Sunday, December 14, 2014

December Days in Utah....Making Connections with Melissa and Lance

With Mark away to Africa, I planned a trip to Utah to see Melissa and Lance. The last time we were together was during wedding celebrations and New Years Eve almost a year ago!

Dec. 2013...Houston Texas Temple
 Dec. 31, 2013....Happy New Year 2014
Fast forward to 2014...Mark decided a quick weekend trip to Utah  (just a week after we arrived in the US) would be good him time with Melissa and Lance also.
 Mark with Melissa visiting in their student housing apartment in Salt Lake City.
Now it was my turn to visit. I arranged this trip while still in Poland...knowing that Mark would be away for a month and a trip to Utah would break up our month of separation.
Arriving on Melissa's birthday was a fun treat for me...hopefully for her as well. 
I arrived in Salt Lake City and rented a car...much bigger than what I had wanted...but it all worked out better than I thought. 

I met Melissa, Lance and two of Melissa's friends and their babies at the Italian restaurant "Limone" in the Cottonwood Heights area. It was fun to see Melissa in look into her eyes and say "Happy Birthday...I Love You!"
Melissa's Birthday...
December 2, 2014
A birthday dinner was celebrated at The Garden the Joseph Smith Memorial Building...with a beautiful view of the Salt Lake City Temple.
 Once inside the restaurant, I realized that Mark, Melissa, Jamie and I had been here once before...after a family trip to the Salt Lake City temple a few years ago. It was fun coming again, enjoying a beautiful view, great food and time with Melissa and Lance on her December birthday!
 Hot chocolate on a cool December evening...
 We shared the birthday dessert...delicious!
 Knowing it was Melissa's birthday, the staff at the restaurant gave her a big red balloon...
 had her make a wish and then release the balloon...
 into the opened roof (see picture below)! What a fun memory for Melissa!
 Downstairs in the foyer of the Joseph Smith Memorial, the Christmas Tree was decorated beautifully!
We met some of Lance's friends and they were so kind to snap a picture of us.

 Walking towards our parked car at the City Creek Center, were large window displays of objects, ornaments and toys...
 all made out of small candies...
just a small sampling of these fun creations!
What a good first day in Utah it has been....time with Melissa and Lance, sharing her birthday together!
I was happy to help and serve Melissa and Lance during my 9 day visit with shopping, cleaning, and chores. They were in the midst of their second to last semesters of Grad School at the University of Utah and time for fun and entertaining were not the priorities. I sometimes had to convince Melissa that I was perfectly happy serving and helping in their home.

Even with their busy school schedules, we did share some fun...non-school related moments together....

Festival of Trees in Salt Lake City
Fri. December 6,2014
This is an annual event in SLC .... Mark and I even attended when we were first married!
All of the proceeds from this event goes to the Primary Children's Hospital (a former employer of Melissa's).
Hundreds of trees are decorated and then purchased. 
Every kind of tree imaginable was displayed....very creative
designs of every theme, color that would be possible...
The Grinch Christmas tree was fun to see.

Decorating at the Hackett Home and
Ward Christmas Party 
Melissa and Lance found the perfect location for their "First Christmas Tree"....watching "Elf", baking cookies and decorating...a fun Family Home Evening. 
Their ward Christmas Party was held on the weekend I was visiting. Lance and another person represented our table with this amusing activity...creating a "live snowman" out of toilet paper!

I can't remember if Lance was the winner .... but he sure did a great job in record time!
First Presidency Christmas Devotional
Temple Square
December 7, 2014
Our family has watched the First Presidency Christmas Devotional for many years together...once in a while, we have even been in Utah and had tickets to this special Christmas event in person. Viewing the devotional has always been a treasured activity for Melissa...glad I was able to get tickets during her birthday week. 
Melissa and I were able to get our seats early while Lance parked the car. 
 The Christmas messages and beautiful songs sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir were inspiring!
 The lights on Temple Square were so beautiful...
 we would return to visit the lights more closely on another evening.
Can it really be December in Utah...and my Melissa is not even wearing a coat?

 While in Utah I visited some very special friends that we met in Poland...Carl and Sharon (Elder and Sister Jensen...a senior couple serving in our branch) and Aleks....a wonderful young single adult!
We enjoyed a Monday/Family Home Evening...visiting and eating at a great Mexican restaurant.
I visited the Tuellers also (another senior couple serving in Poland)...but I didn't get a picture of them. 
They live in Draper, Utah...and I loved my visit with them also.

We attended a Christmas gathering with some of the church members Melissa serves with in her stake. We enjoyed seeing the beautiful Bountiful Temple in the neighborhood of this Christmas gathering.
Baby Registries were created at Target and Babies R Us stores.
We were kept quite busy ...
and had fun shopping....
so many choices....
planning ahead for Little Baby Hackett...arriving in just a few short months!

The Tree of Draper, Utah
 I had read about this tree in Draper, Utah decorated with thousands of little lights ...looking like it could be "the Tree of Life" (as described in the scriptures). We found the tree quite easily...and I realized it was very near to where I had visited with my friends earlier in the week.

I snapped a picture of Melissa and Lance in front of this tree...
 A simple but fun activity...finding something so uniquely decorated and enjoyed by so many. 
 Temple Square
Salt Lake City, Utah
December 10, 2014
 On the night before leaving Utah, we came to Temple Square and enjoyed walking throughout the beautifully decorated grounds...
 I never tire of being at Temple Square during the Christmas days in December.
Throughout the decorated grounds are many nativities from different countries. The displays are not labeled...but the Nativity below reminds me of Poland. The figures are wooden carvings...a folk art that you see often in Poland. I love this display!
Also...throughout the grounds are little paper bags with a small lit candle (battery operated) inside...on the outside are words in different languages...
I found one bag with words in Polish....Miłosć= Love. 
 I don't believe I have ever been anywhere....where the Christmas Lights are so beautiful !

 A cold evening...but not unbearable...
 we were so glad we could spend time together on the 
 beautiful Temple Square grounds.
I love the lights and I love Temple Square during the Christmas Season!
 The Nativity Story and words from President Monson can be heard outside the Visitor's Center...
they were clearly beautiful!
 My time in Utah....has been good! I'm so grateful I could see Melissa and Lance, help them in small ways, and we could enjoy the Christmas season together!
Now time to fly home to Texas. 
Good news...Melissa and Lance will be coming to Houston for Christmas
and the Houston Picketts will really be all together again!

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