Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Canada, eh?

Cory is good luck out here in New York. He’s a member of the sports club here at NYCC. They held a raffle to raise money for their club events, and so Cory bought 20 raffle tickets. It turns out it might be the best $10 he ever spent. He won the grand prize – a 2 night stay at a hotel in Niagara Falls – complete with breakfast. So we took advantage of his winning and turned it into a Memorial Day weekend trip.

Having already been to Niagara Falls twice (this being our third time) we decided to be total tourists. Our hotel was on the Canadian side of the falls, just up the hill. (Seriously, it was within walking distance, which was very nice). There’s tons of stuff to do along this hill that leads down to the falls. Mini-golf, arcades, lots of food, museums, casinos, a ferris wheel and plenty of souvenir shops. We bought fun passes (good for 6 activities) and played all day long. (Beware: lots of vacation photos to follow!)

A dinosaur mini-golf course! So much fun!

The Ferris wheel we rode on - you can see both falls from the top - it's really amazing!

The views from the Ferris wheel.

Cory playing an arcade game. It was hilarious! He had a plastic sword and had to slash at the bag guys on the video screen - making sure his sword stayed within the sensors - kind of like a Wii. I was laughing so hard - he's so cute!

At the wax museum - Cory with Indiana Jones and Lara Croft - Sarah with Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner!!

Gorgeous tulips down near the falls.

I’ve wanted to go to Toronto ever since we moved out here … so we included Toronto into our trip (given that we were already halfway there). We got to go to the temple there (very pretty!), down the boardwalk along Lake Ontario, and to the Toronto Zoo. On Sunday it turned out to be stake conference for the entire country! It was being broadcast live from a stake center in Toronto, and so we got the privilege of hearing President Monson speak! It was really neat - he used to be a mission president in Toronto, so to hear his reminisce was special.

The Toronto temple.

Lake Ontario boardwalk. Very pretty - same blue color as the lakes by us.

Elephants at the zoo. Pretty big!

Tiger cubs (about 1 year old) playing at the zoo ... sooooo cute! I told Cory I wanted one but he thinks that would not be a good idea. Too bad!

Overall, we had an awesome time! It was fun to see Niagara Falls again (the power of all that water never ceases to amaze me!) and see some of the sites of Toronto. Of course, my favorite part was all the time I got to spend with Cory. We went to yummy restaurants together, watched the NBA finals, watched the Stanley Cup finals, slept in, and enjoyed being with each other. I have the best husband in the world, and I love him more than anything. It was great to spend some quality time together!! Best $10 he ever spent is right!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My review for "The Host"

Well, I finished The Host – Stephenie Meyer’s latest book to come out. It’s not a part of the Twilight series – but it is every bit as good. The Twilight books are (supposedly) targeted for young adults – though I know MANY adults who love them – but The Host was her first book targeted to an adult audience. I thought it had a slightly different feel than the Twilight books – a little darker - but brilliant. I struggled to find the words to express my feelings toward the book. It was just so GOOD.

I posted a couple of the links of other people who have reviewed the book. I agree whole-heartedly with these reviews. One of the reviews says this: “This book has an unique story line that involves a complex love triangle and lets you feel the emotions of the characters like you are apart of the book. It will bring you on a rollercoaster of emotions involving love, betrayal, fear, and loyalty. The Host ends on a note of hope that will make everyone smile.”

Agreed! I felt all the emotions of the characters like I was a part of the book! Stephenie’s writing is very emotional. She spills out words, feelings and detailed descriptions all onto the same page at the same time. She writes in long sentences and gives lots of details – making it easy to see the dessert, the mountains and the caves she so vividly describes. Emotion pours out of the pages and seeps right into you. If you can read this book and not be touched by all the varying emotions, then you might be an alien - one of the “souls” that has invaded earth ;)

One of my favorite things about this book is it made me think about what it means to be human. The premise of the book is that humans have squandered this world in violence and so the “souls” come down to earth and inhabit the humans … and they honestly believe they are doing the humans a favor in taking over … since humans have made such a mess of things. But as Wanda (loved the nickname for Wanderer, by–the-way) soon discovers, humans feel varying emotions – not just violence – and they feel everything strongly.

**Okay, if you haven’t read the book, now would be a good time to stop - spoilers are ahead** Skip to the last paragraph to avoid spoilers. You have been warned.

Wanda says she has never been in any other host bodies that feel emotions so strongly – love being one of those emotions. The love Melanie feels for Jaime brought tears to my eyes and had me scrambling madly for some tissues so I could get rid of the tears that made it hard to see straight. The love that she feels for Jared – a different love – was no less powerful. I guess you could say that love is a theme that runs through the book. Melanie loves Jaime with the love a parent has for a child. She loves Jared romantically – and is put into a frenzy with just a touch. She belongs to him – and he to her. She loves the humans she is staying with in the caves – but more of a camaraderie love, instinctive just because they are all still human. In the end, she tells Wanda that she loves her (again, more tears for me) and that love is the love of a sister. So many forms of love – all because we are human and it’s in our nature to love so compassionately. We’ve been given this gift to love – and it comes so easily to us.

Wanda feels all these feelings of love that Melanie feels – and in the end she reciprocates all those loves to the humans who are around her. She chooses to end her own life so that Mel can have her body back. She shows the ultimate form of love – to give one’s life so selflessly so that others can be happy. She also recognizes her love for Ian – and that after living on 9 different planets, she has finally found someone she loves as a partner – someone she would want to stay and be with. Ultimately, it works out beautifully – with everyone finding happiness and love. I LOVED the ending. The book shares a message of hope – hope for humanity, in the sense that maybe they are not as alone as they think, and in the sense that there is hope that humanity isn’t as violent as was thought by the invading souls.

I certainly hope that Stephenie goes on with her plan to write 2 sequels to this book. It really did touch my heart – all that it means to be human came into such stronger focus for me. We are capable of awful things as humans … and yet we are capable of beautiful things, too. We have a great capacity for love – in all its forms – and great capacity for good in this world. We also have this beautiful planet to live on – with such great vistas and colors to enjoy. We also have our 5 senses – something not many species enjoy like we do. We have been given much.

Okay, I am getting a bit sappy :) This book has a beautiful story to tell – and it has romance, yes, but lots of action and suspense to keep you hooked. I thought my heart might just beat out of my chest in certain parts. The characters that Stephenie has created are striking. I whole-heartedly recommend this book. This book is fantastic.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"Twilight" movie trailer!!

Okay I know I just posted something about our amazing trip to D.C. ... but this warrants posting since I am sooo stinkin' excited about it. It's for the "Twilight" fans out there. It's a trailer to the movie, along with a movie poster (which I promptly made my desktop background). It looks AMAZING! I seriously thought I might die of excitement ... I have never looked forward to a movie this much ... as much as I disliked this past winter, I find myself looking forward to December ... AAAHH!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Such a great trip!!

Where do I start? We had the BEST time down in our nation's capitol. D.C. is one very cool city – with lo ts and lots to do. We had only 4 short days – but we made the most out of all of them. We saw: a couple of the Smithsonian museums, the Jefferson Memorial (we rented paddleboats and paddled over next to the monument), the Library of Congress, the Capital building (just the outside, we didn't go on the tour), Mount Vernon (home to President George Washington), an indoor climbing gym called Sport Rock, Old Town Alexandria, and Gettysburg (an all-day adventure). Exhausting, huh? But we couldn't have had any more fun, spending time with family and good friends (and thanks to Em & Brett for letting us crash there). We took over 250 pictures so I have plenty I could put up … so I will just put up some of my favorites. We just have too many great pics (all the credit goes to Cory ... he's got a really good eye). Believe me, part of me wishes that I could have stayed there in D.C. … but it's back to the real world for Cory and I. He started his 7th trimester of school today and I'm back to work. As much fun as we had, it was very nice to come home to New York - and it's a nice feeling that New York feels like home. I know how blessed we are to have such great family members and great friends! We want to go down again, but our summer is pretty booked with other fun adventures. A few weeks of school and then hopefully up to Toronto over Memorial Day weekend. I love the spring and summer times so much!

Pictures: top row are at Mount Vernon, next row is Cory at the climbing gym, the inside of the Library of Congress (it's really ornate inside), the Library of Congress from the outside, the personal library collection of Thomas Jefferson (housed at the Library of Congress), next 2 are at the Capital Building, seeing the Jefferson from our paddleboats, the Smithsonian castle, and the rest are at Gettysburg.

It's hard to describe the feeling at Gettysburg. It was kind of cloudy and a bit foggy when we were there, which made it feel almost surreal. So much of the landscape hasn't changed that it looks remarkably like it did in 1863, when the Battle of Gettysburg was fought. I read that there are over 1300 monuments scattered around Gettysburg. So many states and different regiments have put up their own memorials that there's just so much to see! We bought an audio tour on CD and it navigates you around the key places as you drive. I didn't realize how much ground the battles covered! It was quite a bit - the CD said to allow for 2 1/2 hours, but I think we took like 8 to see everything. One of the pictures above is of a barn that was standing at the time of the Civil War, and if you look you can see a cannon-ball hole still there. One of the pictures (next to the barn picture) is of a place called Devil's Den/Valley of Death - where some of the heaviest fighting took place. We stood where President Lincoln gave his now-famous Gettysburg address. We stood in the cemetery where some of the soldiers are buried - many of the graves marked as "unknown" and many of them mass graves, labeled by state and how many bodies are there. The Battle of Gettysburg took place over 3 days and is considered the battle with the largest number of casualties - and a victory for the Union, marking a turning point in the war. All in all, some 50,000 men lost their lives at Gettysburg. It was such a beautiful and sobering place to be. I'm so glad we got the chance to go!