Sunday, February 22, 2009

Snow Tubing

To celebrate my sister Suzy's birthday, we went sledding at Gorgoza Park near Park City yesterday. This was the first time I'd ever been sledding at a place that had a lift, so you don't have to walk up the hill each time, and it was awesome!!! Makes sledding about 5 times more fun than it usually is!

I had to laugh, because when you first get there, they make you read and sign a paper that explains how completely dangerous sledding is, explaining how you may die, and if you do, you cannot hold them responsible. But then, when you get on their beautifully groomed sledding hills, your ride is as smooth as silk. I think it was the safest sledding experience I've ever had in my entire life. No big fence to run into at the bottom like at Hooper Elementary. No big hidden rocks to break your tailbone on like at Beus' Hill near Soda Springs. No trees to dodge like the place where we always sled when we get our Christmas tree each year. No other people to crash into, because they make you wait until the other people get out of the way. So, it's fun. Really fun. Here's Suzy and I signing our lives away.

Here's a little video I took while riding up the lift.

It's funny. My niece Debbie was complaining to her mom that the lift ride was really boring. Suzy said "Do you think it would be more fun if you had to walk up the hill, dragging the tube by yourself?" Then Suzy remembered that Debbie has not been sledding the old fashioned way before, so she didn't have enough life experience to know how sweet it is to get pulled up the hill. Here's a photo of sweet Debbie:
Here's Rick, helping Anna get off the hill at the end of the ride. You can see the three short runs they have for kids under six, and then they also have four longer runs for older people. Both were fun.Parker was great with the little girls. Here he is telling them stories to keep them entertained while they were in line.

We loved it!

Just wanted to share one last photo. After we arrived at my house, I was tired and so I laid on the floor while everyone was enjoying rootbeer floats at the table. Because of my position, I was able to witness this sweet moment between Anna and Lily Beth.

Happy Birthday Suzy! We love you!

Sundance Film Festival

Last year it dawned on me "Hey! I live in Salt Lake City, near where the world-famous Sundance Film Festival is held! Maybe I should go to it sometime!"

So, that's what my sister Tracy and I did this January. We liked it. A lot. We'll probably make it an annual tradition. I'm too lazy to write any more. The end.

Just kidding. That would be really rude of me to write this post at the request of my sister Laurie and then not include the juicy details, so I will resist my urge to go take a nap and will tell you more about it.

Our first movie was on a Saturday night up in Ogden. Tracy's kids were with their father for the weekend, and so her schedule was free and we decided to make a day of it. First, though, we had to drive up to Park City to pick up our tickets. (Next year I'll know to have them shipped to me instead). We didn't see any stars or famous people in Park City, but we did see the entertaining sight of these trees along the side of the road, with hundreds of shoes draped over them, like big happy shoe Christmas trees. Very artsy. It was so cool that we thought about throwing our shoes up there too, but we were too practical to go shoeless the rest of the day. Ok, not really, we really didn't think that. I just made that up. But, truthfully, the next time I have some shoes to get rid of, I'm going to save them so I can throw them on the shoe trees on my next visit to Park City.

Here's a closeup:

The shoe trees as they appear from the road:

[Editors Note: My home teachers just came over, and when I told them about this, they thought that a tree with shoes all over it was entirely wasteful and impractical, and that I would do much better by donating my shoes to Deseret Industries or another thrift store. I can totally see their point, but donating your shoes to D.I. is so much less fun than throwing them onto the Park City shoe trees. I wonder if D.I. could make their drop off locations more like the shoe tree, so you can be virtuous and responsible, but also have fun while you are doing it?]
So, moving on...enough about shoe trees...from Park City, we drove to Ogden's Union Station, which is a grand old train depot built in Ogden's heyday. Now it's filled with museums and a restaurant. We loved the railroad and antique car museum, but ran out of time before we could see the Browning gun museum. We totally loved the gift shop, because it had all sorts of adorable and entertaining things.

Another fun thing we did while we were in Ogden was go to the iFly simulated skydiving center and watched a little girl and her father do a simulated skydive. The people go into a clear Plexiglas chamber with a wire mesh floor, and operator turns on a huge fan below them and then the people start flying around. The instructors are totally awesome, and do flips and all sorts of tricks. Watching them was great entertainment.

Ok, so I'm not quite sure how I got this far into a post about the Sundance Film Festival without talking about any films, but I really am going that direction. Really.

The first show we attended was at Ogden's Peery's Egyptian Theatre, which is a very grand place. It has all these fabulous Egyptian paintings and carvings both inside and outside the building. The thing I loved best, though, is the little twinkling lights embedded in the dark purple ceiling, so if you look up to the ceiling during the movie, you feel like you are outside looking at the twinkling stars in the night sky.

As we entered the theater, the Sundance volunteers gave us paper ballots, with the corners of the paper marked with one, two, three, and four stars. We were instructed that after the movie ended, we should rip the ballot on the corner next to the number of stars that we wanted to give the movie for the viewer's choice competition.

The first film we saw was called "Before Tomorrow". Before the film started, the director spoke a few words, and then after the film we had a question and answer session with her, which I thought was awesome. How fun to be able to ask questions of a director immediately after you watch his or her movie! The film was about an Inuit grandmother and grandson who left their village to go to an island where they could dry that year's supply of meat without animals or others there to steal the meat while it was drying. While the two of them were gone, a tragedy happened that decimated their village, and so when they came back, they found that they were all alone.

The movie had some beautiful moments, and had a lot of potential, but it moved too slowly for my taste. It also had an unsatisfying ending, and so I didn't give it very many stars.

The next movies we saw were in Park City the following weekend. We parked our car in a day-long lot and then rode the free Sundance shuttle buses around town between the different theatres. That was a fun way to travel, because it gave you a chance to talk with other people at the festival. One man on the bus had a long ponytail and was wearing a silver three-piece suit and a bright purple shirt. He noticed me checking out his threads and started talking to me, and was quite hilarious. I can't remember the details of the funny things he said, except that he asked me "Are you a stand up comic?" and I said "I would love to be a stand up comic, but I'm not funny". And he said "Yes, I think that would be definitely be considered a career impediment. You're not funny. I see." It made me laugh at the time, but I don't think I can do it justice as I write it here.

While we were waiting for the bus, we chatted with one of the Sundance volunteers. She was a retired lady from California who volunteered for the festival each year, because by working 4 hours each day, she would earn a free pass to go see movies the rest of the time. Maybe sometime when I have more time, I'll do something like that too.

So the next movie we watched was "The Reckoning", a documentary about the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and their efforts to bring to justice those who are responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity. It was intense. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it sparked numerous discussions between Tracy and I. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay for the question and answer portion, because we had to rush to get to the next film.

The next film we saw "Once More With Feeling" was a lighter movie. It was about a father and daughter going through life challenges, and the father's attempt to get through them by singing karaoke. It was pleasant, but I probably wouldn't go see it again.

We then headed back to Salt Lake to see the screening of the film "Big River Man", a documentary about a crazy, overweight, heavy-drinking, 50ish man who decides to swim the length of the Amazon river. There were parts where I was laughing my head off, and other parts that were totally tender and gripping. I loved it. After the movie ended, and we all felt endeared to the quirky, lovable people in the film, I was delighted when the director announced that the people in the film were also there in the audience with us. We all cheered as they stood up and came to the front, and we loved asking them questions and talking with them. That was probably my favorite experience of the festival.

Last, but not least, we watched a sweet little documentary about love called "Paper Hearts", by a young woman who thought that she would never fall in love, and so she goes around interviewing people about it, and happens to fall in love herself during the movie. The movie was delightful and fun.

I wish we could have seen more, but tickets were hard to come by. One of my friends always puts the Sundance winners on her Netflix list, so maybe I'll have to start doing that. But, for now, I was just really happy to have experienced a Sundance Film Festival.

A visit from the Johnsons

My sister Julie and her family, who live in Maryland, spent a month in Utah and Idaho over the holidays. So, in early January, I had the opportunity to have them over for dinner and a Family Home Evening at my home, which was fun. Here's a little video to give you a sense of the experience:

The next day, I took the afternoon off work so we could all go swimming together. We had 4 adults and 7 kids all under the age of 7, so we had enough hands to keep everyone afloat. We played in the toys in the fun Murray indoor pool, and had a blast!

Dollhouse Dreams

My friend Michelle has a 5-year-old daughter who dreams of princesses and Barbies and such. To fulfill that dream, Michelle purchased a large Barbie dollhouse for her daughter for Christmas. Since she needed a place to assemble and store it before the magical morning when Santa would leave it beside their fireplace, I had the privilege of being involved in all the fun!

Michelle brought the dollhouse box to my home one Saturday afternoon, and we carefully opened the box and spread out the 53 numbered pieces and detailed instructions on the floor of my family room. Michelle and I make a great team...together we were able to assemble the house in about 2 hours. We did need to get out the power drill once, but that made us feel very capable and empowered, so we didn't mind. We were so proud of ourselves and our assembling skills that we took this photo. (Sorry it's shaky!)

Boy, was it a cool dollhouse! The shiny disco ball that hung from the rafters truly rocked! Not only did it have a platinum spiral staircase, but it also had an elevator that you could lift by cranking a handle. The best part, though, was when I visited Michelle after Christmas and her daughter was excited to take me on a tour of her bedroom, so she could show me the cool dollhouse Santa had brought for her. Being an Elf definitely has its rewards!

A very manly Christmas

My nephew Parker wanted to give his friends Christmas gifts, and so he came up with the idea of giving them each a bottle of Apple Beer along with a package of Pop-Tarts. His friends LOVED the gifts, and suddenly he had many new friends appearing out of the woodwork, hoping that they too would receive such a cool gift!

The thing I loved most about it, though, was the way he presented the gifts: with a big old piece of duct tape to stick the two things together. Very cool. Very manly. Very Parker.

Thanksgiving 2008

My parents were kind enough to invite us all to their home in Soda Springs over the Thanksgiving weekend, even though they had only very recently arrived home from their mission in New York City.

We all had a lovely weekend together. I never cease to be amazed at my parents. Somehow they are able to host incredibly large groups of people at their home, all while making each person feel welcome. We had lots of fun family times together, chatting and singing and playing games. This video showing us all enjoying performance by my brother-in-law and niece captures the feeling of the weekend:

Here are some of my other favorite photos from the weekend:
My sister Laurie and nephew Gideon:

My niece Debbie very lovingly (even though it might not look like it!) playing with the hair of her cousin Natalie, while their mothers chat.

Another thing I did that weekend was make some movies about Soda Springs and posted them on YouTube. They are quite amateurish and I say stupid things occasionally and get tongue tied, but I put them up there anyway. That's because some of the other videos about Soda Springs on YouTube present a negative view, which I didn't think fairly represented the town. I ended up posting 16 short videos. You can find the first one here.

The drive back to Salt Lake City was totally beautiful, and so I stopped and snapped a few photos. Here are some of my favorites.
A farm on the banks of the Alexander Reservoir, just west of Soda Springs:

The sky over Alexander Reservoir:

A beautiful sky above some barley fields and abandoned buildings near Bancroft Idaho.

A view of Caribou County from Fish Creek Summit:

It was a beautiful weekend.

My Inheritance

Last year my Grandmother Marian Nielson passed away. She wanted each of her grandchildren to inherit an item of hers, and my inheritance was an old fashioned typewriter, which my great grandmother Deborah Allen Nielson had used to type geneology and other things.

Since the typewriter was in Bluewater New Mexico, I didn't receive it until my parents came home from their mission, taking a few weeks to drive across the country, stopping in Bluewater along the way. Here's a photo of my mother and my sister trying out the typewriter when my parents stopped in Murray as their last stop on their long journey home:
We had fun playing with it. It made me realize how blessed I am, typing on this very sensitive laptop where I can easily backspace over my mistakes. I had a hard time typing a "w" on that typewriter, because my 4th finger wasn't strong enough to push the key all the way down if I kept my hands on the row of home keys where they belonged.

So, the next time I'm depressed and feeling like my life is hard, I think I'll spend a little time typing on that typewriter, just to remind myself how good I have it.

Saving up all my posts

Recently I spoke with my sister Laurie on the phone, and she asked why I hadn't updated my blog. Ummmm...I didn't have a good answer for her. Cause I'm lazy? Or, addicted to Facebook which is easier than writing, so I do that instead?

Laurie said she had been eagerly anticipating my report of the Sundance Film Festival and my other activities. So, since I adore Laurie, and in the spirit of doing better, I am now going to write several blog posts--a bunch all at once, to catch up on what I've been doing. At least, that's my intention, unless I decide to go take a nap or go play on Facebook before I manage to get them all up here. ;-)