Happy Birthday, Grandma Mimi Johnson Sorensen

Althea Marie Johnson Sorensen was born on June 23, 1920. At a very young age she became simply known as Mimi. She was the first daughter born to Leota and Orson Alma Johnson. They lived in the Liberty Park area, which featured neat and tidy red brick homes, until she was age two; then her family moved outside of the city (today’s Draper area) to a small farm. Her young years were idyllic, as she loved to be outside running in the orchards and riding her beloved Shetland ponies. One year she rode her pony in the July 24th parade, dressed as an Indian. She won first prize! As much as she loved being outdoors, she liked even more, playing school. She was always the teacher rounding up any willing child to be her student. This foreshadowed her professional career as a teacher, first in Murray, Utah then later in the Holladay area. Grandma Mimi had a lifelong love of education and reading.
Mimi met Dale in high school, where they became sweethearts, marrying one week after graduation from the University of Utah. This was a dark time in modern history, it was the middle of World War II, and Dale was an enlisted army officer, part of the last horse drawn Calvary unit. When Dale went to Europe as a soldier, Mimi and Sharon returned to SLC to live with Dale’s parents on the farm.
Looking back at Mimi’s life, one quality that stands out in my mind was her “moxey” as my dad would put it; in other words, her feistiness, headstrong and strong-willed personality. Not much daunted her.
When I was rather young we lived on a farm, raising feed crops, chickens, cattle, sheep, etc. Life on a working farm was hard labor. Mom supervised the wholesale egg business, which consisted of washing and packing the hundreds of eggs that were gathered. This was messy work, but not nearly as messy as watching her kill a chicken, dip the entire chicken into boiling water, pluck the smelly feathers and “gut it.” This left me in awe. She needed all the “moxey” she could muster when packs of snakes would slither up to the house from the irrigation ditch, sometimes getting inside our home and she would go after them with a hoe, mincing them up.
Years later, hit by a runaway car two weeks before our wedding, mom needed all of the courage and pluck she could muster, to will herself to live, endure years of surgery, body-casts, rehabilitation and pain. That accident altered her life. She never held the teen that was responsible for this accident accountable. She practiced forgiveness, a lesson strongly etched in my mind.
Mimi was always very sophisticated, stylishly dressed and socially savvy. She was most comfortable in the world of men, feeling very much their equal.
A few things that I remember mom doing was reading Cubby In Wonderland and Brighty of the Grand Canyon to Suzanne and me. She also spent considerable time helping me with my hair. She and dad always wanted us to be dressed nicely and have very polite manners. We were taught young, what you might call etiquette. We would be taken to nice restaurants to practice our eating manners!
Today Grandma Mimi often states how proud she is of her two daughters, their husbands and the grand-children. We say that we are proud of you as you live these marginal years of old age….may this birthday bring peace to you on this earth. We love you. We know you are eager to live with the love of your life, Dale. We all sing a happy birth-day to you.

Midsummer's Eve

It seems appropriate that Mimi Johnson Sorensen was born on June 23rd, the week known as Midsummer’s Eve in the Scandinavian Countries; this is the summer solstice, and she was a “summer-child.” In the past when Mimi spoke about her family, she mostly spoke of her Swedish heritage. Just the word, Sweden, would conjure up all sorts of pleasant associations in my mind as a young child. So when I became a mother and an opportunity to visit Sweden with Howard’s sister, Carolyn, presented itself, it was a trip that I knew would change my perspective and enrich my family. It was arranged that we would meet Barbro Vennerholm, a Swedish acquaintance of Carolyn who agreed to show us her country, including Norway.
Sweden the magical land of trolls, hulder-maidens and gnomes; Midsummer’s Eve festivities; tall Maypoles festooned with ribbons, leaves and flowers; blond-haired maidens placing
bouquets freshly created from seven wild flowers under their pillows, dreaming of first love; smorgasbord tables groaning from the weight of lutfisk, rice pudding, gingersnaps, cheeses and fish; the legend of Santa Lucia and her crown of lit candles; and finally green valleys, azure lakes, golden aspen trees and red-washed timber homes and barns. The trip took place in May and June, 1985.
Midsummer’s Eve 2008, how better to celebrate than to read my red velvet covered journal from that trip, the journal that brings forth a thousand and one pictures into my mind. One evening Barbro. Carolyn and I, along with a group of elderly travelers from Stockholm, all staying at the Tallenburg resort in the heart of Dalarna, Sweden, gathered in a beautiful room—in my journal is the following:
“We all gathered in this beautiful room—paintings were all along the ceiling and walls, perhaps done first on cloth then pasted on, beautiful table linen, lit candles and highly waxed floors. We had a delightful evening of singing, Swedish folk fiddling, laughing, Swedish jokes, etc. Bert would try to translate as best he could for us—it didn’t matter, we felt the warm spirit of love and friendship. I was invited to share with this gathering of beautiful people, a little about myself and my American family. With an interpreter I spoke how I loved being with them and suggested that perhaps one of them was a distant relation due to my Swedish lineage. I shared my love for their old traditions—about our children—my painting, etc. Then I presented them with one of my books and a small painting. Everyone was touched—we all wept and laughed. What wonderful warmth in the room. I loved all their beautiful wrinkled faces. Later we were served coffee; we had warm milk with a lump of sugar in it along with delicious ginger cake. It was such a gracious feeling—the candles, linen, china cups, the music performed by these “antique” fiddlers. When the night drew to an end the three of us were by the door, all of the people came by, shook our hands and hugged us. They could feel our love for them. I will never forget their faces.
We went back to our cabin—after Carolyn and Barbro were tucked in bed I just had to sit and watch the coral, lavender and pink 'never-setting' sunset from our parlor window. The world is so beautiful why can’t there be peace for all? I love the folk traditions, costumes, caring ways, and reverence for the land, flowers, and animals. I hope it passes onto our family.”
Eight years ago, these canvases were painted to commemorate this wonderful trip, so many years ago. Today they hang in our guest room with other sentimental objects.

Look Who Is Turning 12!!!!

Happy Birthday, Emily. This is such a big day for you. Turning twelve means so many things. You will go to junior high next August. You are part of the young women's program at church, attending evening activities and Saturday outings with your friends. This summer you go to girl's camp. Now that will be a fantastic adventure. This is a year to make more new friends, learn Spanish, continue ballroom dancing, play tennis and start babysitting. What an adventure turning twelve is!!
Emily you are very special. You are fun to be with, funny-giggly, an excellent student, good reader, dancer, singer and love to act. But what we love the most, is your very warm, kind and loving heart. You know how to make others feel very special. You try very hard to include everyone, always watching out for the young person who is sad or feels left out. You are understanding and very mature. Emily you were born with an angel on your shoulder.
Emily is full of fun, giggles and crazy, zany, fun ideas. She loves to decorate her bedroom. Her next decorating project is to paint her bedroom pink and black...black polka dots and lots of bright pink. Emily loves fashion, shoes and earrings. And you can see from this photo that she has a lot of fun making fashion poses!
This is Emily's family. Her family is chock-full of love and caring for one another. They have so much fun together; biking, snowshoeing, sledding, four-wheeling, fishing, drive-in movies, church activities, games, long drives and helping other people. She lives in a very busy and active home!
Emily and Adam are super friends. They love to mess around, laugh, ride bikes and scooters, watch DVD's and watch out for one another.
This June, Emily graduated from elementary school. She had a wonderful experience in her new school. She excelled at her classwork, made some very nice friends, loved her teacher and spent many early mornings practicing her ballroom dancing. She entered competitions! Way to Go!
Happy Birthday, Emily. We Love You. Have a Red Letter Day

How I Got from There to Here

Children love to paint. And I love to paint for children. Dreaming up that perfect motif that appeals to their sense of color, design and whimsy is a fantastic challenge. My enjoyment of painting for children had its genesis many years ago. My first project: painting little white daisies on our first son’s yellow dresser. A few black-metal framed watercolors made it to the walls. The toy chest came next, perfect for huge black checkers. Because we were a mobile family, I decided to focus on decorating furniture rather than the walls. We inherited an OLD chest of drawers from my husband’s youth. That same dresser is in our current French-inspired guest room…it has been repainted at least 8 times. I like it best the way it is now, a cozy French Provencal feel. Painting furniture became a passion, spreading from bedroom to family patio. Scrounging curb-side garbage piles we found a discarded, gigantic galvanized tin feeding trough, presumably for cows. Now this was an amazing find (think cooler for summer drinks.) New England, legendary folk art artist, Peter Hunt’s whimsical style ended up on the cow trough! A fireplace box for wood was painted Pennsylvania Dutch. My parents were given old wooden chairs when they first married. You guessed it; these ended up in our home and changed colors many times. Okay, now there is a little trend going on here. So the logical progression: why not paint other people’s treasures and earn a little money? And with this brain-storm, a cottage business began. We made a move to Denver, Colorado and there I discovered Fripperys, a charming floral/antique shop in an old Victorian home. I quickly became friends with the owners, Paul and Diane. Before long they were piling their “not- sell-able” odds and ends of furniture into my car, to take home and work magic on. Permission was given to paint anything I wanted!! And I did. With all the unique oddments of “stuff,” my painting and imaginative skills were being honed. A year later we once again moved, this time to Chicago. But without too much effort, my cottage- art -furniture business flourished with new clients and a new floral/gift store to paint for. The timing was right and the inspiration was fantastic. It was soon time to step it up a notch and start painting on walls. Bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, ceilings, living rooms and dining rooms, I did it all. The era of faux finishes and mural painting was in its infancy, and burgeoned into adulthood very quickly. It was so exciting to be a part of that era. The ideas and enthusiasm were amazing. Suddenly people wanted an explosion of color and design on their walls not just furniture. It spoke to individualism and uniqueness, each job needed to be different from the previous. Along the way I met and worked with some really fantastic people from patron to nanny; wall paper hanger to interior designer; grumpy husbands, who wrote me the check to wives that tried to conceal what they had paid. Talk about public relations!! My cottage business grew. And with those very busy years came body-burn-out. A decade later I climbed my last scaffold, retired my ladders, put the photographs of work into permanent journals, and moved on. And here I am today, just doing what I always did; painting with strong color, abundant imagination, ideas galore and loving art. But this time the canvas isn’t a formidable wall, but a manageable piece of canvas. And that is how I got from there to here.

The Magic of the Tajine

A tagine/tajine is a vessel originally made from red clay, conical in shape and often decorated by hand. The tajine retains moisture and flavors, cooking the food gently in a small amount of liquid. The beautiful earthenware serves as a cooking and serving dish. Originally a Berber dish, the tajine has evolved with history as Arab and Ottoman invaders, Moorish refugees and French colonialists left their influence on the cuisine. An authentic tajine is in a class of its own and has become a fundamental feature in Moroccan cuisine. Preparation is half of the fun, dicing, slicing, mincing all those beautiful summer vegetables. Drop into sizzling oil a generous amount of mid-eastern spices and soon an amazing aroma dances about the kitchen.
A diffused slow simmer is what tajine cooking is all about. The dish of tender meat or succulent vegetables meld into an aromatic and syrupy concoction that is pure bliss.
Simmer away and you end up with a mosaic of color, texture, and rich aroma.
Dinner is served! We ate outside on the deck, very cool breeze, setting sun and an aromatic taste-delight. Thank you Mateo and Sarah for this wonderful gift of a tajine. There is much adventuresome dining ahead!

Happy Birthday, Zades!

All cleaned up, looking shiny and happy....but just before this picture.....oops another story!
Yum.....I hope there are seconds. I will do anything for seconds of chocolate!
Whew...that was just too good. Sorry I didn't save any for you!
Happy Birthday!
Zadian, Uncle Daniel and Aunt Ta Ta share the same date for birthday and wedding anniversary. Your special First Birthday cake was next to their wedding cake one year ago. Wow, you loved that cake!
Last year you were happiest in your highchair, looking like a Prince, eating anything and everything. You still love food. Your tactile love of food reminds me of your daddy, who when your age, slap-dashed the food on his high chair everywhere; high, low, sideways and in-between...he was quite messy. Happy Birthday you cute little munchkin, we love your chocolatey face.

Part Three of Marriage Poem-At This Sacred Moment

Mother Wren’s Wisdom Spring, mother wren perched upon our pillared porch. patiently she makes cozy the speckled eggs beneath the blanket of her spreading wings. toiling sunrise to sunset, feverishly feathering her nest, What wonders did she see, what music filled the night ribbons of wisdom, she wove amongst the linen colored grass. Consider this she stops to say: Twigs and mud are useful for nest building, dandelion fluff, sticks, a fallen feather will do—but spread wide your wings, sail upon the winds skirting the edge of the world. Dance with joy through a golden sunset, float in peace through banks of filtering clouds believe in the sun even when it is not shining. Open the earth ripe for planting, dropping alms amongst the folds and furrows. Inhale the perfume of deep peace, seeing the sanctuary of un-boundaried skies. Search for purpose; gain wisdom from the world’s best minds. Nourish your soul upon the sacred, have faith in the way things are. And at last—stretch forth your arms in union for the golden ring. Then you shall be prepared to return on filigreed wings bearing beauty, rich wisdom, gleaned from God’s and Man’s very best. You shall come filled, lives enriched with possibilities. And then, behold the nest that two can build.

Ashley-Anne and Daniel's First Anniversary

You have flown on the wings of love this first year of marriage. Together you have feathered a beautiful nest of those things you treasure and hold dear. Your smiles, and secret glances say it all, marriage is fantastic. We never knew such love and joy existed in this world, let alone for us.

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