Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Playing Tourists in Fort Lauderdale

We stayed up late Friday night (remember the midnight sushi?), but that didn't stop us from getting up super early last Saturday. The youth from our stake met with the youth from the five other stakes in our new temple district for a 12 hour rehearsal for the cultural celebration. There were plenty of adult chaperones, but not enough seatbelts, so we helped drive the kids to Plantation. Since after dropping them off at the door, we did find a parking spot in the back of the parking lot, we went in to feel the excitement and enthusiasm.
And we stayed a bit to help with some organizing. These are the girls' white skirts divided by ward so that hopefully they'll be easy to pass out. Michelle and I helped with labeling.
Then we left everyone else to work hard on their singing and dancing and we played tourist. One of the hikes in Wayne's "Hiking Florida" book is called the Fort Lauderdale City Walk, so that's what we did.
First stop was the Stranahan House, but it wasn't open in the morning so we continued to explore the Riverwalk. Did you know there's a New River in Florida as well as Virginia? Apparently, many years ago the native population left to escape a hurricane and when they returned a new river had appeared.

We stopped to watch the draw bridge in operation.
The train draw bridge was permanently up. I imagine there aren't too many trains travelling these tracks.
These historic buildings were closed as well.
Michelle decided to keep the lonely sailor company for a few minutes.

We didn't realize we picked the same day as a Best Buddies event. Fortunately, they started before we did, and went the opposite direction, so the crowds weren't too bad.
After the Riverwalk, the city hike continued into the Las Olas shopping district. We found a couple of elephants to pose with, but couldn't get too close because they were behind a hedge.
Michelle decided that sometime this summer she wants to try gelato. 11:00, the time we passed this shop, was a bit too early. We'll just have to find something a little closer to home.
We passed this restaurant at noon and decided to stop for lunch. The paninis were delicious and huge. We wrapped up the leftovers and had them later for dinner.
When the hike was completed, and there were still a few hours until we needed to pick up the kids, we thought it might be nice to go check out the beach, particularly since it was only a mile or so straight down Las Olas Boulevard.
Unfortunately, thousands of other people had the same idea, and they got there sooner. The parking lots were jam-packed.
Michelle had to experience the beach through the van's window. It was still a beautiful sight. And someday soon she'll get to bury her feet in the sand.
After the late night and early morning we were ready for a nap. The park at the beach didn't have any room for us, but one a bit inland did. Then we were rested enough to tackle more crowds at the outlet mall near the church building. Michelle found a couple of things she liked, and even brought one home with her.
The final stop was to get ice cream for dessert. Here's where miracle #1 took place. For some reason the waiter forgot about us. When the manager realized that we'd been sitting for a while, she quickly took our order and brought it out to us. Then when we asked for the check, she said there wasn't one. That has NEVER happened. Miracle #2 was that after circling the jam-packed parking lot at the church, and deciding that we'd have to park on the swale of the adjacent street, a car left and we were able to park in the spot closest to the main door of the building.
Then we went inside to discover that the kids had an even greater miracle take place that afternoon. Elder Burns (our recently released area seventy who is now chairman of the temple committee) brought Elder Holland (the apostle) to watch the cultural celebration practice. (You can read a bit about it here.)
He even spoke to them for a few minutes. I don't think our youth realize how rare that experience is. And the ones from our stake (those wearing yellow shirts) had another apostle (Elder Cook) speak to them at our stake conference on Easter Sunday - only six days earlier. Then President Uchtdorf will be there for the actual performance this Saturday, and probably bring along some other general authorities. That's three times in three weeks - amazing! 
These practices have taken a lot of time. I'm actually quite glad that our participation has been limited to chauffeuring. (Oh, and I sewed one white skirt!) Most of my seminary kids are participating in the cultural celebration, and while it might have been nice to have my own children participate in something like this, it's also nice to be past that stage. Our kids had their own special experiences.
So, we stayed to watch a bit of the last run-through, and then we drove them home. We get to repeat the same schedule next Saturday. We're looking forward, though, to staying and watching the entire performance then.

Oh, and you can watch it too if you want. Here's the link. It will be streamed live at 7 PM (Eastern Time) on Saturday, May 3rd.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

She's Home!

Dad wanted to celebrate with the returning college student by going out to dinner, but her plane didn't land until 11 PM. So we picked up a platter of sushi in the afternoon and enjoyed a midnight snack. It was nice but fairly "Americanized" so I think going out for real sushi is still on the summer bucket list. Trying gelato got added the next day. What else should we do to make this a fun and memorable summer? I'm guessing we should add some physical activity to offset the culinary explorations!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Sunday

Hi everyone! I never did write about Easter, but I found some pictures on the computer and figured I should do a quick post. Just wanted to assure you that we kept up with the family traditions in 2014.
Wayne wanted to try a new technique for dying eggs. He used increasing amounts of food coloring for each egg in order to have an ombre effect. He did get eggs that were increasingly darker, but the difference wasn't as obvious as he hoped it would be. So, even though I took meticulous notes so we could recreate the experiement, I didn't bother saving them. We can try another method next year.

We did have Peeps and Reese's eggs in our baskets, and creamed eggs on toast for breakfast.  Then it was off to stake conference! 

When we got home we had a lovely Easter dinner with some friends. It was nice to share our tradition of roast lamb with them. This year I tried poking it with garlic slivers and rosemary before roasting and it turned out beautifully. (This is the recipe I used as my starting point.)
And we tried Aunt Julie's rolls - the ones that Jeff requests for family dinners.
They were okay, but not as good as I'm sure they are when she makes them. Either I rushed the raising or the water I used was too hot and killed the yeast. So, even though I added the "recipe" label, there really aren't any recipes in this post. Sorry about that!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Our Temple Open House Assignment

One of my friends asked what my assignment with the temple open house was, and since the answer is a bit more complicated than I want to get into on a Facebook thread, I figured it would be a good subjuct for a blog post. I imagine everyone else who reads this blog would be interested in this as well, right?
The short answer is my assignment is to be First Shift Temple Tour Coordinator, but that doesn't tell you much. It didn't tell me much! One of the things we learned is that this whole experience is an evolving work in progress. In fact, one of the phrases we've used frequently over the past couple of months is "It will all work out." (I guess we got that from President Hinckley and President Monson - see the conference talks from yesterday.)
Anyway, at the end of January our stake president asked Wayne and I to be our stake representatives on the multi-stake temple open house committee. He wasn't sure what that involved, and neither were we, but since we've learned that it's always best to say yes to a priesthood leader, we did. He also asked three other couples to help us and we formed a stake committee. At that point we thought our assignment was to pass information along to the wards and branches and encourage them to solicit volunteers to serve.

A week or so later we received some information from the committee chair. We learned that our stake was responsible for March 31, April 1 and April 2, and the other stakes were given different days. We were also told how many tour guides and ushers our stake was responsible for providing. At this point we still weren't clear on those individual responsibilities, but we were able to divide those numbers between the various units in our stake and work with the bishops and branch presidents as they made their assignments, which they did. We were trying to identify two types of volunteers - some who would work just on those three days, and others who would work at several different times throughout the entire month.

Then we actually had a committee meeting in Plantation!
We learned that there was some miscommunication somewhere along the line and that every person on the "stake committee" was really supposed to be part of the "area committee" and that everyone on that committee was supposed to be available to help at the temple every single day of the open house. The other seven people on our committee all had full-time jobs, without a month's worth of vacation time available, so we had to recruit a few more.  Wayne kept the stake representative assignment (since most of that work took place before the open house and he wouldn't need to be there every day), and I was given the Temple Tour assignment. There's one person (Randy) in charge of everything, then an additional three people (one for each shift - morning, afternoon, and evening - me, Alex, and Lizette) on our Temple Tour sub-committee.

That has also been a work in progress, but now that the tours have actually started, we know that our assignment is to keep things inside the temple flowing smoothly. We're responsible for placing our usher volunteers in strategic spots, mainly between rooms and in hallways, to help the tour guides know if the next room is empty, to open doors when necessary, and to prevent guests from wandering where they're not supposed to. When there are a lot of helpers, it's easier; when we're working with just a few we have to get more creative, but so far we've felt successful.
Volunteers arriving
Welcome Video Tents

Shoe-cover station
Exit Tent
The other sub-committees include training (teaching the volunteers their responsibilities), staff sign-in (greeting the volunteers and assigning them to one of the areas), welcome tents (where the short video about temples is shown at the beginning of the tour - this area includes the wheelchair tent and outside greeters), tour guides (the volunteers who lead the groups from the tents to the temple and then guide them through it), shoe-covers (our wonderful youth and young adults who help place shoe-covers on the guests), and exit tent (where the comment cards and missionaries to answer questions are stationed).
The members of our stake were wonderfully supportive on our stake days and we had 3,349 guests tour the temple last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I didn't keep track of the number of volunteers that showed up on those days, but we had 824 that said they would help sometime during the open house, and I'm sure the majority of those were there.
Wayne took the three days off work and we stayed from 8 AM to 9 PM. He was in charge of getting the tour guides from the staff tent to the welcome tents and after I did my morning shift in the temple, I served as a tour guide in the afternoon and the evening. The opportunity to interact with the guests was a wonderful experience.
So, now you know a little bit from behind the scenes of a temple open house. It's been a lot of work, both physically, mentally, and spiritually, but it's also been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I'm extremely grateful to be chosen to help. I'll let you know if I still feel the same in a couple of weeks, but I'm sure I'll be even more thrilled then to have had the opportunity.