Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

The Jacaranda Trees along La Quarta

What a beautiful time of year!  The Jacarandas are in full glory, their purple blooms decorating much of the area I live in.  Their colorful shady canopy along La Quarta is sublime. 

This has been a lovely - and full - weekend.  Full of friends, good food, family and fun!

To start with, I attended a pool party up at Jackie & Maura's place.  It was great to see old friends and spend a nice, restful day poolside.
 Kids in the pool
Mystery writer Gina and her handsome husband Dearl

I've seen you twice in one month, Gina!  And Dearl, too!  Why, the world as we know if may be coming to an end!  So glad you could come down and schmooze with the Crew!
 Yummy barbeque spread!  Hamburgers, hot dogs and corn on the cob.  Rah Rah America!
This sweet little fellow is one of Jenn's.  I hadn't seen his mommy and daddy since the baby shower for his older brother!

The gang at the pool

The weekend continued down in Newport Beach at the Newport Coast Resort where I met up with my niece Linnea and her studly hubby Jeff.

We had a nice afternoon/evening together!  It was fun but all too brief of a visit.

Next up - as if I hadn't had fun enough - a backyard barbeque with another set of friends back in my home town:
 Cucina Master BBQ-er Tony, with the food table and kids gathered round.

Chef Tony did a good job.  The ribs were terrific!  Actually, everything was terrific.  Good food and good company.  Below you'll find the teens busy freezing the home-made ice cream with the kids looking on.

All the cousins had fun playing together.  Here they are filling water balloons on the sly... okay, we knew what they were up to!
 Playing a strange version of horseshoes with oversized washers. 
 Our charming hostess Meredith enjoying the day.  The weather couldn't have been lovelier.
Andrea and Patrick.  Two of my very favorite people.

Back home with Jack, I decided we would be slugs for the rest of the day.

Great three day weekend!  Thanks everyone! 

And lest I forget, a special thanks to all those who have suffered and died to give us the freedoms we enjoy - to be able to party and worship and do everything else we want to in a free society.  There is nothing we can do to repay you for that blessing.  But we can sure enjoy those freedoms in sweet, peaceful ways with the people we love.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hooray for Jay!

I am proud to announce my handsome brother Jay, who may possibly be the kindest, best brother in the Universe (IMHO), has just been selected to be the recipient of this year's Cameron Duncan Media Award.  This award will be presented at the annual RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund International Conference in Washington, D.C.  The Cameron Duncan Media Award is presented every year to a journalist who has demonstrated outstanding reporting of issues related to poverty and hunger.

Jay's work was chosen following a survey of coverage of domestic and global health and poverty over the past year.

Way to go, little brother!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Great Old House

The neighborhood pub, near Borden, England

When Robin and I were at the Irish Pub in Santa Monica last month, we started talking about my Dad's wonderful house back in England.  My Dad and his wife lived in England for more than 8 years, back in the 80s, and Robin, Eldon and I spent a spring holiday there back in 1984.  The Eyehorn Hatch was the name of the house, and it was just a marvellous ediface with a personality all its own.
The Eyehorn Hatch
 The Eyehorn Hatch actually belonged to a man who worked for Shell Oil and was sent to Borneo with his family.  While they were gone they rented out the home.  The Eyehorn Hatch was built in the 1300s.  The 'newer' portions of the house were only 400 years old.  And it was pink.  Which made it even better in my estimation.
The fields across the road
The house is actually on the outskirts of a little village named Borden, near the city of Sittingbourne, in Kent, England.  It was practically hidden away behind high hedges and would sneak up on you as you rounded a bend.  It was surrounded by fields and orchards.  I was able to visit my father and his wife here several times.  I loved this house, although it usually had heating problems and was generally cold to live in.
The front gate
The visit we had in the spring of 1984 was a lovely one.  The trees had just started budding, and the weather stayed (remarkably) dry while we were there.  Coming from Phoenix, Arizona, it seemed cold to me at the time! 

Being in the country was charming.  There was a little hedgehog who lived near the front garden and would come for a visit every day.
The Entrance Hall
This is the main hall, with the front door at the end.  There was a study off to the left.  The brasses on the wall to the right were very fashionable at the time and are taken from gravestone rubbings.
The Drawing Room
This is what we Yanks call the living room.  The fireplace was large and used alot - every time the furnace conked out!  There was a staircase up to the second floor from this room, as well as a main stairway in the hall.  You can barely see the leaded windowpanes on the right looking out towards the front of the house.  The floors throughout the house were uneven due to age.  It made floor lamps tip rather humorously at times.  They had to be leveled off with bits of wood or paper in order to stand straight.
The Present-day Den, and former kitchen
This is the family room, off the kitchen in the older section of the house.  This was the original kitchen, and both it, and the bedroom above it, smelled like smoked ham for some reason.  It was a spicy, fragrant smell, but quite distinctive.  I think it was the result of the many hundreds of years of cooking fires.  And perhaps they hung the cured hams there too, who knows?

The couple that owned the house had done extensive remodeling to bring it into the 20th century.  They said that workmen had discovered seashells and various metal amulets stuffed into the interiors of the walls during the remodel - good luck charms placed there by the builders so many centuries ago.
The Kitchen
Although the owners had made a concerted effort to retain the authentic historic feel of the house, they drew the line at modern day conveniences.  The remodeled kitchen was cheerful and functional.
The Formal Dining Room
 The dining room was fit for a Baron and we teased Dad about it!
Dinner with friends
Here is Robin, and man whose name is lost to history, I'm afraid, Merlene, Me, and Eldon.  I know I have more pictures from this trip, but I couldn't find them.  So, Robin, I apologize for including one in which you have your eyes closed!  However, I couldn't help remarking to myself how very young we all looked back then.
The Master Bedroom
This was the master bedroom of the home.  The house had seven or eight bedrooms, if I remember correctly, including one that Robin swears was haunted.  (Yes, we slept in that one!)  The master bedroom had a priest's hole which had been opened up into a walk-in closet (see the right side of the fireplace in the photo above).  The house evidently once also had a secret passageway that led to the village somehow.  However time had taken its toll on that.  Part of the cellars had to be filled in during the remodeling. 

Both the priest's hole and the underground passage allude to a romantic, and dangerous, past for this historic home.  There was a time when it was dangerous to be Catholic in England and when those who sympathized with the Crown were also in peril.  It makes me wonder who the previous owners of this home were and what part they played in the history of this part of the world.
The Eyehorn Hatch from behind
Here is the charming back side of the house.  The older portions of the house are on the left.  There was a huge garden and many sheds in the back.  (I've made the mistake of calling English gardens by the American term 'back yard' and have been sternly reprimanded.) 

I've searched for more information concerning the history of the house and the meaning of the name, with little luck.  The Eyehorn farm house is off in the distance to the right.  The Eyehorn Hatch was probably a chicken farm and hatchery at some point in time.
Sheep Gently Grazing in the fields across from the house
I hope you've enjoyed this bucolic little interlude.  I really loved this old house!  I'm glad I was able to spend some time there.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Seated one day at the organ, I was weary and ill at ease...

 The organ is this photo is similar to our ward's organ

I was asked to play the organ for our congregation at our main church service on Sunday, as our regular organist was out of town.  Now, I spent a long time as a church organist, but it was many years ago.  I will admit I get worried playing the organ now, because I have arthritis in my wrists and shoulders and I don’t play properly using the foot pedals.  As I don’t play very often it becomes a nerve-wracking experience.  I’ve experienced being so nervous my hands shake, or get sweaty and slip off the keys!  But I asked specifically for those things not to happen, and my prayers were answered.  I made it through everything okay.  Phew!

What was funny, though, is that I kept feeling like the stops weren’t right… I think the instrument needs to be tuned and a top flute was just a little off and was rather squeaky. So, I kept flipping stops to see if I could fix the problem. Finally, by the closing song, I got it to sound the way I wanted it. It was very frustrating.

Later, I had several compliments on my playing. One lady told me I just made the organ “sing”. It was nice to hear, but I had to laugh, because I know how I experienced my organ playing – full of inadequacies.  Being told by people in the congregation how they experienced it, I am left to conclude that the Holy Ghost makes up the difference.

Sometimes I think the Lord just wants you to show up and He does all the heavy lifting.

That's a comforting thought.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Oh, to be 16 again!

 Anders wearing his Dad's old jacket and a healthy dose of coolness.

Our soccer champion.

I think I remember 16.  It seems so long ago...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shall we gather at the river?

Among the most beautiful words in the English language (to me, anyway) are these:  Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ...
How wonderful that the priesthood of God is upon the earth again.  I love Nils' missionary pictures.  He is shown in these pictures baptising in the river near Altamirano, in the state of Iguala, Mexico.  Elder Dahl is on the right, and I'll have to get the name of the brand new Mormon lady later.

When I think of all the choices these kids could have made in their lives, it makes me very happy that their choices were good and brought them to this place. 

Let's hear it for the good guys!  Woo-Hoo!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Elder 'Super Hero' Nils

Okay, my nephew is a bit wacky - but what do you expect?  He is, after all related to ME!  Yes, here is Elder Nils in his Super Hero pose - looking out over his area in Mexico.  And now from the ridiculous to the sublime:
Here is Elder Nils getting ready to baptize in the river, while his companion, Elder Dahl, looks on.

What a wonderful experience this was for Nils.  The picture reminds me a little of the beautiful Arnold Friberg painting of the Book of Mormon missionary and prophet Alma baptizing in the Waters of Mormon.  There's nothing to compare with the feeling of peace that comes from participating in a baptism. There is always a strong spirit of testimony there. 

He may have been kidding around in the first picture, but the moniker Super Hero is okay by me.  I think he is one.  But he's my nephew, so I'm allowed.

Thank you, NBC!

A sincere, heartfelt thanks goes out to NBC for giving Chuck one more season of 13 episodes!  That news last Friday really made my week.  Huzzah!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hurrah for the 17th of May!

(above) The King's special palace guards march in the May 17th parade.

Today is Norwegian Independence Day!  The 17th of May is a big holiday in Norway, the only modern sovereign nation to break away from the rule of another nation (Sweden) without the shedding of blood.  To commemorate this, Norwegian children all over Norway march in parades carrying their flag.
The Royal Family watches from the palace in Oslo, as all the school children, and university students (shown here) march past the front entrance.  All over the country it is the same. There are no floats and no pageantry, no rolling tanks and show of military might - just a celebration of lots of kids carrying the red, white and blue of the Norwegian flag, marching with their school banners and marching bands.  It's a happy, peaceful day.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Crew Gathering...

My friends gathered at Mark's house on Saturday for a little mayhem and media fun.  We had a creative project and twelve of us showed up: Maura, Jackie, Robin, Elaine, Gina M., Gina T., Cathy, Paula, Joyce, Lisa, me, and of course, Mark, whose house was the scene of the crime.
 Mark arbitrated and took notes from a comfy chair in the corner.  Piper the cat helped.  His brother Leo, and Mark's other cat Nimitz, didn't dare appear until the crowd had thinned a bit.  (Piper and Leo are my Jack's brothers)
We were thrilled that Gina Martin could attend.  I, for one, hadn't seen Gina in years.  (Gina is the author of the murder mysteries Reads Like Murder In Honolulu and Reads Like Murder in Kahala, both available from Amazon).  It was almost like old times.  We were in shock that Gina's youngest, Devon, is already 21!  We attended her blessing as a baby right after I first moved to California.

Here are Gina and Robin posing nicely for the camera, with Paula studiously working on the laptop behind them.  There were enough laptops and other electronic computer equipment to open a Buy More franchise.
Gina T got really involved in the proceedings...  She isn't here very often, as she now lives in Arizona.  It was great seeing her as well!
 I'm sorry this picture didn't turn out more clear.  I think bouncing and banging around in my purse is perhaps not good for my camera!  But I are Jackie and Joyce, two lovely ladies.  Joyce is trying to ignore the weird lady with the camera.  It didn't work, Joyce!

We all had such a good time.  I love my friends.  There are always about 14 conversations going on at once.  We are all very noisy.  We are all very vocal.  We are also very opinionated.  All of us.  It makes for a very interesting time.  There is never a dull moment at our gatherings.

Oh, and lot's of food!  Everyone brought munchies - enough to feed a small army.  Which, I suppose, we were.

 Lisa was having some technical difficulties.  At some point in the day, we decided that we had enough computer equipment and electronic gadgetry to successfully take over the world when we were done with our project.  Unfortunately we didn't finish in time to stage a proper coup.

 Maura and Gina M both had to leave early.  It's a long drive for some of us over to Torrance!

Here are Maura, Robin, Mark and Gina T all getting into the spirit of the day.  I heard that Jack's brother Leo nearly fell off the shelf behind them later on in the evening, after I had left.  I always miss the excitement.

Love you guys.  Pray for you... oops, I mean...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Jack - The Saga Continues!

 What a difference a few months make.  Here's my little guy a few months ago...
... here he is now.

 Now, let's take a nice picture so everyone can see how cute you are!  Jack?
 Jack!  Look at me!  Over here!  I'm taking your picture.
Okay, that's the idea!  Good boy!

Love you, Jack! You've got a birthday coming up. We've got some celebrating to do, soon!