Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Thankful Heart

After our Thanksgiving dinner this afternoon, we held an impromptu photo shoot to remember this day of thankfulness together.
Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!
28 Nov 2013: Our family on Thanksgiving Day

My life is so rich in blessings. I am deeply grateful for all I receive at the hands of a loving Heavenly Father. I am more thankful than I can express for our Savior Jesus Christ, who "marked the path and led the way" to everlasting happiness by His example.
The past 5 months have been the most difficult and painful of my entire life. Yet the Lord has sent His Spirit everyday to lift and carry me through the worst times, when the hurt was so deep it took my breath away and I wondered how I could go on. He has shown me that real happiness comes from a heart filled with love and forgiveness and gratitude, and is not dependent upon the actions of those around us. I am grateful for the blessings of His restored gospel!

Mary with her daughter Sarah

I am so happy to have three great children who are sincerely good people and bless my life in so many ways. Being a mother is the greatest privilege of my life.
I'm also grateful to have an amazing extended family, from my siblings and their spouses to my nieces and nephews and great-nieces and -nephews. What an amazing blessing that family relationships are eternal. And how uninteresting this world would be without the whimsies of family!

Brothers Jacob and Dylan

I am thankful for the blessing of friendships. My beautiful friends are the family members I chose when I came to this world. They have so often been the angels God sent to help me through these difficult days. What a great blessing their love and support have been to me.

Mary's son-in-law Chris and daughter Sarah

How grateful I am to be surrounded by the nurturing arms of a loving God and the loving support of family and friends who care about me. When facing the challenges of this world, those are the only blessings that truly count and will be with us into the eternities. Thank you, Lord, for filling my life with so much that is good!

Sarah with our dear friend Gwen, who joined us for Thanksgiving today.

Our photo shoot wasn't lacking the usual shenanigans, especially by family members of the male persuasion. Here are a few of our outtakes:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bryce and Brianna

30 June 2012: Brianna and Bryce recite their vows

Last year, during the summer of 2012, my niece Brianna married her long-time boyfriend Bryce. I attended the wedding and reception and took a ton of pictures, but I never did blog the experience. Two days after their wedding, we left on our month-long, cross-country trip to New York, and life was simply too hectic after that.
I can't very well blog about Brianna's sister Celesta's wedding this past weekend and then fail to share this beautiful wedding from last year! So here it is, almost 17 months later...

Brianna and Bryce share a kiss while the bridesmaids look on.

The bridesmaids admire Brianna's wedding ring.

Brianna and her bridesmaids

I don't know the two bridesmaids on the left, but the rest are Brianna's sisters: Mariah, Elyssa, Celesta, and Gabrielle (Gabby).

The Bride and Groom with the family of the bride

Brianna's beautiful wedding gown and train

Brianna and Bryce share their first dance as a married couple.
I am just fascinated by wedding cakes! This one is so very elegant!

Bryce and Brianna cut their wedding cake.

It was a lovely wedding, but it is long since over. So long, in fact, that Bryce and Brianna have a gorgeous little son named Carson! I just might have a picture of him and his mom from his Aunt Celesta's wedding...

Brianna and her son Carson
What a handsome little guy!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Scottsdale Cottonwoods

Nov. 22-24: Our suite of rooms at Scottsdale Cottonwoods Resort

I know I'm a little obsessed with the hotels and resorts we stay at. It's just that I never stayed in a hotel during my childhood. When our family traveled, we either stayed at the homes of relatives or camped out in a tent. So the idea of a hotel room seemed rather exotic and even a little intimidating.

The living room of our suite

I was 18 the first time I stayed in a hotel room, for 4 days back in 1973. It was an amazing experience! That's when my best friend Peggi and I were stalking the Osmond Brothers. We followed them to Las Vegas and we stayed at Caesars palace. And, yes, we did eventually meet them and spent enough time with some of them to get to know them. But that's another story...

The "kitchen" (actually a small wet bar) in our suite

Back to the present: I originally planned to drive down to Mesa (a 3-hour drive) and back, all in one day, to attend Riley and Celesta's wedding and reception. That would have been a grueling trip, getting up by 4am and leaving at 5am to attend the 9am wedding; then leaving after the reception ended at 9pm and getting back home around 1am. Not my idea of a good time, but being divorce-lawyer-poor these days, I saw no other choice.

The bedroom with 2 double beds is in the next room.

Then my daughter Sarah offered to pay for the hotel. Since we were driving down together, she really didn't want to get up that early, so I took her up on it. (She also paid for half the gas.)

We went to our lucky website,, and bid on a hotel. It took us several tries, but we got this nice suite--more like a small apartment--in Scottsdale for just $34 per night.

The bedroom had a very nice open ceiling.

So I took one bed, Chris and Sarah took the other, and Dylan got the couch. The beds were pretty comfy.

The bathroom and dressing area

This resort has been around for years. It covers an area of many acres. The staff uses golf carts to ferry their visitors around the grounds.

Since we stopped in Mesa first on Friday night to help a bit with decorating for the reception, it was well after dark when we arrived at the resort around 10:30. It had also been raining nonstop all day and all night, so we were drenched by the time we followed a series of trails to our suite. We should have asked for a cart ride!

The pool was right across the sidewalk from our suite.

The grounds were quite beautiful, though. In the daylight hours it was well worth the walk. Except when I slipped on the sidewalk as we were walking to the car on our way to the wedding Saturday morning.
I was in my purple dress and black heels when my shoe hydroplaned! There was no preventing it; I was going down! Luckily, I still have good balance and managed to fall in such a way that I only landed on my bum and the side of my left calf. Only my ego was bruised.

More scenes of the beautiful grounds near our suite

We did miss the first snowfall at home while we were away. It was pouring rain when we left home, and we dealt with heavy rain, hail, and and thick fog (driving through the clouds that settled on the mountain tops) all the way to the Valley.
While we were at the luncheon on Saturday afternoon, Dylan texted Jacob back at home and asked what the weather was like. Jacob texted back that it was snowing hard! I do love the first snow of the season, but this time we were missing it for the best of reasons.

We headed back toward home about 2:00 on Sunday afternoon, and once we were past Globe-Miami we began to see the snow-covered mountains ahead along the road home. We got home just a bit after 5pm.

Clouds cover the top of this mountain.

I did try to be frugal for this trip. Eating out while traveling gets a little spendy. Sarah and I each made a tray of deviled eggs, which took care of our Saturday and Sunday morning breakfasts.
It was awfully tempting to stop for dinner in Miami on Friday night to enjoy the world's best green chili burros and red chili burros at Burger House. I'm not exaggerating. They are THE BEST!

However, I was strong and I spent Thursday evening prepping cheese, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and mayonnaise so we could stop and make nice, cheap ham-and-turkey sandwiches during a brief stop in Globe.
With the wedding luncheon and the light evening dinner served at the reception taking care of Saturday's meals, the only other meal we had to worry about was lunch on Sunday. I confess that I splurged for that one and stopped at Carl's Jr. on our way out of town. I do so love their Super Star sandwich served as a low-carb lettuce wrap! (And since there is no Carl's Jr. in our mountain community... so far...)
That concludes the tale of our Riley-and-Celesta's-wedding weekend. We had a wonderful time and loved seeing so many family and friends!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wedding Day Scenes

Here's another batch of photos from Riley and Celesta's wedding. There are always interesting things going on behind the scenes that are fun to share.

23 Nov 2013
That's me, Mary, with a chalkboard I decorated to commemorate important dates for the happy couple. The bride's mom (my sister Karla) borrowed the idea from another wedding. She handed me the chalkboard and a chalk marker, as well as a photo of the original chalkboard as my example, and then she told me to get to work on it! 

Cute idea, huh? I think it turned out pretty well!

My daughter Sarah loves these family gatherings so she can get her baby fix! She's like the "Baby Whisperer." All fussy babies get handed to Sarah, and she has them sound asleep within 10 minutes. Here she is on the temple grounds with Bryce and Brianna's little guy, Carson.

After the wedding and the photo shoot on the temple grounds, we headed to the church for a family luncheon. I sat across from these guys, three of my favorite men: my nephews Josh and Julien (Karla's sons) and my son Dylan.

I asked Riley if he bribed or threatened Nabisco to get them to mass produce Oreo cookies in their wedding colors, pink and black. He said, "Neither. They just did it because I'm me!"

The kitchen help: my nieces Genevieve, Elyssa, and Brianna, with my nephew Jeremy (all of them are Karla's children).

Elyssa's husband Ross helps out, too. Ross, you make that apron look good!

My son-in-law Chris helped out all day by entertaining the many children running about, while the rest of us decorated and prepared food. He was like the pied piper, keeping them busy and happy. Here, he distracted a fussy Max (son of my niece Genevieve and her husband Scott) with a video game on his phone.

I caught my niece Mariah enoying a romantic dance with her boyfriend, Troy. That is, until I destroyed the moment by taking their picture!

This was a great moment. We thought the kids were just playing up on the stage while we worked. Then Scott and Genevieve's oldest, Brooke (top right), stepped out from behind the curtain and confidently announced that they would be presenting a performance of "Jingle Bells."
Suddenly the curtains opened and these seven cuties danced around the stage in cleverly choreographed action before arranging themselves on these steps and singing "Jingle Bells." As they finished the song, they shouted in unison, "Congratulations, Celesta and Riley!" It was both adorable and impressive!

I am a big fan of wedding cakes. When I was young, most wedding cakes looked very similar, but nowadays there are so many styles to choose from. I always look forward to seeing what type of cake each couple chooses. This one is gorgeous, and I especially loved their unusual cake top.

If you're not into wedding reception decor, you may as well stop here, because that's what the rest of these photos are all about. I enjoy the little details that make each reception uniquely individual to each couple. The picture above shows the table that greeted guests as they arrived to celebrate with Riley and Celesta.

Rather than a guest book, the bride and groom had a photo book for guests to sign. The first 3 pictures (on the left) were actually taken during a weekend visit they made to our home here in the White Mountains last winter. I love it!

The gifts were placed here in this little grouping of chairs. The large photo of the Mesa Temple was a gift from Celesta's brother Jeremy and his wife Cami. Cami told me Jeremy made the frame himself, and she found the photo on Pinterest and downloaded it for free, had it blown up, and then Mod Podged it. It turned out so great!

These final three pictures show the tables where a light dinner was served to the guests. It started with vegetable slices and dips, then cheese ball and crackers, and then two types of pasta salads...

...followed by chicken salad sandwiches on crescent rolls; next came apple slices and caramel dip...

...and finally mints and mixed nuts just before the punch and lemon water. It was a beautiful wedding and reception and a wonderful day. And it reminded me how happy I am that I only had one daughter to plan a wedding for! (Karla has seven daughters! Only three more to marry off now, though!)