Friday, December 30, 2011

The Magic of One Year - What Will Your Journey Be?

Artwife takes a hike - Grand Wash, Capitol Reef, Utah

I have read many books about people accomplishing a big goal, and have noticed that they often take an entire year to do it.  Is there magic in one year?  Perhaps smaller goals more easily completed don't merit a book contract.  But could there be more to it than that?  I have never been big on New Year's resolutions.  The most successful ones I have kept have been slightly tongue-in-cheek, like the year I resolved to watch more Cary Grant movies.  (Incidentally, I have never been sorry I made or kept that one!)  But maybe this year I should reach for something more.

Dr. Edwin Locke researched goals and motivation.  His work is the foundation for goal-setting theory today.  He found that people perform better on their goals if they are both specific and difficult.  Maybe the time frame of one year allows someone to accomplish something difficult (thus staying motivated), while the time limit of a year is just long enough, but not too long.

January is a great time to reflect on what you would like to accomplish in the upcoming year.  At the end of this year, what would you like to be?  More fit?  More social?  More well-educated?  More gainfully employed?  More financially stable? More creative?  More happy?  In her book, One Year to an Organized Life,  Regina Leeds asserts:  "Given the parameter of one year, anyone can gradually learn the necessary skills and make the time to achieve transformation."  Perhaps there is magic in one year.

Fortunately for readers and moviegoers, many adventuresome souls have documented their one-year journeys, and if you don't want to take your own journey at this time, maybe you'll enjoy sharing in theirs.  Here are some titles I have enjoyed about one-year accomplishments:

One Year Off, by David Cohen, chronicles his journey around the world with his wife and small children.  If you have ever wondered what it would be like to leave your home and job and set off around the world, reading this book is a very safe way to check it out.  The book is very entertaining, and Mr. Cohen details things they learned along the way, and also what they would do differently (take less luggage).  The descriptions of exotic locations and experiences are great for any fan of travel narratives.

Long Distance, by Bill McKibben, follows the author as he spends a year working out as an elite athlete to see how well he can perform in cross country skiing.  It is an interesting story, and the author gains a better understanding of the training an elite athlete does to prepare for international competition. He pushes himself to his physical limits, and also copes with his father's illness.  The author effectively expresses how this emotional journey with his father impacts his perspective on his physical training and racing.  

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I love this book because the author was satisfied with her life overall. She did not make any drastic changes (like selling her home and leaving the country), but instead broke down her ultimate goal of achieving more happiness into manageable, monthly projects.  Reading this book can give you ideas of things you might want to tackle in your own life.  The author candidly, and with humor, relates her successes and failures in her one year experiment.  She also has thoroughly researched happiness for you!  The author encourages you to start your own happiness project, and provides suggestions and a website to help you do just that.

Julie and Julia:  I admit I just watched the movie on this one!  This is the story of Julie Powell and her goal to cook all of Julia Child's 524 recipes from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in 365 days.  She does this all from her tiny apartment kitchen. The movie version, starring Amy Adams as Julie Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Child, is entertaining.  I also loved watching someone else do the cooking!  This is a great example of someone exploring their creative self while remaining in their existing life, and the movie is a lot of fun.

If I were to vote for my top choice for a goal this year, it would definitely be One Year Off!  However, I think  I may end up working more on One Year to an Organized Life.  Meanwhile, I will look to the dreamers and goal-achievers I have mentioned above for encouragement and inspiration.  Happy reading, and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Art of Games

"Tiki Topple" art by Utah artist Will Terry

I love board games.  This time of year, we schedule as many game days as possible.  Nothing is better than a good group of people, snacks, and some fantastic games.  I never get enough of this wonderful interaction.  Several years ago we expanded our game cabinet to a game closet, and acquired a multitude of "European-style" games that went beyond the world of Monopoly.  Through games, we have explored train rides across America, toured Africa, visited volcanoes in the Pacific Rim, colonized new worlds, and more.  

One of the things that appeals to me is the look of a game.  An interesting looking game board or three dimensional pieces can be as persuasive to me as the game itself.

Part of the game board for "Shadows Over Camelot"

Besides the ever-popular games like Ticket to Ride or Settlers of Cataan, we've acquired several other adventures for our game days.  I'll spotlight the artwork of a few of them today, and introduce you to some other favorites in later posts.

Tiki Topple game play

The first thing that caught my eye about Tiki Topple was, well, the tikis.  Wonderfully illustrated by Will Terry, I had to pick up this game and check it out.  It plays very simply.  A row of tikis are stacked on the game board.  You draw a card that indicates the three tikis you are trying to move into the top three positions on the board.  You have a series of cards that allow you to move tikis up, and sometimes out of the game completely.  Meanwhile, other players are trying to position their three-tiki combination on the top and their moves will often thwart your goals.  This is a fun, fast-moving strategy game.

"Bridge Troll" by Utah game designer, Alf Seegert

We attended the game launch for Bridge Troll, a locally designed game that got picked up by Z-Man Games for production and distribution.  Remember the Three Billy Goats Gruff and the trolls that lived under the bridge?  Well, in this game, you are a troll and you earn points by collecting travelers over your bridge.  Hope for good weather, as more travelers cross your bridge on a sunny day!

One of the troll characters in "Bridge Troll"

Who wouldn't love a game where you can have Surf and Turf (or in this game, "Serf and Turf")?

Traveler who crosses the bridge in Bridge Troll

One of our more recent acquisitions is Shadows Over Camelot.  This is a group game where you work together to try and complete quests. The more cooperative your group is, the better your odds of winning.  However, someone may be a traitor in your midst, and can always throw a wrench in the best laid plans.  Each player is a character from the Knights of the Round table.  This is a wonderful fantasy game involving quests for the Holy Grail, Excalibur, and more.

Character card for Shadows Over Camelot

The gaming world is alive and well in Salt Lake City.  We have a fantastic store, Game Night Games, that not only carries a great selection of games, but has knowledgeable staff who can walk you through the basic play of games that they offer and help you choose games you will enjoy.  Game Night Games also offers different in-store events, and if you are struggling to learn your new game, you can take it in to a game night and they will help you learn to play it.  There is also a game guild in Salt Lake, where aspiring designers brainstorm ideas, get advice, test their prototypes, and connect with other designers.

Next time you want to interact with your friends or family, consider a board game night instead of a movie or electronic game.  Games range from the simple to the complex, so rest assured that a game exists that will appeal to your group. 

So many games, and so few hours in the day...happy gaming!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Art of Christmas

"For unto us a child is born."
--Isaiah 9:6

Francesco di Giorgio

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
--Luke 2:11

John Singleton Copley

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn."
--Luke 2:7

"Manger" by Carl Bloch

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Art of Finishing - Cross Stitch Christmas Stocking

Finished Christmas Stocking

So many of life's tasks have no completion, but are ongoing, like laundry and housework.  Other things that do have completion potential often remain undone.  I have several of those projects scattered around my house...the partially knitted scarf, the stacks of photos to be put in books, and until yesterday, a cross-stitch Christmas stocking. I made a stocking for my oldest child, and then worked on one for my second child off and on (mostly off) for the past several years.  This week, I realized how very close it was to being finished.  So, with a few hours in the early mornings and late at night, I finished the stitching, and then with the help of someone who can actually sew, the stocking was lined, the back was attached, and voila!  Merry Christmas, son!  Now I only have one more stocking to do.

If you have projects scattered around your house, see if there is one that is close to completion.  Finishing something is wonderfully satisfying!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Maui Christmas

Maui beach, facing Molokai

I have been greatly blessed to spend Christmas in Hawaii twice.  As we suffer under a strong weather inversion in Salt Lake City this week (warm air above trapping cold air and pollution in the valley), it is making me wish I was heading some place warm for Christmas (or at least someplace with blue sky and breathable air!)  If you have a chance to spend Christmas on Maui, here are some of my favorite things.

Aquarium tank at the Maui Ocean Center

Visit the Maui Ocean Center.  There are tanks of colorful reef fish, green sea turtles, sharks, and more.  There is a touch pool where you can reach in and pet various sea creatures.  My favorite spot is the room with a huge tank of jellyfish in the center.  Music plays and the lighting is dim.  You can sit on a bench and watch the ethereal jellyfish float up and down.

Green sea turtle at the Maui Ocean Center

If you time it right, you may even get to watch them feed the green sea turtles.

Parrotfish at the Maui Ocean Center

If you go to Hawaii in the winter months (December through April, with peak whale watching in February and March) you can watch the humpback whales.  We have seen whales breach from the beach.  The humpbacks migrate 4500 miles from Alaska to the warm water for the breeding season.  On our whale watching tour, we saw another whale breach, listened to whale songs, and had a mother and curious calf swim right up to our boat.  

Tail of a humpback whale

Baby and mom approaching our boat.

Maui isn't that big, and it is easy to cover a lot of ground in a few days.  We went to Haleakala on one trip.  If you go, arrive early so you can see inside the volcanic crater valley before the clouds move in.  Haleakala is at high altitude, about 10,000 feet.  If you aren't used to it, you may find yourself a bit out of breath.  On another drive, we went to the Iao Valley and wandered through the gardens and walkways.  Not as many plants will be in bloom in December, but it is still beautiful.

Iao Valley

Shopping in Lahaina is another favorite pastime.  Be sure to stop in the park by the old banyan tree.  This is a very large living organism, and its size is best appreciated in person.

The banyan tree in Lahaina.

A view of Lahaina

Browse the art galleries, tee shirt shops, restaurants, and jewelry stores on Front Street. While you are in Hawaii, notice the beautiful plants.  Plumeria in bloom is my favorite.  It is also fun to see bananas growing on trees on the grounds of your hotel.

Take time to smell the plumeria!

The drive to Hana is curvy and slow.  It has breathtaking views, but if you are susceptible to motion sickness, take medication before heading out.  There are multiple waterfalls along the way.  Stop and hike to one to enjoy the view or even take a swim.

One of many waterfalls on the road to Hana.

When you reach Hana, check out the Black Sand beach and stay at the state park.  The black sand contrasts beautifully with the turquoise water.  One year we stayed in rustic cabins at the park.  You might also swim in the Seven Sacred Pools at Oheo Gulch or visit Charles Lindburgh's grave.

Sand turtle on the beach.

But my favorite thing in Maui is quite simply, the beach.  We schedule as many beach days as possible, and have snorkeled, body surfed, swam, and watched the waves to our heart's content.

Body surfing at the beach.

If you are fortunate to be in Hawaii this year at Christmas time, eat some fresh pineapple and drink some guava juice for me!  And save me a chair on the beach.  Mele Kalikimaka!

My favorite beach on Maui.

Sailboat at sunset from the beach.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Memorable Christmas Scenes From the Movies

Yesterday, December 19th, marked the anniversary of the publication of Charles Dickens' book, "A Christmas Carol."  The story has been shared and retold multiple times.  When I was younger, I remember watching the Mr. Magoo animated version every year at Christmastime.  It seems funny to me now to see the images in color...we had a black and white TV!

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I confess to being influenced by pop-culture.  Now when I hear "A Christmas Carol," the lines that pop into my head are not from the Dickens classic, but rather from the Muppet version.  "Light the lamp, not the rat!" is a close second to  "We're Marley and Marley....woooooo!"  I realize these lines do not reflect the message of Dickens' Christmas classic, but they are funny.

Marley and Marley from Muppet Christmas Carol

Several of my favorite scenes come from movies that are not necessarily "Christmas" movies.  In "While You Were Sleeping," Sandra Bullock is hauling a Christmas tree up to her apartment with a rope through the window.  The rope slips, and you hear the crash of breaking glass from a neighbor's apartment window.  In "When Harry Met Sally," one scene features Harry and Sally getting a tree at a tree lot, but the scene I remember most is Meg Ryan (Sally) struggling to pull her Christmas tree down a sidewalk by herself.

Scene from "When Harry Met Sally"

Of course, the cartoon classics "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Charlie Brown Christmas" also have great Christmas tree scenes.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Charlie Brown's Christmas tree

I confess to feeling sorry for rejected tree-lot trees.  On the other hand, I admit I have also rejected plenty of trees myself by calling them a Charlie Brown Christmas tree!

Another movie staple is the ugly Christmas sweater.  Kim Darby models an appropriately atrocious sweater in "Better Off Dead."  More recently, Colin Firth wore a reindeer "jumper" in "Bridget Jones' Diary."

Colin Firth's lovely reindeer sweater

Ever struggle with your Christmas light display?  Then you might relate to Chevy Chase's character in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."   Clark Griswold works tirelessly to make the most spectacular lighting display in the neighborhood, but when he gathers the whole family to show them his accomplishment, the lights fail to come on.

I found a website that actually details the interior decor of the Griswold house. These images were on that website.  To see it for yourself, click here.

One of my all time favorite Christmas movies has to be "Miracle on 34th Street."  (Not the remake, but the original black and white version with a very young Natalie Wood.)  This movie features the best Santa!

Santa in Miracle on 34th Street

This is the perfect time of year to curl up with a blanket, hot chocolate, and a good movie.  What are your Christmas favorites?  Happy viewing!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Visiting Anasazi State Park

Replica buildings outside the museum

Mesa Verde, it is not, but if you would like to get a sampling of ancestral Puebloan or Anasazi life, this little state park near Boulder, Utah, is a pleasant stop.  The museum is nice, and continues outdoors where you can visit a replica building, and also see an excavated site.  

Arrowhead display inside the museum.

The museum has displays of artifacts such as arrowheads and pottery.  It also has information about the region.  While at the museum, we viewed a short video presentation about the inhabitants of this site.  Occupied in the 1100s, these buildings may have once been the homes of about 200 people.

Pattern found on pottery from the Coombs site

The museum has a display of designs found on pottery in the different regions of the Southwest. This particular design is found at the actual site.  I love this style of pottery, and find the black on white geometric designs both interesting and beautiful.

Ancestral Puebloan pottery on display at Anasazi State Park

After touring the museum, we went outside to see the rest of the exhibits.  A reconstruction of a building found at the site is the first thing you encounter as you walk outside.  Notice how small it seems by modern standards!

Peeking out of a Puebloan replica house

There were once over 100 structures on the site.  As the population grew, the people added on to their buildings, until they formed a large U-shaped construction. About half of the buildings were used for living space and half for storage.

Construction detail of replica building

The Coombs Valley site was occupied in the 12th century and was utilized for about 75 years.   Corn, or maize was a dietary staple.  Other crops were also grown, and there is indication that the people were adept at using native plants for both food and medicinal purposes.  Hunting supplemented their diet.

This photo shows how the walls were constructed.

The excavated portion of the site is covered and has walkways around it so you can view the site from different angles.  Wooden beams poke up out of the soil.  They are charred, indicating that at some point, this site burned.  It is interesting to look at the excavation and see areas of charcoal on the floor where the fire pits would have been.

View of the excavations on site.

This view of the excavations shows the small rooms.

As you follow the walkways around the site, take a few minutes to read the informational signs.  These signs quickly give you an overview of what archaeologists have learned about these ancient residents.  We also enjoyed looking at the pit house.  Pit houses are common in Fremont culture as well. 

Pit house at Anasazi State Park
Metates for corn grinding at Anasazi State Park

Overall, I enjoyed my visit to Anasazi State Park.  You can see quite a bit in an hour or two, and this is a great stop during a day trip.  The museum and site are small, but hold a lot of information.

View from the excavations.

If you go:  Anasazi State Park is located in the town of Boulder, Utah, at 460 N. Highway 12.  It is a great stop along Scenic Highway 12.  The park is open year round, with extended hours during the summer months.  As with all state parks in Utah, there is a small fee.