Monday, June 30, 2014

Return to Manderley

During the month of June my book club chose to read the classic Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.  Even though the movie adaptation is one of my very favorites (I am a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock), I had never actually read this book! It was quite unusual for me to be comparing the book to the movie instead of vice versa.  I kept picturing Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter and Joan Fontaine as his second wife (I didn't realize until reading the book that the narrator is never actually named).  The narrator is a shy, mousy, and penniless young woman in Monte Carlo as the paid companion to an odious woman. There she meets the aloof and tormented Maxim de Winter and, after a whirlwind romance, she spontaneously marries him.  When they return to Manderley, Max's opulent home on the coast of Cornwall, she begins to feel the oppressive presence of Rebecca, the first Mrs. de Winter. Knowing that she cannot compete with the beautiful and sophisticated Rebecca, the narrator begins to doubt her relationship with Max and sinks into despair.  The housekeeper at Manderley, the sinister Mrs. Danvers, tells the narrator that she will never live up to Rebecca and tries to convince her to commit suicide.  There are quite a few plot twists as the circumstances of Rebecca's mysterious death are revealed and the story builds and builds to a startling conclusion. Despite seeing the movie more times than I can count, I was literally on the edge of my seat from the suspense.  The novel is even more suspenseful than the movie because the reader is actually inside the head of the narrator as she is slowly driven mad. However, I do feel that the movie does a better job of making Rebecca an actual character in the story, perhaps because film is a visual medium.  I really enjoyed reading this classic Gothic romance and, if you are a fan of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (and I certainly am), I suspect you will enjoy Rebecca as well.

Note:  I also highly recommend the Academy Award winning movie.  Good stuff.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Utah Arts Festival 2014

Saturday I went to the Utah Arts Festival.  My niece Tashena dances with Children's Dance Theatre (CDT) and they always perform at the festival.  It has become a fun tradition every year to watch Tashena dance and then spend the afternoon soaking in as much of the art, food, music, movies, and dance as I can.  It is always amazing!  I walked around for about an hour looking at the row upon row of booths. I found some really beautiful and interesting pieces.  I loved just about every piece of jewelry I saw and I was quite impressed with some bells.  I wish I could have bought one of them.  Then I watched Tashena dance with CDT in The Three Questions on the Festival Stage.  Once again, I absolutely loved Tashena's dance, "Childhood Lost."  I loved the mournful cello music and the fuchsia and purple brocade costumes (Tashena thinks they are really heavy).  I just love watching Tashena dance because I think she is amazing.  I know I am a little bit biased but she has such a presence on stage.  I really loved the performance. After CDT danced, I spent some time wandering around the food booths. Many of Salt Lake City's best restaurants were represented and I finally opted for some fries and a garlic burger.  Delicious! Then I went back to the Festival Stage to see Ballet West perform.  I am always so impressed that Tashena dances on the same stage as Ballet West!  The first ballet was "Without Fall" to the music of Vivaldi's Concerto for Violin and Strings.  It was choreographed by Christopher Rudd, one of my favorite dancers.  The next ballet was "Mobile," which was choreographed by Ruud's father Tomm. Three dancers made intricate shapes within a ten foot circle in the middle of the stage.  It was simply stunning!  Finally, the dancers performed "Drums," which was a ballet by Christopher Ruud commissioned by the Utah Arts Festival.  The inspiration for this piece was Japanese drums and the choreography was incredibly innovative.  As usual, I really enjoyed watching Ballet West.  It was a fun afternoon and evening at the Utah Arts Festival, which continues until 11:00 tonight. Go here for more information.

Note:  While I was watching Ballet West perform at the festival three years ago, I actually sat next to Christopher Ruud!  Did I mention that he is my favorite dancer?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I have very eclectic taste in music.  A friend of mine once told me that I like everything from Beethoven to the Beatles to the Beastie Boys!  I guess that's true!  I became a fan of Natalie Cole after I saw her perform a Christmas concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I was so impressed that I bought her album Unforgettable: With Love, which is a collection of many of the songs her father, Nat King Cole, sang (including her iconic duet with her father on "Unforgettable"), and it quickly became one of my favorites.  I think I have established the fact that I absolutely love going to outdoor performances in the summer, so imagine my happiness when I found out Natalie Cole would be performing at the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre this summer!  I bought a ticket as soon as they were available to the general public and have been eagerly anticipating the concert ever since.  It was wonderful!  I think I was the youngest person there, but I absolutely loved it.  The opening act was Joy & Eric, a duo from Park City.  They played covers of various songs with just an acoustic guitar and I especially loved Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" and Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer."  Natalie Cole began with a very sultry rendition of "Fever" which got the crowd in the mood.  She, along with her amazing musicians and backup singers, turned the large outdoor venue into a smokey jazz club for a few hours.  Luckily for me she played many songs from my favorite album including "Route 66," "The Very Thought of You," "Smile," "L-O-V-E," and, of course, "Unforgettable."  Cole also included many covers including Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money," Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing," and Etta James' "At Last!"  She ended her set with "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" which got the entire crowd up and dancing!  For the encore, she sang an acoustic version of Des'ree's "You Gotta Be" which was amazing.  Such a lovely evening sitting under the stars listening to wonderful music!

Note:  Even though I was the youngest person there, I knew all of the words to every song!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Live. Die. Repeat.

I love a good summer blockbuster!  There is something about sitting in an air conditioned theater on a hot summer day with a tub of popcorn while watching things blow up on a giant screen that appeals to me.  Don't get me wrong, I like good storytelling as much as the next person but it is awfully fun to watch things blow up!  Last Saturday I saw Edge of Tomorrow, a great movie which combines both: incredible action sequences and an interesting and compelling story.  A race of aliens, known as Mimics, have invaded continental Europe and the United Defense Force is waging a conventional war against them.  Tom Cruise (not a big fan but I liked him well enough in this role) plays Major William Cage, a cocky PR officer who gets arrested and demoted to private on the eve of a D-Day like invasion of France.  The invasion is a slaughter but Cage is able to use a grenade to kill a Mimic in close proximity, getting covered in the Mimic's blood as he dies.  He wakes up again on the eve of the invasion.  Eventually, after being killed and waking up multiple times, he realizes that he can reset the day and enlists the help of Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a war hero known as the "Angel of Verdun," to help him win the war against the Mimics.  The script is excellent with snappy dialogue throughout.  There are many amusing scenes, especially when Cage tries to warn his superior officer of the outcome of a battle set to happen tomorrow.  Cruise and Blunt have great chemistry without a lot of the usual sexual tension (I pretty much love the fact that she trains him) and the movie ends perfectly with a fantastic scene between them.  The special effects are amazing and they add to, rather than detract from, the story.  I think director Doug Limon (known for The Bourne Identity which is one of my favorites) always does an excellent job with action sequences.  I recommend that you get out of the heat, buy a big tub of popcorn, and spend a couple of hours watching Tom Cruise blow things up!

Sunday, June 22, 2014


When Pope John Paul II died in April of 2005, I was completely obsessed and I watched almost continuous coverage of his funeral and the conclave to elect a new pope.  I was fascinated by Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica.  So I was beyond excited when I had the opportunity to visit Italy that summer.  Here are the highlights.
Grand Canal, Venice, Italy
View from a gondola ride, Venice, Italy
Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy
Doge's Palace, Venice, Italy
St. Mark's Basilica, Venice, Italy
St. Mark's Square (Cafe Florian has the best gelato ever), Venice, Italy
St. Mark's Square with St. Mark's Basilica and the Campanile, Venice, Italy
Duomo, Florence, Italy
Baptistery Doors on the Duomo, Florence, Italy
Attempting to get an amusing photo at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
St. Peter's Square, Vatican City
Pompeii (hot but fascinating place), Italy
Various views of the Colosseum, Rome, Italy
Inside the Colosseum, Rome, Italy
Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy
Triumphal Arch (Did you know that they are everywhere, not just Paris?), Rome, Italy

My tour guide asked me what my favorite city was and I told her Paris.  She then told me that after this trip my favorite city would be Rome.  Nope.  I love Paris.  But I feel like I didn't give Rome a fair shake.  I was only there three days and I spent one whole day at the Vatican and another whole day at Pompeii.  By the time I went sightseeing in Rome I was hot and exhausted.  After touring the Colosseum, I went back to my hotel for a nap in the air conditioning.  I have never done that before!  For my last night in Rome I took a cab here.
Luckily I threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain so, according to legend, I will be back!

Note:  These are the last of my digital pictures from my travels.  If you want to see pictures from the other trips I've taken since 1990, you will just have to come to my house and look at all of the scrapbooks!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

It has become a tradition for me to take Sean and Tashena to a baseball game every summer so I took them to see the Bees play the Memphis Redbirds last night.  We had so much fun!  I like sitting outside with a great view of the mountains.
Sean likes going because he can get pizza and ice cream in a baseball helmet (which he keeps).
Tashena only goes to humor me...but I think she actually had a lot of fun because she didn't use any of her electronic devices.
She really liked the shirt I bought her (which is why she was willing to pose for me)!
The Bees didn't play very well (they were losing 9-4 by the time we left at the top of the ninth inning) but we still had a lot of fun watching them.  Sean has this funny notion that anyone drinking beer is "drunk."  There were some people behind us who were drinking and Sean kept calling them drunk.  He said he could act as goofy as he wanted because the drunk people wouldn't remember what he did in the morning.  (Where does he get these ideas?)  I don't know if they heard Sean call them "drunk" but they eventually left.  Ha ha!  All of the players have theme songs for when they come up to bat and one of the players had "Turn Down For What?"  For some reason I absolutely love that song so, whenever he came to bat, I would sing really loud.  At first Sean and Tashena were somewhat embarrassed but they ended up joining in.  On the drive home, I played it (yes I have it on my phone) and Sean started busting out his moves.  Tashena and I could not stop laughing!  So much fun! 

At the game last year.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Practically Perfect

I had so much fun last night seeing Hale Centre Theatre's production of Mary Poppins.  It is such an entertaining show and it brought back so many memories of my childhood.  It is the first movie I actually remember seeing with my Aunt Sharon and my cousins at the old Villa Theatre in Salt Lake. The musical tells the well-known story of how a nanny comes to Cherry Tree Lane to save the Banks children and ends up saving their father.  This is a big show and I am in awe of what director John Sweeney and choreographer Jenny Barlow were able to do on such a small stage!  The choreography is simply amazing, especially in "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "Step in Time."  Kacey Udy, once again, outdid himself with the set design.  The Banks' drawing room rises from the floor and the nursery comes down from the ceiling.  The carousel the children ride during "Jolly Holiday" is fabulous!  Kimberly Olson Bunker is practically perfect in every way as Mary Poppins and I especially enjoyed her performance in "A Spoonful of Sugar." David Smith is totally endearing as Bert and I was very impressed with his singing and dancing in "Jolly Holiday" and "Step in Time." Abigail Edwards and Anson Bagley are adorable as the children and JaNae Gibbs Cottam (a frequent performer at HCT) is hilarious as Miss Andrew.  The entire cast does a wonderful job and the dancing is simply spectacular!  I highly recommend seeing this show with your children.  The kids in the audience last night seemed spell-bound and a little girl in my row gasped out loud when she saw Mary Poppins flying through the air (there was a slight glitch in Mary's flying apparatus but she informed us that it was because she had a new umbrella). The show runs through August 9 but, as usual, many shows are sold out.  Go here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cascade Springs

Yesterday was a little bit overcast which, in my opinion, is perfect for hiking.  I live in an absolutely beautiful place and can literally get to any number of trailheads in the mountains within 30 minutes.  I decided to go to Cascade Springs and then drive the Alpine Loop from American Fork Canyon to Provo Canyon.  Cascade Springs is made up of a series of cascading waterfalls over travertine terraces.  You can hike the lower loop by the pools or you can hike the middle and upper loops to the source of the springs.  It was especially nice yesterday because it was cool and not very crowded.
After hiking around Cascade Springs, I drove the Alpine Loop.  It was beautiful and relaxing.
I love driving through the mountains (especially with the windows down while listening to Neil Young).  It was a lovely day.

Monday, June 16, 2014

All The Right Moves

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is sit under the stars and watch an outdoor performance.  Saturday night was an absolutely beautiful summer evening and one of my favorite bands came to the Usana Amphitheatre for an incredible concert.  Needless to say, I was pretty happy!  OneRepublic started their set with "Light It Up" behind a giant screen, which whipped the 17,000 screaming fans into a frenzy before it finally dropped.  Whenever I go to a concert, there is always one song that I really want the band to play.  It is usually pretty obscure, so sometimes I'm disappointed.  But it just so happens that my favorite OneRepublic song, "Stop and Stare," is quite popular so they played it relatively early in the evening.  I loved it because it was an incredibly stirring performance with the entire crowd singing along!  I really love Ryan Tedder's voice and, even though it was a large arena with over 17,000 in attendance, he sang with such raw emotion that it felt very intimate.  Many songs began acoustically with one featured instrument and a spotlight (piano for "Apologize," Spanish guitar for "Counting Stars," and cello for "Secrets") and then built to a crescendo with other instruments and the usual light show.  They played a few songs from Native, their latest album, such as their catchy new single "Love Runs Out," "Preacher," and "Something I Need," but they kept the crowd happy with the hits "All the Right Moves" and "Good Life."  When they played "Come Home," they showed images from SLC projected on the screens and that definitely got the crowd cheering.  They ended their set with "I Lived," an incredible song that I want played at my funeral!  Listen to it!  For the encore, there was an amazing rendition of "Wonderful World" (did I mention that I love Ryan Tedder's voice?) and then "If I Lose Myself."  It was a really fun night of great music!

Note:  I also enjoyed the opening bands, even though I wasn't as familiar with them.  The first band was American Authors.  I didn't see their whole set because of an epic parking nightmare (did I mention that there were 17,000 people at this concert?) but I did get to hear their biggest hit, "Best Day of My Life," which was fun.  The Script put on a great show with charismatic front man, Danny O'Donoghue, running through the crowd multiple times.  I really liked their performance of "Breakeven."

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Eastern Europe

Maybe it's because I read too many John LeCarre spy novels when I was a teenager, but I have always been fascinated by Eastern Europe.  It always seemed so mysterious to me!  In the summer of 2006 I had the opportunity to visit Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic and it was a very interesting trip.  Here are some highlights.
Parliament Building (modeled on the Houses of Parliament in London), Budapest, Hungary
Heroes Square, Budapest, Hungary
Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest, Hungary
Matthias Church, Budapest, Hungary
St. Stephen's Cathedral, Budapest, Hungary
Schonbrunn Palace (modeled on Versailles in France), Vienna, Austria
St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Belvedere Palace, Vienna, Austria
Bratislava Castle, Bratislava, Slovakia
Old Town, Bratislava, Slovakia
Valtice Castle, Valtice, Czech Republic
Hradcany Castle, Prague, Czech Republic
St. Vitus' Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic
Astronomical Clock, Prague, Czech Republic
Church of St. Nicholas, Prague, Czech Republic
Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

I absolutely fell in love with the city of Prague!  I could have spent days wandering the Mala Strana (Old Town).  I think this trip actually increased my fascination with Eastern Europe and I would like to visit Poland some day.

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