Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: Year In Review

Jazz Game with Sean - February 2015
Disneyland - April 2015
A New House - September 2015
Zion National Park - October 2015
Make-A-Wish - November 2015

I think 2015 has been very memorable in a lot of ways!  I can't wait to see what 2016 brings!  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Winter Break Jazz Game

One of the things I really wanted to do over winter break was take Sean and Tashena to a Jazz game.  I have only been to one game this season, which is really unusual for me, and I've missed it.  I got four tickets to last night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers (Kristine came with us, too) and it was so much fun!
It ended up being a great game!  The Jazz had a quick start (despite the fact that Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, Rudy Gobert, and Alec Burks were injured) and they led by as many as 21 points during the second quarter.  There was a big crowd in attendance and so it was pretty rowdy.  Then the 76ers went on a 29-10 run at the end of the third quarter and took over the lead 78-76.  The Jazz battled back in the fourth quarter, regaining the lead until the Sixers pulled ahead 89-91 with 38 seconds left.  It was intense!  Hayward electrified the crowd with a 3-pointer which put the Jazz ahead 92-91 with 33 seconds left.  They ended the game with a 95-91 victory!  So much fun!
It was such a great night!  I love spending time with Sean and Tashena (and I'm so glad that Kristine got to come, too).  They make everything so much more fun!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mannheim Steamroller

I think I have established the fact that I absolutely love hearing Christmas music performed live so it should be no surprise that I bought a ticket as soon as I found out that Mannheim Steamroller was coming back to SLC for a Christmas concert!   I have seen them several times and I usually thoroughly enjoy it.  Musicians Bobby Kunkle, John Blasucci, Ron Cooley, Roxanne Layton, Becky Kia, and Logan Penington, along with the Mannheim Steamroller Orchestra, performed music originally arranged by Chip Davis (who doesn't tour with the band any more) with images projected on a large screen behind them on stage at Abravanel Hall yesterday.  I really enjoyed their classic Christmas songs such as "Deck the Halls," "We Three Kings," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Joy to the World," "Good King Wenceslas," and "Carol of the Bells" and I was very happy to hear my favorite Christmas song, "O Holy Night," performed live once again.  However, I was a little bit disappointed that the second half of the concert featured many songs from their Fresh Aire albums.  I was unfamiliar with many of these pieces and I would have much preferred to hear Christmas music in a performance billed as a Christmas concert.  I was also a little bit disappointed that the videos shown on the giant screen were exactly the same as those shown at previous Mannheim Steamroller concerts.  Again, I really loved hearing the Christmas music, and I am glad that they ended the concert with a beautiful rendition of "Silent Night," but I'm not sure that this concert was worth the money I paid for it.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Danish Girl

I am a huge fan of Eddie Redmayne!  The one tear that falls down his face in his portrayal of Marius during "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" in the movie version of Les Miserables just about kills me and his physical transformation as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything is nothing short of spectacular.  When I saw a still of him as Lili Elbe during the filming of The Danish Girl last year, I was very intrigued and I couldn't wait to see the film.  It was released on Christmas Day and I had the chance to see it yesterday.  It tells the real life story of the Danish landscape painter Einar Wegener who underwent the first gender reassignment surgery in the 1930s.  Redmayne portrays the tortured Wegener as he comes to terms with the fact that he is a woman trapped in a man's body and Alicia Vikander plays his wife Gerda, who is also a painter.  When a model does not show up for a sitting, Gerda asks Einar to pose for her wearing stockings, ballet slippers, and a silk dress.  Einar enjoys the feeling of the silk and begins to wear Gerda's clothing.  At first, Gerda encourages this because it heightens their physical relationship.  Considering it a bit of fun, they create the persona of Lili whom Gerda dresses and coaches on how to appear as a woman (in some amusing scenes).  Gerda and "Lili" attend a ball but the game loses its appeal for Gerda when she sees Lili kissing another man (Ben Whishaw).  Einar continues to dress as Lili behind Gerda's back but finally breaks down in an incredibly charged scene and confesses to her that he feels more alive as Lili.  Gerda struggles to support Einar in his decision to become a woman because she loves him and wants him to be happy but she knows that it will mean losing her husband.  Her struggle is further compounded by the fact that her paintings of Lili have become the toast of Paris.  She needs Lili to be her muse but she wants Einar to be her husband.  It is a beautiful love story with incredible performances.  Redmayne, once again, undergoes a complete physical transformation for this role particularly when Lili stares into a mirror and practices feminine gestures.  You literally cannot take your eyes off him!  Vikander, whom I am beginning to respect more and more, is incredibly sympathetic as Gerda and her journey is just as compelling as Lili's.  I found her performance to be deeply affecting, especially when Gerda begs Lili to let Einar come back to her.  It is a lavish period piece filled with beautiful interiors juxtaposed with shots of Copenhagen, Paris, and Dresden, gorgeous costumes, and an evocative soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat.  It is very slow moving (there are a lot of scenes with Lili practicing gestures in a mirror, including one with full-frontal nudity) and it is sometimes difficult to watch, especially when doctors describe Einar as perverted and want to commit him and when he is attacked, but it is compelling, nonetheless.  It is not for everyone but I highly recommend it as a beautiful film with stellar performances.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas 2015

Christmas was absolutely wonderful this year.  We awoke to lots of snow but, since I live two minutes away from my parents, I was able to get there in time to open presents.  Sean set a strict 9:00 am start time because he gets so excited he can't wait much longer than that!  Here is what the tree looked like before we started opening presents.
Santa Claus definitely came!  The white envelopes on the tree contain $50 bills.  My Dad has done this for all of us every year since I can remember.  Here we are opening presents!
Marilyn was the most excited about getting an iron!  Apparently this iron is especially made for quilting!
I got a selfie stick.  I really wanted one and everyone laughed about it but all of my officers seem to have so much fun with them.  I also got an Instax mini camera (which everyone now wants) and a silhouette cutting machine (which I am really excited to play with). However, I'm most excited about getting the Star Wars complete saga on Blu-Ray!  I feel a marathon coming soon!
The best part of Christmas is watching Sean and Tashena opening their presents!  Tashena got lots of clothes and a new phone!  She is pretty much the happiest girl in the universe and spent much of the day texting her friends!
Sean got clothes, a bean bag chair, a case for his 3DS, lots of 3DS games, and the coolest R2-D2 slippers ever!  His big present was a Robosapien robot which entertained all of us for hours!
Every year my Mom makes sweet rolls for breakfast after we open presents.  In the evening we had a delicious dinner and played Shanghai Rummy late into the night (Tashena won!).  It couldn't have been a better day!  We were all very spoiled with presents but the best part was all of us being together and continuing our many Christmas traditions!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!
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