Saturday, December 22, 2007

Wedding Flowers

On Dec. 8th I made the bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres for a wedding in our ward. I was terribly nervous about it because I hadn't done anything like it for 10 years since the bridesmaids' bouquets in my own wedding. So I called my Aunt Rosemary who gave me lots of good tips, and then got Mindy Clary to come over and show me how to do the corsages and boutonnieres on the 8th. Mindy was invaluable not only for her knowhow (she worked in a floral shop for 4 years) but also as floral psychologist (she just stayed calm and told me how to fix fiascos). Here is one of the bridal bouqets.
And examples of the corsages and boutonnieres. As you can see, it snowed all day Saturday, which I used to my advantage. I opened the windows and kept the basement like a refrigerator to keep everything fresh. It was nasty for driving, but we found out that Rob's truck has 4-wheel drive and works wonderfully in the snow. It was all a good learning experience, but I am SO glad that it's over!

Gingerbread House 2007

Here is this year's vintage of gingerbread house. We did one at my house every year growing up with this recipe and this pattern. I've given myself years off when we used a kit, but I managed to bake the real stuff this time around. We did the decorating for FHE, not least because Rob is a patient artist with the frosting. I hate royal icing because of the taste of it from childhood and the impossible consistency of it from adulthood. Rob and I agreed that it would probably hold one of our 15 lb bathroom tiles in place unless it got wet.
I like this year's version a lot. Maddie make the buttermint chimney almost all by herself. Will made the pretzel and lifesaver fence with Rob, and Sebastian was responsible for the mint chips on the ice cream cone trees. I did the roof with red and green gummy shingles which looked successful, but there are now three missing. Important part of a child's Christmas to filch candy off the gingerbread house, don't you think? We always waited until New Year's to eat it at my house, but I wonder if we should do it sooner here where everything dries out? I'm also curious about trying some different patterns of house, but I don't know where to find them. Any ideas?

Maddie's Prose Poem

Maddie Lou is a busy woman this year. She's dancing twice a week, learning to step-ball-change and cha, cha, cha for her performance next February. She goes to show choir at 8:00am twice a week, and often has 8- or 9-hour days by the time she gets home. She's doing her homework almost entirely on her own (yay!) and gets stellar reports back from her teacher. And she's still a reader. On Thursday she received Elizabeth, one of the American Girl dolls, as a prize for having passed off her multiplication tables. When I walked past her room 5 minutes later, Maddie was reading the book on Elizabeth and the doll was on the bed. I love it.

You can see the reader in Maddie's vocabulary. She uses words we didn't teach her, and uses them correctly in a sentence. But she's not always sure of the pronunciation since she's never heard them. During the storm on Thursday night, Maddie wrote a poem we wanted to share:

Hail and Snow

First there was hail,

falling in cubes.

"There will be snow"

Mom said, but I said

"It cannot be so."

I was dumbfounded

as I looked out the

window. "This cannot

be! It's starting to


-Madeline McFarland

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bathroom Remodel

Here was the basement bathroom as it stood at Christmas. I got my dad that Black and Decker housekeeping tool with the rotating parts, and each day he'd go down and scrub a section of the shower. By the end of their stay, grandpa pronounced it merely "really dirty" which was a vast improvement.

But the cabinet was peeling apart in one corner, the linoleum was coming up, the sink was a strange shallow contraption made mostly for shooting water all over the room inadvertently, and the toilet scared small children. So in spite of dad's heroic cleaning efforts, we decided to try our hand at remodeling.

On St. Patrick's Day we tore it apart with some help from Rob's brother Rick, who is far more competent at these things. Then we poisoned Rick with carbon dioxide when he graciously came to help us cut a hole in the foundation to convert from a shower to a tub. It was the literal and figurative low point of the ordeal. Rick spent four hours in the ER breathing pure oxygen so he wouldn't lose brain cells. We didn't bother with that sort of treatment -- Rob held a salon for his students upstairs to discuss Parzifal and had a flourless chocolate torte to finish it off (perhaps the antioxidants in the chocolate ameliorated the carbon dioxide, no?)

Here is Rob showing several of the skills we learned on this trip:
tiling the bathtub surround. We used tiles the size of bedside tables, so they went up fast, but they weighed about 15 pounds a piece.
floating the walls. we learned that you would rather put on several small coats of spackle than have to sand very much off!
putting up backerboard. heavy, dusty, and essential if you're going to put up such heavy tiles.

Here is Kathy (Rick's wife) without whom we would still have a hole in the basement with a cement floor. Even after we tried to kill her husband, the whole family came over one evening after we'd been staring at our navels for about a week not daring to try anything. Within an hour they had prepped the floor and started laying tiles. I was reduced to gopher, and Rob's best help was as dead weight to even out the floor. After watching them, Rob and I figured out what to do next, and we were able to do the tub on our own.

Here is the after shot, now with a tub, and lighting above it. Winners here were:
big tile: good to work with in spite of the weight
Captain Electric: we called them one morning, they showed up in the afternoon, and we had working lights and fan two hours later
the shower door: looks 3 times better and more finished than before.
the granite pre-fab counter with attached sink from Home Depot. easy and reasonably priced.

Here is the new vanity/sink/mirror. The losers were:
the paint. I think this is custom mix/desperate hail mary neutral. Doesn't do much for me, but it spans everything in the color wheel between the granite and the tile!
the vanity. two people told us we'd like the best of the top of the line at Home Depot (by Master Bath), but we are really disappointed with the quality of the hardware, the poor construction, and the pain in the neck they are to deal with. They didn't send us the toe kick or the trim pieces we'd ordered and their stupidity held up the project for months while we tried to get them to do something.
Overall, we took a brown basement bathroom and remodeled it into a brown basement bathroom. However, I can tell it was the right project to tackle, because now we think "why did we do that bathroom first?!" which means we've already forgotten how much worse shape it was in than everything else. Rob is now cogitating on what to do with the other two. I'm still recovering from the trauma of remodeling. As my mom says, "I can either do capital improvement projects, or I can do maintenance, but I can't do both at the same time." Amen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rob in Italy

So after San Diego, Rob traveled to Pordenone, Italy (about 45 minutes north of Venice) for a silent film festival which sounds better as the Festival of Cinema Muto. It's held annually, and if you want to know why silent films need a film festival, I can't help you. Rob says its to reintroduce films which have been newly digitized or re-released. They had two theatres going 18 hours a day with live music for every show. He said it was also an odd and eclectic crowd: many people who talked loudly on their cell phones throughout movies (thinking, I guess that they weren't interfering with the dialogue?). He saw some great movies and some weird ones (particularly the Weimar-era movies that he came to see) and bought a few.
Rob was there with two of his friends, I mean colleagues, from BYU, who do film in the French and Scandinavian departments. As a favor to an Italian colleague, they took a day trip to see this rotunda by Palladio from the 16th century. Rob now has a thing for Palladio.
As a favor to no one but themselves, they took a trip up to hike in the Dolomites. Here are Darryl, Ann, and Chip taking a break from the rigors of watching films.
And to round it out, they rode down to Venice and took pictures and bought gifts for their poor left-behind wives. Maddie and I got scarves and I got a lot of glass jewelry that looks good enough to lick. Rob opted not to take a gondola ride, since last time he did that the gondolier talked him into singing a solo for a discount and then rowed him past a cafe packed full of people.
Every time I talked to Rob he told me what he'd been eating. "I had a grilled eggplant pizza!" "I had creme brulee gelato!" "I had prosciutto and cantalope!" Well, back here we had Grandpa's 7-lb ham boiled in Coke. Top that, Italia!

San Diego

This year I went with Rob to the German Studies Association conference in San Diego. We stayed at a strange 60's hotel that was humungous, with four pools and five restaurants and lots of elderly types who wore visors and sunglasses and sweatshirts encrusted with carbuncles and other precious stones. We rented a wee little car. We ate seafood, mexican, thai, and room service. We visited Old Town, the Hillcrest neighborhood, the Gaslamp District, Balboa Park, and Coronado Island. Rob presented his paper and saw lots of people from his program in Berkeley, other conferences, and People in German. It is the place to be if you do German. I got to go as a consolation prize, because Rob took off strait from San Diego to go to Italy.

FHE: Armor of God

Maddie taught us a lesson on putting on the armor of God. As she read the scriptures, we put the armor on Sebi. He was so entranced by all the attention that he wanted to wear the tin foil every day for the next week. Then he decided that he wanted to be a knight for Halloween. Who knew that aluminum foil would make the evening for the kids?

First Day of School

So I know that I'm almost in November, but I still need to celebrate the first day of school. It was a long, hard summer, and I'd looked forward to this day for the whole of it. Maddie entered fourth grade, Will started second, and Sebi goes to a preschool in the neighborhood. It's a good year so far. I feel like Maddie's teacher really understands her strengths and is good at giving feedback. With projects and field trips, it also feels like 'real' school to me (as opposed to the last two years where there has been NOTHING).
Will's teacher is a tough cookie and she assigns a lot of homework. It is hard on Will, but he's risen to the occasion. He's one of the best readers, and he has honed his spelling skills beautifully (he was crushed this week because he missed one word; Rob said "That's great, Will!" but there is no convincing a perfectionist). He still loathes writing, and I need to put him on some math facts circuit training -- I have a feeling he'd do a lot better in math with a little more confidence.
Sebastian loves preschool. He's loves the teacher, his best friend, the toys, the snacks, the whole shabang. And I hear that he has two admirers in the class too. I wasn't expecting to deal with this quite so young. He seems oblivious, but Susannah and Caitlyn talk about him quite a lot and always want to sit by him at school. OK with Sebi so long as he can sit with Tomas.


This summer the kids also started taking violin from a neighbor around the corner. I had never really thought about putting them on strings, but we have no piano, the neighbor told me she wanted to get back into lessons, and my kids were excited. This is a picture of their first performance at an assisted care center near our home.
It has been a really good experience. Margaret is wonderful with the kids. They've learned a ton. My ability to withstand ugly noises has increased threefold. And after watching many painful soccer games at the park near our house, it is so lovely to see them start something which goes with the grain of their talents instead of against it. They've just finished their Book One in a program called Rainbow Tones.
I love to watch them play. Maddie looks like a violin player. And Will is so expressive about the music. He really emotes into the instrument. And he looks like a wizened old wood gnome when he plays.

Rock Climbing

Will had such a good time at rock climbing camp that Maddie wanted to try it too -- they both got to return after her birthday, and with friends Ethan and Abigail. The instructors were very authentic rock climbing types, which meant that they were not into pushing the kids much.
After watching both kids climb up about 12 feet and then peter out and come down, I put Abigail in charge of counting how many times they reached the top of a course. I bribed them with a dollar each time they hit the top, and that was enough encouragement to get them to work at it a little harder. After four hours, they came home wiped out. I wish that they were still sleeping that well!

Maddie's Camp Sew Fun

In August, Maddie spent three days at a sewing shop downtown with three friends, and they made quilt tops in this design. It was a great project with no pinning or patterns, just lots of sewing. Or as Maddie learned, lots of seam ripping. Nevertheless, she got the quilt top done in three days (and don't ask us if it's done yet -- we'll tell you if it ever gets done . . .)!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rock Climbing Camp

This week Will took a rock climbing camp four afternoons down at the Quarry in Provo. There were nine six and seven year old boys from our ward who all went together. They had two instructors, Buzz and Pierre, who helped them learn the basics, after they got their rock climbing shoes and harnesses on and adjusted.
Then they had four hours each afternoon of climbing, obstacle courses, rope bridges, and the "king swing" which hung about twelve feet off the ground. Will made it up to the top of the blue, pink and green training courses. The last day they had a water fight and a pizza party. I had thought it would terrify Will, but it was a great thing for him and for several other boys who hadn't had much chance to participate in anything except team sports. They were great at taking turns and helping each other out by belaying for each other.

Fourth of July

Here is Charlie, in his Abercrombie July Fourth pose. It's an unfair shot, because he is such a happy chap, but he didn't appreciate the sparklers very much. Or maybe he wasn't keen on putting his clothes back on after playing naked in the hose.
Maddie, practicing for her first rock concert, and Will, unleashing his inner pyromaniac.

Maddie was a great big sister and cousin, playing in the water fight and jumping on the trampoline.

Jeff is armed with the super soaker for the great water fight in the backyard. It was all fun and good for the lawn (which was dead after our ten day trip to California, second year in a row) until Rob tried to douse Jeff, who dodged the water, and ended up getting Hazel instead. She let out the Mighty Hazel Roar which was well justified, if you ask me.

Here is that petite flower Hazel before she got wet. She was charming, and then she got a fever (presumably not because Uncle Rob dumped water on her, though I'm sure it didn't help), so she was snuggly too.

So here is an action shot of the water fight. Will gets it, and you can see Hazel walking up behind Jeff, never suspecting that he is the target of wet misery to come . . .
And you can also get an eyeful of the dead lawn. Rob is nursing it tenderly.

And finally, Sebastian, holding his sparkler and Cal Berkeley football. Saydi showed me how to use some of the special features on Picasa while she was here. Now I'm trying to figure out how to upload them to the blog in the order I want! In the meantime I am learning a lot. The football was Sebastian's loot from our trip to campus, and the site of a bad parenting moment we can talk about another time.
Posted by Picasa

The Trip Back

We were prepared to stay longer in California, especially because it was Piedmont's centennial Fourth of July and great weather that week, but the kids insisted that we go right home to see their cousins Hazel and Charlie Shumway, out from Boston. So we piled into the car and flew screaming back across the desert.

In their defense, the kids made it both ways in only one very long day. I go to the dollar store before we leave and pass out periodic treats, and we watch videos during the strait patches. And it was all easier than the trip to Sea Ranch which we tried two different ways and both of which scared me half to death. I was certain I was going to drive us all off the edge of a cliff in to the ocean, thousands of feet below. My palms are sweating now, just thinking about it! No one got carsick at any point on the trip, which is another great success to celebrate.

By Elko everyone was tired of the driving, so we used a suggestion from one of Kath Newman's friends: we stopped at a public pool there. The girl behind the counter said "But we're closing in 20 minutes!" and we replied "So much the better!" and changed and jumped in the pool until they closed. It was a great rest stop and everyone got to wiggle and cool off, then we changed back and hopped into the car again. In the future we could time it better so that they can have an hour, but if not, it was still better than trying to run around a dog run at a gas station!

Rob and I also made the kids wait until we reached an In-n-Out Burger for lunch, and then we just didn't get any more food. We usually end up arguing for and against fast food for the kids and we go to some awful Burger King in Elko or McDonald's in Battle Mountain (In-n-Out doesn't count as fast food, if you've read Fast Food Nation). This time we just said "NO" and we were happy about it.

Posted by Picasa

The Vuillermets

We got to stop by Jen and Eric Vuillermets' before we drove back through Utah. They have redone all of the public rooms since we last saw it, and they had a baby boy while we were out of the country last year. We had a lovely dinner, and brought them gelato from Berkeley, where we had bought gelato from the wrong place (oh, that we had two gelato places to choose from in Provo . . . ). Anyway, Clarissa had recommended Icci's on College Ave. which is supposed to be stellar, with ginger snap ice cream sandwiches filled with lemon verbena ice cream, and we didn't find that, and went to Lula Rae's instead, where we got mango, lemon basil, orange cardamom, and blackberry cabernet gelato, and none of them were bad! This is Zoe, who is two months older than Sebastian, but she acts about two years older.
Here is Jennifer in their new kitchen. It was done in eight weeks (and the end of that was while they were in France -- so lovely to come back to). Unfortunately they haven't had time to get everything out of storage yet, so Jen says they have only one pot at present. She say the stove boils water fabulously.
McFarlands and Zoe in a group hug. Zoe managed amazingly well to having so many large, loud kids in her house for the evening. We didn't get any pictures of her little brother, Tristan, but he was very smiley before bedtime. We didn't get one of Eric either, now that I think about it . . .
Posted by Picasa

The Kids at Sea Ranch

Here is Maddie showing off the starfish that she and Rob were tossing back into the ocean. We have another picture of her with a purple starfish when she was one and we were camping with the Christensons at Big Sur. I can't believe what a tall bookworm she's become! She's also an avid tidepooler, scampering up the rocks and poking the anemones with sticks.
Here are Will and Maddie at one of the pools. We went a couple of times, but it got cool quickly in the evenings, so Rob and the kids tried out the family sauna.
And here is Sebastian, doing what he did the entire time we were at the beach. He ran up and down and back and forth into the waves. He was still very diligent about throwing sand back into the water (?).Posted by Picasa

Our House at Sea Ranch

Our house was shaped like a "C" around this center deck, and we loved the views out of almost every room. Here Sebastian is showing off the flowers that he and Rob picked from around the yard.
One afternoon I taught Maddie and Will to play Monopoly. Will loved the fact that he got money. Maddie liked building the houses. Neither one of them was much into organizing their cash as you can see! We played for a few hours and they both did well.
This is the Sea Ranch chapel. It has about a dozen and a half seats inside, and was both designed and crafted by a man from San Diego named Hubbel. Really beautiful and reminiscent of a Gaudi or Hundertwasser creation. Sea Ranch also has three recreation centers, a golf course, an airport, a stable, and horsebackriding trails.Posted by Picasa