Hi! I'm Holly Brimhall, a newborn photographer in Gilbert, AZ. I am the mother of 4 and a lover of ALL things baby. This blog is where I share the life of my family and favorite pictures of my newborn photography sessions.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

The Spirit of God

It's been a strange few weeks. Our family was in Paris the day we found out the United States would be closing borders due to the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. At some point, I'm sure I'll write about our spring break trip to Europe...and the amazing things we got to see and do...and the feelings of panic as we desperately tried to get our family safely home...but that will have to be another time. I want to take some time to share the feelings of my heart...as I feel like my heart could burst right out of my chest.
This weekend was our church's semi-annual general conference. We've listened to 4 of the 5 sessions so far. In a world full of uncertainty, fear, and doubt...my soul has just been filled with love and light and hope. We got to participate in the Hosanna Shout, a ritual typically reserved for temple dedications. Hearing yesterday that we would be participating in the Hosanna shout today, I wanted to do a bit more research so I could share my thoughts with the kids.
"For many Latter-Day Saints, the most commonly talked about origin of the Hosanna Shout is from Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, when the people greeted Him with shouts of hosanna and waved palm branches and acknowledged him as the Messiah." As I read that to them this morning, I had to swallow the lump in my throat as I thought back to my years participating in the Easter Pageant for 3 years as a teen. My time in the Easter Pageant is a treasure and has strengthened my testimony beyond measure.
"The word hosanna comes from two Hebrew words which, roughly translated, mean 'please save us.' And though the phrase was at first used as a prayer or plea, it eventually came to be associated with praise and joy and is used that way today."
At this general conference we were celebrating 200 years since Joseph Smith's first vision. A new proclamation to the world was presented today. We followed with the Hosanna Shout, listened to the Tabernacle Choir sing the "Hosanna Anthem" (pre-recorded and played back from the conference center dedication in October 2000), and joined them in singing "The Spirit of God". I felt the Spirit as strong as I've ever felt it...and tears streamed down my cheeks.
For me participating in the Hosanna Shout...I felt joy in the celebration of the bi-centennial of the First Vision and the desperate and hopeful plea to our Father in Heaven to "please save us."

The Spirit of God like a fire is burning!
The latter-day glory begins to come forth;
The visions and blessings of old are returning,
And angels are coming to visit the earth.
We'll sing and we'll shout with the armies of heaven,
Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!
Let glory to them in the highest be given,
Henceforth and forever, Amen and amen!

The Lord is extending the Saints' understanding,
Restoring their judges and all as at first.
The knowledge and power of God are expanding;
The veil o'er the earth is beginning to burst.

We'll sing and we'll shout with the armies of heaven,
Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!
Let glory to them in the highest be given,
Henceforth and forever, Amen and amen!

I know God lives. I know He loves me. I know He hears my prayers. I'm grateful for a living prophet on the earth who leads and guides us. I'm grateful for a Savior who sacrificed his life for me and my sins. I want to be better at shining my light, sharing my faith, and showing my love!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

10 days in New England

This fall break I got to check off a bucket list trip that I'd been dreaming up and planning for a few years...a trip to New England! Brett was teaching at a conference at the beginning of fall break, college just simply doesn't get a break, and Bryson didn't want to miss a bunch of work, so the younger two and I headed out on an adventure and the rest of the family joined up with us later. 1 silver minivan, 2 trolley tours, 3 nights together as a whole family, 4 drizzly days, 5 stops to fill the van up with gas, 6 new states visited (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island), 7 different hotels...and a thousand ooh's and aah's. We sure enjoyed our 10 day trip back east! From visiting maple sugar farms and exploring covered bridges in Vermont, to catching lobster and checking out lighthouses in Maine, exploring the mansions on the coast in Rhode Island, walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, riding a steam train in Connecticut, to driving the "Kanc" in New Hampshire...it really was amazing! The fall foliage was at it's peak in Vermont and New Hampshire...something we just don't get to experience here in AZ. I might've text Brett and told him we needed to move to Woodstock, Vermont...at least for the fall. It really was the cutest! Sure we had a few hiccups in the trip along the way...like driving down to Plymouth, Massachusetts to visit the Mayflower...only to discover it was in Connecticut getting refurbished for it's big 400th anniversary next year. But it really was everything I'd dreamed it would be!

I've had some friends ask me to type up our itinerary. I haven't blogged in years...so let's see if I can remember how to do this. Ha!

Friday, October 4th, I picked Grant up from school...straight off the bus from science camp, grabbed Savannah and headed off to the airport. We flew into Bradley International Airport, just north of Hartford, Connecticut. We landed after midnight, so just headed straight to the hotel to go to bed. When planning our trip, we knew that we needed to be in Boston the following weekend (that's where the big boys and Brett wanted to explore), and we knew we wanted to fly Southwest Airlines (sure love our companion pass)...and Bradley International worked best with our schedules and plan...but you really could fly in and start from anywhere. I also had only booked our first hotel nights stay in advance, as well as our three nights in Boston. The rest of the trip we just played by ear. If we were tired and felt like calling it a day, I'd open up my hotels.com app and book something right there. If we were up for more driving, we'd choose our destination, book the hotel on the app and head there for the night. It was great!

Saturday, October 5th - We started our day off visiting the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts (just a 20 minute drive from our hotel in Connecticut.) If you have a big basketball fan in your family, it's a great place to spend a few hours. Sadly, the center court was being replaced, so Grant wasn't able to experience that. But the museum cost was reduced significantly and it was fun to watch him explore the museum. We spent about an hour and a half there before heading to our next stop.

From the NBA Hall of Fame, we headed east to Old Sturbridge Village (about 40 minute drive). It's New Englands largest outdoor living history museum. They have costumed historians throughout the village, working on the farm and in the trade shops. We absolutely LOVED it! We got there around 12:30 and stayed until they closed at 4:00. We would've stayed a bit longer if we'd had more time. It was SO big! We felt like we were wandering through an old village. The leaves were beautiful, crisp air, delicious varieties of apples to sample, knowledgable and friendly staff...could not recommend it more!

We had dinner at Sturbridge Seafood and craved it the rest of the trip. Their Chowda' Fries were amazing! (Award winning clam chowder over hand cut french fries, cheddar cheese, and crispy bacon...yes please!). Sav got their Fish & Chips...which was the best I've ever had. Grant got the Lobster Bisque and I wasn't super hungry, so I just got a Caesar side salad...all very good! I wish I would've tried their Lobster Roll though, because I'm sure it was amazing! Great service, great food!

The kids were up for more driving that night. We knew we wanted to visit Alyson's Orchard the next morning. We ended up deciding to stay in Keene, NH that evening. I wish I would've tracked the roads that we took, because the drive was stunning...meandering through the most darling little towns. At the end of the trip, Savannah said that was her favorite drive. It was about an hour and forty five minute drive. I really wanted to explore Mt Monadnock, but so far none of my children enjoy hiking. I quickly got veto'd. But if you have a family of hikers...you gotta go! I read it's the second most frequently climbed mountain in the world. I've heard it's great!

Sunday, October 6th - We LOVED Alyson's Orchard!!! It was chosen as one of the 12 Top Orchards in the US. It was stunning! 450 acres of working orchard, a beautiful pond, surrounded by tall trees with colorful leaves, pumpkins, hot cider, hot chocolate, toasty hot apple cider donuts, fresh baked apple pies, etc. There was an old car show also the day we were there. They do offer lodging at the farm and I think it would've been fun to stay there. It was beautiful!

Next we headed to check out the Cornish-Windsor Bridge. It is the longest wooden bridge in the United States and the longest two-span covered bridge in the world. Driving through the bridge and reading the plaques about it, doesn't take long. It was a fun stop!

Then we headed over to Killington, Vermont to drive the "Vermont Scenic Route 100" to Waterbury. On our way to Killington, we stumbled upon Woodstock. My jaw hit the floor. We pulled the car over and explored. It really was the cutest little town! Charming shops. Historic buildings surround the central square. I wish we would've stayed longer to explore the area. I was a little unsure how long our drive would be the rest of that day, so we headed out. But near there is supposedly a cute functioning dairy farm...the Billings Farm & Museum. If you have been or go, let me know how it is! Middle Bridge is cute! The shops are darling! Spend some time there! And if you want to move there and be my neighbor, let me know. Ha!

We certainly enjoyed driving Route 100. It's dotted with small towns, some with little shops and restaurants. We stopped and explored one of them, got lunch, and did a little bit of shopping (I just can't remember which town we stopped in). We also stopped at Moss Glen Falls in Granville to check that out. Cute little waterfall on the side of the highway. We did stop at the original Ben and Jerry's Factory in Waterbury. But it felt a bit like the lines at Disneyland on a packed day. We took a few pictures and left. The kids were like...let's get out of here. We can get Ben and Jerry's at the grocery store. Ha ha! So true! We were there on a Sunday, so maybe it wouldn't be as busy on a weekday? Not totally sure! Stowe is just north of there. Originally I wanted to stay at the Trapp Family Lodge (like the Von Trapp/Sound of Music family hotel)...but the hotel rates were three times their "normal average"...that's what you get with the leaves at their peak, I guess. But I hear Stowe is amazing!

Next we headed to Montpelier to check it out. We stopped at Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, explored their property, watched a video on how they harvest and make maple syrup, sampled the different grades of syrup, got a "maple creemie", and picked up a few maple treats to take home. I'd recommend it! We spent a little time exploring Montpelier. Stopped by the Vermont State House and walked around downtown. All of the shops were closed. Seems like they all close around 4 pm. Had dinner at the Positive Pie and really liked it! We stayed in Montpelier that night. (Grant was ready to watch some Sunday night football)

Monday, October 7th - what a rainy day! Stopped by the Rock of Ages granite quarry. Originally had planned on touring the quarry - at nearly 600 feet deep, it is the largest operating deep-hole granite quarry in the world. But instead, we opted to just visit the visitors center and learn about it. The pictures of it look really cool though!

Hopped in the car and headed to Peacham. Ah Peacham! We thought it was so cute! Savannah particularly loved it! They have the most beautiful white church there, surrounded with green grass and amazing leaves. It was raining pretty hard, so I didn't take pictures of it, but found one on the internet. Wow!

Your cell phone won't work once you get there...absolutely no cell phone service, but we found a nice lady to give us directions. We told her we were headed back to New Hampshire to drive "the Kanc". She recommended we stop in her hometown Bath, NH to explore for a bit. She said we wouldn't regret it. She was right!!! You have to stop at the Brick Store and get fudge. The Brick Store is America's oldest general store. I don't care if you get anything else there. Get the fudge! Honestly, hands down, best fudge on the planet! We got the apple pie fudge and maple fudge. Oh my goodness! You can also sample their smoked meats and cheeses, which are also delicious. There are also 3 covered bridges in town and they are charming!

Then we headed east to Lincoln, where you start driving the Kancamagus Highway. You do have to purchase a $5 day pass to be able to stop and park along the way, but you can just purchase it at the first place you stop. You do need cash. Just fill out the little envelope and you're good to go. Some awesome stops along the way are:
Lincoln Woods Suspension Bridge
Pemigewasset Overlook
Falls Pond
Russell-Colbath Historic Site
Sabbaday Falls
Rocky Gorge
Lower Falls
Albany Covered Bridge

Something on our list that we didn't get the time to do is to ride "The Cog" up Mt Washington. It's the second steepest rack railway in the world, after one in Switzerland. At this point, we also decided to cross Bar Harbor, Maine off our list and just head to Portland, Maine instead. As beautiful as everything was, we were starting to get a bit tired of all of the driving. Crossing Bar Harbor off our list, saved us about 6-7 hours of driving. IF we would've gone to Bar Harbor, we would've had these things on our list to do:

Watch the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain, stroll along the Ocean Trail, drive the Acadia National Park Loop Road, Thunder Hole, hike around Jordan Pond, and get blueberry pancakes at Jordan's on Cottage Street.

Instead, we drove to Portland (stayed two nights here...so nice to keep our stuff put for two nights). It was still raining pretty hard. We tried to explore a bit of downtown, got some nice warm Ramen for dinner, and headed back to the hotel. We were hoping for some sunshine the next day. We got lucky!

Tuesday, October 8 - We woke up and headed a bit north to Boothbay Harbor. Holy stinkin' cute little harbor town in Maine. We hopped in some shops downtown, like Sherman's Maine Coast Book Shop (Maine's oldest bookstore...more like a big gift shop on the main floor with books upstairs) and Orne's Candy Store. Try a "Needum" - it's a Maine tradition. I'm not sure why, but they put mashed potatoes in a lot of unsuspecting things. Ha ha! It's an ingredient in the "Needum" - which is a chocolate and coconut treat. We strolled the footbridge - it's a 1000 foot wooden pedestrian bridge that connects one side of the harbor to the other. It's so beautiful out there! We stopped by Shannon's Unshelled for lunch. It was okay. Grant got a red snapper hot dog, shockingly bright red but actually pretty good, and I got a lobster roll. I wasn't expecting it to be cold...but I guess that is how they are typically served. I only got lobster rolls after that if I could get them warm. So much better!

Next we went down to Bath, Maine. We were going to go to the Maine Maritime Museum. I was wanting to do their Autumn Lights Cruise - a cruise along the water to see a bunch of different lighthouses...but the kids wanted to explore Bath instead and go find a lighthouse to walk around. Bath was...meh...but we found Doubling Point Lighthouse and had fun checking that out.

Next stop was Freeport. We stopped to see The Big F Indian. I guess the F can either stand for Freeport or Friendly. Anyhow, it was big. Ha! He's 40 feet tall. Finished up our day doing some shopping in Freeport, home of LL Bean. Their LL Bean stores are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They haven't had locks on their doors since 1951. Holy smokes!

Oh yah...caught an epic sunset that night on our way back to our hotel!

Wednesday, October 9 - woke up and headed to visit Fort Williams and the Portland Headlight. So, so, beautiful!

Stopped to grab some donuts at The Holy Donut. They have three locations in Portland, and we stopped at the one in downtown. We were lucky enough to get there with no line, but by the time we left, the line was out the door. The secret ingredient in their donuts? Maine mashed potatoes. I don't get it. But man, oh man. Yum! We got Maple, Pomegranate, Fresh Lemon, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt, Maine Apple...and I can't remember the 6th one. Shoot.

We checked out a few shops, ate donuts on the pier, and then hopped on the 11:30 trolley tour of the city. Fun to learn all about Portland! We only had a small amount of time for lunch, so we just hopped in to a little pizza place for lunch across the street...not recommended...and then went to check in for our lobster cruise. We went with Lucky Catch Cruise and loved, loved, loved it! They were awesome! So good to the kids. Making sure they got to experience everything. The captain kept saying, "Hey Arizona! Come hold this lobster! Come put the trap back in the ocean." It was awesome!

After the lobster tour, you have the option to buy the lobster straight from the boat (ours cost $7). You carry the live lobster up the ramp, down the pier, to the restaurant next door. For an additional $12 they will cook your lobster and give you corn on the cob, fries or baked potato, coleslaw, and dipping sauces. We also got some calamari and blueberry pie. It was a great experience!

Next we headed over to visit Kennebunkport, Maine. Another to die for, cute as a button, little harbor town in Maine. We walked along downtown, checked out some shops, admired the sailboats, and grabbed some ice cream at Rococo's. They have so many delicious artisan flavors. I don't remember what Grant got, but Savannah got the Molasses Gingersnap...and it was divine! We drove along the coast to check out the Bush family compound on Walker's Point. So, so pretty! We drove a bit further south that evening and stayed near Portsmouth. (If we would've had more time, we would've done the walk along the Ogunquit Coast "Marginal Way")

Thursday, October 10 -

Took our time heading down to Salem this morning. Looked around a bit in Portsmouth and nothing really peaked our interest. To be honest, I'd skip Salem altogether. We were just overall disappointed with it. We did stop at the House of 7 Gables, which we ended up deciding not to tour. We stopped in "Ye Olde Pepper Companie", which is America's oldest candy company. Cute little shop, but nothing special. Then we headed over to the Salem Witch Museum. If you do go to Salem, please, please, please...do not waste your time and money to go here. I'd read some mixed reviews before putting it on our list and wish I would've heeded other's pleas to avoid it. We sat in a big stinky room with mannequins while some witch stories were broadcast from a recording over the speakers. Then we were herded into another room where there were a few more mannequins and a grumpy employee who shared a few more bits of information and that was it. What a waste!

Brett and the big boys were joining us in Boston that evening. We were excited to have them join us! So off to Boston we went! We drove around a little bit before picking them up and called it a night.

Friday, October 11 -

BOSTON and the Freedom Trail! We started our morning at Boston Common. As we were checking out the map, an older man approached Brett and asked if we had a tour guide. Brett told him we did not. He offered to take us around Boston for two hours showing us the sites. Brett agreed. I was reluctant. In some ways, it was great...we learned some things we wouldn't have on our own. In some ways, there was TOO much info. Ha! His Boston accent added to the experience along with the swirling winds and rain from the Nor'easter coming ashore (the winds busted two of our four umbrellas...bummer!) We visited all of the sites! Boston Common, Massachusetts State House, Granary Burying Ground, Park Street Church, Kings Chapel Burying Ground, Old South Meeting House, Old Corner Bookstore, Boston Massacre Site, Old State House, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, and Old North Church. We ended our time with Bryan, the tour guide, and headed off to get lunch in the North End at Regina Pizzeria. Oh my! Best. Pizza. Ever! I am pretty sure it was the #27 that was our favorite of the 3 pizzas we ordered. It was out of this world! (They have a few locations but everyone says the original one in the North End is the best by far!). We stopped in a few bakeries for some treats and then went off to explore some more. Brett had to leave to go do a meeting outside Boston with a new team that is growing there, so the kids and I headed off to visit Bunker Hill. The rain was getting worse and worse, our umbrellas were breaking, and the winds were getting stronger and stronger. We decided to call it a day and headed back to the hotel for dry clothes and warm blankets.

Saturday, October 12 -

Woke up to more wind and rain, checked the weather down in Plymouth and it said no rain so we headed down there. We were excited to check out the Mayflower II, Plymouth Rock, and Plimoth Plantation. As we drove up, we thought maybe maps had sent us to the wrong spot, because there was no boat in the harbor. It was empty! I never would've guessed it wouldn't be there. The Mayflower was over in Connecticut being refurbished and getting all gussied up to celebrate it's 400th anniversary next year. Ugh! Big, big bummer. Oh...and it was pouring rain with howling winds. We sat in the van and made a plan. "First we will run over to that statue. I'm not sure what it is. But we will take a picture and read about it. Then we will run across the street and take a pictures with Plymouth Rock and then run back to the van. Plan? Plan. Go!" So we did. We ran to take a pictures with the William Bradford statue and then ran to take a picture with Plymouth Rock...which was much, much, MUCH smaller than I had imagined. It was FREEZING! And then we ran to the van. We vetoed Plimoth Plantation...it was an outdoor living history site...and we didn't want to be outdoors. Ha! We sat in the van and looked at other options. I wanted to go to the Pilgrim Hall Museum. Brett wanted to go to the Jenney Museum. We ended up going to the Jenney Museum...if you can call it that. Don't go. They had us sit in a room and watch a 50 minute video of a man talking about the pictures and time line on the wall (you can buy the 50 minute video for $15 if you want - we paid more than that to get in the museum). Part way through the movie, the man from the video walked through the tiny room with about 40 people to show them the one other room in the "museum". They were loud and using the one little restroom. It was weird. And a waste of time. But it was warm and we weren't getting wet...so there's that. Ha!

We went to visit the Forefathers Monument.

Thought it would be cool to go to a cranberry farm and see how they are grown and harvested. We visited Flax Pond Farms west of Plymouth. They give you a free tour of their bog and show you how the berries are harvested. Then you get to help sort cranberries. We actually had a great time! They have a cute little gift shop where you can buy all things cranberry - chapstick, taffy, treats, etc. Try the cranberry bog frogs. So yummy!

Next up was lunch at The Tasty. Sat down to order and then the fire alarm starting going off. We waited outside...in the rain and wind...for the fire department to show up and turn the alarm off. The food was good, once we got it. What a day...ha!

We stopped to visit the USS Constitution and USS Cassin Young. Both are free to visit. If you are 18 and older, you must present a photo ID and all are required to go through a security screening. We enjoyed exploring the boats! And the rain and wind were gone. Yay!

Sunday, October 13 -

Took the family to do a trolley tour of Boston. We had only seen the part of the city around the Freedom Trail, so it was fun to learn about the rest of the city. We did the Old Town Trolley Tour and really enjoyed it. It is a hop on/hop off tour...but we just stayed on for the whole thing. Grabbed lunch and then Brett and the big boys had to head back to the airport to head home.

Savannah and Grant and I headed down to Rhode Island to Newport to tour The Breakers and check out the mansions along the coast. Holy moly! So amazing!

We stopped at Gooseberry Beach to smell the ocean breeze, wriggle our toes in the sand, and enjoy the beauty there. Then we randomly picked a larger town in Connecticut, booked a hotel, and headed there for the night. Um...New London, Connecticut seemed a bit sketchy. Savannah played "As Sisters in Zion/Armies of Helaman" on her phone while we walked from our van to the hotel so we wouldn't be too scared. Ha!

Monday, October 14 -

Drove up to explore Gillette Castle, which was actually really cool! We got there fairly early before it started getting very busy. Stopped at the Staehly Farm for some delicious apple cider. Then drove over to Essex through East Haddam, past the Goodspeed Opera House and across the East Haddam Swing Bridge. We arrived in Essex to ride the steam train through the beautiful Connecticut countryside. Next time, I think we would just visit the station, check out the area, but then actually skip the train ride. It was packed. And slow. And stopped multiple times to let people off and on. We got back to the station 30 minutes later than expected and therefore had to skip stopping in Hartford at the Elizabeth Park Rose Garden...which looks beautiful! Instead, we headed back to the airport to fly home.

New England is a must see in the FALL!!!!

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