Archive for June 2007

Planting Flowers

I went to Lowes to buy a new handrail for the garage stairs and ended up buying some annual and perennial flowers also. I almost never leave a store without buying one or two things that I was not intending to buy, which drives BYUFan crazy.

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After I got home I sent the kids inside to play while I attached the new handrail and planted my flowers. It takes longer to plant nowadays because I have to move the mulch, cut the weed barrier, plant, and then put everything back so it looks good. I just hope that the weed barrier will do its job and the mulch will help keep in the moisture so it doesn’t evaporate too quickly in our hot and windy environment.

Patio Furniture

On Saturday afternoon Nancy and I went shopping for patio furniture after we had cleaned out the waterfall. We had previously gone window shopping for patio furniture in order to get an idea of what we liked and what the prices were. Unfortunately, Nancy hadn’t yet seen anything she liked at the several stores we looked at and she wanted to try a few more stores before making a purchase decision.

After an hour of driving around and looking at things without finding something Nancy liked we finally concluded (well, I concluded and Nancy had no choice but to agree with me) that what she wanted didn’t exist or if it did exist it was way too expensive. We then decided to go back to Lowes which had some park benches we liked as well as patio furniture that was decent and reasonably priced.

Lucky for us, when we got to Lowes they were having a 20% off clearance sale on some of their patio furniture and I think that helped Nancy decide she liked it. Unlucky for us, the 20% off sale was so popular that there were only one set (i.e. two chairs) of non-rocker patio chairs left on the shelf and thus we would be short two chairs. There was only one table left as well so we took the last table and set of chairs off the shelf. Due to the discount, we found we were able to afford a serving table as well so we grabbed that too along with some park benches we liked (we’ll put a bench in the front yard and a bench in the back). We had so much stuff and had Caroline and Diana in the car as well that there was only room to load half of the furniture in the minivan. We left the other half at Lowes with a promise that we would be back. After a quick stop at 7-11 for Slurpees we unloaded the furniture, took all the seats out of the minivan, left the kids at home and went back to Lowe’s to pick up the rest of the furniture.

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While loading the furniture Nancy had the bright idea of asking the Lowe’s people if we might have the floor showroom chairs. The Lowe’s guy said “sure, I need to clear them out of here anyway. But let me look in the computer and see if we don’t have any more on the shelf.” I was confident they wouldn’t have any on the shelf because I had taken the last one just an hour ago but lo and behold the computer said there were seven more sets (i.e. fourteen chairs) of chairs available. It turns out that they were way up high on the stocking shelves. The Lowe’s guy got a big ladder thing and started hauling off chairs. I was so happy they had more chairs that I decided to get two extra so we would have a total of 8 instead of the originally planned 6 – enough for the whole family. We loaded up the minivan with the patio furniture but we didn’t have room for the last box of chairs. Instead of making yet a third trip I decided to get some twine and tie the last box of chairs on top of the minivan. We must have looked like a Grapes of Wrath truck rolling down the street with our lawn furniture tied to the roof of the van.

By the time we got home it was so late that I didn’t have time to set everything up so we left it all in the garage until tonight. Tonight Nancy helped me unpack and assemble the furniture. One of the interesting things about the furniture is that the tabletops didn’t have any surface – they just had squares where you are supposed to put 12″ tiles. When we moved into the house there were about four boxes of 12″ tiles left over. We had originally thought “what are we going to do with all those tiles?” but when we saw the patio table in the store we knew we had found a home for them. Thus, our patio furniture surface exactly matches the surface of our kitchen floor.

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In the end, both Nancy and I were pleased with the patio furniture. Now we just need to get the spaces in between the flagstones planted with creeping thyme and we’ll have the patio of our dreams. Of course, the big question is how well it will hold up after a few weeks of South Jordan wind.

Landscape Diary

Just two days after getting our plants in, a major windstorm decided to show itself. The plants weathered the storm without problem. The waterfall didn’t fare so well. Unfortunately, the shredded bark mulch that we liked so much because it wasn’t “barky” is fairly lightweight and the wind simply blew it everywhere – into the lawn, into the waterfall, everywhere but the flowerbeds. In addition, the electrician came over yesterday to fix the outside electrical outlet. To test the outlet he plugged in the waterfall which made the situation even worse and turned the collecting pond into a mulchy, sludgy, mess.

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Note the mulch blown out of the flowerbeds near where Caroline is standing

I would have liked to get the waterfall cleaned out before our sushi party yesterday but didn’t have enough time so our guests got to look at the mulch-filled water. We designated today as waterfall cleaning day but the question was – how to clean out the waterfall? I first thought of blowing the mulch out but realized that it would just spread it around and not really get it out of the cracks and crevices. Then I thought – why not suck it out with a vacuum? A quick trip to Home Depot to purchase a powerful shop vac (who doesn’t need a wet/dry shop vac around?) and I started vacuuming away.

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The shop vac worked out better than I could have hoped. It was so powerful that it could suck up the stones out of the streambed. Even though it worked well, it still took the better part of the afternoon to clean the stream. The biggest pain was moving all the rocks so I could vacuum underneath them and then having to rebuild the stream afterwards. After a while I got tired and decided to take a break by planting the Rocky Mountain Maple bush/tree we had bought but failed to plant last week. The other hard part was restoring the stream bed to its original shape once I was done vacuuming. While restoring the stream bed I took the time to put in a big flat stone cap on the top of the waterfall. Let us know if you like it better than the previous open-pond look on top.

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In the end we had a fairly clean waterfall and I left it powered through a timer so it comes on in the morning and off at night. Unfortunately, later in the afternoon the wind picked up again and I could already see mulch being blown into the stream. Obviously the combination of lightweight mulch and waterfall was a mistake. The question is which of the two was the mistake? For now I’m going with the mulch being a mistake (it’s also blown into the lawn as well as the stream) but if you asked Nancy she would probably say the waterfall was the mistake.

Party Postmortum

Well, the dress-rehearsal sushi party went off fairly well. The guests seemed to enjoy themselves and the sushi was decent (not great). It also gave us a chance to use our dining room for the first time and to use Grandma Connie’s china and crystal for the first time so that was fun.

The one thing we learned from the dress rehearsal is that doing the sushi thing on a much larger scale would be too difficult. Especially a week after Diana’s heart surgery. Thus, the main event will not be held (or at least I won’t be making sushi for it).

Sushi Party

Today I made a trip to the Oriental market on about 700 E and 600 S in Salt Lake City. My job was to get all the ingredients necessary for a sushi party we are hosting for people from BYUFan’s work. I bought sushi rice, nori, smoked eel, flying fish roe, wasabi, sushi mats, a five spice powder, chop sticks, new rice cooker, and a few sushi plates. I always forget something when I go shopping and this time was no exception, I forgot the rice vinegar. They didn’t have the daikon sprouts so I will have to go later this week to see if they have any in. It is a pain not having a decent oriental market a little closer to our house. BYUFan’s job is to get the fish from the Aquarius Fish Co. on Friday.

Now I have to clean the house, it has gotten pretty messy because BYUFan and I have spent most of our time lately on the outside of the house. It is funny how time flies when you have so much to do. Earlier this evening I mentioned to Emily that in 7 years she will be grown up and ready to leave the house and she said, “That will take forever!” It is funny how slow time moves when you are a kid and how fast it goes when you grow up.

Landscape Diary

We spent a good portion of Saturday planting and got most of it done. We still have a couple of bushes and a rose bush to plant out back that we haven’t got to yet. Unfortunately, we ran out of time on Saturday to install the drip irrigation lines to the plants. Sunday was hot, dry, and windy – a bad combination for new plants. Some of them looked really wilty and some had crispy leaves so Nancy hand watered them on Sunday afternoon. After work today I was finally able to install the drip lines. Hopefully the plants won’t suffer too much shock.

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The hard part about planting is trying to figure out how big the plant will be when it is fully grown. Right now our landscape still looks a little barren even after planting but the little bitty bushes should grow up into big tall bushes some day. The sad part is that after spending most of Saturday on planting we only managed to get the front yard about 60% done. We still have the side yards and back yards to do as well, the walkways and patio to plant, the edging to put around the pathways to keep the mulch out, the waterfall to finish and plant around, etc. Oh well, we knew going in that our landscaping would be a multi-year project.

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Swimming Fun

Our neighborhood pool opened up on Memorial Day weekend and the kids have been bugging us to take them ever since. Today we needed a break from planting and the weather was plenty warm so I decided to round everyone up and go to the pool. The pool was crowded but not terribly so.

Diana likes to just stay in the little kid wading pool. She is careful to never get her head wet and is generally content to just sit on the side of the wading pool watching everyone else.
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Samuel is part fish. He loves to put his head under water and see how long he can hold his breath. He loves to go in the big pool when he has water wings (“floaties”) on his arm and loves to jump off the sides. The only problem is that he ends up swallowing so much water that he has to go potty every half hour.
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Emily and Anne are independent swimmers and I generally don’t have to worry too much about them. They played with the other bigger kids in the big pool.
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Caroline is the most timid swimmer for her age. She doesn’t like to get in the big pool even with water wings. She doesn’t like to jump in and let me catch her. She is generally content to hang on to the sides and stay in the shallow end of the big pool.
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When we bought the house I wondered how much we would really end up using the pool. Based on how easy it is to just walk down the street to the pool and how much the kids love to go, I’m guessing that we’ll get our money’s worth out of it. Now we just need to get the younger three kids to independent swimmer stage so that it isn’t such as hassle to watch them.

Landscape Diary

The landscapers put in new sod a couple of days ago and are finally finished. Unfortunately, the weather is getting hotter and hotter (it was mid 80s today) so even though I’m watering the sod three times a day it is starting to dry up. Oh well, in our old house we planted the sod in mid July and it burned to a crisp but we still ended up with a decent lawn.

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Now it is up to Nancy and I to start planting and fill in all of those flowerbeds. Last weekend we went to the Jordan Water Conservancy District gardens to get ideas for plants. In generally we tried to go with native Utah plants that are more drought resistant and with trees and shrubs that will be able to tolerate our alkaline clay soil. Today we went to Glover Nursery and started the plant buying process. We felt we needed more trees for the front yard so we got the two hackberrys (great in alkaline soil), a norway maple, and an ornamental weeping cherry tree. The cherry, maple, and one of the hackberries will go in the front and we’ll figure out a good place for the second hackberry in the back.

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For shrubs/bushes we got two Rocky Mountain maples (which are actually trees but they they are multi-trunked so I consider them a bush as opposed to your traditional single-trunk tree), snowberrys, dwarf mugo pines, potentilla, and russian sage. For perennial flowers we got day lillies, a variety of penstemons including several utah natives, some ornamental grasses, a variety of hostas for the shady north side, a bleeding heart, a rose bush, and a few others that I can’t remember.

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We got some scottish moss (more yellow than the green irish moss which they were out of) and some red creeping thyme to plant between the flagstones. We only got a little bit of moss because I want to see how well it does before buying tons of it to put in the flagstones. My main worry is that even though the moss is on the shady side of the house it will require too much water and the soil will be too poor for it to thrive. Thus, we’ll see how our test patches of moss do this season and if they are still alive next spring then we’ll go ahead and put more moss in the flagstones. The thyme will go in the flagstone patio because it can take more traffic. In fact, it generally grows so vigorously that you often have to hack it back or it will simply cover the entire patio.

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We’ll spend tomorrow planting all of the plants. They don’t look like much now but hopefully after we get them all spread out and planted tomorrow the yard will look better. We’re excited about the many Utah native plants we got. I’m thinking that it would be cool to get some of those plant sign thingys that you see at demonstration gardens that show the plant name. Over the next few weeks we’ll post some pictures of our plants and see if we can find some pictures on the web of what they’ll look like when they’re fully grown.

The Blending Badge

Sam finally got his Blending Badge at Challenger School. When Nancy picked him up he had a big grin on his face.

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The blending badge is given after the student can blend the various consonant and vowel sounds such as *ow (now, pow, wow), *as (has, was), *in (bin, tin, rin), etc. Sam has been a bit behind his sisters in terms of getting his Alphabet Crown and Blending Badge (Alphabet Crown is given when the student knows all the letters in the alphabet and their sounds including the long and short vowel sounds). I don’t think it’s because he’s less smart. Instead I think it’s because he’s generally less interested. He’s more interested in goofing off, being rowdy with his friends, playing cars/trucks/dinosaurs, etc. When he puts his mind to it and concentrates he can read pretty well. We’ll try to work with him more this summer and he should be reading well before he starts kindergarten.

As a reward for getting his Blending Badge, Sam was promised that the whole family would go out to dinner at a restaurant of his choice. With the large number of choices available to him such as Chilis, Training Table, Applebees, etc., where do you think Sam wanted to go? McDonalds, of course – the one with a playplace. I don’t mind McDonalds as much as I used to. They’ve upgraded their menu a bit over the years and there are a few options that Nancy and I like. The kids usually go with the tried and true – Kids Meal Chicken Nuggets – although Emily likes to order from the adult menu now.

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We’re proud of Sam for finally getting his blending badge. Here’s hoping that the next time I take the whole family to McDonalds is two years from now when Diana gets her Alphabet Crown.