sadness for hurricane victims

As I watched the TV and print coverage of Hurricane Irene, I was anxious as each report came in and then relieved when the outcome wasn't as severe as expected. But still, there is widespread devastation and heartbreak. and loss. My heart goes out to the millions who are suffering from horrible flooding and lack of power.

This photo was on CNN this morning, and I when I saw it I caught my breath and stared. This, the reported explained, is all this family has left of their home.

Billy Stinson (L) comforts his daughter Erin Stinson as they sit on the steps where their cottage once stood August 28, 2011 in Nags Head, North Carolina.

After seeing this photo, I walked through my kitchen and into the living room, touched my precious possessions, ran my hand across the smooth, shiny wood of my favorite table, walked outside, and sat on my front porch. I looked back at my house behind me - attached to my steps - and sent a message of gratitude heavenward. Then I went to the computer to find this photo, so I can remember to never take what I have for granted.


: ) suzie's baby shower : )

The good news is that Suzie is expecting! More good news came that she was doing so well that she could travel, so she and Winston took a much-needed break from the 110-degree temperatures they are enjoying this summer and came to Logan for a visit. We grabbed the opportunity to have a baby shower, and Suzie's aunts Jill, Patty, Mary and Melanie put together a wonderful party for her.

Jill is the perfect hostess and she really kicked it up a notch for this one. She had darling table decorations and wonderful food. The colors were bright and fun, yet girly. Notice all of the Mary Engelbreit-like whimsical serving pieces, the fresh flowers, gorgeous china and silver and lovely lace tablecloth. Jill does it up right!

The flower centerpiece was decorated with a cute growth chart which Jill gave to Suzie after the shower. The pink and green cupcakes were made by Melanie - under the colorful glitter were especially delicious carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Jill made her signature chocolate cherry cupcakes - yummm.

Jill also created this baby girl bassinet to hold the gifts. I'm sure she won't mind me sharing her secret - she made it from a wicker laundry basket sitting on a small table. She lined the with batting and covered with cute pink and brown print fabric. She then covered it in a cloud of tulle which she pinned and tucked and fluffed. The effect was adorable!

On the shower invitation, Jill wrote that the shower was given by her excited "auntie nannys." When we arrived the aunties were all wearing nanny aprons - that Jill had made...the day before the shower. Yes, you read right. They were beautiful crisp white aprons with deep lace across the top AND their initials monogrammed on the bibs. Yeah, Jill's amazing. The three blonds are Scott's sisters Mary, Jill and Patty and the dark-haired aunt is Scott's brothers wife Melanie. Love them, every one.

This beautiful baby afghan was made by my brother's wife, Kimberly. She was chauffering her high school son to band camp so couldn't come, but sent this handmade gift that was soft and wonderful. We all loved the diamond pattern in pink and white.

Aunt Melanie and her daughter-in-law Jeannie, Suzie, Jeannie's daughter Ashley, and my other daughter Becky. It was so fun for Suz to see these family members that she doesn't get to see very often.

Aunt Patty and her daughter Kelly and granddaughter Adria.

Becky gave Suzie a little pink tutu. Perfectly appropriate for dancer-Suzie's little girl.

We were so thrilled that my brother Gary's wife could be here with us all the way from Tokyo. The timing was perfect and even better that her daughter-in-law Tiffany and her granddaughter Sophie could come to the shower too. Lesa gave Suz a darling little Japanese baby kimono that she had bought in Tokyo.

Tiffany is also expecting at exactly the same time as Suzie, so we had to take the back-to-back photo. She's expecting baby girl #2.

Here is Lesa's granddaughter Sophie and my little grandson Emmett.

Another cousin, my brother Doug's daughter Michelle is due to have TWINS in the next couple of weeks. Twin boys I must add. She's doing so well (!) and we can't wait for her to safely deliver those little boys. We had a Dr. Suess "Thing 1 and Thing 2" baby shower for Michelle a couple of weeks ago.

I'm so grateful for these girls - and for Suzie's soon-to-come little baby...named Elizabeth!
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+ more Oprah +

I was pretty sure we'd see Oprah again on TV - only I didn't expect it to be THIS soon. I haven't even watched (and deleted) all the old episodes of the Oprah show from my DVR yet. And now, I receive an email that she's coming back with a typical, classic, just-the-type-of-class-I-love show in October on her OWN network. Another Oprah show?!

Why am I excited to sign up for this class? Because it has...

*including a FREE JOURNAL from OPRAH in the mail
*mixed media - the TV shows plus an ONLINE Community (not that I ever log in, but if ever I felt bored or lonely, I could) on Oprah.com

Here's the LINK to Oprah.com if you want to sign up - the FIRST MILLION students get a free copy of the class journal. Yeah, Oprah thinks big.

Here's the information that came in my email today:

Oprah is back on the air starting October 10 - only on OWN! Oprah's Lifeclass on
weeknights at 8/7c. Oprah's Lifeclass - all of Oprah's lessons, revelations and aha moments over the past 25 years broken down to help make your life better, happier, bigger, richer - more fulfilling.


The "Hall Ball" Family Reunion

What's summer without a good reunion? My mom's side of the family gets together about every four years. Aunt Nadine & her family put together an awesome party in Midway, UT.

the Hall sisters - Nadine, Jean, Norma, Irene

the Hall sisters plus sister-in-law Norma (yes, two Normas)

me and my cousins singing our childhood Portage club song - with vigor

Merilee and her parachute games for the little kids

the water balloon toss

three-legged races

"So You Think You Can Dance" - Hall reunion style

beach boys surfin'

boy band

hip hop

Irish step

let's do the twist

country boot scoot

Kimberly videoed and the audience laughed

two of the teenage judges - Kyle and Tyler

SYTYCD emcee Mer

the next day...lunch in Midway - Scott, Mike and Sierra

our awesome family skit

"Old McHarold had a farm...."

Brett wearing Uncle Jack's overalls from the 40's

Uncle Skeeter and Aunt Norma

the 'older' cousins - Karen, me, Diane, Cami, Gary

Craig, Kyle, Tyler and David - (David is now in the MTC on his way to Dominican Republic to serve a church mission).

we have a few picture takers in our family : )
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blog-worthy dinner lol

The quote on my last blog entry was about forgetting yesterday and moving on to a new tomorrow. One of the main reasons I often want to "begin again" is because of my ongoing dinner stress. This past week has been filled with eating out or eating icky at home...so tonight I was in fix-dinner mode. Since dinner was turning out so lovely, I decided to take a few photos and post them on my blog - you know, to inspire you.

I got out my best pan to prepare this homemade macaroni and cheese. The pasta is boiled and the white sauce is made. Oops, I forgot to take a picture before I dumped all the macaroni in, so I reenacted the pouring so you could see my gorgeous yellow Tupperware strainer. It's vintage! from my 1974 wedding shower. The melt mark is a sign that I'm really a cook - what good is Tupperware if it can't survive a little heat. In this photo, I'm also showing a "technique" of mine - using a paper plate as a spoon rest. Hang on because later I'll show you how to re-purpose that paper plate into something really functional.

If you make everything in the same pot, the dinner dishes are kept to a minimum. Here I'm stirring the macaroni into the white cheesy sauce. It's a basic white sauce with shredded cheese mixed in. If you don't know how to make white sauce, you better learn soon. It's a kitchen basic you can't live without.

Here's a tip if you're planning to make white sauce. See in the photo above how the burner on my stove is really really red hot. That's how I cook...with the stove always on high. Notice in the photo how the pan is only barely touching the burner. This is how you can control the heat on the pan. Just push it on and off and the white sauce will stay white and saucy not black and lumpy.

After you have everything mixed up, pour a little more cheese in for good measure.

Then for nutritious protein and extra flavor, add some chopped up ham from Sunday dinner. Look - here's that paper plate again...now being used as a cutting board.

Because I care about serving a lovely dinner, I decided to go with an all-orange theme. I threw on the orange paper plates and found a few more orange things including carrots, little cups of mandarin oranges for our fruit serving, and little bags of Reeses Pieces for dessert.
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good phiLosophy

Tomorrow is the most important thing in life.
Comes into us at midnight very clean.
It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands.
It hopes we've learned something from yesterday.

John Wayne

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
Ralph Waldo Emerson


grammy camp 2011

Three activity-filled days with our three "older" grandchildren. We unloaded the suitcases, dragged the mini card table upstairs to the kitchen, and the fun started. Brookie quickly and effiiciently Googled a recipe for homemade play dough. We made it right up, and it turned out really nice - soft and fun to play with. Perfect if you're pretending to be a pizza chef.

The kids couldn't wait for the trip to the farm with great-grandpa Evan - picking peas in Matt and Michelle's garden, gathering eggs, driving the truck, and climbing on hay bales.

These are Grandpa's and Matt's new calves. I've heard about these calves for a month and was expecting small calves like you see in fields in the spring - not these little giants. They scared me and Carter too. Interestingly, Dad says that the three of them seem to always stick together. I have to add that the barn in the background is a famous landmark in our valley.

Our pre-Grammy camp plans included a puppet show, and sure enough we had one. Brookelyn and Bailee spent half a day working on the elaborately colored popsicle-stick puppets, original script, posters, and puppet theater. For the performance, the girls crouched behind the couch and perfectly read their parts and worked their puppets. So dang cute.

We went to local community celebration and the kids got to climb on a climbing wall and play in the blow-up jumping toys. I tried to not worry about the millions of germs I could see crawling all over those giant toys.

At the park there was wonderful music filling the air and making people on blankets and lawn chairs tap their feet and hum. Oh, it was Mike and his band performing for the city's Founder's Day celebration! They sounded awesome - we got to sit and watch them play a few songs.

We went to Bear Lake for an afternoon. There was no sandy beach close by, so we played on the swings and chased geese in the rushes near the shore.

These kids are bright spots in our lives - along with their cousin Emmett who was spending the weekend with his other grandparents. Next year we'll have Emmett and Brookie, Bailee, and Carter's new baby sister who was born this week! Oh yes, and Aunt Suzie's new baby too! Wow. We may have to review the age-requirement for Grammy Camp.