Monday, December 31, 2012

Another Year, Another Adventure!

Last year I was writing about the Magic of One Year, and the possibilities that year could hold.  Now, on the other side of that 365 days, it is time to evaluate a bit!  I am actually more organized than I was a year ago, and I tried some new things (like birding!).  Overall, I would say I am happier, and that 2012 was a good year.  I even rolled with being derailed by breast cancer.  Although cancer has dominated the last six months, I refuse to let it have all my time and attention!  I am proud of the things I have been able to do in spite of it.

The end of this year found me reading a couple of great books that have got me thinking about plans for this New Year.  The first is called "The End of Your Life Book Club" by Will Schwalbe.  I confess, it is a bit strange reading a book where someone is dying of cancer when battling cancer yourself, but if nothing else, it made me reflect a little more deeply.  This is NOT, however, a depressing book, but a book by and for people who love books.  "The End of Your Life Book Club" is a poignant memoir of a mother and son who share two years of books and in-depth talks as she fights pancreatic cancer.    Author Will Schwalbe and his mother, Mary Anne, are voracious readers.  They consume novels at a rapid rate, and devour new books as well as old, familiar titles.  Mary Anne is a long time advocate for refugees and has traveled extensively throughout the world.  Even in her seventies with terminal cancer, it is hard for her to slow down.  Throughout the book, she continues working toward getting a library system set up in Kabul, Afghanistan.  Mary Anne realizes the value of the written word in educating us to common, human experiences.
The scope of literature mentioned in this book is tremendous.  I found several books here that I want to read, several I am unfamiliar with, and thankfully, a few that I have actually read.  This book made me want to be not only a better reader, but a better person.
In Will's conversations with his mother, he learns more about her, and also about himself.  At one point he observes "I don't like being interrupted either--but I interrupt other people.  I often forget that other people's stories aren't simply introductions to my own more engaging, more dramatic, more relevant, and better-told tales; but rather ends in themselves, tales I can learn from or repeat or dissect or savor.  Mom, on the other hand, rarely interrupted other people and wasn't given to topping other people's tales.  She would listen and then ask questions...."  What a beautiful woman!  I find myself waiting for my moment to interrupt, and have decided that being a better listener, and asking some questions, is a good goal for myself this year.

Night in Napili

Mother and son find themselves connecting often over books that involve the importance of writing and sharing the written word.  Many books speak of our need to connect with each other, Schwalbe observes, while discussing "The Lizard Cage," with his mom.
Near the end of the book, as Mary Anne's illness progresses, Will says "I just feel guilty that I'm not doing more in the world."  They are reading  "Suite Francaise" at the time, a book which graces my own shelf.  His mother gently reminds him "Of course you could do more--you can always do more, and you should do more--but still, the important thing is to do what you can, whenever you can.  You just do your best, and that's all you can do."  Mary Anne Schwalbe's best was amazing.  This book made me want to do and be better, and the next book I read gave me some clues as to how to do just that.

In "My Year with Eleanor," celebrity blogger Noelle Hancock loses her job, and finds she has lost her way in life.  She finds a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt about doing something that scares you everyday, and embarks on a year of facing her fears.  With her shrink, and a supportive group of friends, Noelle decides to start on her 29th birthday, and spend exactly one year doing what scares her.   She is hung up on the little things that affect many of us (not wanting to make that phone call, for example), but also bigger things, like a fear of heights.  Undaunted, Noelle takes trapeze classes, does stand up comedy, sings karoake, dog fights in a jet, and more in her year of exploration.  Along the way, she researches Eleanor Roosevelt, and learns more about this amazing lady who overcame her own fears to make a difference in the world.  Hancock inserts quotes from Eleanor throughout the book. This was one of my favorites.
"Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run is easier.  We do not have to become heroes overnight.  Just a step at a time, meeting each thing as it comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down."  --Eleanor Roosevelt

There is always another bridge to cross!
Hancock learns, as I think most of us would, that facing fears regularly actually builds courage.  In my own year, I faced some things that really scared me, but having just finished chemotherapy, I can honestly say, I am not as scared any more.  Facing fears really does build courage, and you find you are tougher than you thought.
So, with all this in mind, what are my plans for this year?  Some are similar to last year...I would like to be more organized (but am enjoying the 2 rooms I got completed!)  Others are I am going to read more books.  I am going to be a better listener, and I will continue to stretch out of my comfort zone to try new things.  Sounds like a good year to me. What will your year bring to you?  Let the adventure begin!

Adventure awaits!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

"Adoration of the Shepherds" by  Dutch artist Gerrit van Honthorst

"Light and life to all He brings, ris'n with healing in His wings" 
(from "Hark the Herald Angels Sing").

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Resurrection by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1873

Monday, December 24, 2012

Festival of Trees - 2012

Angel Tree at Festival of Trees

This year at the Festival of Trees, I tried to find trees that inspired with great creativity.  This angel tree is more of a traditional entry, but a lot of work went into the handcrafted ornaments and the red and white color scheme was beautiful.

Detail of angel tree

The crocheted angels and snowflakes were tastefully balanced with the red and white flowers and wrapped gift ornaments that also adorned the tree.  Several entrants this year were atypical.  Here is one of three Halloween themed trees that I saw.

Halloween Christmas tree

Black, purple and orange may not be common Christmas colors, but the scheme made this tree stand out among its neighbors at the festival.

Detail of the Halloween tree

While the Halloween tree featured smiling Jack o' lanterns and spiders, another tree also sporting orange decor featured Matchbox car racetracks.

Matchbox car tree

When I was a kid, we used the flexible Matchbox track pieces as swords.  It was nice to see them looped and curved into a better use here.

Matchbox cars and tracks top this tree.

As I continued up and down aisle after aisle of beautiful Christmas trees, I found one upside down! This quickly became my favorite of the festival this year.  I don't believe I have seen an upside down Christmas tree before, but it wasn't just the unusual position that caught my attention.

"Chemis Tree" at the Festival of Trees

This tree was science themed and featured molecules and test tubes as ornaments.  This just proves almost anything can be used as a Christmas tree ornament if done right!

Science ornaments on the "Chemis Tree"

I also appreciated the cleverness of the tree's name.  Further down the aisle we found a tree that was motorized, and had airplanes flying around the top. It was fun to watch these planes circling the tree.  They had banners flying out behind them wishing us a Merry Christmas.  

"Forever Soaring" featured motorized airplanes

Detail of plane flying around the tree top.

I am not sure what this next tree was made of, but it was definitely one-of-a-kind at the festival this year.  A white tube spiraled down forming this simple tree.  It was different enough to catch my attention.

Some kind of tube wound round and round to form this tree.

I also liked this tree that came with a nativity scene.  Framed pictures of the nativity figures hung on the tree.  They appeared to be made of felt, and were cut in a simple style that reminded me of stained glass.

Nativity tree

Detail of picture on the nativity tree.

I cannot imagine the quantity of Mountain Dew someone drank for this next tree.  Then again, drinking that quantity of Mountain Dew might have kept them awake for the hours necessary to build this creation.  This tree was made entirely out of recycled pop cans.

Tree made from recycled pop cans.

Even the tree skirt and train at the base were made of aluminum cans.  This was very creative and very labor intensive.  I imagine a few people cut their hands on sharp edges making this one!  The ornaments were made from different soda cans as well.   

Pop can ornaments on a recycled pop can tree.

Of course, the tree my son had heard about and wanted to see was the Lego tree.  We continued scanning aisle after aisle, and at the very end, finally found the long awaited Lego tree.  He was more enamored with the box sets of Lego around the tree than the tree itself.  However, the ornaments and Lego garland were well-constructed and worth seeing, too.

The much-anticipated Lego tree.

Detail of the Lego tree

A volunteer told us that somehow the creators of this tree made holes in the Lego pieces to string the garland. I cannot imagine how they did this, or the hours it took, but it was very effective as a decoration.  I greatly enjoyed my annual trip to the Festival of Trees.  This worthy event raises money for the local children's hospital, and is run every year by countless volunteers.  Congratulations to all who participated in 2012. It was another great year at the festival! 

For more Festival of Trees, check out the quilts and gingerbread houses.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gingerbread Houses at 2012 Festival of Trees

Gingerbread Bird House

This year's selection of gingerbread houses at the Festival of Trees did not disappoint.  Wandering through the "Gingerbread Village," we saw many architectural wonders.  Several of the houses had movie themes this year, representing films such as "Tangled," "The Hobbit," "Ice Age: Continental Drift," and "The Lorax."

Tangled Up Christmas

"Tangled" had a gingerbread entry last year as well, and remains a popular theme.

The Shire in Gingerbread

Bag End Gingerbread House

I thought "The Hobbit" was particularly well-represented with these two entries showing the Shire, and also Bilbo Baggins' home, Bag End.  Someone was very clever to create these, and they are a nice departure from more traditional gingerbread house styles.

The Once Ler's House

This colorful gingerbread creation from "The Lorax" drew a crowd, and was popular with kids.  "Ice Age: Continental Drift" was popular with the younger set as well.

Ice Age in Gingerbread

I liked the narwhals on this one.  Of course, as in any year at the Festival of Trees, more traditional styles of gingerbread houses were also on display. 

Nutcracker Gingerbread House

I cannot imagine the hours of planning and then actual execution that goes in to some of these projects.  One entry this year actually spelled it out for the viewers, however, and included a list of the supplies and time it took to make the Mountain Home.

Just a little bit of work!

Mountain Home Gingerbread House

All of those ingredients and all of those hours went into this beautiful, two-story log cabin.  This "Mountain Home" was definitely one of my favorites this year.  Another elaborate house was a holiday bakery.  I was intrigued by the texture and style of the roof.

Gingerbread bakery

At the very end of my journey through the Gingerbread Village, I saw one last amazing piece of edible art.  Someone re-created the historical Provo Tabernacle, and it was beautiful.

Provo Tabernacle

It was by far the largest and most imposing piece.  With its architectural detail and snowy roof, it was a show-stopper.  All of these gingerbread houses are created by volunteers and donated to the Festival of Trees.  The Festival is an annual fund-raising event for Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City.  Run completely by volunteers, the Festival features performing groups, delicious treats, and many items for sale including Christmas trees, the gingerbread houses, wreaths, quilts, and more.  All of the proceeds go to the hospital and help pay for treatments for those who cannot afford care. Held each year in early December, The Festival of Trees is one of my favorite ways to kick off the Christmas season.

Patrons meander past the Gingerbread Village

For more Festival of Trees, see my other blog posts.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Quilts at the 2012 Festival of Trees

Detail from quilt titled "Let It Snow!"

Early December brought the Festival of Trees back to the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, Utah.  This annual event is a fundraiser for the Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City.  Each year, countless volunteers put in thousands of hours creating and selling wonderful Christmas items all to benefit this worthy charity.

Row of quilts on display at the Festival of Trees

The Festival of Trees has something for everyone.  There are dance and music performances throughout each day and evening on two different stages in the festival itself, and in the lobby area outside.  Quilts, wreaths, trees, gingerbread houses, and other Christmas decorations are for sale.  And of course, there is the food.  Scones and cinnamon rolls are always popular, but our new guilty pleasures are fudge and fresh divinity at the Sweet Shoppe.

"Cock a Doodle" quilt

This bright Cock a Doodle quilt was one of my favorites.  Not all items at the festival are Christmas-themed. Many items are made in honor of a loved one, sometimes someone treated at the children's hospital that this event benefits.

Quilt titled "The Great I Am"

My son didn't want to spend much time among the quilts, but I managed to view a few on our journey through the Expo Center space.  You could easily spend a few hours here, so we mapped out our priorities quickly.  This year we skimmed quilts, skipped wreaths, saw the gingerbread houses, and did a speedy trip through the trees.  Of course we made time for a treat.

Detail of "The Great I Am" Quilt

This quilt, titled "The Great I Am" had squares depicting different scenes from the nativity story.  I liked the colors and the tree squares, but the whimsical features of the animals are what really caught my eye.

"Let It Snow!" quilt

Who can resist snowmen?  This quilt quickly became my favorite of the festival.  Each panel features a different snowman, and we loved looking at them all.

Panel from "Let It Snow!" quilt

With a few quilts under our belts and a favorite selected, we were ready to brave the crowds around the amazing gingerbread houses.  Stay tuned for some great ideas from The Gingerbread Village at the 2012 Festival of Trees.