Fort Ticonderoga

8.21.2009
Bron loves history. Good thing we live in an area with so much of it to explore!

Last Saturday Bron and I went on a scenic drive to Fort Ticonderoga. The fort was originally built around 1750 by the French during the French-Indian war. It was also used during the Revolutionary War. It changed hands several times and part of it was finally blown up when the British left it behind after the Revolution.

It was a pretty sweet fort! It's been rebuilt and well maintained. Each of the buildings contains real artifacts from the time period, some even recovered from the site itself. There are actors there dressed up in time period clothing. They played drums and piccolos and marched. We took a brief tour and listened to some stories. We even got to experience a real cannon explosion! It was only a two inch barrel, but it made me jump and I felt the reverberation in my chest. I'm glad I wasn't around when the bigger cannons and mortars were fired!


Entrance to Fort Ticonderoga


Outside the Second Story


Lots of Cannons Overlooking Lake Champlain


Bron Trying Out Their Old Rifle
It was heavy!


GIANT Mortar! Run!


Ye Ole Band Playing Inside the Fort


Outside The King's Garden

There's an old home outside the fort right on the lake. The old garden is quite extravagant. It was fun to see!



Remnants of the old battle field. The French cut down every tree to a stump and made a seven foot wall. Then they created a barbed wire effect with sharpened tree limbs just outside the wall. The British had no protection and were basically obliterated. Bummer.


Champ the mysterious sea monster lives here! Maybe we'll get a glimpse of him too if we're lucky!

It was a great Saturday out. Definitely worth doing again sometime. We love our mini-adventures and all the memories we're making.

Soaking Up Summer

8.18.2009
Life is good.

There's a nutrition conference going on all week here at Miner. At least fifty people have come from all over the country; it's busy. Bron has been enjoying a change of pace at work and meeting new people. Last night the group went out to dinner. I wasn't invited, but neither was Anna. So we did our own thing without them.

The summer heat has finally caught up to us here. It's hot, humid, and not a breath of air stirs the branches in the trees. It's a dead, oppressive, heat. And we have no air conditioning.

Anna and I put on our swimming suits and headed out to the beach on Lake Champlain. The water was cool and felt so refreshing! We swam and talked and swam and talked as the sun slowly set, turning the sky pink. When we finally got out, the air was still warm, but felt great on our wet skin and hair. We finished the evening with icecream cones at Creamies just outside of Chazy. It has such an awesome small town feel! What a perfect summer evening.

These are the moments I must remember come February.

Sun, Sea, and San Diego

8.14.2009
San Diego is my hometown. The ocean is my home.

I now live in the opposite corner of the United States to where I grew up. Funny though, it doesn't feel like it. Bron and I boarded a plane in Burlington, VT Thursday afternoon. By late evening we were in San Diego chatting and laughing on the boat with my dad, my brother Joe, (who just arrived home from his 3rd tour of the world with the Navy), and my dad's girlfriend, Rebbecca. She's cute and lively and takes great care of my dad. It was an awesome week!

Friday, Day 1:

Like a band of pirates, we headed out to the Coronado Islands just off the coast of Mexico. Joe brought two friends to help spice up our party: Jason and Aleia. The islands' shores and waters are saturated with seals. We snorkeled and Bron really enjoyed the snuba, diving down twenty feet or so and exploring the ocean bottom. He found a giant starfish! He also learned a little bit about captaining the boat. And Joe and Jason broke the law by actually climbing onto the island and doing a muscle dance for us.

Saturday, Day 2:

Dad's boat neighbors and friends, Kent and Kim, have gotten my dad into a new hobby: Deep Sea Fishing. So we all headed out to sea Saturday morning. We all struggled with a little sea-sickness; some worse than others. But we made it through! Unfortunately, no one caught a thing. However, we did see seals, dolphins, and a pair of giant gray whales! Incredible.

That night we all sat around one of our favorite board games: Risk. And guess who won? Oh, wait, that's not a guess at all! Joe won. Or at least we knew he would after he had taken over most of the continents and nobody wanted to play anymore. haha

Sunday, Day 3:

Sunday afternoon was spent in Balboa Park at the Air and Space Museum. The museum had a special presentation there featuring Leonardo DaVinci. Many of his ideas and sketches were brought to life. It's amazing how often we use those same ideas and technologies today. And then, of course, there were the airplanes and a little family history. Both my dad and brother are named for famous pilots. But better yet, my grandpa flew the Spitfire during the Korean War.

Monday, Day 4:

When visiting San Diego, it is almost imperative that we do something touristy. I had my mind set on going to Sea World. It was a blast, just my hubby, brother and me. We hit up all the major shows (yes, we saw Shamu), rode a few rides, and toured through all of our favorite exhibits. My favorite part of the day was the dolphin show. Those animals are so incredibly cool! It blows my mind how well trained they are.

Tuesday, Day 5:

Relaxing. Bron and I kayaked in the morning. And then we bought boogie boards with which to hit up Mission Beach! It was Bron's first time ever boogie boarding. He did pretty well. I just love the waves and the feel of the sun, the salt, and the sand. Ahhh... I love the beach.

(P.S. Bron will call me a wuss if you ask. I got cold in the water after an hour!)

We also brought home some chocolate cake and icecream to celebrate my dad's birthday! Wahoo! Happy Birthday, Dad!

Wednesday, Day 6:

My friend from high school, Nathalie, met me at the beach. It was so good to see her, to talk, and to catch up! She's a great friend that I'm lucky to have. She also has a good husband, three beautiful girls (and I'm not just saying that), and a little boy on the way. Wow! I'm so happy for her.

Bron and I spent the rest of the afternoon boogie boarding at the beach again. We ate seafood for dinner with my brother. Simple things are the best things.

********

It was a wonderful vacation! I love seeing my family. Bron definitely deserved some time away from work. It now feels good to be "home" in my own bed. All of a sudden things in New York seem familiar. It's just my honey and me again. And I'm happy.

Thanks, Dad, for a memorable and relaxing week!

A New England Summer Weekend

8.03.2009
Friday night Bron and I drove up to Montreal to visit the temple. After our session, we headed into Old Montreal. I love the atmosphere there! The square is full of people, live music, street entertainers, and at least a dozen caricature artists. Bron and I grabbed some Greek food for dinner and then ate some gillato ice cream as we strolled down the boardwalk. It was a perfect evening! I wasn't ready to come home.

Saturday was sunny, but windy. So that afternoon after Bron finished work, we headed out to the lake. We found a secluded spot and sat our rear ends in the water on some big flat rocks. And then I squealed and screamed as the waves came crashing in and soaked us. It was so much fun!

That evening, our sweet friend Anna invited us to go to a little county fair in Vermont. It sounded great! I love walking around, taking in the sights and smells, browsing through the boutiques, petting the animals, checking out all the agricultural machinery, and best of all, eating fair food! Anna explained to us the metal machines that produce maple syrup. I can't wait to see one in action this spring!

There were classic old tractors.... and humongous new machinery.

Anna checking out the feeder.

Plenty of my favorite animals: Cows!

We chatted with a friend there, Katie, from Miner and her boys who are doing 4H.

Isn't she sweet? (The cow, I mean)


My Honey and Me



And of course, the Tractor Pull
This guy is a fan of cows too!

We stayed well after midnight to see the end of the tractor pull. It was a great night! What a busy, but awesome weekend!

50 Years Together

8.01.2009
I missed the big Smith Family reunion this summer. It's always dramatic and it's always a blast. This year is my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary and we're all celebrating! My grandparents are awesome. We lived with them at their home for four years. Retrospectively, the whole experience helped shape my life. Although I couldn't be at the reunion, I did write a letter as a personal tribute. I want to remember them forever.

Grandma and Grandpa Smith
Moab, Utah 2009

June 25, 2009

Dear Grandma and Grandpa and family,

I hope you are all enjoying the warm weather, good food, and the pool without us! The summer just doesn’t feel the same without family. I miss you all and wish I were there to celebrate Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary!

I think I’m a lucky girl. As a kid I not only knew my grandparents as sweet, overwhelming and spoiling as most any grandparent naturally is. No, I really got to know my grandparents; they became a second mother and father to me.

Grandpa was and always will be an example of learning. He has a life-long love for it and an incredible memory! I won every single weekly trivia question in the 3rd grade because of him. Grandpa knew the answer to everything: how they get lead into a pencil; why there are stripes in the toothpaste tube. I’ll never forget it. I got all the fun prizes and all the glory for Grandpa’s vast vat of knowledge.

Grandpa has the best voice for singing and storytelling. Sometimes my brother and sister and I could be quite rowdy around bedtime. Grandma would tell us she didn’t want to hear another “peep” out of us. Then we’d “peep” like little mice. “Peep, peep, peep!” What snots we were! She would stand guard in the doorway until we became bored and drifted off to sleep. But when Grandpa took his brave turn, he read an entire book (or at least half) in one night! Joe and I will never forget the book Little Rascal. It was our favorite. Grandpa was so much fun to listen to, with all the inflections in his voice. I think it’s a real talent. Grandpa also has a deep and beautiful voice. He sang the saddest songs in the most amazing way. (For instance, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean)

Remember the time Grandma and Grandpa cleared out the storage closet in the basement to make a bedroom just for Joe? They put up gray sheet rock and hung blankets on the walls for warmth and to separate him from the rest of the food. It looked really funny, but it meant a lot to Joe to have his own privacy and for us girls to have one less body in our room.

Grandma and Grandpa let us kids take over—the backyard, the t.v., the basement, the kitchen, etc. Looking back, I realize what a sacrifice it must have been at times and how gracious they both are!

I learned about priesthood blessings for the sick from Grandpa. First the sick was anointed with consecrated oil and then given another blessing. Was that blessing for Joe or was it a type of family home evening? I can’t remember, but the feelings and things I learned about the priesthood that day left an impression.

I really enjoyed Sunday afternoons about once or twice a month when the Fotheringhams and other family would come over to celebrate birthdays! (Or whatever reason.) It was good just to be together; to talk, laugh, eat, and play outside. It’s a tradition I want to continue if and when Bron and I ever live near family again.

Speaking of food, Grandma’s kitchen was always packed to the brim with icecream, twix bars, granola bars, cookies, burritos, fruit, jam, salads, cheese, zucchini, and more! It’s impossible to starve at Grandma’s.

The kitchen and bathroom cupboards are also sure to contain Vaseline and Eucerin hand cream. Oh, and don’t forget the permanent markers and post-it notes. For as long as I can remember, Grandma has posted friendly reminders about various things throughout the house. I think my Mom might turn into her one day.

Grandma might not remember, but I remember when I was being a brat one evening and hit one of my siblings. I was throwing a fit because I was in trouble. Suddenly, Grandma had had enough of my ranting and slapped me across the face. I was stunned. I remember that she felt bad for hitting me after just reprimanding me for hitting. Kinda funny. But I’ll never forget feeling how much she really loved me or learning that we’re all human and we all make mistakes.

Christmas time is always the best time of year. Grandma, my mom, and I played our violins together. I learned how to decipher hand-written music! I love making music with my family. I really miss it. But even today when I visit Grandma we make some music. I play her violin while she plays the piano. We usually read the same songs: Ave Maria, Brahms Lullaby, and others. It means a lot to me, Grandma. I have fun every time. I only wish I could play the piano like you.

One December as a kid I was trying to be thoughtful by putting together a gift to send to my dad. Grandma noticed that I was about to send junk and some old toys. Thank goodness she straightened me out! She offered to help me pack more meaningful items. I think she saved the day.

Grandma was my “other mother” while my mom was gone at school all day. I would ask Grandma for permission to play with friends or to go places. The best part of having Grandma around was that she was willing to listen. I would sit on the counter and jabber away while she worked around the kitchen. But I always felt like she was really listening. Can you imagine listening to a ten or twelve year old girl's problems? Grandma must have had a lot of patience. It showed that she really cared. Even after we moved I was tempted to pick up the phone and call her often. But I didn’t want to bother her too much. I missed our conversations and her understanding! Sometimes when I’m at a loss and need another point of view, she’s just the person to call.

Grandma knows how to get things done. If she needed her kitchen swept she’d holler down to me in the family room, “Jessie, I’ve got something for you.” I’d walk upstairs and she’d hand me the broom. Hmm… I was expecting a good surprise! I plan on using this same technique with my own children someday.

The time Grandma cut her thumb off was my fault. I had a book project due that day. And of course, at the last minute, I needed my bookmarks cut. So Grandma hurried to the church library before school to cut them for me. In her haste she cut the top of her thumb right off! Well, the brave woman grabbed some paper towels, picked up her thumb, stuck it back on, finished cutting the bookmarks, swung by the house and took me to school. I didn’t have a clue about the accident until I arrived home that evening. Wow!

Grandma and Grandpa don’t have a dishwasher. And I don’t have one either here in New York. So I wash my dishes almost the exact same way as Grandma: I make sure to use really hot water for the utensils. Sometimes I get lucky and Bron will dry the dishes just like Grandpa does.

I really admire my grandparents. They’re busy, educated people involved in a cause trying to help other people. They are willing to give almost anything; whether it’s time or money or talent. I’ve learned a lot from them about drugs and addiction, family, forgiveness, and what really matters in life.

I have recently learned from a personal experience of my own that family is the ONLY thing that matters; people are the only things that last eternally. Everything else can slide out of focus. We are all here on earth to cry together, laugh together, and to lift each other up so that we can all return to live with our Heavenly Father…together. Grandma and Grandpa have seemed to have known this for a long time. I am very grateful to them for providing and planning family reunions. I have a blast every single time. And every single time I come away with a really good memory. I’m grateful I know who my aunts, uncles, and cousins are. I think we get along. And I love you all!

Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for being an example of someone I want to be someday. You have taught me more things than I can describe and have shown me what family is really all about. Your lives have made a big difference.

I hope to see you all again soon.

Love Always,
Jessie