Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Weekend Getaway

Last weekend, Marilyn and I spontaneously decided to go camping.  By camping I mean we stayed at a "kabin" at a KOA in Fillmore, about 150 miles south of where we live.  It is close enough to get to easily but far enough to feel like you have gone somewhere.  We have stayed here several times before and we really love it.
These cabins are great!  They have two beds (you bring your own pillow and linens or a sleeping bag), a desk and chair, a nightstand, and a mini refrigerator.  They have electricity and a heating and cooling unit so they are very comfortable.  There is a communal bathroom with showers a short walk away from the cabins so it is very convenient.  I really love the large porch and I have been known to sit there during the afternoon and read.  It rained most of the day when we were there so we stayed inside watching movies (we watched Young Victoria, Austenland, and Romeo and Juliet).  It was actually so much fun!  Then we ventured to the town of Fillmore for dinner and ate at a restaurant called the Garden of Eat'n.  What a hoot!
The rain stopped for a little while after we got back from dinner so we had to have a fire.  I think my favorite part of camping is spending the evening around the campfire.
Of course, no camping trip is complete without making s'mores and, as always, they were delicious!
This trip was so much fun!  It was the perfect little getaway from everyday life and it was so relaxing!  We laughed, almost non-stop, and ate way too many treats!  Even though the weather didn't cooperate, there is nothing better than the smell of a rain shower or the sound of raindrops on your roof as you sleep under a heavy quilt in a cabin!  I am really looking forward to many more camping trips this spring and summer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 3

Last Friday I went to another beautiful concert featuring the Utah Symphony.  In my opinion, listening to the music of Tchaikovsky is the perfect way to end the work week!  The evening began with the Russian Easter Overture by Rimsky-Korsakov (which I thought was appropriate in light of the recent Easter holiday).  I really enjoyed this piece because it reminded me of my visit to St. Petersburg (I'm going back to St. Petersburg this summer so listening to this piece really ignited my enthusiasm for the trip).  It sounded so quintessentially Russian to me.  Also, I like any piece that features the chimes!  After the intermission we heard Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 3.  Tchaikovsky has become one of my favorite composers because I think his music is so romantic and emotional.  I had never heard this particular piece before but I absolutely loved it.  There is a theme in the third movement played by a solo oboe that was so haunting that it gave me goosebumps.  It was, literally, a night of Russians because the guest conductor, Andrey Boreyko, is Russian.  He was absolutely brilliant!  I think Russian music sounds so much better with a Russian conductor or soloist because they are always so passionate.  It was definitely a lovely evening with incredible music.

Monday, April 28, 2014

War Horse

Last week I was able to see the show War Horse at the Capitol Theatre.  It was absolutely incredible! It is based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo (I haven't read the book but I absolutely loved the movie version), a touching story about the bond between a boy and a horse set against the backdrop of World War I (a particular interest of mine).  The play is every bit as powerful as the movie but with the greater intimacy that the theatre always provides. The horses are full-sized puppets, created by the Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa, and each are controlled by three puppeteers. They reminded me of the puppets used in the musical The Lion King.  The horses have their own personalities and they snort, whinny, and flick their ears just like real horses.  They were astonishing and, after a few minutes, I actually thought they were real and I couldn't see the puppeteers any more.  I thought the staging was exceptional.  The rural village of Devon and the battlefields of the Somme are portrayed with projections on a large screen with very few props and the minimalist style is very effective.  The performances of the actors were wonderful but I sometimes had a hard time understanding the accents.  However, I felt that the horses were the real stars of the show!  I really loved the musical score;  it reminded me of the music in a movie.  The war scenes were sometimes very hard to watch and I actually cried when the horse Topshorn died (I cried again when Albert and Joey were reunited).  My only complaint was that the second act seemed to drag on a bit but it was worth it to get to the heartwarming end.  I highly recommend seeing this wonderful show if you have the opportunity.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Batter Up!

Last week I was able to see one of my nephew Sean's baseball games.  His team is the Toronto Blue Jays, which just happens to be my favorite professional baseball team!  He was so excited to tell me!
If you have not been to a Little League baseball game recently, you are definitely missing out!  It was an absolute riot to watch (even though it was incredibly cold and windy).  The coach of the opposing team, the Cincinnati Reds, was obnoxiously intense!  He acted like he was coaching in the Major League and shouted instructions to every player throughout the whole game and called for multiple time outs to talk to his pitcher.  Some of his players were in tears after his instructions!  I found it incredibly amusing!
The Blue Jays, however, were not quite as intense!  Their coach kept encouraging them by calling out, "Be ready, Blue!  Be ready!"  This was a necessary instruction as I noticed Sean picking dandelions when he was playing right field!  Another Blue Jays player was turning somersaults throughout the game!  When Sean came up to bat, he immediately struck out but, man, is he powerful!  When he does actually connect with the ball, he will score a home run!  Needless to say, Sean's team did not win but I sure did love watching him!

Note:  Normally I really enjoy watching a red team beat a blue team!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Rite of Spring

Last week I went to see a performance by Ballet West and it was absolutely wonderful!  The first ballet was called Forgotten Land and it was based on a painting by Edvard Munch, who is one of my favorites.  It featured music by Benjamin Britten which, to me, was almost reminiscent of howling wind.  There were several couples dressed monochromatically in red, white, gray, and black.  They danced in front of a large backdrop showing a stark landscape of ice, which I thought was very effective in evoking a mood of desolation.  The choreography was very innovative and this was definitely my favorite piece of the night.  The second ballet was called Divertimento No. 15 and it featured the music of Mozart.  It was a more traditional ballet with the dancers wearing tutus.  The choreography was very elegant.  The final ballet was a world premiere called The Rite of Spring featuring the music of Igor Stravinsky.  This piece was amazing!  The choreography was almost primitive and every movement embodied the music completely.  A large vessel above the stage slowly rotated to splash water on the dancers at the end of the piece.  It was very dramatic!  I really enjoyed the entire performance.

Friday, April 25, 2014

2013-2014 Student Body Officers

One of the perks of working at a comprehensive high school is being able to sponsor a group, club, or organization.  Granted, this is often a great deal of work; however, it is also a lot of fun!  This year I have been the student government advisor and I have had the pleasure of working with these amazing students!
They have had a very successful year at Hunter High School and I am so proud of them!  We recently had the election for next year's student body officers and the feeling is very bittersweet.  I am excited to work with a new group of students and I am looking forward to new opportunities and experiences.  Yet at the same time I am sad at the thought of saying goodbye to this wonderful group.  I will definitely miss them!
I wish them the best of luck as they go off to college in the fall!  I know they will do great things!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Last week I went to see The Grand Budapest Hotel (again).  If you don't already know this, let me tell you now that Wes Anderson is a genius.  The movie is set in Zubrowka, a fictional Alpine European republic, between the wars and includes a panoply of eccentric characters centered around Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, and his loyal lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori).  When Madame Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Tilda Swinton), one of Gustave's many wealthy clients who rely on his "exceptional service," dies and leaves Gustave the painting Boy With Apple, her son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) accuses him of her murder.  Gustave enlists the help of Zero and his beloved, Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), to help prove his innocence and thus ensues a fantastical adventure, including a prison break, an appeal to The Society of the Crossed Keys, a high speed chase on skis, a gunfight in the lobby of the hotel, and a mysterious second copy of the second will written by Madame D.  The cast is phenomenal and I was especially blown away by Ralph Fiennes!  I always think of him as a dramatic actor but his comedic timing is superb.  Adrien Brody (I love him in every movie he is in) is hilariously overwrought.   The scene where Dmitri walks down a corridor of the hotel with organ music playing in the background just about killed me!  There is also an impressive list of cameos in this movie (fans of Wes Anderson will recognize many faces);  my favorite is Bill Murray as Monsieur Ivan, a member of The Society of the Crossed Keys.  As with every Wes Anderson movie, the production design is incredibly stylized.  The hotel itself is a piece of pink confectionery and the banners on the hotel at the outbreak of war are almost a spoof of the Nazi swastika.  In my opinion, this movie is brilliant and I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mozart, Bernstein & Nielsen

I won some free tickets to a Utah Symphony concert of my choice for promoting the organization on social media.  Recently Marilyn and I used the tickets to see a lovely performance featuring the music of Mozart, my favorite composer, along with Leonard Bernstein and Carl Nielsen.  The orchestra began with Eine Kleine Nachtmusik which is one of Mozart's most popular works, certainly one of the most recognizable.  It was performed by a small chamber group and I thoroughly enjoyed it because this is one of the first pieces of classical music that I fell in love with.  I think it is light, airy, and elegant.  After this piece, the full orchestra, including a large contingent of percussion instruments, joined the group for Leonard Bernstein's Serenade, after Plato's Symposium.  This featured Kathryn Eberle, the Associate Concert Master for the Utah Symphony, on solo violin and she was amazing.  It is a series of related movements with various speakers praising the platonic idea of love.  I really enjoyed the first movement because it featured a lot of percussion.   I especially liked the chimes.  The orchestra concluded the concert with Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 5.  I was not very familiar with Carl Nielsen but, as the orchestra has been performing his Symphony Cycle this season, I have grown to appreciate his work and I was especially affected by this piece.  Many believe it was heavily influenced by the brutality of World War I.  It was very somber but I thought it ended triumphantly!  Marilyn and I had a wonderful evening.  Thanks to the Utah Symphony for the tickets!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter 2014

Easter weekend was absolutely wonderful!  Lots of sunshine, family, food, and fun!  Saturday morning Marilyn and I colored Easter eggs with Sean and Tashena.  We tried a new technique involving shaving cream and food coloring which ended up being extremely messy but we did end up with some beautiful eggs with two colors swirled together.  Sean spent more time playing with the shaving cream than he did coloring eggs!  After our egg adventure, we took the kiddos out for lunch.  Whenever they get to pick the restaurant, it is always Chuck-A-Rama so that's where we went.  Then it was time for presents!  Marilyn found those adorable bags on Pick Your Plum.  They were a hit!  The rest of the afternoon was spent outside.  Sunday morning Sean and Tashena had an Easter egg hunt in the back yard and found their baskets.  The Easter Bunny brought Tashena a longboard and Sean an impressive Amazon gift card (He is currently obsessed with spy gear and he had half of his gift card spent that afternoon on toys from his Amazon wish list.)  I think the Easter bunny has become considerably more generous since I was a kid!  Then my brother-in-law Trent fired up his griddle and we had French toast, bacon, and sausage for Easter brunch.  It was absolutely delicious.  I think food always tastes better outside.  After another afternoon spent outside, we had an Easter feast.  Kristine made Chicken Cordon Bleu in the dutch oven and it was so good!  We spent the rest of the evening in front of the fire pit with three different pies picked out by Sean from Village Inn.  I had the Lemon Supreme!  Yum!   As we lingered by the fire we all wished that the day would never end.  I love spending time with my family and I love being outdoors so it was the perfect Easter for me!

Note:  Go here for the recipe for the Lemon Chick Cookies.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Jazz Game With Sean

Last weekend I took my nephew Sean to a Utah Jazz game and it was quite the adventure!  Sean was so excited he ran all the way home from school (and then had to wait several hours for me to pick him up).  The Jazz played the Portland Trailblazers and it was a great game, until the fourth quarter!  I've gone to quite a few games this season and I initially thought that I was a good luck charm because the Jazz won every game I attended (even one in Denver).  However, I decided that I was really a curse because the last five games I saw ended with the Jazz falling apart in the fourth quarter.  It has been a frustrating season.  Many people believe the Jazz have been losing on purpose to get a higher draft pick and, if that is true, I am really disappointed in the organization.  Even though this game ended with a 111-99 loss to the Blazers, Sean still declared that it was really fun!  There is never a dull moment with this kid!  Most of the people around us were drinking beer and Sean decided that they were all "drunk."  When we went to the bathroom at halftime, he brought the water bottle he was given at the beginning of the game (he was thrilled to get this) with him.  I told him that he could leave it by our seats because we were coming back but he was worried that all of the drunk people would steal it!  Sean wanted some cotton candy and the girl working that concession booth was a former student of mine.  We talked for a little while and she gave Sean the cotton candy for free!  So exciting!  This was my last game of the season and I'm so glad that I got to see it with Sean!  I sure do love him!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Blue Man Group

When I got home from my spring break trip I was able to see the Blue Man Group at Kingsbury Hall.  I had seen this show before so I thought I knew what to expect but, when I got to my seat (in the front row), I discovered a rain poncho.  This was somewhat disconcerting to me!  There was a lot of nervous laughter among the people sitting in the first few rows as we speculated about what might happen to us!   A few "before" pictures were taken!  There was a preshow with flashing LED screens above the stage giving funny messages to the crowd and then the performance began in earnest when three men in blue body suits came on stage and proceeded to create art by spitting paint balls onto spinning canvasses.  The man sitting next to me was the recipient of one of these masterpieces!  The theme of this show was wide-eyed wonder at the ordinary including playing with giant interactive iPads, opening twinkies with a member of the audience, and practicing various moves needed at a rock concert (raise the roof, put your hands in the air like you just don't care, etc.)  In between these multi-media presentations, the blue men performed music using various PVC pipes as percussion instruments.  This was incredibly cool!  Of course the show was interrupted by a siren and flashing lights announcing a late arrival and a camera and spotlight followed this unfortunate couple to their seats!  At the end of the show, giant multi-colored spheres were launched into the audience.  It became one giant dance party with everyone hitting the spheres into the air.  I had so much fun and I highly recommend seeing this show if you have the opportunity!

Note:  We needed the ponchos because there was a little splatter of various substances.  I was hit by bananas!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring Break 2014

This year I had an entire week off from school for spring break!  I decided to take a road trip down to southern Utah and it was a lot of fun.  The weather was absolutely beautiful (while it was rainy and overcast in Salt Lake).  I spent a day visiting Zion National Park.
Zion National Park is one of my very favorite places on earth.  I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around.
On the way home from St. George, I drove along Highway 89 and visited Bryce Canyon.
The formations are always beautiful but I especially loved the contrast between the red rocks and the snow.  However, it was extremely cold.
The week before spring break was very hectic at school since my Student Body Officers were sponsoring Spirit Week and it was the end of the term with a lot of grading to be done.  It was so nice to get away from my daily routine and relax!  It was definitely a much needed break!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Three Questions

Several weeks ago Children's Dance Theatre (CDT), the performing arm of the University of Utah Tanner Dance Program, presented The Three Questions at the Capitol Theatre.  It was a retelling of a story by Leo Tolstoy in which the son of the Emperor of China must learn to rule wisely after his father is murdered.  When he is eighteen, the council asks him three questions to determine if he is fit to rule:  What is the right thing to do?  When is the best time to do it?  Who is the most important one?  Each dance was an interpretation of his quest to find the answers to these questions and the program was simply beautiful.  My very favorite dance was actually Tashena's dance (which, believe it or not, is not always the case).  Her dance was entitled "Childhood Lost" and the music and choreography evoked such a sense of longing that I actually had tears in my eyes!  I also thought the costumes were amazing because they seemed to shimmer with each movement (Tashena thought they were heavy).  I absolutely love watching Tashena on stage because she is such a beautiful dancer and my entire family was so proud of her!

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Note:  I have to brag a little more about this beautiful and talented girl!  In addition to being a dancer, she is also a three sport athlete!  She played volleyball and basketball this year and yesterday was her first track meet.  She threw the discus 89 feet 11 inches which shattered the school record.  Her coach thinks she is well on her way to breaking the district and state records.  The other coaches can't believe she is a seventh grader!  We already knew that she was amazing!
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