Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review: The Last Song

From the first pages of Nicholas Sparks’ new book The Last Song there are no surprises. You know from the get-go where this story will lead you and how it will turn out. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it.

Ronnie (Veronica) Miller is an angry 17-year-old who is being forced to spend a summer in a small town in North Carolina with her estranged father and ten-year-old brother. Since her parents divorce three years earlier she has refused to speak or have anything to do with her father blaming him for the breakup of their family. In her acting out her anger she has developed a huge chip on her shoulder and in the process been arrested for shoplifting, among other things.

Her father Steve, a former concert pianist and teacher at Julliard, used to share a passion for the piano with his daughter; a commonality she has dismissed and forbidden any mention of.

As the summer progresses, Ronnie forms some unsavory enmities in the small town as well as a relationship with the town’s charming heartthrob which soon develops into Ronnie’s first love.

By allowing herself to drop her guard and open up to love’s possibilities, Ronnie also allows herself to be happy, truly happy, and to heal her heart and her most precious relationships.

As I said, there were no surprises in this book. When you go for a Whopper at Burger King there are no surprises, but it’s still a good sandwich. The joy here is in the reading. Sparks is a good writer and even when you realize he’s going for your emotional jugular it’s an interesting story and good to read.

But remember, like you need a few napkins when you eat a Whopper, you’ll need some Kleenex when reading a Nicholas Sparks book. But go ahead. It’s part of the experience.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Our Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day ....

My mother always says trouble comes in threes.  Well, today we proved that to be true.  Kevin had an eye appointment, which is not trouble, but it turns out his eyes have gone through such a change that even though he got new glasses a year ago, he needs new lenses again.  My first thought was thank goodness, since lenses alone put in his current frames are less than a whole new pair of glasses.  But nope!  The lenses she recommends are $140.  Great.

On the way home from the doctor the car had major problems.  The boys got it home okay, but it turns out the coolant system blew up.  $600.  Yipee.

Then one of the power windows on Stan's car went down, but refuses to go back up.  He and the boys worked on it for over two hours with no success.  Finally had to patch it up as best they could since snow is coming later this week.  $200 we hope not more.  Lovely.

Now, if only I could find that pesky ten grand I misplaced we'd be fine, but ... oh right!  That was a dream I had one night.

At least our day ended on a pleasant note.  Kevin had some allowance put away and begged to take us out for dinner.  It was nice to get out and away from all these dumb problems.  So, we may have had a lot of stuff dumped on us that we caqn't tke care of for a couple of weeks, but we have the sweetest boys and we truly are a happy family. 

So I guess it wasn't such a bad day after all .......

Friday, March 26, 2010

Movie and a Pizza

We went out today and saw the best movie we've seen in a loooong time: How to Train Your Dragon.  The theater was packed, as it was the first showing on opening day.  We opted to see the 3D version and I'm glad we did.  So much fun!

It's the story of a young man named Hiccup (there's a reason, but not what you think) who lives on a small island where, as he tells us, "it snows nine months of the year and hails the other three."  His village of Vikings must constantly deal with dragons who raid and destroy their small village.  Hiccup wants to prove himself and accidentally captures a rare and dangerous dragon.  The two become friends, and he learns that dragons have their own story to tell and everything his people have learned about the creatures is wrong.
It's a good story and the graphics are really wonderful.  The 3D imagery is also good.  I haven't seen Avatar, but one review I read said the effects in this movie rival that one.  All I know is it was really well done and was very enjoyable.

I wouldn't recommend this movie to very small children, although there were many there under four.  I found the little ones and the crying babies very distracting, and I'm not sure they really got much out of being there, but that would be your call if you want to see this film  At any rate, I think both boys and girls would like this movie.  A young girl named Astrid is a tougher fighter than Hiccup and proves she's worth her mettle on the battle field.

After the move we got a pizza to complete the experience.  Today is AJs last day of spring break, while Kevin has one more week to go.  I think we had a lot of fun as we now hunker down and wait for the blizzard to come in this afternoon.  Springtime in the Rockies, don't you know?


What we need, as we journey along through this period known as mortality, is a compass to chart our course, a map to guide our footsteps, and a pattern whereby we might mold and shape our very lives.  First, fill your mind with truth; second, fill your life with service; and third, fill your heart with love.
Thomas S. Monson
1927 -

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Spring Break Treat

We had a nice quiet day today.  Last night we went out for Mexican food and hit Costco afterwards.  Kevin was amazed because I tell him I always run into someone I know at Costco, and last night was the first time I didn't.  Broke my record ....

This morning we let Stan sleep in, and the boys took me out to run some errands and finish my grocery shopping.  It was a gorgeous morning, albeit terribly cold.  Can't believe another blizzard is predicted for tomorrow night.

The boys went to the library for me this afternoon (it's so great to have two sons who can drive!) so while they were gone I made them one of their favorite treats:  Scotcharoos.  I've posted the recipe on this blog in the past if you're interested.  They came home as I was finishing it up.

Tonight Kevin made dinner (his special spaghetti) and for dessert, you guessed it, their special Spring Break Treat.  Yummo!

Sometimes there is beauty in an ordinary day, and today, for me, it was spectacular in its simplicity.  And love.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Snow, Snow, Go Away!

Well, as predicted the storm blew in late yesterday afternoon and it was a doozy!  In one two-hour period we got about 6 inches of snow.  Now, I know if you live in Minnesota, or Buffolo that's not much, but for us here in Colorado Springs it's a lot!

The boys got home from their movie making adventure before it hit, but poor Stan was at work.  Because it turned into a blizzard, he got stuck out there as the next shift that was to relieve them wasn't able to get out there and they shut down the base.

As I write this, it's almost 8:00 am Wednesday morning and Stan just walked in the door.  He left yesterday afternoon at 2:30 pm.  It's been a loooooong night for him!

I'm glad he's home.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Move Over Steven Spielberg!

AJ and Kevin spent the afternoon with their friend Adam making movies.  The three of them have had a lot of fun over the years making their own films about whatever strikes their fancy.  Here are a few shots AJ took of them in action at a "location shot."  Hopefully I'll get Kevin to help me download some of the video to share here later.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Let the Spring Break Begin!

What a day!  We spent the day in Denver today as a start to Spring Break.  Good thing we went today since we're expecting snow tomorrow night.  It was a gorgeous day, and the drive was fun.  First we hit See's Candy Shop which we've missed since leaving California.  After loading up on some chocolates we headed over to the Downtown Aquarium where we enjoyed an underwater adventure.  Here are some photos:

Stan and the boys, about to be eaten, scream for help.
Stan is in front of the coral reef display....gorgeous!

AJ is in front of the jelly fish tank...an etheral, but beautiful display.  And 
 a cute little fish.  And that's saying a lot, as there were LOTS of cute little fish there!

After the aquarium, we headed over to Cherry Creek North to check out a restaurant that Kevin saw on the television show "Man Vs. Food."  And are we glad we did!  It was, bar none, the best restaurant burgers we ever had.  Duffy's has been around since 1945 and was voted the best burger in Denver.  Pure angus burgers, you can add whatever you want from 21 toppings and make your burger just the way you like it.

It's a local joint who's original owner wanted a place where everyone, no matter what your "shape, size, color, age or economic class" will feel welcome and comfortable.  And believe me, the staff does everything to make that happen.  The boys were "carded" and stamped that they were not to be served any alcohol, which is what the red mark on Kevin's hand is for.

Kevin ordered the exact same burger that Adam Richman had on the TV show.  It had, and I'm not kidding, bacon, a fried egg, smoked cheddar cheese, grilled bermuda onions, salsa and guacomole on it.  It was a dream come true for him.  And as an added bonus, he picked up a new hat to complete the experience.

All in all, it was a great start to spring break.  Can't wait to see what we do next!

Friday, March 19, 2010


It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
Mark Twain

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

So, are you wearing green as you read this? I hope so! I'm not sure that this holiday is celebrated in Ireland like it is here in the United States, but I've always looked on it as an opportunity to celebrate my heritage. Being a quarter Irish has always been something wonderful to me. I love the music, the culture, the stories, and the food.

Here in America we tend to think Corned Beef and Cabbage as the traditional fare, but in Ireland it's not something that is usually eaten. In fact, they view it as an American dish.

In our home we serve a one dish casserole called Dublin Coddle. It's really yummy, and is a simple meal normally served on Saturday nights.

If you'd like to try a more Irish meal give this one a shot. You might like it!

Dublin Coddle

1 pound pork sausages
1 pound bacon (sliced)
1 large or 2 medium onions, sliced
5 carrots
5 medium potatoes (the non floury type is best)
1 or 2 bullion cubes (chicken, beef or vegetable will do)
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Cook bacon until crispy, set aside to drain. Cut up sausages and brown in same pan. When bacon is cooled, cut it up as well.

2. Place onions into same pan as meat was cooked and lightly brown.

3. Peel and slice the potatoes. Scrub the carrots and cut them into coins.

4. Place layer of potatoes, carrots and onions in bottom of large pot. Layer meat over it and then repeat. Cover with water.

5. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 1 hour, until the vegetables are tender. Add the stock cubes and the salt and pepper.

6. Continue simmering for another 15 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Serve with sautéed cabbage and Irish Soda Bread.

Note: The coddle may be baked in the oven at 350º for 1½ hours, removing lid for last 20 minutes to let top brown.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Famous Dave's Nothin'!!!

Tonight we held our first barbecue of the year, and it was a feast!  BBQ Ribs, homemade baked beans, spicy coleslaw (one of Stan's specialties) and corn muffins.  By the time we were done we were full to bursting, and have enough leftovers to feed a small army!  Not one of us had room for the cherry-berry pies I made.

If you look closely you might see Max sitting on the other side of the sliding glass door hoping I drop one of those ribs in his direction.  Silly pooper!  Ribs are for us!

Having a nice day like today makes me anxious for spring and summer.  And more barbecues and picnics!

Friday, March 12, 2010


Any Woman
by Katharine Tynan
Irish Poet, 1859-1932

I am the pillars of the house;
The keystone of the arch am I.
Take me away, and roof and wall
Would fall to ruin me utterly.

I am the fire upon the hearth,
I am the light of the good sun,
I am the heat that warms the earth,
Which else were colder than a stone.

At me the children warm their hands;
I am their light of love alive.
Without me cold the hearthstone stands,
Nor could the precious children thrive.

I am the twist that holds together
The children in its sacred ring,
Their knot of love, from whose close tether
No lost child goes a-wandering.

I am the house from floor to roof,
I deck the walls, the board I spread;
I spin the curtains, warp and woof,
And shake the down to be their bed.

I am their wall against all danger,
Their door against the wind and snow,
Thou Whom a woman laid in a manger,
Take me not till the children grow!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

National Women's History Month

March is National Women’s History month, and for 2010 the theme is “Writing Women Back into History.” It seems a lot of times the history books leave out the women who made a difference, and even if included much of what they actually do accomplish is minimized.

National Women’s History Month is a good time to recognize and celebrate not only women’s historic achievements, but is an excellent opportunity for us to honor the women within our own families and communities.

So if you know a woman, or women, who have inspired, encouraged, loved and supported you, give them a shout out. And if you are one of the thousands of millions of beautiful, strong women in the world today …. I salute you. Give yourselves a hug. And maybe a big piece of chocolate.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My Father the Missionary

The big news in our family right now is that my father has been called on a mission!  We're so excited for and proud of him.

He'll be working from his own home, and it's right up his alley.  He's been the director of the Family History Center for the past few years in their town so it seems only natural that he would be called to work in genealogy.

For four hours per day he will be available to work on his phone and computer to help people with their genealogical research.  And he will be handling calls from all over the country. 

When someone calls Salt Lake City asking for assistance with their research, the operators there will forward the call to my father's home phone.  He will walk the caller through the steps to deal with whatever difficulty or problem they are having.  He's very excited and I know he'll be great in this new, one year mission.

So, here's to you, Elder Hillyard!

Friday, March 5, 2010



When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face among a crowd of stars.

William Butler Yeats
Irish Poet, 1865-1939

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Here's What's New at Our House

Stan found these interesting items the other day, and got one for each of the boys and himself.  I took a photo of Kevin wearing his.  It's like a detached hoodie of sorts.  You can wear it as a scarf, a balaclava, a hood, and a type of ski mask.  They all love them. 

It is, however, sort of like living in a den of thieves when they all have theirs on and are having fun with them.  I suspect that with the snowstorms that will be moving in in the next few days they will have the opportunities to wear them while shovelling snow and such.  In the meantime, I just smile and enjoy my three funny fellows!