It reminds me of what Matthew 5:44 says. "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you."

It's a little book with a big message, and I encourage you to read it and remember some basics of being kind that we tend to forget as we get older.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Little Something Something

Inspiration for this recently-created picture came from Rembrandt's prints of New Testament scenes.

 (ink and watercolors on paper)

Here's a story for you that I was reminded of while creating this piece: a few years back, the LDS Church History Museum in Salt Lake City hosted an exhibit of Rembrandt's magnificent prints. I was at the museum to see another exhibit and didn't even know how close I was to such priceless treasures until a sad-looking little old man invited me into a section of the museum that had no traffic in it. I thought he just needed some company, until I realized what exactly he had to show in the small room. He said, "These are prints by Rembrandt," then proceeded to explain who Rembrandt was and why these prints were significant. I had to interrupt him to say that he needn't worry, I knew who Rembrandt was. He looked so relieved and was so excited to find someone who was interested in what he so desperately wanted to share with everyone. He gave me a small overview of the exhibit, then let me peruse freely.

Oh. My. Word. It was incredible! There were magnifying glasses provided so that patrons could enjoy the smallest of details in the prints. This was one of the few times in my life when I've spontaneously cried in an art exhibit because the art was so beautiful. If that man hadn't invited me into his small exhibit, I would have never known it was there and I would have missed an incredible opportunity. While I was there soaking up everything I possibly could, a few people wandered in and out, glancing at a print here or there, but were merely passing through to get to another room. The little old man would try and start a conversation with people passing through, but they always politely brushed him off or humored him without really listening to the good news he was sharing. No one seemed to realize what it was he truly wanted to share. I wanted to give all those silly people Shaken Patron Syndrome and ask, "Don't you know what this is? You will never get another opportunity like this in your whole life!"

After spending an hour or so in that room, and watching the curator try desperately to get people to understand the worth of his good news, I understood how deep the little old man's sadness really was. He wasn't trying to sell anyone anything or promote his own art. He only wanted to share something incredible, once-in-a-lifetime, even, and was gently rejected each time. The man never gave up trying to involve people the entire time I was savoring the art, and I'm certain he had been anxiously trying the whole time the exhibit was running. I greatly admired his tenacity and energy.

Although I can pick out several meaningful lessons from this experience, it mostly reminds me of the nature of sharing the gospel. You know the true worth of what you are sharing with others. Remember not to be disheartened when people reject your offer to participate in something magnificent and rare. Remember not to be discouraged when people politely entertain thoughts or half-heartedly go through the motions only to humor you. Remember that there is a possibility that any one of those people may actually know the value of what you have to offer...they just needed to be invited so that they knew such a wonderful thing was available to them.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Rainbow Grapes

Our grape vines produce several different colors of juicing grapes, and the result when canned is this:

Aren't they so pretty? (And the two dozen jars of delicious juice aren't too bad-looking to me either.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Taming of the Shrew

Shakespeare's comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, is hilarious and witty. I knew that the musical Kiss Me Kate was based off of this play, but I didn't notice before that the title of the musical is directly taken from a line in Shakespeare's comedy. Not only is this play full of mirth and outrageous puns, but it also addresses some interesting discussion topics.

Topics include:
  • Spousal duties and mutual (or lack of) respect
  • Being true to yourself during courtship as well as after marriage
  • Having complete trust in a spouse, developing a fierce loyalty
  • The roles of father toward single offspring
  • Sharp tails and sharp tongues
  • Motivation for marriage
  • The pre-play introduction involving the drunkard that remains unresolved at the end of the play

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is the perfect combination of Halloween and Christmas, in my opinion. It could be considered the original Nightmare Before Christmas, which means I automatically love it! This story is always a good reminder about the more important aspects of the holiday season.

Things to consider and discuss about this read are:
  • People who love to warn humanity to keep its distance
  • Making a business of Charity, Mercy, Forbearance, and Benevolence
  • The children of Man represented as Ignorance and Want
  • Living with the Spirit of Christmas all year long