Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Talk Soup I

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure betrayal of false friends; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a happy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

I'm not going to give this quotation an author as it is apparently commonly and incorrectly attributed to RWE. Whoever said it, I think it's poignant. And while it doesn't include any aspects of religion (which I hold very close to my personal success in life), it makes me want to be a better person and leave some lasting effect on the world.

Monday, 14 October 2013

This Is The Life

Kids, I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you about something I did this past weekend...


I'm not even going to explain what it is because you'll already be well-versed in classic English literature and period dramas by now.

This was the view driving through the grounds up to the house:

And this was the side of the house we walked up to:

After chatting to the nice ladies (more on this in a bit) whilst getting tickets, we wandered the grand rooms of the house, largely kept as they would have been in Edwardian times.

I walked up the very stairs that Mr Darcy rushed down to go and
catch Elizabeth Bennet as she fled his "beautiful house and grounds at Pemberley"
in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice.

The house was gorgeous and the attendants very willing to answer all our questions! They were overjoyed when we started playing the (dusty and very out of tune) grand piano. I even played a few bars of my bucket list piece - music from the Little Women soundtrack. My period drama worlds collided!

And so with the very apparent relationship between Lyme Park and Pride & Prejudice, someone thought it would be a good idea to stick a 12 ft Darcy sculpture in the lake, referencing Colin Firth's (not so skinny) dip in the lake at Pemberley in the 1995 BBC adaptation. You all know the one I'm talking about, but for those who don't, here it is:

I've always been a bit bemused by the director's choice to have him jump in the water, especially watching it as a child I had no idea what all the fuss was about. To some degree I still don't, but I have come to appreciate Colin Firth in a way 8-year-old me couldn't :P

I've always thought that what happens afterwards was much more swoon-worthy! When Lizzie finally sees that Mr Darcy has turned up to his own house early (unbeknownst to her) and they lock eyes, it makes for an extremely exciting exchange!

I can't help but include an excerpt from the book; you just know the book is always better (despite lack of involvement from Colin-dearest):
"As they walked across the lawn towards the river, Elizabeth turned back to look again; her uncle and aunt stopped also, and while the former was conjecturing as to the date of the building, the owner of it himself suddenly came forward from the road, which led behind it to the stables.
"They were within twenty yards of each other, and so abrupt was his appearance, that it was impossible to avoid his sight. Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of each were overspread with the deepest blush. He absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immovable from surprise; but shortly recovering himself, advanced towards the party, and spoke to Elizabeth, if not in terms of perfect composure, at least of perfect civility."

And so Elizabeth Bennet's opinion of Mr Darcy gradually begins to change :)

Anyway, back to my visit to Lyme Park.

I was talking about the 12 ft Darcy "sculpture" that dwells in one of the lakes. When it was in Hyde Park's Serpentine, Alex dubbed it "Tacky Darcy" which on seeing him in the flesh, turned out to be very accurate!

Here's a photo I found online...

And here is the photo I took on my awful blackberry...

It was raining on Saturday so he looked even more dismal, not to mention his shirt was all the more see-through....bizarre! So when chatting to the ticket ladies, I asked them what the reaction had been like to him/it/Tacky Darcy. They very diplomatically said "mixed". Some of the more hardcore (less classy) fans of P&P loved it, and others thought it was an atrocity! I actually think it's pretty hilarious, and considering it's being taken away in February, I'm strangely glad to have seen it.

So finally, after reading for years about Mr Darcy's beautiful grounds I had the chance to walk around them. The "a-ha" moment came when we rounded the path and there appeared the vista I've seen a hundred times, but this time with my own eyes. Absolutely stunning.

It may have been a dark and rainy Saturday afternoon, but the weather couldn't stop my enjoyment of visiting this stately home and gardens that I've had in my head for yonks. And as the National Trust's umbrellas gloated, we managed to keep relatively dry!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


This post is an honest "stock take" of life, inspired by my good friend Ashley's blog.

Making: plans to have a couple of magnificent weekends this month.
Cooking: a pretty smashing spanish omelette.
Drinking: Summer Fruits Oasis
Reading: "Death Comes To Pemberley" by PD James - a Pride and Prejudice "sequel" which I would usually be wary of, but the BBC are doing an adaptation so what the hell.
Wanting: the job I just applied for.
Looking: forward to general conference! #ldsconf
Playing: the suite from one of my most favourite films, "Little Women" by Thomas Newman, on the keyboard. It's on my bucket list to perfect it and I have made a lot of progress!
Wasting: my time on youtube.
Sewing: to fix my clothes.
Wishing: for the job I just applied for.
Enjoying: the continued communication with friends far and wide. Skype, whatsapp and google+!
Waiting: for Andy Murray to recover from back surgery and to start playing tennis again.
Listening: to John Mayer's latest album.
Liking: a boy.
Wondering: why I am such a night-owl. It's 0038.
Loving: my door of my newly decorated room, the only place I can stick pictures and mementos. It looks AWESOME.
Hoping: I get the extraordinary life I desire...and will hopefully deserve.
Marvelling: at the beautiful promises in my patriarchal blessing. Also marvelling at how blessed I am yet still find myself wanting more.
Needing: the job I just applied for.
Smelling: clean laundry.
Wearing: a cool t-shirt showing the evolution of a tennis player.
Following: 361 people on twitter.
Noticing: the ironies of life, and the things that I like in other people.
Knowing: that Sister T is right; "The best part is that you can be pretty positive that the Lord is directing you, even though many times it doesn't feel like it". I love that.
Thinking: too much. Hence why I watch so many period dramas for escapism.
Bookmarking: chord sheets of songs I want to play on the ukulele.
Opening: a pot of moisturiser.
Giggling: about the hilarity of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake's friendship.
Feeling: like friends and family are everything. Oh and youtube ;)

Friday, 9 August 2013


I'm so into music right now. Who am I kidding? I'm always into music, but just recently I am relishing in it, rolling around in it like pigs in mud. Here are some of my current favourites, and I'm pretty sure they'll always be favourites.

Hunter Hayes (adorable country music star) and my beloved Jason Mraz. This song (especially the live performance) is so good! "I hear love songs playing on the radio, there's people slow dancin' everywhere I go. Well I'm a good slow dancer but you'd never know 'cause everybody's got somebody but me."

Ahh Mr John Mayer! New album "Paradise Valley" is out on 19th August and having heard 4 of the tracks already, I cannot WAIT! Less country than the previous album and back with fresh songs that sound more like his old stuff. Happy Stephanie. [Helps that he's lost the white stetson and long locks ;)]

I think I must have heard this track on a TV show. Needless to say I fell in love with Kodaline. Strange video though, don't shoot the dad from "A Little Princess" :( [Kids, I will make you watch this tear-jerking film but it's for your own good! You need to learn to enjoy being melancholy sometimes.]

This is Joshua Radin. His music is all beautiful. I was lucky enough to see him live this summer for the second time. While I love his recorded music, it does not do him justice. To be in the same room as that voice is magical!

"My Name Is You" were supporting Joshua Radin in his London show so I got to discover them first-hand live! This song captured my attention the most. Gorgeous.

Man that's a lot of slowish pop/country/singer-songwriter! This is a little more upbeat...for me. Who doesn't love a bit of JT?

This must be another TV discovery. This whole album from High Highs is my relaxation music.

And I couldn't list a bunch of music without including a little musical theatre in there. This is from the Tony award-winning revival of Pippin with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. "Corner Of The Sky" was stuck in my head for weeks. "Everything has its season, everything has its time. Show me a reason and I'll soon show you a rhyme!

And last but not least, some youtube music. Mormon and indeed worldwide favourites The Piano Guys along with Alex Goot and Megan Nicole transform this Taylor Swift song into something I can't get enough of.

Not exactly a complete cross section of my musical taste but there you go. Maybe I'll make this a regular thing. Goodness knows it's been too long since my last post!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Good Enough For Now

General Conference April 2013!

Google is pretty clever most of the time

Kids, you'll come to know that I LOVE general conference. I think I first started to acknowledge this passion when I left home for university in Birmingham, and the second weekend away was general conference. Off I trotted on my own to the rebroadcast of the Relief Society session. I even remember who I sat next to on the front row of the left batch of pews in the Harborne Chapel. I don't think I would have gone to it had I not been raised to value these sessions of conference that we have every 6 months. I wouldn't always make a point of going to the live broadcasting of the Saturday morning sessions of conference at 5pm at the chapel if not for my family. And while I have valued conference all my life because of my parents' influence, I didn't recognise the love I had for general conference until I was responsible for my own attendance. So kids, I'll drag you along to conference and like someone in my ward once said, "you can choose to come to church because you want to, or because you have to. The choice is yours!" It wasn't until I was 18 that I fully embraced general conference so I'll give you a few years to get there ;)

An example of how my family taught me the importance of general conference is the countless years that my school's annual disco would be scheduled on the same evening as the Saturday morning session of conference. I would be SO annoyed that without fail it would be the same night. "All my friends are going!" "I NEVER get to go!" Still my mum held fast and didn't relent. How glad I am that she didn't budge. I think I got to go to one disco as it didn't clash and to be honest, it was rubbish!

Also, the Siu Family have a tradition of getting Chinese takeaway after going to the chapel for the Saturday Am session. It's simple, but it's our tradition :)

SO #ldsconf is over! A hashtag you say? Why yes I am an avid twitterer, ESPECIALLY during conference! It enhances my experience and this year I think we all felt validated when we saw the #ldsconf hashtag on the screen at the same time as the "183rd Annual Conference" title coming up. We're on the map!

#LDSCONF - Approval!

It's so much fun to see what other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are saying about the talks, music and prayers. Some people are extremely witty and even more are able to quote some of the best bits from our general authorities, sometimes adding in their own experiences and feelings. It is truly wonderful. This year some of our apostles were trending worldwide. I'm convinced that if time zones permitted all members of the church to watch the sessions live, we'd have #ldsconf trending worldwide too. This time last year I was in Hong Kong visiting family, and I wasn't able to watch conference live :( The members there have all of the sessions broadcast the following week and so they miss out on all the twitter fun unless they stay up late to watch. Here in the UK it is easier as sessions are live at 5-7pm and 9-11pm, and I do the "marathon" of watching all four sessions live. I reckon if I was a man I would stay up at 1am to watch the Priesthood session live!

Some of the #ldsconf tweeting that goes down...

Here are some of my favourite quotations from conference and some of the questions I thought of to ponder over the coming weeks (see my twitter @stephsiu for a multitude more!):

Saturday Morning session

First "lady prayer" at General conference ever

President Boyd K. Packer
"We're meant to age".
"You will do no greater eternal work than within the walls of your own home." - I especially love this quote because I am a big believer that we are responsible for our families, and something in my patriarchal blessing tells me about the eternal work I will do for my own family. This is a privilege and responsibility I need to take extremely seriously and this is what President Packer has inspired me to do.

We look forward to President Packer's 98th poem!

Bishop Dean M. Davies
"Wake up and give thanks." - I am guilty of forgetting to pray in the mornings. Heavenly Father and all of the things I have received should be among my first thoughts of the day.

Sister Elaine S. Dalton was released as the
General Young Women President

Sister Elaine S. Dalton
Basically everything she said and:
"She kept her covenants and, because she did, she called down the power of heaven to bless our home and to send miracles." - This is a promise to us, that if we keep our covenants we have the amazing ability to call upon the powers of heaven.
She also wondered about how different the world could be if women were regarded and treated as daughters of God (DOGs, my favourite acronym :P) and how if there were less pornography, abuse and immorality then there might be less broken marriages, broken lives and broken hearts. RETURN TO VIRTUE.
The General Young Women Presidency were released this weekend.

Elder Craig C. Cardon
"...'in process of time' we overcome the world through the enabling power of the Atonement." I just love the sound of being able to overcome the world.
" His mercy, He allows improvement over time rather than demanding immediate perfection"

Elder M. Russell Ballard
Used the example of a tomato plant that had become weak and wilted from neglect. Do we feel that our faith or testimony is less than it should be? We can bring in life again, like the tomato plant was rescued with nurturing and love by the little girl. turn more fully to the Saviour.
"Not only is the priesthood the power by which the heavens and earth were created, but it is the power the Savior used in His mortal ministry to perform miracles, to bless and heal the sick, to bring the dead to life, and as the Father's Only Begotten Son to endure the unbearable pain of Gethsemane and Calvary — thus fulfilling the laws of justice with mercy and providing an Infinite Atonement — and overcoming physical death through the resurrection - The Priesthood is powerful and sacred.

Tomato plant symbolism

President Henry B. Eyring
Jesus' words to his disciples are just as applicable to us today.
Do we have loved ones wandering off the path? Depend on the Lord. Draw closer to them as you serve in faith.
He said that we are in covenant to lift up those in need.

Saturday Afternoon session

Elder Richard G. Scott
He assured us that even though Satan will exploit our weaknesses, if we stay on the Lord's side, there's a 100% win rate.
"Become friends with your children's friends." So glad that my parents do this. They're always friendly and chatty to people that visit our home. Kids, I'm going to be BESTIES with your friends ;) Not in an embarrassing way I promise :P

Elder Quentin L. Cook
Loved his quotation of Doctrine & Covenants 121.
"Peace is not found in the pursuit of pleasure, entertainment or leisure."
The Saviour's peace helps to bind up broken hearts and infuse our souls with calm and happiness.

Elder Stanley G. Ellis
"Which ward needs a good family?"
"It's not where you raise your family but how."

Elder Ellis

Elder John B. Dickson
The African people have very little of that which matters least but much of that which matters most.

Elder David A. Bednar
As soon as we heard "Law of Chastity" we battened down the hatchets and knew it was going to be a great talk and a point of reference.
Heavenly Father desires us to be together in the light. Lucifer wants us to be alone in the dark. - I know where I want to be.
Love increases through righteous restraint but decreases through IMPULSIVE INDULGENCE.
Living the law of chastity invites some of the greatest blessings men and women can receive in mortality.
"Guilt is to our spirits what pain is to our body."

Cool view of the pulpit, so many screens!

Elder Russell M. Nelson
"Catch the wave!" After this and Ask the Missionaries I'm convinced elder Nelson would have made a great marketing man if not for his highly successful heart surgeon career.

Elder Nelson has such a way with words

Sunday morning session

President Uchtdorf
The painting of light and darkness in his office is a metaphor for life.
Profound anger threatened to consume Jane however she learned to acknowledge darkness but at the same time not dwell there. She devoted her life to helping others.
We must leave the past behind and step into our bright future :)

1) Start where you are

2) Turn your heart toward the Lord
3) Walk in the light

With Christ, darkness cannot succeed.
The West African saints sang with energy and spirit :)

Love President Uchtdorf's hand gestures ;)

Elder Neil L. Andersen
Wilford Woodruff found people in England ready to hear the gospel. I've been to Benbow's farm!
We have missionaries in 189/224 nations and territories of the world.
Now is the time to paint a missionary badge on our hearts.
Let's make sharing the gospel online more a part of our daily routine.
Missionary work? Missionary FUN!

Sister Rosemary M. Wixom
"Disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other." Earth Hour? :P

Elder L. Whitney Clayton
"Forgo personal entertainment in order to help with household duties."
Read with your children. Be side by side with your spouse in this most important work within your own home.
Marriage - respectful, loyal, transparent.

Elder L. Tom Perry
"Obedience to law is liberty."
"sin will always be sin." - Moral absolutes.

President Thomas S. Monson
Obedience is the hallmark of prophets. It has provided strength and knowledge to them throughout the ages.
Obedience is the great test in this life. - Our generation has a greater capacity to be obedient, but it's still hard.

Sunday Afternoon session

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
"Belief is a precious word and an even more precious act."
The 14 year old boy admitted to Elder Holland that he could not yet say he knew the church was true, but that he believed it was. Elder Holland thanked him for his honesty and hugged him till his eyes bulged out!
This whole talk was incredible. I tweeted that though I have not had any doubts about the church in a long time, this talk gave me a renewed zest to strengthen my testimony. [Zest: Noun 1) Great enthusiasm and energy. 2) A quality of excitement and piquancy]

The apostle a lot of people had been waiting to hear!

Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Jesus' teachings were not meant to be theoretical, but were meant to be acted upon.
He talked a lot about the christian acts of our church. I loved how user friendly his language was.
We can inherit all that the father has - mind-blowing.

Elder Christoffel Golden Jr.
How can we become better acquainted with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?
We will be startled when we go beyond the veil and realise just how well we know our Father in Heaven and how familiar his face is to us. [Quoting President Ezra Taft Benson: "Nothing will surprise us more than when we get to heaven and see the Father and realize how well we know Him and how familiar His face is to us."

Elder Enrique R. Falabella
"Love letters, phone calls and love poems sound like museum material."
He sees his wife read the Book of Mormon and feels of her testimony when she does so.
"Never withhold a good thought about another person."
It is not enough to know the scriptures, we must live them! - How can I better LIVE the scriptures?

Elder Erich W. Kopischke
How do we know if our hearts are broken?
A broken heart is soft and open, receptive.
We know out own motives. We must not rationalise. Feel godly sorrow and repent.
Observing covenants includes silent service to others.
"Seek the Lord's acceptance."

Elder Bruce D. Porter
Find sanctuary in the stakes of Zion.
"Radiate good cheer!"
"Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day. I got a beautiful feeling everything's goin' ma way!"

Elder D. Todd Christofferson
"Seek to participate in and further his redemptive work."
He paraphrased Jean Valjean's story with the Bishop of Digne from Les Miserables!

President Thomas S. Monson
Put your trust in the Lord. He will help us in our difficulties no matter what.
"I invoke upon you homes filled with peace, harmony, courtesy and love."
"Promised peace."
Our dear prophet thanked us for the prayers on his and the other general authorities' behalf.

Our Prophet. Caring, gentle and humorous as usual :)

If you're still reading this, I'm flattered! This blog is supposedly for my future kids to see what I got up to as a YSA. It is my dearest wish that they embrace general conference as I do [I hope twitter is still around]. Going to have to work as hard as my parents have done with me and my brothers! Bring it.
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