Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Big Little Lies

My book club chose to read Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty during the month of September. We read Moriarty's What Alice Forgot several years ago and I really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to her latest offering. Like Alice, this novel also focuses on a group of women who volunteer at their children's primary school in Australia, ostensibly to support and encourage their children, but in reality to compete with each other. Ironically, these machinations are often to the detriment of their children (and highly damaging to their marriages).  I find these so-called "Mommy Wars" to be highly amusing (it should be noted that I do not have children).  The novel begins with a murder at a school fundraising event.  The reader is given details in the form of flashbacks from multiple perspectives and this is highly effective at building suspense.  The reader doesn't even know who the victim is until the final chapters (although there is no shortage of possible victims and murderers as the events unfold).  It all begins at kindergarten registration when one child is accused of bullying another child.  Battle lines are immediately drawn between those who support the single mother of the child accused and those who support the powerful mother of the victim (these women are nicknamed the Blonde Bobs because they all have the same distinctive hairstyle).  The novel is narrated by Jane, the single mother desperately worried about her son, Madeline, whose ex-husband and his new wife live in the neighborhood, and Celeste, a beautiful and wealthy woman with what appears to be the perfect life.  Each of them have secrets which shock the school community, eventually leading to a murder.  This novel is incredibly suspenseful!  I read it during every spare moment because I just had to know who did what to whom!  I was very surprised when everything was revealed which, in my opinion, makes it a great murder mystery!  Even though there are very serious issues addressed, such as bullying, eating disorders, divorce, rape, and spousal abuse, I frequently laughed out loud at these parents behaving badly!  The characters are incredibly believable; just remember the cliques found in your high school and imagine the members all grown up with children.  I'm sure you all know someone exactly like these women!  I couldn't put Big Little Lies down and I highly recommend it!

Note:  I also highly recommend What Alice Forgot!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mount Rushmore

I have really wanted to go to Mount Rushmore for the past little while!  I'm not entirely sure why.  I've been there several times before because it was a frequent stop on our annual road trip to Canada when I was young but I still wanted to go again.  I actually couldn't stop thinking about it and I even researched different routes and found a KOA (my favorite place to stay) nearby.  I had originally thought about going during fall break, which is in a few weeks, but the KOA closes for the winter at the end of September.  Last Friday was a day off for me as compensation for parent teacher conferences so I spontaneously booked a cabin!  All of my friends thought I was crazy!
This was my little cabin for the weekend.  I really enjoy staying in KOA cabins and this campground had a lot of fun amenities (all you can eat pancakes for breakfast, for example).  I spent a fair amount of time sitting on that swing reading.  It was so relaxing!
I spent all day Saturday at the monument.  I didn't do anything else in the area because I just wanted to see Mount Rushmore.  It is quite impressive!  I was able to go on the Presidential Trail (which I had never done before) to get different views.  All of the people on the trail kept laughing about taking a picture every 20 steps!
I did everything there is to do at Mount Rushmore!  I had lunch in the cafĂ©, but I was a bit disappointed when someone didn't pretend to shoot me (North By Northwest is one of my favorite movies of all time), I toured the sculptor's studio, I watched the film, I had some of the famous ice cream (I don't know why it is famous but it was really good), and I even came back for the evening program to light the monument.  It was a great day!
I loved this view, which you can see as you leave the monument!  I'm so glad I went on this spontaneous trip!

Note:  The drive is ten hours each way which seems a little bit crazy.  However, I actually like driving long distances because it gives me a chance to think!  I have a great road trip playlist (the Beatles, the Eagles, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison) and I sing at the top of my lungs!  This is the farthest I've ever gone on a road trip alone!  I was pretty proud of myself until I pulled into Little America with my gas light on only to discover that the power was out.  Since I couldn't get gas, I was basically stuck there (gas stations are few and far between in Wyoming) for three hours until a waitress went all the way home (20 miles away) to get a gas can full of gas for me! I think she is quite possibly the nicest person on the planet!  When your Dad tells you not to let the gas get below a quarter of a tank, listen to him!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Who Could Ask For Anything More?

What happens when a wealthy playboy stumbles out of a speakeasy and meets a sassy bootlegger on the run from the police?  Of course they fall in love and provide the basis for a light and effervescent comedy filled with Gershwin songs, eccentric characters, and dazzling choreography!  Last night I went to Nice Work If You Can Get It, the first Broadway in Utah show for the 2014-2015 season, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The plot is pretty formulaic but it doesn't really matter because the show is so charming!  I loved hearing all of the familiar songs by George and Ira Gershwin like "Someone To Watch Over Me," "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off," "S'Wonderful," "But Not For Me," "I've Got  A Crush On You," and the title song.  Many of the characters are absolutely hilarious including Duchess Estonia Dulworth (Stephanie Harter Gilmore), a temperance worker who, in the course of an evening, inadvertently drinks alcohol and ends up swinging from a chandelier, Eileen Evergreen (Rachael Scarr), a modern interpretive dancer, and Cookie McGee (Reed Campbell), a bootlegger duped into being a butler.  They provide many laugh-out-loud moments!  The choreography is amazing, especially when Jimmy (Alex Enterline) and Billie (Mariah MacFarlane) perform "S'Wonderful" and I loved the big production number when the chorus girls and the vice squad perform "Fascinating Rhythm."  The entire cast is extremely talented but Enterline is particularly endearing and MacFarlane can definitely belt out a tune!  I really liked the elaborate sets showing various views of Jimmy's Long Island mansion and the fabulous flapper costumes are like a bit of confectionery.  There are many jokes which poke gentle fun at both political parties and politicians themselves and they got the biggest laughs of the evening ("I'll be a high ranking member of the Senate and you'll do something important").  This show does not have a lot of substance but I recommend it to anyone looking for an evening of pure entertainment!  It runs through September 28.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall Fun For The Locals

I just love the fall!  The leaves are beautiful, the air is crisp, the fall flavors are delicious, and there are so many fun activities this time of year.  Here are some of my recommendations if you live in the SLC area.

Witch Fest at Gardner Village
Gardner Village has a wonderful display of witches from September 12 through October 31 but there are also some really fun events such as Breakfast with a Witch, Witchapalooza Dinner Theatre, and the ever popular Witches Night Out.  Go here for more details.

Cornbelly's at Thanksgiving Point
Cornbelly's is an amazing fall festival at Thanksgiving Point with lots of fun activities for the kids, including games, rides, face painting, a spook alley, a corn maze, a pumpkin patch, and a hay ride.  It runs from October 3 through November 1.  Go here for more information.

 Pumpkin Days & Festival of Scarecrows at Wheeler Farm
Wheeler Historic Farm has a really fun fall festival called Pumpkin Days which runs from Sept. 26 to Oct. 31.  There is a hay maze, a pumpkin patch, and a hay ride.  You can also make a scarecrow (Tashena named hers Toby) for fun prizes.  The scarecrows will be on display throughout Pumpkin Days.  Go here and here for more information.

Schmidt's Pumpkin Patch
There are a lot of pumpkin patches out there but Marilyn and I always take the kiddos to Schmidt's.  It is located in West Jordan at 9000 S. and 3400 W.  Try not to wait until the last Saturday before Halloween (like we did last year) because it is kill or be killed gets really crowded.  Schmidt's also has a really great Farmer's Market.

Crazy Corn Maze
Again, there are a lot of corn mazes out there but I really like the Crazy Corn Maze.  I usually go through it every year with or without Sean and Tashena.  My friend Tony and I once got so lost inside we paid an attendant $5.00 to get us out!  Last year Marilyn and I followed Sean and he had us out in about twenty minutes!  Go here for more information.

Frightmares at Lagoon
Lagoon, our local amusement park, is a great place to go in the fall for Frightmares!  The park is decorated for Halloween and there are a lot of fun activities, spook alleys, hay mazes, and Halloween-themed entertainment.  Lagoon-A-Beach isn't open but all of the other rides operate and I think Lagoon is a lot more fun when the temperatures are a little bit cooler!  Marilyn and I take Sean and Tashena every year and we shut the park down!  Frightmares is open from September 19 to October 30.  Go here for more information.

Note:  Obviously there are a lot of haunted houses in the SLC area.  I had a really bad experience at one when I was in high school so I don't like to go to them!  If Tashena wants to go to one, Marilyn will have to take her!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Five Fall Drives Near SLC

I absolutely love fall and the leaves are starting to turn in my neck of the woods.  Here are my suggestions for taking a fall foliage drive if you live near SLC.

Little Cottonwood Canyon
To get to Little Cottonwood Canyon, take I-215 to the 6200 S. exit and follow the signs to Snowbird/Alta.  The foliage is beautiful but there are not very many opportunities to stop and take pictures so I recommend taking a hike to Red Pine Lake.
The hike is a bit strenuous (at least it was for me) so I also suggest stopping off at Snowbird for Oktoberfest while you are there!

Big Cottonwood Canyon
Big Cottonwood also offers some beautiful vistas for foliage viewing.  Take the 6200 S. exit on I-215 and follow the signs to Brighton/Solitude.  There are lots of opportunities for hiking around the Brighton Ski Resort.  My favorite place to hike is Silver Lake.

Alpine Loop
The Alpine Loop is a 24 mile drive between American Fork Canyon and Provo Canyon and it is my favorite fall drive.  Take exit 284 from I-15 and follow SR 92 east into the mouth of American Fork Canyon.  There is a $6.00 fee to enter.  Follow the road all the way to the Sundance Ski Resort and through Provo Canyon.  As you climb in elevation you will see beautiful golden stands of aspens (which I love).
While you are in American Fork Canyon you can visit Cascade Springs which is beautiful in the fall.

Nebo Loop
The Nebo Loop is a  32 mile byway between the cities of Payson and Nephi (an hour away from SLC but definitely worth the drive).  Take I-15 north to exit 248 and head east on 800 S.  Turn right on 600 E which eventually becomes the Nebo Loop Road into the mountains.  The views are spectacular and there are many pullouts along the byway.

Mill Creek Canyon
Mill Creek Canyon is one of my favorite places any time of year but in the fall it is glorious!  Take I-215 to Wasatch Blvd. and turn on to Mill Creek Canyon Road.  There are lots of popular hikes for viewing the leaves but I really enjoy having bonfires at one of the many campsites.  There is a $3.00 fee per vehicle as you leave the canyon.

Definitely make plans to enjoy the beautiful leaves!  I went on my first drive of the season to the Alpine Loop yesterday and it was so relaxing.  I have so many memories of fall drives on Sunday afternoons with my family growing up!
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