Monday, July 30, 2007

14 + 1:20

Ukiah celebrated his birthday today. Aslin made a point of reminding him that technically, he wasn't 14 until 8:05pm. In turn, since we marked the wrong occasion, he invited us to celebrate again next week, likely with more strawberry shortcake. Should a unicycle find its way into his near future, it could be an event worthy of raspberry shortcake.

We're 8,000 feet in the mountains collecting stories on the politics of ski resorts, improving our watershed educations and enjoying good company. It's dial-up land, so envision cabins, creeks, wildflowers, vacant chair-lifts, granite, spruce and aspen.

(happy birthday Lia!)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

the best part of waking up

is the sound of rain filtering through the deck floor and splashing to the patio outside my window. Real rain. Not the warm drops that evaporate as soon as the sun considers dismissing the clouds. Real rain. Enough to wash the scent of heat from the asphalt and form pools in the joints where tree branches meet their trunks. Two hours of real rain.

"Isn't it great?!" the rest of us nod in agreement with Ukaih, carry the camera to the neighbor's garden and feel a little home-sick.

It's been a double apricot season for us- Tucson in May and here in Orem a couple weeks ago. If we're lucky, we'll have peaches before our Saturday departure. Unless of course the city's chemical defense against the Japanese beetles has poisoned the fruit. Add to the list...

  • Advising against vegetable gardening until 2010 because pesticide use has contaminated soil and ground water while endangering beneficial insects - crazy

Monday, July 23, 2007

Wicket, #2 on the "cute" list

"I know what the cutest Lego Star Wars guys are.
1- Jawa
2- Ewok
Last is the pig face guy. Oh ya, George Washington."

After breakfast the computer wasn't available. Kyle, six, couldn't play his game yet. With no one else playing, he couldn't even watch, listen or advise. Only one remaining option. We heard about battles and levels and character hair-styles. I read the paper, Brad read his book and we continued our string of conversations on the Founders and the Constitution. Kyle sat between us with announcements of his favorite characters. The true identity of the pig-face guy remains unclear. We're also not sure where Kyle got his song about David Lee Roth.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

in the dark

A triathlete, photochoreographer and Gillian Welsh share a common bond. Each was introduced to a group of teens as part of the Orem Public Library's Teen Read Hidden Treasure program. Ukiah and Aslin agree, the triathlete was, um, a really, like, um, bad, kind of like, um, not good public speaker. Aside from that, we've been really impressed with the library. The library's four wings are set over a green courtyard, with an enclosed bridge joining A/B with C/D. There's a stage for readings and a magical glass window along the west wall. An open design highlights the geometric steel beam architecture. Shelved in the 941.5s- a few Disney and Calvin and Hobbes books. No manga. No librarians familiar with manga. It's a first in the dozens of libraries we've visited. Thoughtfully confused, Ukiah settled in with a Tin Tin collection.

Across 7 continually busy lanes of traffic, the natural foods store is not an easy walk from the library. Tofu dogs, fruit, snacks and kombucha. We carried our short list into a darkened store. Is this a first time power-outage at Harvest Fresh, or just another example of the deficient management/organization we've recognized at every visit to the store. It's a 100 degrees out, way too hot for kick-ball, and no one's moving to insulate the open freezers. Brad stressed, knowing the speciality cheese has about a 20 minute life span in the warmer temperature. He fights the urge to find cardboard and cover the meat cooler and we all wonder why five employees, management included, stand chatting about chocolate in the supplement section. At the register, the cashier asks us the prices of each item.
Cookies- $3.23; Nectarines- $.99/pound, Grapefruit- 2/$1, Hot Dog Buns- $2.69. We run up and down the isles, the floor staff thinks about sweeping. No one greets customers at the door with a pen and paper and request that they record prices.
"$28.63. Does that sound right to you, for what you bought?" Our cashier works with a little calculator and apologizes for the lack of receipt. "If you have any problems with what you buy... I don't know. Bring it back maybe."
We did get a complimentary Utah Truffle on our way out the door. Milk chocolate mint.

Good call on the plan to grill, power's out at the house too. Not on scale with New York's aging infrastructure, but it seems a sub-surface explosion is to blame here too.

The drive to a BYU men's soccer game put us back in air conditioned comfort. Less comfortable were the Cascade Surge who ran a defense-only game from the kick-off. I'm no fan of a 2-3-5 line-up, and it clearly wasn't working for the Salem, Oregon team. The Cougars scored early, ensuring my support of the visiting underdog. In front of me, the family of a home-town mid-fielder adhered to the University standard as stated before the game. "Sportsmanship" on the part of the fans kept foul language out of the stands, replaced by yells of "What the Dickens?" and "Oh my Goodness." Until a particularly unfavorable call by the Hispanic referee. "Are you even watching, Carlos?!" And from across the stands, "Go back to where you came from." I put my powerful evil eye to work and am kicking myself for not letting my well-practiced wicked words answer the dim-witted "what?" of the fan below me. Final score, 2-0 and no moral victory.

After an hour recapping game highlights and processing the ignorance of certain fans, we joined the monster crowd at Barnes and Noble. A spot-on Professor Snape headed the line, powered face looking fabulously sallow after untold hours of waiting. Past the lightening scared-foreheads, in and out of wand range, we headed round to the back of the building with the rest of the gold wrist-banded "PP"-ers. Troops of fans read, snacked and sought victory in impromptu Potter-trivia challenges. By a quarter after midnight, the first books made their way around to us at the end of the line. The "I'm gonna read you all the last page...." joke got old but didn't end, even with line-waiting friends told the pranksters to "stop being gay." Bystanders observations that Walmart had no line did little to convince the B-and-N crowd to abandon the company of their fellow fans. Tortured not by care of Harry's final Hogwarts days but by the ambiance of sitting in the dark by a dumpster, the kids took turns walking to the front, reporting on those who now held the book.
"An old lady was too busy laughing to worry about trapping me between her and a moving truck..."
1:25am and Lia had the Deathly Hallows in hand.

Across the parking lot, readers lined up at Sconecutters 24-hour "scones and fries" drive-thru. I think we'll make strawberry scones this weekend.

a few hours in line

and we got the new Harry Potter book. And we're tired. Some of us grumpy.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

vortex cannon

Mahonri Young, 1877-1957, sculpted the likeness of Brigham Young based solely on his mother's description. Stories, not photographs or sketches, informed his vision of the grandfather who died the year he was born. A "social realist," Mahonri's art often depicted common laborers, the less noble characters of society. Breaking with such attachment to the value of realism, the BYU powers that be altered Mahonri's portrayal of Brigham Young. After years of advocating against beards and the hippie culture/ideals they represented, in 1969 BYU president Wilkinson moved toward strict dress and grooming codes as part of the university's Honor Code system. By 1971, failure to cut hair or shave could result in suspension with out notice. So, of course, the statue of Mr. Young had to be converted.
(note chisel marks under the chin)

Our chauffeured tour of the BYU campus also included drive-bys of the historic library and new fitness facility.

The Eyring science building has an indoor courtyard that doubles as a mini-science center, with hands-on activities from a number of fields. Light and prism experiments are difficult to see for the under 5-foot crowd, but the space density investigation is easily accessible. Except that it is impossible to lift the 4-inch round of neutron star. After reaching for a hologram dollar and toying with the movement of cat-tails in the wind, the kids discovered the vortex cannon. Angled just so, a well placed shot can reach an unsuspecting parent 100 yards away.

A quick trip through the BYU Museum of Art, where an exhibit of European ballet advertisements and portraits compared divas over generations, was followed by inspection of a reflection pond and eventually, a trip to the Creamery. University agriculture and food science programs team-up to produce a few signature flavors, including the carbonated "sparkle" ice cream.

Finally, the Bean Museum. Home to "Shasta" the liger born at Salt Lake's Hogle Zoo in 1948, a tiny two headed snake and a 22,000 specimen mammal collection. Donald Cox, proud member of the Safari Club, seems to be responsible for most of the wildlife collection , prompting the following conversation:

early 20's guy- "Nice, donated after illegal hunting, I'm sure."

early 20's girl- "Yeah, but a lot are just deer, they reproduce really often."

guy- "Rinos don't."

girl- "That's just what we think because we don't see them every day. But they're not endangered or anything. Africa's a pretty big country, I'm sure they're fine."

The Museum is free and open to the public. We didn't view many of the two-million insects on display, but were most taken with the long-neck Gerenuk of east-Africa, the dozens of tiny Asian and African deer, the long-haired Takin of China and the Alaskan Moose.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

a list

"How is your visit...
Do you think we're all crazy then?"

The neighbor wasn't referencing the "Free Sno-cone" stand her son had set up in the driveway. (In this weather, we all know icy treats are worth a dollar. 50-cents, minimum.) Five years she's been in Utah and her family won't visit. It's not just the expense of traveling from Europe, it's the religion. And she asked again, "So, what do you think of us Mormons, we're not so nuts are we?"

A series of impressions, noticeably void of philosophy or theology.

  • easily accessible neighborhood parks where soccer and basketballs wait for use by all- not crazy
  • pancake breakfast in the park- not crazy

  • fireworks/rockets for sale in grocery store, no age requirement- crazy
  • lack of sidewalks and coffee shops- crazy
  • extensive library offerings including weekday programs for teens- not crazy

Turns out it's a community much like most others.
Green apple sno-cones are better than expected too. And the mountains are stunning.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

atrocious grocery, pt 4

Most disturbing of our pizza mishaps was not the confusion in doubling the recipe. Was that two cups of water? Really, six more cups of flour?

Not the rotten cheese sprinkled over a beautiful pie before we detected the smell.

Not the large pizza baked to perfection, pulled from the oven only to slide, topping side down, to the carpeted floor.

Most distressing was a dairy case encounter with mock-cheese.

Good Day Pizza Topping
shredded imitation mozzarella cheese
Orem, UT
Albertsons preferred-card price, $5.99/ 32 oz.

It's worth noting, this is not a vegan product, nor free of common allergens. It claims to be cholesterol-free. Is that possible when partially hydrogenated oil is the second ingredient? Inquiring minds want to know but Good Day appears to have no web presence.

If only I had a picture to document our eventual triumph in the world of home-made pizza. With real cheese.

Friday, July 06, 2007

worth getting out of the car

July 4th is prime season for outdoor recreation. Raft traffic on the Provo River was heavy. Parking lots flowed on to the highway. Further up the mountain the crowds thinned some, our roadside views of Robert Redford land mostly unobstructed. Sundance is as dreamy as you might suspect- meadows and cabins and forests of pine and aspen. We trust starry-eyed accounts of the renowned outdoor theater and wouldn't mind visiting for the wine festival. If only the the preserve were looking for WWOOFers we might work our way into symphony tickets. Alas.

On up the road into the Uinta National Forest we "ohh-ed" and "aww-ed" at distant patches of snow. Aslin and her cousin were reluctant to leave the car. One because parade marching with a saxophone is exhausting, the other because she doesn't like hiking, never has enough energy for it and isn't strong enough. "I don't want to complain, so you shouldn't ask me to do it," she reasoned. (This despite last week's rock climbing determination and love.)

A mile up the American Fork Canyon, we hit First Falls, not ideal for climbing or wading, but perfect for throwing rocks if you didn't want to hike in the first place.

Still miles from Timpanogos Summit, we hit the second falls and a wonderland of moss. A two-second toe test of water temperature relayed alpine frosts and kept Aslin and I balancing on the rocks.

Downhill, easier than up, allowed for the possibility that the hike wasn't so bad after all. Our first cactus-free hike in about 5 months.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

SLC potpourri

  • Peanuts in the shell
  • Walt Disney
  • Taking out the garbage
  • School Prayer
1-4, in that order. Ukiah's ranking for his hand of selections from Personal Preference's categories: food and drink, people, activities, and potpourri. Predicting none of his preferences correctly, I didn't move ahead on the board.

In Orem, outside SLC, we've spent days playing games, digging in sand, swimming at the neighborhood pool, meeting friends, and talking, talking, talking with my step sister and the cousins.

Our first tour of Provo, a failed quest for a coffee shop, ended in mall theater with Shrek the Third followed by a lobby photo op with the Simpson's. Yesterday, we missed the 7am dedication of the neighbor's new flag, despite an invitation complete with delivery of a dozen doughnuts, but made our second trip to Provo for the Freedom Parade. Lia's marching band was near the end, providing plenty of time to people watch and listen.

Young mom to younger children,
"Look, it's the soldiers with their guns! (squeal) They have army trucks and shoot, shoot, shoot to keep us safe!"

"These colors don't run" stretched across a family of t-shirts in front of us.

The blond and bloated local news team waved from a jeep and the city of Lindon worked to lure us to their
Celebration Days with a promise of "sugar and spice and everything nice" as demonstrated by girls waving from a purple float with a unicorn.

From sun drenched blankets set across the street from
Cleo's White Moments, home of wedding and baptism gowns, we sympathized with the high school color guard marching in turquoise dresses worn over long black pants and sleeves. The herd of lamas, several bagpipe bands, a giant Garfield balloon and the Wicked Witch of the West brought the displays of military propaganda to an almost tolerable ratio. Lia's band, slated last due to a cross-town rivalry(?), was fantastic. More impressive then the Red Cross stretch-Hummer and at least as entertaining as the Kentucky Fried Chicken float.

The sound of the closing cannon was a sharp reminder of the multiple meaning of "freedom". We miss the nude cyclists of Seattle's Solstice parade and can't help but think next year's Provo parade would be much livelier if campaigning politicians were advised to demonstrate their commitment to freedom by either bicycling the entire parade route, replacing their star-spangled shirts and ties with body paint or limiting the scope of corporate infiltration of the event.

Our Fourth was rounded out by an afternoon hike deserving of it's own blog post and evening fireworks in the cul-de-sac and a brilliant hill top view of BYU's Stadium of Fire.

Earlier this week, we connected with Seattle friends for what we later recognized was an inspiring "reason to return home" type-visit. Our whirl-wind tour of SLC hosted by former-resident Bryan, opened at Salt Lake Roasting Company . After veggie lasagna, apricot torte and fantastic coffee roasted on-site, we headed to a city gem. Gilgal Gardens is a backyard showcase of the faith and ego inspired folk art of Thomas Child. In 1945 he began work on the 13 sculptures that "give physical form to his deep-felt beliefs." The garden, a secret treasure loved by high-school kids from across the county, recently saved from demolition, was preserved as a park in 2000.

Our tour continued with a stop at the weeping tree of heroine park and a walk through Temple Square. The Salt Lake Temple is a site to behold, fantastic architecture with details depicting the phases of the moon set amongst green lawns, fountains and symmetrical gardens. The visitor's centers offer education on the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints and glimpses of westward expansion in the pioneer days. Greeters and tour guides wear name tags with the flags of the countries of origin- Italy, Australia, Mexico, Kenya. In the universal Jesus round room, we heard the words of the son-of-God in german and english.

If you're looking for dinner, the Rio Grande Cafe, housed in a historic train station (?), has impressive restrooms and an unreliable juke box. Vegetarians be advised, the rice, beans and enchilada sauce are made with chicken and/or lard. Ukiah highly recommends the guacamole burrito and Aslin appreciates the root beer refills. A drawing and caption version of the game telephone kept us at the table an extra hour and still we didn't hear Aslin's musical selection. Sweet Home Alabama. Amanda deserves a refund.

An ice cream night cap at Squirrel Brother's turned into dessert-theater in the parking lot as an unknown teen insisted his friends, including the employee with an arm cast, fight him. They declined. Adding insult to injury, they took his keys, insisting that they couldn't let him drive in
that mood.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

$76 billion

is up for grabs in this year's Farm Bill.

That's 76 billion- with a "B"
So even if we grant Charles Schwab a half-million for his private duck-hunting club "rice farm" and pay Scottie Pippen and Ken Lay to manage their "conservation lands," there should be plenty left to invest in sustainable farming methods and operations.

As much as I'd like to write about the importance of impeaching our criminal vice president, this week I'm banging my head on the wall for a different cause.

This past year, we Owlhouse-ians picked green beans in the freezing rains, evil eyed carrot-eating deer, harvested thousands of pounds of potatoes, planted cucumber seeds to the second knuckle and sheltered berries from sun and storm. The farmers we worked with are land stewards, cultural historians, nutritionists, inventors, musicians, educators and healers. Not to mention they're responsible for some of the best food we've ever eaten. Chews Wise has a terrific post outlining the proposed investment in organic farming. You don't have to have goat-milking experience to recognize the importance of federal support for organic practices.

At Mulch Blog, The Environmental Working Group will keep you up to date. Organic Farming Research Foundation has everything else you need to know.

Grow Organics
So sign the petition already.