Archive for May 2007

Singing Sam

Sam had is annual Spring Sing at Challenger School today. I worked from home in the morning so that I could go with Nancy to see the program. Sam did a good job of singing and dancing this year. Last year he fell and scraped his knee on his way into school and so he was grumpy but this year he was in fine form and had a big grin on his face.
Singing Sam
The only problem is that our camera’s photo quality is degrading over time. It’s getting so bad that you can really only take close-ups while still getting good image quality. I manned the video camera the whole time so maybe I’ll post some clips later when I can figure out how to get them transferred to our website.
Singing Sam2
We’ve been pleased with Challenger School over the years as all of our kids so far have learned to read before they start kindergarten. Next year Sam goes on to kindergarten so Diana will be the last one to go through Challenger School. For now, we’re all just waiting for Sam to get his Blending Badge so we can go to The Training Table and celebrate!

Summer Rolls

Nancy has become a pretty good Asian food cook. She has learned to make a variety of Vietnamese, Thai, and Japanese dishes and we probably eat Asian food at least three times a week. Our favorite cookbook is Quick and Easy Vietnamese by Nancie McDermott.
Quick and Easy Vietnamese
So far, every recipe we’ve tried has been relatively easy to make and has tasted excellent. We originally found the book in the south Jordan library. We checked it out and tried a few of the recipes and had so much fun making them that we renewed our checkout for another two weeks. After having the book for over a month it was time to return it to the library so we ended up buying a copy. My favorite Asian cuisine has always been Thai cuisine but after making several of the Vietnamese dishes and eating occasionally at a Vietnamese noodle shop in West Valley City, I would have to say that Vietnamese cuisine is definitely giving Thai cuisine a run for its money.
Summer Rolls
gái cuá‘n
Nancy made summer rolls (gái cuá‘n) tonight. The recipe in the book turned out as good as the summer rolls we get in the restaurant. They are great to eat during the hot evenings – the cool mint, cilantro and shrimp are excellent along side the light rice noodles and the ginger dipping sauce gives it some zing. Fortunately, our kids are pretty good eaters and don’t turn their noses up at most of the Asian dishes we’ve made. I would say that Caroline is the most adventurous. She likes spicy hot things – just like her dad. It’s funny to see her stick her tongue out to try and cool it when she’s eating a spicy dish. She just sits there with her burning tongue poking and with a big grin on her face asks for more.

Landscape Diary

Our landscapers began the landscaping project this week. I would have liked to save money by doing the landscape myself; however, I know myself well enough to know that tackling a handyman project that large would be a disaster. My handyman skills are maxed out just by installing blinds. Installing a drip irrigation system? Fuggedaboutit!

Nancy and I did the landscape design ourselves. After seven years at our old house we had a pretty good idea of what we want. The following were our guiding principles:

  • Less grass, more flowerbeds. The flowerbeds are relatively easy to keep weed free and Nancy likes to spend time planting and weeding. I like the fact that Nancy is a good gardener and bigger flowerbeds leave me with less grass to mow.
  • Curbing around all grass areas. Nothing is worse than grass getting into the flowerbeds and rocks.
  • Big garden. I’m a gung-ho gardener in the spring and then tend to slack off as it gets hotter during the summer months. Fortunately, Nancy is a good gardener and doesn’t even slack off during the summer.
  • Flagstone patio – Our last house had a “lumpy” patio that Nancy and I laid ourselves out of ugly pavers. This time we are going for a professionally laid flagstone patio and hope to eventually get some nice patio furniture.
  • Flagstone pathways – We have no grass along the sides of the yard – only flowerbeds. The flagstone pathways should look nice through the flowerbeds.
  • Water feature – I’ve always wanted a water feature. A nice little stream or waterfall is just so cool. Nancy was against a water feature because she kept thinking of stagnant ponds and worrying about the kids falling in (she also didn’t want to spend the money). A month ago I took her on a walk through a different neighborhood where several of the houses had streams in the front yard. Nancy saw the streams and agreed with me that having one would be nice so in the end I won her over.

Front yard
We plan to have a small rock wall in the front – just enough to level out the front yard a little bit.

A couple of months ago Ace Property Maintenance gave our next door neighbors an estimate and so we had them give us an estimate as well. I got estimates from a couple of other places and Ace’s was competetive and it seemed like they run a pretty good operation so we decided to go with them. They just finished up the neighbors (which looks good) and so we’re excited that they started on ours – especially since we recently got a notice from the Homeowners Association whining about the fact that our landscape is (we have until the end of June by contract so I don’t know what they’re whining about).
For the past couple of weeks we’ve been hearing beep-beep sounds of the bobcat as they drive it around our neighbors yard. Now it is our turn. Today they dug trenches for the sprinkler system and leveled off the front yard. We only had one incident when the bobcat backed up in to the airconditioning compressor and knocked it off its pedestal into the house. Fortuntely, the compressor still worked and the guys eventually got it back on the pedestal so no harm no foul.

AC Unit

It will be fun to watch our landscape take shape over the next few weeks and we’ll certainly be glad when its done. I keep imagining myself sitting on our back patio, listening to the bubbling stream, and enjoying the nice shade from the hot afternoon sun. The only problem with that vision is that it takes forever to grow nice shade trees. Oh well, it’s something I’ll eventually be able to enjoy 20 years from now.

A Midsomer Murder Date

Midsomer murders Nancy and I enjoy watching the BBC Midsomer Murders series. We first saw it on BBC America and, now that we are without TV, have been working our way through the library’s collection of DVDs. Each episode is about two hours long so it makes for a nice quiet date/evening at home after the kids are in bed.

Incidentally, did you know that the Midsomer Murders theme music is played on a theremin?

Play Ball!

Samuel at bat In addition to soccer, Sam is also playing T-ball. T-ball is even more painful to watch than soccer. Everyone gets to bat during T-ball and, because there are no outs, the game doesn’t really make any sense. Unfortunately, my agressiveness theory of youth athletics holds true in T-ball as well as in soccer and Sam is equally unaggressive in both.

Both his coach and I tell him he is welcome to hit the ball as hard as possible. In fact, we tell him that he can try and hit the ball so hard that he breaks it. Unfortunately, nothing seems to have an effect because Sam merely pokes at the ball and it barely dribbles off the tee. I never had hopes of Sam being a Major Leaguer but I was hopeful that he would at least be able to make the team in Little League. Alas, it appears that Sam is doomed to suffer the same fate has his father and grandfather before him. That’s OK – we love him anyway. How can you not love a ballplayer as good-looking as this one?
Samuel Baseball

Soccer, Soccer, Soccer, and More Soccer

With four kids playing soccer, Saturdays are pretty much shot during the months of May and June. Nancy and I take turns transporting the kids back and forth to the soccer field because the games are spread out all through the day. Today we had two games at 11:00, one at 2:00 and one at 5:00. I don’t mind watching the games of Emily, Anne, and Caroline because the game resembles soccer after a fashion; however, it is pure torture watching Sam’s games because other than the fact that there is a ball and a goal the game looks nothing like soccer. It’s just a big herd of kids running back and forth.


As I’ve been watching soccer games the past few weeks, I’ve observed that the only thing that really separates the athletic kids from the non-athletic kids is basically the level of agressiveness. It doesn’t matter if they are big tall kids, short kids, fat kids, or skinny kids – all of the athletic ones seem aggressive and all of the dorks seem timid. Emily’s team has a really big/tall kid on it that looks like he is athletic but in fact he is as timid as a field mouse. I try to tell my kids to be more aggressive but I also remember back to my kid-sport experiences and can specifically remember being unsure/timid on the soccer and baseball field.

Watching my kids play soccer is both disappointing and comforting. It’s disappointing to know that none of my kids are very athletic (Anne is long and gangly so she may turn out to be a good runner but she has zero coordination. Also, there’s still hope for Diana. She seems pretty aggressive and willing to mix it up with her older sibilings). It’s comforting to know that, with the exception of one or two kids on each team, the vast majority of kids playing soccer are as unathletic as my own.

Home Improvement

When we bought the house we debated whether we should spring for plantation shutters on all the windows. We eventually decided against spending the money and figured we would put up venetian blinds ourselves which are significantly cheaper. We did all of the windows in the house shortly after moving in but left the french doors in the back to the very end. During the winter it was nice to have the western sun in the afternoon but now that summer is coming up fast, the western sun isn’t so welcome in the afternoon anymore. Thus, we finally broke down and went to Home Depot and got some blinds. We like to get the white faux wood blinds that have a wider slat – they look a little nicer than venetian blinds and Home Depot will cut them to fit. I’ve become fairly proficient at hanging blinds after doing 16 windows in the new house and 10 windows in the old house.
New Blinds

I’m glad we finally got them up – they make a big difference in keeping our house cooler in the afternoons.

Go Bees Go

Salt Lake BeesThe summer months aren’t usually that fun from a sports standpoint but May has been pretty good what with the Jazz in the playoffs. Tonight the Jazz were idle so I went to a Salt Lake Bees game with some guys from work. Thursdays are “Thirsty Thursdays” where all beer is only $2.00 so it’s usually a pretty good crowd.

Memphis RedbirdsAlthough I never grew up a big baseball fan, it is really fun to go to the ballpark, eat peanuts, chat with friends, and watch the game. Baseball is definitely more of a social event for me than a sporting event. Tonight the Bees played the Memphis Redbirds and it was 4 – 0 for SLC by the third inning. The Bees kept piling on the runs in the later innings and easily won the game.

I took Emily as my date for the game and she had a good time (although she initially whined about having to miss dinner). My boss, Dennis, wanted some popcorn. He said he would buy for everyone if I would go get it. I didn’t want to go get it so we decided to send Emily. Dennis gave her a $20 bill and off she went. About 10 minutes later she came back with not only the popcorn but a super-duper-jumbo-size snow cone with about 6 different flavors squirted on it and a sheepish grin on her face. Dennis made a joke about the price you have to pay for good service everyone had a good laugh.

Go Jazz Go

Utah JazzLately I’ve been going over to a friend’s house to watch the Jazz games on TV.  (We haven’t had any TV service since moving in back in December.  I’ll hold out as long as I can but I’ll probably break down and get TV during football season. )I haven’t been a big Jazz fan since the days of Stockton and Malone but now that the Jazz are in the playoffs it’s starting to get a little bit interesting.

An added bonus of going to a friend’s house is that the friend has Guitar Hero on the XBox 360.  I thought it would be lame but it turned out to be a totally fun game.
Guitar Hero II
Guitar Hero

Les Mis Review

No, this isn’t the kind of review that you would read in a newspaper – this are just my thoughts on the date Nancy and I went on last night.  Last night was also the Great Rocky Hannity Debate at the University of Utah’s Kingsbury Hall which isn’t too far from Pioneer Memorial Theatre so Nancy and I figured we would leave plenty early in order to get parking.  We left the house about 6:30 and arrived at the theater at about 7:15 with excellent parking.  We hadn’t had dinner so we walked a couple of blocks until we found a Subway and had a quick sandwich for dinner before walking back to the theater.  The theater was packed and, although our seats were towards the back, we had an excellent view of the stage.

Marius and Enjolras
Marius and Enjolras 

I was familiar with the plot and so it was easy to follow along and Nancy has every song in the muscial memorized so no surprises.  I thought the scenery and staging were quite nice although I’ve never seen the musical before so I don’t really have anything to compare it to.  We do, however, have the CD that Nancy has listened to a thousand times so we were able to compare the performers voices.  We thought that Gavroche didn’t really sing his lines well – he sounded almost like a monotone to me.  In addition, we both thought that Javert was undersuited for the part.  It seemed as if he was out of his range half the time.  The funny thing is that as we were walking out we heard a gentleman comment “That Javert, he sure had a great voice!”.   I guess that shows you how much an amateur like me knows.

Jean Valjean and Javert
Jean Valjean and Javert 

I thought that Marius and Cosette had excellent voices along with Enjolras – comparable to those on the CD. However, I think M. and Mme. Thenardier stole the show.  The actor that played Thenardier is a local Utah guy and he carried the comedy parts off well in my opinion.  My favorite line was when Thenardier showed up at Marius and Cosette’s wedding:

I forget where we met
Was it not at the Chateau Lafarge
Where the duke did that puke
Down the Duchess’s de-coll-etage?

I and a few others in the audience busted up laughing but probably 70% of the audience didn’t seem to get the joke.

The Thenardiers
The Thenardiers

The nicest thing about the play was that the chairs were comfortable and just the right height so that Nancy and I were able to hold hands the entire play.  After the play we had a hot fudge sundae with nuts at McDonalds for dessert (hey, we’re on a budget) and drove home to find Emily and Anne asleep on the floor and couch (they were the babysitters for the night).

Marius and Cosette
Marius and Cosette 

All in all it was a fun evening and I’m glad we went to see Les Miserable while it is in town.  I recommend Pioneer Theatre’s production to anyone in the Salt Lake Area – there are still tickets available for late June.