Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Hiatus...

I will be taking a break from updating my blog for a couple of weeks as the holiday adventures begin. All of the shopping, wrapping and planning is about to pay off.

May you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Joyous and Happy New Year!! May your 2012 be the best ever, full of love, laughter, blessings, and gratitude.

Here are 2 of my all-time favorite Christmas songs. They aren't traditional ones, but I think both of them are just gorgeous. Enjoy, everyone!



Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas is About the Christ...

This week has been a series of delays in all of the things I've wanted to accomplishment. My Relief Society lesson isn't done yet, the house isn't as clean as I would like it to be, the presents were only bought today for the kids in the family and still aren't wrapped, and all of the upcoming obligations are a little overwhelming to think about.

Last night, though, while working on my lesson, I took a few breaks to watch parts of the Christmas Devotional. I was especially moved by a part of Pres. Uchtdorf's talk. His words helped to bring me back to what is important and why we celebrate this season. If you haven't noticed, I tend to focus on the unimportant things more than I'd like and often need reminding.

I'm going to post the section of his talk here, with links to the entire devotional. It was so beautiful--both the words and music--and relaxing to listen to:

by Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Christmas Is about the Christ

In these precious moments we realize what we feel and know in our heart—that Christmas is really about the Christ.

Christmas and some of the cherished traditions of the season remind us that we, like the Wise Men of old, should seek the Christ and lay before Him the most precious of gifts: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We should offer Him our love. We should give Him our willingness to take upon ourselves His name and walk in the path of discipleship. We should promise to remember Him always, to emulate His example, and to go about doing good. 1

We cannot offer Him the gift of perfection in all things because this is a gift beyond our capacity to give—at least for now. The Lord does not expect that we commit to move mountains. But He does require that we bring as gifts our best efforts to move ourselves, one foot in front of the other, walking in the ways He has prepared and taught.

And what are the Savior’s gifts to those who are willing to bring these gifts to Him?

This may be the most one-sided gift exchange in the history of the universe. The Savior’s gifts to us are breathtaking.

Let us begin with immortality. Because the Savior overcame death, all men and women—both the just and the unjust—will live forever. 2

Then, forgiveness—even though our sins and imperfections be as scarlet, they can become white as snow because of Him. 3

And finally, eternal life—the greatest gift of all. 4 Because of the Atonement of Christ, not only are we guaranteed an infinite quantity of life, but He offers the possibility of an unimaginable quality of life as well. 5

Some of His divine gifts are reserved for that glorious future day when we return to His presence.

But He extends many gifts and His grace to us every day. He promises to be with us, to come to us when we need comfort, 6 to lift us when we stumble, to carry us if needed, to mourn and rejoice with us. Every day He offers to take us by the hand and help transform ordinary life into extraordinary spiritual experiences.

I just love the way he expresses himself in these paragraphs. They really spoke to me on a personal level. To see the entire devotional, or just specific parts of it, click HERE.

A great Christmas flash mob...

As I said before, there just seems to be an abundance of great videos that people are sharing during the holiday season. I'm reserving the best ones for my blog.

This is the best Christmas flash mob I've seen, partly because of the way the shoppers react and get involved. I love how these fun musical moments make everyone stop for just a few minutes during the Christmas craziness and remember what it is that we are really celebrating:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies on the Glass Harp..

This is beautiful to hear and to watch...turn up those speakers!

Live! From my new iMac...

Well, it is official. I'm the owner of an iMac. Yesterday my Toshiba laptop started acting up again. Windows did one of their fun updates and the computer restarted by itself. When it did, the graphics on the screen went all crazy. It had been only 8 days since the last time it did that.

I took it to the local computer store where they tried to work their magic--last time they were successful. This time...nothing. So, instead of spending the day working on my lesson for church, I spent the day transferring things to my external hard drive.

When Eric came home I got to give him the good news--not! The sad truth is that these days, a computer is essential for so many things. My sweet man told me to get whatever I wanted, although we had already discussed the transition to an Apple. I assured him that I would get the most basic, inexpensive one. And that is what I did.

Setting it up has been a little time-consuming, but not bad. A lot of my installation CDs for things will not work anymore, which I was prepared for. Not only because of transferring to an Apple, but because they are just too old. Thank goodness for online drivers! Installing my printer was my biggest concern, but only after a couple of minor hiccups, I did it. Whew!

Other things will not be possible to transfer over, mainly my music from my Zune player, which uses an Mp3 format, while Apple uses an Mp4. Tricky! My Zune player is nearly full anyway, so I can live with not adding/subtracting anything from it.

I do love having a big 21" screen to look at. The resolution is amazing and bright. It makes everything look beautiful!

Everything that needed to be done to make the iMac feel like "mine" is essentially done. This and all of those changes on Facebook on the same day!

I just feel blessed that when something happens, like my laptop becoming unusable, that we can just say, "go get a new one." That in itself is something to be very grateful for.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The BEST Christmas Light/Music Display I've Seen...

It is so fun to stumble across cool videos of people doing fun and creative things, especially during the holiday season, when things can get a little crazy and it is easy to lose sight of what the season is really about.

These videos are courtesy of R. Holdman of Pleasant Grove, UT. You can visit his website at:

Turn up those speakers and enjoy!

Carol of the Bells

Carol of the Bells - Computer Controlled Christmas Lights from Richard Holdman on Vimeo.

Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells - Computer Controlled Christmas Lights from Richard Holdman on Vimeo.
Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle from 34th Street - Computer Controlled Christmas Lights from Richard Holdman on Vimeo.

P.S If you are one of those people that just has to know how this is done, you can get your answers at HERE. It takes a lot of patience!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Spirit of Christmas

There have been so many great videos put out by the church this Christmas. And, no matter what your faith, the messages speak to all of us. Here's another one:

What are your thoughts?

This picture has been making the rounds on social media sites lately and has been getting a lot of attention. Some people see it at face value. Some see it as a metaphor. Some find it offensive. Some find it extreme.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section....

Christmas at Arlington National Cemetery

I was sent these images in an email today. For many, Christmas is the time to remember those who are no longer with us, especially those whose lives were cut short while defending the rights of others.

"Readers may be interested to know that these wreaths -- some 5,000 -- are donated by the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine . The owner, Merrill Worcester, not only provides the wreaths, but covers the trucking expense as well. He's done this since 1992. A wonderful guy. Also, most years, groups of Maine school kids combine an educational trip to DC with this event to help out. Making this even more remarkable is the fact that Harrington is in one of the poorest parts of the state."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Coat: A Story of Charity


O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree...

Christmas decorating--for me--is all about the tree. Here are some trees that have crossed my path lately, including one very unusual one at the end:

Our tree

Walters tree

Mori tree

Thornton tree

Enders tree

Cortez tree

Telford tree

And first prize for originality goes to the house on Kessler in our neighborhood for their upside down Christmas tree! The current owner did this in homage to the eccentric lady who used to live there. It catches your eye, that's for sure!

Christmas Desktop

If you are like me, you like to decorate your desktop. I'm always changing mine! Obsessive, but fun, especially during the holidays. I'm posting 15 of my favorite holiday desktop wallpapers for you to have too.

All you need to do is click on the picture, then right-click and hit "save as desktop background." The images are big enough to transfer clearly to your screen. Enjoy!

(All of these images were taken from free wallpaper sites. )

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Time to Convert...

Just to clarify, this is not a religious post. But it deals with something that people feel strongly about anyway, and that is the PC vs. Mac decision.

After years and years as a PC user, mainly because a good family friend and computer guru got us started on them, I think the time has come to change to a Mac.

Like any big decision, I've thought about it a lot. And the thought came to the forefront even more yesterday when my nearly 4 year old Toshiba laptop went all "stretchy graphics" on me when I started it up. And then I did some calculating...I've had this laptop since February of 2008 and it has had 7 repairs. Most of them I didn't have to pay for, luckily, courtesy of our computer-savvy friend, but still...7! That's a lot.

It didn't help that the lady I spoke with on the Toshiba tech support line yesterday knew very little. OK, almost nothing. I almost laughed when she asked me to rate the quality of help I received after the call resulted in, well, nothing.

So I went to the local computer store and took my laptop with its messed up screen and, while the store manager was tinkering with it, I started looking at the Macs. Yes, they are expensive and yes, it will be an adjustment, but I think the time has come. I'm tired of dealing with viruses and updates and quirky operating systems (my laptop came with Vista...yuck.)

I did the math and by the time you add up the cost of my current computer, plus Word, plus the Microsoft 7 upgrade, plus what I've spent on repairs, it comes out to almost as much as the iMac, which is the one I'm seriously considering.

So get ready, world, because in the next few months this will probably be my next computer. Pretty, huh?
P.S. My Toshiba is working OK right now, but for how long? After 3 repairs in the last 4 months, my hopes are not very high.

Update 12/7/11:
I just landed accidentally on a post I wrote from November 2008. In the post I described how I was having problems with my Toshiba and had just taken it to the Geek Squad at Best Buy for repair. Everything had frozen on the screen and it wasn't even allowing me to do a "force quit." At the time, the computer was only 6 months old. Yikes.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Spiritual Uplift for Your Monday...

Yesterday I encountered an incident of rudeness that I have had a hard time putting behind me today. It happened at church, unfortunately, and I'm hoping it is a one-time thing. While visiting Facebook today I landed on the Mormon Messages page. I think I was led there so I could see this short video.

No matter what your faith or situation, this are words we all need to hear:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Unbroken, By Laura Hillenbrand

I have had the opportunity to read a lot of books this year. A lot. But in any group there is always the one that rises to the top and stands out singularly because of its power, resonance, and quality.

Of all the books I've read this year--some for my book club and some for pure enjoyment--the best of the bunch is Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. As I told my mom while describing this book, "Whatever you're reading right now, this is better."

Laura Hillenbrand, who is also the author of Seabiscuit, suffers from a debilitating form of CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,) which forces her to stay at home most of the time. She's devoted the last 7 years to researching Unbroken, including conducting about 50 interviews with its subject, Louis Zamperini.

Louis Zamperini, who is now a spry 94 year old, has lived a life few of us can imagine--partly of his own doing, like competing in the 1936 Olympics-- and partly as a victim of circumstance. The circumstances that were not of his choosing happened while he was a bombadier during WWII. The plane he was in was shot down, and the 3 survivors drifted for 47 days until being picked up by the Japanese.

What followed then was 2 years in 2 different POW camps in conditions beyond our imagination. What made the conditions even worse was a particularly sadistic guard, nicknamed "The Bird," who singled Louis out and attempted to victimize him in every way possible. The army's pursuit of this guard after the war ended is another element that makes this book so captivating.

I say "attempted," because one of the interesting things that the book focuses on is the issue of dignity vs humiliation. The authoress describes the importance of dignity in ways I've never read before, making it a thing as tangible and necessary to existence as food or air. In other words, no matter how bad the conditions are, you are only a victim of you allow yourself to be.

Even if you know the basics of the story, there is something else that makes it worth reading, and that is the series of odd coincidences that seemed to pop up here and there throughout Louis's life, and usually during his darkest moments. I don't want to give too much away, but these oddities certainly make the story even more compelling.

For those with weak stomachs who may be worried about the way the war violence is portrayed in the book, I would say this: It is "realistic," but not "gratuitous." In other words, the authoress tells things as they happened, but doesn't overdo it.

The important thing to remember about this book is that not only is this a story of "Survival," but also of "Resilience and Redemption," just as the tagline reads. Louis's POW experience is definitely the grittiest part of the book, but there is so much more than that....there's his adventurous childhood as the town rascal and thief, his foray into becoming a world-class runner, his family, his post-war trauma, and the experiences that finally brought him peace.

This is a book about a man who has experienced the full circle of life and has lived to tell about it. Laura Hillenbrand writes with such amazing quality, you feel like you're seeing everything as it is happening.

I won't say anymore about it, except to implore you, again, to read it. I found a video from the Today show to include that will, hopefully, whet your appetite. Some of the other videos about it give away too much.

I recommend this book HIGHLY...for everyone. I also recommend that, if you are planning on reading it, to avoid the videos that tell a lot about it. The less you know, the more powerful the book will be when you read it.

(Be sure to pause the music below before viewing the video...)

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Festival of the Nativities

Today Eric and I drove to Vancouver, WA--the nearest bigger city, and had a fun, adventurous day. We ate at our favorite sushi place, found some great deals at Macy's (shirts for him, 2 Lanz nightgowns for me, 2 for my mom,) and got a few essentials at Trader Joe's.

After that we headed over to a nearby stake center to view the local display called Festival of the Nativities. The flyer we had said there were 600 nativities to see there and we knew we were in for a treat.

The inside of the gym was set up like a Christmas boutique with low lighting and lots of twinkle lights and mini fountains. Whoever was in charge of this did a beautiful job. And there, on several tables were tons and tons of nativity sets, just as the flyer said. They were all shapes, sizes, colors, and textures.

Here are a few of my favorites:

I think you'll agree that the one made of abstract rock designs is the most unique!

Here are a few photos of the tables. Click on any to see a larger version.

It was a fun day, capped off by seeing this beautiful display that, obviously, took a lot of work to do, all for the pure enjoyment of the public.

And what is so special about these last 3 nativities? If you guessed that they are special because they are the ones at our house, you're right!

This last one is most special to me because it belonged to my grandparents, who would display it in their house every year. It is a Mexican nativity set. My grandpa built the frame around it and my grandma painted it. I love it, and I always think of them when I see it. It is one of my treasures now that they are gone.