Category Archives: Hopkins

August 2015 Monthly Snapshot

This month started off with a bang for me with NYC (if you haven’t seen my painfully drawn out recaps….here) and then the day after I got home, Ella and I hopped on a plane for a quick weekend in Wyoming for my grandpa’s 90th birthday party! We wish Dave could have come, but he had a test the day after the festivities, so if we had driven we would have made such a long trip to stay such a short time. So Ella and I decided to just make it a quick girl’s trip and fly one last time before we have to pay for her 🙂
Ella got to see Grandma and Grandpa which she (and I) loved. My mom let her have any and all junk food and TV that she wanted. She’s not above buying Ella’s love.
This was the only group pic Ella was in, as she promptly melted down beyond consoling after this wonderful shot. But here are my grandma and grandpa with all of their great grandkids! I told Ella she was crazy to cry because she got the coveted spot on the birthday boy’s lap!


Ella got to hang out with her second cousins Kinley and Truman who are her exact same age! PS–I’m realizing that in every picture she has the same stone-faced, non-expression. I promise she is a happy girl! She just doesn’t emote for the camera.
I loved comparing these pics that are pretty much exactly a year apart. I think that high chair was my aunt’s as a baby! Gotta love the treasures you find at Grandma’s house!
I love my Grandma and Grandpa Hopkin. They seriously have so much energy for people of their generation! My grandpa still has a huge beautiful garden and sent me home with some fresh corn. We had a conversation about family history and he had all kinds of names and dates he was throwing out off the top of his head. And my grandma couldn’t be busier. She volunteers to do hair for the ladies at the nursing home, and many of them are younger than her! I hope I can be as spry as they are when I’m their age! It was a really fun weekend, seeing my parents and all of my cousins, some of whom I hadn’t seen in probably like eight or ten years. I’m so glad we could make the quick trip and celebrate my grandpa.
We got together with some friends who just had babies! These guys were all roommates before we all got married and it’s so fun to see everyone’s families growing. I think they were laughing because Evan asked if I have an iPhone 4 (I do) with the most incredulous voice.
Dave had some time off of school between summer term and fall semester so we tried to squeeze in some fun family outings during the day before he went to work in the afternoon. My sister in law Marcy mentioned that she had taken her nephews and little girl to Chuck-e-Cheese and they had all loved the little rides (“rides” is used loosely…like the little cars you put a quarter into….but they are the perfect size for Ella and Marcy’s little girl) so we thought that would be something fun and indoors since it’s so hot right now. Well….Ella freaked out on this one truck that rumbled and it was kind of a lost cause, until the very end when she decided she loved this trolley. I felt pretty classy hitting up Chuck-e-Cheese on a Monday afternoon but man was it a trip down memory lane. I used to LOVE that place.

I already posted this on insta, but we picked raspberries and I tried my hand at freezer jam! I was intimidated by the whole canning process but freezer jam was quick and easy so I’ll totally be making more. And Ella went nuts in the berry patch. We will most definitely be going back! She was literally running from bush to bush, frantically shoving berries in her mouth. Thankfully she didn’t make herself sick, and I thought it was a cool opportunity for her to learn that food grows from the earth (here I’m having this hippy dippy nature moment in my head and I can pretty much guarantee that Ella learned nothing of the sort). And don’t worry, we paid extra at the end since she ate so many berries before we weighed them.

Another day was spent up north, visiting our dear friend Christine and her new baby and then eating our way through Salt Lake. If you live in the area and haven’t already, PLEASE try Oh Mai. Seriously, the best sandwich of my life. And super cheap, too, for the quality. I’m salivating thinking of it right now!


We also grabbed donuts, hit up Trader Joes (it was a food-themed day, ok?) and took Ella to Liberty Park. I remember going there as a small child but had heard it was a great place for summer fun and I wish we lived closer because it was awesome! Splash pad, creek, aviary, huge playground, little rides, etc. Ella heartily approved.
And we finished things off with a morning at Bartholomew Park. I’m almost reluctant to mention this place because I am so in love with it and don’t want it to become over run and gross, but who am I kidding, I’m not exactly the informant of the masses on this blog, so what the heck. It’s this awesome man-made lake/pond that a benefactor built and donated to the city and it’s awesome!!! Nice shallow water, groomed sand, nice walkways, bathrooms, parking lot, etc. Ella can just putter around in the sand forever. I think it just opened this summer and I am already excited to go back next year.

And it wouldn’t be a true recap of our month if I didn’t mention that August 2015=naps from h***. Seriously, Ella probably napped like four times this month. Instead of falling asleep, she entertains herself in her crib with such tricks as taking off her diaper, climbing out of her crib (thankfully she hasn’t hurt herself and I think mostly scared herself from doing it again), chucking board books and her water cup, tearing her quilt off the wall, and prying her dresser drawers open from between the slats and putting on all varieties of clothes. It’s impressive, really. Good thing her mom thinks she’s got the face of an angel, or I’d be mad 🙂 I don’t think she’s old enough to give up naps, and she definitely falls asleep in the car/is crabby, etc. which leads me to believe she needs the sleep, so I’m not giving up yet.

NYC Days 3-4: The Met and 1D!

Before I start this final (I promise!) post about this trip, I feel compelled to mention that, lest anyone worry that Ella was forgotten and lonely at home (unlikely), she was having the time of her life with Dave and the friends she got to play with while Dave was in class. I was so thankful for my great friends that watched her and for Dave for working his schedule so that I could go on this trip! I owe you guys big time. It was really amazing what a few days away did for my psyche. I felt like mostly human again (I kid).
Dave made it through church solo and even did Ella’s hair on his own (his biggest worry before I left, haha). Round of applause emoji! Notice he traded the diaper bag for a manlier backpack. Smart thinking.
I had never Face-timed Ella before–seeing as I’ve never spent a night away from her–and it was so funny! If I pretended to kiss the screen, she would go in for a kiss as well. And literally kiss the screen.
Dave even hiked the Y with her in the backpack, and if you’ve ever done that hike you know it’s not a piece of cake so….I was suitably impressed!
So our last full day in the city started off with a minor tragedy, as we missed our bus in the morning. I got cocky and suggested we try to catch it at a stop closer to our hotel, but since Nyack didn’t have any clearly marked bus stops (is it just a word-of-mouth system there, or what?) and we watched in silent horror as our bus passed us right on by and cruised down the hill and around a corner. So, we got into the city an hour later than planned. We did, however, have a little time to kill at the hotel until the next bus, so we were able to catch the end of One Direction on GMA. It got us nice and pumped for the concert the next day!
The second, larger, tragedy was that our first stop, the Neue Gallery, was closed on Tuesdays–and seeing as it was Tuesday, and our last day in the city, we were out of luck! Super sad because we wanted to see the painting from The Woman in Gold in real life (have you seen the movie? SO good!). So we headed right over to Dean & Deluca to abate our sorrows in upscale groceries.

Another way that we saved money was buying food at grocery stores instead of restaurants (not that we invented this tactic–lots of seasoned travelers do this!). Anyone who’s ever been inside of a Dean & Deluca knows that it’s a food lover’s dream, so you’re not missing out on the New York foodie experience by getting something to go from a grocery store rather than a formal eatery. We probably spent like 40 minutes looking around and trying samples before deciding what to get for our picnic outside of the Met.

Since we were going to be getting burgers later, I went with something a bit healthy–this kale, shrimp, and noodle salad with some kind of delicious sesame dressing. It was SO good, and at like $6, much cheaper than getting a salad in a restaurant would have been. As you can see, we had to try the sea salt and dark chocolate cookie too. We HAD TO.
Grace took to phrasing her texts as lines from Gossip Girl throughout the trip, so chilling outside of the Met was fitting.
If I had to pick my favorite thing that we did in New York, it was probably the Met. It’s mind-blowingly huge and overwhelming, but awesome. Like, you find yourself passing by works of art and just being like, “oh, that’s a Monet? Well, it’s not one of the more famous Monets, so I’ll keep going.” There’s just SO much famous, cool stuff to see. I spent wayyyyy too long in the first gallery we went through and found myself trying to make up time later on, so I’m positive I missed things I would have wanted to see, but oh well.
For the first little bit my sisters and I decided to pick a gallery to see, but go through things at our own pace and meet up at the end and then pick another one to start on. Well, I decided to stick with Tess, since she’s the art expert in our family, so she could tell me what was famous?But I was taking my own sweet time, and got separated from her, and so I found myself just wandering doing and seeing who knows what by myself. I ended up in the Egyptian section and a kindly tourist noticed me taking pics and offered to take one of me. By myself. In front of some kind of Egyptian sentinel. Why not?
I was so charmed by this elementary school group just sitting around sketching a Klimt. What a field trip! I’m pretty sure my second grade class went to the post office.
And I’ll ignore the hoards of people crowding around, feverishly taking pictures of a Van Gogh behind glass because we know it just makes me ragey.
I think we spent four hours there and barely scratched the surface. So many iconic paintings and not enough time! I really wonder how long it would take you to visit every gallery and every room in this museum.
After the Met we headed over to Shake Shack and I have to say, it really lived up to the hype! I feel like any time I read a blog or instagram post or whatever about anyone visiting New York there’s a nod to Shake Shack, so I wanted to try it but I was skeptical. These things are rarely as good as expected. But it was! I mean, if you like burgers, fries, and shakes, which I do. I knew that Utah has truly sunk it’s claws into me, though, when I realized that I was having true stress over the fact that this place doesn’t have fry sauce.
We also checked out Bloomingdale’s and Magnolia Bakery after this but somehow I didn’t get any pictures. My thoughts on Magnolia Bakery–yummy cupcakes, but I don’t really think that they are any better than plenty of other ones I’ve had. I don’t know if I’d need to make a pilgrimage there the next time I’m in the city.
The next day was pretty much entirely consumed by getting to the One Direction concert–let me clarify, the concert started at 7pm. Well, the opening act was starting at 7pm. Since I have the compulsive need to self-sabotage and be late to everything in my life I was baffled that we needed to be there super early (I was thinking we could roll in around 7:30 or so…..I’ve never been on time to a concert before), but Anne was in charge that day, and visibly stressed, so I just let her lead the way. So after checking out of our hotel in Nyack, taking an Uber (or is it just “taking Uber?” I’m not cool.) to New Jersey, and getting something to eat, we got to the stadium at 4:30.
We had plenty of time to kill with selfies.
So I had never been to a concert with this crazy level of fandom before. I mean, so many shirts (plenty of “Mrs. Styles” or “Team Payne,” etc.) , homemade signs, crazed screaming–it was so nuts! I was handed both of these signs by little teeny boppers who had printed out thousands on their own dime and just wanted to spread their love to the boys, I guess. We were supposed to fill in the top one with the date that we started “loving the boys” and wave them at a certain time.
Icona Pop opened and they were actually pretty good! I only really knew their hits but they were entertaining and played for about 45 minutes. By that point I was like, “Ok, we’ve been here for four hours, they’ve got to be coming on soon.” No dice. That was my one complaint about this concert–wayyyyy too much time between the opening act and 1D actually coming on! But I guess you can see from this pic that they needed time to fill in the seats and for it to get dark.
When the guys came on, I have to say, it was totally worth it. They were awesome! I love 1D–they helped me realize that I am, in fact, beautiful–but I will admit I wasn’t expecting them to be great live. But they were! Harry, especially–what a rock star. He was running all over that stage like a crazy person. No wonder there are so many videos of him tripping and falling during concerts. I was sort of expecting him to be too cool for school, but he was super funny and worked the crowd like a pro. Can you tell I love Harry? No shame in my game. It really was a once in a lifetime experience to be in a crowd that was THAT crazy for a band. They sang “Drag Me Down,” which had dropped like 48 hours ago, and everyone in the stadium knew every lyric (granted, it’s not exactly complicated. They rhyme “me” with “me.”). And you know what? We didn’t even miss Zayn.
And with that, I hopped on a plane and went back to my little family the next day!

NYC Day 2: MoMA, Chelsea Market, and The Highline

Day two of our NYC trip was supposed to start off with the Museum of Modern Art first thing, but I begged to take a short detour to Rockefeller Plaza to see the NBC studios. This would be the first (well, not actually the first, I think the first day had several too) of many de-railings of our agreed-upon itinerary that I would impose upon our group and my sisters were agreeable, but warned me that this was all I could demand for the day (hey, I was child-free for a few days and ready to go wild! As in, not paying attention to our schedule at all).
I am a huge fan of basically any and all NBC comedies from the past several years, especially 30 Rock, so as cheesy as it was I was super excited to see the actual building! Unfortunately, Liz, Jack, Kenneth, and the rest of the gang were nowhere to be found.
We were there a little after The Today Show would be filming but I couldn’t help but sneak a peek into the studio. We thought about trying to get to the Plaza early in the morning and watch the broadcast but we decided for how early we would have to get up and how much time it would waste, it just wasn’t worth it. Still, a little part of me hoped to see my idols just chillin in there after the fourth hour. But I had to settle for the KLG and Hoda graphics instead.
Please also appreciate that I am wearing running shoes with shorts, thus completing the tourist ensemble.  stupidly only brought Saltwaters for walking and after the first day my shins were dying. Arch support is nothing to mess around with, peeps! Learned that lesson.
Yes, my shirt also came unbuttoned in the back. Killing it on the fashion scene that day!
After our little sidetrack we walked a few blocks to this food cart, King of Falafel and Shawarma. Just writing this reminds me that I need to go on Yelp and give them five stars immediately. SO GOOD! And cheap, too. I think my Falafel was $5 and had super fresh veggies. I couldn’t even finish the whole thing. Food in NYC is expensive but we found that eating at less touristy and formal places saved a ton of money.
Diet Coke was not included but a very necessary side purchase. We all agreed that we drink more pop when we are together because if any one of us gets one we all realized that we need one too.
Our next stop was the MoMA. I had been here the first time I came to New York but it had been over ten years and I’m really glad we went back. So much famous art (coupled with very odd things like a book covered in nails with a knife sticking out of it–which, I’m sure is some kind of brilliant commentary on society that is just over my head) and it’s way more accessible than the Met. We hit up the main galleries and a few of the newer exhibits in a few hours. Whereas in the Met you can spend like five hours there and feel like you’re still skipping a ton of important things (see next post!).
One thing that really drives me bonkers is the fact that, around the super famous pieces of art, you can’t even really just stand there and enjoy the painting because people are going nuts trying to snap pictures. I know that’s hypocritical because I just posted a collage of paintings that I took pictures of….but a quick snapshot is fine. It’s just people standing there forever trying to line up the perfect shot, or sticking their camera in the air and therefore blocking anyone around them from seeing it. I get that it’s fun to have a picture for the memory, but really…..are you going to lovingly study a poorly-lit cell phone picture of a painting after the fact? I’m pretty sure Van Gogh would cut off his other ear in rage over this. I wish galleries would just go back to no photography. You can look the paintings up online, people!
What is it about looking at art that just kills your back? Benches are a must.

After the MoMA we hit up Chelsea Market and that might have been the best surprise for me of this trip! When we were all coming up with ideas for what to do while in NYC, this wasn’t on my list (not that I didn’t want to go, I just hadn’t heard a lot about it beforehand) but I am so glad we checked it out. From what I understand–don’t quote me on this–this used to just be a complex of industrial food production sites that kind of fell into decay as the area became less industrial in the 1990s. It used to be the site of Nabisco, and the Oreo was invented here so….I was immediately impressed. A developer had the idea to connect all of the little brick buildings all with this cool corridor and create an indoor food vendor marketplace. Upstairs is the Food Network offices and I think a few other TV channels too.

We just strolled through and tried things that caught our fancy, and, let’s be honest, that we had googled beforehand. These donuts were amazing (in searching my brain for more creative synonyms for “amazing” all I came up with was “amaze-balls,” “the,” and “out of this world,” so my modifiers need some help). Seriously, the food options were endless and everything we tried was super good, and everything we laid eyes on looked fantastic. I could have eaten until I was sick!
We took our sweet time at Chelsea Market and then checked out The High Line on our walk back to the metro station. Anyone who’s been to NYC recently already knows about this….I felt like this was the hot new thing on every list I read before this trip….but it’s an above-ground park built on an old raised train track. Very clean and well-kept, and it was fun to get some up-high views as you strolled along.
I will say that living out west, you just kind of get used to having access to wide-open spaces at your fingertips at all times. With this park, and Bryant Park, I was like “….oh, this park is very small (duh, Claire, it’s on an old railway track). Where do kids play?” I know that probably makes me sound really naive! It’s just so different there, but in an awesome way. And The High Line is a really creative use of space and included a ton of cool plants with little plaques about them too. If you’re in that part of the city I would for sure check it out! I read some reviews that said it was over-hyped but I didn’t think so.
Hopkin girls on the town!

The City So Nice, They Named It Twice: Day 1

I mentioned a few post ago  that I had the amazing opportunity (I feel like that phrase is soooo overused but I can’t think of a more original way to say it) to visit New York City with my sisters during the first week of August! The stars just sort of aligned and Dave was so great to let me leave he and Ella for a few days, and I most definitely owe him, but I had such a blast! I was going to compile all of this into one post and it was getting colossally long so….day-by-day recaps it is. Feel free to come back in a week or so if vacation synopses are not your thing. Totally understandable.
We stayed outside of the city in the little village of Nyack. We did this for a couple of reasons, but number one, it was significantly cheaper than staying in the city would have been. Like, a third of the price! We just took a bus into the city every morning which wasn’t a big deal at all. So if that’s something you were ever considering, I can say I would really recommend staying somewhere that has transportation into the city (basically everywhere around here) and just commuting in, if you’re pretty flexible on timing. Obviously, if it’s a once in a lifetime trip to NYC, though, you may just want the whole city experience including staying in the middle of it all.
Another perk of staying at a good ol’ Best Western was we got free breakfast, which saved us some money too (being on a budget was the only way this trip was going to happen). We were sort of just expecting the typical cereal, bananas, toast, etc. thing that most motels offer but this place was like a full diner complete with surly waitresses and huge portions. Apparently the Nyack Best Western hotel restaurant is famous for their cheesecake….and the advertising was plastered on every corner of the place, including cocoa mugs. Sadly, we were so stuffed when we got home each night that we were never in the mood to try any, so I can’t vouch for Lisa’s Cheesecakes myself. But apparently she won the New Jersey State Fair so…..Lisa’s a pretty big deal in Nyack.

Sorry this is way grainy….stole it off my sister’s Insta

Once we got into the city our first stop was church, since it was Sunday (Anne was with her bf for most of Sunday so they attended church at his ward). We attended one of the wards that meets above the Manhattan temple, which was really cool! I know that every Mormon that visits New York writes about this but….I can’t help it! It was so different and yet the same as attending church in suburbia! And since it was testimony meeting we got to hear from really interesting people from all over the world.
Our next stop was the Staten Island Ferry to get views of the Statue of Liberty and the skyline. All of us have visited New York before and had done the ferry and tour of Liberty Island as we decided we didn’t need to do that again, and we just wanted to try something new. But if I had never been before, I would have definitely done the whole shebang, and visited Ellis Island too, since I remember that being a great experience. For second-timers though, I LOVED riding the Staten Island Ferry! For one thing, it’s totally free! It’s actually set up to be a commuter shuttle but it happens to offer pretty good views of Lady Liberty, so we decided to give it a shot.
It was fun being out on the water and it felt less touristy than a lot of the big sights around Manhattan, even though I know plenty of tourists take the ferry too. Since it was a weekend it was pretty packed but the rush to get on and get a good seat was actually kind of fun. The first pic on this post was about the best shot I got of the Statue of Liberty, though, because right as we were actually passing it, a huge commercial cruise ship–complete with water slides on the roof–passed right in front of it! It was actually pretty funny! Since we were hitching a free ride, I guess we can’t complain. You get off on Staten Island and reboard through the terminal and just enjoy the views from the other side on the ride back. Totally recommended!
We then rode the subway (Train? Metro? What do real New Yorkers say?!) back to Grand Central Station and took a little audio tour that we had downloaded onto our phones beforehand. We didn’t stand out as tourists at all 🙂 Tons of cool history here and the sleekest Apple store I’d ever seen in my life.
Tess trying out the Whispering Gallery on the lower level. It works!
We then walked towards our bus terminal by way of Bryant Park (I must confess we also stopped for Chipotle on the way…..I know, who goes to a chain restaurant in NYC?! We had big plans to try this fancy salad place but ran out of time and I had a coupon on my phone….) Ok, I’ll be honest and say that Bryant Park was pretty and all, but I read so many things that just raved about it, I guess I was a little underwhelmed. The fact that it has so many community services, like the reading room and the art cart for kids, etc, makes it super cool, but if I didn’t know why it was significant, I would have walked through it and just thought it was a nice city park (and I guess it used to be a hotbed of crime and they’ve really cleaned it up recently, so that’s admirable too!). I wouldn’t travel across town just to check it out, but since we were walking that way anyway, it was definitely worth strolling through.

Our bus terminal was like a block away from Time Square, so we walked through there as well. Time Square is at once breathtaking and horrifying. It’s like the perfect representation of all that is commercial and garish in America. I mean, it’s got Madame Tussaud’s and Ripley’s Believe it or Not right next door to each other! You can tell just by glancing around that basically everyone walking through (at a snail’s pace, because it’s packed) is from out of town, or trying to sell you some bus tour or caricature. And who goes to New York and gets Cold Stone (says the woman who ate at a Chipotle half and hour earlier)?! BUT, it’s truly one-of-a-kind, and really entertaining for people watching sake. So it was worth a short visit.

Grace and I had a short panic (Tess said she likes being the youngest because several other people have to fail before she’s expected to step in) when we couldn’t figure out where our bus depot was–for some reason, there were two buildings designated “42nd Street Port Authority”–but thanks to a helpful lady in the wrong terminal we found our way. I wish I had a picture of the three of us freaking out that we were getting on the wrong bus back to Nyack, though, even after we knew we were in the right depot. For some reason the bus departure gates have these tall, skinny escalators up, but not down, and so we thought we were trapped at the wrong gate. You can imagine all of the commuters waiting to get on their bus home after a long day and seeing these three frantic girls running back and forth within the glass waiting area like hamsters. Thankfully, we were in the right place, ha! What’s traveling without a few mishaps?

June 2015 Monthly Snapshot

First of all, thank you for all of your comments on my last post! Be sure to enter the giveaway (seeing as this is my first giveaway ever, your chances are really good!)!

Second of all, if you love One Direction as much as I do (or even a little bit, because I love them wayyyy more than is healthy or normal for a 26-year-old married mother) you need to check this post out. It’s….important.

Now then, where were we? June flew by and was so busy but SO fun! Dave and I were just saying that we always think we don’t have many plans for the summer and then it gets here and it is always way busier than we had anticipated. With all of the family events and people passing through Utah each year it just adds up to us being all over the place. But I love it and wouldn’t want it any other way! There’s plenty of time for being bored during the winter.

I already mentioned my family coming to visit here, but in case you missed it, that was a big part of the first half of our month. My mom and little sis Tess came to visit and we had a grand old time with them….

Like I mentioned in my other post, my sister Tess was here for French camp and so I got to go be her support team at the end of camp performance since my mom had already left at that point. So naturally it was my job to take pictures of her with an eyeliner beard, playing Javert in Les Mis. It was the least I could do since the whole family couldn’t be there.
Visits to Utah mean visits to Kneaders, and Ella was more than happy to help Tess polish off the whipped cream from her French toast.

 Side note: I was wearing the lovely tie-dyed tee pictured in the background along with workout leggings and no shower on this particular breakfast outing and we ran into my Spanish teacher from five years ago and he shockingly recognized me (probably not for good reasons….I was late basically every day). But then I realized that a ratty t-shirt and no makeup was basically my uniform that term (I signed up for an 8am everyday Spanish class during SUMMER term for some inconceivable reason). so I was probably a spitting image of my old self.

I talked about my trip to Oregon here, but one thing I didn’t mention was that we had to say goodbye to Ella’s beloved aunties at the end of the weekend (and my parents; boo) as they were going home for summer term. It’s SO great having them around more now that they are back from their LDS missions, and not just because I have two free babysitters at my beck and call. Because we actually like them too! Good thing (for me and Ella) Fall semester is only like 7 weeks away!

We checked out a few splash-pads with Ella’s favorite buddy. It’s so fun that she’s actually big enough to enjoy them this summer! Last summer I just sort of parked her by a smallish stream on the outside and she would gingerly touch it every now and then.

We headed down south to St. George for a weekend to see Dave’s sister and her family while they were visiting from Alabama. Dave’s parents live in St. George but they are on a mission for our church in Australia right now (more about LDS missionaries here) so it was a little different getting together without them there but still fun! Usually all of Dave’s siblings (there are six of them) try to gather in St. George for a week or so during the summer since they are all scattered all over the place, but this weekend was just us, one of his brothers, his sister, and their families. 
If you are not familiar with Utah, St. George is in the southwest corner of the state and it is hotter than hades during the summer! We decided to do a little picnic and hike up in the mountains about 45 minutes outside of town and man was that a good plan as we watched the temperature on our car thermometer drop from 115 to 90 degrees. It’s a little ridiculous that 90 would be considered cool but it’s all relative I suppose.

Love that this pretty, forest-y spot is so close to the desert and red rock. I truly love St. George. It’s so close to so many fun, outdoorsy spots and my ideal city size. Does someone want to pay us to move there? I should would ‘preciate it.
We did do plenty of swimming too, though, since that’s basically the only thing you can do when it’s hot enough to bake cookies on the pavement.

And that’s how Ella felt about saying goodbye to cousins. Poor Emi (holding Ella) had just gotten her wisdom teeth out but she was a total trooper and kept up with everyone all weekend. I am pretty sure I was on the couch eating ice cream and watching Nicholas Sparks movies the entire week after mine came out (and I was 23 at the time….) so I was suitably impressed.
Aaaaaand that was June. Bring on the fourth of July and Harry Potter’s birth month!

Oregon Photo Dump

My awkward take on the toothless smile that wasn’t quite toothless. Ella’s take on healthy dinner fare.

I apologize in advance for the lack of quality photography happening in this post. I mean, there is really no quality photography anywhere on this blog but especially in this post. Like a dunce I forgot my nice camera and so cellular snaps are all I have to show for this trip. And while I am apologizing, do people hate vacation recaps? I actually love them but I have seen other bloggers make self-deprecating jokes when they post them so…..sorry if you hate this. Feel free to click onto greener pastures.

My cousin Kyle got married in the Portland, Oregon LDS temple last Saturday and Ella and I had such a blast traveling to be there for it! Well, maybe we didn’t have a blast actually traveling there. If you’ve read this post you know that we don’t exactly have a great track record on planes. Even though Dave couldn’t come with us because of work and school, two of my sisters were traveling with us so I figured it would be ok since I would have help. Well, in typical Mizu luck our flight was delayed by two hours so Ella was already tired, hungry, and bored before we even got onto the plane, and they had to change my seat so I wasn’t even by Grace and Anne. Luckily the flight was only an hour and a half long and the lady next to me was very nice and understanding about the feral badger attempting to kick her in the stomach.

So glad we had these vending machines to keep us occupied in the airport. Ella checked for forgotten change approximately 1,853 times.
Once we actually arrived in Oregon, however, we had a blast. I have hardly seen my mom’s side of the family at all since my own wedding, so it was great to see my aunts, uncles, and cousins, some of whom had never met Ella. And Ella naturally took over the hotel room in her typical fashion and made use of the king-sized bed and unlimited children’s cable channels.

I failed to get one single picture of the family dinner the night before so I will skip right to the big day! I have visited Portland before but I had never been to the temple there and it is seriously gorgeous! This picture is not great so it doesn’t do it justice but I was in awe. The grounds were so pretty with all of the giant trees and greenery. It made me miss seeing green everywhere. Commence my campaign to convince Dave to move to the Northwest. See, Dave, it’s sunny!

The lovely bride and groom and the groom’s family (my aunt and uncle and their kids):

After the sealing in the temple we headed out to the reception site which was another gorgeous, lush, green location. Ella was having the time of her life running around and checking everything out and I was having the struggle of my life keeping her from causing harm to any decor, photo ops, or her own self. #lifewithatoddler
Luckily I have two sweet little cousins who helped me keep track of her
 The party table
My aunt did a fantastic job on everything and all of the little details were SO pretty! I love weddings!

We missed Dave but luckily he was holding down the fort at home
Anyone who knows who Monica Potter is gets a gold star. #foreverabraverman

 Now comes the best thing that’s ever happened in my life (hyperbolic but still). If you know my mom’s family you know that they are not the most loud, center-of-attention-type of people. Politeness and following social norms is held at a premium. So when I heard there was going to be dancing at this reception I figured it would be me, my sisters, and maybe a few little cousins out there representing our kin. WELL. That’s how it started but by the end we had almost everyone out there including my mom and grandma and THAT is a small wedding miracle.

I know dark action shots are awful but…memories.

Grandma and the groom!!!

We had so much fun but when Ella started walking like a drunken sailor I realized I had her out wayyyy too late and we called it a night. The next day we went over to my aunt and uncle’s for a barbecue and Father’s Day celebration. Ella obviously made herself right at home:

She also got all kind of attention which is Ella’s recipe for success. I am the oldest cousin and the only one with kids yet so babies have been a rarity on my mom’s side for a while and everyone was so sweet with her. She warmed right up to them too, especially my cousin Mitch.

Ella’s first public transit experience (nothing like eating snacks in the dirtiest place known to man) and one more harrowing plane ride and that was a wrap on our Oregon wedding weekend! I’m so glad we got to go.

Fun with Summer Visitors Part 1

Last week my mom and littlest sister Tess were here to visit and we had a blast with them! Tess was attending French camp here in Utah and my mom just came to hang with Ella….and Dave and I….but mostly Ella.

I expected Ella to be a little apathetic about our visitors–at least at first–since she has been so shy lately, but within about five minutes she realized that my mom was the bearer of gifts as well as the biggest pushover alive when it came to her only grandbaby and thus a week of never-ending tic-tacs from Grandma’s purse as well as unlimited time on the “foot” (“phone” in Ella speak….don’t ask me why) began. My mom kept buying more toddler-centric apps so by the end of the week Ella was a little foot-monster but what are grandma’s for if not letting you have whatever you want whenever you want? In any case, Ella was my mom’s biggest fan.

My sister Grace’s only request for the week was that we all go to this room-escape game place one night. I’ll be honest, the sound of that is just about my worst nightmare. Being trapped in a dark, claustrophobic room (I mean, obviously you could get out in an emergency, but still), only using a made-up story line, strategy and puzzle-solving to get out? Not my strong suit.

But it was actually really fun. Mostly it was hilarious to see Grace, Dave, and Tess get so excited and into the whole thing. I really wish my dad had been there too because he would have been fervently trying to solve the mystery too. Anne, my mom, and I were not as helpful. At one point the stronger players sent the three of us to work on cracking the code to a particular padlock. As we helplessly piddled around trying to figure it out we realized that this was the worst possible grouping they could have chosen. But hey, we got it open (with the help of the “game masters” [yes, there were people called “game masters”] who sent us hints via TV screen).

After we got out with the gold, the game masters (I just need to say that as many times as possible) asked if we wanted to take a picture with their array of funny hats. They didn’t have anything to do with the game but….funny hats. We had to.

We heard that Springville’s “Art City Days” were going on and that there was a kid’s day with face painting and crafts and stuff so I really wanted to take Ella with my mom. Remember how in this post I admitted that I often push Ella into activities before she is really old enough to enjoy them fully, just because I think it would be so cute? This was a perfect example. Ella was nonplussed about the facepaint and just wanted to run through the hoards of kids rather than do any sort of craft. Oh well, we tried. For the three minutes before her nap when she got to stare at her butterfly cheek in the bathroom mirror, she was very happy.

She’s clearly so excited about it all.

On Saturday my mom was saintly and agreed to watch Ella so the “kids” (aka all grown adults except for Tess) could go to Lagoon. For those of you outside of Utah, Lagoon is our state’s token amusement park and it’s actually pretty fun if I do say so myself. If you only care about thrilling rides and not ambiance. If you’re allergic to mullets and seeing wayyyyyy more flesh than you wanted to on all kinds of people I don’t recommend it.

It was actually SO fun because I don’t think Grace and I had been together since I was like 14 and Dave had only been once when he was a teenager too. So we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and laughed hysterically on every ride, as one should.

My friend Mallory had posted on Facebook the day before we went that they had been at Lagoon that day, and I commented, “we are going tomorrow!” On Sunday at church she asked me how Ella liked it and I was like, “oh, there’s no way we would take Ella.” And then I realized that she naturally would have assumed that I would be taking my child with me to an amusement park. I am one of those adults now. 🙁

Except we had Tess, so she counts. I’ll take Ella when she’s old enough to enjoy it….

My mom was obviously handling Ella just fine at home because she sent me this when I asked how they were doing:

And that was a wrap on our fun week with my fam!

Heart of Stone

Does anyone else remember the movie “Homeward Bound?” It came out in 1993, so it’s been awhile. The story is about two dogs and a cat whose “family” leaves them with a friend while they go on vacation and the animals freak out and decide to run away and make it back home on their own. Well needless to say it doesn’t go so well and the owners think they have lost them forever. It’s probably obvious that it ends well, though, as this is a Disney movie where Michael J. Fox voices one of the dogs. Aaaannnd I just wrote a summary about a 20-year-old movie with three talking animals. Wow.

Anyway, my family loved that movie when we were kids and I always remember my mom crying at the end and me thinking that she was crazy. Then one night when I was pregnant, Dave and I somehow got on the topic of this movie and I said that the end was really touching. One YouTube search later and we were watching it. Well, I blamed the hormones, but I was a puddle of mush and tears about 30 seconds into the clip. But it wasn’t just me! We showed it to my sister Grace too, and she was a mess even faster than I had been. So I felt justified, though confused as to how a Disney movie, which, again, has Michael J. Fox as a talking dog, could make me weep my heart out.

A year and a half passes and somehow we got on the topic of this stupid movie again last Sunday when Grace and Anne were over for dinner. Anne is our family’s resident animal lover. She’s the kind of person who will notice a tiny dog in the corner of a painting or in a commercial. I have caught her standing in a window, saying to herself, “there’s a dog outside,” just talking to the wind and watching some little mutt putter around across the street. So we figured she would be suitably moved by revisiting this movie, as we had been. She insisted that she wouldn’t even get misty. Here’s the clip we watched. If you haven’t seen the movie, just consider for a moment that the scene before this depicts Shadow, the noblest of all dogs, getting stuck in a pit under some railroad tracks and helping the other two get out without saving himself. So we don’t even really know if he’s going to make it!

Stinking Stone Heart didn’t bat an eye. Me and Grace, on the other hand, were like:

Sorry for the horrible quality, we didn’t know Dave was documenting our moment of pain. I guess having seen it recently didn’t make it any less emotional for Grace and I. Anne, on the other hand, is lacking a soul. methinks. I challenge anyone reading this to watch this movie and if you aren’t sobbing at the end, I owe you a Coke.