Friday, December 30, 2011

"Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow!"

Monday morning, 5 December, I was invited to a visiting teaching Christmas lunch at Dixie's home.  Dixie will forever remain one of my most favourite people.  I just love her.  She and Janine organised a really beautiful lunch.  The food and table looked incredible.  I just regret not taking a photo of this beautiful christmas table with the crisp, white, snowy yard seen through the window and a fire blazing.  Wow!  The Christmas season in the northern hemisphere is really something, especially combined with wonderful friends like this.. 

Michelle & Chuck Danford. 
See Chuck's work:
Wednesday morning was my final Watercolour Art Class with Chuck Danford at Ken Caryl Ranch house. (very sad!) I cannot express how much I have really loved this pursuit this year! I have learned so much from Chuck and love his talent and patience as he has encouraged us.  His critiques are always positive but honest!  I have learned to really take on board what he suggests.  Hopefully I have learned enough of the basic technques to continue on my own until I find another art group, and Chuck will kindly continue to critique my work via email.  I have been asked a few times why don't I try oils, or acrylics?  I will one day, but for now I really want to master watercolours which has a life of it's own.  Perhaps one day I will be able to exhibit and have the same faith and confidence in myself that Chuck does.  Meanwhile, I have been able to give away a few paintings which has given me enormous pleasure.  I am actually amazed that someone likes my work enough to put it on their wall!!  I would encourage anyone remotely interested, to take one of his classes, you will really enjoy it!!

(The next 6 week course  begins on the 1st Feb 2012 9.00-12.00noon.)

Following this last art class, I was able to meet up with some dear friends from church for lunch at Chilli's.  Many thanks to DeAnne for organising this!  I was sitting in the centre position somewhere, just listening to the chatter going on all around me watching these dear women who have truely touched my life here in Denver and who I call friends.  I am overwhelmed by their love and friendship and will sincerely miss their association.  This was a wonderful visit together, which was over too soon..

L-R:  -, Dixie, Michelle,Donna, Kami, Babzanne, Jennifer, Linda,
Crista, Michelle Ballard, Rosemary & Cheryl

A huge serving of salad which I
had to 'box' up! (Very delicious!)

That evening, I was able to help DeAnne set up a blog for her son who is serving in Russia!  What a wonderful thing technology is, that we are able to share our life experiences and thoughts with loved ones on the other side of the world, or anyone interested to read!!  Good luck with it all DeAnne!

This week, I have been finishing paintings for a Christmas gifts, posting to Elder J Bennallack in France, last minute Christmas shopping and of course sorting & packing.  I have also been busy for a couple of weeks now cleaning! Washing windows, wiping out cupboards, skirting boards and walls and so on..  This is helping me to 'feel' like we are leaving, even though my mind doesn't want to deal with it!!  Our main concern has been to find shipping company to take our excess belongings, a bulk of which belongs to Tom!  Finally, Rick found a company that shipped for .45c a pound.  We ended up preparing 280 pounds, 4 large boxes!!  This did include items from a fun shopping excursion with Cheryl at Hobby Lobby!  (Why haven't we done that before??)  On Thursday, our boxes left, and so did a lot of anxiety!!  We can travel alot easier now..

Thursday afternoon was the last session of cubscouts.  As a breakup activity before the holidays, the Wolves and the Webelo dens combined.  First they made card messages and then we went to the home of a member in our ward who has been seriously ill and sang carols to them.  Two large cars of noisy, excited boys which we hoped would behave at the door!!  However noisy they were on the approach, they were brilliant at the door.  I must insert here, that at this point it's getting dark and Christmas house lights are on.  The ground has layers of ice and snow is still pretty thick, so it's also very cold.  It's a scene you might see on a TV movie, and I loved it.  What a great way to finish off my American experience of being a Cubscout Den Leader!!  And many thanks to my Den partner, Heather.  It's been so good working with you, and I'll miss you and your family!

I haven't mentioned this much, but most Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, my good friend and neighbour, Cheryl Reardon takes me with her to the 24Fit gym.  We even started going at 6.30am!  Are we crazy, yes!  But it was so good at the same time.  Many thanks Cheryl, I have loved going with you and treasure our friendship.  I will miss this greatly..  Friday morning was sadly our last work out together.  So, from now on, when I next get myself disciplined to exercise regularly, I will think often of Cheryl and her many stories!! 
Cheryl & Me, friends, neighbours and workout buddies!! (Don't we look fit!!)

Leaving accomodation of any sort in spick 'n span condition, despite careful preparations still is a tad stressful.  On Friday, Dixie and Janine came to my rescue and helped me with the last of the windows and final clean of the basement etc.  It only took a couple of hours and was greatly appreciated.  We were able to leave the house spic and span with everything in order by Saturday afternoon..  well, that is, nearly able to!  We had arranged to stay with the Mercer's on Saturday night so we could be finished with the house, but just before Jeff came to pick us up, the front door swung open a little too fast (again) and the door knob popped a hole in the newly repaired wall!  It was just one of those things!  So Rick set about repairing it again!! 

Saturday night, there was a dance on at Columbine which gave Sarah a chance for final goodbyes.  She enjoyed that.  Meanwhile, the Mercer family took Rick & I into downtown Denver to see the Christmas lights, and surprised us with a carriage ride tour!!  How wonderful and how kind!! 

It was so Christmassy with lights up all over the various streets and buildings throughout the CBD.  There was still snow on the ground from the week before, so pretty cold, but we were rugged up.  We so enjoyed that!  Many thanks Donna & Jeff!

Afterwards we escaped the crowded city restaurants and found 'Beaujo's Pizza.  Delicious!!  A great evening. 

Once back home at the Mercer's, Jeff kindly took Rick back to the house so he could finish the wall, and me to SuperTarget so I could stock up on make-up supplies that are so much cheaper than in Australia!!

The next morning at church was extremely bitter-sweet.  How we have greatly loved this ward.  Everything about it.  We have been shown so much love and friendship by so many people and we are thankful and grateful for the many rich experiences we have had... Thank you Clement Park Ward.  Thank you.  As I write this, I am getting misty again thinking of all the wonderful people who have touched our lives.  But what treasured memories, I am sure we will meet again one day...

It was so nice to spend this time with the Mercer Family.  We sure do love and apprieciate them!  Well, after a teary visit from Sarah's friend Chelsee, the final juggling of luggage to get the weight correct, and after Donna fed us with delicious Taco's, the time for departure arrived.  The hour journey to the airport was over far too soon, then we were checking luggage in.  With Jeff's help we were able to get one extra bag on, all the way to Auckland.  Out of the vast windows of DIA, I could see the fields of white snow.  It's a last glimpse.  The security area is a formiddable place!!  It can be an exciting challenge to pass through if you are on your way to an adventure, but a hindrance if you are departing for the last time.  Final goodbyes are tough, even though we are looking forward to seeing our own family, we have grown to love the Mercer's like our own. 

The Bennallack's and the Mercer's, it's hard to say goodbye..
What treasured friends who have shared such a lot with us.  They are hoping to come and spend Christmas with us in Adelaide in two years when Tom is home, so hopefully we will see them again soon..

Goodbye Denver! Goodbye..  A piece of our hearts will always be here.

A last look at Denver before heading above the Rockies
Wow! What a year....

Arctic Blasts from the North

Michelle & Bette Rae visiting at 'The Olive Garden'.
 On Tuesday, I met up with my good friend from Art class, Bette Rae.  She has not joined our classes this semester and I have missed her company.  I haven't seen her since before summer but we have been keeping in touch via email.  There are people that really touch your life, and Bette is one of those!  She is a sweet, and very talented artist with a huge, caring heart.  I really love our friendship.  We met up at 'The Olive Garden' and spent a leisurely couple of hours visiting.  We will continue to keep in touch for sure!!

Dropping Rick off at work,
this is an experience you don't get in Adelaide!
 It did indeed snow the following Thursday, much to our delight I must confess!!  We really were hoping to see snow again before returning to Australia.  Well, we got our wish with about 6" of snow on Thursday which was a grey, dreary day all day.  It was a day to stay inside and avoid driving anywhere if possible.  I of course, needed to take Sarah to school, driving slowly on roads covered in ice and thick slush.  Not my best stressfree activity!! 

Friday, the sun came out which is my favourite.  I love to see the blue expanse of sky contrasting the blanket of white, clean sparkling snow.  Everything looks so beautiful. The trees, the streams, the fields, everything is transformed!  I especially like it as the ice melts off the roads!!  I just cannot describe the cold and give it justice!  I want to, because I know when we leave here and are once again in the South Australian summer, it might be hard to remember what it was like here!  The cold is crisp and clear. Sharply  penetrating all layers of inappropriate clothing within a few seconds.  The cold permeates deep into your lungs and your breath can be clearly seen in large clouds of mist.  It's actually amazing to see how much air actually goes into our lungs with each breath!! The cold is invigorating if experienced for short intervals and fun if you are rugged up in 'snow clothes'.  For us, it's such a novelty still, I really, really like it when it snows.  I think because in Colorado you just get enough then it seems to melt off, and probably mostly because we come from a place where you just never see it at all!!

A quick pic, then a fast dash to the
 car to get out of the cold!!
Friday at Columbine HS was 'Pep Rally Day'.  The Cheerleaders all wore their uniforms to school for 'Game Day' and there was a huge assembly for the school community to honour the Varsity Football Team who had made the final playoff game against Lakewood High to be played Saturday afternoon.  This rally raised excitement, loyalty and demonstrated the deep founded school spirit that makes up Columbine.  What a wonderful experience for Sarah to be a part of.  However, she arrived home very teary, as leaving Columbine in one week impacted greatly on her.  She is completely settled in her school environment now, and the school year is still only half way through, and she knows what is coming next on the calendar.  It has been so great to experience High School in America, but heart wrenching to leave it too.. 

Bleak mornings, driving very carefully..
Saturday, 3 December, a very busy day, brought another blast from the Arctic, coming down through Canada, Montana and Wyoming to the north of us.  It came with feather like flurries on freezing gusts of air that put layers of soft 'powder' snow everywhere on top of the unmelted snow from 2 days before.  It was constant and persistant throughout the day making driving hazardous and the day very bleak. 

It was also the day of the funeral for dear Sister Baer, our Temple matron who died the previous Sunday evening in a head-on auto accident.  This was such sad news for all who knew her.  I barely did really, but she was the constant familiar, welcoming face each time I went to the Temple, especially when I didn't know anyone else.  What a sweet lady, she touched the lives of so many people and her loss is greatly felt.  What a miserable, freezing day to put her to rest..  My heart and thoughts are with her family at this time.

The morning for us began with a Ward Christmas breakfast which Rick was able to help out at.  We all just love our ward so much, but this is also the day for the last Cheerleading competition, the JV State Invitational which clashed, as mentioned, with the final game for the High School Varsity Football team. This conflict brought a huge conflict to our team as some of the girls had brothers or boyfriends playing in the game which was scheduled the same time as the competition final.
I love how homes are decorated for the seasons. 
Heather has a beautiful 'Christmassy' home,
 especially with the snow outside, and the lights
 and fireplace inside....
Sarah and I were around at Heather's place before 7am to assist with the braiding of the girls hair.  I don't think I really did much to assist, except to help a little with little Makenzie.  Heather's fingers flew, as she braided the whole team's hair!! Over 20 girls!  What a champion!  We then thankfully, caught a ride with her as we drove to Arvarda West High School for the competition which was about a 45-50 minute journey on the ice packed roads.

The competition was very large, with many teams.  The Poms were also competiting, their dance routines very spectacular.  Our girls performed very well, with just one spill in a tumble.  No drops and timing was very good.  However as the morning wore on, we as 'bleacher judges'  could tell that there were quite a few teams with a higher standard of team stunts and precision.  Cheerleading is an intense culture here, an integral part of High School life for those involved. 

Before the final teams were announced, Sarah's coach, Stephanie and the team made a special presentation to Sarah as a goodbye.  I know this has been a moment Sarah did not want to face, but this competition marked the last Cheerleading event for Sarah.  She has loved this experience and will remember it all her life.  She was presented with a lovely team photo autographed by all the girls.  This was really lovely and will be a treasured momentum for many years..

What a great experience to be a cheerleader in America!!
By the end of the preliminary sessions, our girls did not make the final round which was not too disappointing because they were then free to attend the Varsity Football Final which was being held at Invesco Field (recently renamed SportsAuthority Field), the main football arena in Denver!  Sarah shot off with some of the girls from the team and the rest of us headed home to get out of the cold and perhaps watch the game on TV.  Yes, the High School games are shown on TV, (Root Sports channel) especially the final!!

Varsity Football Final: Columbine vs Lakewood
I just have to explain a little about Football, not the technicalities of the game itself, (which I still fail to fully understand) but the conditions.  The game schedule is such that all football is over by the end of the first semester (December).  It generally doesn't snow until after Halloween, when most of the preliminary games are finished and the final rounds start to be played.  It is a winter sport, which means if it snows, the games are still going on!  The fields are ploughed of snow leaving large banks on either side of the field.  The game itself goes for 3 hours, so as a spectator on the sidelines, or for the Cheerleaders (or anyone present), it's a test of endurance in the cold!  It's probably a very good idea to follow the game so periods of intense excitement can warm you up!!  The Friday night games are so very cold, watching when the temperature is on or below zero for the duration.  And such was the case for the final.  Sarah was able to borrow a few extra layers of clothes, but it was a freezing experience, but born with as Columbine gained strength and went on to win the game becoming the Colorado State Champions for the 2011 football season.  The whole community, not just the current students, seemed to be very involved.  It was commented on in Facebook and analysed in the Sports show on the radio and reported on the TV news! A truely epic event for Columbine Rebels, so CONGRATULATIONS Columbine HS!!

Sunday, we awoke to more snow which had fallen overnight.  This was the most snow we had seen in one time.  The temperature is extremely cold, and thick patches of ice lay on roads and walkways.  Rick has been so good at diligently shovelling the paths to avoid those ice layers building.  It's a cold, cold task.  The snow eased off to flurries on Sunday, and after church we went to Juna Warriner's home for lunch.  We enjoyed a great time visiting with her and her family as she made us enchilada's and gave Sarah & I a lesson on how the Mexican's make them.  It really is simple and we'll have to definitely give that a go!

We are really enjoying hearing from our boys in the mission field!  Elder Jonathon Bennallack has dubbed himself Elder B1 and Elder Tom Bennallack is Elder B2, to avoid the confusion as they talk about each other.  They are both serving valiantly, and we love Sunday evenings and Mondays as we get to hear from them both.  What a wonderful experience this is for all of us. 

Early evening, looking up our street from the front door.  (You can Cheryl's car!)
It's so still and very beautiful..
We are now down to our final week here in Denver.  Rick finishes work on Wednesday, to assist in the final preparations to depart.  I have been doing alot of cleaning, but I keep blocking the thought of final goodbyes out, but know it's coming...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Painting by
Jennie A. Brownscombe (1850-1936)
 THANKSGIVING: In the United States, the modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition traces its origins to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts.  The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest. While initially, the Plymouth colony did not have enough food to feed half of the 102 colonists, the Wampanoag Native Americans helped the Pilgrims by providing seeds and teaching them to fish. The practice of holding an annual harvest festival like this did not become a regular affair in New England until the late 1660s.  (Online Wikipedia)

Rick raking, raking & still raking leaves!!
Thanksgiving is a really important part of the American calendar. It's a time when family and friends get together and celebrate their blessings.  'Turkey' is significant, because wild turkeys where found in abundance and were used in that first feast..
And, due to budget cuts in the Jefferson County, teachers lost two days work giving a whole week for celebrating Thanksgiving.

We took advantage of this and drove down to Colorado Springs to explore Pikes Peak.  This is a 'fourteener', a mountain over fourteen feet.  However, we didn't exert ourselves enough to hike, but took advantage of the train which chugged slowly at a 25 degree angle for an hour and half to the top!  Throughout the journey, an amusing guide commented on sights and facts of the area.  It was very pretty even though the leaves from the Aspen groves have long gone, then as we passed the timberline, there were layers of melting snow with the occasional mountain goat.  Once at the summit, we had 50 minutes to enjoy the scenery before the return journey.  At the top, on this beautiful clear day, you could see far into the distance to four states! (If your eyes were good!)  It was this scenery that prompted the words of 'America the Beautiful ' that was written by Katharine Lee Bates:

A magnificent view with the vast
Sangre de Christo Range in the far distance..
 - Katherine Lee Bates (8 verses)

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

The temperature at the summit was 16F or -8C.  The wind chill factor was about zero F or -17C, so we really didn't linger long at the look out points.  Rather, we enjoyed hot chocolate inside the summit cafe!!  The high altitude did affect us all though.  We all experienced headache, dizzyness and a bit of nausea.  I think the time at the summit was just enough.  You don't really realise what very thin air does to you..

This is absolutely freezing, the jacket was great, but the cold whipped straight through those jeans!!
Rick was smart, he had thermals on!!

Sarah braving the cold to let me take a pic! 
The views are spectacular..
This excursion took most of the afternoon, after which we found a motel to stay in and then a shopping centre.  The sales are excellent at the moment and we had fun exploring a new mall!  We then went to the movies.  Tuesday happened to be the discount day, and movies were only $5.00 each!!  Sarah & I watched 'Footloose' (very funny) while Rick saw 'Tower Heist'.

The following day we travelled about 40 minutes further south to Pueblo and Rick was able to meet up with Jeff B, a missionary companion from the time they spent together in the Canada Montreal Mission thirty years ago.  They enjoyed success together and it was great seeing them reminisce about those times.  Jeff took us out to see the Royal Gorge and it's famous suspension bridge.  It's very impressive with over a 1000ft drop to the river below.  We walked across it and then went down on a suspension train to the bottom.  This rail car descended at a 45degree angle!!  

The suspension bridge at the Royal Gorge, Colorado
We went to dinner with Jeff's family at the Texas Steakhouse and got to meet everyone! He has 8 children, what a lovely family.  We are going to meet up again with him & his wife Sue next week just before we leave.  It's amazing they live relatively close by and we didn't know all this time we have been here!!

Thursday, the fourth Thursday of the month is officially Thanksgiving. The day started with the annual 'Gobble Wobble' 5km event at Clement Park.  This was organised by our ward, but about 600 from  the community came and enjoyed a great morning!  A fun run, with brekky provided!  A wonderful event and fundraiser.

We were kindly invited by the Wehrli family to join them at their friends Linda and Mark's home in Denver for Thanksgiving dinner!  It was a relaxing day with lots of food, especially turkey!!  It reminded us a great deal of Christmas, with the abundance of good food, family and friends.. This is a special tradition of great importance, and I have heard several people say how it's their favourite holiday, even more than Christmas...

It was interesting to observe it and experience this different culture.

Thanksgiving celebrations carry on into the nearest weekend, but was also followed by 'Black Friday'.  A national day of retail sales!!  Stores opened after midnight and people queued up to grab the bargains.  It is very much like the 'after Christmas' sales in Australia!!  I saw on the news yesterday, that $52 billion was spent on Black Friday shopping, over half on clothing.  For ourselves, we found a new mall!  It was were one of Tom's friends works, the Colorado Mills, which actually had a lot of outlet stores! So we had fun mooching around there for the afternoon and came home with a few goodies.... :)

Sunset at Pueblo, Colorado
And now, we have less than two weeks left of our American Overseas Adventure.  I have begun cleaning windows, and sorting the accumulation of treasures!  I have a lengthy to-do list and am slowly ticking items off.  Our greatest challenge at the moment is finding a relatively inexpensive way of shipping our excess belongings back to Australia..  It's an expensive exercise..

The temperature has dropped, and it's expected to snow again this Thursday!!  Yayyy! We were hoping it would one last time before we leave and get back to summer.. (which I am also excited about!) I am looking forward to seeing my family again, but am not looking forward to the goodbyes that have already begun.  I will sincerely miss the good friends we have made here...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cheering and Serving..

Our Cheerleader - whoo hoo!!

The month is fast closing, and 'Fall' is definitely turning into winter.  We have spent the time in steady routine revolving around school, home seminary and particularly cheerleading!  Saturday, 12th November was spent at Douglas County High School in Castle Rock, south of Littleton for the 'Winter Classic' competition.  This involved a broader age range and attracted teams from all over Colorado.  The Divisions were larger, with the program covered a huge timetable.  This is an intense culture!  When Sarah told me some of her friends had been cheering for several years, I didn't really believe her, but now I understand.  There were teams from the All-Star clubs which have girls from about 6years old, right up to senior High School.  It was very impressive to watch them performing slick choreographed routines and clever stunt work, not to mention the somersaults and gymnastic components.  Being a cheerleader is a very prestigious role!

Initially, we dropped Sarah off, given the length of the afternoon and Rick & I went off and explored some of the outlet stores! (Now that was fun!!)  But after some time, we headed off to the High School gym and squeezed in to watch the afternoon performances.  The various levels of skills performed was very impressive to watch, with the competition being very fierce.  After a time, as an audience, we become expert back seat judges and can notice the missed timing, a fall or an incorrect lift.  You really have to admire these girls for their dedication, and personal strength which is both physical and emotional.  My eyes have been opened to this 'extra curricular activity' which is so much a part of the American culture.  Sarah's team performed very well, but unfortunately had one lift that was incomplete and combined with a slightly lesser overall team skill, they came in fourth position.  But very well done, this was a mighty effort against very different competition.

Sarah practising her back handspring, she will soon have it competition ready..

We are excited to have Elder Tom Bennallack enter the mission field and begin work in his first area of Ballarat.  He is having a challenging start to his mission but we are enjoying his enthusiasm and great desire to make a difference.  He has been blessed with an outgoing, courageous spirit which is being put to maximum use in Ballarat.  This is certainly a great period of personal growth for him..

I am reminded of a comment made by my boss a few years ago when our eldest son first left for his mission in Perth. He said something like, "it's a hard way to bring up your kid.."  I have often reflected on that over the years and wonder if many people not of our faith think the same thing. We must seem a strange people sending our kids out to knock doors and be subjected to daily abuse for the sake of religion!

Elder Tom Bennallack
Australia Melbourne Mission
 Our young men and women are encouraged to give a period of service if they desire to, and are worthy to.  Our young men serve for twenty-four months and young women for eighteen months. They submit a lengthy application and can be assigned to serve in any area of the world.   In my experience however, there is not one thing you can compell, force or make a teenager do if he or she does not want to.  And this especially applies to church and missionary service.  A young person is not going to give up personal time and pursuits in exchange for a regimented daily schedule and personal discipline unless they have a strong, personal conviction that what they are participating in is of great and significant worth.

Our beliefs centre on the reality of a Living Christ, that He lives and that His gospel that He established in the meridian of time was eventually lost as an apostasy took place.  This period is known as the Dark Ages where priesthood authority with prophets and apostles was taken from the earth.  A restoration of these things took place through the prophet Joseph Smith who was also instrumental in translating by the power of God an ancient record of former inhabitants of the American continent and Christ's visit to them.  This book was published as the Book of Mormon and is another Testament of Jesus Christ supporting the teachings found in the Bible.  This is a wonderful and powerful book that changes lives and enables us to draw closer to the Saviour.  Our young missionaries all have a personal and sure testimony of the truth of these things and especially the Book of Mormon, and God's plan for us.  It's a wonderful thing to know that we existed before we came to this earth and that life does not end when we die.  There is a plan for us that enables family relationships to continue. To better explain about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, visit  

Elder Jonathon Bennallack
 France, Lyon Mission
It's a difficult thing to do to part with your grown child, knowing that this part of their life is over, that you won't see them for two years!  However, they embark in a great endeavour and as a mother, I am blessed with a comforting assurance, like a constant warm blanket around my shoulders, that they will be kept safe and all will be well with them... (If you would like to see how they are going, check out the links on the side of this page!)

And so, I am in great awe of our young people who make this sacrifice in their busy lives to share this wonderful message of happiness.  It's not easy, not everyone wants to know, or shares the same curiosity about life, who we are, where we came from and where we are going.   I am so humbled to have three such valiant sons and just wanted to share that this is something that they very much wanted to do at this time, because they feel it's important and because they know for themselves...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Snow, Leaves & Cheerleading!!

The second Snow of the season as
Sarah goes off to school..
This week Elder Tom Bennallack celebrated his 19th birthday in the MTC.  We heard from him the following day on his P-Day with another wonderful email.  He had a wonderful day, and one to remember being in the MTC.  He departs for Melbourne this coming Monday.  We love hearing from our missionaries twice a week now, Jon on Monday and Tom on Wednesday.  Happy Birthday Elder T. Bennallack!

For us, our days are passing with the usual industrious activity.  However, whether it's ALL productive is a moot point!  The temperature has really fallen.  We have had two snowfalls now and that seems to have marked the oncoming of winter for certain. 

The second snow fall happened exactly one week after the first. (Just to remind us that Tom left the week before!!)  The next day after a gym session, I decided to walk to Rick's school to pick up the car.  The trouble with central heating and car heaters is that you get an odd sense of how cold it actually is outside, especially when the morning is so gorgeous.  The sun was not long up, the skies were a beautiful 'cobalt' blue and whiteness covered everything like a blanket.  Sparkling snow, brilliant white in the morning sun. After checking the thermometer hanging outside the kitchen window, I thought twice about my excursion, but then decided to still venture out into the cold morning.  I had two layers on my legs, a ski jacket on, gloves and a beanie.  The temperature read -20F, which is -9C !!  After only five minutes of walking, my cheeks were aching badly, however the rest of me was starting to warm up nicely.  I then had to rub my face as I'm walking along.  After fifteen minutes, I couldn't feel my cheeks at all and it was as far to continue, as it was to turn back.  I was glad to get to the school, just in time to catch Rick on 'before school' yard duty, in the snow!!  Unfortunately, I had no camera as evidence..  The snow and cold is beautiful to look at, and you imagine how cold it might be, but to experience it first hand is incredible.  Words cannot describe how cold this cold is!!  (I'm definitely getting pics after the next snow!)

Amazingly, this same day, the temperature slowly crept up to 50F which is about 10C, and all morning sounds of the snow dripping and falling from the tree branches could be heard.  By mid afternoon, it was mostly gone!

The back yard as seen from the green belt after the snow.
 Since then, Rick & I have raked the front yard of leaves to keep our place tidy.  What a job, there was huge piles!!  We still have to tackle the back yard, and this might be a job for the coming weekend.  Well, this is part of the experience, 'Fall', with it's mountains of leaves.  (I actually really like it!!)

The other main thing to occupy us is Cheerleading.  We are in the middle of the competition season.  As mentioned, the first one was held at Eaglecrest, followed by a break for Halloween weekend, then during this week on Tuesday, the Jeffco County Spirit League Competition was held at Ralston High in Aurora. The next is tomorrow at Douglas County with different opponents. 

I have to pause and spend a bit of time here, since this is a big part of our lives at the moment.  In this particular competition, there were three divisions; JV Cheer, Varsity Cheer and Co-Ed Cheer.  In Sarah's division, there were eight other schools they competed against.  The actual routine is rehearsed, refined, and rehearsed again lasting a total of two and half minutes.  Weeks of early morning sessions and Tuesday night Tumbling have paid off, because..... Sarah's JV Cheer Team from Columbine High came in FIRST place!!  Followed by the Varsity Team who also took First!

She's a winner tonight!!

The Columbine JV Cheer Team - the winning squad!!

The JV Cheer Team and the Varsity Team with Ms Doolan (AP) & Mr DeAngeles (Principal)
This was such an exciting moment!  Such a buzz... I was jumping up and down with the rest of the 'Mom's' in the bleachers!  I have to confess, I am now a genuine 'CHEER MOM!'   Oh, Wow!  I think I might have to get one of those T-Shirts too!   Wow! Bring it On!!  What an amazing effort girls and well done Sarah!  You did it!  An American Cheerleader!

A winning performance!  Sarah is a 'baser' who lifts and catches a 'flyer'. 
She is positioned mostly centre back. (Apologise for the poor quality video!)

As a change of subject, I have so enjoyed my Wednesday morning watercolour classes and continue to learn much from Chuck.  Here are some of my latest efforts..

Still life

Mountains & Reflections

Rock Study

Lighthouse in Maine, Eastcoast of USA

Waterfall on 'Yupo' paper
Finally, this week, Kelland received his mission call to the Brazil, San Diego Mission!  It was a very exciting moment that he shared with us.  He departs on the 28 March 2012.  Tom will be so excited!

Halloween in America!!

31 October 2011
Jack-O-lanterns at 'Trunk or Treat'
"Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating. In a number of countries around the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats." (Halloween:

My girl, Karlie
First of all, this day is my eldest daughter Karlie's birthday!!  Happy Birthday Karlie.  We are so far apart at the moment, but we are thinking of you all the time, especially today.!

When Karlie was born, it was still spring in Adelaide, but this particular year (1987), it was very hot.  Karlie was actually due about the 7 November, but the days leading up to her birth were uncomfortable.  She decided to help me out and came a week early being born on the 31st October, the temperature was 38C (100.4 F).  Halloween is not generally celebrated in Australia, (the seasons are opposite!) but over the years it is gradually becoming more and more accepted.   Karlie took advantage of this when she turned sixteen, with a great party with the Halloween theme.  A lot of decorating, and a lot of fun. 

A Harvest display at Wal-Mart
And now, we have experienced for ourselves an American Halloween.  We have discovered it to be a very serious event here.  Weeks leading up to Halloween, the stores are full of displays and decorations to celebrate this 'Harvest' season and Halloween.  There are pumpkins for sale at last!!!  All year I have missed pumpkin with only the 'Butternut squash' being available.  (Not the best for roasting..)  Now, pumpkins, big, very round and orange are everywhere.  Not only the 'carving' pumpkins  but ornamental ones too!

A front yard display in our street!
 I have noted how people decorate their homes for the seasons.  Inside, spring, autumn decore is added,  and likewise for the front porches.  Halloween is no exception with goulish displays, complete with pumpkins!! 

I asked my friend Heather one day what they do with the pumpkins, besides carving them.  And she said they just throw them away!!  I was astonished.  NO!! It seems the poor pumpkin is only fit for pumpkin pie or as a decoration, carved out with a candle!!  I in turn, have been met with surprise as I have described all the ways you can EAT a pumpkin!!!  (I apologise for rambling on about my FAVOURITE vegetable!! especially roasted!!)

However, we were excited to see Halloween unfold and to experience it!

It began on Friday night at the chapel with a ward dinner, a 'jack-o-lantern' competition and 'trunk or treat'.  We arrived just a little late after dropping Sarah off to cheer at the football game, but loved the activity.  Many people were dressed in costume and dinner was all you can eat chilli or burrito's with desserts.  The winner of the 'jack'-o-lantern' was announced and then came the main event, the 'trunk or treat'.  Not at all sure exactly what this was, we followed the crowd out into the car park, where trunks (the car boot) were opened and many were displayed with spiders webs, jack-o-lanterns, torches, witches etc.  Children (of all sizes) went from trunk to trunk in the darkness, with their pumpkin buckets or other container and collected treats!  It was a lot of fun to watch!  And what a happy, fun family event..

'Trunk or Treat' excitement!  Watch out!! 

Sarah as 'Ariel'
Sarah meanwhile, on Saturday afternoon, was involved in the Columbine annual 'Trick or Treat Street' at the High School.  Here corridors of the school are transformed into a maze of fantasy worlds of mostly Disney and Storybook characters.  Each group is given a section to transform.  Sarah's JV Cheer team chose the theme from the movie 'UP', so when the kids walked through, it was a world of sky and balloons and floating houses.  The girls themselves dressed up in a Disney character and handed out candy to the 'trick or treaters' that came.  This is in fact a popular event each year, and the line of waiting costumed children and parents went out of the school grounds and way down the street.  A lot of fun again!  Sarah went as Ariel and looked great!! 

On Saturday night she disappeared to a Halloween Party of course!!  Again, it was a lot of fun for her.

On Monday night, we did prepare ourselves for the neighbourhood trick or treaters.  We were warned that if our porch light was on, to expect between 50-70 children between 6.00 and 8.00pm.  When we ran out of lollies, just to turn the light off. 

Our neighbours and friends!
 (Photographed with enthusiastic permission!)
Sure enough, the witching hour came and children of all ages rang our door bell with a watchful adult not far away in most cases, dressed dramatically for the night.  Buckets were laden with loot!  I know this is a 'pagan' tradition, but what a lot of fun for children, something to really look forward to every year, especially when the whole neighbourhood participates.

And that was Halloween!  A celebration that also signals the Harvest Season, as the end of autumn comes, and preparation for the cold winter months ahead begins.