Friday, December 28, 2012

Different Holiday Tradition

I love Christmas traditions.  Almost as much as I love my family.  Which is a lot.  
So let me reiderate, I LOVE Christmas traditions!

A favorite family tradition is the Christmas oraments.  Our Christmas tree is FILLED with a variety of ornaments without any rhyme or reason.  My fantastic mother will buy each kid a new ornament every year to hang on the tree.  Sometimes the ornament comes from a trip we took.  Or maybe it is something unique to each of us.  Maybe it came from a new botique.  One time it came from a story my mother wanted us to remember.  There are just a lot of them.

This year was different though.  As we are getting older we've become more relaxed with our Christmas (like not wake up so early on Christmas morning - thank heavens).  This year mother didn't buy us ornaments but instead we made them with supplies found around the house.  It was a blast to see how each one of us created a mini masterpeice with paper, glitter, wire, and old bulbs.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 Stuart Christmas Letter

We are so happy to have Christmas here again!  It is a wonderful time to share our love for our friends and family and love for the Savior.  Merry Christmas to all!
Taylor (19) – has been going to school at Utah State University and has found a new fascination in political science and has taken several classes on the subject intermixed with exercise science courses needed for her major.  Our dinner conversations have gone from bilateral deformities and college sports to bipartisan policies and the Electoral College.  Dad and I find the conversations to be really exciting but I think we lose mom as soon as the word “constituencies” is mentioned.
Keni (22) – is GETTING MARRIED!  She is getting married to a Logan, Utah boy she met in her church congregation this summer.  The wedding is set for the middle of January.  While she is still in college, she is getting great practice balancing homework, wedding preparations, work, and a fiancĂ©.  We are thrilled she has picked a great guy, Michael Althouse, to join the family.  It is every kids dream to be at the front of the alphabet and I think Keni is going to trump all of us girls in the last name promotion: Stuart to Althouse.  That is a 19-letter promotion!  Lucky!
Amy (25) – loves to travel even though I kept each trip short and frugal this year.  When you are living in the East there are so many wonderful things to do and see within a six-hour drive!  Among the favorite trips this year included Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, festivals in Rhode Island, beach trips, and Washington DC over the fourth of July.  So much to do and see.  The grandest of the trips was a cross-country excursion with my sisters stopping in several historic places along the way to Utah.  Now I am living in Utah and working on my new business, Travel Planning by Amy (website coming soon!).  How appropriate.  I am thrilled to be close to family and the mountains once again.
Kemp and Joseph Ure (old enough to have two kids) – are still living in New Hampshire.  With a house, two adorable children and a number of church assignments they forget how quickly time flies past them; but once in a while, literally only once in a great while, they throw everything aside and have a bit of fun.  This year Joseph has participated in a mountain biking race that took him to the hills to ride through obstacle courses.  He has also found a new love for Spartan Races which keeps him active and healthy; he led his New England team “Leaders from Behind” over walls, though muddy water holes, past a Spartan ­­­warrior and over the finish line.   Though Kemper participated in the Spartan Race with Joseph, her idea of fun isn’t as intense.  She took a weekend with me to hike several trails and enjoy the beautiful fall colors in Vermont and loves spending time with her babies.  Kemper has started teaching preschool and comes up with very creative lesson plans and activities to keep several neighborhood children engaged.  We love Kemp and Joseph!  Now if only they lived a bit closer….
Avy (3) and Sadie Ure (1) – are sisters that don’t really know what to do with each other yet.  Avy is learning her letters, plays outside in her clubhouse and attends preschool.  Sadie is walking and dancing.  She imitates talking on a cell phone like her mother.  But neither girl knows what to do with the other!  I’m sure they will grow up to become great friends (crossing fingers) but they haven’t quite figured out how to play with each other yet. We are excited to have them join us in January for Keni’s wedding.  It is a toss up between Mom and I to determine who is more excited to see them.
Mum and Dad (??) – are starting to slow down.  Shocking!  I never thought my parents would grow up but I’m not surprised to come home in the evening to find them both asleep.  Neither one can read without a pair of glasses, or two, so there are eyeglasses strewn throughout the house in case of an emergency reading.  The parents love having their family close and dad thinks that if he builds another house in Uintah that will force a child to live close by.  He is in the works designing a new house and comes up with a new house plan every week.  Mum is keeping up with her massage business and helping people stay healthy with essential oils, whenever someone has an ache or discomfort it is common to hear mum yell from the other room, “I have an oil for that!”  Both mum and dad have been active in their motorcycle group, the Temple Riders Association, and are looking forward to new assignments and rides in the upcoming year.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


(Title explanation - we set our trip odometer in A on my dashboard and set our gas meter in B; hence A is for ADVENTURE NOW and B is for BETTER GET GAS) 

So we begin on a great cross-country trip across the great land of 'merica and making several stops along the way in a car full of three girls and nearly everything I own...

Start:  New Hampshire - leaving my family that I love and miss (tears rolling down my cheeks)
Stop:  Palmyra, NY - to visit the Sacred Grove where Joseph Smith's visitation of God and Jesus Christ took place (learn more here)
Sleep:  Pennsylvania - hotel (and a sa-weet hotel it is)
Stop:  Kirtland, OH - to visit the first LDS temple and other church history sites (again, more information found here)
Sleep:  Chicago - to visit a high school friend
Stop:  Wisconsin - to do something, not sure what yet
Sleep:  Minneapolis - to visit a friend from college
Sleep:  Denver - to stay with family
Stop:  Rocky Mountain National Park (maybe, the sisters don't know about this yet) This did not happen (yet, I will be back!) this trip.
Final Stop:  Utah - home

Day One:  Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012

The sisters and I sat in silence for FIVE hours this morning after pulling away from Kemper's house.  Five hours to be lost in our thoughts (and tears) with very little talking in between. As we arrived closer to our first stop we began to liven up a bit more, thanks to Tay's excellent sandwich making skills.

Palmyra was a wonderful break from the hum of the car.  As soon as I got out of the car at the visitors center in town, I felt that there was something different about this place.  It was at THIS place that Joseph Smith, a fourteen year-old boy at the time, offered a sincere prayer in search of the truth in a grove of trees near his house.  It was at THIS place that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him at that time.  It was at THIS place that the Book of Mormon was published from golden plates hidden away in a nearby hill.  It was at THIS place that the foundations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, aka Mormon church, began.  I was overcome and overwhelmed with the sacredness and spirit that resonates in THIS place.

Once back in the car we pulled out our ukuleles and sang.  More goodies.  More talking.  More driving.  And thanks to a generous friend, we are staying a in a fantastic hotel room tonight complete with kitchenette, couches, and fireplace!

Sniff, sniff.  This is what I left on Wednesday morning in New Hampshire.  Joseph, Kemper, Avy with curly hair, and Sadie baby.  So sad.  Don't mind Kemp's red nose, we were all weeping this morning.

The back seat of my car is FULL!  Taylor is the acting keep-stuffing-falling-shoes-to-the-ceiling authority.

Atop of Hill Cumorah with the monument in the back ground.  Keni, Tay, and Amy squinting (the sun was bright, ok).

Keni inside the Sacred Grove. The trees and colors are lovely this time of year!
Also Keni's sweatshirt brought up a lot of conversation with the tour guides.  The guides were from Logan, Ut the same town USU is located.

Day 2:  Thursday, Oct 17, 2012

We were on the road by 7:30am heading west on I-90.  Our destination today was Chicago, IL with a stop over in Kirtland, OH.

Kirtland, Ohio is an ADORABLE small town.  One of the most quaint and beautiful towns I have ever been in; no wonder why this small town was the LDS Church headquarters for a while.  The sisters and I stopped at the Kirtland visitors center and got a free tour from the missionaries on site.  It was an informational tour with wonderful insight to learn of the history of the church and to learn about many of the early converts to the church.  It is inspiring to hear about the faith of these early members and the great things they were able to accomplish.  One thing in particular - the building up of the first LDS temple.

After several more hours in the car we pulled into Chicago's uptown neighborhood to find Aundrea, a high school friend.  We quickly got on the subway to head downtown to meet another friend, Ty whom I knew from Boston, for some CHICAGO DEEP DISH PIZZA.  YYYYUUUUMMMM.  Especially the spinach pie.  We were given a quick tour by the locals and brought back to Aundrea's apartment for some shut eye.  I really like Chicago.  What if I were to move there???  Only for a couple of years.

Amy, Taylor and Keni in front of the Whitney home, early LDS saints, in Kirtland, OH

Kirtland, OH Temple.  Lovely.  Sacred.

Chicago deep dish pizza at Giordano's downtown.

Chicago sign downtown

Amy and Aundrea, friends from high school, now both in Chicago.  Thanks for letting us stay with you!

Day 3:  Friday, Oct 18, 2012

Back on the road again, this time heading even further up North through the Wisconsin country.  Of course we stopped to get some cheese along the way.  No major stops this time around because we wanted to make it to Minneapolis, MN.  One of my dearest friends of all time, Ranell, whom I lived with in college, lives in Minneapolis and we have talked about visiting for the past two years.  I was so happy to finally make it today.

Went to dinner at a great restaurant  Good Earth, and ate a fantastic bison burger with caramelized onions.  Really good.  We took a short haunted trolley tour on a vintage trolley.  Ranell took us to the MOA as the locals call it also known as the Mall of America by the tourists.  Largest mall in America, huge, amusement park inside complete with roller coasters and water rides.  Following the mall we drove around the city and viewed the skyline from a nearby hill.  Really lovely place, too!

Best part of the day was being with Ranell.  I love this girl.

Amy, Tay, and Keni in the Dappled Gray.  Day three and still happy to be with each other!
Amy and Ranell, old college roommate, on the train in Minneapolis

Day 4:  Saturday, Oct 19, 2012

This morning we woke up early yet again for an incredibly long day in the car.  We drove from Minneapolis, MN to Denver, CO, a 14 hour journey.  However, it was a wonderful drive with the sisters.  We sang to the radio, napped, took turns driving, pulled out the ukuleles and jammed together.  We didn't see or do much except for driving and viewing farm after farm through Nebraska.  

We did make a stop in Stuart, IA for gasoline.  Love the Stuart.

Tonight we are staying with Frank and Becky, family members, in their lovely home.  Before calling in for the night, we talked about family.  It is so nice to be surrounded by so many wonderful people that love and support me.  Family is where we all belong, keeping us safe, making us strong.

Keni, the open-mouthed sleeping beauty in the back seat

Stuart, Iowa
Western sunset over Colorado.  Sigh.  Welcome back Amy.

Taylor through the sun roof trying to capture the sunset.  The wind was a little strong driving 75 miles an hour.  Ha!  I love her squinty eyes.

Day 5:  Sunday, Oct 20, 2012

We made it HOME to Utah!  It was a beautiful drive along 1-70 through Colorado's mountains into Utah.  Definitely will be back through there to stop at all the places we saw along the way.  I think the sisters and I were all a bit anxious to get home so we didn't make any stops along the way.  However, we had a ton of fun in the car!  Don't miss the videos at the bottom. Check it out....
Utah, what a great place to be!  Home, dry, home.

Thirteen states and three-thousand miles later and still smiling.
My mother and her beautiful backyard in the fall.  Love.

You and I (by Ingrid Michaelson)

Five Days Time (knock off from Five Years Time by Noah and the Whale)

Well in 5 days time Dappled (name of my car) drove across the nation
Stuffed to the brim if was quite the vacation
Thirteen states and three thousand miles
It was a little bit cramped but we're still smiles

Oh it was fun fun fun, when we were driving
It was fun fun fun, when we would stop
It was fun fun fun, being together
It was fun fun fun, so what da heck (quote from my two year-old niece)

And we were laughing at all our silly little jokes
As we were singing along playing our ukes
Pause to make sandwiches its time for break
Cause it's what we needed to stay awake

Oh it was fun fun fun, when we were laughing
It was fun fun fun, when we would sing
It was fun fun fun, making some memories
It was fun fun fun, oh it was fun

And we started in New Hampshire to upstate New York
'Round the Great Lakes and somethin' 'bout a fork (we couldn't think of anything else that rhymed with York)
Chicago up north and to the Twin Cities
Down through Nebraska, Denver to home

Oh it was fun fun fun, touring the cities
It was fun fun fun, eating deep pizza
It was fun fun fun, friends 'cross the country
It was fun fun fun, oh it was fun

Although these moments will come to an end
When we get home back to life again
The car full of girls, stuffed to the seams
Drivin' cross country and making memories

Oh it was five days time, when we were driving
It was five days time, back on the east coast
It was five days time to get to Utah
It was five days time in a little grey car

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Meeting with Mitt

I went to church with Mitt Romney!  Actually, he came to church with me.  I was there first.  I shook his hand and wished him well.

I was so excited that I moved in the picture!  Ah!  But Erik looks good.  And Mitt doesn't know we snuck a picture (or does he?).

Really.  I was there!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Leaf Peeping and Vermont Hiking

Best weekend ever with Kemp.  Hiked Mt. Killington and Camels Hump, camped in car (of course), visited Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream factory and Rock of Ages granite quarry.  Love sister time.

It rained nearly all weekend but the overcast weather made the leaf colors even more vibrant and the trials were empty!  sisters + mountains + solitude = HEAVEN

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Skinny on Walden

Waldon Pond became famous by the book, Walden, or Life in the Woods written by Henry David Thoreau.   Thoreau, a writer and philosopher, lived at the pond for two years while he experimented the lifestyle of simple living.  The pond, near Concord, MA, is preserved by the state reservation and is a wonderful retreat from the city.  I have spent many days here enjoying the water and woods nearby.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.  I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary.  I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."

Henry David Thoreau, Walden "Where I Lived and What I Lived For"

Walden Pond in Autumn (thanks google)

The pond also makes for a great midnight swim to celebrate one's 25th birthday with Boston's best friends Kalli and Kristin.  Thanks for the memories Walden.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Summmmmmmmmerrrrr 2012

On a recent ferry trip back from Martha’s Vineyard, with the moon shining on the ocean, I stood on the edge of the deck and thought to myself, “Golly, I love New England.”

Time and time again I am reminded how neat this place really is - many wonderful adventures I’ve realized, the backroads I’ve discovered, the townships and street corners I’ve walked, histories I’ve learned, and places I’ve fallen in love with.  I do love New England.

And there is more to love.  Please let me come back!

Love me some New England summer!

One of several camping trips this summer.
Nickerson State Park, Cape Cod, MA

Lighthouse on Cape Cod, MA

Hansel and Gretels house on Martha's Vineyard, MA

My future cottage on MV.

Magic of Fenway.  Great seats.  Boston, MA

Firewater in Providence, RI

To the top of Mt Lafayette.  White Mountains, NH

First battle of the American Revolution took place 5 miles from my house.  Reenactment every year on the same grounds.  Battle of Lexington, Lexington, MA

The home of John Adams.  "Peacefield", Quincy, MA
Fun-yaking on Deerfield River with friends.  Right before heading to Tanglewood for a celebration concert for John Williams' 80th birthday!  Berkshires, MA

Leaders from Behind.  My Spartan race team.  Amesbury Park, MA

Saturday, September 8, 2012

To the Mothership!

Attention: Friends and Family -  I am moving to Utah.  Not sure how long I will be there but I have a couple of things to take care of while I am there.

Why?  I have been in New England for two years, working, playing, saving and I feel that I am in a good place and time to take action and accomplish some very important goals I have set for myself.

When?  I will be leaving New England in October after my little sisters fly to Boston.  We will spend a couple days around the city, visit the nieces, view some sights, pack the car and head West on a week-long cross country trip to Utah.

What?  Without going into too many specifics (you can ask me more details off-line) these are some of the objectives I have established for myself while I am at home:

1-   Write a book on Grandma Stuart’s life – pending project for the last six years that I am finally getting around to doing with Grandma.
2-   Start a travel agency – taking classes and certifications right now and hoping to be open to business by the end of the year!
3-   Accomplish some fitness goals – begin training for Ragnar relays (180 mile running relay races) and long bike rides, super-healthy eating, and taking a weekly yoga class.
4-  Get certified to become an aerobics instructor – been on my New Year’s Resolution list for the past four years; I think it is time to just do it.
5-   Take the GRE to apply for master’s program – wanting to get an MBA and I have a couple of schools in mind, most of which are in the West.
6-   Lots of Mormon boys are in Utah – did I really just add that to the list?  :)

After this is done, then what?  Good question.   The answer is TBD.  Maybe go back to school for an MBA right away or get job in Utah or back in Boston.

Moving forward....