Kent and I flew to Texas on December 21st to spend Christmas there. Adrianne, Russ and Tyler flew in the next day. Here we are getting ready to eat Christmas brunch. Here's Kiera, the star of Christmas morning, absorbed in her loot.
Here are the other kids, absorbed in their loot.
On December 27th, Kent and I and Tyler, Russ and Adrianne took a day trip to San Antonio, which was about a 2 and 1/2 hour drive from Katy. While there we stopped at the lovely temple.
The stained glass windows in the temple were beautiful. It would have been awesome to see it at night, but I guess we'll have to do that on another, longer, visit.
Our next stop was the Alamo. To tell the truth, it wasn't as impressive or interesting as I expected it to be. Maybe it's more exciting for Texans.
It's always neat to see how different things look at night, all lit up. I thought the shot Kent took below is postcard quality! I should probably mention that we took this photo after we'd walked around the River Walk, and were heading back to the car. That's why it's so much darker than it was when we were trying to get pictures of the Christmas lights.
I really wanted to see the Christmas lights along the San Antonio River walk, but it wasn't dark enough at 5:30pm to get the full effect. Unfortunately, my traveling companions weren't very interested in sticking around until it was darker, so these were the best shots we got.
The photo below was taken under a bridge, which is why it's a bit darker than the previous view. It looks like it would have been really neat to see when it was fully dark. I thought it was fun that Kent is in the picture, on the right, also taking a picture.
One of the few time Kiera was mugging for the camera instead of running away from it!
Group shot of all of us who were in Texas for Christmas, before everybody headed for home. Hmmm, I guess I didn't get the memo about the girls wearing pink for the photo!
We didn't do as much in December as I'd wanted to, because of the osteoarthritis in my right leg, but here are the things we DID do!Kent and I worked at the DC temple twice in the month of December, so had two chances to see the lovely lights when it wasn't as crowded as usual.
I hosted a cookie exchange, which was a lot of fun.
Here we are with our haul after we did the exchanging. Not all the ladies who came are in the picture.
Before working at the temple one Friday evening I went into DC early and to go to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art to see the Norman Rockwell exhibit. I LOVED it! Photos weren't allowed, but the art was just wonderful.
I've seen lots of reproductions of Rockwell prints in books and magazines, so it was awesome to see some of his actual art works. Most of the works were large, with gorgeous color and details. I loved reading about his inspirations and the stories behind his paintings. I'm so glad I was able to see it.
We were able to gather with our good friends, the Jeos and the Andrews, one Saturday and had a wonderful visit with them. We all went to Richmond, VA, for the 2nd birthday party of the Andrews' granddaughter, Lily Stettler. It was really fun.
Of course December means the Christmas piano recital.This year I played the "Sleigh Ride" duet with a lady from our ward, and we added sleigh bells and wooden blocks for accompianment. Kent played the wooden blocks to sound like horses' hooves for sound effects, and it was really fun. I wish I had a picture of us playing, but I haven't got the copies from the person we asked to take pictures for us.
Those were the main activities we had for the month of December before we flew to Texas for Christmas.
Kent and I took an overnight trip to Maryland and West Virginia on Saturday, December 5th. We went to Antietam and Harper's Ferry National Parks. We went on that day because it was the day of the Antietam annual illumination, when 23,000 luminaries are lit, representing the 23,000 casualties on a SINGLE day in the Civil war. That day was September 17, 1862, and has been called the bloodiest day in American history.
We arrived at the battlefield around 11am to get information about the illumination, and we saw hundreds of volunteers-many of them Boy Scouts-setting out the brown bags with candles that would be lit that evening.
We had a few hours to spend until it was time to get in line for the illumination, so we drove about 30 minutes to West Virginia to the Harper's Ferry National Historic Park.
It was a good day to go, since there were people dressed in Civil War costumes, a civil war camp was set up, and there was a brass band playing and cannon demonstrations.
And you'll never guess the name of one of the rivers that borders the town of Harper's Ferry. Give up? It's the Potomac. Yes, it's everywhere!!
An old fashioned Santa added to the holiday atmosphere.
Below Kent stands in front of the Civil War encampment. We ate lunch in Harper's Ferry and spent a couple of hours there, then drove back to Antietam to get in line for the illumination.
We waited in line in our car for over two hours, but we were prepared for it and had brought things to read and do. At 6pm the gates opened and cars were allowed to slowly drive through the park and view the luminaries from the car. Pedestrian traffic wasn't allowed.
The picture below is fuzzy, but I think you can still tell that this was an American flag. This was actually along the road before we entered the battlefield.
It's very sobering to think of the number of casualties, and the luminaries were an effective way to show it. The cars drove along a five-mile route, which took about an hour.
The building below is a church that survived the battle.
I got the photo below off the internet. Our camera couldn't take such a great shot.
After we drove through the park we headed for home, which was about a two-hour drive. Another way cool and educational thing we've done this year.
Pictured below are the peanut butter ball body, Whopper head and German pico-balla tail feathers that I made as a Thanksgiving treat for my piano students. They were cute, but tasted good, too!! Kent and I spent the week before Thanksgiving in Washington state. We spent part of that time in Vancouver, Washington, with Kent's side of the family. We didn't take any pictures while we were on that side of the state. We'd heard there was snow in the forecast for the time we were in Washington, but weren't really prepared for how much snow there was. I took this picture and the one below to show the snow, and also how cold is was in Spokane, Washington, where my parents live. It ended up snowing about five inches while we were there. One thing I try to always do when I'm in Spokane is to visit my 96-year-old grandmother. Here she is, wearing the apron I made her. Her mind is still sharp as a tack. She's been legally blind for almost 17 years, but she' told me many times that those years have been the happiest in her life.
Below is a three-generation picture with my father and grandmother. Sorry the picture is a bit crooked; my 89-year-old grandpa took the picture. Tyler also came from Provo to spent Thanksgiving in Spokane. He's rather fond of Bootsie, my parents' cat. Don't ask me why they're wearing matching head lamps, but Tyler thought it was funny.
We had Thanksgiving dinner in the dining room of the retirement apartment where my parents live. Grandma and Grandpa Bates joined us. It was great to be served the meal and not spend all day cooking and then cleaning up. Instead we went to see a matinee of the new "Harry Potter" movie.
In spite of the snow we were able to get around to everywhere we wanted to go, and our flights came in and left on time. That's because Spokane is accustomed to snow and has the equipment to clear the roads and the airplanes. It was good to be with family for Thanksgiving!
The end of September was the National Book Festival in DC. I went to see Laura Bush (and had a pretty good seat, too!)
And stood in an incredibly long line for two hours to get Hunger Games stamped by Suzanne Collins. She was by far the most popular author at the festival.
The night before the book festival I partied with some of the ladies from my book group at Georgetown Cupcake. There was a TLC show last summer called DC Cupcakes, that was about this cupcake shop. Amazingly, the line wasn't too long for a Friday night and we only had to wait about ten minutes to get our cupcakes. Verdict: the frosting was yummy, but the cake was only okay.
The first weekend in October we had a neighborhood luau. It was very fun with lots of good food.
Another day in October I drove to Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to do some shopping. It was a gorgeous day and we had fun.
On the internet I found out about a volksmarch that started near Arlington Cemetery, called the USA Freedom Walk. I met Kent during his lunch hour and we went on the 6km volksmarch. We walked past the Marine Corps Memorial and around the edge of Arlington Cemetery. That was our very first volksmarch in the US! We went on three volksmarches in the three weeks we were in Germany in September. At the end of October we drove to Shenandoah National Park to see the fall colors. The leaves were past their peak, and not nearly as pretty as when we went last year. You can see from the picture below that lots of other people were out looking at the colors, too. The park was much more crowded than it was last year, but I think that's because it was a lovely day, and last year it was rainy and misty when we spent the day at the park.
These last pictures are of local attractions. Only a few miles down the road from our house is the sandstone quarry on an island in the Potomac (see last entry) that was used to get the stone for the White House and the capitol building. It was just opened as a National Park, with a mile and a half path through the island.
The historic church below is about two miles from our house. It was built in the 1750's, and the sandstone on the corners is from the same quarry on Government Island.