Friday, January 23, 2015

Beautiful San Juan and El Convento Hotel

How lucky are we to have been to the able to visit San Juan, Puerto Rico twice in the last 7 weeks?  Both visits have been because we have had the opportunity to speak on cruises which have been a delight but we are totally in love with San Juan and particularly a gorgeous old hotel there that was originally a Carmelite convent built 365 years ago. After a hundred years of use, it fell into ruins and passed through several hands until in 1959 under the auspices of Operation Bootstrap, Robert Frederic Woolworth - heir to the Woolworth fortune –the conversion began to create El Convento Hotel. It was renovated again beginning in 1990 and was named the premier “Small Luxury Hotel” in Puerto Rico.

We think you’ll agree that the renovators and decorators did a fabulous job!

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This beautiful tapestry depicts the landing of Columbus on the Island on his second voyage to the new world on November 19, 1493.

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Orchestras have been around for a LONG time!

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Many cute cats lounge around the property like they own the place. We spent two nights here which was a welcome splash into luxury and glorious weather. Especially nice since we had just come from nine degrees below zero and lots of ice and snow at our home in Park City.

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Directly across the street is the beautiful Cathedral of Jan Juan, the oldest Cathedral on the Island. FYI, our taxi driver told us that Jennifer Lopez was married here.

 

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All the Christmas decorations were still up including this lovely nativity scene in the Cathedral.

The beautiful statues, the unique blue bricks taken from the ballasts of early ships and the beautiful bricks surrounding this walled city of Old San Juan make this a place we’d love to go back to!

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What they can do with plantains on this Island is simply amazing. This plantain base fill with delicious seafood was scrumptious!

And we are off to the gorgeous Islands of the Caribbean

Friday, January 2, 2015

Christmas with a Joyful Crowd

On December 22nd when we returned from our fun evening with the Looslis and their friends, we got a nice surprise….Josh had gotten a ride from AZ and was waiting for us at the condo. We were so glad to see him and excited that he would be with us the next day when we would be greeting Shawni and Dave and their five grand kids.

The most exciting news of the season was that the Pothiers had decided to come straight from Shanghai to our house for Christmas!  It was a WONDER to have them here and to be the first to hear about their wild adventures from their own mouths! We had “decked the house” and could hardly wait to see them!

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A little closer look at the stockings waiting for Santa to fill: 

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Nativity scene hand carried to us from Jerusalem by Eli many years ago. 

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They arrived at the airport about 11 p.m. on the 23rd and of course, squealing and hugging ensued!  How great it was to see them all looking so happy and excited to be back in the U.S.! We brought three cars to get all their bags and bodies squeezed in. I loved my ride home with the girls (while the guys loaded the bags in the other cars) spewing out fun stories of their “best and worst” things about living in China for four months. Each story was unique and fun to hear!

We arrived home about midnight, which was three in the afternoon Shanghai time so even though some of the kids had hardly slept a wink on the long plane rides, they were bright-eyed despite having just killed themselves to complete finals at their schools just before they stepped out their Chinese door for the last time.

By 1:30 a.m. we had nestled into our beds and with morning light, the kids were excited out of their minds when they woke up to see their first white Christmas!

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It was Christmas Eve and Shawni and Dave had just a few hours to get ready for Christmas. Though several packages had come by UPS AND USPS, there was still a lot to do! The Looslis arrived and the kids had a blast in the snow while the shopping and preparing for our Jerusalem Supper continued.

We were thrilled that Noah and Kristi and their five were also here from California. They had been staying with Kristi’s sister who has moved to Draper with her family but joined us for our Christmas Eve tradition of having a supper that was similar to the one Mary and Joseph might have enjoyed with Mary’s family just before their departure for Bethlehem.

Twenty four of us feasted on fish, dates,figs, flat bread and falafel, bread and a honeycomb and fish (which some of the kids actually love). When we light the candles, throw on a few headdresses and turn off the lights, it’s magical!  We had 24 at our table that we had built just for such occasions.

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We used our plates that Charity and I have hauled home from Jerusalem in years gone by!

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After the dinner, we had so much fun re-enacting the Nativity scene. We were lucky to have so many angels, shepherds, wise men, donkey, lovely Mary and Joseph AND a REAL baby Jesus. Precious!

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Nothing brings as much joy as a nativity scene packed full of cousins!

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Let’s look at that little angel on the lower right one more time. Somehow he managed to bring a touch of the real world into the picture Smile!

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Christmas morning was so fun!  After the other two families left, the Pothier kids opened their presents that they had chosen for each other. It was such a sweet scene with big hugs after the presentation of each gift.

Those hugs carried right through to Christmas morning and even though I didn’t get a picture of one hug, I’m sure you’ll see that on Shawni’s blog when she posts at 71toes.com. A sweet experience.

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Eva sent a beautiful blanket so that Rick can wrapped himself in leaves any time of year, not just on his birthday:

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And Saydi sent another masterpiece book of our fun at the Bear Lake Reunion this summer. She is the master. The skin on her fingers must be totally worn off from doing not only the Bali book and Bear Lake but but also from editing myriads of family photos for her photography business. As you can tell it was worth it (to us)!

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Rick is always in charge of the gifts for the adults. Since we have a tennis tournament at every reunion, he thought it would be perfect to give everyone a really good racket to practice with. Josh left his racket home but here are the Loosli’s, Pothiers and Eyres with their new gifts:

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I think these two have winning on their minds.  What do you think?

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And the treasure of the season…..Lucy’s letter to Santa. What a child! I like that Santa too! 

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Run up to Christmas!

The weeks before Christmas are always filled with fabulous festivities! Here’s just a glance at ours before I forget what happened!

We attended a lovely Christmas Concert at the beautiful home of a dear friend:

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A yummy dinner was enjoyed at newly found relatives’ home who are related to Rick and I on both sides. Their home is a literal museum of ancestor pictures! What an inspiration to see! It reminded me of my “Grandmother’s Corner” at our house which includes a watercolor that I did in an art class years ago of my mother’s grandparent’s house in Freedom, Wyoming as well as a treasured piece of original wallpaper from that house before it burned down which our new cousins, Judy and Gerry Weber gave to me that night!  I also have a small plate from my Grandmother Ida’s house. She died in the Flu Epidemic when she was 38 years old, taking her two youngest babies with her and leaving 8 other children. My father’s dear Mother’s eyeglasses and case are also hanging in that corner. All those ancestors would be thrilled to behold that picture of our family on the left to see what they started!

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The Loosli’s Annual Children for Children Concert was held this year in a beautifully restored mansion less than a block from Saren’s house. It was a delight as always to see the kids organizing and conducting that fun evening where they raised about $700 which will be matched by the Eyrealm Foundation for several orphanages in Bulgaria where Saren served as a missionary. A video was shown of the orphans and One Heart Bulgaria is going to be thrilled with the kids’ efforts to provide funds for those needy orphans.

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This is Saren, 7 months pregnant with twins visiting the orphanage 8 years ago. (Sorry not techie enough to figure out how to make these pictures large).

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Among several delightful numbers, here’ s a group of kids playing Christmas Carols on chimes:

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Eliza did a lovely violin solo and Ashton did a great job of entertaining us during the program and while everyone was wafting for the “costuming” for the Nativity scene which most of the children participated in (lots of shepherds and wise men not shown here).

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The Shumways, particularly Hazel, also had a hugely successful Children for Children Concert in Boston which the Mayor of their city attended along with a wonderful group of parents who heard some beautiful music from kids who raised $1700 (which will also be matched by Eyrealm) for kids and families in Mozambique. The organization was Care for Life which Tal and Anita worked intimately with on their Humanitarian Honeymoon! Lives will be changed by their contributions to families like this:

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And our darling 13-year-old Granddaughter Ana, also organized an amazing new kind of Children for Children Concert in Makawao (Maui). There is an annual Christmas Festival in their little town and she arranged with the organizers  for she and her talented friends to put on a talent show on the street to raise money for the children at Care of Life in Africa. We are so proud of her efforts as she raised about another $500 (including a match).  Way to go Ana! 

The pictures of these last two events are on Instagram and I don’t know how to copy them from there. Just know that they were awesome events!

 

I got to have had a Grammie Date with some of the Loosli kids that were SO much fun!

Saren came along with Eliza to see the grand production of The Nutcracker at the newly remodeled Capital Theatre. It was GRAND!

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Ashton and I went to see one of our favorite characters from our summer Grammie Camp adventures….Bandito….in Bandito’s Christmas Carol.  It was at the Grand Theatre in SLC and it was hilarious, along with having a nice message. As you can see we were pretty excited! How could we forget to take pictures of Bandito? Ashton if you have any, pass them on. Bandito even begged us to take pictures! What were we thinking?  Is this guy cute or what?

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Isaac and I got to see The Piano Guys at a packed Energy Solutions Arena. It was pretty incredible.

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This guy is awesome!

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Grandfather took the twins to see Here comes Santa Clause presented by the Utah Symphony in Ogden at the same time so I still owe them a Grammie Date but they had a ball! 

We had a perfectly lovely day on the 22nd. Since it was Kristi’s birthday and her birthday tradition is doing some kind of service, Kristi and Noah and kids, Kristi’s sister Stacey and kids and Susan and Scott Monson (Kristi’s parents) went to an assisted living center where our 94 year old friend had just been relocated. Since she didn’t know anyone yet, she was delighted to see all those kids who sang to her and heard her fun stories. The kids made a lot of the bystanders happy as they went around giving hugs! Forgot to take pictures @@@.

On the way to Ogden our fun continued as we stopped to see our darling friends the Edler family whom we grew to love many years ago when we did a Center City mission. They were delightful and we were so glad to see each other again! This picture of the Edlers was taken when they came to Thanksgiving dinner at our house a few years ago:

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In Ogden we had a delightful evening with Jared and Saren and a few of their neighbors who don’t have family around at Christmastime! There was a very special spirit as the twins read a beautiful Christmas story, we played the chimes and Ashton accompanied us on the guitar as we sang Christmas Carols At the end everyone shared their favorite Christmas memory. One dear lady said that her favorite Christmas memory would be the one she was having that night!

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There’s nothing like Christmas to bring out the pure love in everyone!

Next….the celebration begins!